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In finding the middle way

Robinson, W. Heath (William Heath), 1872-1944 (illustrator). Black and white illustration in Hans Andersen's fairy tales (1913) London: Constable. - in public domain

Robinson, W. Heath (William Heath), 1872-1944 (illustrator). Black and white illustration in Hans Andersen’s fairy tales (1913) London: Constable. – in public domain

I recently read a beautifully illustrated version of “The Emperor’s new Clothes” with my Grade 2 classes during their library period. I can’t but help feeling like that little boy all the time, first astonished and puzzled whether I’m the only one to notice that there are no clothes, then worried that my vision is inadequate to see, and then when I shout out “the emperor has no clothes” my cry is not caught up and echoed, but rather people turn or face down in embarrassment as if it were I caught naked in a public place. And so I began this course with a niggling sense of frustration in being an education professional and learner in a digital environment.

In my life-long learner / doing a distance education degree I’m frustrated by how ‘same old same old’ it is – what is given on the one hand – the convenience, the asynchronicity, the ‘flat world’, the connectivity, the access, is taken away on the other – the lack of intimacy, the limited discussions, the moving along at a clip, the lack of storming and norming and emphasis on performing (Carabajal, LaPointe, & Gunawardena, 2003). But I realize that it is the same as what Churchill said about democracy in 1947 “it is the worst form … except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”

I have to stay positive, must stay open to ideas and alternatives. I have to look to people who are chipping away and making a difference, like our colloquia guests – Pip Cleaves, Annabel Astbury, Simon Welsh and Rebecca Vivian. I must remember that Rome was not built in a day, that this life is lived in beta. And things that annoyed me in this course (like the late introduction of VoiceThread) are in fact things that I am now trying to introduce to my school, in this case during the Global Read-Aloud, and I’m being met with the same skepticism that I gave myself – the irony.

The case study has allowed me to become more knowledgeable and versed in a topic that I had a superficial understanding of. And again that frustration, that when initiating the topic – I did not know what I did not know – the anosognosic’s dilemma (Morris, 2010). As a result I perhaps did not ask the “right” questions, use the “right” survey, the “right” analysis. In the process I increased my knowledge, but the purpose was not to summarize what I now know, which is the beginning point of any expert in the field. It was to further knowledge by examining something through the case study method. I think I am now understanding how reading reluctance can be seen through a variety of lenses. I’m understanding the profound effect of unconditional fun on enjoyment, motivation and the desire to improve – and my wariness of data-analysis has been vindicated to a certain quantifiable extent.

My wish for myself for the future is that I can both relax and be vigilant. Accept imperfection as I strive to be the best version of myself as an educator and to bring that out in my students, but in a joyful fun way. The middle way.

Image from: http://lisacongdon.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/brave_quote45_lowres1.jpg

Image from: http://lisacongdon.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/brave_quote45_lowres1.jpg

 

References

Carabajal, K., LaPointe, D., & Gunawardena, C. (2003). Group development in online learning communities. In M. G. Moore & W. G. Anderson (Eds.), Handbook of distance education (pp. 217–234). Mahwah, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates.

Morris, E. (2010, June 20). The anosognosic’s dilemma: Something’s wrong but you’ll never know what it is (Part 1). Retrieved 4 February 2014, from http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/the-anosognosics-dilemma-1/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1

0

Graphical lies and semi truths

I’ve been geeking out a little with some data in the last 24 hours, looking at the circulation stats of my blokes for the last 2 years plus the last month.  Glancing through the table leads to the conclusion that they are in fact borrowing more books – I know that doesn’t necessarily lead to more reading, but I also know that just having books around is a good thing.  One of the issues is that inherent in international schools is the fact that students come and go. Most of our students have been here for the last 2 years, and a few entered mid-way – so I averaged the monthly book borrowing by assuming 8 months of school (yup, we’re off for 16 weeks of the year), and then apportioned appropriately. (Note 2016/7 data needs to be updated at end of September to give the full 1.5 months).bar

But no-one likes looking at a table of data, so how to get this into a graph?  Now even a 3rd grader would (hopefully) be able to tell you that discrete data = bar chart.  So that leads to this:

That kind of shows you the picture – that the green bars are generally the highest (although maybe I need to invert the colours).

 

Now, let me show you another picture. This time I am quite incorrectly showing you a line graph.  Why is it wrong – well because a line graph is to show the relationship between two sets of values, with one set being dependent on another. Well, as each point is a different child’s reading,  and one child’s data has nothing to do with another child’s data, so obviously a line graph is nonsense. Except for the fact that it much more clearly shows that students have increased their borrowing since they’ve joined BWB. Quite wrong, but more graphically. I’ve been even linemore deceptive by ordering the data by number of books by date (mainly because the first 6 boys were not at the school in 2014/5 and the next 3 not last year so it made things look more confusing if I didn’t order it.

