kitchen table math, the sequel: Building Early Literacy in Minnesota

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Building Early Literacy in Minnesota


In Minnesota, there is a great push to teach parents what children need to know to get "ready to read".

The Multinomah County Library lists on its website the Six Early Literacy Skills:

Young children need a variety of skills to become successful readers. A panel of reading experts has determined that six specific early literacy skills become the building blocks for later reading and writing. Research indicates that children who enter school with more of these skills are better able to benefit from the reading instruction they receive when they arrive at school.


Vocabulary
Vocabulary, knowing the names of things, is an extremely important skill for children to have when they are learning to read. Most children enter school knowing between 3,000 and 5,000 words.

Help develop your child's vocabulary by reading a variety of books with him, both fiction and nonfiction, and by naming all the objects in your child's world.

Print Motivation
Print Motivation is a child's interest in and enjoyment of books. A child with print motivation enjoys being read to, plays with books, pretends to write, asks to be read to and likes trips to the library.

Encourage print motivation in your child by making shared book reading a special time, keeping books accessible, and letting your child see that you enjoy reading. Explain how you use reading and writing in everyday life.

Print Awareness
Print Awareness includes learning that writing in English follows basic rules such as flowing from top-to-bottom and left-to-right, and that the print on the page is what is being read by someone who knows how to read. An example of print awareness is a child's ability to point to the words on the page of a book.

Your child's print awareness can be encouraged by pointing out and reading words everywhere you see them - on signs, labels, at the grocery store and post office.

Narrative Skills
Narrative Skills, being able to understand and tell stories, and describe things, are important for children being able to understand what they are learning to read. An example of a narrative skill is a child's ability to tell what happens at a birthday party or on a trip to the zoo.

Help your child strengthen her narrative skills by asking her to tell you about the book, instead of just listening to you read the story. Encourage your child to tell you about things he has done that have a regular sequence to them.

Letter Knowledge
Letter Knowledge includes learning that letters have names and are different from each other, and that specific sounds go with specific letters. An example of letter knowledge is a child's ability to tell the name of the letter B and what sound it makes.

Letter knowledge can be developed by using a variety of fun reading or writing activities, like pointing out and naming letters in alphabet books, picture books, or on signs and labels. For babies, talk about the shape of things, and for preschoolers, try drawing letters and pictures in the sand.

Phonological Awareness
Phonological Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the smaller sounds in words. Phonological awareness includes the ability to hear and create rhymes, to say words with sounds or chunks left out and the ability to put two word chunks together to make a word. Most children who have difficulty in reading have trouble in phonological awareness.

Strengthen phonological awareness by playing fun word games with your child:

•Make up silly words by changing the first sound in a word: milk, nilk, pilk, rilk, filk.
•Say words with a pause between the syllables ("rab"and "it") and have your child guess what word you are saying.
•Read stories of poems with rhymes or different sounds to your child.



This push apparently has nothing whatsoever to do with the schools.

Parents going to any Hennepin County or Ramsey County library (where Minneapolis and Saint Paul reside, respectively) will see posters, signs, bookmarks, and other materials teaching them about these skills. The libraries go to great lengths to name the "6 skills" needed for early literacy, building these skills into their baby, toddler, and preschooler story times and informing the adults present what they are attempting to do.

While there are vague references on the Hennepin County Library web site to the "experts" who defined these six skills, and to their literacy development program being in line with MN Early Learning Standards for Language and Literacy Development, the Department of Education never says anything specifically about these skills at all. There are no references to the research, and no apparent sign on from schools.

I asked around, and was finally told that this early literacy push was developed by the Minnesota Library Association, but can't find any record of that. Multinomah County Library itself supposedly developed the graphic used above.

My own neophyte perspective is that this is a heck of a lot better than what you see in the elementary schools themselve. Do they even admit to phonological awareness being taught outside of SPED? But it's not entirely accurate; the "letter knowledge" description suggests both that letters have sounds and that sounds have letters, not really differentiating between the ideas. Still, this seems to imply that phonics and spelling have a place in creating literate people.

Is this push everywhere in the country at libraries, or is this particular set of 6, the graphics, the rest, just a Minnesotan phenomenon?

