Ron Clark Academy Take-Aways

We went, we learned, we laughed, we wrote, we danced, we sang, we ate, we jumped, we slid, we conversed, we, tweeted, we instagrammed, we rallied, we smiled, we loved, we lived, we shopped, we dined, we valeted, we slept, we played, we caffeinated, we periscoped, we hugged, we cried and then we came home and blogged about it! 

There were so many amazing highlights from our trip to Atlanta to visit the Ron Clark Academy, it's nearly impossible to try and capture them all. But, I'm going to pictures. For our two day visit on October 15-16, 2015, there were 125 students, 22 RCA staff and 411 teacher visitors.


And, greeted in front of the school each morning by Mr. Ron Clark himself, who is a master group selfie taker! #themanofmanyfaces


Yep. Life-changing. Teacher-changing. 
If you have a will to go, find a way....

and GO!

All Educator Trainings are HERE

R.I.P. Round Robin: 19 Reasons Why It Is Not a Best Practice

First of all, welcome back to another brand new school year! You are feeling rejuvenated and refreshed and ready to make a difference in the lives of the 24 or so young people in your classroom? Summer was great. You read some books and blog posts or maybe even attended a conference.  Hopefully by today, everyone is back in school starting a brand new school year, so I hope you make it your greatest year yet with high levels of thinking and speaking and that your students exceed maximum growth in all areas.  With that said, let me go back to summer, and something that happened on my summer journeys that inspired this post.

 I had the wonderful opportunity to present at the national iTeach1st Conference in Las Vegas this summer (and the TpT Conference), and after my I Heart Guided Reading workshop, several teachers came up to me and said, "So we're not supposed to be doing Round Robin Reading anymore?" N.O. No more Round Robin Reading.  I feel like the word is out on this (and has been for quite some time) but not every teacher has received the memo....OR...they received the memo and are still doing it anyway.  There is no research to support that students become better readers by Round Robin Reading...not to mention the No.1 reason that Round Robin Reading is NOT a Best doesn't help in the "getting kids to love reading" department of teaching!  So, without further top 19 Reasons Why Round Robin Reading (and other turn-taking Reading) is NOT a Best Practice in reading instruction. As if the first 5 reasons aren't enough...there's a full 19 reasons just for good explicit measure!

Download it free HERE.

There are several bottom lines on why Round Robin Reading does not help readers become better readers. The number one reason seems so obvious. Children hold onto meaning when they read the WHOLE story themselves. If children do not read the whole story themselves, and read it only in a Round Robin format, and let's say they have three turns and the story is 16 pages long, then that means they are only reading page 1, 8 and 16 (hypothetically). That's like the first 16th of a movie, the 8/16th of the movie and the last 16th of a movie...are you really going to comprehend the movie by only watching a fraction of it at the beginning, middle and end of the movie?  

The next bottom line and second main reason to NOT do Round Robin Reading is the emotional agitation, aggravation, and anxiety it causes both high readers and low readers. Low readers are self-conscious enough as it is that their reading is labored and slow, so the last thing they want is a public performance spotlighting their reading challenges and imperfections.  On the same but different note, it is painful for high readers to listen to low readers struggle through text and have to listen to the labored, incorrect, slow oral reading.  This is why peer Round Robin readers just TELL struggling readers the words at tricky spots, because THEY CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE.  So listen, let's not put high or low readers through this emotional turmoil for no reason or research base behind doing so.

And here's the third most important bottom line...Round Robin Reading (and other turn-taking reading) does NOT help kids LOVE reading!

Reading Engagement Photo Credit: Hope King at Elementary Shenanigans

In a survey, teachers said they used Round Robin for a few different reasons:

1. " because kids said they liked it..."
My response: Kids may know what they like but they don't always know what's best for them or other students. Reading less is less work, kids are experts and figuring out ways to do less work. Let's not give in to this.
Non Round Robin Reading Solution:
 Partner Reading. 
When kids do Partner Reading, they get to read out loud, listen to each other read, and read the whole text. Each partner is responsible for the comprehension of the whole text.