The next graph is even more pretty but it’s wrong wrong wrong and very deceptive – because I used a “stacked line” it’s no longer showing the boys who they read less than the previous year (s) as I’m adding up their reading over time.

No wonder they say “lie, damned lies and statistic” – maybe they need to add “graphs” to that one.

stacked-lineMore problems with this type of data – it tells you about the quantity, but nothing about the quality of what’s being borrowed. If I drill into various circulation histories I see a lot of “churn” of graphic novels. I’m assuming the lads who’ve read 15 or 20 books in the past month are reading nearly one book a day. That’s assuming they’re reading them. In fact one of the boys who seems to be borrowing and reading less is the boy who is tackling much more sophisticated literature and longer books.

Which shows just how individualised one’s approach needs to be to students, and data, and even goals and aims.  I like to think I’m employing a “bait and switch” tactic in the long term – I wonder if that can be quantified? Thinking aloud – if my books were lexiled and I could for each child see a lexile trail that gets stronger over time … unfortunately wishful thinking at this point as our books aren’t lexiled. I’m wondering if any longitudinal research has been done in this respect? I was watching a demo of Scholastic’s Literacy Pro yesterday and maybe that’s influencing my thinking. Because once you’re in that kind of program the program in itself corrupts the data by only feeding the student books in their lexile range, so you have animals in captivity rather than in the wild, if you see what I mean.

Now to see what the reading data tells me, and to see if there is any way to tie it all together in a pretty picture.  I need a spare mathematician to guide me through this – first year university stats is just not going to cut it I fear!

7

Reading reluctance – factors

Writing a case study with 3,000 words of which 80% are limited by procedural bits and pieces is proving to be a little frustrating because I am learning SO MUCH.  So I thought I’d share some of it here, because heaven knows it could help someone somewhere somehow.

Remember the whole thing about motivation? That there was extrinsic and intrinsic and the latter was way way better? Turns out there are a lot more bits and pieces to motivation than psych 101 would have you believe. And more importantly there is such interplay between them and external factors and I’d like to add developmental ages and phases as well.

 

So with reading motivation we have:

  • Extrinsic (rewards, physical, achievement or emotional if you read more)
  • Intrinsic (reading is its own reward – interest, satisfaction etc.)
  • Social (currency gained by knowing stuff, sharing books and reading – turns negative around G5 with peer devaluation)
  • Self-efficacy (belief in ability – changes over time)
  • Work avoidance (starts in G2, avoid reading tasks due to low motivation and/or reading difficulties)

If you want to read just one study on the matter, I’d recommend Lee & Zentall (2015). They summarize most of the knowledge to date, have an excellent bibliography and most importantly add the longitudinal dimension. I really like longitudinal studies, and I know why they’re difficult and costly, but as a parent and an educator, what can be more valuable than recognizing and anticipating bumps along the road for what they are and taking preventative action before a student/child lands in a pot-hole?

 

I’d like to spend a little more time on self-efficacy. It has to do with self-concept as a reader (Förster & Souvignier, 2014; Proctor, Daley, Louick, Leider, & Gardner, 2014; Smith, Smith, Gilmore, & Jameson, 2012). I find it very interesting that self-efficacy takes a dive around Grade 3. Why? Because that is just the moment when the majority our self-confident readers, having spent 2 or 3 years soaring through the levels of their reading program are suddenly let loose into the big world of both “real chapter books” and needing to access their reading skills in order to “read to learn”. It’s that pivot point. The point at which I tell over anxious parents, “yes, now you can start worrying if the reading is not happening.”

 

So the question is what should our response be as parents and educators (another good point of the Lee & Zentall article – they add the “so what” bit). Remember the “terrible twos”? Well I think there is nothing more comforting in know that when behavior goes wonky, you have a frame of reference that says “oh, it’s this” accompanied by “I / my child / my student is not alone” and “this is normal” plus, hopefully some strategies in place that can be applied. I’ve just sent my blokes with books a set of positive affirmations that he can use in the Blokes with books club. It was one of a set of resources included in this very handy, practical and readable guide from Ireland (NEPS, 2012).

 

Then looking at the skill side of things. This is dangerous ground, because if a child is reading below the 30% percentile, (and they’re not 3 or 4 years old – I kid you not – I’ve had pre-kindergarten parents concerned their children are not reading yet – on that topic, please read this article (Suggate, Schaughency, & Reese, 2013)) and they’re over 8 years old, then there may be a problem.

