Literacy Feedback – ALL Learners Means ALL Learners

So often as teachers when we learn new information, create something, or have knowledge about a specific content area we think that everyone already knows this and we keep it to ourselves.  I mean, why would we share something everyone already knows? That would seem silly. Do you ever feel like that?  🙂  Well, DON’T!!  

Share those “Obvious To You” ideas!!  You never know when someone you think knows, actually doesn’t.  Or when something you say may resonate with someone in a different way because they were ready to hear it.  That being said, I am going to share (at random) a few really important thoughts from the recent literacy conference I attended.

Literacy teachers spend so much time getting students to read.  Pushing students to read faster and faster to meet that Holy Grail number of words per minute so they can report they are “On Level” that year.  Am I right?  This must stop.  We must turn our attention and efforts to what really matters in literacy instruction.  Building a love of reading, for one.  Second on the list, Comprehension!  Do you not agree that we read things to learn something and understand?  I understand that reading rate does have an effect on comprehension, but how many times do you see a kid that can read pretty fast and not understand a thing they just read? When I was listening to Dr. Jan Hasbrouck preach about this, I wanted to shout, “Amen!” I have asked over and over, “Does it really matter?  As long as they can comprehend what they are reading, does it really matter if they are 10 words short of meeting that little designated number?”  At this particular session she shared something that stuck out to me:
“When using the Oral Reading Fluency norms, there is little evidence that reading faster is better for a reader’s comprehension.  In fact, there is significant evidence that we need to help readers read fluently AT or NEAR the 50th percentile to support comprehension and motivation.”

WOW! So, Average is the Sweet Spot! You can search “Reading Fast or Reading Well Jan Hasbrouck” and read more about this idea.

We all know in order to understand what we are reading we must actually read the words correctly! Did you know what we are looking for in Reasonably Accurate reading accuracy is based on a study that shows comprehension WILL be impaired if reader does not read at this specific accuracy?

The average reader should not read below 95% accuracy independently on unpracticed text.

Emergent readers must not read below 97-98% accuracy!!  Do you know why? Readers who are learning to read should never become frustrated or walk away feeling defeated in anything they are reading.  They need to have a positive mindset about reading for one, but don’t we also want them to practice reading those words correctly!? Here is my biggest takeaway from her session.

Do you find it ironic that I listed Accuracy as second on my list, when it comes First?! Like I mentioned earlier, these are not in order of importance but in order of how my mind is flowing. 

So you might have gathered that Fluent Reading DOES NOT mean faster. Something to remember about fluency is that it really should sound like talking. It should sound like speech – our everyday conversational talking.  There are many other important components to being a fluent reader, but the biggest one I find a need for in many of my students is PROSODY!  

Prosody is the intonation, the expression used, phrasing, and pitch that mirrors spoken language and conveys meaning.   So, wait a minute….you mean, it is not okay for the reader to sound like a “robot” when reading?  😉 Not so much, and let me share a big   A-HA that supports this statement.  It does effect comprehension, and isn’t that what the whole point of reading is?!

This last idea might be my biggest takeaway and is also my biggest soap box and so I am not sure why I saved it for last, but I want to say this and say it LOUDLY!!!

Feedback on a child’s reading is important for ALL READERS!  If we are going to meet the needs of every learner/reader, then we must listen to every reader read.  More importantly, we must give them feedback on their reading. What does this mean exactly?  How do we accomplish this? I know what you are thinking…We have deadlines & expectations to meet with limited time and an overwhelming number of students in classroom.  Not to mention all of the other important needs crying out to be met. Listening to every child read daily/weekly is “ideal” and really is our best intention, but is quickly pushed aside when we run out of time after working with three groups of struggling readers.  If we are able to listen to every single child read every single week, how many times are we giving authentic feedback?  Let me share what I heard restated by Dr. Jan Hasbrouck this week. This is why we must listen to ALL readers read aloud AND give Feedback.  

It improves Fluency, which is critical for Comprehension. 

Sure, we get the 1st bullet. No problem.  That makes sense. The 2nd bullet hits a little harder. – Silent Reading NOT sufficient.  (Let me add the word ENOUGH.) It does not mean stop having children read silently.  It means that we must not only have our average and above average readers read alone or with peer groups without any feedback. Humor me, and let me say this again a little louder.

Why? Because ALL LEARNERS means ALL LEARNERS.  Everyone deserves an opportunity to be heard.  How else will your average and above average readers acquire new vocabulary and skills? What fluent role model are they hearing read to help them learn expression, phrasing, and such?  ALL READERS need to hear fluent reading, new vocabulary words, and practice oral reading.  Maybe my next post should be on how to manage this in the classroom, what it looks like, and how easy it really is to achieve?! 🙂 One last reminder – Literacy is not just reading, but writing as well.  I LOVED that Dr. Hasbrouck said this and shared this amazing quote that I will end with.  Let’s not forget all of the important research on the role our brain plays in learning!

