Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nursery Rhymes, Poetry, and English Language Learners

Growing up an English language learner, my early years in school were challenging.  I didn’t have the benefit of Spanish language instruction, or ELD support.  There were times when I didn’t understand what was happening in the classroom, and found myself shadowing my classmates.  However, I also recall having rich activities with song, dance, and language. 

The nursery rhymes in the early grades, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, along with hand gestures and body movement, lowered my affective filter and helped me to remember words and phrases more effectively.  In the later grades, it was poetry. In the sixth grade, I learned and presented Paul Revere’s Ride.  Learning through nursery rhymes and poetry provided me with a great opportunity to practice the cadence of the English language, to develop strong vocabulary, and to articulate more clearly.  The opportunity to present Paul Revere’s Ride helped to give me confidence in acquiring English.  Teaching through poetry can be a great experience for both teachers and EL students.  

In a recent article,  Language Unleashed: The Powerful Poetry of Multilingual Students, MindShift talks about the power of poetry in supporting English language learners in their English language development.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

District Leader Podcast in LIVE!

Luis Valentino, District LeaderThe District Leader: Transforming Education podcast is LIVE on iTunes, and ready for listeningDistrict Leader is a podcast dedicated to highlighting leaders in public education from across the country.  Each week, I interview superintendents who share their inspiring stories. District Leader is a podcast about moving and inspiring educators and non-educators alike to believe in the power of education, its leaders, and its transformation.

Informing the District Leader interviews are 3 important pillars:  Scholarship, the concept that we are forever learning, Leadership, the concept that we are able to move and inspire people into thought, feeling, and action, and Agency, that we empower those we serve.

The podcast will serve as an opportunity to introduce guests to a broader audience, who will ultimately become allies, agents and patrons of public education.  Below is a link to the iTunes Store to subscribe to the podcasts. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/district-leader/id1132944041?mt=2

Additional information can be found at distritleader.net

ADHD and New Federal Guidelines

The primary mission of public school districts in America is to ensure that all students have access to a comprehensive, equitable, and inclusive educational experience.  However, many schools and districts are challenged when it comes to students with special needs.  

And as schools and districts prepare for the new school year, they will find that students with identified ADHD now fall within clearly established federal guidelines.  This will require that districts effectively communicate these guidelines, work with schools to identify students properly, allocate resources for the expected increase in IEPs, develop appropriate plans and strategies, and monitor and evaluate the transition.

More importantly, teachers, site administrators, and support staff, will need to be provided with comprehensive and sustained professional development and support. In a recent LA Times article, ADHD Is Now Classified as a Specific Disability Under Federal Civil Rights Law, Joy Resmovits describes the expectations of this new law.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Schooling and Values-Based Learning Experiences

One of the most interesting, and challenging, courses I ever took in college was called Ethics and Society.  The class required that I engage in discourse around deep moral issues facing society, while evaluating my beliefs, my truth about right and wrong, what is absolute versus what is relative, etc.  To be honest, I wasn’t ready for such depth and rigor.  My K - 12 experience had not prepared me to deal with such complex issues.  The curriculum and assessments I took were focused on preparing me to succeed on the 3 Rs, along with the grade level standards of the time.. 

Unfortunately, many educators and non-educators alike believe that schools and classrooms are failing to properly equip students with the skills to handle complex moral issues. Paul Bardwell suggests that “…while school mission statements often reveal a goal of preparing students for a mix of lifelong success, citizenship, college, and careers, the reality is that addressing content standards and test preparation continues to dominate countless schools’ operations and focus.”

Given the nature of schooling, the challenge continues to be the lack of opportunities for teachers and students to engage in values-based experiences.  Any change will require that we reimagine schooling and the vision we hold for students’ learning.  The good news is that efforts are being made to create opportunities for students to engage in learning experiences that challenge their sense of self, their context, and their truth. Paul Bardwell, in Students' Broken Moral Compasses, brings focus to this important topic.

Technology and Adolescents. Its a New World.

As students embark on their academic and professional careers, one thing that will have been well established is their digital footprint.  From baby photos posted on Facebook and Flickr, to pictures and videos on Snapchats, Instagram, Pinterest, and others, young people today are creating a record of themselves from the day they are born.  And while there is fun in that, it can also be quite dangerous if not managed well.

For those of us from the baby boomer generation, technology has played a very different role in our lives than it has for the generations following.  We have had to learn to use apps and games in ways that is more organic to younger people, and they live with the expectation by their peers that they use the technology as part of their social network.  As a result, not only do they trust it more, but their constant use of it has given them the facility to manipulate it in ways that we don’t.  

But because our learning curve is steeper, we also appreciate, respect, and fear, the technology more.  This level of conflicted emotion is needed with young people, so that they understand how much harm the technology can cause them when they are careless, and mindless in how they use it.  The good news is that it is learned behavior, and therefore, good habits can be learned. Clara Galan wrote an article, Students Are The New Digital Influencers, that speaks to the issue of adolescents and technology, and the importance of teaching them how to use their technology. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Maker Movement In Schools

The "maker movement" is alive and well across the country.  Do-it-Yourselfers are tinkering in their spaces, building and creating really cool things.  This movement has gained traction, and as a result has now begun to make its way into schools and classrooms.

But what will be the purpose for bringing the maker concept to the classroom? How will it be integrated? What will be the indicators of effectiveness?  These questions are not unique to the maker concept, but reflect the challenges that arise when integrating any new idea, program, strategy, etc., with the established school curricula, teaching methods, and accountabiities.  But as schools and districts begin to move again toward addressing the needs of the whole child,  opportunities such as the maker movement will help to facilitate that effort. In a recent NPR story, 3 Challenges As Hands-On, DIY Culture Moves Into Schools, Eric Westervelt shares his thoughts on the challenges and possibilities of the maker movement in schools and in classrooms.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How Students Learn Best. A Revisit.

How do students learn best?  There are dozens of theories and practices that have defined how we can best help students learn in order for them to achieve the stated objectives.  As a result, entire industries have flourished around this question, seeking answers.  The issue, however, goes beyond what we implement or apply.  It starts with how we think about the life of a student in school, how they view their experience, and whether or not we are taking advantage of that view in helping them learn.

Will Richardson, former teacher, who now travels the world speaking on this issue, believe that part our struggle in helping students learn is that “the current context demands a radically different vision of learning”, and we have not adapted.   But how will our vision for students be different than what we have in our schools and districts now?  What systems, structures, and processes, will we need to reimagine in order to more effectively help students learn?

In today’s Wiredprofiles, we highlight an article on this topic by Katrina Schwartz, How Can Schools Prioritize For The Best Ways Kids Learn?