Tag Archive for literacy

The importance of Read-Aloud (at school and home)

I recently read The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease after seeing Matt Renwick tweet about it several different times. I had it on my list of professional books to read, but he actually mentioned it again to me in a parent to parent conversation when I shared my concerns regarding my son’s animosity for reading. Yes, you read that right…the principal so passionate about reading has a child that does not enjoy reading himself. My son is growing up in a home filled with hundreds of books, is read to for half an hour each night, but fights me on reading himself just like he does eating broccoli. Don’t get me wrong, he does love to be read to (at home and school) his favorite part of school each day is Daily 5 time, he reads to himself at school, and he reads to friends at school during read-to-someone (I even had to witness this myself, because I didn’t believe that he could have such a different disposition at school!)

So after several recommendations from Matt, I read The Read-Aloud Handbook, which reaffirmed my passion for reading and the importance for reading aloud to my children, even though they may be old enough to read on their own.  I would highly recommend this book to any teacher, parent, grandparent, or child caregiver.

The author, Jim Trelease, challenges NCLB legislation and all other attacks on schools for low reading scores with the argument that a child spends 900 hours a year in school and 7,800 hours outside of school and that parents have a bigger influence and more time available for change to occur. By reading aloud to children (at home or school) we:

  • condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • create background knowledge
  • build vocabulary
  • provide a reading model

You can find study after study (many shared in his book) that links student reading interest with higher test scores, parent reading habits with higher test scores, read aloud habits at home with higher test scores, and more cases of students from low SES/minority homes making significant gains and breaking their cycle of poverty when being read to at home (even from parents with little education).  What I found most interesting is that Trelease is NOT an educator. He is just a parent that was very passionate about reading to his kids and as a classroom volunteer, saw the effects of not being read to in other children. He shares tips for parents and teachers in this book about reading aloud, as well as a treasury list of books identified by the grade level child to read aloud to (note-the read aloud level is higher than the level a child could read to themself).  A wealth of information can also be found at Trelease’s website here. 

After reading this book, my only concern is: how do we get this information to the parents that really need it?  Many parents, like myself, that are already reading to their children will certainly enjoy this book and have it encourage and reaffirm reading habits already established at home.  Unfortunately, the parents that do not read to their children or see the value in it, also tend to be the parents that do not (or maybe cannot) read any information that is sent home and do not come to school events or conferences.  What can schools do to try and reach these parents?  This year at our Open House (the night before school) I am planning to have a session in the gym for all parents to come in and I will speak at 3 different times and will include the importance of reading aloud at home. What do other schools do to get this message out and help support parents?

Daily 5 School-Wide Part 2

In my last post I shared with you an update on how we have gone school wide with the Daily 5/Cafe framework for teaching literacy.  Just how committed to this are we? Well, the reading basals are now officially boxed up and in storage!!

As we made the transition to going school-wide with Daily 5, I will tell you the first mistake I made as a principal…

During the Spring of 2011, I told all staff that we would be going school-wide with Daily 5 (almost all were familiar with it so it was no major shock) I told them that all they had to worry about was reading/learning how to implement the Daily 5 framework and that the following year we would add Cafe  to all classrooms.  Several teachers had already implemented both Daily 5/Cafe and several more also read the Cafe book to implement this past year as well.  So what was the mistake in holding off for the others?  Daily 5 is the framework for what your students are doing during the literacy block and provides the structure to build up their stamina to read/write for sustained periods of time.  Cafe is the acronym for the strategies you are teaching your students–both in whole group mini-lessons, small group mini-lessons and 1:1 conferring with students. While it is extremely important to have the routines/procedures in place, building up stamina just as “The Sisters” describe in the Daily 5 book, you need the Cafe strategies to teach!
So, there’s my mistake. If you go school-wide, now you know not to make the same mistake I made!

