7 Virtues of a Blended Learning Teacher

Adobe Spark (17)This blog post is part of the CM Rubin World Global Search for Education which poses a question each month to leading educators for reflection and sharing. This month’s question is “To what extent is this a new model of learning in a digital age? Is blended learning becoming yet another overhyped myth?  What lessons learned can you share from your own school community?”

Blended learning is a disputed term among academics and one may find what it is NOT, rather than what it IS. In 2009, I entered the world of blended learning after the school I taught at implemented a 1 to 1 laptop initiative which placed computers in the hands of all students (grade 6-12) that they used in the classroom and brought home with them each night. Because of this experience and through conversations I have had with other educators in similar education ecosystems, I believe that blended learning is a combination of traditional teaching methods and digital ones, this in different languanges.

Educators who are sound in content and pedagogy are often high-impact blended learning teachers as well. Through reflection and conversation, blended learning teachers possess similar virtues:

Teacher Virtues:  

  1. Uninhibited Creativity in delivery and content of learning
  2. Sees Failure as Opportunities for Growth and gains achieved through perseverance
  3. Seeks out Opportunities for Improvement
  4. Reflective in Practice and on student achievement
  5. Student-centered and Relinquishes Control of elements in traditional teaching
  6. Sees Technological Differentiation as a Way to Meet All Students’ Needs
  7. Recognizes Multidimensional and Multimodal Learning as Relevant and Engaging

Teacher virtues in both a traditional or blended environment extend across both and most, are interchangeable in either environment. Technology or blended learning does not automatically make one better. In fact, through experience, it does quite the opposite, magnifying poor classroom management or lack of understanding of content or pedagogy. Effective blended teachers are always effective classroom teachers but the opposite may not be true. To be a high-impact blended teacher it takes creativity, understanding, resourcefulness, and reflection in a digital learning space.

10 Ways Parents Can Support Their Young Readers

Adobe Spark (15)This blog post is part of the CM Rubin World Global Search for Education which poses a question each month to leading educators for reflection and sharing. This month’s question is When it comes to fostering a lifelong love of learning,  parents who support you in your role as a teacher are important;  so what are the Top 10 (or less)  things you want to tell all parents?

One of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child is to foster the love of reading. It is through books that young readers can travel to faraway places, develop empathy for someone different than themselves, or learn how to build the ultimate fort out of things they find in the garage. While most parents agree that reading is important in all areas of life, how to foster a love of reading and support their young readers remains a mystery.

Here are 10 Ways Parents Can Support Their Young Readers:

