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    5 Ways to Reenergize Your Classroom

    By Clare Maloney
     | May 23, 2017

    JRe-energize Your Classroomune is almost here and, if you haven’t already, it’s a good time to revitalize your classroom. ILA has plenty of tips to help you declutter, reorganize, and breathe new life into your curriculum. Whether it’s reevaluating your assessment process or eliminating tired formats, these articles will help bring about refreshing changes for both you and your students.

    Burn the Worksheets: Fire Up Student Writers

    A Less-Is-More Approach to Assessing Readers

    Use Monthly Quiz Activities to Practice and Evaluate Critical Reading

    Bring New Energy to Your Springtime Classroom

    Taking Organized Thoughts to the Cloud

    Clare Maloney is a former intern at the International Literacy Association. She is currently seeking a BA in English from the University of Delaware.

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    Reversing Readicide

    By Karin Kroener-Valdivia
     | May 18, 2017

    Reversing Readicide“This will be the first book I ever read,” shouted one of my seniors. I had left him little choice; he could either read or not graduate. A week earlier, a 10th grader made the same comment. When asked how she made it through so many years of school without reading a book, she explained, “English teachers ask for quote analysis, and it’s really easy to do that without reading the book.”

    I’ve heard many similar confessions throughout my 18 years of teaching. Many of my students are reading five to six years behind grade level. I have seniors about to graduate high school who do not meet the literacy demands needed to fully function in society.

    Kelly Gallagher (2009) defines readicide as “the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.” He attributes this genocide to two main factors: high-stakes testing (which often leads teachers to value test-taking skills over reading proficiency) and limited authentic reading experiences.

    Gallagher’s theory echoes observations and experiences from my own teaching career. I’ve seen English classrooms with no books, or only tattered copies of classic titles. The urban high schools where I teach in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are becoming book deserts.

    Even when books are available, some administrators and educators do not allow students to read during class out of fear of losing valuable learning time. I believe that when students are allotted time for free voluntary reading, they become better readers, score higher on achievement tests, and expand their content knowledge.

    Teachers can use free reading time to supplement textbook learning. For example, when studying the Holocaust, students might choose to read Elie Wiesel’s Night: a teen’s account of his survival from the Nazi death camps. Another example is Cindy Neuschwander and Wayne Geehan’s Sir Cumference and the First Round Table, which offers creative explanations for geometry concepts.

    I understand that building a strong classroom library can be difficult with budget restrictions. Teachers can try borrowing a class set of novels from the public library, browsing secondhand bookstores, or applying for grants from education nonprofits. I have received $1,000 in book grants from donorschoose.org every year for the past five years.

    Ray Bradbury captured the importance of voluntary reading when he said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

    Concerned educators—it’s time to take action. Let’s reverse readicide.

    Karin Kroener-Valdivia is an 18-year English teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District in California. She is also National Board Certified and a UCLA Writing Project Fellow.

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    Fun and Effective Ways to Enhance Vocabulary Acquisition

    By Clare Maloney
     | May 17, 2017
    Vocab AcquisitionVocabulary is a cornerstone for readers at all levels. Vocabulary-building lessons help enhance readers’ comprehension and raise their overall literacy levels. From games that foster collaborative team efforts to new visual and audio tools, find out how you can make new vocabulary stick with these creative and engaging activities:

    Vocabulary Voyage: How a Spontaneous Lesson Became a Favorite Strategy

    Vocabulary Expansion: The "Ize" Have It

    Using Google Slides to Make Vocabulary Stick

    The “X” Factor—and the “M” and “N” Factors, Too: Fun with Vocabulary Acquisition

    Using Photos to Support Reading and Writing

    Clare Maloney is an intern at the International Literacy Association. She is currently seeking a BA in English from the University of Delaware.
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    Reading Makeover

    By Danny Brassell
     | May 11, 2017

    Reading MakeoverHis teacher insisted that Pablo was illiterate, but after an hour of observing Pablo text message friends, check e-mails, and scan the Internet for various chat rooms related to the manga TV series Yu-Gi-Oh, I begged to differ. Pablo was highly literate. His teacher had been using a definition of literacy from a century ago.

    When working with teachers, administrators, and parents, I always ask: What good is it teaching kids how to read if they never want to read? Whose bright idea was it to force-feed students “classics?” Why did book reports become such an accepted panacea to demonstrating reading comprehension? When did educational bureaucrats forget that “variety is the spice of life?”