 

What is the problem – well I’ll say mainly “beware, there be EGOS”. When there is a reading skill issue it is probably as a result of an experiential instructional deficit or a reading related cognitive problem (Scanlon, Gelzheiser, Vellutino, Schatschneider, & Sweeney, 2008). To put it simply, either they haven’t been taught properly at school or the home situation isn’t reinforcing adequately (hear those egos bristling), OR, the child has a reading related cognitive problem (Reading Disability – RD). This can be in decoding (like dyslexia); comprehension or retention and each have a different (here is a lay-person’s article) set of signs and ways of being addressed.

 

So, what does one do in this case – I like the NEPS article because they call for short, one-on-one or one-on-few and limited interventions of around 12 weeks. Obviously one can start with trying to overcome any instructional deficit, and if that fails, to move onto educational testing and specific RD related interventions. Once again there be Egos in the way – and if it helps at all, I can say “been there, done that, got the tears to prove it”. It’s hard to acknowledge that your child is anything than perfect, or at a pinch that they’re “normally” imperfect. But denial leads to more harm that good, and particularly because early intervention is so much more effective. Embedded in this article on dyslexia (Korbey, 2015) is an awesome scientific journal article (free to read! Yay) on RD, by Norton and Wolf that is very dense and brain spinning, but very good (Norton & Wolf, 2012). Personally I found the discussion on colour naming to be very interesting – talk about an early warning sign that we noticed but didn’t know was important.

 

I’m going to stop at this point – happy reading in the mean time. As always, interested in your thoughts and comments.

References:

Förster, N., & Souvignier, E. (2014). Learning progress assessment and goal setting: Effects on reading achievement, reading motivation and reading self-concept. Learning and Instruction, 32, 91–100. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2014.02.002

Korbey, H. (2015, October 1). Understanding dyslexia and the reading brain in kids [Web Log]. Retrieved 11 September 2016, from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/10/01/understanding-dyslexia-and-the-reading-brain-in-kids/

Lee, J., & Zentall, S. S. (2015). Reading motivation and later reading achievement for students with reading disabilities and comparison groups (ADHD and typical): A 3-year longitudinal study. Contemporary Educational Psychology. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2015.11.001

NEPS. (2012). Effective interventions for struggling readers. National Educational Psychological Service. Retrieved from http://www.education.ie/en/Education-Staff/Information/NEPS-Literacy-Resource/neps_literacy_good_practice_guide.pdf

Norton, E. S., & Wolf, M. (2012). Rapid automatized naming (RAN) and reading fluency: Implications for understanding and treatment of reading disabilities. Annual Review of Psychology, 63(1), 427–452. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-120710-100431

Proctor, C. P., Daley, S., Louick, R., Leider, C. M., & Gardner, G. L. (2014). How motivation and engagement predict reading comprehension among native English-speaking and English-learning middle school students with disabilities in a remedial reading curriculum. Learning and Individual Differences, 36, 76–83. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2014.10.014

Scanlon, D. M., Gelzheiser, L. M., Vellutino, F. R., Schatschneider, C., & Sweeney, J. M. (2008). Reducing the incidence of early reading difficulties: Professional Development for classroom teachers versus direct interventions for children. Learning and Individual Differences, 18(3), 346–359. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2008.05.002

Smith, J. K., Smith, L. F., Gilmore, A., & Jameson, M. (2012). Students’ self-perception of reading ability, enjoyment of reading and reading achievement. Learning and Individual Differences, 22(2), 202–206. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2011.04.010

Suggate, S. P., Schaughency, E. A., & Reese, E. (2013). Children learning to read later catch up to children reading earlier. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(1), 33–48. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.04.004

2

Blokes with Books Club

This post is about a year overdue, but here goes.

Early into my new job as a newly minted Teacher Librarian I started noticing the “lost boys”  of the library.  Those souls who would wander around and between the stacks with a dazed look on their faces. Or they’d be flicking through books without actually registering the contents. Or they’d just park themselves on a chair with the (too popular to let them be borrowed) Guinness Books of records and sit and talk through with “oohs and aahs” with their like-minded mates.  Obviously something.needed.to.be.done.

But equally obvious to my middle aged, white, female mind, I was not the one to do it. Or at least, not to appear to be the one to do it. But should it be a teacher? If so, which teacher? My criteria was young and male, but I didn’t know my new colleagues all that well… I settled on our EdTech coach, Tim.  An extremely busy and popular educator, with experience in the classroom and, since moving into the new role with all the classrooms, he was enthusiastic when I suggested it. (Phew).

