• Get the Most Out of Your Summer Break [For Teachers]

    Get the Most Out of Your Summer Break [For Teachers]

    There’s mixed emotions that come with completing a school year. It’s always sad to say goodbye to the students and people that you’ve come to love as you’ve helped them overcome challenges and spent such a significant amount of time with. But there’s also a huge feeling of relief and satisfaction that comes with the knowledge that you have a clean slate. Knowing that you are free of any of the burdens that were placed on you during the school year. Knowing that you don’t have to come home and grade papers. Knowing that you don’t have to hear from that difficult parent anymore. Your current concerns are wiped away and your brain can focus on something new.

    During the summer you get to enjoy relaxing, reading, spending time with your family or friends; but you might feel a lack of purpose or a sense of boredom with your sudden increase of extra time. 

    To everything good and worthwhile in life, there also comes challenges. You wanted to be a teacher and you enjoy being a teacher, but there is no doubt that teaching is full of challenges. You probably looked forward to your well-earned summer break, but you may want more purpose to your day now. 

    The challenge of life isn’t not having what you want… it’s learning how to find the good in every situation. To every situation in life, there is good. Sometimes we have to work harder to find the good. Sometimes the good is simply the lessons we learn from the challenge. But to all situations, if you choose to make the right choice… good things will come.

    So, with your extra time this summer: get as much as possible out of it. ...

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    Jun 02 2014
  • Components of an Effective ESL Curriculum—Insights from Former TESOL President

    Components of an Effective ESL Curriculum—Insights from Former TESOL President

    Have you ever been conflicted by two opposing opinions? Both opinions had merit and seemed logical—but—they also seemed to contradict each other. One of the most pervasive debates amongst educators, especially those involved in reading instruction for emerging readers, struggling readers, and English language learners, is: what approach is best when teaching reading: a phonics-based approach or a whole-language based approach? 

    Here are the insights of Dr. Neil J. Anderson, former TESOL President, on which of these is the most effective when providing reading instruction for ESL students. All italicized text is transcribed (with slight modifications for readability) from Dr. Anderson’s webinar presentation for Reading Horizons, Holding in the Bottom while Sustaining the Top: A Balanced Approach for L2 Reading Instruction.  

    To begin, here are Dr. Anderson’s definitions of the two different approaches used for teaching reading to ESL students: ...

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    May 23 2014
  • The Three Keys to Effective ESL Lesson Plans

    The Three Keys to Effective ESL Lesson Plans

    Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) is exciting! You are in a position to prepare students to interact and connect with the world in an entirely new way. You are giving them access to a language that will unlock new cultures, new relationships, and new information. Because you are in a position to have such a large impact on the lives of so many students—it's important to do it right. Focus on these three keys when planning your ESL lessons and you'll help put your students on the right track.  ...

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    May 12 2014
  • 5 Characteristics that Made Charlotte Lockhart a Visionary Leader

    5 Characteristics that Made Charlotte Lockhart a Visionary Leader

    Amazed at the foresight of the original author of Reading Horizons methodology, Charlotte Lockhart, the Reading Horizons curriculum team often describe her work as being “inspired” and “visionary.” And truly, her work is time-tested with contemporary research just catching up with and proving what she knew decades ago. 

    “Several years ago I was introduced to this method, and I was amazed at what I was learning. There were so many 'aha' moments. As I reflect on the fact that Charlotte wrote this method back in the sixties/early-seventies, it just floors me to think about the insight that she had. We're grateful for Charlotte's ability to meet so many needs, and every day were finding more and more needs that we're able to fill [with Charlotte’s method].” 

    – Heidi Hyte, Reading Horizons Curriculum Director

    How did Lockhart create something so durable and on-point decades before researchers even approached the idea? It would be impossible to capture all of her greatness, but these five characteristics attempt to highlight how she was able to have the impact she has on helping so many students and adults learn to read: ...

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    May 06 2014
  • 3 Ways to Help Students Get More from Vocabulary Instruction

    3 Ways to Help Students Get More from Vocabulary Instruction

    I have an interesting, emotional auto-response when I see or hear the term vocabulary instruction—feelings of dread and mind-numbing boredom are usually the first responses to arrive on the scene. These reactions are triggered by flashbacks of a never-ending list of words on a stark white sheet of paper with instructions to “look them up” in a dictionary and write the corresponding definitions. Sometimes, I was also instructed to write sentences using the vocabulary words. At first, this second activity appeared to hold a little more promise for being interesting and engaging, but it usually ended up being a mechanical act involving me making slight adjustments to the sample sentences found in the dictionary (just enough to avoid plagiarism) because I didn’t really understand what the words meant and consequently had no idea of how to use them in sentences. Most words on these lists held little interest for me—mainly because they were more often than not content-specific academic vocabulary words that I would rarely see again. Furthermore, the activity of writing (i.e., copying) the definitions seemed to be grossly inadequate in helping me store these words in my brain for future use. 

    It may seem that I have a negative bias towards vocabulary instruction, but truly, I do not. I know the vital importance of vocabulary knowledge for learning and comprehending text. I even knew it then. But for some reason, the processes of instruction and practice ended up feeling like mind-numbing busy work despite all my best efforts to engage.