Does this mesh with how the schools teach? Where is this coming from, and why did a state library association have to do this? A cynical blogger might suggest that libraries and schools don't have the same incentive structure. A public library loses a lot when it loses a literate populace, but public schools gain a great deal.

43 comments:

Jean said...

Hey, that's pretty great. Myself, I would have put a couple of words about nursery rhymes and songs into the bit about vocabulary. IMO too many parents get the idea that the alphabet is the basic literacy building block and that they should push that, when really the foundational skills for, say, toddlers are much more natural and fun--naming things, talking a lot, singing and reciting simple rhymes and games, and enjoying stories and picture books together.

Anyway, this looks like something your typical children's librarian would do. It's probably something being done on the state or county level in Minnesota, but librarians everywhere will tell you something along those lines. (Our own library's budget has just been gutted, and children's programming has disappeared except for storytimes funded by the Friends of the Library. :( )

I'm a librarian, but currently unemployed because of the above cuts.

Jean said...

I just read over the entire "Early Literacy" set of articles, and highly approve.

"The most important thing you can do to foster early literacy is provide an atmosphere that's fun, verbal and stimulating, not school-like. The focus should not be on teaching, but on the fun you're having with your child - offer your child plenty of opportunities to talk and be listened to, to read and be read to, and to sing and be sung to.

No rote memorization, no flashcards, no workbooks and no drills are necessary. Children who are exposed to interactive literacy-rich environments, full of fun opportunities to learn language will develop early literacy skills."

They've done a good job of setting out what parents can do with their little ones. But AFAIK virtually any library will be pushing those ideas, and will have similar booklists by age group. :)

Allison said...

The nursery rhymes/songs are typically included in phonological awareness rather than vocabulary.

Speaking as the daughter of a librarian, the notion that "any library" will push these ideas is quaint. I think because you are a talented, interested librarian, you assume your colleagues are as talented and interested in their jobs as you are.

I don't think you have really seen how little librarians interact with people anymore in most libraries, or how few know their own catalogues. Most librarians don't work the floor anymore, and so they don't tell anyone much of anything along these lines.

Even here in MN at Minneapolis' Central library, at the greatest childrens' section I've ever been in bar none, where I have gone every single week for the past 3 years, the librarians barely say anything to parents, seldom showing any child anything except how to use the computers. Exactly TWICE in over 150 visits has any librarian suggested a book to me or my children. Local branches are not better--no librarians interacting with actual patrons, and while they have lists of suggested books, they don't actively interact outside of story times. As a result, people seem to not have an awareness of what librarians *do* or are *for*. I only know because my mother was one.

SteveH said...

So much for differentiatiated instruction.

Our state has gotten federal money to test out some new Pre-K schools for "at-risk" kids. There will be goals and expectations, but I can't seem to find out what they are.

Our state gives a test to all in-coming Kindergarten students (that even includes tossing and catching a ball) and I also remember that they gave my son a reading test in Kindergarten. They wouldn't tell us about the test or the results.


So the question is what, exactly, do schools or librarians want parents to do so that schools won't or can't pass the buck?

Molly said...

While I applaud the efforts of librarians, the children and parents who most need this information are rarely seen inside libraries.

K9Sasha said...

But it's not entirely accurate; the "letter knowledge" description suggests both that letters have sounds and that sounds have letters, not really differentiating between the ideas.

Diane McGuinness makes a big deal about the fact that letters don't have sounds, and that the only way to teach is from the sound to the letter(s). Personally, I think that's harder because there are more ways to represent a sound than to pronounce a written letter or letter string. But really, it's the correspondence that matters. This symbol and this sound go together. Telling a child that B says "buh" (leaving off as much of the 'uh' as possible) is a shortcut way of saying the two go together, and the child understands exactly what you mean. While I love McGuinness, in this instance, I think she makes a mountain out of an anthill.

Molly,
I had the exact same thought. While what the librarians are doing is good, mostly they're preaching to the choir.

Brett said...

I can't say for certain, but this looks like material that comes from a group called Ready! for Kindergarten (www.readyforkindergarten.org). It certainly lines up with their age level targets poster - one of the best pieces I've seen on making sure kids are on track to being prepared for school.

SteveH said...