2: "to help my students' reading stamina..."
My response: Kids do not improve their reading stamina by reading only parts of a text, and by doing start/stop reading.
Non Round Robin Reading Solution:
Reading Stamina Graph. 
Kids will only increase their stamina if they A)know what reading stamina is; B)have strategies and a plan (goals) to increase it; and C)have a way to progress monitor themselves to see if they are improving at what they said they wanted to improve. Have students keep a Reading Stamina Graph and record their daily stamina minutes by shading up to the number of minutes read without interruptions or leaving their just right spot.

3. "to help my students' increase their fluency & comprehension..."
My response: In order to increase your fluency and comprehension, you have to read the whole anything of anything to comprehend it, and you have read the whole enchilada more than once or twice.  Ever listen to the tail end of a conversation? See the middle part only of a movie? Or, listen to half of a voice message?  Comprehension does not occur without ALL the information, and sometimes we have to listen or watch it twice...that's what good listeners do!
Non Round Robin Reading Solution:
Close Reading
All students read the text, on their own, at their own pace, individually. If the text is hard or intellectually challenging, but short, they should do it at your guided reading table. Each student has their own copy of the text. Each student annotates on their own paper.  The teacher asks questions of the students and a discussion about the text ensues. Repeat: A collaborative discussion ensues. The discussion covers the three main strands of the reading standards over a three day period, at least, where the first day discussion is about Standards 1-3 - Key Ideas and Details, translation, WHAT THE TEXT SAYS.
 Day 2 discussion is about Standards 4-6 - Author's Craft and Structure - translation - HOW THE AUTHOR IS SAYING IT.
And the Day 3 discussion is about Standards 7-9 - translation -
  This technique is known as Close Reading.
Non Round Robin Reading Solution:
Guided Reading
 If the text is not hard, or at the group's instructional level, but students read the text, on their own, individually at their own pace and you listen in to one reader at a time, while you listen to the rest of the students out of the corner of your ear, this technique is called Guided Reading.
Non Round Robin Reading Solution:
Independent Reading
If the student can read the text at a better accuracy rate than 95%, like 96-100%, then this would be considered an independent level for that student.  For example, students in a guided reading level F, would have at least 8-10 books in their independent reading basket at level E, or D and E.  With this, the student is doing several repeated readings of the same books, increasing their fluency and making very few errors on the text. The student can find a just-right spot and sit in a just-right position and read and reread the books in their independent book baskets to themselves, out loud, silently or into a whisper phone. Many students can co-read all around the room in this structure, while you read with students at guided reading.  This structure is otherwise known as Independent Reading, and there is very little chance for disruption and non-comprehension because students are feeling like successful readers in their independent reading level zone. See pictures below of students reading books at their independent reading level, in just-right spots, in just-right positions. Research also shows that students are motivated to read books higher than their independent reading level because it's a book they are interested in, motivated to read, and have self-selected, then they are most apt to actually read it despite it being "above" their reading level.

Reading Rockets also shares 11 alternatives to Round Robin Reading.

And, a great article by to pretty much sums up why we need to put Round Robin Reading to rest, once and for all. 

Click here to download it. 
(The co-author of this article is a different Jennifer Jones, not me)
I wish everyone the best teaching year yet! 

17 New Hello Fonts Released Today

Download fonts at the links below....

(like in your classroom only, at home, for your Girl Scout troop, for a friend's baby shower, for the PTA letterhead, for your blog*, for your family Christmas letter, for your child's science fair project, stuff like that...)

In exchange for 225 fonts for free personal use, please take just a second to leave me some positive feedback on TpT right after you download it.

(like in your TpT products - free or priced, for your blog**, for your Etsy store, for your paper products, for your card company, for teacher SWAG you sell like t-shirts, lanyards, caps, bags, pencils, pens, mouse pads, presenter door prizes, for your business cards, etc.) 

