Author Archives: doctorsam7

About doctorsam7

Working with Dr. Kerns from Harris Stowe on several writing and action research projects. Love workshop teaching and teaching about workshop teaching. I have a blog https://doctorsam7.blog, all about Keys to Growing Proficient Lifelong Readers. I am President of the STLILA and Vice President of the MoILA.

Close Reading with Paired Text: An Interview of Dr. Tim Rasinski & Lori Oczkus

conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Recently I had the honor of interviewing two major figures from the literacy world, Dr. Tim Rasinski and Lori Oczkus. While they really need no introduction, I’ll begin by sharing a few facts about each of them.

Here are a few facts about Tim taken from his biography on his website

•  Timothy Rasinski is a professor of literacy education at Kent State University

•  He is the director of its award-winning reading clinic. He has written over 200 articles and has authored, co-authored or edited over 50 books on curriculum programs in reading education.

•  His research on reading has been cited by the National Reading Panel and has been published in many professional journals.

•  He was the first author of the fluency chapter for the Handbook of Reading Research.

•  He was the co-editor of The Reading Teacher & Journal of Literacy Research.

•  In 2010, Dr. Rasinski was elected into the International Reading Hall of Fame.

This biography  is taken from Lor’s website:

  • Lori Oczkus is a literacy coach, author, and popular speaker across the United States. Tens of thousands of teachers have attended her motivating, fast paced workshops and read her practical, research-based professional books. Lori has extensive experience as a bilingual elementary teacher, intervention specialist working with struggling readers, and staff developer and literacy coach. She works with students in classrooms and knows the challenges that teachers face in teaching students to read!
  • Lori’s best selling books on comprehension and literacy have been featured in the Reading Teacher journal. The third edition of Reciprocal Teaching at Work: Strategies for Improving Reading Comprehension foreword by John Hattie (ASCD, 2018 book and video) features 40 new lessons and is endorsed by many noted reading experts including Donalyn Miller, Tim Rasinski, Doug Fisher, and Regie Routman. Lori has been inducted into the California Reading Hall of Fame for her many contributions to literacy in California and internationally.
  • Lori resides in Reno, Nevada near Lake Tahoe with her husband, Mark. She enjoys spending time with her three grown children, traveling anywhere by any means, reading historical fiction, walking with friends, dancing, and snowshoeing!

As you will hear in the video interview, Tim and Lori’s sessions at ILA have always been well attended, standing room only events. Who wouldn’t want to hear one of the top researchers in the world, and a gifted practitioner talk about their collaborations?  This interview focuses on one of their most effective collaborations- the book series Close Reading with Paired Texts. In the interview, you will find out where the idea for the series came from and how they implemented it. The series is an amazing resource. Using short preselected readings, the series provides teachers with easy-to-implement lessons. Lori will talk about just how effective those lessons have proved to be in the field. There are books spanning KG through High School. The series has multiple uses. Lori and Tim discuss those in the interview. Here are the questions they answered. They are time-stamped so you can go to the questions that interest you the most first. If you are looking for effective, easy-to-implement reading interventions, please do give this interview a look and a listen. The questions asked are as follows:

  1. Would you each tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Tim 00:48

Lori 01:46

  • What is the rationale for the Close Reading with Paired Texts? 04:05
  • Is this a substitute for a regular reading program? 11:44
  • How have teachers and students responded to this program (Lori, I think you have info on this, with improvements in students achievement levels.  14:45
  • Final Thoughts? 22:30

I hope you enjoy the interview. Now here are some additional resources from Lori and Tim.

LORI OZKUS

loczkus52@earthlink.net

www.lorioczkus.com

twitter

@LoriOczkus

Screen Capture of Page One of the  Lori’s PDF

Note Screen capture link to materials is not functional- here is the functional link to the materials:

Close Reading with Paired Texts | Teacher Created Materials

Here is a link to the full 5 page PDF- LOTS of nuts and bolts ideas about implementing this program. It includes one complete sample lesson  LINK

Close Reading with Paired Texts k-12 series  by Lori Oczkus and Timothy Rasinski, Shell 2105 LINK

For Reciprocal Teaching at Work by Lori Oczkus, foreword by John Hattie, 2019 ASCD. LINK

Article with ILA on Close Reading plus video and bookmark LINK

TIM RASINSKI


www.timrasinski.com
 (blog and free resources)

@timrasinski1  Twitter- Tim posts on Twitter every MWF, giving  free resources each day

 Daily Word Ladders by Timothy Rasinski is available at:

https://shop.scholastic.com/teachers-ecommerce/teacher/search-results.html?search=1&prefilter=&text=daily%20word%20ladders

 The Megabook of Fluency is available at:

https://shop.scholastic.com/teachers-ecommerce/teacher/search-results.html?search=1&prefilter=&text=rasinski

 The Fluent Reader can be found at:

https://shop.scholastic.com/teachers-ecommerce/teacher/search-results.html?search=1&prefilter=&text=rasinski

 Resources for Building Students’ Vocabulary and Word Knowledge are available at:

http://timrasinski.com/products.html

Next week I’ll be interviewing Nicki Simonetti, a long-time Dyslexia expert about her new book Dyslexia Defused. Until then:

Happy Reading and Writing,

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.