    So what do my feelings and experiences mean? ...

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    Mar 24 2014
  • How to Promote Metacognition & "Growth Mindset" in the Classroom

    How to Promote Metacognition & "Growth Mindset" in the Classroom

    By John Mendes, Ed.D

    A crucial component to learning is being aware of our own thought process and consciously understanding how we process new information. This information allows us to have a better cognitive understanding of how our mind works, and this self-awareness will increase our overall learning efficiency. This insight allows learners to scaffold, using background knowledge and better utilizing learning strategies with focus and intent. Metacognitive skills are imperative in today’s classrooms, as we are preparing students to be tomorrow’s leaders and problem solvers.  

    Tips for Increasing Metacognition in the Classroom ...

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    Mar 19 2014
  • The 4 C's of Effective Instruction That Boost Student Engagement

    The 4 C's of Effective Instruction That Boost Student Engagement

    When I do classroom observations, I truly don’t even need to watch the teacher to evaluate instruction; I watch the students. If the processes are consistent and the instruction is clear, it is reflected in the students’ engagement, interaction, and efficiency in guided skill practice and application.  Ensuring student success comes down to what I call the Four C’s: ...

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    Mar 03 2014
  • The Crucial Components of Effective Multisensory Reading Instruction

    The Crucial Components of Effective Multisensory Reading Instruction

    One of the most powerful pieces of Reading Horizons instruction is connecting all of the language skills of listening and speaking and reading and writing in the process of dictation. Far too often in language instruction, the primary focus goes to the specific skills of reading and writing without the critical awareness that listening and speaking are precursory skills to reading and writing.

    Oral language is preparation for written language. In the book, Teaching Students with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia, Virginia Berninger states: ...

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    Jan 30 2014
  • What is the Difference Between RTI and MTSS?

    What is the Difference Between RTI and MTSS?

    The phrases “Response to Intervention”, commonly referred to as RtI, and “Multi-Tier System of Supports”, understandably shortened to MTSS, are used interchangeably among most educators. I have heard it flippantly said on many teacher blogs and other websites that the two are one in the same. This is not necessarily true. So, what is the difference between RtI and MTSS? For you reading experts who miss standardized tests (and who doesn’t?), a very simplified answer would be; RtI is to MTSS as phonemic awareness is to phonological awareness (that is, phonological awareness is commonly referred to as an ‘umbrella’ term that includes phonemic awareness). Basically, RtI is an integral part of MTSS but MTSS is more cohesive and comprehensive in the goal of meeting the needs of all learners. Here is a brief explanation: ...

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    Jan 06 2014
  • Misconceptions About Phonics Instruction - #4 - College Prepares Teachers to Teach Reading

    Misconceptions About Phonics Instruction - #4 - College Prepares Teachers to Teach Reading

    It is probably bad form to start a blog post with a disclaimer but I feel that it is necessary. Let me go on record saying that collectively, teachers are not to blame for the current literacy rates in our country. Let me also say that I love, adore, and admire every single college professor (some more than others, of course) that I had as a pre-service teacher. 

    My first teaching job was in a first grade classroom. Before school started, I remember asking one teacher, beginning her second year of teaching first grade, how she taught reading. Incredulously, this was her reply, “I don’t really know. I just read them a lot of stories, do a lot of fun activities and somehow, they just get it. It’s like watching magic happen. It’s really fun.” Since I had graduated with a reading endorsement, I knew enough to know that there was more to it than that. I learned a lot in college about teaching children to love and comprehend reading and how to manage reading time in the classroom but I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t taught how to teach children to actually decode the words on the page. During that first year of teaching, I started to see my students’ excitement for reading decrease as they began to realize their struggles to read independently. I guess you could say the “reading magic” in my classroom became a disappearing act (go ahead, roll your eyes). 

    I will forever be grateful to the researchers who dedicated such large amounts of time analyzing the multitude of research studies that resulted in the National Reading Panel (NRP) report (NICHD, 2000). More than anything else, that report helped me solve the problem I was having teaching my students to decode. By reading the research report I learned what explicit, sequential, systematic phonics instruction was and effective ways to deliver the instruction. Most importantly, the “magic” and excitement my students had previously associated with reading returned as they became proficient decoders. As a side note, up to that point I had been using a phonics program that claimed to be systematic, sequential, and explicit but when I read the NRP report, I realized that it wasn’t adequate (even though the front of the teacher’s manual made the claim that it was aligned with NRP findings). The NRP report supplied the knowledge that I needed to modify what I was doing in the classroom until I found a program that was aligned with the findings. 

    It is interesting that, as a teacher, when I encountered a problem as basic as teaching students to decode I turned to sources outside of what I learned in college. It is also significant to note that I graduated in the spring of 2001. A full year after the report had been published. I wasn’t taught anything about the report in my reading endorsement classes. The sad truth seems to be that many of us are not taught in college what we need to know to teach reading.  ...

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    Dec 31 2013

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