stephanie jones

Archive for the ‘teaching reading’ Category

Great new blog on Children’s Literature

In critical literacy, literacy, Reading, teacher education resources, teaching reading on November 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Thanks to Grace Enriquez for sharing this!


Feeding on the reading frenzy…

In Education Policy, literacy, Reading, teaching reading on July 8, 2010 at 2:59 am

This spring a grad student asked me about the “Department of Education Reading Institute” being held in California.

I tilted my head and squinted my eyes (I know, because that’s what I do when I get suspicious).

Her school district was offering to pay teachers’ expenses to fly to California and attend the institute – hotel accommodations, food, and all.

I choked down the “What would the Department of Education know about reading?” instinctive response, and quietly googled DOE Reading Institute.

Well, there it was.

But there it wasn’t too.

There were no speakers listed yet, no titles of sessions, no objectives even published.

But teachers could register.

But there’s nothing here. I told my student. I don’t know what to tell you, but I don’t know why a district would agree to pay to send teachers to something when it’s not even a thing yet – what is it supposed to be about?

Reading, idiot.

But of course.

So then I’m perusing Susan Ohanian’s blog and find her outrage at the DOE Reading Institute (which now has plenty of speakers listed).

Then it all becomes clear (of course it seems that way when someone else lays it out for you):

DOE Reading Institute is code for phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, and maybe a little comprehension.

DOE Reading Institute is code for scripted programs, authors of scripted programs, authors of “evidence-based” reading practices.

DOE Reading Institute is code for MAKING MONEY FOR PUBLISHERS AND PROGRAMS TO TELL TEACHERS WHAT TO DO WITH KIDS – even when what those things are DON’T MAKE SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!



this ugly, despicable, embarassing, shameful, feeding on this country’s reading frenzy is exhausting.

Guess what we need to do to get kids to read more, read better, and read more critically? We need to be reading TO them, reading WITH them, and giving them lots of high-interest materials and lots of time for them to READ by themselves and with others.

It costs very little to do this…

But instead, we’ll create lots of reluctant and resistant “struggling” readers who will despise anything related to reading by pushing them through meaningless instruction and exercises that cost lots of money.

really…when will this nightmare end?

Struggling with Struggling Readers? New Book: The Reading Turn-Around

In anti-bias teaching, critical literacy, great books, justice, professional development resources, teacher education resources, teaching reading on October 23, 2009 at 11:52 am

Finally…these things take so long…

but the book I wrote with Lane Clarke and Grace Enriquez is finally in print:

The Reading Turn-Around: A Five Part Framework for Differentiated Instruction (Teachers College Press)

and you can even pre-order at Amazon for a great price!

And here’s what some really smart folks are saying about it:)

“This is a masterwork that is simultaneously practical and groundbreaking…The model these authors use to familiarize teachers with the essential elements of reading practice is clear and beautifully illustrated with stories of children you’ll swear you know.”
—From the Foreword by Ellin Oliver Keene, national staff developer, co-author of Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction

“This deeply intelligent and compassionate book provides teachers with detailed classroom scenarios and dozens of teaching tools for engaging all readers. The authors demonstrate how to help all students become motivated and powerful meaning-makers of a wide variety of texts.”
Katherine Bomer, Literacy Consultant, K-12, author of For a Better World: Reading and Writing for Social Action

“Unlike the plethora of books that claim to provide teachers with powerful teaching strategies to help children who struggle with reading, The Reading Turn-Around actually accomplishes this. The book is full of detailed case studies of students that teachers will recognize and strategies that teachers can use. There is no other book like it in the field.”
Catherine Compton-Lilly, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Reading: The ongoing national focus

In great books, professional development resources, teacher education resources, teaching reading on August 30, 2009 at 10:58 pm
Tale as old as time
True as it can be
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
Just a little change
Small to say the least
Both a little scared
Neither one prepared...

Would any of you literacy people out there ever think you would find an article that references Diane Ravitch, Lucy Calkins, Catherine Snow, Elizabeth Moje, and Nancie Atwell all agreeing on something??? Well, okay, Diane Ravitch didn’t admit to agreeing, but in her steadfast clinging to Moby Dick she also didn’t completely disagree, did she? choice (lower case ‘c’) seems to be a common intersection…

Here it is in today’s NY Times – The Future of Reading: A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like

Imagine a FRONT PAGE article in the New York Times on Reading Workshop, self-selected reading, and schools setting aside 40 minutes a day for students to read!!! I shook my head and did several double-takes before convincing myself it was real. And all kinds of literacy folks are cited agreeing that student choice, time for self-selected reading, and empowering children to be in control of their reading WORKS in more ways than one. (I won’t debate the definition of working here, but you all know we all have our own ideas of what “works” actually means)

This is the 4th article in a series on teaching/learning reading (The Future of Reading) in the Times, including:

Literacy Debate: Online R U Really Reading?

Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers

In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update

**And please don’t over-analyze my use of Beauty and the Beast…the song just came rushing into my mind as I read the article. Don’t ask me why – I have no idea and I refuse to psychoanalyze it or anything else. Seriously, I didn’t have any person or people in mind as “Beauty” or “Beast” so don’t “read” anything onto it – just thought it was a funny intro to the article:)

What do I really want out of school as a parent?

In creativity, critical literacy, democracy, family-school relations, inquiry, personal narratives, teacher education, teaching reading on August 7, 2009 at 6:44 pm

After a nearly two hour ordeal with my seven-year-old newly-second-grader Hayden this morning, who announced she was quitting school and refused to get on the bus (again – for regular readers who know this has happened in the past), we made a deal that I hope buys me some time, and I quote:

“When you can read the newspaper, talk to me intelligently about everything in it, locate all the places mentioned in the articles on a map and globe and know something about them, then we can talk about doing something other than school. Deal?”


“But I can already read the newspaper,” she said – though that’s not entirely true.

“Yes, but you can’t have an intelligent conversation about it yet,” my witty response.

I was desperate this morning. We tried 30 minutes of home-schooling (please just home-school me! she said), but that didn’t work. She tried to convince me to take her to my classes at UGA (I’m little but I can learn that stuff too!), but I told her she wasn’t allowed to go to UGA without going to another school first. I had an appointment at 9:30 and the clock was ticking…so I made the deal out of desperation and without giving any thought to what I was saying.

And now I sit, thinking about that deal.

Is that really what I want my child to get out of school? Because if it is, I’m afraid it doesn’t usually happen.

But think about it – the newspaper covers religion, politics, general science, mathematics, social issues, ecology, biology, health, nutrition, technology, innovation, medicine, entertainment, the arts, local issues, global issues, war, genocide, social relations, civics, sociology, psychology, geography, sports, education, and on and on and on and on.

And if one could read and speak intelligently about all these things – wouldn’t we have hit the mark?

So perhaps this is what education boils down to for me – at least today – and I’ll stick to my deal and see how much time it buys me.

But she better be doing a lot of studying up at home if she hopes to reach this point, because I rarely see a newspaper in schools.

I just loooovvve Barbara O’Connor

In families, fiction, great books, social class, teacher education resources, teaching reading, teaching writing, Uncategorized on July 21, 2009 at 9:03 pm

I cried this afternoon.

Yes, a “children’s chapter book” hooked me from the first sentence and I read until the final word.

And cried.

And laughed.

And smiled – a real, genuine, can’t stop my muscles from doing what they’re doing smile.

I read Me and Rupert Goody this afternoon and had to tell you all – again – that Barbara O’Connor is an author I’ve been looking for for many many years. Too bad she wasn’t around when I was a kid…

I’ve already shared some Barbara O’Connor titles I discovered last summer on past posts, and I’ve read two more of her books already this summer:

Me and Rupert Goody (1999)

How to Steal a Dog (2009)

Scholastic must’ve recently discovered her as well – How to Steal a Dog is published by Scholastic and it’s gotten a lot of attention via school book fairs and other media. This surprised me, actually, since I find O’Connor’s books to be beautifully written and set in working-class or poor communities where issues of race, gender, dis/Abilities, religion, work, age, family structures, morals, and intelligence are richly woven into the lives of the characters. Not your typical Scholastic book – but I’m glad she’ll have a wider audience of readers now and maybe, just maybe, more kids will be introduced to diverse working-class and poor lives through her narratives.

I read O’Connor’s books to Hayden, my seven-year-old (and read them to her as a six-year-old as well), and I have heard of teachers using them in grades 3-8 depending on the book and the purpose. I recommend them for all ages of readers, and truly enjoy reading them on my own. I laugh, I cry, I shake my head, and I can’t put them down.

Rich read aloud chapter books/working-class stories by Barbara O’Connor

In communities, families, family-school relations, fiction, great books, poverty, professional development resources, social class, teacher education, teacher education resources, teaching reading on July 20, 2008 at 9:40 pm

I discovered Barbara O’Connor this summer and have zipped through three of her young adult short novels – all of which I would read aloud to children in the early grades. Hayden loved Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia and Taking Care of Moses and I read Moonpie and Ivy on my own (reading aloud takes so much longer than reading to myself…). Each of these three books are richly contextualized in the daily lives of working-class and poor characters while none of them are overtly about social class. You won’t find the more typical “overcoming adversity” stories here, but rather nuanced narratives of love, desire, loss, grief, anxiety, anger, friendship, and all the other complexities of living as humans. Hayden and I love the characters – it’s rare to find a book for children with tattooed big-hearted men, aluminum-can collecting dads, or mothers who have reached their mothering limits within a context where everything costs more money than she has and no one nearby can help much. But such characters fill the pages of O’Connor’s stories, and I have enjoyed them immensely. I’ll likely seek out her other books as well…

Cool things happenin’ everywhere…826

In communities, creativity, justice, social action, teacher education resources, teaching reading, teaching writing, Uncategorized on June 18, 2008 at 5:36 pm

My dear friend and colleague Lane Clarke at Northern Kentucky University sent an email about this story from NPR on the 826 in Brooklyn. I’ve heard and read about 826 before, but somehow it got wrapped up in the sticky webs of my mind and I had nearly forgotten about it completely. I love the concept: really cool, kid-enticing storefront (spies, superheroes, etc.) that mark the entrance into a really cool, creative space where kids read and write. Love it.