  1. Read Aloud – The single most important activity for building literacy experiences is reading aloud to kids of all ages. From birth to age 3, young children who are read to develop listening and verbal skills at a greater rate. They also start to associate reading with the pleasant sound of their parent’s voice, understand how books work, and begin to use early literacy skills in play. Students of all ages benefit from hearing books read aloud to them by building background knowledge, hearing good readers use the dimensions of fluency, as well as enriching their own vocabulary. (Inspired by Steven)
  2. Choice, not Chore – Another way parents can support their young readers is to present reading as a choice, not a chore. Encourage their literacy journey by giving them choice in what they read. Giving kids a choice in what they read not only improves their literacy skills but also increase engagement. When parents focus less on minutes read and more on providing book options in areas that interest their kids, everyone wins.  (Inspired by Mr. Vince)
  3. Find the Right Book – While not every book can be the one that hooks a lifelong reader, any one book can, so never give up. When a child loses interest in a book, has trouble reading for a sustained amount of time, or complains about a book it’s time to close the cover and find a new one. Children do not have to read every book they choose from beginning to end. In fact, children may abandon a book for a variety of reasons before finding one that captures their attention. The key for parents is to never give up. Continue to share books, articles, and magazines that may interest your child. Visit the library and find support in librarian who have a number of titles they can share based on interests, genres, or authors. Websites for finding books for kids: Biblionasium, Goodreads Kids List, What Should I Read Next, Common Sense Media Best Books for Kids, Children’s and Teens Choice Book Awards.  (Inspired by Helena)
  4. Fostering Curiosity – Another way parents can support their young readers is to demonstrate how questions can be answered through reading. Reading is both for pleasure and for learning. Ask questions, spark wonderings, and then turn to books and text as a way to find answers. This powerful process of answer-seeking not only demonstrates ways books can be used but also helps to make the thinking visible and hopefully transferable into their own life. Reading, writing, and thinking with their child promotes the recursive nature of the three.  (Inspired by Fran) 
  5. Model a Readerly Life – Parents, teachers, and peers influence a child’s life with parents and teachers having the most impact. When parents model a readerly life this transfers to their children. Making time to read each day with your child and talking about books models habits that readers do and in turn children mimic. Parents can model a readerly life by simply reading their own book at the same time their child is reading their book. When children see their parents valuing reading they understand the importance of a readerly life.  (Inspired by Amber)
  6. Make it Social – In school, reading is often times done in isolation. Minutes are tracked, tests are taken, and projects are done for an audience of one. As adults, when we turn the final page of a book that we can’t put down we immediately want to talk about it, interacting with others who may have read it, or sharing in hopes that someone else will be inspired to read. Parents can make reading social with their child in a variety of ways, ask questions and listen when a child finishes a book. Read a book together and use an interactive method (Dialogic Reading) of reading to encourage talking about a book. Parents can also make reading social by participating in book clubs with their children or sharing online interactions with other readers through websites such as  Goodreads (if a child is old enough have them create an account and start sharing). When parents think of a sharing good book as they would share and talk about a good movie, children shift from viewing reading as isolating to a social activity.
  7. Surround Children with Text – Good readers often recall being surrounded by text in the home. Parents should fill not only their child’s bedroom with books and other types of text but multiple areas in the home. Books on shelves, magazines on tables, poetry on the wall, and kindles on the sofas immerse students into an environment that promotes reading. Not all books need to be new or owned, garage sales are perfect for finding books and libraries help to keep new books in the home. When children have access to books and are surrounded by text they are more likely to pick it up and at least thumb through the text.
  8. Digital Text – Through digital text parents can also support young readers. Access to books, nonfiction, and poetry has never been easier than it is currently. While many parents are hesitant to use technology to provide access to reading material the thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t have to be either print books or digital, but instead it is both. There are many apps, websites, and resources that parents can use to foster a love of reading with their child. Epubs, audio texts, and interactive books can all have a place in the routines established. Check out Epic, Storynory,  Project Gutenberg, Newsela.
  9. Interest not Level – Another way that parents can support their young readers is by making reading joyful and engaging by keying in on your child’s interest rather than focusing on reading level. While it is important to decide if a book is developmentally appropriate for your child, as well as being accessible, limiting what your child reads because of their designated Lexile or reading level doesn’t take into account the picture of the whole child. Children who are interested in a topic or have experience and background knowledge are likely able to read and comprehend difficult text. Listening to music and discussing song lyrics from their favorite artist is another way to spark interest in reading by recognizing your child’s interests. Have a child who loves to write and read poetry? Introduce contemporary writers whose novels are written in verse helps to ignite your child’s love of reading. By starting with something children are familiar with and passionate about instead of their reading level helps children enjoy reading. (Inspired by Erin) 
  10. Community Connections – Finally, parents can support young readers by taking advantage of community connections. Visit libraries and partake in their free reading programs for kids (This year’s summer theme is Build a Better World). Make time to stop into the bookstore and explore the shelves. Build your own Little FreeLibrary and place it somewhere in your neighborhood to spread the joy of sharing books. Reach out to schools and retirement homes to inquire about opportunities for your child to read to or with adults. Reading is a priority across the nation, in communities, and schools; making those connections with your child makes it a priority in your home as well!

Reading is joyful, social, and a lifelong skill that every child needs throughout their life. Parents can play an active role in their child’s literacy development through a variety of ways. The possibilities are endless and the above 10 are ones that were inspired by friends, fellow educators, and my own learning in the area of literacy. Please comment below with additional ways parents can support their young readers. Did I miss any of your favorites?

Special thanks to the following who all contributed to this post in thoughts and words:

Steven Anderson

Amber Teamann

Erin Olson

Fran McVeigh

Helena Brothwell

Mr. Vince  

3 Ways to Motivate Young Readers

2009

Question: How do we do a better job of cultivating young readers? 

The panacea to motivate young readers – an observant and informed teacher! Informed educators use variety of tools and resources to cultivate readers; from  reading inventories, and noticing and noting reading behaviors during conferring and small group instruction, teachers can place high-interest books in the hands of their students, as well as identify possible barriers that make accessing a text difficult and limit the enjoyment of reading for many children. Fostering an environment that supports literacy, encourages relationships, and promotes reading as a social activity where ideas and connections are shared with partners or in literature circles can also help to cultivate young readers.