"According to a survey of kindergarten teachers conducted in Fall 2006 by the Oregon Department of Education, 19.4% of children in Multnomah County entered kindergarten 'not ready to succeed,' in large part because they lack the necessary language and pre-reading skills."


According to a survey.
Not ready to succeed.
In large part.
19.4%. As opposed to 19.5 percent, not taking into account the not large part.

What, exactly, is the problem? What do these kindergarten teachers expect to see so that the kids are classified as ready to succeed?

SteveH said...

It's definitely a library thing and it goes back a few years. I didn't track down the source, but I didn't spend much time looking.

I don't think I could guess about the motivation and I can't say that I disagree with the skills. I would, however, like to quantify this a little bit. How bad of a parent do you have to be not to meet these skill requirements?

Anonymous said...

"Even here in MN at Minneapolis' Central library, at the greatest childrens' section I've ever been in bar none, where I have gone every single week for the past 3 years, the librarians barely say anything to parents, seldom showing any child anything except how to use the computers."

Wow.

I kinda figured that my local library (Mountain View, CA) was staffed with good librarians, but ... wow.

Lots of interaction with the kids, always willing to take the kids to the right stack and help them find/pick out books.

Will help with the computers, too.

Happy to order books from remote libraries.

They'll take requests for books to purchase.

Even the the upstairs (adult) librarians have been very helpful when my 8-year old (at the time, seven) showed up alone (I was downstairs ... teaching him a valuable lesson about independence) with a title and a call number for a book he wanted.


My word, we've got good librarians.

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same thing, Mark.

Our librarians are almost dying for you to ask them something.

What really impressed me was how many of the kid's books they had actually read. One female one had read many middle school" boy" books and easily steered my son to things he liked. I was very impressed.

SusanS

palisadesk said...

(Blogger won't let me log in)

What, exactly, is the problem? What do these kindergarten teachers expect to see so that the kids are classified as ready to succeed?

(Blogger won't let me log in)

I can't speak for "those" kindergarten teachers, but more than 20% of our entering Kindergarten students are classified as high risk or very high risk, and more than half are in the bottom quartile in terms of language development, physical and motor development, social/emotional development and some other things -- can't remember them all.

But I can suggest some things that teachers "expect to see "(more accurately, hope to see) so that kids are "ready to succeed."

-- ability to communicate orally -- preferably in sentences of 5-6 words (on occasion), at least in phrases

-- ability to understand and follow simple directions -- "get your coat," "clap your hands," etc.

-- ability to repeat several words (a normal 3-year-old can repeat a statement with 6 words)

-- recognition vocabulary of common nouns, verbs, adjectives

-- toilet training and basic self care (goes to toilet independently, washes hands, etc.)

-- manages own clothing (buttons, zippers) with occasional help

-- drinks from a cup and eats a snack independently (opens juice container, inserts straw)

-- listens without interrupting for a short period of time

-- makes simple requests or answers simple questions intelligibly

-- relates a simple experience, like how s/he got to school that morning (need not be detailed )

-- has some sense of time of day -- morning, afternoon,night as well as simple time concepts -- soon, later, now

-- uses past tense and future tense (syntax may be wrong, e.g. "he gonned home," but concept of past and future and appropriate verb tense should be in place)

-- with supervision, takes turns, shares or waits appropriately (no screaming, tantrums, throwing furniture, hitting, etc.)

-- imitates a series of actions (example: clap hands twice and then stamp foot; child does the same)

Motor skills that should be in place by Kindergarten age include:

-- ability to grasp tools for use, eat with a fork, hold a paintbrush or crayon

-- ability to bounce a ball, throw a ball, catch a soft ball at close range

-- ability to walk heel-toe-heel-toe in a straight line

-- ability to hop, pedal a tricycle, pump legs on a swing

There's more, but these are pretty basic milestones.

We see a significant number of Kindergarten children entering without many of these skills, especially in the language area; to a lesser extent, in self-care, social or motor skills. Some do not speak at all, others speak only in single words. Children with poorly developed skills across the board have difficulty with every area of the Kindergarten program, from snack time to activity time to circle time to recess, never mind the academics.

It's likely that their teachers would like to see (they know better than to expect to see) these children enter with better-developed language, social, self-care and motor skills. It's not possible for teachers to provide the needed catch-up therapies (and most are not trained in such things) in even a small Kindergarten group (20-22).

