Close Reading: Do Leveled Texts "Lead to Leveled Lives"?
March 3, 2014
From The Marshall Memo (2/18/14). Summary by Kim Marshall. Used with permission.
Rethinking Small-Group Instruction with Informational Texts
In (an) important article in The Reading Teacher
, Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey (University of San Diego) question the traditional model for small-group reading instruction: students working with leveled texts, with texts doing the scaffolding.
The problem, say Fisher and Frey, is that the criteria most schools have been using for “instructional level” don’t have a strong research base and appear to have been set too low. “There is evidence that school texts starting in grade 3 have been getting easier,” they say. “Have our expectations been lowered? Should we focus on scaffolding of complex texts rather than leveling texts, especially in content areas such as social studies, science, and art that require complex thinking about information?”
Spurred on by some recent research and the Common Core’s Lexile levels for each grade’s texts, Fisher and Frey have come to agree with Alfred Tatum’s 2013 statement, “leveled texts lead to leveled lives.” They now believe “there are far too many students who are in leveled texts all the way through school, until they drop out.”
What is the alternative? More complex and more demanding reading material, students challenged more, and the teacher, rather than the text, serving as the primary means of scaffolding.
“Scaffolded reading is a time to stretch students to grapple with text that is more difficult than they can access on their own,” say Fisher and Frey. “This principle of scaffolding is at the heart of Vygotskian pedagogy… So doesn’t it follow that this is exactly the time to ramp up the complexity level of an informational text?”
(READ ON to learn more about Fisher and Frey's ideas about teaching students to read and understand challenging informational texts.)Read More
Book Review: Instructional Coaches and the Instructional Leadership Team
February 17, 2014
by Jornea A. Erwin
Schools across America are continuously searching for ways to continuously improve. One trend has been to hire someone as an instructional coach. It’s not just hiring an instructional coach that will bring about change; a strategic plan that includes everyone be the true change agent.
In an easy-to-read new book, Instructional Coaches and the Instructional Leadership Team: A Guide for School-Building Improvement
, Dean T. Spaulding and Gail M. Smith provide a framework for schools
interested in using an instructional coach for improvement.
Spaulding and Smith suggest that in order to have a strong instructional coach, there needs to be an Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) in schools, which includes administration, teacher leaders and the instructional coach. The team should initially play an active part in defining the role and responsibilities of the instructional coach so that everyone understands the purpose for this partnership.
This team, the authors propose, should also create school goals based on data and use this document as the focus for improvement efforts. A six-step approach is suggested for the ILT to guide improvement. The instructional coach is then the person to carry out the plan put in place by the ILT.
Spaulding and Smith believe it is imperative that this team meets often, in addition to daily or weekly meetings between the instructional coach and principal. To help demonstrate the potential of their model, the authors include a year of coach, teacher and principal reflections. These imagined private journal entries will ring true for many coaches and make it evident that this is a transformation which takes time.
The power of partnership
Whether you are a new coach in your building, or a veteran coach who might see value in using a leadership team, this approach to coaching will open your eyes to the power of partnerships. Coaches have to build trusting relationships for true partnerships to emerge. In situations where a whole-school instructional partnership has been achieved, everyone in the building is a coach, assisting, mentoring and learning with and from each other.Read More
Interview: Pursuing the Essentials of Learning
February 10, 2014
by Cathy Gassenheimer
The publisher's precise summary of Dispositions
(2013) by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick is intriguing: Two leading consultants present a game-changing look at why and how to 'mind the gap' between what we claim are educational essentials, and how we evaluate results.
I can say from recent personal experience that many educators are becoming very intrigued as they read this book, including myself. I've written about Dispositions
here at the ABPC blog several times recently. For background, you might take a quick look at How Do We Help Our Students Grow the Dispositions for Learning
and How to Strengthen Student Dispositions in Your School
Now it's time to hear from the authors who recently agreed to answer a few questions for us.
► We are talking to so many educators who are making a deep connection with your new book Dispositions: Reframing Teaching and Learning. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. For readers who haven't had the chance to read it yet: What is a disposition? How is it different from a behavior, characteristic or skill?
Dispositions represent a pattern of behaviors that are under a person's control and will, as opposed to being automatically activated (as with a skill). Characteristics define a person’s “character”—what makes them distinct or unique. Therefore characteristics are “adjectives” while Thinking Dispositions imply intellectual behaviors and actions.
Dispositions are overarching sets
of behaviors, not just single specific behaviors. They are dynamic and idiosyncratic in their contextualized deployment rather than prescribed actions to be rigidly carried out.
More than desire and will, dispositions must be coupled with the requisite ability. Dispositions motivate, activate, and direct our abilities