Teachers, let’s talk about a popular topic across education blogs and Pinterest: the classroom library. A quick search on the Internet results in numerous tips, tricks, and ideas for different ways to configure and organize your classroom library. It’s an intensive and thoughtful process that involves thinking about genre, reading levels, interest levels, grade-level content, categories, and themes.
Unfortunately, we often see classroom libraries that group diverse books into categories that isolate or limit their use. Simply having a book bin labeled “cultures from around the world” or “black history month books” does not mean your library is culturally responsive. We need to think critically about how these books reflect the diversity of our students, their backgrounds, and the communities in which we live while exposing them to new ideas and concepts. Does your classroom library contain books that include main characters of color or with disabilities? Do your books featuring people of color only focus on issues of race, prejudice, or discrimination? Do they go beyond ethnic heritage months? Do they only focus on cultural traditions and foods? Continue reading
“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”– Mason Cooley
Mason Cooley took the words right out of my mouth. As an avid reader, I have experienced the beauty of finding myself lost in another world within the pages of a book. Unfortunately, not all students may have had this type of opportunity. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first step to creating a well-rounded classroom library should not only intrigue and motivate students to want to open a book but also meet their diverse learning needs. Continue reading
My final semester as an undergrad was crammed with experiences you might expect of someone full of excitement, optimism, and a lot of what-am-I-going-to-do-with-the-rest-of-my-life thoughts. Aside from the typical pre-graduation nerves, I—as a childhood education major—was about to reach the height of all of the lesson plan and unit plan writing, fieldwork observations, and hours of late-night studying: the student teaching experience.
School visits from authors and illustrators are a great way to encourage literacy, bring books to life, and allow students to view themselves as creators. For a fee, many authors and illustrators will do in-person or virtual school visits, but there are ways to incorporate an author’s perspective into literacy units that work for any budget. Here are a few suggestions:
Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
“Parents are both the most important adults in a young child’s life and the biggest contributors to their future success. But some parents find it difficult to provide adequate care because of the stresses of poverty and other barriers,” says the latest report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Released November 4, “The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success” asserts how strategic interventions and support systems at the statewide and national level can protect, restore, and prevent students, particularly low-income students, from fragile foundations in health and education. Michael Alison Chandler of the Washington Post offers an informative summary.
This report is a powerful reminder of how important our work is and what is at stake. It details the challenges children confront in low-income households and how their environments and experiences have long-term consequences.
We must engage our students’ families as literacy allies. According to the National Center for Families Learning, children spend 7,800 hours out of school each year compared to 900 hours in school. “The family unit—no matter the composition—is the one constant across the educational spectrum.”
Jill Eisenberg is our Resident Literacy Expert. Jill began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
Note: This lesson can be done with other books, but dual language/bilingual books offer a unique opportunity to engage non-English speaking parents in the classroom and provide a way to continue rigorous discussions with their children at home regardless of English in the home. Bilingual books additionally underscore the diversity of our classroom communities and equalize parents as teachers in students’ minds.
Last week, I spoke about my experience teaching in a school where nearly 85% of my students were English Language Learners and English was not the primary language spoken at home. Using a bilingual book with a Spanish-speaking parent in the classroom is a strategy I learned teaching in San Jose, CA as a part of a parent engagement program called “Los Dichos de la Casa” by Silicon Valley YMCA.
Whether your classroom has only a few English Language Learners (ELLs) or a majority, bilingual and dual language books can encourage close reading of a text and increase accessibility of the text to ELLs. Over the next few posts, we will model how bilingual and dual language books are being used in classrooms to foster deep, critical thinking and a love of reading.
Today we’re excited to introduce Jill Eisenberg, our new Resident Literacy Expert! Jill began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
When I taught third grade literacy in San Jose, CA, nearly 85% of my students were English Language Learners and English was not the primary language spoken at home, if at all. The school day was the main source of English exposure and I, like many other teachers in similar communities, felt it was up to my colleagues and me to pack as much English instruction into the school day to make up for the time away from English at home. Many classrooms across the U.S. face similar demographics and teachers know how critical it is to create an English language-rich environment in order to maximize student interaction and practice with the language.