Dr. B is presenting to beginning teachers in St. Louis today- 1 announcement & then taking a buy week with the blog By Dr. Sam Bommarito

Today I am doing a session for beginning teachers in St. Louis. Will share the contents in a future blog. Next week I have an interview with Tim Rasinski and Lori Oczkus (WOW!). It’s already recorded and I promise you you’ll want to hear what they have to say.  I’m repeating my “early” announcment about Village of Mom’s. See below. Their store is still open!

SPECIAL ANOUNCEMENT- PLEASE SUPPORT THE VILLAGE OF MOMS PARENT GROUP by Dr. Sam Bommarito

I wrote a blog about the Village of Mom’ parent group. I posted that blog last month LINK. The Village of Moms have been having a special promotional event selling t-shirts. They are also accepting donations through a go fund me page to help support their many literacy activities around the St. Louis Region.  The last day for the store for those T-shirts is Thursday November. 4th. I bought one.  Hope you would consider buying one or making a donation. Here is the information about the store:

Here is the link to the store, donation site, and Facebook page. Thanks for considering this!

Link to Village of Mom’s Store- LINK  (EXTENDED THROUGH MONDAY NOV 8th)

Link to Village of Mom’s Go Fund Me Page- LINK

Link to Village of Mom’s Facebook Page LINK

 The store is now close- please do consider a donation through go-fund-me and be sure to visit the facebook page. 

Happy Reading and Writing!

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.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT- PLEASE SUPPORT THE VILLAGE OF MOMS PARENT GROUP by Dr. Sam Bommarito

SPECIAL ANOUNCEMENT- PLEASE SUPPORT THE VILLAGE OF MOMS PARENT GROUP by Dr. Sam Bommarito

I wrote a blog about the Village of Mom’ parent group. I posted that blog last month LINK. The Village of Moms have been having a special promotional event selling t-shirts. They are also accepting donations through a go fund me page to help support their many literacy activities around the St. Louis Region.  The last day for the store for those T-shirts is Thursday November. 4th. I bought one.  Hope you would consider buying one or making a donation. Here is the information about the store:

Here is the link to the store, donation site, and Facebook page. Thanks for considering this!

Link to Village of Mom’s Store- LINK  (EXTENDED THROUGH MONDAY NOV 8th)

Link to Village of Mom’s Go Fund Me Page- LINK

Link to Village of Mom’s Facebook Page LINK

 The store is now close- please do consider a donation through go-fund-me and be sure to visit the facebook page. 

Happy Reading and Writing!

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.

It’s not settled science part two: My way of teaching, empowering teachers, and using the reading quilt by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Those of you who read my blog regularly know I am a centrist. Life in the center is not always easy. However, nothing worthwhile ever is. At the heart of things, I believe in empowering teachers. It’s been over five decades since the First Grade Studies demonstrated that teachers made more difference than particular programs LINK. Simple takeaway- good teachers get good results. Does this mean good teachers can do whatever they please? Hardly. Teachers must operate within the boundaries of the curriculum their district chooses to adopt. Districts are in the best position to decide what that curriculum should be. That is why I am highly critical of recent attempts (some of them successful) to effectively ban certain practices by codifying those bans in state and national law. Doing it that way takes away the district’s right to choose. Doing it that way assumes the districts are incapable of making good choices themselves. But Dr. Sam, aren’t things really bad? Aren’t there too many children not learning to read? The simple answer is yes- but as in all things related to research, the devil is in the details. Have a look at these diagrams  taken from my blog It’s Not Settled Science LINK:

Diagram one shows The Rocket a takeoff on Moat’s latest work about SOR, and the other diagram represents all the practices in districts around the US. There is no question that overall, the “all the practices” model is not working.  Moats says we should get rid of all that and replace it exclusively with her practices. She promises great results if we do.

I’ve written extensively, talking about the limits and limitations of the so-called Science of Reading LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK. The upshot is that SOR’s “miracle results” are often based on testing instruments that mainly test decoding. This is not the only problem. In my opinion, the Florida and Louisiana models that include student retention should be discontinued. Retention is a harmful practice. NCTE cited studies that demonstrate that is so. My new friend Paul Thomas is the real expert on this issue. Please visit his blog and search for his writings about retention LINK.   

Let’s now talk a little more about the SOR blogs contained in the series of links I just gave. It is clear from the many citations in the various blogs that there is NOT a consensus among researchers on what to do about reading instruction. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay close attention to what Moats and her followers have to say. As a matter of fact, many of the things I am recommending to teachers next week come from some of the things she and her followers have to say. However, at the end of the day, the current brand of SOR is over-dependent on what I call “wind tunnel test” data and sorely lacking in what I call “flight test data.” Translation- they are attempting to use preliminary testing, e.g., the testing in brain research that some researchers have labeled speculative. Moats and her followers treat that research as gospel and ready to implement and use. They want to skip the part where they do what I call the “flight test data,” which is data from actually flying the plane. In the case of education, the gold standard for such testing would be several years of district-wide use with results measured by tests of reading (not decoding). Those tests of reading should resemble the kind of testing used in many states- tests that include direct measurements of comprehension. Regardless of whose materials districts choose to adopt (assuming they are given any choices at all), they should ensure that the product will deliver in BOTH decoding and comprehension. That means they must use gold standard data to make the decisions. I’ll restate one more time for emphasis that such decisions properly belong at the district level. Districts know the particulars of their populations. But Dr. Sam- haven’t districts been making decidedly bad choices? Isn’t that the problem?

