Creating a Culture of Literacy

Creating a culture of literacy. How does one do this? Maybe the better question to ask is, Why create a culture of literacy? Read & Succeed is a phrase my husband and I say frequently. There are a lot of things to be learned in school, but the bottom line is that when one can read the world opens. So if you can create a Culture of Literacy in your school or even in your classroom then you are creating an environment for reading to be appreciated and encouraged. This will then lead to circumstances for supporting our students to become life-long readers and learners.

When I was first hired to consult with my K-8 school, one of the aims was to increase the reading scores of the students. I set out to do this by making reading a priority in the school.  I sought to create a culture of literacy. As I enter my fourth year at this school, I am happy to say it seems to have worked. Even in last year’s Covid school year, our progress monitoring scores showed a steady growth even in our reluctant readers. 

So, let’s go back to my first question, How do you create a culture of literacy? Let me discuss some of the initiatives I began at the school and some ideas from others that support a culture of literacy.

Monthly Challenges

When I started at the K-8 school, I learned that they had monthly assemblies. I spent some time thinking what I wanted for my role in these assemblies. When February rolled around and I started reading about upcoming March Madness Book Competitions, I thought that I could could do a monthly reading challenge starting at one assembly and ending at the next one. The idea was to reach some of those reluctant readers by calling it a monthly challenge. In the years since, I have done individual challenges (Read 20 books and get a prize); classroom challenges (currently each class must read 30 books at home for a popcorn party- by the way, 1st grade was the first do this just this last week); or whole school challenges (build a tower of books on Mrs. Wladis’ door. Each book read was a tower block). 

The monthly reading challenges are announced at an Assembly and a description is sent home in the weekly school news. Reading logs are sometimes kept just as a means to keep track of what has been read. Or parents will email teachers or I send home slips of papers to be filled out after reading a book. There is no set number of pages per night or minutes to be read or an assigned genre/book for the challenges. It is voluntary on the part of the kids but the talking about reading and the talking about books that the kids have read for the challenge can definitely be heard in the hallways. These challenges are meant to encourage pleasure reading in whatever form that takes. For younger readers, parents are encourage to read to their children as an option. I will often tell kids to read a picture book to younger siblings and that counts, so is reading to a stuffed animal. The point is for kids to see reading as a pleasurable activity. If their reading improves, BONUS! 

Birthday Books

At my previous school, the librarian had started a program called Birthday Books. Basically, she would buy a slew of books she wanted in the library. Then at the start of each month, she would send home a letter to parents that reads, 

Celebrate your child’s birthday by purchasing a book for the Library!

  • Your child will be invited to choose from a special assortment of new books. 
  • The birthday book will have a permanent bookplate placed in the front cover with his/her name on it.
  • The selected book will be sent home for you and your child to read for a week and then return the book to be placed in the library. 
  • Your child will be highlighted on the Lobby TV and announced in the School News.
  • A picture of your child with the book will be sent home.

By doing this program, she set a tone that reading is a way to celebrate and this puts books in the hands of some students who rarely read. Nothing beats being the first to crack open a new book and be the first to read it. This idea resonated with me and in my second year I brought this program to my current school. 

My office library

When I started at the K-8 school, the Library was basically a room with some books. But I had a ton of books that I had used when I was teaching and had bought for my own children. Truthfully I have a habit of buying books, mostly picture books, because I can always see so many ways to use them in a class. In my previous school, teachers used to borrow my books all the time. So why not at this new school? My office as a adjunct library started slow. It really began as a way to encourage a particular reluctant reader. Soon she was book talking the books she borrowed and more kids asked to borrow my books. Good thing I stamp the inside cover with my name. But I am happy to see books leave my office in the hands of kids (and mostly come back)! I have a variety of genres and have gotten to know most of my “customers” so that I am always on the lookout for new books they might like. The kids have also come to trust me when I suggest a book that I think they might like. I often have kids come into my office asking for a book that a classmate was seen reading, especially at the start of our monthly reading challenges.

Classroom Library

Let’s talk books. How many do you need when creating or sustaining a culture of literacy? LOTS! You need books of all genres. Fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, non-fiction picture books and chapter books. Cross-curricular books are a must and broaden the ways to read to students each day. To create a culture of literacy you need books that showcase all types of students, voices, communities, traditions. Students should recognize themselves in the books they find in your school or classroom but they also need the opportunity to learn about other classmates. Books can allow for learning about others without spot-lighting a certain classmate. 