Although some children make striking progress, most who enter this far below the benchmarks for their age will remain behind unless intensive intervention is provided, and the needed services (language therapy, occupational therapy, social skills training) may not be available in the school or community.

palisadesk said...

I don't think you have really seen how little librarians interact with people anymore in most libraries, or how few know their own catalogues. Most librarians don't work the floor anymore, and so they don't tell anyone much of anything along these lines.

I am very fortunate to live in an area where the librarians are very involved "on the floor." I regularly patronize three different branches of my local library system, and all have librarians who are knowledgeable not only about their own collections, but what other branches have available. They run book clubs for kids, teens and adults, sponsor contests and motivational reading programs that raise money for charity (shades of the MS Read-A-Thon), are rarely sitting at their desks -- I find them in the stacks, on the floor, helping patrons locate items, suggesting things that people might want to read, and so on.

They are great. They get to know the regulars, too, and remember what you like and tell you about new items that they think you would want to see.

So the old-fashioned librarian is not extinct! Some are still out there sharing a love of reading.

lgm said...

Same experience as palisadesk....

Our librarians do much more....I feel the library is becoming a community center. It's a pleasant place to go to and rarely quiet as there are so many conversations going on.

SteveH said...

"..more than 20% of our entering Kindergarten students are classified as high risk or very high risk,.."

What percent of these are otherwise normal kids?


Our state is now offering free preschool for kids in certain communities ... for those whose parents apply. That's the problem. In the segment a TV station produced about the program, it seemed like all of the kids were quite capable. The program will probably be very helpful for them, but it won't reduce the 20 percent.


"...most who enter this far below the benchmarks for their age will remain behind unless intensive intervention is provided..."

I think it's very important that schools tell parents about the specifics of these benchmarks. It's also very important for schools to tell parents that differentiated instruction does not fix problems, it accepts them as normal.

palisadesk said...

What percent of these are otherwise normal kids?

Pretty well all of them (say, 95%).
The nearest K-5 school has a program for children with autism and intellectual disabilities, so the children already identified with such issues rarely enrol with us. We occasionally have a child with a different medical problem, but these are relatively few in the kindergarten population.

The district provides a lot of information to parents on kindergarten readiness, including information brochures and booklets in about 25 languages. A parenting center run by some government-subsidized agency operates in the school building, helping parents familiarize themselves with resources in the community, learn how to promote their baby's or toddler's health and development, etc.

The majority of families in the area do not speak English and are recent immigrants with little understanding of how the system works. As they establish themselves and learn the ropes, they move to "better" areas and new arrivals take their place. These families are very supportive of their children but there are numerous cultural and economic barriers. Most children have no place to play outside, so do not develop motor skills for running, jumping, riding a tricycle, climbing the jungle gym and so on.

There are no easy solutions because the problems are multi-faceted. High mobility also impacts the capacity to deliver services that will move kids forward. We are on the edge of the district and most families move out to another district, so programs do not carry over.

lgm said...

With K milestones, the question I always had is why students who don't meet the criteria for services are continually asked to do things they can't do, with the framing being that they could if they tried harder and their parents are negligent in not providing appropriate experiences.

The K milestones that my child could not meet - skipping, pump swing, rapid imitation of a series of actions - didn't affect his academics. He still needed more differentation than the system allowed, even with the school having him skip a grade. He did not qualify for adapted P.E.or O.T. yet he was given the '1' grade. I was framed as negligent by the Phys Ed dept. even though the kiddo played peewee soccer, took gymnastics and played heartily with friends and tried his best to skip in gym class. I think a different standard is needed for kids that are ambidexterous or lightly left handed. Their wiring is different from norm and it shows as they develop. Love to hear a neurologist's opinion, and would like it even better if the Phy Ed people would just provide appropriate activities that would lead to skill mastery (whatever that would be) rather than demanding activities that kids on the low end of normal can't do.

Anonymous said...

One of my librarian friends commented to me that librarians tend to read a lot of juvenile fiction. I assume it's because it is generally entertaining, quick to read and doesn't make one think too much. Much like a snack should be.

Catherine Johnson said...

This is really interesting.

For a while now I've been trying to figure out why it is **any** kids learn to read with balanced literacy, and I'm thinking it's things like this that explain it.

