• The Rules of the English Language: Is There a Method to the Madness?

    The Rules of the English Language: Is There a Method to the Madness?

    Happy National Poetry Month! This poem is a poem that was written by Lord Cromer of England in 1902. It highlights some of the inconsistencies that seem to exist between spoken and written words in the English language.

    English is not a static language. Historically, it has been shaped and changed over the years by numerous political, social, and multicultural influences. Sometimes the change in a word is in the way it is pronounced, like the word sword wherein the ‘w’ used to be heard. Sometimes the change in a word (or words) is in the spelling, like in the words come, son, and love which used to be spelled with the vowel ‘u’ (until the Normans replaced it with an ‘o’ when it preceded the letters m, n, and v because a series of similar-looking letters was difficult to read). Webster changed the spelling of mould to mold and also dropped the ‘u’ in words like color and labor. Shakespeare himself was purported to coin over 1,700 words (Crystal, 2006) of which over half still exist today (e.g. bandit, daunting, laughable, and swagger).

    It’s no wonder that teachers and students can become overwhelmed and confused with some English words. However, there is good reason to take heart. ...

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    Mar 29 2013
  • 4 Tricks for Helping Students Correct b/d Letter Reversals

    4 Tricks for Helping Students Correct b/d Letter Reversals

    This blog post is brought to you by the lowercase letters b and d. They look so similar that you can see where confusion occurs for beginning readers and writers. Letter reversals are frequently seen in the writings of K-2nd grade students whose orthographic representation of each letter is not fully developed. Students who have not properly … ...

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    Mar 12 2013
  • The Research-Based Gap Between Perceived vs. Actual Ability in Teaching Reading

    The Research-Based Gap Between Perceived vs. Actual Ability in Teaching Reading

    In the world of psychology there is a phenomenon called “The Illusion of Explanatory Depth.” In their article on the phenomenon, Rozenblit and Keil (2002) explain that, “People feel they understand complex phenomena with far greater precision, coherence, and depth than they really do; they are subject to an illusion – an illusion of explanatory depth.” Basically, people think they know more about things than they really do. For example, if you asked 100 people on the street if they knew how a toaster works, many, if not most would say that they do. Most people have successfully used a toaster, after all. If you then asked them to explain exactly how a toaster works, it would quickly become apparent to both of you that they really don’t know as much about a toaster as they thought they did.

    Research about teacher knowledge supports this notion when it comes to reading instruction. Common perception is that being a skilled reader (i.e. knowing how to read) is qualification enough to be a skilled teacher of reading. However, being a skilled reader does not mean one has an explicit awareness of the structures of written and spoken language that is necessary to effectively teach reading. Over the years, Louisa Moats has administered many surveys to teachers with varying levels of experience in order to measure their perceived and actual knowledge of concepts that are essential for effective reading instruction (Moats, 1995; Moats & Foorman, 2003). Teachers taking the survey were asked how confident they were in their ability to teach reading then they were asked specific questions about reading. Moats found some major gaps in teacher knowledge about reading instruction and understanding of the structure of the English language.

    Results from these surveys have consistently demonstrated that teachers show a lack of understanding of the following concepts related to literacy knowledge and instruction: ...

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    Mar 04 2013
  • Six Characteristics of Effective Reading Teachers

    Six Characteristics of Effective Reading Teachers

    It seems like there has been a lot of talk lately about measuring ‘teacher effectiveness’. In fact, some organizations are spending a lot of time and money trying to identify effective teachers and compare them to their less-than-effective peers in an attempt to define what a good teacher does to get desired results. Ironically, we as teachers are, understandably, so caught up in the immediacy of teaching that we forget to reflect on what good teaching looks like to us. After spending several years as a literacy coach, observing in classrooms, and helping teachers use data to drive instruction, I have noticed some similarities among teachers who get good results, (I am speaking quantitatively and qualitatively, by the way). For what it is worth, these are just a few of my observations about what makes a teacher a good teacher. ...

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    Feb 20 2013
  • 9 Types of Brilliance: Help Your Students Discover Their Gifts

    9 Types of Brilliance: Help Your Students Discover Their Gifts

    By Guest Writer, Tina Winkle

    I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Janine Caffrey’s Reading Horizons webinar, Nurturing Brilliance: Discovering and Developing the Gifts of Every Child. Caffrey is the superintendent at Perth Amboy Schools in New Jersey and is the author of Nurturing Brilliance: Developing Your Child’s Gifts and Drive: 9 Ways to Motivate Your Kids to Succeed.

    At the beginning of the webinar a question flooded my head, “What does brilliance mean to me?” I envisioned Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart playing frantically on the piano with his white wig waving about like a butterfly. Dr. Caffrey thankfully provided the definition of brilliance for us. ...

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    Feb 19 2013
  • 7 Learning Apps That Help Reading Compete in a Media-Centric Society

    7 Learning Apps That Help Reading Compete in a Media-Centric Society

    The study, “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America,”  is based on a survey of 1,384 parents of children up to 8 years old, and was conducted May 27-June 15, 2011. One key finding was that 52% of all children 8 years old and younger have access to mobile devices with some children spending an average of 43 minutes a day on the devices.

    That statistic alone helps to explain why Angry Birds has been downloaded over 250 million times (I am sure that the number is larger since Angry Birds Star Wars was released in November).

    As teachers, this poses a multi-faceted problem: schools are slow to keep up with technology and homework is competing with these digital distractions. National literacy statistics would lead us to believe that we are not winning this battle.

    So, if you can’t beat em?...

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    Feb 11 2013
  • 7 Ways a Love of Reading Makes You a Better Teacher of Reading

    7 Ways a Love of Reading Makes You a Better Teacher of Reading

    Do you have to love reading to teach reading?

    To some, that may seem like a rhetorical question. But.. if you are like most teachers, you spend no more than 10 minutes daily of your free time reading. It is understandable that life has demands that do not include sitting down with a good book but if your love affair with reading has died down, here are 7 reasons you may want to rekindle the love affair. ...

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    Feb 04 2013
  • The Four Keys to Motivating Struggling Readers

    The Four Keys to Motivating Struggling Readers

    During a recent ‘organization spree’, my mom unearthed from the depths of the basement, a pile of report cards from my elementary through high school years.  On my first grade report card my teacher had written, “Stacy can do anything that she puts her mind to.”  I am sure that as a first grader, I took that as a compliment. As a teacher, I now understand it to mean that motivation was an issue. This supposition was supported by a comment written on one of my high school report cards, “Stacy is capable of more. Prod her a bit.”  I am pointing out the obvious here, but all of us would probably agree that whatever is required of us is more enjoyable (and more likely to be completed) when we are motivated.

    Recently, efforts to improve student achievement have been focused on providing our schools with better curriculum and instructional materials, more highly qualified teachers, and standards that clearly define what students are expected to learn. Even IF all of these things are in place, gains in student achievement will be difficult to show if students are not motivated to learn. Motivation can make the difference between learning something temporarily and being able to ‘own’ and apply what they have learned permanently. One study showed that students who are motivated to read, spend 300% more time reading than students who are not motivated to read (Tweet!) (Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997).  Student motivation is not only linked to higher levels of achievement but it is also linked to satisfaction with school, positive self-esteem, social adjustment, and lower dropout rates.

    Motivation to read is only one piece of the reading puzzle but it is a necessary piece, especially if we, as parents and/or teachers, want students to develop a habit of reading that will benefit them throughout their lives. There are various aspects of motivation, but researchers agree four factors are critical for motivating students: ...

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    Jan 23 2013

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