A special mention of graphic novels. Let students read graphic novels. Put them in your classroom library. The benefits of graphic novels include: great for visual learners; mentor texts for dialogue; reading the pictures; can build reading confidence; and demonstrate another way to tell a story. 

O.K. you get it. But how to get the books? Try websites like https://bookshop.org that supports local bookstores, you can even select one in your area. https://bookoutlet.com is an outlet store for books. Scholastic book flyers can quickly add up to free books for your classroom. Used bookstores, garage sales, and library sales are other ways to get books inexpensively. Even your own school library may have books they would like to weed from their collection to make room for newer books. If your school does not do a Birthday Book program, maybe start one in your classroom. 

Place your guided reading books, or other curriculum literature that may have come with your writing or science programs, in your classroom library. Students often like the security of reading something that has been read to them or with them. This will increase their reading confidence.

World Read Aloud Day

This is a world-wide day held each year in early February. To celebrate it, the Principal and I split the classes and do a read aloud in each class on World Read Aloud Day. Since this day comes not around any holidays, it gives us a reason to celebrate and what better way than to read. I always have a bookmark for each student, either store bought or one downloaded from the website, https://www.litworld.org/worldreadaloudday, associated with World Read Aloud Day. 

Cross Curricular Reading

Adding cross curricular books to your classroom library is one way to address the different interests of your students. When establishing a culture of literacy, attending to the diverse interests of readers is vital. Students need to see reading as more than a way to do schoolwork.  Reading mentor texts about different curricular topics also brings reading out of just the purview of English lessons. Reading books with math topics as a way to introduce money or time sequencing demonstrates to students that reading is integral to everything. Autobiographies are great readalouds. There are lots of autobiographies with short chapters for younger learners. Once a book, particularly picture books, are read they are prime for being used as mentor texts for skills such as word choice in writing or punctuation examples. I have been highlighting a variety of genres in my recent Instagram posts (@edtechease). Check out the posts for ideas, in fact many of my Instagram posts are about books.

Literature Lassos in weekly email

So creating a culture of literacy usually starts with one person but it can not grow or be sustained by one person. My current team of teachers and my fellow administrators have joined me in encouraging this culture of literacy. On top of the computer cart in my office is a rotating bookshelf of picture books. These are usually themed, such as Back to School or Winter. I also keep my social emotional books there. The teachers know they can grab one, or two, any time to read to their classes. I love watching them pop in and grab a book or ask for a recommendation. In my weekly email to the faculty I will highlight one Literature Lasso. 

What is a Literature Lasso? It is my term for a book that can link to curriculum, a specific theme, a skill for reading or math. Literature Lassos are fun way to introduce STEAM challenges. Basically Literature Lassos are mentor texts. I also include a Literature Lasso or two in my monthly newsletter, sign up here to receive Bits & Bytes: https://edtechease.com. Or check out my Instagram for a lot of Literature Lassos. 

Parent Involvement

Creating a culture of literacy in school is great. But to be effective, we want the idea to spread, especially to our students’ homes. To do this we need to enlist parents. Letting parents know about your initiatives such as monthly challenges will give them the opportunity to support the program. When they receive a picture of their child holding a Birthday Book donation or when they see other families supporting the program, literacy takes on meaning as part of the school’s goals for students.

Another way I encourage this culture is when I do my grade-level coffee and conversations with parents. I often quote statistics about the importance reading and encourage reading as part of a bedtime routine. When I suggest a new book to a student I will often let the parents know about it so they can ask about the book. It also gives parents ideas for when they take their kids to their local library. Posting pictures of the Birthday Book donations in the weekly school newsletter helps as does listing the monthly reading challenge. 

Let parents know at Back to School nights that read alouds are vital part of your schools schedule. Include the books you read in your weekly emails toparents. Talk books at your parent conferences. Show them a book their child has red recently and reccomend another one. 