Unfortunately, I've forgotten the study I read recently saying that when you look at what middle & upper middle class parents do, you find that they teach phonemic (phonological) awareness & phonics incidentally.

A program like this pretty much gives any parent in this category his or her marching orders.

Also (palisadesk & others should correct me if I'm wrong), it seems that schools **do** teach "analytic phonics," which I've just managed to figure out.

"Analytic phonics" means you start with the whole word, not the sounds or letters in the word, BUT then you "analyze" the sounds in the word, which is why this form of instruction is called "analytic phonics."

For instance, the teacher might give kids the word "cat" and then write other words rhyming with "cat" in order to teach the short a sound.

It makes sense to me that a child with no 'issues' (normal phonemic awareness, normal "rapid naming" abilities, normal IQ) AND "involved" parents are going to be able to "break the code," as Mary Damer says.

Yes, they're getting a jumble of sound-letter relationships -- but ultimately there are only 44 sounds in the English language and after a while they 'pick it up.'

At least, that makes sense to me.

I wonder whether there's a literature on 'incidental learning' (at any age)?

I assume there is....but haven't come across it yet.

Allison said...

PalisadesK and other teachers,

You talk about a long list of readiness characteristics in your district, but what about ed schools?

Do ed schools teach that the 6 above ARE the key components of early literacy or not? Do new teachers enter schools knowing all 6, believing in the value of all 6? Recognizing that students lacking in those 6 are not just behind, but NEED INSTRUCTION in those 6? I know speech pathologists get phonological awareness. Do ed schools?

And if they answer is yes, then do they also knowingly promote whole language or balanced literacy knowing it doesn't address these skills for students with deficiencies? or do they believe balanced literacy does address it, and the student "will catch up" somehow?

And if the answer is no, ed schools don't believe in these 6, why not?

Allison said...

Steve,

An even more cynical blogger might take away that by pushing these literacy skills down to parents' responsibilities, it leaves teachers free to give Writer's Workshop instead.

But the ironic part to me is that once you teach parents the lingo--"teach phonological awareness", rather than merely "do nursery rhymes with your children", you've pretty much told them that phonics matters, and spent an awful lot of effort getting them to believe in the reason for phonics for 5 years. What then do such parents do when they see sight words? Because of course they are going to sound them out with their kids, right?

palisadesk said...

You talk about a long list of readiness characteristics in your district, but what about ed schools?You talk about a long list of readiness characteristics in your district, but what about ed schools?

In my area the 2 major ed schools focus on "big ideas" like diversity, social justice and being a change agent. They don't concern themselves with any practicalities, like how to teach anybody anything.

I surveyed the new teachers and the army of student teachers coming into our school over the last decade and they all report learning nothing about assessment, classroom management, cognitive or behavioral science, early reading/literacy, communicating with parents or indeed much of anything of a practical nature. They study Paulo Frieze, Jonathan Kozol, Sylvia Ashton-Warner, and so on. The content is nearly all theoretical and philosophical, nothing empirical, evidence-based or useful on the classroom level.

This is not all that unusual a situation. In many areas it is the district that teaches new teachers what to do and provides workshops and non-credit courses on balanced literacy, how to administer the Developmental Reading Assessment, do Writers Workshop and Guided Reading, and so on. The mandate for these practices comes not from the Ed schools but from the district level and from the department of education level higher up. I haven't seen any evidence that ed schools set the agenda; they seem to be responsive to what the education bureaucracy wants -- in many cases, ed school staff are bureaucrats as well, sometimes on assignment for a 2-5 year stint at an ed school, other times they hold double assignments. It's one big cabal running both the ed schools and senior management in the bureaucracy.

An even more cynical blogger might take away that by pushing these literacy skills down to parents' responsibilities, it leaves teachers free to give Writer's Workshop instead.

