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Leadership High School in San Francisco is awesome. Here’s another reason why.

favicon I worked at Leadership High School in San Francisco for 12 years as an English teacher, social studies teacher, and adviser. It’s a great place.

Please check out “Royal.” It’s high quality — and went mildly viral a couple weeks ago when it was picked up by Colorlines.

Credit goes to Principal Beth Silbergeld (Young Silb), Tiffani Johnson (of H20 Productions), Jeanette Osborne, Walter Ordo, and Susana Salinas.

LHS is also where every single ninth grader is receiving a Kindle this year. Librarian Michele Godwin, English teacher Kathleen Large, and instructional coach Anne Nyffeler have built a strong culture of reading, and the ninth grade advisers are enthusiastic and dedicated advocates of reading. Can’t wait to see where we go! favicon

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It’s never too late (and it can’t be): Helping struggling readers in SF and Hayward

51m9xce9QGL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_favicon Students entering high school are all over the place when it comes to their reading skills. Some read at the college level already, while others struggle. In general, though, they’re 1-2 grade levels behind where they need to be.

For the average student, who is a little behind, we know what works. Care about reading and invest time teaching it. Teach specific strategies of skillful readers with challenging texts, while at the same time encouraging students to read voluminously books of their choice. It’s hard, but it’s easy.

My colleagues and I have had moderate to strong success with this Reading Apprenticeship + Independent Reading approach. For students who read above, at, or slightly below grade level, the program has helped students read better, feel better about reading, and build their reading lives.

Unfortunately, what works for 70 to 75 percent of our students has not worked consistently for the lowest quarter of them. We’ve found that students who read at the third through fifth grade level do not improve at the same rate as their peers. Teacher Pam Mueller calls these students “lifers.”

This year, my colleagues in Hayward and San Francisco are working together, in different ways, to do something about this problem. Here’s a quick summary of our two approaches:

+ San Francisco: Reading Lab
After looking at the data last year, the thoughtful principal recommended built-in reading and Math intervention classes for incoming ninth graders. These small classes (about 15 students each) resemble Ms. Mueller’s class as outlined in Lifers: Learning from At-Risk Adolescent Readers and follow WestEd’s Reading Apprenticeship framework, which allows for additional reading practice and dedicated time for reading.

So far, the three sections are going very well. Last Spring, when the teachers began preparing the curriculum, they expressed concern that students would feel stigmatized being placed in Reading Lab. Not so! At all. There’s tons of joy, and so far, the students are joyfully serious.

I can’t wait to tell you more stories from Reading Lab. Social Studies teacher Marni Spitz, contributor to TEACHER VOICES, is one of the three English teachers involved in this project.

+ Hayward: Reading Cohort
Today I attended this year’s first meeting of a teacher-led study team on reading, founded last year by teacher-leader Tess Lantos. This year’s goal for the cohort, which includes the principal and teachers from all disciplines, is to learn how to meet the needs of the school’s lowest-skilled readers.

The teachers will look at the results from the reading diagnostic, which students took a few weeks ago, and each identify five focal students. Then, the teachers will administer the Qualitative Reading Inventory to gain insights about exactly where each student struggles in their reading. From there, the interventions will begin, either in small groups or individually.

I’m very excited by this approach, too, particularly because the cohort includes Social Studies, Math, Science, and Spanish teachers. It’s not a normal thing to see non-English teachers working earnestly to improve their reading instruction.

I am fortunate to work with smart, skilled colleagues who care deeply about their students. My colleagues really get how important reading is for a student’s academic success and overall well-being.

What do you think? Do you have comments or questions? Please leave a brilliant insight! favicon

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Hmm. This is very interesting!

favicon Today I was adding Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers to my students’ Amazon Wishlist, and I came upon something pretty exciting.

Here’s a screenshot:

Kindle Wishlist

Anybody see what I see?

Hint: The “Has” quantity used to be “0.”

Wow, this must mean two things: (1) 4 new Kindles (new!) are arriving soon, and (2) Someone (or some people) donated those 4 Kindles.

