Education

Dropping Everything to Read? How about Picking Some Things Up! by Jennifer Serravallo: A Summary

Jennifer Serravallo Reading Strategies

Photo Credit: Heinemann

In “Dropping Everything to Read? How about Picking Some Things Up!,” Jennifer Serravallo (2017) posits that teachers need to be intentional about how they engage students in independent reading. For Serravallo, it’s not simply about students reading whatever they want and however they desire; it’s about teachers creating independent reading experiences that lead to successful student learning outcomes and reward experiences. Independent reading time for students, if executed effectively and thoughtfully by teachers, Serravallo argues, can lead to the evolution of “a reading life” (p. 24).

Be Intentional about Independent Reading 

If teachers desire to see their students develop “a reading life,” the scholar asserts that they have to think strategically about how they engage them in independent reading. Serravallo recommends teachers to use “whole-class lessons that offer students strategies for focusing their attention and building their stamina” when reading (p. 24). Also, she contends that these strategies can be employed to instruct small groups “in strategy lessons, which are essentially conferences for two or three students at a time” (p. 24). In these strategy lessons, students are given a strategy to support their work or reading, and then teachers provide individual “coaching” while the other students in the group read or work independently.

Booktalks 

Another strategy Serravallo offers is using booktalks to trigger the interest of students in trying new authors, series, and/or genres. She recognizes that many teacher deliver these booktalks to the whole class, but she encourages them to use these strategies in small groups as well. Although whole class booktalks permit teachers to incorporate interests of their students, small groups are easier to tailor these booktalks to students’ interests. Also, the scholar divulges that booktalks in small groups allow teachers to select books appropriate for the reading level of each student.

Serravallo’s 5 Strategies for Supporting Reading Engagement

Longer texts and shorter texts take different kinds of reading attention and focus. It may help you to plan stopping places in your longer book and have some texts at the ready for briefer break reads. Articles, short stories, and poems are good texts for this kind of reading.

When you get distracted, stop and notice where your attention first started to drift. Go back to the last thing you remember not just reading but really understanding. Reread from there to get back into your book.

Being engaged means keeping not just your eyes but also your mind on the book. As you read, be aware of your attention shifting. When it does, back up and reread. If you notice attention shifting very often, consider whether the book isn’t a good fit or something in your environment is causing you to become distracted.

It’s crucial that you are always sure that you’re making sense of what you’re reading about. Check in with meaning by asking yourself, What’s happening, who is in this scene, and where are they? Can I see what’s happening? Am I thinking about, having feelings about, or reacting to what’s happening? If you feel like anything is fuzzy, back up and reread to make sure you’re understanding.

Engage your mind by asking questions as you read. In fiction you might ask, What comes next? Why did the character do that? In nonfiction, you might ask questions about the topic. Read on to answer your questions.

Setting Reading Goals in Reading Conferences 

Serravallo explains that teachers need to set a reading goal(s) for students while they are enjoying their books. The reading goal(s) should be generated with students’ input during reading conferences. For the plot and setting, she suggests students can engage in “understanding cause and effect, identifying problems and solutions/resolutions, retelling the most important information within a chapter or across a book, and visualizing where the story takes place” (p. 25). In examining characters, she recommends “working to understand main and secondary characters’ traits, feelings, and motivations; relationships between characters; and character change” (p. 25). To explore themes and ideas, the scholar encourages “interpreting lessons and messages in stories, being alert to symbolism and inferring the deeper meaning behind the symbolism, and considering how social issues are present in the text and relate the book’s themes” (p. 25).

The main idea of a book should be investigated to understand what it is mostly about and to learn the author’s angle on a topic. When examining key details, teachers can involve students in “collecting and synthesizing relevant facts and information related to the main idea from across the main text and text features” (p. 25). She recommends that teachers engage students in identifying text features to learn important information the text reveals. Exploring text features extends opportunities for students to make valuable connections. The scholar champions giving students opportunities to analyze vocabulary closely, including “inferring the meaning of those words and phrases” (p. 25). Every effort should be made to involve students in conversations about the books they read, including advocating for them to extend the conversations into a book club.

When a student reads, Serravallo asserts that students need to write about what they have read. For the scholar, teachers should develop “a repertoire of ways to respond to reading with purpose and intention, including short in-the-moment jots and longer responses to reading” (p. 25).

