Monthly Archives: January 2022

Once a reading recovery teacher, always a reading recovery teacher: Jennifer Madrid Interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Once a reading recovery teacher, always a reading recovery teacher: Jennifer Madrid Interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

For the past four years, I’ve been blogging from a centrist point of view. I often defend constructivist-based practices currently under attack from some SOR advocates. Today’s blog provides a perfect lead-in to my upcoming presentation at LitCon. The presentation title is Reading Recovery is a Viable Balanced Approach to Reading. This interview especially speaks to the point that Reading Recovery empowers teachers and helps teachers help students.

Here is what Jennifer had to say about herself:

I was born in Van Nuys, Ca.  Attended LAUSD until bussing started.  My dad moved us to Valencia…a suburb of L.A.  Started kinder at four.  Skipped fourth grade.  (Not a good decision) Graduated from William S. Hart High in 1984.  Went to CSUN from 84-89.  Got clear credentials.  I started teaching fifth grade at Langdon Elementary in North Hills.  Five years into my teaching career, my principal sent me to LACOE for R.R. training. Had no clue what I was in for. It was the best experience of my life (underline is mine- Dr. B).  During this time, I worked for Teachers for a New Era with CSUN.  I had many student teachers and worked at the university. Taught R.R. for six years until I left to care for my two sons.  Two years later (2003) I started at Newhall School District.  Very big culture shock.  I was not happy with the insistence that all kids learn the same.  I would get in trouble for teaching my FBB kids.  I would run workshops and the fidelity I passed on was sugar-coated.  Then, I got endometrial stromal sarcoma around this time.  I was out of everything for two years.  After I got it together, I started tutoring one girl in R.R. This led to another and so on.  My dining room is a R.R. classroom.  During the start of the pandemic, that’s when we really took off. Since I write ridiculous things and posted a few R.R. videos on my page, Comedy Central DMed contacted me.  I thought it was a joke.  They sent us 10,000$.  The kids came for free for about 10 months.  I am so happy to be in the place I am.  I feel honored and privileged to do what I do.  I’m a strict R.R. teacher.  What I mean is, I go by the book.  I collect data.  My kids discontinue and I am absolutely elated for them.

Jennifer and I follow each other on Twitter and have exchanged ideas about teaching. I found Jennifer’s story quite compelling. She’s taught in some of the most challenging areas in Los Angeles. Over the years, she has remained steadfast in her commitment to R.R. Even cancer couldn’t stop her. Now, at an age when many choose to retire, she continues her work with children. She still follows reading recovery precepts in her home-based tutoring. She even got a $10,000 donation to help her carry out her work. Please listen to the interview and watch how she describes her current work. Listen to how she explains her use of sound boxes. Jennifer knows phonics. When she is done with her word-work activities, so do her children. She also knows about sentence production and how to teach children phonics and comprehension through sentence production. She talks about her long-term success with using recovery techniques. She knows about the long-term effects of R.R. because she’s taught long enough to have some of her former students come back as college graduates. Now let’s examine Jennifer’s interview.         

Topic 1- Her background 00:45

Topic 2- Overview of what she does 03:12

Topic 3- Soundbox demo 06:20

Topic 4  Helping students to use sounds in their writing notebook, learning to create sentences  15:00

Final thoughts/Evidence of long term success 19:42

One of my favorite parts of this interview was when Jennifer showed us her “classroom” and her work on the whiteboard (06:20). I felt like I was behind the glass again! Here’s a screen capture:

Over the past few months, I’ve talked to some additional successful and talented recovery teachers. Among them was Susan Vincent, who reported on the long-term success of R.R. in her building LINK, and Jill Speering, who talked about her new book, Rubies in the Rubble, An Educator’s Transformation from Pain to Prominence, From Abuse to Absolution. One of Jill’s stories was how local politics led to the end of her district’s R.R. program. Interestingly enough, other districts snapped up some of her district’s R.R. personnel after that event because those teachers were so well-trained and knowledgeable in the teaching of reading LINK. For decades, we’ve known that good teachers are the key to successful reading programs. Because some folks seem to have forgotten that, one of the things I hope to do in the near future is to report on more stories of successful teachers and what they do. Until then:

Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

An interview of Molly Ness, Featured Speaker at the Write to Learn Conference. Interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

An interview of Molly Ness, Featured Speaker at the Write to Learn Conference. Interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Here are a few facts about Molly Ness taken from the Write to Learn Conference website:

As you can tell from the biography, Dr. Molly Ness is an amazing educator. She is an International Literacy Association board member who is well-published.  Her “End Book Deserts” project facilitates the work of folks trying to get books into the hands of the children who need them the most. BTW- the definition of a book desert is “a geographic area that lacks consistent access to high-quality, affordable, children’s books.” Now let’s see what Molly said about her work to end book deserts and her upcoming Write to Learn presentation. Molly will begin the day on Thursday with a keynote speech about Book Deserts. Then she will present an all-day workshop. It will focus on the nuts and bolts of how to do effective Read-Alouds. It will draw from ideas found in her third book- Think Big with Think-Alouds:

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself  2:30
  2.  Tell us about your website for parents   4:30
  3.  Tell us about your podcast and your books/resources for teachers   4:51
  4. Tell us about what you will be doing/saying at Write to Learn  8:32
  • Closing thoughts 11:01

Here is a link to Molly’s Website LINK

When you go to the website, be sure to check out her free resources for students and families, her webinars for teachers, and her link to her End Book Deserts project.

As indicated, Molly is a featured speaker at the upcoming Write to Learn Conference. After using a virtual format last year, this year’s conference will be live and in person. It is co-sponsored by the Missouri Literacy Association (an ILA affiliate). BTW, I’ll be there for sure, and I’m scheduled to do a breakout session. In addition to Molly, the conference will feature Matthew R. Kay, Kristin Ziemke, and Berit Gordon. The conference is centrally located. It is held in Columbia, Mo. Here is a link to the conference LINK. More information about the conference now follows. Hope to see you there!!!

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2021 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

An alternate explanation as to why reading achievement isn’t where we want it to be.

An alternate explanation as to why reading achievement isn’t where we want it to be

by Dr. Sam Bommarito

The following is from one of my handouts for the LitCon 2022 conference. It asserts that some SOR advocates claims that balanced literacy has failed are ill-founded. They fail to follow the basics of scientific study- that any conclusions about balanced literacy/constructivist practices need to be drawn using a proper sample of districts using those practices with fidelity. More details will follow at my LitCon presentation.

On the one hand, everyone agrees that the current state of reading instruction is not acceptable. SOR advocates claim Balanced Literacy is the root cause of the problems in reading. They view Balanced Literacy as lacking instruction in phonics and the use of orthographic information. Let’s use the two diagrams above to understand why their conclusions are ill-founded and incorrect.

 Diagram one shows “the rocket.” The rocket represents districts actively employing the constellation of instructional practices known as the science of reading. I’ve placed several rockets diagram 2, which represent those districts using SOR with some success. The stars in that same district represent those districts using balanced reading with some success.

 Wait a minute, Dr. Sam. Are you saying there are places where Balanced Literacy (or similar constructivist-based practices) are working? I have blogged extensively on the point that such districts do exist. Today’s constructivist-based balanced literacy programs include phonics instruction and developing students’ ability to use orthographic information. In addition, the extensive data showing the efficacy of these programs relies on more than simply demonstrating improved decoding skills. It also includes demonstrating improved comprehension with direct measurements of comprehension. Too often, some SOR advocates’ exaggerated claims of success are rooted in data that only demonstrates improved decoding skills. Improved decoding skills do not automatically lead to improved comprehension. We’ve known that at least since the NPR report. More details will be provided during the presentation.

So what we have is a situation where some districts are using Balanced Literacy or SOR with some success. HOWEVER, there are many other districts whose programs are not successful. It could be these districts are not doing the programs with fidelity. It could be that they really don’t have coherent programs. The bottom line is that those districts are doing things that just aren’t working. That is the main source of the current literacy problem.

 Let’s look at this issue another way. I can safely say that despite the fact many districts have adopted SOR, things have still not improved satisfactorily. If I said things like that– SOR advocates would immediately say that to get a true picture of what is going on, I have to look at just those districts doing SOR with fidelity. I absolutely agree. HOWEVER, if I do that for SOR, I must also do that for all the districts carrying out some form of balanced literacy practices with fidelity. THOSE DISTRICTS ARE ALSO SUCCESSFUL. Currently, critics of Balanced Literacy are not doing that. Instead of drawing a scientific sample of districts using Balanced Literacy/Constructivists practices with fidelity and then talking about the efficacy of Balanced Reading, they instead include all districts everywhere when they talk about problems in literacy. While this makes for sensational public relations, it makes for very bad science. I think it’s time to call for the SOR folks to use scientific samples of districts using programs with fidelity when talking about the situation in today’s literacy world. Let’s have less PR and more science, please!!!   