No, it’s not.

Here is my interpretation of the current situation:

The rockets represent districts adopting SOR successfully. The stars represent districts using balanced reading practices such as workshop or reading recovery successfully (I am presenting RR at LitCon in January with lots of data showing successful RR programs exist). The circles represent successful programs not using things that readily fall into the first two categories. There is even a “dare to dream” entry representing districts using elements of both. The gray represents the real problem- districts not employing any effective practices at all. That is the source of the lack of progress in reading. But wait, Dr. Sam, are you saying that there is such a thing as districts using Balanced Literacy successfully? Yes. Look at Lucy Calkin’s latest research results LINK. By the way, the ink doesn’t get dry on reporting such results before the naysayers swarm and find a thousand things wrong with how they were done. Balanced Literacy folks could return fire and do the same for successful SOR sites (and yes, there are a few reporting real comprehension results instead of the bogus decoding results). Going down the dichotomy path is guaranteed to produce a stalemate dead end. My point is this. It’s time to abandon the reading wars as an ill-advised metaphor and consider adopting what Camborne has called the Quilt Metaphor. Let’s stop asking what’s wrong with reading instruction for a while and instead turn our attention to what’s right. Let’s consider using Camborne’s quilt metaphor to guide our talk around best practices. Here is an excerpt from an article he wrote for a state reading journal (and yes, I am the journal’s co-editor). The full article can be accessed here LINK.

Simply put, there is a quilt of reading practices. There can be many additions to the quilt. To remain on the quilt, the practices must prove that they work consistently. Working means they help students decode and comprehend.  We must be open to the fact that some of our favorite practices may, in the end, not prove worthy. There was a time when I taught about learning styles. In light of things that Nell Duke and others have found I no longer promote teaching about learning styles. However, there are some practices that really do work but are falling victim to a public relations campaign designed to replace them with the so-called Science of Reading. Remember that some researchers have criticized SOR as having a narrow and limited view of the reading process. I predicted three years ago that if that that SOR campaign succeeded, the result would ultimately be another swing of the pendulum LINK. This is because, like all its predecessors, the “Rocket” (SOR) works for some but not for all. The “not for all” folks will sooner or later call for new changes. There have been many such swings in the past, some of them quite costly. If current SOR practices replace everything else, I predict that the swing will come again. Let’s get out of the dead-end dichotomy approach. Let’s instead look at what’s working. Let’s let districts have the choice to pick from what’s working. It’s time for us to use the reading quilt as our new metaphor and replace the great debate with the great reading dialogue.

Next week’s blog title is It’s not settled science part three: Empowering teachers, using the reading quilt, practices I suggested to beginning teachers. Included will be such things as using both decodables and predictables, how to avoid younger students just memorizing little books, good resources for teaching beginning reading, good resources for older students who did not get sufficient work in decoding, good resources for students who did not get sufficient work in comprehension, and writing our way into reading- how Language Experience works. After that blog entry, I will return to my interviews, and I am excited to announce that I will interview Tim Rasinski and Lori Ozkus about the books they have published together.

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.

Cambourne’s Model of Learning gives students what they deserve: Informed, empowered teachers who provide them with literacy instruction that fits their needs by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Over the past three years, I’ve written a great deal about the issues surrounding the so-called reading wars. One of my mantras during that time has been that we should fit the program to the child, not the other way around. My new friend Paul Thomas gave me the idea for another goal. That goal is to give the student what they need LINK. We’ll both have more to say about that at our upcoming sessions at LitCon LINK.

At the end of the day, what students need most are informed, empowered teachers who are given the freedom to carry out literacy instruction that best fits each particular child. This is especially critical in Tier 2 and Tier 3 instruction. There is long-standing research supporting this approach. One example is the First Grade Studies. It has been over 50 years since the First Grade Studies established the fact that teachers matter more than programs. Good teachers tend to get good results. See page 5 of the ILA position paper on Reading Difficulties for more details. LINK. That same position paper details what appropriate literacy instruction looks like: Here is a screen capture from pages 4 and 5 of that document.

This week, I attended a webinar given by Debra Crouch and Brian Cambourne about Cambourne’s model of learning. Cambourne created the model based on years of structured observations designed to uncover what makes for effective teaching. I interviewed Debra and Brian when their new book came out LINK. The book’s title was Made For Learning.  It gives the eight conditions of learning and explains how to apply Cambourne’s model to everyday teaching. If the information in the preceding section about appropriate instruction gives us an idea of what the literacy instruction should be, Cambourne’s model gives us ideas on how to carry out that instruction in the most effective ways possible.  Here is the model:

During the webinar, Brian explained the workings of the model while Debra provided several videos of her applying the model in actual classroom settings. Among the more compelling pieces was the one where she scaffolded a group of 1st graders into an in-depth discussion of a book entitled Animals in Danger: Orangutans. She did not lead the discussion. She facilitated the discussion. The students were deeply engaged in the task. The expressions on their faces were priceless. They were smiling, and all were actively engaged. This was not at all an accidental outcome. It took careful planning, and Debra was a masterful coach. She shared her secrets of how she was able to help this group carry out the discussion. The book Brian and Debra co-authored gives many such examples of how to teach in a way that uses the eight conditions of learning. It is a perfect example of how theory can and should guide practice, practice which supports change for the better. Here is information about their book.