I find that many parents and private citizens do not know this, so I will point it out: teachers are not, in most jurisdictions, "free" to give or not give Writers Workshop, or Guided Reading, or whatever curriculum practice is the latest craze. Most districts are quite prescriptive and require teachers to comply with very specific guidelines -- what materials they may (and may not) use, what practices they MUST employ (Word Walls, Writers Workshop, Readers Worksop, Guided Reading, Shared Writing, and so on). They may be specifically forbidden to do other things (teach standard algorithms, teach systematic phonics, hold students accountable for spelling, meeting deadlines, completing assignments). Many districts have "literacy police" (even "numeracy police") who go around inspecting classrooms and monitoring compliance. Teachers have very little freedom in most districts to choose their own methods or materials. That has both positive and negative consequences.

The infatuation with most of the practices so often deplored here (and elsewhere) does not come from teaching staff but from higher up in the bureaucracy. Indeed, surveys have shown almost as great a disconnect between what teachers want and think effective vs. what administrators and bureaucrats want/believe as the Public Agenda study "Different Drummers" showed exists between ed school faculty and the public at large, including teachers. There is a great divide, but the power is largely on one side.

Being a successful "guerrilla instructivist" requires camouflage and using the opposition's terminology and jargon to describe things totally incongruent with the prevailing philosophy. One can generally assume ignorance of instructional matters, research and cognitive science on the part of school and district administration, so unless you wave red flags in front of them they will not notice the details of what you do as long as you appear assertively compliant.

SteveH said...

"The infatuation with most of the practices so often deplored here (and elsewhere) does not come from teaching staff but from higher up in the bureaucracy."

I don't see this except in rare cases. I see very few "guerrilla instructivists". I don't buy the argument that it's an administration versus teacher issue.

SteveH said...

Actually, this raises an interesting point that I've noticed over the years. It has made me be a little careful to say "school" rather than "teachers". I know that there are issues between teachers and administrations, but it's a secret world and both sides go out of their way to hide everything from parents. If parents make the mistake of referring to "teachers" rather than school or administration, then they run the risk of being jumped on for not making some sort of distinction. I don't see that distinction. I might if the veil was lifted, but I don't think so. I've never felt that all I needed to do was to support the teachers over the administration. In fact, I've gotten the feeling sometimes that teachers expect parents to support them over the evil administrations. Sorry, too many teachers have told me about the glories of Everyday Math and discovery. I get the feeling that the two sides expect parents to join their team while at the same time keeping the veil in place. No thanks. Parents need to form their own team and expect the schools to join them.

palisadesk said...

I don't see this except in rare cases. I see very few "guerrilla instructivists". I don't buy the argument that it's an administration versus teacher issue.

Of course you don't. You could probably say, "I 've never met anyone who works in covert operations for the CIA," too. You wouldn't know of "guerrilla instructivists" because if they WERE known, they would be disciplined, transferred, or fired (or all of the above). I doubt if a single parent of the hundreds of students I've taught in the last 10 years would regard *me* as a guerrilla instructivist, nor do any of them, in all likelihood, know that I am using DI and other non-approved practices and curricula. I use the same lingo as everyone else, reporting on "shared reading," "making meaning" and whatnot, but I mean different things by those terms and use empirically-validated materials and methods to achieve the goals.

If I were to "come out," I would certainly be disciplined, probably moved to a position where I couldn't do any of the things I am doing.

It really doesn't matter whether you "buy it" or not. The fact is that methods, materials, instructional practices and use of teaching time is often prescribed at the district level, with no teacher input, even down to the last minute, and classrooms are searched for materials that are deemed inappropriate. Teachers have very little say in what and how to teach. They certainly can't do things like, junk Guided Reading and do DI instead. Teachers *must* follow the established protocols. They are lower-level employees, not independent contractors.

Now, your district may be an outlier. You have said that you live in a smaller, mainly middle-class community. Small districts tend to be more responsive to their clientele. The real edu-nazis are in large urban districts, where they have a population that they can manipulate, ignore or work around, and who rarely are politically active and almost never in an effective manner. The administration runs the show. Teachers, like me, who strongly disagree with what is being done have to fly under the radar. Kind of like being in the Underground in WW2. You need a good "cover," and you must under no circumstances let on what you are actually doing.

Of course many who want to teach effectively throw in the towel and go to the private sector. I have given this serious consideration from time to time, but am stopped by the realization that in the private sector I will not be able to serve the population I do now. Every year I rescue a few off the Titanic, in spite of administration, curriculum and other impediments. Their parents don't know, the admin doesn't know (everyone can chalk it up to sudden "development.")