A common currency shared by all students supplying intrinsic means to develop lifelong readers is difficult to pinpoint. Unfortunately, many educators turn to extrinsic rewards as a way to entice students to read. And although research supports an increase in page numbers read through the use of points, rewards, or reading logs; research also concludes that there is where the gains end. Students do not become lifelong readers, and in fact, research shows that overall, extrinsically motivated readers will not increase achievement in the long term (Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997).

With this information and the realization that there is no silver bullet or one program to transform all students into readers, there are factors educators can focus in on to increase student motivation and drive in reading.

Building off of the work of John T. Guthrie who shares 3 reading motivations to target for cultivating young readers: Interest, Dedication, and Confidence.  An interested student enjoys reading, a dedicated student finds value in reading, and a confident student reads because he or she can do it (Gambrell & Morrow, 2015).

3 Ways to Motivate Young Readers

  1. Motivation: Interests

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIGyVa5Xftw

Young readers are motivated by choice. When students have no choice in what they read, they are limited to read what the teacher chooses, squelching passions and interests, similarly to the situation in the previous videos. Students as young as Kindergarten should have choice in their independent books from the classroom library. To optimize choice within the classroom library, educators should estimate needing around 20 books per student. Texts should cover multiple topics, themes, and genres. Don’t forget digital texts and epubs as options in the classroom.  Providing accessible texts for kids is important in a classroom library.  Include books ranging in levels that would be appropriate for your beginning readers, as well as texts that are 2 levels above your advanced readers. (Students should not be limited by levels according to their score when choosing books). Poignant topics and relevant information help to strengthen young readers who are Interest motivated.  Goodreads, a digital space to share the love of reading, also provides lists of books related to themes, genres, and grade-level; a great resource for teachers. Wonderopolis is another resource for students and teachers. Wonderopolis ignites creative thinking, sparks inquiry, and supports young readers by providing resources to dig deeper and question more!

2. Motivation: Dedication 

Although one of my favorite commercials about reading is actually an advertisement for Scotch, it depicts readers who are motivated by dedication. Just as in the commercial illustrated, many of our students are motivated to read because of behavior-related factors. Dedicated readers realize their outcomes are directly related to the effort they put forth. Students are motivated by the value they believe reading has in their lives and will play in their future. Tapping into this belief system, an educator can provide specific examples of how reading can change a person’s life. For instance, the NYTimes Learning Network provided a collection of resources related to Malala, along with other social justice issues for students connect with and explore in the classroom. Similarly, Web of Stories is a website providing a collection of famous scientists, authors, movie makers, and artists telling their stories to inspire others. Located under the “Theme” tab on the site is a collection of more than 300 videos tied to education!

3. Motivation: Confidence    

The third type of motivation that drives young readers is belief-driven, Confidence. To increase confidence in young readers, focus on accessibility, feedback, and expression of learning. A misdiagnosis of a student’s lack of comprehension of a text, often times is actually attributed to vocabulary and accessibility and not comprehension. Informed and observant educators realize these barriers and work to provide access to complex texts through scaffolding, and a rich supply of books and articles at a student’s independent reading level. Technology and digital resources provide an ever-growing supply of leveled texts, especially in the areas of non-fiction. A few of my favorite digital resources to support young readers: NewsELA, JellyBean Scoop, and  TweenTribune . Consistent feedback can also boost confidence in young readers, just as the video demonstrated the growth in language acquisition in the students who were paired with the retired grandparents. Feedback options to consider besides face to face in class: voice comments, virtual book clubs or mentors, or even through video. Recap is a new app that allows students to express understanding by creating a short video response. Classroom threads can be saved and shared, increasing the feedback a student may receive to others beyond the school walls.   

When students leave our classrooms we hope they take with them a love of reading, not because we want them to keep up with coursework demands in the next grade, but because we want students to be lifelong readers! There is not one program or motivating factor that will cultivate every student into a reader. In fact, many students are motivated by a blend of the factors previously mentioned. But, a well-informed and observant teacher can focus their instruction and differentiate content to meet the needs of all students, motivating and cultivating lifelong readers.

Special thanks to George Courous – videos were spot on!

Resources:

  • Gambrell and Morrow. Best Practices in Literacy Instruction. 2015.
  • Guthrie, John T.”Motivating Students to Read.” Best Practices in Literacy Instruction. 2015.
  • Wigfield, A., and Guthrie, J.T. “Relations of children’s motivation for reading…” Journal of        Education Psychology. 1997.