Here is a link to the website where you can purchase the book LINK.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be interviewing other literacy leaders. I’ll also be talking about some of the free P.D. that the Missouri Literacy Association and the St. Louis Literacy association will be providing. Be sure to visit the MLA website LINK and the MLA Facebook LINK page for the latest information on what is going on and what free P.D. opportunities are available to you.

So, until next week: Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the empowered, informed teacher trying to give his students the instruction they need.

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.

Spotlight on the Village of Moms and the wonderful literacy work they are doing- by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Spotlight on the Village of Moms and the wonderful literacy work they are doing- by Dr. Sam Bommarito

There are many wonderful literacy initiatives and literacy organizations around the St. Louis region. In the coming weeks, I’ll be interviewing individuals from the St Louis area who help make these projects possible. I’ll also be doing some interviews with literacy leaders from around the country. My interview today is the first in this series. I’m talking to Mia and Alisha the cofounders of the Village of Moms. Here’s a little bit of information about the Village of Moms.

More details about how Mia and Alisha established this amazing organization can be found in the video interview. Both women are concerned parents who live in a high-poverty area. They are community activists. They wanted to do something to help the families living in their area that includes more than just help with literacy. Their help includes giving the families support in everyday living. Notice how they gave away over 4,000 diapers at their most recent literacy event and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what families received (see the pics of the event at the end of the blog). In the way of full disclosure- I have long been a supporter of VOM and I’ve been to several of their community events over the years. Our ILA members helped to distribute books and other materials from both the state and the national ILA organizations. In addition to the state and national ILA organizations, many other different organizations help. These include Turn the Page, several regional libraries, Parents as First Teachers and the list goes on and on. Village of Moms does more than just the annual events. Listen to the interview and review the pictures and links that come after the interview. Those links include ways you can support their efforts if you want.

Now it is time to have a look at the interview. Here are the topics we discussed. They are time stamped.

1. Please introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about your personal background. 00:40

2. Give us a quick overview of Village of Moms and explain how it came to be. 07:05

What is its purpose? – see the after-interview pics

Include talking about your partners (St. Louis Black Authors, Turn the Page, etc.)- see the after-interview links

Explain how the Village of Moms helps the cause of literacy in the St. Louis area. 15:42

3. Tell us about your latest event. 18:29

4. Tell us about what you hope to do in the schools in the coming years. 28:45

Wasn’t that an amazing story!?!  One small pebble in a pond can cause ripples in the whole pond. These two women and their organization have done so much for the community they live in. It is a community they understand well. They understand the importance of children having access to books, books that are relevant to them, books that reflect their heritage and culture. They understand the needs of the whole village. Their work helps the whole village. What follows now are pictures and links that highlight their work. As indicated some of the links will allow you to support their good work.

Link to Village of Mom’s Facebook Page LINK

Link to Village of Mom’s Store- LINK

Link to Village of Mom’s Go Fund Me Page- LINK

Links to some of the St. Louis Area Organizations that support Village of Moms

  • St. Louis Black Authors LINK
  • Turn the Page- St. Louis LINK
  • Ready to Learn- St. Louis LINK

Thanks for listening. It really does take the whole village to raise the child. Be on the lookout in the coming weeks for more information on what some of the organizations in the St. Louis Region are doing to promote literacy in our area. In addition, I also hope to interview some other literacy leaders from around the country. If you know of organizations or individuals who are making a difference in your area please let me know.

Until next time- Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka proud member of the “village” of St. Louis

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.

Free Professional Development and a free book for every registrant- Have a look at upcoming events from ILA-MO and ILA-STL by Dr. Sam Bommarito

The Missouri Literacy Association and The St. Louis Regional Literacy Association have a couple of FREE professional development opportunities coming up. One of them is not only free, but it also offers a free copy of a book to each of the first 500 registrants. Here are the details about the two events.

The first event is this Tuesday night, October 12th, 5-6 pm CST. It is being sponsored by several agencies from the St. Louis region, including the MLA and STLRA. Not only have the agencies arranged for a great speaker, but they were also able to get funding to buy 500 copies of the book from the series. Those copies will be free and go to the first five hundred Zoom registrants (see details in the flyer below). There are still copies of the book left- but if you want one, don’t delay. Register today!

The speaker for the event is Dr. Stephen G. Peters, the immediate past president of the International Reading Association. The host for the event is Julius B. Anthony, President of St. Louis Regional and Vice President of the Missouri Literacy Association. Dr. Gates will be talking about his book Do You Know Enough About Me to Teach Me? Here is a link to register and a screen capture of the flyer for the event.

LINK

The Missouri Literacy Association sponsors the other free P.D. As the registration link indicates, Cambourne & Crouch will do an in-depth investigation of the nuances of Cambourne’s model, The Conditions of Learning. When I interviewed Cambourne and Couch last month, LINK, my friends’ and colleagues’ feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Teachers loved the model and said it helped to make them better teachers. Several of my friends currently teach literacy courses and they indicated that they would include the model as part of their coursework. The key to it all is that the model “illustrates teacher decisions that nourish a discourse of ‘meaning-making.'” Please join us for this FREE session!