If you are a greeting card company, advertising agency, marketing firm, book publisher or design company, and you would like to use Hello fonts on greeting cards, company brochures, freeway billboards, chip bags, book covers, book text, coffee cups, etc. please purchase one commercial license per designer. 

If you have any doubt or wondering about whether or not you think you need to purchase a commercial license (because it's not listed about, and there are many interpretations of "commercial" just gmail me at helloliteracy. 

*if you would like to use Hello fonts in your blog header or anywhere in your blog elements, you can use them IF you put a blog button on the right sidebar of your blog.  Use this credit image button below. 

Permission to right-click save on the credit image below.

**if you would like to use Hello fonts in your blog header or anywhere in your blog elements, and you don't want to give credit via credit image button in your blog's right sidebar, then please purchase a Commercial Use License.   

Summer Literacy: 7 Fun, Free, Easy & Semi-Hidden Ways to Keep Your Kids Reading All Summer...Don't Put Reading on Summer Break, Too!

There is no doubt that a teacher's worst fear is that the students he/she worked so hard to bring up to grade level all year long, will slide back a reading level or more, over summer break.  The research is high and wide that this can easily occur when READING is not on a parent's summer radar.  I don't know why it is, but I can see how it happens...many parents are busy, work, or just plain unaware of the importance of daily reading. In this blog post, I'd like to share with parents, 7, easy, free, and semi-hidden ways you can keep your children actually reading and writing over the summer WITHOUT a designated and forced, parent-mandated reading time.  *Attention Parents* when you do this (forced reading), kids see reading as a chore and there are negative connotations that don't shine reading in the brightest light possible. So this post is about fun, sneaky ways to keep your child reading and they won't even realize they're doing it.  And, reading, like anything else, only happens naturally and occurs every day, when done naturally and every day, like a habit.  And habits are a perfect example of fluency, habits of mind and living are things we do and *think* without thinking...cognitive fluency. So let's begin.

During the summer, especially, make it a habit to go to the public library once a week. Find a day in your schedule that is not too busy because you will not want it to be a rush-rush trip. Allow at least two hours in your schedule to let your children browse for books...many teachers call it "shopping for books."  Your child's teacher has taught them to peruse books, look at the cover, read the blurb on the back and browse through books to decide if it looks interesting before committing to check it out.  Allow your child to choose as many books as they want, and definitely, without question, let them self-select the books they want to read over the next week.  This is probably the most important element of this habit. Again, research is high and wide that students who self-select their own books, read more and grow as readers faster and with more self-motivated eagerness than children who are given texts to read, where the book is selected by an adult, or where children are told what to read.  

You will also want to go to the library prepared to walk out with lots of books.  This is a great mindset to teach your children.  To do this, take reusable bags into the library with you, and use it as your library bag all summer. Return books in it and check books out with it. Week after week. And regular visits to the library will become a regular habit. 

Like the movie, Field of Dreams."if you build it, they will come" so is true for books....If books are there, kids will read them.  So why not capitalize on every opportunity?  Think about all the places kids are sure to be this summer and keep a bag or basket of books there.  Here are places kids are guaranteed to be this summer--in the bathroom.  They gotta go! Some kids are quick in the bathroom and some kids are not, so keep a basket of books near the toilet, within arms reach so they can easily grab them without falling off the toilet.  Kids are also sure to be in the car--going here and there, thanks to you. So keep a basket or bag of books in the car.  Also, when you keep books in the car, they can also be read while kids wait for other their heat in a swim meet.  Summer, at least in North Carolina, is swim team season. Every, and I  mean every (ok, nearly all), subdivision in Raleigh has a swim team, which inevitably means a lot of waiting around.  Again, if books are there, kids will read them.  (Printable at the end of this post.)