But *I* know.

So I am still here. But if you were a parent in my school, you would not know that I was a guerilla instructivist. You wouldn't know who the others are, either.

SteveH said...

"Now, your district may be an outlier."

Are you claiming that most all schools are filled with hidden instructivists, and the teachers' unions are so weak that they can do nothing about it?

I can imagine that in urban districts there are many more pragmatic teachers, but the rest of the world is not an outlier. I'm more than happy to place the blame and push for change in the proper places, but don't expect parents to magically know what's going on behind the veil, or to get on some sort of bandwagon without more details.

Catherine Johnson said...

But the ironic part to me is that once you teach parents the lingo--"teach phonological awareness", rather than merely "do nursery rhymes with your children", you've pretty much told them that phonics matters, and spent an awful lot of effort getting them to believe in the reason for phonics for 5 years.

I agree.

We do not hear the word "phonological" or "phonemic" or anything else beginning with a 'ph' here in Irvington.

We hear "the children collaborate to make meaning."

This is Kindergarten children we're talking about, fyi.

We've got 5 year olds collaborating to make meaning.

Also, we have leveled books in plastic baggies.

Catherine Johnson said...

Have I mentioned that our new K-3 principal will be making $177,000 next school year?

Anonymous said...

Catherine,

Jeanne Chall talked about incidental learning in reading in her study in connection with praising the old Lippincott readers. They were cute stories that gradually introduced the sound-letter relationships. She said they worked best with explicit instruction but their design meant that most kids could infer the code over time from access to such books.

Allison- The NCTQ survey of ed schools around the country (it's on their website) makes it clear how few ed schools teach anything about phonemic awareness, morphology, or the 3 other elements.

I am finding more and more that the term "research based Instruction" that has a definite meaning in science and the law is instead being used by administrators and ed school faculty to justify their monopoly position on who gets to teach and what gets taught.

It becomes the rationale for why an education degree is more important than a degree in the content to be taught. Yet they then make erroneous statements about what constitutes research or what the research actually shows.

An ed degree should be required to make sure most teachers have been taught to parrot a preferred policy position. That's what made the recent Brouhaha over the STEP program at Stanford and the attempt to deny a degree so revealing.

Allison said...

So if ed schools do *nothing* to teach about how to read, who is teaching about how to read? That is, how do the libraries know what the 6 skills are?

If the education bureaucracy isn't behind the "getting read for kindergarten" push, then who is?

Catherine Johnson said...

I think a lot of people use the National Reading Panel report, but I'm pretty sure this list isn't in the report.

Catherine Johnson said...

Anonymous - thank you!

Also: I don't know about the STEP program at Stanford -- ??

Catherine Johnson said...

There was a report from the National Early Literacy Panel called "Developing Early Literacy"....which it looks like could have been used.

palisadesk said...

Catherine -- re the STEP incident, see here:
Stanford incident
and also Jay Greene's blog post on the topic, link is in the article cited here.

palisadesk said...

Are you claiming that most all schools are filled with hidden instructivists

No.I did not come close to even suggesting anything of the kind.

the teachers' unions are so weak that they can do nothing about it?

Do nothing about what? If teachers defy authority or refuse to comply with the expectations of the job, the union does not defend them. There is a management rights clause in nearly every collective agreement that covers everything that is not spelled out. The district has the right to impose instructional policy, and demand that teachers comply. Refusal to do so can be considered insubordination or failure to fulfill the duties expected, and dealt with accordingly.

It would be in the same category as refusing to do lunch or yard supervision. Most teachers grumble, "I didn't go to college for X years to supervise the bathroom" or similar sentiments (I share them), but the fact is that these are required duties and we have to shut up and do them.

Instructional requirements are in the same category. If a district only has "guidelines" and leaves it up to individuals to do their own thing, then of course this situation is not so extreme.While that may have been common 20-30 years ago, it is not so any longer.

I can imagine that in urban districts there are many more pragmatic teachers, but the rest of the world is not an outlier.

Most places --and the "rest of the world" more so than the U.S. -- are very prescriptive about what teachers must do and leave very little wiggle room. If your district is an exception, it is an outlier. I have observed, however, that parents rarely are aware of how much prescriptive conditions apply in the elementary (and to a lesser extent secondary) classroom.