LINK

So, it is going to be a busy month this month. I’m proud to say I am the past president of both the St. Louis and Missouri ILA organizations, and in the way of full disclosure, I still serve on both boards. I’m proud that the ILA affiliates in our state have been able to arrange for this free professional development. That is something many of you have been asking for, and now it is available. I hope to see all of you there for both of these amazing upcoming events.

Happy Reading and Writing

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 interview with Dr. Heidi Anne Mesmer: Her books and upcoming webinar by Dr. Sam Bommarito

This week I had a chance to interview Dr. Heide Anne Mesmer. We talked briefly about two of her books and her upcoming webinar for the International Literacy Association LINK. This session is being sponsored by Curriculum Associates, please do drop by their website LINK. I will be the host for the webinar, which is being held online on October 13th, 5-6 pm E.T. Here is Heidi’s bio.

LINK

As you can see, Heidi is a classroom teacher turned professor and researcher. As a researcher, she has published in many prestigious peer-reviewed journals, including the Reading Research Quarterly. Her background gives her a unique perspective on things. She sees things as a classroom teacher, reading professor and reading researcher. Nell Duke is the editor of one of her books. Like Dr. Duke, she is a researcher who goes where the research takes her, even if that means challenging some long-held favorite beliefs.  In the upcoming webinar, she will give us ideas on how to make our instruction in decoding stronger. What I like most is that she is talking to us both as researcher and as a classroom teacher during the interview. As a former classroom teacher, she promises her webinar will give us specifics on things we can “use next Monday morning.”  That is something I always look for when picking PD sessions. More importantly, what she suggests is well-grounded in current research. 

What follows next is a link to the YouTube version of the video, a time-stamped list of the questions asked during the interview and a link to two of her books about teaching decoding, one of which is literally “hot off the press.” I also included a link to Phonics Faux Pas, an article Heidi co-authored with Nell K. Duke. That article talks gives a good overview of missteps to avoid when teaching phonics. The two books are a treasure trove of resources and ideas. They include links to videos that demonstrate the teaching methods she discusses being carried out in actual classroom settings. Here are the questions we covered in the interview:

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? (1:12)
  2. Why do you want to talk about Accelerating? (2.55)
  3. Tell us aboutDecoding and Letter Instruction? (3:00)
  4. What do you mean by “Accelerate?” (6.24)
  5. What can teachers expect to get from your session? (11.23)
  6. What do you think needs more focus?in this area? (14.32)

LINK TO BOOK

LINK TO BOOK

LINK TO BOOK

LINK TO WEBINAR

I’ll end by saying I’ve been working with some Kg and 1st-grade teachers and their students this year. Heidi’s book Letter Lessons and First Words has been an invaluable resource for me. I can’t wait for my copy of her newest book Alphabetics for Emerging Readers, to arrive. I also can’t wait for Heidi’s webinar. Since I am hosting that event (I’m sooooooooo excited about that!), I’ll have a front-row seat. Hope to see all of you there on October 13th, 5-6 pm E.T. Until next time:

Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito (the guy who just got to add “webinar host” to his resume!)

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.

In Memoriam: Linda Dorn: Her life, her legacy- on the 2nd anniversary of her passing by Dr. Sam Bommarito

It has been two years since the world of literacy lost Linda Dorn. However, her legacy endures. I am devoting this blog entry to Linda. I include three things- A link to the Missouri Reader’s issue dedicated to Linda, a link to her final book, and a reposting of the blog entry I made at the time of her passing, with contributions from William Kerns and Glenda Nugent. Know that Linda’s legacy is important and that it is up to all of us to keep it alive.

Special Edition of the Missouri Reader (a peer-reviewed state journal of the Missouri Literacy Association an ILA affiliate)

https://joom.ag/BuLe

Her final book- co-authored with Adrian Klein and Carlo Soffos

https://www.stenhouse.com/content/comprehensive-intervention-model

(Reposting of the original blog entry)

In Memoriam: Linda Dorn: Her life, her legacy

The literacy world has lost a giant. Linda Dorn passed away this week. She was a great educator, teacher, and person. Two of my literacy friends have very close ties to Linda.  Glenda Nugent is my fellow co-editor for the Missouri Reader. Glenda was the Program Manager for Reading at the Arkansas Department of Education at the same time Linda Dorn developed many of her projects.  In the course of that, Glenda got to know Linda and her work very well.  She and Linda became close friends over the years.  Dr. William Kerns, my blogging partner recently joined the faculty of the School of Education of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in Linda’s Department. In the dedication that follows, he tells of how Linda reached out to him after he joined the faculty this year.  In light of the very close ties my two colleagues have with Linda Dorn I feel it is appropriate to turn the rest of this blog entry over to them. I know Linda Dorn will be sorely missed. But her legacy will live on because of the lives she touched and the people she inspired. Let’s now hear from two of those people.

In Memory of Linda Dorn

Glenda Nugent

There are many things I could say about my friend and colleague, Linda Dorn, but in Linda’s and Carla Soffos’ book, Shaping Literate Minds, this quote is one of my favorites: “Teachers must hold a flexible theory-one that can be reshaped and refined according to what children are showing us as they engage in the process of learning.” Linda was masterful at using research and her knowledge of children and how they learn to refine and reshape teacher practice to find what works best for each child. She will be deeply missed.

In Memory of Linda Dorn

William Kerns

Linda Dorn’s legacy is one of passion and dedication. Kindness. Compassion. A commitment to excellence in education.

