Archive for August, 2008

Early Literacy Toolkits

I have posted about the Gazette on before. It is an online, monthly publication with great ideas and interesting articles on what is happening in the world of education. I couldn’t help mentioning it again this week, as I just came across a fantastic article in the August edition. Make sure to read Tools for the Coming School Year, by Cheryl Sigmon, a regular contributor to the Gazette. She suggests making a tool kit for each student, to enhance literacy instruction. Items in her toolkit include things such as sticky notes, highlighters, pens, bookmarks, and crayons. Ms. Sigmon explains that these tool kits can be used to enhance vocabulary instruction, create images during reading, mark clues while reading, and much more. Read her article for complete lesson suggestions and tips for managing the supplies.

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Read Aloud

Do you know just how important it is to read out loud to your students? The many benefits of a read aloud include building listening and comprehension skills, increasing vocabulary foundation, improving memory, increasing language skills, and much more.

Start the year off with the right read-aloud for back-to-school. One of my personal favorites is The Teacher from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler. Check out what the teachers on Education World are reading on their first day of school.

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Are your students Web savvy?

The New York Times recently published a thought-provoking article by Motoko Rich titled, “Literacy Debate – Online, R U Really Reading?” which outlines “what it means to read in the digital age.”

Rich notes that while some reading experts have found that spending significant amounts of time on the Internet has little impact (or may even diminish) literacy, other scholars state that spending time surfing the Internet actually improves literacy (especially within groups of children that would otherwise not read if it weren’t for the appeal of the Internet). Despite the spectrum of opinions on this topic, it is a bit difficult to wade through the research, as everyone has a slightly different definition of what literacy is. Furthermore, very few schools actually assess digital reading in any systematic way, although this trend is changing as Rich points out:

Next year, for the first time, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which administers reading, math and science tests to a sample of 15-year-old students in more than 50 countries, will add an electronic reading component. The United States, among other countries, will not participate. A spokeswoman for the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the Department of Education, said an additional test would overburden schools.

Regardless of whether or not the US participates in such assessments any time soon, I think most of us agree that it is important that we teach children from an early stage how to assess, synthesize and utilize digital information. So, as you are thinking about how to incorporate digital literacy lessons into your curricula this fall, take a look at this diagram (provided by the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut). The diagram provides a great overview of the skills children (and adults) need to become competent digital readers. For example, online readers must learn to: open a web browser, locate a search engine, type key words or phrases, scan the search results, assess the source, open multiple windows, etc… Take a peak at the diagram and pass this article along to a friend!


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The Solution Site

The Solution Site offers thematic units for grades K-2. These are high quality lessons, created by teachers. All lessons on the website go through a strict review process before being posted. There is a system to rate and review each unit you use. You can also read the reviews of other teachers before selecting a unit to use in your classroom.


I found a great unit on this website for introducing the D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) program into your classroom: D.E.A.R.: It’s not just Fawn-ics! This is a wonderful way to start off your school year!

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Education Olympics

And the gold metal in “upper secondary graduation rate” goes to… NORWAY!

In between your back-to-school preparations and broadcasts of your favorite Olympic events from Beijing, why not take a few seconds to see how the US and other countries rank in the Education Olympics:

Over the last few decades, the United States has trailed other developed (and some developing) nations on international measures that assess student performance in reading, mathematics, and science. The purpose of the Education Olympics is to contrast America’s tepid academic performance with its athletic dominance. While America’s athletes bring home a trove of medals from Beijing, its student competitors are expected to be relatively barren of jewelry. We want to ask: What will the United States do to turn around this critical situation?

The data on which the events in the Education Olympics are based come from four main international measures, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), and the Civic Education Study (CIVED). There are 58 events, each based on test scores from a section of one of the above exams, except for a handful of events that reflect measures of educational attainment.

Immediately following the Education Olympics, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute will release a companion report, which will contain all of the data presented on this website, as well as further analysis and commentary on the results. It will be available as a free download at


P.S. Thanks to Kevin Huffman for pointing out this site on his latest guest post on Eduwonk.

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Once upon a school, one-on-one attention, and 100% inspiration

We can all make our community schools and children within them healthier and happier “one human interaction at a time.” Watch this video and be inspired as you learn what Dave Eggers and thousands of other adults have done across the world to help children in their local neighborhoods learn to love writing (and homework too)!

I found this talk on the website Once Upon a School–a site where you can:

  1. Find an idea to work with a local school
  2. Be inspired by projects happening now
  3. Tell a story about your own projects (that have helped children in your local schools)

Here are some projects ideas for your school and classroom! Take a look, implement an idea and tell the world about it!


PS For more inspiring talks, check out TED:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. More than 200 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

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Back to School!

Now that August has finally rolled around, it is time for many of us to start thinking about returning to our classrooms. Many popular websites for teachers offer free Back-to-School Theme Units. Maybe you can find a poem or activity to add to your first week repertoire.


The Virtual Vine – a list of read-aloud books, poems, bulletin board ideas and more


ABC Teach – printables and worksheets


Debbie’s Unit Factory – activities, icebreakers, bulletin board ideas and more


Please share your back to school ideas in the comments section! – Melissa

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