A lot of reformers waste time and energy on campaigns to "get teachers to do X" or "get teachers to implement Y" with no apparent awareness that teachers are (in specific cases) FORBIDDEN to do so. Changes must occur on some other level first.

t don't expect parents to magically know what's going on behind the veil, or to get on some sort of bandwagon without more details.

I'm sure I never suggested either of the above. Indeed, I do not look to parents to change the system, and I believe their time is better invested in their children than on bandwagons.

palisadesk said...

how do the libraries know what the 6 skills are?

All the items they cite are very throughly covered in much of the research and literature on early literacy acquisition -- there's nothing sacrosanct about "6" skills in particular, but they have hit on the biggest ones, namely language development (narrative skills and vocabulary), phonological skills (not just "phonemic awareness," which is easily developed in the course of learning to read with synthetic phonics), concepts about print, and motivation (the phrase "print motivation" is new to me, but it seems appropriate for environmental stimuli that arouse a child's interest in reading and the functions of print). I would have preferred they said "letter/sound knowledge," but that's not essential in a poster.

They could have compiled this list from any number of sources; it's not some divine dictum handed down from above.

Allison said...

What field is the research and literature on early literacy acquisition IN?

You say it's not in ed school. So what field does do it?

SteveH said...

"A lot of reformers waste time and energy on campaigns to "get teachers to do X" or "get teachers to implement Y" with no apparent awareness that teachers are (in specific cases) FORBIDDEN to do so. Changes must occur on some other level first."

And you have to realize that many parents don't make any fine distinctions between teachers, schools, and administrations, especially when they don't know what goes on behind the veil. Actually, I find it quite annoying to be admonished for not knowing the details of what goes on in schools when both sides try their best to keep parents in the dark. Someone might say "get teachers to do X", but what they really mean is to get the school to do "X", whoever is in charge behind the doors.


".. are very prescriptive about what teachers must do and leave very little wiggle room."

But this doesn't mean that teachers are hidden instructivists. It just means that teachers don't like to be told what to do. Many might not like to be told to use direct instruction. That's a separate issue. I don't buy the idea that the lack of direct instruction with little emphasis on content and skills is strictly a problem with administrations.


"I do not look to parents to change the system, and I believe their time is better invested in their children than on bandwagons."

And I find it quite annoying to be told to go to go away.

Catherine Johnson said...

good grief - I knew nothing about the STEP situation

Catherine Johnson said...

wow

I'm going to have to change my name if I want to go to ed school.

Catherine Johnson said...

Allison - I **think** the answer to your question about where reading knowledge is coming from is probably psych departments. (At least, that's one answer.)

There are also neuroscience researchers (Shaywitz, Eden, Zeffiro, Wolf).

Here and there, there are some people in ed departments doing real empirical research - Linnea Ehri I think is an example.

otoh, she's at CUNY, which is (soon: 'was') headed by David Steiner & is possibly something of a 'dissident' school. KIPP went to David Steiner at CUNY when they wanted to create their own teacher-training program.

I've also noticed that just about the only good research on the 'social' aspects of teaching (teacher effectivness, etc.) comes from economics & policy programs.

Catherine Johnson said...

Actually, looking at Ehri's page...she's in Educational Psychology...can't tell on a cursory look-through whether it's part of a school of education.

palisadesk said...

I understood Allison to be asking about the work of those studying early literacy acquisition -- not reading in school-aged children, but the foundation skills etc.

Some researchers do both of course. I don't think these people all come from the same "field," though. Educational psychology is one, but so is cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, speech-language pathology, applied bahavior analysis, and probably others I can't think of at the moment.

While I've read a lot of the original research papers etc. related to teaching school aged children, my knowledge of the early learning issues comes mostly from reliable second-hand sources (some of whom have done original research in the field)

These include Keith Stanovich, Nathlie Badian, Gail Gillon, Joanne Carlisle, Sundberg&Partington, Ernst Moerk, Grover Whitehurst, Jean Chall, Michael Pressley, Marilyn J. Adams, Carl Bereiter, Zig Engelmann, Andrew Biemiller, and probably others that don't occur to me right now.

People in the precision teaching community have done a lot of work on the development of motor skills but I am not aware of many publications on the topic.