School Library

So as I previously mentioned, the school library at my current K-8 school was not great. The teacher who ran it tried really hard to make it appealing and to invite classes in. Two years ago, I was told that a donor had come forth who wanted to donate to enhancing the library. YAY! I was given the opportunity to design the updated library. I brought in a librarian friend and she helped me with the design for the room and even gave me suggestions on shelving (which ones and how many) as well as furniture to purchase. My vision was to create a library that was used for a multiple of purposes. To be used as a library for sure, but also a study room, small group space and even for meetings. This was so needed as the culture of literacy in the school was definitely growing to be an integral part of the school identity. Over the summer of 2020, the reconstruction of the library took place and as last year’s Covid year began, we unveiled to students a brand new library. I was also able to get the library/teacher assigned to the library in the mornings and she began library classes and weekly check outs of books! In May 2021, we were able to have a small Grand Opening with the donor and a few guests. 

Reading Buddies

This is not a new idea but definitely one that adds to a culture of literacy. Pairing a younger class with an older class to have the older students read with and to the younger kids. This has benefits for growing a culture of literacy but also a school community. Watching this happen this year with a 1st and 5th grade class has reinforced the beauty of doing this program. Each Friday I have seen the 5th grade class almost running to the 1st grade room with stickers and notes for their 1st grade reading buddies. Even for the more reluctant 5th grade readers, there is joy and confidence in reading with their 1st grade buddies. One other activity they did recently was play a cooperative board game. The twist was the teachers did not tell the groups how to play the game and it was up to the 5th graders to read the directions and explain the game. Another way to demonstrate that reading has value. This year we paired all our elementary classes and they are having Reading buddies at least evey other week.

Guest Reader

This is an initiative that has not gotten off the ground (Covid) yet. I do offer myself as a guest reader any time that a teacher wants. I think it is important ot hear other reading voices. I am hoping to eventually get a guest reader in each classroom each month. Grandparents, other teachers or administrators, visiting friends and even community helpers. This is definitely a work in progress and I will write more about this in the future.

#classroombookaday

This is a new initiative I am encouraging this school year for teachers. #classroombookaday is an Instagram hashtag that I follow. Seeing teachers all over the world find time in their day to read a book with their class inspired me to encourage my faculty to do this. We have adjusted it slightly for older grades as the English teacher was already reading a chapter (or two) a day and I think this is great! This is also a great way to read books that will later become mentor texts. Keeping a well-stocked classroom library and rotating the books available makes this idea a bit easier. Grab a book and read. 

Other Ideas

Carrie Friday is a librarian I follow on Twitter (@CarrieFriday). She recently posted a post about Book Speed Dating, “Day 1 of Book Speed Dating was a success! I’m bringing in all the Reading classes and helping them find their perfect book and it helps them see all our library has to offer.” I have seen this idea before but I liked the reason she was using it at the start of school. Carrie Friday is definitely worth following for more ideas to creating and sustaining a culture of literacy.

This idea coordinates with the First Chapter Friday that I have seen librarians and teachers use. This idea being that a teacher may read the first chapter of a book to generate interest in the book. Sometimes I have seen on social media that a class will have the option to choose a new to them book from the classroom library and read the first chapter to see if it piques their interest. They may have the opportunity to try several first chapters before choosing their next read.

Reba Gordon (@Reading_Reba) is the librarian friend I have mentioned several times in this blog post. She brings authors to her school virtually and in person throughout the school year. What an awesome way to connect books to real people and their stories about being authors! A great curricular connection between reading and writing too. Follow Reba on Twitter for lots of ideas about author visits and new book launches. Virtual visits tend to be less expensive as this does to entail paying for travel and accommodations. I brought an author into a school several years ago and shared the travel expenses with another school in the area. 

Don’t forget the popular DEAR Day. DEAR = Drop Everything And Read. This does not have to be a full day, or require pajamas or pillows or stuffed animals. It can be a reward for something you are working towards in your class. Do it for a half hour. Everyone spreads out and reads. I know a teacher who does DEAR weekly or twice a week to help students increase their stamina for reading. She starts with a five minute DEAR time and this grows throughout the school year. 

Ready to start creating a culture of literacy in your classroom or school? Take the first step. Choose one of the ideas I discussed and implement this one piece. You will soon find yourself adding others as you see the joy of reading flourish in your students. 

