How to be “right” more than twice per day

Eyes past print

Modeling fluent reading. Introduction of outside text every period of every day in every class. The opportunity to bring relevance to adolescents. With whole-school immersion in text and reading, ideas and concepts naturally follow. The teacher reads, the student follow along a copy of the text. Content-area literacy expert, Janet Allen calls it “eyes past print with voice support.” At my school, we call it a requirement… one element of a building-wide literacy plan.

Two years ago, after our sit-down session with Janet Allen in Orlando, Florida, our leadership team decided on a school-wide implementation of this strategy as an element of our focus on literacy skills. Co-Principal in charge of instruction, Dr. Jeanette Westfall, was a former elementary teacher, high school communication arts teacher and instructional coach. There is no doubt that her background helped her decide that a non-negotiable approach to reading improvement across content areas was a valuable thing given our situation.

Iqra: Read

Why we went there

Data analysis in our school improvement planning sessions clearly indicated the need for a systemic effort to improve reading. However, witnessing and characterizing the problem is only the beginning. The ability to design concrete, strategic approaches to solving such a problem is a crucial next step. Bringing the teeth of accountability into the picture is the final piece of the puzzle in comprehensively addressing a systemic educational issue.

The accountability piece tied to EPP is a direct requirement from our building administration to employ this “read aloud” strategy for an absolute minimum of five minutes per class per day. For students this translates to a daily minimum of twenty minutes of engagement with rigorous text with a fluent reader. The next logical step of a strategic teacher is to quickly adjust planning to take advantage of this requirement to bring rigorous and relevant content-specific text into the beginning (or end) of each period.

For a teacher with traditional style, this also forces at least one transition within the daily lesson. In the hands of an effective teacher, these transitions help to keep kids actively engaged and using their brains in varied ways.  Data showed that not only was there a need, but that our kids simply weren’t reading enough.  You can make strong suggestions about what goes on outside of the classroom.  Inside the four walls of a classroom is a different story.  You can guarantee immersion within the walls of a school building.

Lit2Go

Lit2Go

In other posts this year, I have suggested online services that might add to our implementation of EPP.  In this post, I would like to introduce another interesting online resource from Florida’s Educational Technology Clearinghouse. Lit2Go is a website I remember running across a year or so ago on Apple’s iTunes. On the USF site within iTunes you will find audio files for K-12 education organized by grade level.

However, in my opinion, the organizational website for Lit2Go is what makes it useful for the strategy described above as well as others. The main page allows many typical content searches for literature. Author, Title, Keyword, and Reading Level are all available search functions as well as a direct link to the files on the iTunes service for slipping smoothly into your iPod.

On the platform, reading

My first try was an author search– I pretty randomly chose Lewis Carroll.  I ran down the list of ten offerings for the author and clicked to select The Two Clocks.  The contents page for any selection has a nice set of overview information such as an abstract, word count, reading level, origin, genre, lexile level, theme, suggested educational strategy, Sunshine State Standards (of more use if you are actually IN Florida), and more.  On this page, it is the collection of not only the .mp3 audio file of the work, but also the text in both .html and .pdf format that makes this a valuable resource.  It also looks as if some pieces contain other “support material,” though the attached document for this particular story seems pretty useless.

Overall, the fact that this site provides both audio and clearly-printed text of a good number of classic pieces makes it valuable for efficiently selecting and managing EPP within a literature or communication arts class.

An easy win

The “clock that doesn’t go” in Lewis Carroll’s story is right two times per day.  The other clock which loses a minute a day is only right twice per year.  Surely, implementing EPP in a setting where reading immersion strategies are warranted is a way to be “right” at least four times per day.  If this form of “being right” seems worthwhile to you in your own educational setting, then give Lit2Go a try and come back and tell us what you thought.  Did it work quickly and easily for the described strategy?  Even better…  do you have another innovative use of Lit2Go to share?  Bring it here, and help us all to be right more than two times per day.

Le temps s\'est arrêté

What I have found particularly true in the past year is that even the fanciest website on the Internet doesn’t produce a solid educational event outside of the carefully-created framework of a skilled instructor.  Compared to many of the applications/websites I have talked about on this blog in the past year, this one could be seen as one of the less “sophisticated.”  However, any good teacher knows that what happens when you plug a device into the wall…  pales in comparison to what happens inside the mind of a child.