Teaching “tolerance” / Anti-bias teaching

In anti-bias teaching, critical literacy, democracy, Holocaust, inquiry, justice, professional development resources, social action, teacher education resources, teaching reading, teaching writing on February 17, 2008 at 10:14 pm

Karen Spector gave a fabulous invited talk to students in my undergrad course (integrated curriculum) at UGA last week. Two days before her talk we viewed Paper Clips, the popular documentary about a school in Tennessee that engaged the Holocaust for four years and included a school-community, local-global social action project resulting in a permanent memorial being constructed at the school. The memorial is now used as a site for educational tours which are planned and guided by middle school students.

As a class we were looking at the film from the perspective of an integrated curricular experience that lasted a long period of time and we asked questions about what subject areas were integrated and how, what further integration might have taken place, whose perspectives are represented in the Holocaust study and whose perspectives were missing, what tenets of critical literacy were apparent, how the students came to study the Holocaust, etc.

Karen offered us more questions to ask ourselves:

Why are the “ghosts of the Holocaust” regularly awakened for “us” (whoever that may         be) to learn about tolerance?

What might have been learned if the students had moved their study of intolerance and         hatred to their local contexts and researched the community to better understand             why there weren’t Jews, Catholics, African Americans, or Latinos living there?

What might have been learned if the students studied the history of Anti-Semitism in             Christianity?

What symbolism is employed in the film (crosses, paper clips, rail car, etc.), and how                 can that symbolism be read from multiple perspectives?

One of the questions, “Why are the ghosts of the Holocaust regularly awakened…for the study of tolerance?” has stuck with me for some time (Karen and I are friends, so I’ve heard this before;). Some of my undergraduates had fabulous insight when responding to the question including thoughts such as the U.S. can be portrayed as a “savior” of sorts since many soldiers were involved in the liberation of many concentration camps (albeit 6 million people too late), that the hatred and intolerance of the Holocaust can be couched as historic and therefore a lesson we’ve already learned (ignoring ongoing genocide and human rights violations around the world…including serious hatred and intolerance in our own country), and an overall furthering of “us” versus “them” who would allow such tragedies to take place to begin with.

So…why is it that the Holocaust is awakened for our own purposes? And should we continue to do so?

The French President seems to believe the ghosts of the youngest victims should be awakened in ways that would mark the education of every fifth grader in France.

And other stories have been asking for years what we’re doing about the present-day holocaust in Africa. Perhaps much like the Jewish Holocaust, stories of murders by the millions remain “Buried by the Times” while we educate our children about the horrible tragedies that happened long before their births.

There are so many ways to study, understand, and do something about hatred and intolerance – both local and global ways – and this website offers some great ideas.

Fight hatred.

Fight bias.


Teaching Reading and Writing: Kyle Part II

In inquiry, professional development resources, teacher education resources, teaching reading, teaching writing on February 13, 2008 at 4:52 am

Turning Assumptions into Inquiries
Kyle’s teacher has had much training (both socially and, perhaps, through formal education) in recognizing “problems” with students, diagnosing those problems, and remediating those problems. For his teacher, a lack of engagement in school reading and writing was immediately read as a coping strategy for a learning disability that was yet to be diagnosed and remediated. To further complicate things, recent media attention to violence in schools had placed pressure on teachers to analyze student artwork and writing in particular to recognize and flag any indication that a student may have psychopathic tendencies that may, hypothetically, result in some kind of violent behaviors. Kyle’s teacher, then, has been persistently positioned as someone who must be on the look-out for problems.
The simple question, “What does Kyle say about his drawings?” aims at turning-around a teacher’s positioning, to go to students for information about what’s going on in their schooling experiences rather than relying on outside forces to “frame” and then label a student’s performance in a classroom. This turning around of a teacher’s positioning toward inquirer of students can lead to turning around classroom pedagogy, which can lead to turning around a student’s trajectory as a reader that is headed in the wrong direction.

The following Wednesday this same concerned, frustrated, well-intended teacher on the verge of reporting a student for violent tendencies in his drawings and going to special educators to begin a process to have him identified as learning disabled, came prancing into her professional development group with a writer’s notebook in her hand. Smiling from ear to ear she reached the notebook to me and enthusiastically said, “He is totally into Anime.”

“Ohhhhh,” I said, knowingly.

“And when I told him I didn’t know what that was, he couldn’t believe it. He wrote a fourteen-page informational narrative all about Anime.”

“Ohhhhh?” I said, raising my eyebrows and smiling.

This fifth grade teacher experienced, in her own words, a great epiphany during
her conversation with Kyle: “I am making assumptions about students I don’t really know.” Turning her position around from problem-finder and problem-solver to that of inquirer, interviewer, curious investigator changed this teacher’s perception of herself, her job, and her students.

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