Let me know how you create a culture of literacy in your school or classroom. Reach out via Twitter/Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com. Want help designing a plan to create a culture of literacy at your school?  Reach out and I would be happy to help you with that plan! 

Planning Your Read Alouds

Another school year has started. Whether your school is masking (or not), in person (or not), or delayed for weather (or not), you are planning lessons. My hope is you are also planning your Read Alouds.  The quote above is but one good reason to Read Aloud to your students. Others include:

  • Students can get a  “taste” of a genre.
  • After Reading Aloud a story, it is ready to be a mentor text for writing, reading or a curriculum learning lasso.
  • Develop students listening skills and comprehension
  • Introduce a topic that may be difficult but when presented from “safe” characters allows students to discuss without making the topic personal

Read Alouds should be planned. In a day filled with curriculum requirements, you want to make sure that your time allocated to Read Alouds can be justified if need be. As an admin, I have had teachers tell me there is no time for a Read Aloud. As an admin, I say there is always time for a Read Aloud, see the reasons above.

But why plan them? So that you have a ready set of mentor texts available later in the year. So you can open a curriculuar discussion. So you can adress a social-emotional issue happening in your classroom. So you can teach your Book Picker student how to choose a book. But sometimes a book on the shelf calls to you, and you adjust the plan for that Read Aloud. 

Here are a few Read Alouds to start the school year.

Whether you teach ELA, social studies, or any other subject, there is a place for Read Alouds in your class. Check out this Padlet, https://bit.ly/LitLassoPadlet, for some great Literature Lassos across the curriculum. This is an ever evolving list of books. Check it out often and let me know what others to add or what categories you want to see.

Looking for more suggestions?  Reach out and I would be happy to talk BOOKS! Books about Digital Citizenship, STEAM, Reluctant Readers and more. Would you like me to come to your school in person or virtually to discuss Literature Lassos?  Reach out via Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

What makes a Community?

A few weeks ago on the first day of vacation and what was I doing? Writing a blog piece. I have said, when asked, why I don’t write a weekly blog (or even monthly sometimes)…I won’t write just to write or just to have something to post. But as I found myself relaxing, not checking emails and texts at a frantic pace, thoughts come to mind. So yes, there I was writing a blog piece on the first day of vacation. 

My mind has naturally turned to the upcoming start of school. I am slowly checking off what needs to be done to have what I hope will be a smooth start (https://edtechease.com/2020/02/02/smooth-start/) Having just finished a Responsive Classroom course and discussing writing with teachers through a book study, I keep coming back to one question, What makes a community? Another question could be, what elements make a community successful? 

Building relationships with your class is key to a ‘good school year.’ Everyone says so! Setting expectations and teaching behaviors that will lead to those expectations is another key. Everyone says so! But year after year, teachers I speak to have every intention to build those relationships, set those expectations but 2 weeks in and our inner voice (maybe your admin’s or parents’ actual voices) say get to work on curriculum. Well, let one admin say to you, slow down and you will get to more content and see more student growth if you build your community and expectations.

You may have noticed that I have combined community and expectations. That relates to my earlier second question, What elements make a community successful? I think setting expectations is one of those elements. If your students, and yourself, understand what is expected then you are starting out from a common point of view. When you calmly and succinctly voice your expectations then you have set the foundation for building on those expectations. Your students won’t need to guess each day or each class what they are expected to do when you begin a writing workshop. Or when literature groups start. You have already explained or even modeled what they are expected to bring to the lesson or have opened. This allows your learning community to be effective for you as the teacher and for them as learners. 

Building an effective community for learning also requires laying the foundation for collaboration and communication. If you are fine with students yelling ‘hey you’ when they want your attention then tell them that. Find out and let students voice how they would like to be addressed (some students can’t wait too ditch their nicknames, maybe this is the year). When you want to pair students or work in small groups, how will this look in your classroom. How will this be done with respect to the quieter students or the new students? When working together how will students express their opinions or criticize each other’s work? Formulate an anchor chart of sentence starters: ‘I see your point, what about …’ ‘Earlier you mentioned … but I don’t see that in your response.’ ‘Mrs. W suggested we use post-its to write our ideas, let me get some.’ Creating a safe environment for collaboration creates a safe and effective learning community.