Remember that I’m advocating for a centrist position that says we need to look at ALL sides and draw from all sides. My doctoral work, done during the last round of the reading wars, found that when looking at whole language-based teachers vs. phonics emphasis teachers, the two groups of teachers had more practices in common than those that set them apart. Instead of treating this as a winner take all dichotomy, we need all sides to examine all the research. We need to work to find common ground. We need to use common sense to do so.

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2021 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

I’ll be a featured speaker at LitCon in January. LitCon has changed to a virtual format this year. I hope you can come to my session. You can also come for the session I’m doing in collaboration with Paul Thomas. Both have to do with the efficacy of Reading Recovery and the issues surrounding the teaching of beginning reading.

LINK TO LITCON

Link to the tweet about my LitCon Presentation. Once on Twitter, click on the picture to listen to the promotional video. The video takes less than one minute.

LINK

An interview of Jill Speering about her newest book-Rubies in the Rubble, An Educator’s Transformation from Pain to Prominence, From Abuse to Absolution, conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

An interview of Jill Speering about her newest book-Rubies in the Rubble, An Educator’s Transformation from Pain to Prominence, From Abuse to Absolution, conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

As an educator who has a long-standing interest in the best ways to teach beginning reading, I was very happy when I heard that Jill Speering had written her first book. Jill has many years of experience as a teacher and a teacher of teachers. Also, as you can see from her biography, Jill is a longtime advocate and supporter of Reading Recovery. She believes in creating programs that fit the child rather than forcing the children into one size fits all programs. Her book is an autobiography, and that autobiography goes well beyond the issues surrounding best ways to teach beginning reading. It is the story of her whole life, a story of how she overcomes adversity. Here is what one reviewer had to say about this wonderful book (taken from the back cover of the book):

I have to concur. Jill’s story does show hope and promise for us all. It is a story that provides a rigorous defense of Reading Recovery. Before it does that, it also provides us with her story, which gives the reader a roadmap of how to overcome adversity. As Jill points out, overcoming adversity is something that many of the students we serve also must do if they are ever to become readers and writers. Here is a screen capture of the book’s cover and a link to the book:

LINK

Here is a link to the interview:

LINK

Here are the questions we covered. They are timestamped.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. 01:19
  2. Why did you write this book? 02:35
  3. Talk to us as an author. Tell us how your background in learning about writing helped you as you wrote this book. 4:28
  4. Is the book more of a memoir or a biography? 09:33
  5. What do you feel is the most important takeaway for readers of this book? 15:06
  6. In just a few weeks, I will be presenting at LitCon, talking about why RR is a viable approach and why children deserve access to RR (that is a strong position my friend Paul Thomas has taken). Any thoughts about that? Do you agree with Paul and I on the need for children to have access to RR when needed? 15:06 (5 & 6 were covered jointly)

Clarification of things said in the interview:  After Reading Recovery was dismantled by then-Director of Schools Dr. Joseph, all five teacher leaders and administrators left the district or retired. The majority of trained RR teachers left the district! Many were recruited by surrounding districts. 

By the way, Jill will be the keynote speaker at the Delta Kappa Gamma Educational sorority on June 2, 2022, at the University of the South at Sewanee to discuss her book (LINK). As you can tell, the book is becoming quite popular, and I again encourage you to get your copy to find out why.

NEXT WEEK’S BLOG:

Next week I’ll be interviewing Molly Ness. She will be a keynote speaker at the Write to Learn Conference. I am doing a breakout session at that live conference, which is being held in Columbia, Missouri. Information about the conference can be found at the end of the blog. I am also in the process of lining up interviews of other major literacy figures.

I also want to remind you that I will be presenting a session at LitCon on the topic of why Reading Recovery is a viable approach to early reading instruction. Immediately after that session, Paul Thomas will join me for a summary of our respective LitCon presentations, followed by an extended Q & A session. Information about Lit Con can be found at the end of the blog entry. Remember that this year LitCon is a virtual event.

In the meantime- Happy Reading and Writing!

Copyright 2021 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

PS If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

I’ll be a featured speaker at LitCon in January. LitCon has changed to a virtual format this year. I hope you can come to my session. You can also come for the session I’m doing in collaboration with Paul Thomas. Both have to do with the efficacy of Reading Recovery and the issues surrounding the teaching of beginning reading.

Link to LitCon

I’m also presenting in March at the Write to Learn Conference in my home state of Missouri. My session at that Conference is “Helping All Readers (Especially Older Readers) Improve Both Their Decoding and Comprehension Skills.”

In this session, I will share highlights about what makes for effective instruction in decoding and comprehension. I will address what to do for older students who missed out on such effective instruction. Below you will find information about this in-person conference and a link to the conference.

Link to Write to learn