    Don’t get me wrong. If students love reading The Scarlet Letter or summarizing the theme of A Separate Peace, by all means, let them. In my work with struggling and reluctant readers (newsflash: most are boys), it never ceases to amaze me how the same child who will not budge to open up a textbook will devour comics. I’ve seen “reluctant readers” spend their entire recess breaks swapping statistics from trading cards. Why? There’s a spark.

    “If a student has a spark (or better still, a fire), a curiosity about a topic, learning is more likely for that student,” says educator and author Carol Ann Tomlinson.

    Want to make a student a better reader? Give that student things s/he wants to read. In my experience, it doesn’t matter if a person reads James Joyce or James and the Giant Peach; what matters is how much that person reads.

    Minutes matter. Pay attention to which students read the best. It is the students who feel most confident reading. Confidence comes from practice, and proper practice comes from passion.

    We need to reimagine literacy. I love physical books, but I am not conceited enough to impose my own preferences on others. My wife adores her Kindle. My youngest daughter used to love LeapFrog. There was a time when my son’s interest in reading only revealed itself when he scanned the menu at Denny’s. And you know what? That’s fine!

    The best way to make students better readers is to find their passions and adjust our approaches accordingly. The bad news is that when you have 33 students, you probably need to find 33 different accommodations. The good news is that there is a much greater possibility that you will inspire students to become lifelong readers.

    Danny BrassellDanny Brassell has spoken to more than 2,000 different audiences worldwide. He is a best-selling author of 15 books, including Read, Lead & Succeed and The Reading Makeover, based on his popular TEDx Talk.

    Danny Brassell will present a session titled “The Reading Makeover” and will copresent a Special Interest Group session titled “Consequential Validity: Reimagining the Student and Assessment” at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits, held in Orlando, FL, July 15–17. He will also emcee the ILA Sparks Lunch on Sunday, July 16.

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    Sharpen Your Students’ Writing Saws

    By Alan Sitomer
     | May 11, 2017

    Sharpen Students' Writing SawsGood news: After reading this article, you’ll know the number one mistake teachers of writing make when it comes to elevating student performance, and you’ll be able to easily and swiftly correct your instructional practice.

    Bad news: The number two mistake teachers of writing make is thinking there is one single mistake that, once easily and swiftly remedied, is going to turn all your students into Rumi.

    Look, there are no mistakes. Mistake is too harsh a word. Teaching is tough; teaching writing can break pedagogical backs. Everything exists on a continuum of growth. The student owns a certain modicum of skills, the teacher owns a certain modicum of teaching skills, and these two modicums collide live and without a net in real time as sugar races through the blood of technology-addicted, early-lifecycle humans. What could go wrong, right?

    So, what can be done? Stop over-assigning. The foremost error we’re making as teachers of writing is defying common sense. Everyone understands a child must first learn to walk before he or she can run. However, in classroom after classroom, students are being assigned multiparagraph, evidence-based, complexity-driven long-form responses when the teacher already knows that 80% of the kids can’t compose one single, crisp, clear, evidence-based paragraph demonstrating proper grammar, decent spelling, and a nice line of cogent thinking.

    Thus, we’re setting our students up to fail.

    Put me in a rocket ship and ask me to enter Earth’s orbit, and I am gonna crash. And it won’t be for a lack of trying; it will be because I’d need to start with learning how to operate a crop duster first. Why we jump so quickly past making sure students have mastered short response and insist they leap straight to composing nuanced, long responses oozing with critical thinking and sophisticated textual analysis baffles me.

    Slow down. Meet kids where they are. Multiparagraph essays are built one paragraph at a time, single paragraph responses are built one sentence at a time, and sentences are composed one word at a time. Trust me, I know. As the author of 20 books, I promise you that every page I’ve ever published was iterated exactly in this manner.

    In fact, it might be one of the few things Rumi and I, and your students, have in common as writers.

    To be successful in teaching evidence-based writing, students must own three skills they can demonstrate in one simple, clear, concise paragraph. Young writers need to be able to make a claim, be able to cite evidence that directly supports their claim, and be able to finalize and cement their paragraph with a conclusion that directly connects the evidence to the claim through logical reasoning.

    Fewer sentences, greater quality.

    As Lincoln once said, “If I only had seven hours to fell a tree, I’d spend the first six hours sharpening the saw.”

    Alan SitomerAlan Sitomer is a California Teacher of the Year, founder of The Writer’s Success Academy, and a keynote speaker who specializes in engaging disengaged, underperforming students. He is also the author of 20 books. His latest is Mastering Short-Response Writing: Claim It! Cite It! Cement It! (Scholastic).

    Alan Sitomer will present a session titled “Mastering Short Response, Evidence-Based Writing” at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits, held in Orlando, FL, July 15–17.

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