We collaborated on lesson plan ideas, and books that may “hook” the students. And we were open for business. We emailed teachers from Grades 3-6 and asked if they had any students who they thought may benefit from this group. Most teachers had 1 or 2 students.  The first session started with about 8 students. And quickly word spread that this was a really fun thing to be involved with.  Group members had their own membership badges and a special “learning agreement” for their time in the library. Teachers reported back that the students were more motivated to borrow books and were super enthusiastic about going to the sessions which were held once a week on a Wednesday during the last period (a 40 minute period reserved for literacy leadership). A couple of ELL students were identified who would also benefit from being “one of the blokes” even though their language level wasn’t that high and they joined in as well.

The year ended with a bang when I chanced on reading of a book review of “Adventures of a Kid Magician” in February or March. Then of course it was a case of getting Tim’s mother to buy 5 copies of the book from Walmart – the only stockist at the time and shipping it to Singapore. It was as if we’d set off fireworks in the library. Basically each chapter leads to clues which unlocks a code to a youtube video showing how to do a magical trick. So the rest of the year involved multiple read-alouds of the chapters and hunting the clues down and desperate attempts by our blokes to be the next in line to read the book! Talk about a magic formula to combine the physical and digital (my review here),

dating lineWe started school on the 15th August and unfortunately the first few weeks our literacy period has been occupied by assemblies and other “housekeeping” matters like fire-drills. But the requests and the demands from our blokes were so incessant that we did a “soft launch” of the club during DEAR/SSR time. When I say “we” – I’m definitely the ghost in the machine and very much in the background and 99% of the credit for the magic that is happening is due to Tim.  When I handed out the permission forms for the surveys, nearly every boy (it’s grown to 25 boys!) returned the signed form the next day! Any teacher trying to get back permission forms can attest to how unusual that is.

Today was our first official day, starting with going over the essential agreements, one boy who insisted on doing a book talk on a book he was loving (Things Explainer – I’ve ordered a copy for the library now ) an ice-breaker of Zip Zap Zop followed by “Book Speed Dating” – 3 rounds of 5 minutes of “dating” a book after which the favourite was chosen (or not) for checkout.

Initial Lesson plans (2015/6):

Lesson # Ice Breaker Activities
1 Staring Contest

-Choose a Book Any Funny Book/read

-Read in the Dark/ Tent

-Find a girly book competition/read  

-Find a manly book competition/ read

2 Spot The Difference -Ben Cooperman Read Aloud his book “Gabriel and Five Joshuas”
3 Charades (written on note cards)

-Discuss adventures/ what kind of adventures there are

-Read choose your own adventure book

4 Crocodile Tooth Game Graphic Novels
5 Zip Zap Zop -Judge A Book By It’s Cover
6 Toilet Paper Mummy -Monster Books
7 Drawing Charades -Joke Books
8 Draw Yourself As Cartoon

-Dewey Grams

-write down the number of book and to hand to someone else

-Use scholastic.com to make a Christmas book wishlist

9 Minefield

-Introduce Legends and Myths with Sinbad Video

-Legends and Myths books

10 Zip Zap Zop

-Introduce old comics

-Read through old comics

11 Tennis Table Soccer

-Magazine Reading

Explain all the neat features of the different magazines

 12-end of year Various icebreakers Reading of “Adventures of a kid magician” and unlocking the videos 

 

1

Fortunate coincidence

After our leadership meeting this week I asked our principal what she thought of my various options for my case-study and which would be most beneficial and meaningful for the school.   By happy coincidence the senior leadership is looking at a number of things that tie in nicely with my ideas of what would be a viable case-study

  • Using the cumulated data we have on reading scores from the last few years in an interpretive and meaningful way
  • Examining a small section of students to see if anything can be extrapolated to the wider student body and inform teaching and learning
  • Raising the “bottom” – i.e. looking at our struggling students in a holistic way and seeing how we can help them on their learning journeys

In our conversations we also discussed how struggling students can influence the whole ambiance in a classroom, both in the student body and in the teachers response to the individual student and the class as a whole.

The question of course is what is ‘success’ and how do you measure it?  Must it be an improvement in reading or other academic measureables? Something ‘concrete’? Or can we think about the more ‘fuzzy’ aspects of learning that are harder to pin down.  Like affinity and belonging – nicely spoken about in this (non academic) article. Certainly we know that students who have (excessive) stress have difficulty learning. But is it skill, is it motivation that starts the negative spiral? And who can help? Is it a bootstraps issue, is it parents, peers, teachers, mentors, siblings?  What formats and genres?

I’ve just downloaded hundreds of articles around these themes, so it’s time to start digging in and try to get a research question out of it all.