Overcoming Reading Conference Challenges in Middle School 

Recognizing that middle school classes are often short, and teachers often have many new classes of students across a day, reading conferences can be challenging but Serravallo encourages teachers to have students write to reflect on their strengths and possibilities for next steps. A questionnaire connected to each possible goal is one method of writing she suggests that can be used. The questionnaire enables teachers to have shorter reading conferences with students.

Establishing Conferences as a Regular Instructional Practice

Serravallo recommends that teachers establish a regular conference practice with students. Constant and substantive feedback is critical to high student achievement, and a regular conference practice prioritizes feedback in the classroom and gives it an authentic home, an authentic space in the classroom. Small group strategy lessons during independent reading time also give teachers a space to deliver ongoing and substantive feedback.

The scholar acknowledges that many teachers will feel uncomfortable with students reading different books, books that they probably will not have read, but this reality should not alarm them. When having conferences with the students, make them feel like conversations, balancing the talking time between students and teacher. Even though a teacher may not have read the book the student is reading, teachers know a significant amount about books in general, including about young adult literature. Teachers, therefore, should enter into the conversations with this confidence.

In each conference with students, Serravallo likes to introduce a new strategy to students or revisit a previously introduced strategy. When introducing the strategy, she places an emphasis on the “how” and the “why” of the strategy. After introducing the strategy, Serravallo gives students an immediate opportunity to practice the strategy in front her so that immediate feedback and support can be given.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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6 Things We Need to Teach in Our Classrooms

K-12 Teaching

Subjects like English, Science, and Mathematics are commonplace in American classrooms. These traditional subjects are important, but many of them don’t offer any value when it comes to life’s most useful lessons. Many people believe the classroom should incorporate some more practical subjects that can be employed long-term. Here are some topics that many students wish they had learned while in school:

Basic Finance

Most American K-12 schools don’t provide students with training in financial literacy. Unfortunately, according to CrediReady, many Americans don’t understand the basics about building credit scores, homeownership, investments, savings, insurance, or retirement and how these issues can impact their overall health and well-being. Many schools are advocating for more personal finance coursework and training to help curb some of these issues and ensure Americans are well-equipped to take control of their own financial destiny.

Tax Codes

Taxes are an inevitable part of life, but you’d be surprised to learn that the average American misses out on several thousand dollars of tax credits each year. Many Americans are uneducated when it comes to tax codes, and many can’t do their taxes without the aid of technology. As a result, most Americans won’t claim their full refund unless they enlist the assistance of a tax professional. A little training in this area can save great heartache and distress in the future.

Mental Health

Mental health issues have been a taboo topic for decades, especially in large parts of the black community. Unfortunately, the hush-hush nature of this subject has led to a debilitated society where those in need of help fail to seek it. Schools should invest in training that assists students with healthy coping mechanisms and encourages them to seek help when needed. According to Connections Academy, it’s important to encourage teachers and school counselors’ support in case students have issues with bullying, communication skills, or questions about their futures.

Time Management Techniques

Time management is important in both work and play. Many employers are looking for students who can balance the demands of home and work with ease. In today’s structured society, many students enter the real world with no concept of how to manage their own time. Courses in time management can be quite useful in curbing anxiety and propelling students to the next level.

Networking

It’s great to make friends and it’s great to keep them, but you also want to keep in touch with certain people you never really got to know. Why? They might just be that references you need to land a job, or to be introduced to a great employment opportunity. If you’re a senior in high school, you might want to add your friends and peers on a variety of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, as you never know what opportunities they can open up for you. Additionally, plenty of groups and forums exist that are useful when looking for a job or internship. Perhaps the more valuable lesson to learn from this is not exactly to specifically network with people, but to be open to meeting and befriending new people.

Self-Defense Techniques

Self-defense techniques can be taught in a physical education class or a special elective and can be beneficial in the long-term. Physical safety is a no-brainer when it comes to an educational package, and many schools are opting to include this kind of coursework in their curriculum.

Today’s children have the most benefit in learning these principles early, and yet we are severely hindering them from being prepared for the future. Our education system should reinforce the skills and knowledge pertinent to a successful life, such as mental health awareness, cultural sensitivity, and financial stability. We owe it to our future generations to have all of the tools available to them from the beginning, not wait until it’s already too late.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

5 Benefits To Starting Your Child In K-12 Online Schooling

Traditional brick-and-mortar schools are not the only option for children. Online public schools offer the same opportunities for quality education as conventional schooling. One should consider some important phenomena before deciding against starting his or her child at an online public school. 

