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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

TNCore Summer Reading Training: Day 1

In Tennessee, Hamilton County in particular, we are bombarded with... blessed with opportunities for professional development. In fact, last year alone I completed over 100 hours of professional development. (reading, math, writing, and science combined)

This week I am attending 3 days of Common Core PD for English Language Arts. This PD was offered last summer,  but I was unable to attend. I was very happy to learn that it was being offered again!

The training is sponsored by TNCore and is being held at Walker Valley High School.

2nd and 3rd grades were grouped together and each attendee received a lovely workbook and packet of "teacher goodies" such as index cards, highlighters, post-it notes, etc. Today we covered units 1 and 2 in the workbook. Here are some of the highlights!

Unit 1: Reading Development and the Common Core State Standards

  • Reading comprehension is dependent on two major domains- decoding and language comprehension.

  • Decoding includes- phonemic awareness, phonics, morphology and syllabication, and automatic recognition of words by sight

  • Language comprehension includes- background knowledge, vocabulary, understanding language structure, verbal reasoning ability, and text structure knowledge

  • How teachers teach is important! To be systematic and explicit in their instruction, teachers must:
  1. Have a clearly stated purpose
  2. Model the instructional sequence
  3. Have instructional routines
  4. Conduct regular and cumulative reviews
  5. Use engaging techniques to earn high student response
  6. Give corrective feedback
  7. Have an intensity that matches the needs of the students
  • Conversation with your student(s) is important! A child in a high-verbal family would hear eleven million words; a child in a low-verbal family would hear just three million. (Hart and Risley 1995)
  • Language is stimulated through conversation and shared experience.... (Hart and Risley 1995)
  • ... children learn the form of language that they have been loved in. (Hart and Risley 1995)
  • Vocabulary use at age 3 was strongly related to reading comprehension scores in third grade. (Hart and Risley 1995)

I'll tell you why the last few points hit the hardest for me. As a teacher and a parent, I am surrounded by children 24/7. Young minds are like sponges, they will soak up whatever is around them. As an adult who is responsible for the molding and shaping of young minds, I need to make sure that what I am giving them is worthy of being soaked up. 
  • Am I talking with my kids, and not just at them? 
  • Am I using appropriate language and introducing new vocabulary
  • Am I actively taking time out of my day to have an (at least) 30 second conversation with them individually?
  • Am I reading with them daily?
I encourage parents to try to do at least 2 of those points a day with their child at home. I'll do my part as a parent with my 3 kids as well.

Unit 2: Oral Language, Vocabulary, and Speaking and Listening

What are some ways to have a "Language Rich" classroom or home?

1. Conversation

Teachers- do what you do best- get organized. Make a chart of your students and make sure you have a 30 second conversation with each student every week. This could be you talking to a chid during morning work or unpacking time, calling a child over during recess to have a quick chat, or having a small conversation while the class is waiting for the bathroom. It doesn't have to be deep or philosophical, it just needs to happen!

Parents- Talk to your child! Ask about their day, read a story, or talk with them over their homework. When giving directions, try to explain why the direction is being given, not just a quick order. 
Example: (DON'T SAY) Sit down!
(DO SAY) Please sit down, you are in your brother's way.
By adding an explanation, you are adding to your child's vocabulary!

2. Stretch It

Teachers- I also call this "speaking properly". I am a big fan of British movies and tv, and my students will attest to my addiction! I love Doctor Who and Sherlock (I mean, doesn't everybody?) and I can pretty much quote the entire 6 hour BBC version of Pride & Prejudice. So, in an attempt to make my classroom just a little more "high brow", I adopt a British accent when teaching new words. 

Example: When grading a partner's paper
Normal- Give the paper back to who it belongs to.
Properly- Please give the paper back to the person to whom it belongs.

When reprimanding
Normal- Pay attention and do your work.
Properly- Cease being idle and focus on the task before you.

I've found that when I adopt and accent it makes my students pay closer attention, and when they try to emulate my words, they over enunciate and end up sounding they way they should. (without the overly southern twang) I don't do this for all new vocabulary, but it's nice every once in a while!

Parents- The next time you take your child to the grocery store with you, play a naming game. Tell him or her an item on your list and ask them to describe it using every word they know. Or, play the game in reverse and describe an item on your list and have your child guess what it is.

Example: apple
round, red, yellow, green, crisp, crunchy, fruit, sweet, tart, healthy, from a plant, has seeds in the middle, tastes good in pies

Stretch their brains for words, and give them new ones when you can!

3. Kindness Counts

Teachers- Create a classroom where affirmation is the norm. Whether it's teacher-to-student, or student-to-student, kids need to know that what they do matters and is appreciated. 

In low-language families, children heard they were right about 120 thousand times and they heard they were wrong about 250 thousand times. Their linguistically advantaged peers heard they were right about 750 thousand times and heard they were wrong 120 thousand times. (Hart and Risley 1995)

I've seen teachers make Compliment Chains, keep Warm Fuzzies Jars, have Bucket Fillers, earn compliment parties... you name it! It's all good! Just make sure that you're not the only one giving the praise. Students need to feel comfortable giving as well as receiving compliments. 

Parents- Praise your child. Often and with great gusto. Praise them.
I know they're not angels. I know they get loud and obnoxious. (I have 3 of my own, remember?) But when you find your children doing something well or right, praise them. 

If your child is being even more of a pain than usual, (Which would be my kid right now. I'm surprised you can't hear her whining through the computer.) then take whichever disciplinary action is right for you, but come back when the tantrum is done and talk it out. Once my daughter is done complaining over whatever wrong she believes has been done to her, I will talk to her about the problem, ask what she should have done instead, and praise her for being able to talk things out using her "big kid" words. 

4. Practice What You Preach

Teachers- You want your students to have an extensive vernacular at their beck and call? You want them to have brains like thesauruses and impeccable diction and enunciation? Then step up to that plate yourself and show them how it's done! 
I've read that in order for something to become a routine it takes 7 days of practice. (or something like that) If you want your students to learn new vocabulary, it's going to take more than having then write the words in different colors, writing the definition, and putting it on a sentence. (I'm guilty of it too, but no longer!) Here's the new and improved way to teach new vocabulary:
  • Say the word, teach pronunciation
  • Have the class repeat it
  • Read the word, and say the definition using a complete sentence
  • Have the class repeat the definition
  • Write the word, and have students read and write the word
  • Add a gesture to the definition, and repeat the sentence with the gesture
  • Have student partners take turns teaching the word to each other
  • Have partners turn back to you and repeat one more time

I'm not going to lie, I still plan on having my kids do things like rainbow write the words, and illustrate the word when used in a sentence, but I'll be doing those things after teaching them the new way!

Parents- Follow up with your child. Ask him or her what they learned in school, and insist that they be able to tell you a new word. We all know that a good education is worth its weight in gold. Take a little time out of your day to let your student know that you value their learning, and they should too. Remember, you are their first teacher. Make it count!

Here are some websites that were mentioned in PD today. Check them out!

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