Can’t wait to find out. Thank you!

(Side note: At my meeting earlier this week with students in Hayward, three of them said that the only negative about using a Kindle is that the Kindle 2 is not touchscreen. Now all new Kindles are touchscreen!) favicon

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TEACHER VOICES | Michele Godwin, #2

“I’ll try mayonnaise.”

Michele GodwinEd. note: Michele Godwin is beginning her 14th year of teaching high school. She’s back at Leadership High School, where she taught from 2001 to 2008. An English teacher by training and experience, Michele has changed her focus to build a library for Leadership. In addition to her fundraising and library organizing, she is an 11th grade adviser. These are her musings from the past few weeks. Please donate!

favicon Wednesday, 9/3 – 3:30 p.m.
Professional Development. A panel of six junior and senior boys talk to the staff about what it means to teach boys. They are poised and thoughtful and appreciate the opportunity to share their thoughts. When asked, “What do you want us to know about you?” one boy tells us that it takes some time for him to settle into school in the morning, that he must act tough in his neighborhood and on the long commute on BART. He has to let down his guard when he arrives to LHS, and that takes effort.

Wednesday, 9/10 – 1:15 p.m.
Family meeting with an advisee and her parents. We discuss her behavior and the frequency with which she is asked to leave class for disrupting. She describes what “sets her off,” not realizing how “meta” she is being. She is a junior and has run out of time for messing around and not being in class. She knows this, and it adds to her anxiety. The more anxious she is, the more likely she is to lose her temper. It is a cycle of behavior that she struggles to get out of.

Thursday, 9/11 – 4:05 p.m.
No one at school acknowledges the events of 9/11, when my advisees were a year old. I’m reminded: Just because I think something is important doesn’t mean my students do.

Wednesday, 9/17 – 3:45 p.m.
Professional Development and we begin with connections. A teacher shares she is feeling connected to loss and grief. So soon in the school year, and a middle school boy has been stabbed to death because of an argument over social media. Many of our students feel connected to the lost boy, by neighborhood or family or friendship. Others can’t help but see themselves in the boy’s fate. All of us feel the hole in our stomachs where hope is supposed to be.

Thursday, 9/12 – 2:15 p.m.
Another family meeting, this time with a boy, his parents, and a Spanish-speaking translator. When asked to describe his goals for the year, the boy tells me he wants As and Bs. I show him his grades, his transcript, where Cs and Ds live. He falls silent as he gets an earful from the translator, the Spanish teacher and Madre to all. The boy’s parents listen carefully, the boy hangs his head, and Madre tells him, “Only you can make a future for yourself.” I feel bad for him; he wasn’t expecting two advisors. I text him later, asking if he prefers mayonnaise or mustard on his sandwiches. He refuses to respond. I’ll try mayonnaise.

Wednesday, 9:17 – 10:15 a.m.
The first day of the new and improved, school-wide, independent reading program. Every adviser has 25 brand-new books. The students have looked through them, examined their covers, written down the ones they might be interested in. For me, the past two months have led up to this moment. My goal: every student in the school gets lost in a story.

Same day, 2:25 p.m.
I hear from my colleague, who happened to be walking around the school during independent reading time. She says she’s never heard the school so quiet, that she walked into classrooms and every one was reading. I pat myself on the back, but only for a minute. There’s lots more work to do. favicon

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Getting the new Kindle Voyage? Donate your old Kindle to my students!

Kindle Voyage-578-80favicon Wow, the new Kindle Voyage is beautiful.

I’ll be getting one. How about you?

If you get one, I have a proposition: Donate your old Kindle to my students!

For the past four years, generous people from across the country have given me their used Kindles so that I can encourage high school students to read.

My students and I would like you to do the same!

The Kindle Classroom Project now serves 166 students in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Hayward.

If you donate now, your Kindle will be the 167th in the collection!

Donating is really easy. Just fill out a quick form on this page, and then I’ll let you know next steps.

Hope to hear from you soon! favicon

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Recommended Reading: “Why Poor Students Struggle”

favicon I appreciated Vicki Madden’s recent op-ed piece, “Why Poor Students Struggle,” in the New York Times. Her argument is nothing new — that the achievement gap does not explain why poor students have low college graduation rates (see “Who Gets to Graduate,” by Paul Tough). For Ms. Madden, an instructional coach and former teacher, the issue is social and emotional. It’s an issue of belonging.

But the article did get me thinking: What’s the role of a high school, given limited time and resources? Let’s say that a student is poor and enters high school several years below grade level. What’s the best approach?

If you’re a school, what do you do with those four years?

“As the income gap widens and hardens, changing class means a bigger difference between where you came from and where you are going. Teachers like me can help prepare students academically for college work. College counselors can help with the choices, the federal financial aid application and all the bureaucratic details. But how can we help our students prepare for the tug of war in their souls?.”

Source: http://j.mp/1mqecR8 (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Here’s what students in Hayward are reading and saying about their Kindles

EastOfEdenfavicon Today I had my first meeting with about 25 ninth graders from Hayward. It was really fun! The students and I talked books, and they got to share with me their first impressions using a Kindle.

This is what a few of them said:

+ Destiny
Now reading: Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I love the long-lasting battery.”

+ Matthew
Now reading: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like the size management of the letters.”

+ Alex
Now reading: Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like how the Kindle is slim.”

+ Flor
Now reading: What Happens Next, by Colleen Clayton
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like that it has many books I want to read.”

+ Kevin
Now reading: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like that it runs out of battery slowly.”

+ Rogelio
Now reading: East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
Thoughts about the Kindle: “It’s easy to read on.”

+ Luz
Now reading: Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like that you can only use it for reading.”

+ Bamery
Now reading: Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like that it reads to me.”

I enjoyed spending time with the students, getting to know them more, and reiterating my promise: that if they want to read a book that’s not currently in the Kindle library, I’ll purchase it for them.

Plus, I gave each student a business card so they can contact me and spread the word about the Kindle Classroom Projectfavicon

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Go ahead, check out TEACHER VOICES! Or follow me on Twitter! favicon

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Another easy way to promote reading: Make public a list of who’s reading what

favicon Here’s another quick and easy idea to promote reading from the classroom of English teacher extraordinaire Tess Lantos at Impact Academy in Hayward.

Post what students are reading. Make it public. Make it big and put it up on a wall. Like this:

Status of the Class

Tess tracks what her students are reading in a Google spreadsheet. Then, she gets huge paper and prints it out. Simple — and very effective!

With this tracker, students can check out what they’ve read, what their peers have read, and which books are most popular. It also helps Tess recommend books to students and push them to new reading levels.

The tracker also highlights how students tend to read “the biggies,” particularly at the beginning of the year. If you’re a ninth grader, you’re reading John Green, Coe Booth, Allison van Diepen, James Dashner, Luis Rodriguez, Suzanne Collins, and Stanley Tookie Williams.

It’s always better to have more copies of popular titles than a classroom library with wide selection but little depth! favicon

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Things are getting serious! The Kindle Classroom Project gets business cards.

favicon When you have a business card, you know you’re legit. Right?

Well, everyone, it’s time to bask in the Kindle Classroom Project’s legitimacy. Because of the generosity of Iris and Donovan (San Diego, CA), the KCP now has business cards.

And they look absolutely great!

Let’s take a look. Here’s the front:

2014-09-19 10.35.54

And here’s the back:

2014-09-19 10.36.28

I am very, very appreciative of the time, effort, and care that Donovan and Iris put into making these cards. They have been long-time supporters of the KCP, and their enthusiasm for the project never wanes. They’ve also pushed me to think bigger, which is sometimes hard for me.

It’s time that more people learn about the Kindle Classroom Project, and these business cards are a great way to get the word out.

Do you want one? Let me know in the comments!

(Advanced: See what happens if you scan that QR code!) favicon