Finally, my pet peeve, keeping an organized environment. What does this have to do with community? If everyone (teacher, student, substitute) knows where materials are and can actually find them in that place then the classroom runs smoother. Also helps our less organized students have a strategy for keeping their materials accessible. When our environment is clean, organized, functional then there are less divisive elements to undermine the class community. This is less about labeling everything in the classroom than modeling where you expect materials to be throughout the day. When students can independently find their own materials for lessons or to take home then the community functions effectively. 

Your learning community will be strengthened by the positive relationships that setting expectations will develop. So, take the time to set your expectations, create them with the class and watch the learning grow!

Share with your community building ideas via Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/). Want me to lead a discussion about this topic or Literature Lassos for the start of the school year? Email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

Putting Covid in the Rearview Mirror

The end of the school year is always a time for a deep sigh. Let’s be honest…more so this school year. But for the last few years, the end of school has been a time of reflection for me. I wrote about these reflections in the past, https://edtechease.com/2020/06/12/reflections/ and https://edtechease.com/2020/02/02/year-end-reflections/.  The first was a reflection on my first year in a new school environment after many years at my previous school. The second was more geared to how I could take what I had learned during Covid quarantine into a new school year with new Covid procedures looming. But the bottom line reflection for both was that relationships are the key to school success. 

This spring I am putting Covid in my rearview mirror and looking forward but first a little refelction. Regardless of wearing masks, I am grateful for having had in-person learning in both of my client schools. A few of my grateful reflection highlights:

  • Being able to give ‘air high 5’s’ while looking at a student has been better than giving them over Zoom. 
  • Not having students miss instructional time (always an issue when zooming).
  • Still celebrating holidays but with some Covid guidelines in place.
  • Seeing students have social interactions at recess instead of on a screen.
  • Seeing the literacy levels of my elementary students soar! This was a multi-year goal. Now on to math.
  • Starting a 4th/5th grade girls advisory that I will continue next year. 
  • Having end of year celebrations in-person!

Moving my eyes from the rearview to the road ahead…goals for the next school year:

  • Adding in Digital Citizenship Goals for each grade level.
    • Digital Citizenship will be my PD focus for the teachers in my client schools next year.
  • Scheduling weekly model lessons for several grade levels at the start of school rather than add them in later in the year. 
  • Doing a better job at not canceling weekly teacher meetings. Seemed to happen too often. 
  • Being flexible as I support the new high school in their inaugural year.

I am also grateful that this summer will not be spent creating Covid policies but rather focusing on curriculum redesigns and a Writing Book Study with teachers. Both of which will benefit students’ educational growth. 

What things have you placed in your rearview mirror? Let me know through Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

Show What YOU Know

That is the theme of our achievement testing week. 

And before I go any further… yes… my two current client schools are having the students do an achievement test. Both are private schools that have been in person all school year. Both have been able to have strict covid guidelines and maintain in person classes. So it was decided to have the achievement testing this year. Unlike many public schools, these private schools are able to use the results of achievement testing as academic growth indicators and growth over time checks. Not as criterion for retention.

Ok, my slight rant is done. 

Show What You Know! Shouldn’t that always be what we are asking students to do on any assessment? In trying to reduce test anxiety, these schools are reminding students that what they know is what we want to know

Next up, parents. This is what we published in our weekly newsletter prior to achievement testing:

How to talk to your child about achievement testing…

  • Deep breaths help to clear your mind when a question is tough.
  • Show What You Know, that is all we want you to do.
  • Don’t leave any questions blank, take your best guess.
  • This test does not tell us how smart you are, it just tells us that you have made progress this year. 
  • Try your best and that is all we want you to do always!

Yesterday had a conversation with the high school girls I work with. When we discussed their achievement teting schedule, one girl asked, ‘Do I need to stress over these?’ The answer I gave is ‘no, this is only one way we monitor your growth this year.’ I hope she heard me.  

How is your school handling  achievement testing this year and progress monitoring?  Checkout another recent blog post on Catching Up, https://edtechease.com/2021/03/29/catching-up/. Let me know through Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

Catching UP

Catching Up. That phrase has been on my mind. By the number of posts and articles, also on a lot of other people’s minds too. I am not going to try to hypothesize what that phrase means to others. Rather I am going to suggest that the phrase, Catching Up, is meaningless to supporting our students. 

