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professornana
24 July 2017 @ 09:41 am

We all are concerned about the future.  As educators, we see the future unfolding each and every day as we watch our students grow and develop. We see students we had years ago and are amazed at the young men and women they have become.  And there is such an emphasis on the future in education of late.  The phrase future-ready appears time and again in my social media feed. My concern is that I think this phrase means very different things for some. So here are some random thoughts. I am still mulling things over in my brain, but for now these may seem disconnected.


1.  Future-ready should not mean ignorance or dismissal of the past. 

2.  Future-ready has to mean bringing people along, bringing them into the fold so to speak.  

3.  Future-ready needs to be more than a slogan or a catch phrase. 

4.  Future-ready cannot and should not be only about technology.

5. Future-ready needs to be grounded in good pedagogy, based on firmly grounded research.


Here are a few reasons I am raising a red flag.  I see the term makerspaces being used for activities that are more arts and crafts than for true makerspace activities.  These spaces are to be for invention; often, I see that all students are making the exact same thing. How is that innovative? I  like this article (https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7095.pdf) from Educause.  


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professornana
17 July 2017 @ 12:15 pm
Something Chad Everett said recently resonated with me. He was responding to someone who was discussing the importance of remaining neutral in a situation. Chad suggested driving a car halfway up a hill and placing it in neutral to see what would happen. Boy, that was a perfect way to encapsulate what is wrong with being neutral, especially in matters pertaining to education. Note: this discussion of neutrality was brought about by Secretary DeVos' assertion that she would remain neutral in cases involving civil rights and education. But, you know, this short-sighted concepts of being neutral can apply to quite a bit in our world of education.

As I walked the exhibits of the International Literacy Association this week, there was the usual enormous booth space of Reading Renaissance, aka Accelerated Reader. It has had a prominent display at conferences for years, and its appearance always causes me to wince and then grumble. But I go way beyond wincing and grumbling when I see educators (teachers and librarians) discussing the merits of AR on social media. Ditto discussions of Lexiles and levels. There is no neutral position here, folks. If we want kids to become lifelong readers, levels and lexiles and tests and other programmed approaches need to go the way of the early primers (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_England_Primer). Those early "books" gave way to the basal texts (See Spot run! Run, Spot, run!). I can still hear Mem Fox reading from a basal with "expression" while the audience guffawed at how inauthentic the language was.

Lexiles and levels and tests narrow choices for readers. I think of them in the same way I do censorship of other means. They tell kids, "Sorry, you can't read that. It is not on your level." I wonder what would happen if I were to do that in a library or bookstore to an adult. I suspect it would not be pretty. Choice matters. Choice is crucial. There is no, "well, you can select from this shelf," when it comes to choice. And we, as educators, need not be neutral in this. We need to take a stand. Know the research. Fight against the censorship that results when we allow a program to narrow the choices for readers.

I am getting ready to board a plane back home. I have books with me that are, I am certain, below my RL and Lexile. And I will most definitely be taking a test on them. I will, however, pass them along to other readers. I will talk about them to anyone who will listen. And I will celebrate the FREADOM TO READ.
 
 
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professornana
17 June 2017 @ 09:43 am
I have never been a fan of testing. When I left the K-12 classroom for the university, students took one test a year, and not all grades were tested annually. There were no benchmarking assessments. We did not teach to the test. There was no pressure on the kids to perform nor on the teachers to outperform one another. But times change, and the testing craze has reached me even at the university where our students must pass certification exams (as though it is possible to measure the work of a school librarian with a multiple choice test).

So, you can imagine my chagrin when I saw a link to books being recommended to parents via the state (STAAR) test. Here is the wording directly from the booklist web site:

“One of the most exciting features of the new STAAR Student Report is a recommended book list provided to each family along with the student's test scores and Lexile information. All books recommended on these lists are within the reading levels recommended for the grade the student is in and developmentally appropriate for the grade band. All of the books on the book list have been approved by at least one family-centered organization, or is widely accepted as a standard for children’s literature. We recognize that every family has a unique set of preferences around what their children read and we encourage parents to review any books before sharing with their children. “
{http://tea.texas.gov/Student_Testing_and_Accountability/Testing/CSR/CSR_Recommended_Booklists/}

You can look at the lists for yourself. I will say immediately that listing only 10 books per grade level is insanity. Talk about narrowing choice in reading. But look at the individual titles as well. For 6th grade, for example, copyrights range from 1892 (Sherlock Holmes) to 1906 (White Fang) and 1941 (The Black Stallion). The most recent copyright is 2012 (Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs). I wonder how many 6th grade students will flock to these titles. And while there is some diversity, it is greatly limited.