Artwork thanks:

*Iqra: Read by Swamibu on Flickr
*On the platform, reading by moriza on Flickr
*Le temps s’est arrêté by tany_kely on Flickr
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Sean Nash

District Online Learning Coordinator (eCampus) in a large public district of over thirty individual schools. Most recently, a district instruction coordinator. Biology instructor since 1993. Find more about my passions and my work at http://nashworld.me

6 Comments

  1. Although I’ve never tried reading aloud while students followed the printed word, I think it’s a great idea. It models oral language and expands vocabulary. Just reading aloud in itself accomplishes both of those things. But most of all, when the reading selection is of high interest to the students (or children, if at home) it shows that it’s worth while to learn to read. If you don’t believe there’s much in books to interest you, you wouldn’t be all that motivated to read.

    I never tried reading for only five minutes a day. In one 4-5 class I had, the students had to eat lunch in the classroom every day. To help keep order, I read to them during the entire lunch period. We read the entire Chronicles of Narnia, some historical fiction, including The Bronze Bow, and much I can’t remember, since that was a good 30 years ago. You could have heard a pin drop. We always read to our children at home at lot. It made a real difference in motivating them to read — especially when I stopped just as it got exciting and said I didn’t have any more time to read that day. They would continue to read on their own.

    The only problem I’d have with using a recorded story is not being able to interact as the reading was going on. I often would make sure unfamiliar words were understood, or ask children to predict what might happen next or what they thought a character should do before we continued. I think the one thing I miss most about teaching and having an empty nest is no one to read to anymore.

    • @Barbara Radisavljevic, good point about high-interest selections. This is a good tool for introducing engaging and relevant text in a very scaffolded manner.

      I agree- five minutes is quite short. That five minutes usually bleeds into ten or twenty in my room. That fact led me to steer these read alouds to a more content-focused approach. Prior to that, we would read chunks of a relevant novel for weeks at a time. I was getting so much good back and forth discussion as a result of this that I had no choice but to move more toward current scientific findings or emerging controversies that relate to our current concepts.

      The recorded element of this website is what bothers me as well. You are absolutely right about the need to stop and discuss… embedding vocabulary instruction and comprehension strategies across content areas and into daily reading. That does seem that it might be a bit clunky stopping and starting a recording. However, I am more than willing to give it a spin. What I like best about the Lit2Go site, though, is the organization of each piece of text with its readability level, etc. I am curious to see what people might able to use the associations on those pager for in an educational setting.

  2. As a first-year alternate certification teacher I’ve found EPP to be a wonderful tool. I only realized last week that my students love it, too. This month the students have been completing a series of persuasive projects (brochure, advertisement and presentation). The assignment for each to show/tell current 10th graders why they should take Communication Arts 11. In discussing the structure of the course several groups have mentioned that EPP happens every day and that “Mrs. Shepherd pauses throughout the reading to ask questions and discuss words.”
    I had not known that they were actually noticing what I did instructionally during Eyes Past Print. It really reinforced to me that these are strong teaching moments.
    I’ve worked really hard to find selections that related to the specific genre or topic of the day’s lessons. How refreshing to discover that the students were listening, noticed my efforts and learned.

    • @Kerry Shepherd, isn’t it nice to get some feedback from students that feels good like that every once in a while? We educators dont’ ask for much, do we? 😉

      “I had not known that they were actually noticing what I did instructionally during Eyes Past Print.”

      I think the above sentence is very important. You are right that students noticing a particular instructional strategy is hit and miss. I would strongly argue that we cannot let this be so. Ever since a three day workshop with Robin Fogarty & Brian Pete in Chicago a few years back, I realized the importance of front-loading any instructional event with the rationale for not only why you are doing it… but why you are doing it in the way that you are. Brian Pete calls this “sharing the why.” That workshop was focused on working with adult learners in a professional development setting. However, I have found that it does wonders with high school students as well.

      Explaining why a particular educational approach is used tends to tap into the power of suggestion or the “self-fulfilling prophecy.” In other words… telling students that what they are about to engage in will be effective and help them learn… is a very powerful thing to do.

  3. Did you know that one of my first masters paper was on Lewis Carroll and Alice’s Adventures in… I was in Oxford England at the time, too…good first choice to search 🙂

  4. Hey, thanks. I thought it was a pretty fair choice myself. Glad I’m not alone. Oxford, England? I’ve yet to visit the isles. I find that fact a great injustice at this point in my life. I’m assuming you still have all of those papers, huh?

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