Your Child Can Learn at His or Her Own Pace

With traditional schooling, children learn with many classmates at the same time. Typically, in traditional public schools, children have little to no opportunities to work ahead if they understand the material, or to spend extra time on a lesson if they need more assistance. Students have to move on to the next lesson because that’s what the instructor is teaching the rest of the class.

Individual Attention from Teachers

Another aspect that makes online education different from traditional schools is the personal attention from teachers. A student can contact his or her teacher and establish a Skype meeting, send an email, or call the teacher at approved times. While the teacher is not face-to-face with the student, many ways exist to receive personalized attention for students in online education.

Preparing for Online College Courses

Another benefit of online public schooling is the preparation for college. Most colleges offer online courses to students, and enrolling children in an online public schools aids in preparing them for the online college courses. This format is wonderful for many people as it allows flexibility, but it can be difficult to adjust to in college. Starting your children in an online school when they are young will help them succeed in the online college courses they may take as adults.

Mass Customization and Optimization of Subjects

Online public schooling offers customization for students. Instead of going to school and sitting in classes with many students, they can choose when to do their homework or when to listen to the lessons. This allows them to optimize their learning potential for a schedule that works best for them.

Encouraging Open Environment for Virtual Classes

Virtual classes enable children to learn where they desire. If they can concentrate best while sitting outside or in a quiet space, they can use this environment to maximize their learning potential. Since it is online, they can attend school even if they are on vacation.

While many are hesitant to send their children to online public schooling, parents need to understand the many benefits of learning in an online environment. Online schools offer students the chance to prepare for online college courses and receive personalized attention from their teachers while they learn at their own pace. Online public schooling is not the answer for everyone, but many children excel in this format of education.

Education, in this age of information and misinformation, is going to be paramount to get right as a parent. And plenty of ways exist to do it, not just homeschooling; it’s just up to you to discern which is best for you and your child.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

References/Resources

https://thekindergartenconnection.com/how-to-homeschool-kindergarten/

https://teachingmama.org/10-benefits-to-homeschooling-your-preschooler/

https://www.connectionsacademy.com/online-school/k12-education   

https://www.businessinsider.com/why-kids-should-get-homeschooled-2016-8

 

Thinking Critically about Plagiarists

Plagiarism

(Photo Credit: Elllo)

After learning that students are intentionally plagiarizing my piece, “Malcolm X’s ‘The Ballot or the Bullet’: A Summary,” I immediately thought about my intellectual property rights are being violated. This, of course, arms me with the power to pursue legal actions against those guilty of intellectual property infringement (namely, copyright infringement). The work I produce at Revolutionary Paideia is copyright-protected. To use it, therefore, one must give proper credit when quoting and paraphrasing material on the site—as one must do when using any source. When they stole the content, which that’s what plagiarism is—theft, academic theft, a statement about copyright and citing content on the site was present—as it has always been.

Although I have no intention to take legal action against the students, I urge them to engage in more ethical and responsible conduct in the future. Academic dishonesty can cause you to fail an assignment, fail a course, face expulsion and legal actions, and more unfavorable consequences. Let this incidence of plagiarism serve as a true learning experience. Technology has become so sophisticated that it can help teachers to identify the sources you plagiarize. When you plagiarize, therefore, you’re wasting your time: your teachers will discover your academic theft.

Instead of attempting to deceive your teacher, devote your energies to becoming effective writers. Think of yourselves as writers. While no one is expecting you to compose breathtaking prose like James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates, we do expect you to pen your own ideas in your own voice. When you settle for plagiarism, you settle for being a cheap copy. Don’t be afraid of your own writing and your own voice. The world needs to read and hear your original thoughts; it already has an opportunity to read and hear mine.

In my over 16 years of teaching writing at the middle and high school and undergraduate and graduate levels, I have found that students who plagiarize lack confidence in themselves and their writing. Although those teaching writing, including myself and your instructor, must work harder to assist students in developing into more skilled, more confident writers, this does not excuse you from committing academic fraud. Do you really want to be a fraud? Hopefully not.

Use this period in your academic life to experiment with writing. Write without pressure. Yes, learn the fundamentals of writing, such as the stages of the writing process, grammar, mechanics, and word usage; however, don’t be afraid to complete your assignments honestly. Writing is challenging. Even Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison, author of fictional classics like The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Beloved, posits that attempting to formulate the right language to express one’s thoughts is difficult. If writing is hard for Morrison, then, of course, it’s going to be hard for you.

In Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet,” he encourages his audiences, especially his black and other ethnic minority audiences, to resist fear, including the fear of what others will think of you when you do the right and difficult thing. You had an opportunity to complete your assignment without fear but you surrendered to fear. Why? Because you believed your teacher would reject your own responses to X’s speech. If she would have rejected your responses, so what! Brother Malcolm let us know in the speech that you should stand for truth—even in the face of opposition. If you would have received a less than desirable grade, so what! At least you would have submitted your truth. Unfortunately, you submitted a lie.

Minority students, especially black students, are already expected by many white teachers (and professors) to perform poorly and in dishonorable ways. Don’t prove them right. When you use a source like my summary of X’s speech, let it fill in gaps in your knowledge but don’t submit my work or someone’s else work as your own.

By submitting a plagiarized piece to your teacher, you failed Malcolm X, your teacher, your parents, and, most importantly, yourself. You will never experience genuine success being a cheater. When you cheat, you cheat yourself.

To your teacher, I implore you to give your students another opportunity to engage with this work or another work of Malcolm X, and allow them to express themselves freely, offering them an opportunity to gain more experience and confidence employing their own voices. As educators, we need to explore more deeply the factors that lead our students to plagiarize and work tirelessly to eliminate those factors.

Let’s all commit to do better and truly honor the legacy of Malcolm X, a legacy grounded in truth and justice.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

What You Need to Know When Going Back to School as an Adult

Working Adult College Students

It’s never too late to obtain a degree, but going back to school as an adult can be difficult. As an adult, you may have many other responsibilities that your (much younger) fellow students don’t have, such as a full-time job, career or parenting responsibilities. Even if you can devote yourself entirely to being a full-time student, you may still feel like a duck out of the water. Whether you’re jumping into a four-year degree program, or you think it might be a good idea to take some online classes. Here are three things you need to know when going back to school as an adult.

Talk to an Advisor before Registering or Enrolling

As an adult, your educational needs will most likely be strictly academic rather than both academic and social. While an incoming college first-year student might benefit from living on campus and staying at one school for all four years, your best option might be to take online classes at a community college before enrolling at a four-year institution. Speaking with a college admissions counselor may help.

Also, Collegewise counselors are passionate about “creating customized plans and setting deadlines to ensure that students complete their applications and essays thoughtfully, effectively, and early.” 

You May be Exempt from Some Classes Based on Experience

Adults have the benefit of work experience that most first-year college students do not possess. Another way college admissions counseling can help you is in determining if any of your applicable work experience might exempt you from having to take certain classes. The fewer classes you have to take, the sooner you can obtain your degree and the less that degree will cost you.

It’s Going to be a Big Change

Working adults who become college students must alter the lifestyles. How often do you need to take your work home? If often, then you may find it difficult to set aside time for research and homework after you arrive home from work. Although it may seem unmanageable to work a full-time job and attend college, you can manage both. With careful time management and dedicated preparation, you can do it. Think of the goal at the end to keep yourself in high spirits, and try to enjoy the shift in the atmosphere of the classroom versus the workplace.

Remember, receiving academic advising from an experienced higher education professional is critical to a first-time student’s success. While effective college admissions counseling isn’t the sexiest topic, it can make the difference between satisfying college experience and an unsatisfying one.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Why Demanding Better Education is Paramount for Our Children

Young Children Ready For School

Arming a child with knowledge early in his or her life will position him or her for continued success. Not only does a great educational foundation provide the skills for a child to reach his or her greatest potential, but it also cultivates a better future society. Our children first learn the most from their parents, and they must lead by example to help the next generation. Parents know how significant their jobs are, but they can only do so much.

When deciding on a school for their children to attend, parents must devote serious attention to the quality of teachers and administrators at the institutions they consider for their children. Parents have a right to demand that schools create environments where students can thrive academically. Students will not, unfortunately, thrive academically in schools that don’t have effective teachers and administrators. Here are some phenomena to contemplate as you attempt to prepare your child for academic success.