I do not dismiss classics out of hand. However, there are some classics that simply no longer resonate with contemporary readers. There are classics which, when forced upon students, will create at best apathetic readers if not pushing them away from a love of reading. Allowing lexiles to guide book choice demonstrates a few things. First, using a program to spit out book choices is suspect. But I will not climb on that particular soapbox today. Instead, let me question this phrase: "All of the books on the book list have been approved by at least one family-centered organization, or is widely accepted as a standard for children’s literature."

What organizations? Who decides it is a standard? Why only 10 books? I have lots of questions, but I know there will be no answers that will reassure me. I see these books (like the ones listed as CCSS sources) become the focus of reading. Other books will suffer because of this. I see class sets and intensive reading. I see what Kelly Gallagher calls readicide.

When Nurse Girl was in high school, her test scores were quite high (she was smart and great at taking tests). The book recommended for her based on her scores was The Scarlet Pimpernel. Really? This was (and is) a kid who reread all of the Harry Potter books annually. Who read Zane Grey at the recommendation of BH. Who read the YA i happened to place strategically around the house. Who read tons of nonfiction. Who was already an avid reader. And who once went to in-school suspension for helping a friend pass an AR test (very proud moment for me). She still loves to read today. But I question whether or not that would be the case if she had to read the recommended books from TEA.

Donalyn Miller and I are working on a book an talk about the importance of choice. Where is choice here? 10 books to fit all 6th graders? Talk about one size fits all mentality. I hope there is some push back here. Why can't we be list-less?
 
 
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professornana
03 June 2017 @ 11:11 am
So many topics have presented themselves of late. However, I have spent most of my time either working on the book Donalyn Miller and I are writing or reading tons of new books for some upcoming PD sessions I will be doing in June. So, I have let some things slide for now. Rest assured that I will tackle them as time permits. But this graph keeps popping up in my Facebook feed, and so I feel the need to talk about false equivalencies.

Here is the chart from Facebook:



The chart is, in actuality, a sales pitch for a children's book (no surprise there, right?). But look closely at what it implies to the folks scanning through their feed. First, it equates length with quality. This false equivalency makes me nuts. I spent lots of time doing book talks in schools over the years. From time to time, a teacher would ask me to suggest books for kids that were longer than X number of pages (generally it is more than 200 though why that number is something that escapes me). Let me state this clearly: LENGTH DOES NOT EQUAL QUALITY or even rigor or even superior.

But there is more to this notion of false equivalency in this chart. The chart compares classics such as The Velveteen Rabbit, Peter Rabbit, and Frog and Toad to contemporary books that are actually picture books. Most of the classic titles are NOT picture books. Perhaps someone purporting to write better picture books than Little. Elliot needs to do a bit more research about the qualities of picture books.

And then there is the word count issue. Do more words mean better books? How does that correlate at all? Here are a couple of correlations that are about as nonsensical as the concept that number of words somehow equates with better books.


Apparently, people who are interested in calligraphy differ in their fart preference from the rest of the population.

How about this one?

Sales of ice cream correlates with the number of murders. As we approach summer, does that mean the murder rate will rise as well?

Of course, this is all silly, right? But when a post targets with false equivalency or when a company promotes its product with data that is misleading at best, then we diminish data and research. I'm looking squarely at you, AR. Let me finish with some real data that should inform our practices.

Here is a perfect and important chart from DISRUPTING THINKING from Beers and Probst. Note the research included in the graphic, please.



And here is one more that is supported by research as well:



Let's call out false equivalencies when we find them. Let's be clear about word counts and page counts and other things that are not equivalent to literary quality.
 
 
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professornana
01 June 2017 @ 10:16 am
A more substantive post is bubbling. In the meantime, here are the books I read inMay.