Maybe that is a touch bold, or harsh or strong. But after the last year we have had, that is how I feel. As I tell students and my own children, how we feel is never wrong. Rather how we act on our feelings can be inappropriate or even wrong. 

Catching Up is not a Growth Mindset phrase. If we want students, children, to have a Growth Miindset then we need to not talk about them catching up to contrived expectations. Rather we need to look at how we can support the development of their academics, their social-emotional growth, their opportunities. How are we going to take what has worked from the old normal in education, what worked this past year, and what we have hypothesized should work into a growth mindset framework. How are we going to put what’s best for students’ growth first? 

Teachers are not the ones using that phrase. Let me restate that, teachers don’t want to use that phrase. But when standardized testing is still in place, even though some students have not stepped into the school for a year, teachers are made to feel that they need to catch up their students. To catch up to what? To the criteria of the test, a contrived epectation of people not in the classroom, not even in the builiding. 

Now before I get administrators yelling at me, I am an administrator. I walk into classes all day, I talk with teachers, students and parents. I am not ok with giving a standardized test to kids who have not been in a school builiding all year. Giving them a test is stressful enough, now you are adding in the stress of walking into the school for the first time. I am having my students take a standardized test this year because we have been in school all year. We did not take them last year and I am looking for new baselines for next year. I am looking to use these scores to inform my teachers where the students are and as a means to plan for their growth. I am in a private school and can look at scores this way. I can let parents know this is how we will use these scores (and truthfully how I always use these scores). This is one part of an overall assessment of growth. That is my key…learning growth. 

Not all administrators have the luxury of looking at scores as purely a growth indicator. The districts and state regulations make the use of these tests as criteria for an assortment of policies including moving students on to the next grade level and evaluating teachers, schools, disctricts. But using this snapshot of students is not best practices even in a typical school year, which this year was most defintely not.

So let’s stop using the phrase, Cathcing Up. Let’s use the phrase moving forward. Let’s think with a growthmindset frame. Let’s do the right thing for our students, suppport them as we once again redefine what are effective educational practices.

What are your thoughts on the phrase Catching Up?  Let me know through Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

Screen Time Parenting

Last year, before Covid,  I gave an in-person parent workshop on Social Media. I was happy to discuss the more popular social media sites and parental controls. The workshop was well-attended. I think it is important for parents to understand and have the resources to guide their children into making positive social media choices. I had a parent the next morning tell me that she went right home and checked her own privacy settings then made some educated choices about her settings. She also said that her children are young (early elementary and preschool) and it did not really pertain to them right now. But…(here is the point)… this workshop will help her be aware as her children get older. 

When I reveiwed the attendance to that workshop, almost all the parents had kids who were tweens and older. Which is great if this workshop helped them make informed choices about their tweens and older children’s social media access. And how to discuss this topic with their children. But…(here is the point)…families with younger children need to set limits and model healthy media habits too. How parents handle video games and screen time will have lasting effects on their children’s media habits. 

In the past few weeks, I have been approached by several parents to discuss this issue. Even though we have been in school (with a few VIPs – my term for our Zoom students), these families have noticed an increase in screen time because after school playdates are non-existent. And weekends are very long without getting together with friends and families. So I discussed with each of them, then I did a Lunch & Learn Zoom parent discussion about ways to set expectations. To me the key is modeling. Parents need to model healthy digital habits. 

We have seen the commercials and posts…screen free dinners. But it is more than that. It should be more than that. It is leaving the phone in another room when reading to our children at night (or in some cases starting the habit of nightly reading – those benefits belong in a different post). It is watching their sporting and performance events without constantly taking pictures, enjoy the game/performance – not documenting the game/performance seen only through the lens of a camera. Take one and put the phone away. This goes for family outings too. Yes, it is nice to have a picture or three to look at later and reminisce. But that is enough to start the remembering later and the conversation will be just as lovely than being hunched over the phone looking at 25 or more photos. 

Not answering texts when driving. Thinking to start that when children get close to driving is not correct. Those early impressions of you on your phone as you drive are lasting. 