Education in Early Life

It makes sense that investing in the education of a child builds a more prosperous and peaceful citizen. Those who have some kind of educational foundation are more likely to commit themselves to academic excellence and the notion of the life of the mind. A school system that continually challenges a student will lead him or her to see the value of lifelong learning. With a better education and more efficient ways of assessing our children’s abilities, more of them will feel valued. This will certainly lead to a more productive society. In children’s early learning, assist them in discovering their distinctive beliefs and worldviews. Early learning should be fostered by their own curiosity about the world, with lots of support, validation, and hints offered.

New Ways of Learning

As the saying goes, “Out with the old, in with the new.” We need to focus on alternative means of assessing our children’s academic growth. If you’ve ever taken a standardized test, you know how mind-numbingly painful it is to stay focused and regurgitate all the information you were forced to memorize. Students need new ways of being evaluated, such as oral exams or presentations. Modern schools are becoming better at employing new methods and strategies of imparting new material. Observe the ways in which your own child responds to different methods of learning, such as visual, auditory, and tactile learning, and identify ways you can address his or her needs inside and outside of the classroom.

Online Education

Online schools are increasingly becoming attractive options for parents for their children’s education. Not only are college classes held online, but entire K-12 schools are now online. These types of organizations are especially advantageous for those who don’t have easy access to a school, or children who want to be homeschooled without having their parents as teachers. Online learning also has the benefit of being directed by the student’s own curiosity. Some K-12 online schools offer field trips and community resources that allow for social engagement and community learning, as well as an individualized pace.

Conclusion

Ensuring the next generation is equipped with the tools essential for educational success is our responsibility. With some sweeping educational reforms, we can empower our children to evolve in a society where they are ready to ameliorate it persistently. Parents should lead the effort to advocate for the educational reforms necessary to improving American public schools dramatically.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

How to Make Online Schooling a Smooth Process

Online Universities

Today’s typical college student has changed dramatically in the past few decades. The traditional university student used to be the fresh high school graduate with no obligations to interfere with a full course load, but thanks to the advent of online university and college programs, current college attendees are more likely to work full-time and have family obligations competing with their class time.

Online programs offer flexibility to these students, allowing them to attend classes asynchronously from their homes at whatever time is most convenient. Despite the advances in distance education, new students still need to make adjustments to prepare for the challenges unique to working adult learners. This article strives to help make the process of beginning higher education smoother and more enjoyable.

Prepare for Virtual Interaction and Self-Guided Study

Most online courses are learner-centered, which means that the learner carries more responsibility for meeting course objectives and requirements than the instructor. The instructor is still present in an online university course, but he or she will take more of a mentor or facilitator role, while the learner will rely mostly on assigned readings, research, and interaction with fellow students and the instructor via guided discussion.

Many programs include both synchronous and asynchronous communication to make this work. Discussion boards, shared websites, wikis, and email are forms of asynchronous contact where the individuals can communicate in different places at different times.

A web chat room or video conference enables students and instructors to interact synchronously, where they are all together at the same time despite being in different locations. Learners who are not used to this new environment often adjust readily during the first week of class when the assignments are focused on orienting students and encouraging them to introduce themselves and interact using the discussion methods outlined for the course.

Explore the Classroom Environment

Students in online university programs need to be familiar with the user interfaces for their online classroom environments and virtual tools provided to students by the institution. The best programs offer learners access to vast digital libraries and web resources to use for research instead of brick and mortar libraries accessible to the traditional students. The online classroom environments differ between colleges, but quality programs will provide tutorials for students before the beginning of a term.

The best way to become proficient with the user interfaces is to explore them during one’s free time and begin interacting with other students as soon as possible. Again, most courses are designed with primary activities to aid new students in adjusting to the environment.

Check Hardware, Software, and Internet Capabilities

The online university website and student handbook should provide a list of technology requirements that students are expected to meet before starting the program. This list will include the minimum hardware specifications for computers and mobile devices as well as a minimum speed for the Internet.

Students are responsible for meeting these requirements, and most instructors will expect learners to have alternatives plans in case their home Internet is not working. This could include a local cafe or library that extends access to public Internet service. Students should always obtain email and telephone contact information from their instructors to maintain contact if they do run into problems with these services.

The recent growth of online degree programs has brought unprecedented opportunities to busy working adults and parents. However, one should be prepared for the change from instructor-led to learner-centered curricula. Furthermore, new online students will want to learn how to access and use their virtual school and study tools before starting their programs.

Resources Consulted

WGU

U.S. News

KQED News

eLearning Industry

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison