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First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our
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September 8, 2008
Six steps to explicit vocabulary development
Discussion of reading instruction — which started with a look at the Core Knowledge Reading Program (CKRP) being piloted in NYC this year — has really taken off, with commenters raising important questions: How does the content in CKRP differ from what's being read now? What about helping children understand syntax? Does vocabulary development in Science differ from other subject areas? While I look into those issues, here's a technique one Queens teacher uses to help her students learn new words. Katie Kurjakovic, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at P.S. 11 in Queens, illustrates the problem with an anecdote: A second-grade teacher was preparing to read a story about George Washington's wife, Martha, to her class. She anticipated all the unfamiliar vocabulary she thought they would encounter. She told them what colonies and colonists were. She spoke of the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. Then, shortly after she began reading, a girl raised her hand with a puzzled look on her face. "What's a wife?" she asked. Kurjakovic uses a six-step process to explicitly teach vocabulary to her English Language Learners. Before reading a text, she identifies and introduces ("previews") new vocabulary for her students, then she reads the text, uses the words in the context of the text and then in a new context, and finally gives her students an opportunity to use the words.
September 5, 2008
It’s Friday, just show a video: Math embedded in real-life in a Moroccan school
Marrakesh - olives, <em>by ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/goofball/497059788/##goofball12##</em>. From average to perimeter to speed, students at a school in Morocco practice mathematics in the context of…
September 5, 2008
How’d your first week go, teachers?
<em>Photo by ##http://flickr.com/photos/wencheung/417851981/##wendelling##</em> Four days into the new school year, I thought I'd check in with the city's teacher-bloggers, who give us a unique look at everyday life in schools. Alicia, a midwesterner new to the city, but not new to teaching, experienced a little culture shock — uniforms, unpronounceable names, mice?! — and reflected on another teacher's advice not to be too nice: I am torn and a little sad at the thought that these students cannot handle me being me as a teacher. They've had strict disciplinarians in the past, and it's probably the best way to ensure for a successful school year. It's just a bit more intense than I had hoped or planned. When would I have ever imagined that being called "nice" would backfire on me?! Hopefully in the next few months I can be nice again, but for now, I'm all business, and I'm going to start making sure that a few particular boys are aware of this... Starting at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow. Jose Vilson also feels like his teaching self is a "persona," but finds that kids react well to his "incredible swagger" and strict expectations for order and productivity. "If I thoroughly believe in that persona, then that’s exactly what I’m going to get … and sometimes to a fault," he says.
September 5, 2008
“Good air” is oxygen: first teach concepts, then add vocab, study says
<em>Screenshot originally posted at the ##http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2008/august20/teachsci-082008.html##Stanford News Service##</em>. <em>Screenshot originally posted at the ##http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2008/august20/teachsci-082008.html##Stanford News Service##</em>. Photosynthesis, glucose, chloroplasts: the language of science…
September 4, 2008
How “the rich get richer” in reading for understanding
In response to yesterday's post about the Core Knowledge Reading Program, reader Smith asks, Is he saying their is a core set of content that would prepare a student to understand a randomly selected reading passage on a standardized test? Could someone explain this idea to a non-ELA teacher? I’ve always assumed those reading passages could range from “The Mysteries of Ancient Egpyt” to “Sally’s Bad Day at School” to “Roger’s Time Machine Adventure”. How is content selected? Great question. It's true that the content of test reading passages varies, and I don't think anyone believes that a child can be prepared with content knowledge specific to every possible topic. Rather, some children enter school knowing thousands more words than others, and this difference compounds over years of schooling in a "rich get richer" scenario called the "Matthew Effect" by researchers. (Don't take my word for it: this study, one of many, found that by age 3, children of parents with smaller vocabularies not only knew fewer words, used fewer words per hour, and used a smaller variety of words per hour, "but they were also adding words more slowly.") Hirsch summarized this effect in a 2006 article in American Educator: Many specialists estimate that a child (or an adult) needs to understand a minimum of 90 percent of the words in a passage in order to understand the passage and thus begin to learn the other 10 percent of the words. Moreover, it’s not just the words that the student has to grasp the meaning of—it’s also the kind of reality that the words are referring to.... When a child doesn’t understand those word meanings and those referred-to realities, being good at sounding out words is a dead end. Reading becomes a kind of Catch-22: In order to become better at reading with understanding, you already have to be able to read with understanding.
September 3, 2008
E.D. Hirsch: Content knowledge “terribly important for social justice”
A week after Sol Stern argued in City Journal that New York City should create an office of reading improvement and provide low class sizes and scientifically-based reading instruction in high-poverty, low-scoring schools, the DOE announced a new reading initiative: teachers at 10 pilot schools will implement the new Core Knowledge Reading Program (CKRP) in grades K-2. Education historian Diane Ravitch wrote in favor of the program in the Post on Monday, saying it's a smarter choice than the "unproven" Balanced Literacy curriculum that Klein introduced in 2003. "Balanced Literacy doesn't stress content knowledge, vocabulary or phonics. And we now know that it didn't work," she says, citing flat reading scores on the 4th and 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). What will the new reading program look like?