It is difficult for me to find the words in this tribute. I never had the honor of meeting Linda. I joined the faculty of the School of Education of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock this fall semester. Linda did reach out to me. She helped me to feel welcome. I am of the belief that a person’s life isn’t to be found so much on a list of accomplishments that can be listed on a CV (and Linda does have quite the list of accomplishments), but in the goodness and kindness of that person. Everything that I have learned of Linda is the story of a truly kind, and good, person, self-sacrificing and dedicated to making the lives of others better. She made a difference.

Learning never stops. This is true for students but also for each of us. As we honor Linda’s legacy, I believe that a commitment to continue learning together is a good place to start. “Learning is meaningful, purposeful, self-directed, and generative, for it leads to new discoveries and new knowledge” (Dorn & Soffos, 2001, p. 17).

All one must do is listen to the stories that can be told by her colleagues and friends. Her former students. When I spend time at the School of Education of her beloved UA-Little Rock, I see colleagues who are striving to honor her legacy by continuing the work of delivering excellent teacher education, yet it is a struggle to contain emotions any time there is a reminder of Linda. Be it a reminder of joy, commitment, hard work, or grief at her loss. One thing is obvious, Linda was the heart of the School of Education at UA-Little Rock.

Yet another point is also clear. Linda’s legacy will live on in the commitment that she inspired. It is a commitment to carefully planned, thoughtful and caring instruction. She was a champion of a well-balanced literacy instruction with carefully structured, varying activities, differentiated according to the needs and interests of the student. “A balanced literacy curriculum consists of five interrelated components: (1) reading books to children, (2) independent reading, (3) shared reading, (4) writing about reading, and (5) guided reading” (Dorn & Jones, 2012, p. 29). Linda was also a champion of ensuring that teachers have the training, the skill, and the ongoing support structure to successfully implement a balanced literacy curriculum. “A balanced reading program includes a range of literacy activities, carefully selected materials for each activity, and a responsive teacher who knows how to structure literacy interactions that move children to higher levels of understanding” (Dorn & Jones, 2012, p. 34).

Too often, social-constructivist approaches are misunderstood as promoting a free for all, in which the teacher lets children guess and fumble with no guidance or support or even an understanding of purpose. That is far from the truth of the matter. Teachers are, in fact, actively monitoring and guiding students through careful use of assessment that informs the learning activities. “When teachers coach children to apply flexible strategies during their reading and writing activities, children learn problem-solving processes with generative value for working out new problems” (Dorn & Soffos, 2001, p. 5).

The risk of making mistakes should not curtail learning. Guidance through acts of problem-solving will enable a student to develop deeper levels of skill and understanding of concepts. “Higher-level development occurs as a result of the problem-solving attempts. Neural growth happens because of the process, not the solution” (Dorn & Jones, 2012, p. 27).

Literacy instruction as advocated by Dorn is varied, active, even fun, but also intellectually rigorous. “In a well-balanced literacy program, teachers create flexible and varied opportunities for children to work at both assisted and independent levels. In whole group assisted events, teachers will have to make compromises in their instruction, that is, teach to the instructional needs of the class majority. During small group reading and writing events, teachers can provide students with focused instruction that is aimed at the strengths and needs of a similar population. During reading and writing conferences, teachers are able to provide intensive support that is personalized for the individual student. Through these diverse instructional settings, children receive varying degrees of teacher assistance on related types of tasks.” (Dorn & Soffos, 2001, p. 9).

This is a time to grieve but also a time to celebrate. The legacy of Linda lives in all those reading this blog. It lives in her former students. It lives in teachers and in colleagues inspired by her work. It lives in her friends whose lives she so deeply touched. The torch has been passed. The rest is up to each of us.

Works Cited

Dorn, L.J. & Soffos, C. (2001). Shaping literate minds: Developing self-regulated learners. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse.

Dorn, L.J. & Jones, T. (2012). Apprenticeship in literacy: Transitions across reading and writing, K-4 (Second Edition). Portland, Maine: Stenhouse.

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. Thanks again to William Kerns and Glenda Nugent for their contributions to the original blog post.

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.

P.P.S. I’ve already arranged the first of several interviews of various literacy leaders. The first of these will be published next week.

It’s Not Settled Science or Rocket Science, and It’s Not Your Science, It’s Our Science: A Centrist’s Perspective on the Reading Wars. By Dr. Sam Bommarito

It’s Not Settled Science

Many well-credentialed researchers have indicated “we are not there yet” in developing the one true, everyone-agrees-on-it science of reading.

For instance, the researchers writing in the recent special editions of the Reading Research Quarterly have said it’s not settled science https://www.literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/resource-documents/rrq-sor-executive-summary.pdf?sfvrsn=2561bc8e_6&sfvrsn=2561bc8e_6

Researchers of the National Education Policy Center have said it’s not settled science https://nepc.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/publications/FYI%20Ed%20Deans%20reading.pdf

David Reinking, Victoria J. Risko and George G. Hruby have said it’s not settled science.  See their interview in the Washington Post, where they give considerable research to back up that point of view. All three of them are researchers with excellent credentials and long histories in the field of research.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/01/26/readingwars-scienceofreading-teaching/?fbclid=IwAR2W1f15WjXiZ7ymdGldr9KLwl0MVpHLoB7kDkVpBA-a2dtb5ESHV5l8M-

Dr. George Hruby from the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development also created a brief U Tube Video indicating that it is not settled science. (The video is a headline service- also see Dr. Hruby’s considerable work on this issue for the details) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Lan72cVDRg

There are simply too many well-credentialed researchers questioning the conclusions of the so-called Science of Reading group for that group to claim that the issues around the teaching of reading are settled.  This excerpt from the Washington Post article cited earlier sums that position up the best:

“Phonics is the prime example. Few legitimate experts on teaching reading oppose teaching children phonics. Despite a timeworn narrative, there is no sharply drawn battle line dividing experts who completely support or completely oppose phonics.