If you are considering going school-wide with Daily 5/Cafe, here are some of the things we did in our building to help make this a successful transition:

  • I created a video from our classrooms that were already using Daily 5/Cafe to share with our staff/school board.
  • Utilize the teachers that have already started and build on their success.  Let other teachers observe in their classrooms to see Daily 5/Cafe in action.  Look at their student reading growth in comparison to other classes–if you have enough data, look at the impact on those students after the summer as well (we’re finding that since the kids enjoy reading books they choose, they’re continuing to read over the summer and either maintaining or increasing their reading levels versus the “summer slide.”)
  • Give all of your staff the Daily 5 and Cafe books.  Buy as many of their DVD’s as you can too.  Use the books and DVD video clips for staff meetings/book clubs, discuss what you’re learning and try applying in the classroom while learning (or if they’re not comfortable that’s when they can observe others that have already implemented).
  • Get memberships to The Daily Cafe website If you can’t afford memberships, anyone can sign up for the weekly newsletters for free.
  • For the first 25 days of getting started, someone combined the Daily 5 and Cafe lessons into one simple document: Daily 5 and Cafe for Dummies, which you can find here (you’ll just have to create/login to this message board to access it).
  • Throughout the school year, I tried to keep the focus of every staff meeting (actually, I call them Professional Learning Meetings) on Daily 5/Cafe. We used different video clips from the DVD’s or the DailyCafe site for our continued professional learning/discussion.  As we started moving forward with 1:1 conferring, I even had a few brave teachers that let us share video clips of them conferring with teachers.  I also had a teacher allow me to video tape her giving a mock lesson and then in the video clip I put in funny thought bubbles like (“what was that strategy?”, “what do the Sisters call it?” and “Thank goodness for the index”) as she referred back to the Daily 5 book while teaching her students.  Aside from adding humor to our Professional Learning Meeting (which is always important) my purpose for that video clip was that we are all learning together and I don’t expect anyone to be an expert. In fact, we are always learning and growing and if you have to refer back to your Daily 5 or Cafe book in the middle of a mini-lesson and then it is just showing students that you are a learner too.
  • Once I discovered the power of Pinterest, I started adding ideas I found for Daily 5/Cafe in Monday Memo’s to staff.
  • Invest in classroom libraries! If you’re transitioning from a basal driven curriculum, chances are that your teachers’ classroom libraries only contain what they have personally invested in them and you will need to flood your libraries with books for students to have a wide variety of books to select from.  Sounds easy, until you realize that $$$$ is involved.  Since we were cutting out the plethora of basal workbooks I moved that money in the budget to allow teachers to purchase books for classroom libraries.
  • Most importantly, support your teachers in any way that you can.  Be it positive feedback, classroom coverage to observe others, time to meet with other teachers to discuss, etc.  If you have the opportunity to send any of your teachers to a workshop with the Sisters, do it!  One of our teachers had this opportunity (our first teacher to implement Daily 5/Cafe) .  We did send a team of 10 to see them at a conference, but the Sisters got stuck in a snow storm so we were really bummed out.  (My teachers keep asking if we can bring Gail and Joan to our school, but I keep telling them it’s not likely going to happen!)
I would love to hear any other ideas/tips from teachers/admin on making the transition to Daily5/Cafe!

Why Students Don’t Read What is Assigned in Class

*This is blog post #5 in the 2012 Summer Blog Challenge*

Since our building has goneschool-wide with Daily 5/Cafe, my beliefs on teaching literacy have changed dramatically from when I started teaching.  I only wish that I could go back in time and teach reading the way my awesome teachers are now.  My beliefs have been influenced by “The Sisters,” Regie Routman, Donalyn Miller, and Kelly Gallagher.  If you are an elementary principal or are in a position to have anything to do with teaching literacy, then you had better know who these educators/authors are and read their books! If you’re in Middle/High School, don’t close this window yet…

A while back, someone tweeted out a link for the following video that I think sums up one of my new core reading beliefs: when students are allowed to choose what they are reading, they will read more and grow as readers.

Does your literacy program/classroom give students a choice in what they read?