September 3, 2008
Reading, writing, and riding: Getting to school in an era of fear
The award for most sensational start-of-school headline goes to the Associated Press, which asks, "Back-to-school, but how? Parents fear walking, bus." Photo courtesy of ##http://www.livablestreets.com/streetswiki##Streetswiki## Compared with all of the stresses of returning to school — making friends, encountering a new teacher, getting more homework — walking doesn't seem like too serious of a problem. Still, decisions about how to get to school are major ones in many families, and they can be fraught with fear. The AP article describes how parents across the country eschew walking or biking for their children because they fear abduction and unsafe streets. Even here in New York, where kids learn how to navigate public transportation from an early age, many parents are apprehensive about putting their kids on a city bus alone each morning. Last year, New York Sun columnist Lenore Skenazy made waves when she let her then-9-year-old son find his way home alone from Midtown Manhattan, with only a Metrocard and subway map for guidance; some critics even accused her of child abuse. Skenazy appears at the end of the AP article, explaining that her son usually walks home from school on his own both out of necessity — his parents are at work when school lets out — and because she wants to take a stand against the culture of fear that has permeated parenting.
September 2, 2008
A snapshot of Brooklyn Tech on the first day of school
Scenes this morning from around the perimeter of Brooklyn Tech, the huge specialized high school located in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, highlight the…
August 29, 2008
It’s Friday, just show a video: Back to school in the Blackboard Jungle
An Oscar-nominated take on teaching in NYC, and one of Sidney Poitier’s early films.
August 26, 2008
Words of wisdom for teachers from around the web
What does NBA player Tim Duncan have to do with teaching? ##http://thejosevilson.com/blog/2008/08/05/a-letter-to-a-new-nyc-teaching-fellow/##It's all about the poker face, says Jose Vilson.## The start of school is fast-approaching, and teachers around the "edusphere" are offering advice to newbies. Here in NYC, Jose Vilson writes a sharp, good-humored letter to new Teaching Fellows, advising them to be humble, reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, observe other teachers, keep emotions in check, and stay out of school politics. Coach Brown, starting his eighth year in California, says it's all about doing what's best for kids, and this takes hard work, preparation, finding your own style of teaching, and knowing how to pick your battles. Don't waste your students' time, he warns: Students are some of the best judges of good teaching that exist. 95% of all students actually want to learn. They tell you in means that are not typical but will tell you immediately if you are doing it "wrong". ...However, students will always have a positive response to work they find meaningful. Jamie Huston, a high school literature teacher in Las Vegas, offers 50 Things New Teachers Need to Know.
August 26, 2008
New strategy for middle school engagement: iPods for all
iPod Touch by ##http://flickr.com/photos/rohdesign/##Mike Rohde## Looks like I was born too soon — my middle school is considering giving an iPod touch to…
August 25, 2008
Department of Education welcomes teachers
<em>The PS 22 Chorus performing last year at the Tribute WTC Museum. Courtesy of ##http://ps22chorus.blogspot.com##PS 22 Chorus##</em> "A week from tomorrow, the games begin," Chancellor Joel Klein told an audience of a few hundred teachers at a welcome event this morning at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. Speaking of New York City students as "my kids," Klein encouraged teachers to "teach them well and they will do well on these exams." In addition to speeches by Klein, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, and others, the event featured performances by city students, including the music of the PS 22 chorus from Staten Island, double dutch by Stan's Pepper Steppers, and foxtrot, swing, and mambo by the Dancing Classrooms Youth Dance Company. Pointing to the accomplishments of his fifth grade choristers, music teacher and chorus director Gregg Breinberg told the audience, "I know many of you are entering the profession, and I just want to tell you — reach, reach, reach." Other speakers echoed that message of high expectations for students — and for oneself as a teacher. "Quite frankly, we don't have room for so-so teachers, we don't have room for that mediocrity in our schools," Deputy Chancellor Marcia Lyles said. She recalled the way her sixth grade teacher made each child feel like her favorite. Lyles honored 33 teachers chosen for the Gotham Graduates Give Back Award, a $1,000 prize given to select teachers who graduated from New York City public schools.
August 22, 2008
It’s Friday, just show a video: School Day
A little rock’n’roll as summer comes to a close……
August 21, 2008
How do you decide what’s developmentally appropriate?
How do you know when something is developmentally appropriate? asks the Science Goddess. My first thought was, I'll bet Daniel T. Willingham has addressed this one. Willingham, from the University of Virginia, writes a regular column in American Educator called "Ask the Cognitive Scientist," and sure enough, his column this summer asks, "What is developmentally appropriate practice?" Willingham writes that research has disproved some key assumptions behind the "developmentally appropriate" concept. The problem is that cognitive development does not seem amenable to a simple descriptive set of principles that teachers can use to guide their instruction. Far from proceeding in discrete stages with pervasive effects, cognitive development appears to be quite variable--depending on the child, the task, even the day (since children may solve a problem correctly one day and incorrectly the next).
August 21, 2008
An interactive whiteboard for the DIY teacher
(And really, what other kind of teacher is there?) Via DC Education Blog, instructions for making your own interactive whiteboard using a Wiimote, an…
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