MAY 2017 Books Read

178. IT IS NOT TIME FOR SLEEPING
179. ALL THE WORLD A POEM
180. WHAT THIS STORY NEEDS IS A BANG AND A CLANG
181. CHARLIE AND MOUSE
182. BARKUS
183. WELCOME TO MY HOUSE: A COLLECTION OF WORDS
184. DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL
185. HEY, BOY
186. MOO MOO IN A TUTU
187. UGLY CAT AND PABLO
188. OLGA AND THE SMELLY THING FROM. NOWHERE
189. WISHTREE
190. ON THE SPOT
191. GERALD MC BOING BOING
192. SECRETS I KNOW
193. I GOT A NEW FRIEND
194. IM AWAKE
195. WHERE SO JET PLANES SLEEP AT NIGHT
196. DANNY MCGEE DRINKS THE SEA
197. BIG SHARK LITTLE SHARK
198. OLLIE AND MOON IN PARIS
199. OLLIE AND MOON IN NEW YORK CITY
200. ALL THAT I CAN BE
201. NAPTASTROPHE
202. GO TO SLEEP IN YOUR OWN BED
203. THE FOREVER GARDEN
204. INDEPENDENCE CAKE
205. MARGARET AND THE MOON
206.LITTLE BOT AND SPARROW
207. YOU AND ME AND THE WISHING TREE
208. THE MOUSE AND THE MOON
209. NOISY NIGHT
210. SLEEPING BEAUTY
211. MY LITTLE FOX
212. BABY MOUSE TALES FROM THE LOCKER
213. ORPHAN ISLAND
214. MWD; HELL IS `COMING HOME
215. SMOOT A REBELLIOUS SHADOW

216. PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE
217. WOLFIE PAINTS THE TOWN
218. SLEEP TIGHT SNOW WHITE
219. FORT BUILDING TIME
220. ME AND MR FLUFFERNUTTER
221. MONKEY NOT READY FOR BEDTIME
222. MY GRANDPA’S CHAIR
223. MY NEW BIG KID BED
225. UNI THE UNICORN AND THE DREAM COME TRUE
226. TYRANNOSAURUS REX
227. BEST FRIENDS
228. THE AMAZING PLANET EARTH
229. TOOTLE
230. JOHNNY APPLESEED
231. PONIES
232. PENGUINS
233. THE FAIRY DOGMOTHER
234. DREAM MARCH
235. A SMALL BLUE WHALE
235. THE GOLDEN MOTHER GOOSE
236. APPLES FOR LITTLE FOX
237. A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE
238. THE STORY IF BARBIE
239. CITY MOON
240. PUP AND BEAR
241. WEE SISTER STRANGE
242. THERE’S NOTHING TO DO
243. I WANT THAT NUT
254. BONAPARTE FALLS APART
255. THE QUEST FOR Z
256. DID YOU TAKE THE B FROM MY _OOK?
257. MAY I HAVE A WORD?
258. AFTER THE FALL
259. GOLDFISH GHOST
260. THE GOOD FOR NOTHING BUTTON
261. BENJAMIN IS AN UNUSUAL DUCKLING
262. MY DOG MOUSE
263. THE SCARIEST BOOK EVER
264. FIREFIGHTER DUCKIES
265. MOMMIES ARE AMAZING
266. GEORGIE’S BEST BAD DAY
267. REAL FRIENDS
268. NAUGHTY CLAUDINE’S CHRISTMAS
269. THE ADVENTURES OF HONEY AND LEON
270. SHE PERSISTED
271. FAIRY TALES OF THE FIERCER SEX
272. AMANDA PANDA QUITS KINDERGARTEN
273. SWISH AND SQUEAK’S NOISY DAY
274. WHERE ARE YOU
275. LITTLES AND HOW THEY GROW
276. THIS BOOK WILL NOT BE FUN
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professornana
13 May 2017 @ 11:41 am
Dear Secretary DeVos:

As you continue your work as the Secretary of Education, and since you do not have a background in education, I thought you might permit me some time to share some observations. Recently, you discussed the need for education to change with the times offering examples from companies such as Uber and Lyft. The analogy, unfortunately, does not really work when it comes to education. Like many others before you, you see education as a business. It is not. And treating it as a business denies certain fundamentals about education.