Instead, reasonable differences exist along a continuum.  (Emphasis is mine) On one end are those who see phonics as the foundation of learning to read for all students. To them, phonics — lots of it — is the essential ingredient that ensures success for all students learning to read, and it must be mastered before other dimensions of reading are taught.

On the other end are those who see phonics as only one among many dimensions of learning to read — one that gains potency when integrated with meaningfully engaged reading and writing, with vocabulary and language development, with instruction aimed at increasing comprehension and fluency, and so forth. (For an extended discussion, click on this.)

Underlying that continuum is the question of whether a deficiency in phonics is at the root of virtually all reading difficulties, or whether, like many medical conditions (e.g., heart disease), those difficulties have multiple etiologies, including external factors, such as impoverished school resources to support students.

There are also reasonable professional differences about what phonics instruction should look like, how much of it is necessary, for whom, under what circumstances, and how it connects with other aspects of reading. But there is no justification for characterizing these differences as a “reading war” between those who believe in phonics and those who don’t.”

It’s not just your Science (rocket science)

Most prominent in the attempt to lay exclusive claim to the term “Science of Reading” are the followers of Dr. Louise Moats. She restated her position on the teaching of reading in a report entitled Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science, 2020 .  This document is an update of a title by the same name published over 20 years ago. Here is a link to a pdf of that report LINK.

This is a key takeaway from that report:

Widely Used Programs Are Uninformative or Misleading Inadequately prepared novice teachers often find themselves dependent on the information given in the teachers’ manuals that accompany virtually all commercially available reading programs to learn about spoken and written language concepts and to generate strategies for teaching students to read. Many of the most widely used classroom teaching manuals and materials in language arts omit systematic teaching about speech sounds, the spelling system, or how to read words by sounding them out. The most popular programs being used today are relatively strong on literature, illustrations, cross-disciplinary thematic units, and motivational strategies for children, but very weak or simply wrong when it comes to the structure of the English language and how children actually learn to read the words on the page.26 Ideally, students should be asked to apply code-based skills during reading, spelling, and writing, and there should be sufficient time prescribed for instruction in all essential components.

Her followers have attacked balanced literacy practices, including but not limited to attacks on Reading Recovery, Reading and Writing Workshop, and Guided Reading. Lately, the attacks have become more and more vitriolic. Practitioners using balanced literacy practices are vilified if they try to defend those practices on social media. The practices are referred to as “failed practices.” Anyone defending them is viewed as a liar or worse. Defenders are subjected to ridicule, sarcasm, and name-calling. This myth of failed practices has been repeated so often on social media and other places that it has become widely believed. BTW this is a variation on the public relations tactic known as the big lie. Instead of the big lie- it is the big half-truth. More on that in a minute. Let’s sum up the situation this way:

So, a shiny new rocket will replace all the current dismal practices, and all will be well. The circle representing current practices is grey, denoting the array of practices being used in districts today and the fact that they are all failing by and large. Sounds plausible. There are several huge problems about this view that we  will now discuss. First, like all its predecessors before, the shiny new rocket works for SOME, not for ALL students. The statistics “proving” the SOR works have been subject to many challenges, including those made by my new friend and future co-presenter, Dr. P.L. Thomas LINK.

Given that, students for whom the shiny new rocket doesn’t work will eventually begin viewing it as the dismal grey rocket. That will eventually lead to a new pretender coming to do battle with the proponents of the shiny new rocket. And the pendulum of instruction will swing yet again. My very first blog about the reading wars is on exactly that point LINK. Here’s an alternate way of looking at this conundrum.

It’s Our Science, the Sciences of Reading- btw the “s” is there on purpose

The term Science of Reading belongs to ALL of us following science, and there are many different credible views of what constitutes science. What follows is my centrist’s perspective on the Reading Wars.

The shiny new rocket won’t work for all. It has no room on board for the Word Callers.  It is only powered by half of the available engines. It has synthetic phonics but effectively rejects analytic phonics. Yet research indicates that when done systematically, both forms of phonics work LINK. It uses quantitative research and effectively rejects all qualitative research viewing that as a weaker form of research. In point of fact, qualitative research is actually a different form of research, a form of research that seems perfectly suited to the incredibly complex phenomena we study in education and the even more complex environment in which these phenomena play out. As a centrist, I look at ALL the research, both quantitative and qualitative. Looking at  just quantitative research gives a limited and limiting view of the phenomena being studied. We need the information provided by both kinds of research in order to try to make some sense of what goes on as we go about the complex business of educating children.