(Photo courtesy of @lacypark on Instagram)

I know the television is a beast to manage (if you have one). I actually have found with my own children that they watch less television screen and more computer/phone/pad screen, than years ago.  BUT, in the summer, when many many kids are at home without fun camps, vacations or outings to attend, many children watch (too much) television over the summer instead of reading books. So, one way we can capitalize on the television watching, whether it's a 30 or 60 minute show or Netflix, turn on the closed captioning on your screen. Our family has found that when it's on, we notice that our eyes drift to the words the actors are saying and find ourselves reading along.  Kids will naturally do the same IF the words are there to read, so just turn it on and leave it on.

So, kids are all too familiar with YouTube, which can be both positive and negative. I personally think it's great that kids default to YouTube when wanting to learn how to do something new...some adults could learn this default.  In the YouTube search bar, enter "karaoke songs with lyrics" and see the many songs with lyrics for kids to read and sing along.  For a more refined search, add the word "children's songs" or "nursery rhymes" into your search.  Timothy Rasinski, fluency guru, says singing is one of the best ways to increase fluency because songs get "stuck in our head and we can't get them out" so that in itself, he says, is a form or repeated reading due to repeated head singing.

There are some fascinating Instagram accounts by some amazing photo journalists who travel around the world and document or explain fun and interesting things happening around the world. And, there are some amazing attractions, zoos, state parks and organizations that work really hard to document daily happening for everyone to enjoy on Instagram.  It's fun to read the posts of these interesting Instagrammers and use social media to do it.  Kids read about the picture post and don't even realize they're reading.  This activity is great for kids at home this summer, or kids in summer school...what a hit the Instagram Center would be!  I would also encourage kids to write captions to pictures that have very brief captions...what picture details would *they* include?  

I recommend the following Instagram accounts for kids to follow:

(Click on the color image for a free download of both color and b/w versions.)

Summer is the perfect time of year to read informational text and environmental print.  In life, this is the text that is most useful to living and functioning in society as a productive, healthy, informed citizen.  Be a role model by actively stopping to to read all the signs you see or point them out to your kids so they can try to read and understand them too.  If you make any trips or vacations this summer, make it a game to find everywhere that print and text is used to teach or tell information, and then figure out together, what they say, the message and why the sign or text is important for people to know. 

(Photos courtesy of W. Warner & J. Marshall)

There is indisputable evidence of the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing...and should always taught, practiced and done hand in hand.  For example, you might remember in my January 2015 blog post, I talked about the importance of teaching students how to also *write* sight words when teaching them how to read sight words.  And, so the same is true for practicing writing, when learning to read. The cognitive process of reading is called decoding and the cognitive process of writing is called encoding.  Kids not only need to know how to say the sound symbol for a letter (reading), but must also be able to retrieve and produce the letter symbol for the sound they are trying to make (writing).  This summer, ask your kids to write a Summer Bucket List.  In fact, everyone in the family should create a Summer Bucket List and then have a family meeting to create an opportunity for everyone to share their lists with the family. Then, work together to make a plan to accomplish activities on the list. If kids have trouble coming up with ideas, they can look through magazines to get Bucket List ideas. 

(Photo courtesy of B. Midtgaard Fletcher)

Sometimes ordinary things become extraordinary when we do them outside. Something about the outside environment, nature, fresh air, ions, not exactly sure what, but some indoor things are just more fun outside.  So, have a book picnic outside for some "natural" reading or a book picnic inside, when it's too hot outside.  Take a blanket and some snacks, spread out and enjoy some books on a blanket. 

(Photo courtesy of @snippetsbysarah on Instagram)

(Photo Courtesy of @alikscott17 on Instagram)

If you live in the Raleigh area, find out more about Book Babies, a free program offered by Book Harvest to connect new moms with free books..."kindergarten readiness starts at birth." 

And, below is a printable refrigerator summary version of this blog post for parents and/or summer school teachers. 
IMHO, summer reading is going to be the key to closing the reading achievement gap in America.  Teachers work way too hard all year long to let 80% of it go down the drain over summer. Like reading guru, Timothy Rasinski says, "parents are vital in their child's reading success." That's just how I feel. 


Beach ball dividers made by me.  Right-click-permission to copy them.
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