1. Education is about the children. They remain at the center of all we do. It does not matter if the students are young or older. Everything we do focuses on the students. Therefore, we are aware of their development as well as their developmental needs. We do not expect students to "perform" beyond their development. We do not expect students all to be at similar stages of development even within one grade level classroom. Unfortunately, the testing industry (and I guess this is the true business of education) believes we can expect ALL students in Grade X to know the same set of facts.

2. Therefore, I teach students. Yes, my classes are literature courses for students who wish to become school librarians. However, as I am preparing course materials, I am always thinking about the students who will enroll in the classes. I plan instruction accordingly. And even though my classes are online, I am always available to students with answers to questions, etc. I do not expect the same product from each student and offer as much choice as possible with content and process and product. I do not teach to the test (sadly, there are not many questions on the certification test about books and reading, but that is fodder for a separate post).

3. I do not use tests to assess learning. Instead, I provide opportunities for students to apply their learning, to reflect on the content of the course, to demonstrate their deeper understanding of books and reading.All testing would yield would be a snapshot of learning that can be assessed in a multiple choice format. It does not address things such as how a student has come to be a lifelong reader. It cannot measure how learning might be used in a school library. Testing only yields a number, and my students are not numbers in any way shape or form.]


There is more, of course. However, I hope that in keeping this brief and to the point, I hope it will have a greater impact. Please know that there are so many teachers who would be more than willing to enter into conversation with you. We long to share our expertise and our experiences with you. And surely, you realize that you have a knowledge deficit when it comes to education. Many of us have spent years (in my case, more than 40 years) honing our craft. We are not taxi drivers wringing our hands over Uber and Lyft. We are humans who understand that times change. The needs of our students, however, remain relatively unchanged. Reading of Piaget, Maslow, Kohlberg and others remind us of those needs. And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to education. It is my fervent hope that you avail yourself of some education about education. Then you might be better prepared when students don't act as you expect.

P.S. You should probably read this letter, too: http://kylenebeers.com/blog/2017/02/12/an-open-letter-to-secretary-devos/
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professornana
01 May 2017 @ 09:08 am
Here are the books I read in April.

APRIL 2017 BOOKS

141. YVAIN THE KNIGHT OF THE LION
142. A BOY CALLED BAT
143. LUCKY BROKEN GIRL
144. when my sister started kissing
145. HALLELUJAH ANYWAY
146. DISRUPTING THINKING
147. ONE MINUTE
148. GOOD NIGHT BAT! GOOD NIGHT SQUIRREL!
149. OLIVIA THE SPY
150. A PERFECT DAY
151. ANTOINETTE
152. NOT QUITE NARWHAL
153. OTHER WORDLY
154. THE PURLOINING OF PRINCE
OLEOMARGARINE
155. TOOL SCHOOL
156. BACK TO SCHOOL WITH BIGFOOT
157. BILLY BLOO IS STUCK IN GOO
158. BIG AND LITTLE ARE BEST FRIENDS
159. PLANKTON IS PUSHY
160. JACK AND THE BEANSTALK AND THE FRENCH FRIES
161. MONSTER’S NEW UNDIES
162. I AM TRULY
163. PIG THE WINNER
164. THE TOO SCARY STORY
165. WORD PLAY
166. THE QUEEN’S HANDBAG
166. MAMA LION WINS THE RACE
168. ROLLING THUNDER
169. SUPER SLUG OF DOOM
170. TOBY GOES BANANAS
171. VICTOR SHMUD TOTAL EXPERT
172. THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN BLAKE
173. REMY SNEAKERS VS. THE ROBO- RATS
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professornana
29 April 2017 @ 09:52 am

To honor the life and the work of Amy Rosenthal Krause, I offer a short but heartfelt post.

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professornana
28 April 2017 @ 03:18 pm

http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/reading-aloud-kids-important/

Just to follow up, here is a post from KQ, Knowledge Quest, a publication of AASL, the American Association of School Librarians. It has some good research citations to have on hand if questioned about why you elect to read aloud to students.