Friday, May 17, 2013


Finding Dulcinea calls itself, "Librarian of the Internet". I receive daily notes on what has happened in history on "this day". Today, they sent me a notice of websites to help young students find information about countries and about all of the states. The link for finding out about countries is . At this site there is a list of web addresses and their contents. From there, you may also connect with the site that provides many web addresses for finding information on our states.

As teachers use the Internet and digital resources more and more routinely with students, I think this clearing house can be a valuable resource. Please share it with teacher colleagues, school and public librarians, and families. Below is an excerpt from the site. I think it demonstrates what a wealth of information is there.

Click on a product name below to check out our free products that
help educators teach students how to use the Web effectively:

School Librarians | Social Studies | Ten Steps to Better Web Research

SweetSearch | SweetSearch4Me | SweetSearch2Day |

findingDulcinea | encontrandoDulcinea | findingEducation

Monday, May 13, 2013

Summer Reading: Changing It Up

Summer reading is more important than ever - at this time, for struggling readers, for disadvantaged children.

As we gear up for the increased challenges of complex text and writing from sources, summer is the perfect time to provide the added practice that many researchers are telling us that our students may need. Summer has the possibility to build stamina and increase fluency, or not.

We all agree that any student who is struggling with fluency or requisite knowledge for grade level learning will benefit from reading over the summer. Without that reading, students will actually lose ground that they simply cannot afford.

Allington and McGill-Franzen, in a 2010 study have identified the striking relationship between low income and summer setback. They indicate in a recent Reading Today article that "80% of the rich/poor achievement gap comes from summer setback". This is a call to action!

In the same article they outline a plan to provide students with books for summer reading. They estimate the cost to be about $50 for each student and suggest that younger students (grades 1-4) will need from 12 to 15 books and older students will need 5-6 books. They identify some key elements that seem to make sense. The key elements include students choosing their own books and adults setting up some sort of activities with the individual children for following up on the book reading. Choice and collaboration are two very important ingredients in motivation and engagement. They have written a book that is available from Teachers College Press at

When I worked as a Principal, I provided a book for every student at every grade level based on teacher recommendation. Clearly that is not enough. If I were a school leader now, I would enlist help through the businesses in the community and parent organizations to provide the suggested number of book choices for disadvantaged students. To that end, our local reading council is hoping to set up a scholarship fund to allow teachers to follow this plan.

In our family, the kids read all the time and sometimes the required summer reading is still a chore, saved until the last minute and completed under duress. Clearly, if even avid readers are put off by required summer reading, our summer reading programs need an overhaul. I think that some amount of choice in the materials and an engaging follow up that could include lively facilitated discussion could be a start.

Here are some suggestions and resources that may help.

Once a week, for nine weeks, over the summer, students read the New York Times online and write a short (350 words or fewer) response to an article of their choice. They enter the response in the contest once a week (nine times) and they also save their responses in a Word document that they submit on the first day of school. They could also post their responses to a local blog.

2. Each faculty member (not just English teachers) picks a book. The students are provided with a list of books from which to choose. On “summer reading day,” students go to the room selected for the book they chose. The teacher selects the assessment for their book—essay, m-c, poster, PP, discussion with rubric, etc.

3. Have the whole school read one book and have the author come in to speak at an assembly early in the year (or Skype with him/her). Assignments could include writing questions for the author.

4. Malden provides a list of books with a similar theme (mostly YA lit.) and has students write about whatever book they chose and how it relates to their own lives.

· Brookline Public Schools Summer Reading List, 2012.

This is an extensive annotated list of titles compiled by librarians in the Brookline (MA) Public Schools and arranged by grade levels (Pk-8) and genres.

· International Reading Association: Children’s Choices and Teachers’ Choices. :

Every fall, IRA publishes an annotated list of favorite books voted on by children and by teachers. This website contains the published book lists from 1998-2013. Books are arranged by grade levels.

· Children’s Book Council:

This site includes several different book lists published by various organizations, such as IRA, National Science Teachers Association, and National Council for the Social Studies. It is especially helpful to locate books for students who prefer nonfiction.

This site contains a variety of book lists for children, including a list of classics from the Horn Book. -- multiple lists, including from IRA, Boston P.S. and more.
Later, I plan to post the article at  If anyone has any additional creative ideas for summer reading, we would love to hear about them and share them with others who are interested. Send ideas to

Allington, R. L. & McGill-Franzen, A. (2013). Eliminating summer reading setback: How can we close the rich/poor reading achievement gap. Reading Today, 30(5), 10-11.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing: A Star is Born

Writing has taken a starring role in the newest edition of the Partnership for the Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) resources called the Model Content Frameworks 2.0. You may access the resources at and, in the latest online documents, you may search exclusively for each grade level as a separate tool.

What is highlighted for daily practice is routine writing. In the past, writing as a learning tool (taking notes, keeping a science notebook etc.) tended to be sidelined in favor of writing to demonstrate learning or communicate (essays, letters, reports etc.). Researchers like Steve Graham emphasize the importance of teaching students how to use writing as a tool for remembering and synthesizing information. In addition, routine writing supports the writing fluency that learners need to be facile with handwriting/typing that aids in the ability to get your thoughts and ideas out fluidly.

Writing is an essential ingredient in the implementation of the 2011 Curriculum Framework. It is integrated with reading, research, and speaking/listening. The writing called for by the standards requires that students have a flexible understanding of how to analyze, summarize, and synthesize knowledge accrued from reading, listening to classmates, stating and defending their own thoughts, and putting additional information with a first or anchor text. What are some of those skills; what is some of the knowledge needed to be successful?

Summarizing texts requires understanding that the author had a purpose and reading the text to demonstrate what those purposes are. Students need many models of annotated text and practice annotating themselves as well as knowledge of how best to record and keep notes for various purposes. Writing about the text deepens the understanding the reader has. Recording notes helps students practice putting important ideas into their own words.

Models of specific texts are helpful as ways for students to deconstruct the elements of various genre.
Students may also be given opportunities to imitate elements such as structure, style, or language. examining text closely improves both reading and writing. It is important to remind students to read as if they are authors and to write with an audience in mind.

Writing can be used a s a tool to analyze and critique texts. Students learn from separating the parts of a text, making connections and interpretations throughout the text, connecting problems with solutions and causes with effects. Teacher questions that send students back into the text to search for such ideas promotes student critical thinking, increasing the building of knowledge. Students link prior knowledge and ideas from other texts on the topic to the propositions in the text being examined. This kind of thinking supports development of argument skills - claims and logical reasoning.

Synthesizing information from several texts builds even greater knowledge and challenges students to make sense of differing ideas. Research requires making choices among texts for those most relevant - a very important skill in itself. Additionally, students need to learn how to organize the information they collect, put it together in a coherent thesis, all while avoiding plagiarism.

Writing is a wonderful star that brings together the biggest standard shifts - increase complexity, build knowledge, and value evidence. Writers become more proficient readers, writers, and speakers. Writing brings it all together.