Encourage parents of your students to make a family media plan. When they can use devices and when they should/can not. To start this plan, families should observe and record their device activity for a few days or a week. This will give them the personal data to make a plan. Choosing one area to focus on is easier and more likely to be successful. Maybe a device free dinner for 2 weeknight meals and 1 weekend meal. Of course placing screen time restrictions on children may be a bit more drastic. Allowing vidoe games anytime can be changed to only on non-school nights. Phones are put away at 7 pm for tweens to allow some non digital time before going to bed.

These are doable starts to share with parents. Here is a wonderful book to  have in your school or class library to encourage parents to be present. 

Looking for more information about healthy digital habits and screen time?   Check out my Wakelet collections… https://wakelet.com/i/invite?code=9daa60a and https://wakelet.com/i/invite?code=fe321d1.

Let me know through Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) if these collections were helpful. If you want me to do a Lunch & Learn with your parents email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

Positive>Negative Communications

So after a little hiatus from writing this blog, I am back. I had decided a while ago that if nothing was occupying my thoughts then I was not going to write just to write.  But talking with teachers recently, I am reminded of the necessity of sending out more postive communications to parents. 

The Bank of Goodwill. No it is not an actual bank but it can be just as vital. I think I first heard this term in the book Voice Lessons for Parents by Wendy Mogel This really resonated with me. I have since adopted this term when coaching teachers on parent/teacher communications. I encourage teachers to send out a welcome communication within the 1st week of school that does not only say hello but also recites a positive interacdtions with the student. What better way to say that I am invested in getting to know your child then an actual classroom experience!

Just Google “how many positives to contradict a negative.” The consensus is that it takes 5 positive comments to negate a negative comment. I would extend this to interactions with parents. By starting out with positive comments, teachers can build their Bank of Goodwill. So when they must have a discussion about an academic or behavioral concern, parents know that you have already seen their child in a positive light. 

I suggest to teachers to jot observations on a post it note or any note taking practice. Then they have them for conversations and report cards. Further I propose that they use a calendar and put a student’s name on each day of the school week as a way to organize sending a postive note to parents. That means one positive communication a day, not overwhelming especially if you have anecdotes ready.

So while this article, https://sharpencx.com/blog/positive-and-negative-feedback-ratio/, was not written with school in mind it does make the point about positive feedback (in our case talking to parents). We want parents to work with us to make their child’s school experience one of growth. If we ask them for their support in guiding less effective behaviors into positive ones, we need to start with positive reports.  

So, I know some are saying, really another thing to do in this era of pandemic teaching. Maybe more than ever we need to highlight the positives we see in our students. Parents are also looking for some positives and this may be the best thing you do for your relationship with parents. 

How do you communicate the positive to parents on a regular basis?  Let me know through Twitter or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com. Will share your ideas and successes as my way of giving you the positive feedback you deserve!

Book Shopping

Just a few days ago was Black Friday. Now as it was Black Friday 2020, it was a different Black Friday. But what was the same was the enormous number of texts and emails that I received (and I assume you did too) about the deals available. What this really means to me is that holiday gift shopping season is upon us. So as I think about what to get my nieces and nephews, my own children and their significant others, I come back to BOOKS!

When my children were young, they always received a book and a calendar as part of their Chanukah gifts. A calendar because I think that time management is an important life skill and this was my subtle way of encouraging this. A book because my husband and I truly believe you need to READ to Succeed. 

You may be deciding what to get your children or the parents of your students may be asking. To help I thought I would suggest some book and series ideas. Some oldies but goodies and some newer publications. I am partial to series sets for elementary readers as they love to follow a character or characters on a variety of adventures. 

Kindergarten and 1st Grade 

  • Flat Stanley (I Can Read level 2)
  • Unicorn Diaries (Branches Books)
  • Princess Truly I Am a SuperGirl (Acorn Books)
  • Elephant and Piggie Books(by Mo Williams)
  • Owl Diaries (Branches Books)
  • Frog Meets Dog (A Frog and Dog Book) (Acorn Books)

I am a new big fan of the Branches and Acorn books by Scholastic for young readers. Acorn books are the early reader line. These books are designed for children who are learning to read. The books have easy-to-read text, some are phonics based (see the Frog and Dog books), a short-story format, and pictures on every page. Branches books are for newly independent readers that have easy-to-read text that take into account that these readers also have more comprehension skills that require high-interest content and plots. The books still have illustrations on every page to help with context clues. The books are a little longer to promote more stamina in reading independently.

