Oh, those pre-Common Core days!

The New York State English Council (NYSEC) annual conference took place in Albany last week. This is what I learned and how I learned it:

Vocabulary Assessment for Real, Part One

If you don't already know that the weekly vocabulary quiz in which students match short definitions to "vocabulary words" or pick out the definitions in multiple choice questions (and tasks equally shallow) don't indicate anything about actual growth in vocabulary, what I'm going to say in this post may not make sense. My thoughts about meaningful vocabulary assessment (and what other kind would be worth doing?) contradict the widespread practices, practices that, ironically enough, are already known to be ineffective, but they are practiced anyway.

Yellow Bananas, Meet Critical Thinking

     I was recently working with elementary school teachers, giving them a much-needed crash course on Everything You Need to Know About Grammar (and Grammar Instruction) for the Common Core, but Were Never Taught.

Schools That Learn Word Cloud

This week I worked with the teachers of Southern High School in Louisville, KY. This is a school that has worked very hard to improve student achievement as measured by the high-stakes tests. I began the work by asking the teachers why they thought their scores and ranking had gone up in the past couple of years. Click on the link below to see a great visual of their responses.

Using the Morphology Chart

Working with two sixth graders today, I realized that there's more instruction necessary for the morphology chart, and also more benefit, than I had thought. It would take modeling and gradual release of responsibility for, I'm thinking, at least ten words before they could use the morphology chart independently. By independently, I mean independently working in pairs. There's definitely a sociable dimension to this wonderful vocabulary-buildling activity.

On Babies and Bath Water Part III

 
Bathwater: The Reading Standards are your One-Stop-Shop for college and career readiness.

On Babies and Bathwater Part II: Pre-Reading

 
Bathwater: Because of the Common Core, teachers are not allowed to give any pre-reading information. We just have to throw text at students and have them sink or swim.

On Babies and Bathwater: Dispelling Common Core Myths

 
On Babies and Bathwater: Dispelling Some Myths about the Common Core
                                                                                                                  
   Like mushrooms after a rainstorm, myths about the Common Core pop up unbidden, grow prodigiously, and reappeaer insistently.   Most of these myths amount to exaggerations of the instructional shifts, and these exaggerations result from the tendency to oversimplify Let’s clean house:
 
 

Why parenting is like microwaving popcorn

I have a lot of experience with microwave popcorn. I know just how I like it and how to bring it to that state is perfect for me. Not so with parenting. But parenting, it seems to me, is a lot like microwaving popcorn. There's a suggestion on the box for how long to set the timer for, but even the box makes it clear that what they are recommending is just that, not a guarantee.

My New Book, Reading Standard 5

I've been writing about Reading Standard 5, the one about structure for literary text. At first, I was thinking only about chronological order and flashback (which is just another form of chronological order). Then, I realized that the Standard is more about the Freytag pyramid. You know the one: exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action (aka denoument), resolution. The Standards call for having students analyze stories along that breakdown, beginning in Grade 5.

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