I Won’t Give Up

It is no secret that I am a HUGE advocate for children who need more than the traditional teaching. In the past 5 years, my passion has grown bigger for advocating for the Whole Child, children with ADD/ADHD, children with characteristics of Dyslexia, Whole Brain Teaching, integrating curriculum and teaching those important soft skills for life.  This quote most definitely sums up my mission!

As each year goes by I see more and more need for the Whole Child, Brain-Based background in teaching.  When we stop and think, it really is just great teaching.  Knowing your students.  Knowing their needs.  Knowing how to meet each one where they are and help them be successful by using strategies that work for them.  Knowing that every child learns differently and taking action to differentiate for their needs.  Seems simple, right?

We just cannot forget that these needs include MOVEMENT. (I wrote all about this in another post here.)  I am not just talking about brain break movement, but movement with learning concepts.

Here is something I often see: Children who have struggled for years to learn how to read or write.  Their self esteem is low.  They do not speak up on how they learn best.  Is it because they are afraid?  Maybe they have never been shown how to do this appropriately?  Is it because they have never been given the opportunity?  I don’t know.

Here is what I do know.  THESE are the children who cannot learn to the best of their ability when forced to sit all day without moving, discussing, singing, making those important connections.  Yet sadly, there are still classrooms where this is happening.  It crushes my heart and has me upset as to why it still goes on.

Why, when we know what the research says about this? Why do we continue putting our children through this? Little AND big children!

I write this not to criticize anyone, but because I want SHARE some really great research and resources on these topics.  My hope is that this reaches one person that may have never considered how this all plays into learning and they try one of these strategies!  Our children deserve it!

Have we ever considered that our students are not intentionally tuning us out? They are not intentionally losing focus.  They want to remember what we are teaching them.  They want to do well.  There are just so many other factors that play a part in this Whole Child’s learning experience. What we need to ask ourselves is this:

What are WE doing to help them?

Here is a fantastic Edutopia article on brain research written by a neurologist suggesting educators have a neuroscience class that updates them on current educational research on the brain.  That would be amazing! (In my opinion!)

Here is article from the Integrated Learning Strategies website on Brain-Based Learning Crossing Midline activities that help all children.  It puts the brain research into action!

Here is a great Whole Brain Teaching article on how it is used from Kinder-College with great results.

Here are some of my Pinterest Boards where I house information I find.

Follow Bridget’s board ADD/ADHD on Pinterest.

Follow Bridget’s board Brain Research on Pinterest.

Follow Bridget’s board Dyslexia on Pinterest.

I am teaching Summer Enrichment classes that revolve around brain-based learning and movement, wellness and stress management for kids (think yoga) and dancing!  I will be posting resources I am using when the time is closer.

Advocating for the WHOLE CHILD is my passion! Like the quote above says, there was that moment I realized, I won’t give up!  Our Kids Deserve It!!!!

Putting Kids FIRST

Confession time….I have not blogged in a few weeks because I was hit with a case of overloaded brain block!  Yes, it’s a real thing my friends. 🙂 My head is full of so much new learning that I didn’t even know where to begin processing it all.  As I start thinking of all the things I have been taking in and try to piece together connections, I come up with one thing that runs through my head over and over.

If we are not asking this question when there is a fork in the road, or even on a DAILY BASIS, we are off track!
Recently, I have observed literacy instruction in elementary school, middle school, and high school!  I feel like I have been given a treasure that not many teachers are given unfortunately – time to observe great teaching!  I am always amazed at the awesome ideas I walk away with.  The interesting thing is that at all three levels, there were identical strategies being used that worked with ALL kids, yet they did not look exactly the same! That got me thinking.
There are all these buzzwords out there.  All the new initiatives starting up.  All the ideas of how things “should be done” by people other than the educators.  But really, when we really look closely by taking a step back, we know it comes down to best practices for all kids.  We know what is best for kids and we do it.  
If you know me, you know that I am a firm believer in differentiation in every area!  Y’all, it doesn’t have to look the same for everyone.   We are not the same.  Our kids are not the same. 🙂  We can differentiate our teaching strategies like we differentiate student learning. It is responsive teaching.  But PLEASE….hear this loud and clear – what matters is that we are consistent in these best practices and do what is best for the kids we have in front of us now…not last year. 
Whether you are conferencing with a student about their writing at a table, on the floor, through a Google doc or Google classroom, at a desk, through a blog response, on a beanbag, or a bouncy exercise ball…you are still conferencing about writing!  It is about the consistent best practice action and the child!  I will add, having a variety keeps it interesting for all involved. 🙂
I really feel in my heart that there is no way you can go “wrong” if you are looking at the situation through the lens of what is best for the child, not just compliance of teaching a certain way because everyone will think this is awesome even though it really doesn’t seem to be working for this child.    
My hope is for people out there to stop thinking one way or approach is the “right way” and the only way teachers should be teaching reading or writing (or any other thing for that matter) and start asking, “Is this BEST for THIS CHILD right now?” because that is what it is all about.  I could really get going about my passion for the Whole Child, but I will save that for another time. 🙂
Let me close by saying this: 