2nd-4th Grades

(reading levels can be dependent on reading fluency and comprehension skills)

  • Eerie Elementary Series
  • Most Valuable Players Series
  • Cam Jansen Series
  • Ato Z Mysteries Series
  • Magic School Bus Rides Again Series
  • What if you had animal … (non-fiction)
  • I am… (Ordinary People Change the World – biographies)

4th & 5th Grades

  • The Explorers: The Door In The Alley (1st in series)
  • Magyk (Septimus Heap, Book 1)
  • Infinity Ring: #01 A Mutiny In Time
  • We the Children (1) (Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School)
  • Don’t Check Out This Book!

This list is far from comprehensive but I hope it gives you a start in your search. Some sites to search too:

You can also find more (and constantly growing) of my lists at these links. 

  1. https://wke.lt/w/s/kChB4V – my Read Alouds Wakelet collection
  2. https://padlet.com/swladis3/xh6aytbp3ht – my Literature Lassos Padlet
  3. https://bit.ly/literaturelassos – Amazon List (no paid affiliation – just a convenient place to create a list)
  4. https://bit.ly/etereluctantreaders – Amazon List (no paid affiliation – just a convenient place to create a list)

Looking for more suggestions?  Reach out and I would be happy to talk BOOKS! Would you like me to come to your school to discuss Literature Lassos?  Reach out via Twitter (@edtechease) or Instagram (@edtechease) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/edtechease/) or email me, swladis@edtechease.com.

Changing Perspective

So I have written about perspective before, https://edtechease.com/2020/02/02/perspective/. In that blog piece I touched on how I use perspective in school.  But I have been thinking more about perspective the last few weeks. It came fully to my attention this week when talking to a student’s parents. They told me how their daughter was feeling about her class. I did not agree with how the student was relating her experiences in class. But I stopped myself from arguing and instead said “her perception is her reality.” And this is true. Regardless as to how the teachers are approaching supporting this student in class, if she is not feeling this support, then the support is only partially working. 

Often, perspective comes into my office when I have two (or more) students who visit because of a conflict. My procedure is to give each student the opportunity to talk uninterrupted. My hope is that the other child(ren) will hear the perspective of the child talking. Usually, I need to guide all the children in “seeing” and acknowledging the other perspective(s). But learning to look at other points of view takes practice and patience. Practice for students and adults. Patience by me, teachers, and other adults. 

For those who follow me on Instagram (@edtechease), I routinely look for, and post, book recommendations. Recently on Instagram, I saw a post that included a variety of books and Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld was one.

I was intrigued and ordered it. I was a bit disappointed when I received it because it was a board book. In my experience, elementary students equate board books with preschool and will dismiss the book. That was not what I had intended when I bought it. But just looking at the cover, I changed my mind (and perspective). This would be great to project at a faculty meeting to start a conversation about perspective! I will confess to first seeing the Rabbit. But with an adjustment to my eyes (and my perspective) I saw the Duck. After school one afternon this past week,  I had it on my desk and when another admin’s daughter came by, I asked her what she saw. She said the Rabbit. I asked her if she could see something else and she said no. With some conversation and direction, she did see the Duck. Her little Kindergarten sister walked by and when asked, she saw the Duck first. With some hints to where to look for the ears, she saw the Rabbit. Finally, we asked the oldest sister and honestly as I write I do not remember which she saw, but it did take some time for her to see the other one. In fact she read several of the pages before she changed her perspective enough to see the other character. 

These encounters with the book just confirm my thoughts on using this as a Literature Lasso. A book to lasso teachers’ and students’ attention to the idea of perspective. Then discuss perspective taking from a neutral, non-personal direction. I will continue to tryand see student’s perspectives as well as my colleagues. Because as I said, this takes practice and patience. 

Looking for other Literature Lassos? Check out my Padlet: https://padlet.com/swladis3/xh6aytbp3ht  or follow me in one of the ways below. 

Let me know how you discuss perspective or use perspective when talking with students.

swladis@edtechease.com (email)

@edtechease (Twitter and Instagram)

www.edtechease.com (website)