I am not saying break rules and do not teach what you are supposed to according to TEKS and district common instructional expectations!  
I am saying while adhering to these mandates, think differently. Ask the question: what is best for children?  Be brave and take that chance and try something new!  It might feel different and uncomfortable at first, but how will you ever know if you never try? 🙂 Oh, the possibilities and the awesome things we will see in our children when we put them first! Always. 

Do You Like To Move It Move It? Your Kids Do.

Friends, I am on a mission!  My mission is to share with educators of ALL levels the importance of movement in learning.

Here’s How:

1. Share research Whole-Brain Teaching.

2. Share research on the importance of allowing kids to MOVE and what that does for the brain and learning. This clip from Edutopia excited me!

3. Share the resources I use in my classroom that allows movement.
Examples: Go Noodle, Just Dance Brain Breaks, learning new concepts with motions and songs, singing , exercising while counting by 5s, doing yoga to calm back down and focus, and having different learning spaces!
Brain Research Board on Pinterest

Brain Breaks Board on Pinterest

ADD/ADHD Board on Pinterest                 

Dyslexia Board on Pinterest

Bridget’s Brain Breaks Symbaloo Page

Bridget’s Reading Symbaloo Page

4. Find ways to pass along that these are not extra privileges for students if you have time, but they are NECESSARY.  

The Personal Fuel Behind My Mission:
I realized this week that I am one of those active students teachers discuss! Those of you that know me, you are laughing because this is not news to you.  🙂 But, I really realized it as a student this week in a week-long course where I was expected to sit in my chair 8-4.

I understand there are situations where you need to sit and get information.  I really do. However, after 3 days of this and 2 more to go I said to my husband, “I am not sure I can make it through this week.  It is very hard to sit all day, have information poured into your head with little time to process.

Truth: I like to make up songs and movements to what I am learning.
Truth: I have to talk through my learning with other people, which doubles my learning.
Truth: I like to do yoga poses while I am listening or standing around in class. 🙂

A-ha! Truth: Without reflection time and movement, I was struggling to take this important (much needed & appreciated) info and organize it into compartments of my brain to make sense. I felt very frustrated and overwhelmed. 
Eye Opener:
Here I sat in this class learning things that I knew I needed. I had to sit all day. There were no brain breaks to activate my brain in another way to refocus. My active body felt like it was going to explode inside. I felt like I was struggling to keep up because I was still trying to organize what was already given to me that I couldn’t connect to and make any meaning with.  I couldn’t organize it all because we had to move on.  That’s what bothered me.  As educators, we do the same to our kids. So much to teach them in such little time with so much on our plates! 
Is this what our kids feel like?!  Oh. My. Goodness. If I (a pretty good student who made straight As and loves learning) felt like not going back and was so overwhelmed to tears one morning…it really made me think about our kids that struggle to receive what we throw at them and their feelings.  They may struggle because of ADHD. They may struggle because of Dyslexia. They may struggle with an Auditory Processing deficit.  Maybe they haven’t developed their Executive Functioning Skills fully.

Whatever the struggle, it made me ask…
Do we allow them to move enough?
Do we give them enough processing time?
Do we allow them to choose the way they learn best?
Do we allow them the chance to reflect?

In a recent article I read called  4’33” (Four Minutes and Thirty-Three Seconds): What Our Brains Need | Edutopia it explains this imperative importance on reflection and quiet time. It is a great read!

I write this in hopes of sharing the importance of movement with other educators. I hope you will consider Brain Breaks in your classroom.  Try it one day!  Just one day- and see how much clearer your students think!

This summer at a GCISD Valor meeting, a friend and I had the entire room participate in a Brain Break.  We did Pop-See-Ko from Go Noodle. The high school and middle school teachers were a little unsure at first, but then you saw it.  Smiles.  Everyone in that room was ready to re-engage for learning that afternoon.  All it takes is one try and you will NEVER go back!

We can’t stop for a brain break, you say. I say – you can’t afford NOT to!  Move Your Body, Grow Your Brain | Edutopia will show you the WHY of my mission.  Amazing things happen in your brain when you move.