And by the way, there is plenty of evidence that the so-called “failed practices,” in fact, can and do work for many many children. Consider the example of Reading Recovery. I’ve written about that many times LINK, LINK, LINK. Be warned that the charge that its learning doesn’t stick fails to account for what happens when the students return to the main program of a district LINK.  Also, look at the recent results from Calkin’s workshop projects. LINK. That just doesn’t look like failed practices to me. And there’s lots more where that came from. Perhaps teachers from districts where things are going well (and there are many such districts) might want to share some of what is happening in their district. That invitation is to teachers in districts using practices inspired by SOR and teachers in districts using practices inspired by BL. Most especially, it is made to teachers in districts using combinations of the two.

In my 50 plus years in education, I’ve had a lot of direct experience with programs using practices suggested by balanced literacy. Overall that experience has shown that BL practices can and do work when carried out with fidelity and adjusted for local circumstances. In the mid-1980s, three different Title 1 reading programs I worked in were found to be exceptionally effective by the Secretary of Education. They were given the Secretary’s Award- placing them in the top 1/10 of 1 percent of the programs of the time. At the turn of the current century, circa the year 2000, one of those programs was replaced with a basal known for its structured approach to phonics. Over the next few years, reading scores for the district plummeted. Moving into more recent times, when awards went out to top districts for exceptional programs in education in my state of Missouri- several of the districts named were known for their use of Balanced Literacy programs. I’ve done in-service work for districts using F&P, and the reading scores were more than satisfactory.

BTW some advocates of the so-called SOR tried to explain the phenomena of districts with successful BL practices by saying that some students learn regardless of the methods used (TRUE). They then say that the success of BL practices can be explained by it being created by students who would have learned anyway (FALSE). Why do I say false? How plausible is it that ALL of the gains/success in the districts I’ve just talked about were from students that would have learned anyway? Hmmm, top 1/10 of 1 percent of all districts nationally and three different times, I was lucky enough to be working in districts that were comprised of kids who would have learned anyway in our district during those years. Really? 

I talked to some people in a Twitter thread I’ve been involved in in the past couple of weeks about their attempt to spread this half-truth about the success of BL being built solely on scores from kids who would have done well anyway. I asked them for an actual study to prove that contention. I got many excuses about why such a study isn’t possible, but no links to a properly implemented study. In addition, they were also unable to provide studies based on a sample of districts using BL practices with fidelity showing that BL doesn’t work. BTW- without such a study, they have no right to call BL a failure. I’ll be talking more about what such a study might look like in the next section. So, let me now suggest a slightly different way of analyzing today’s situation. I’m using the same grey circle of current practices but adding something missing from the first model. I’ll be using my model to explain why I think there is hope for finding some common ground and common practices.

Finding common ground and practices: Is it a lost cause, or is there hope?

When I interviewed my newfound friend and colleague P.L. Thomas,  LINK, as part of my preparation for the upcoming LitCon Conference,  he indicated that he was less hopeful than I seemed to be about finding common ground. On the one hand, if finding common ground relies on a dialogue between the two sides at the far ends of the continuum mention by David Reinking et al., there is almost no hope. Both sides are so entrenched in their beliefs, and both are so convinced the other side is totally and utterly wrong that there is no room for any real dialogue. Let’s look over my current situation model and see if some hope can be found by looking at things from the middle.

Being a teacher, I added gold stars, gold circles and gold rockets to the grey circles of districts carrying out practices that aren’t working. Teachers always seem to like gold stars! There’s a bit more to it than that. Within that sea of districts doing things poorly or doing things not at all, there are districts doing things well and doing them with fidelity. Some of them use practice inspired by BL (gold stars) and others by SOR (gold rockets).  Maybe some of them do things inspired by other views about the learning process (gold circles). Let’s also remember that some of them are being inspired to carry out practices based on more than one point of view, e.g., the rocket & star inside the same black circle.  P.D. Pearson had something important to say about that final group. This quote is from the National Education Policy Center document referenced earlier in this blog entry LINK:

“This back and forth, however, was never helpful for children or meaningful in terms of classroom instruction. As David Pearson wrote in 2004:

‘Interestingly, the debate, accompanied by its warlike metaphors, appears to have more life in the public and professional press than it does in our schools. Reporters and scholars revel in keeping the debate alive and well, portraying clearly divided sides and detailing a host of differences of a philosophical, political, and pedagogical nature. Teachers, by contrast, often talk about, and more important enact, more balanced approaches. For example, several scholars, in documenting the practices of highly effective, highly regarded teachers, found that these exemplary teachers employed a wide array of practices, some of which appear decidedly whole language in character (e.g., process writing, literature groups, and contextualized skills practice) and some of which appear remarkably skills-oriented (explicit phonics lessons, sight word practice, and comprehension strategy instruction). Exemplary teachers appear to find an easier path to balance than either scholars or policy pundits.’ “

Research demonstrates that exemplary teachers use both. What a concept!

I use diagram two to explain my call for research demonstrating the efficacy (or lack of it) when evaluating BL.  To do a proper study of BL, one must draw a sample of districts using BL practices with fidelity. The practices must be ones that current proponents of BL advocate (not strawmen practices circa the 1960s). The measurements used must include a direct measure of reading comprehension. If you want to make it a comparative study, you must also draw a like sample of districts using practices advocated by whatever branch of the SOR you wish to study. So, after three-plus years of asking for such a study, I’ve gotten everything but. Mainly what I’ve gotten are studies I classify as “wind tunnel test studies.” You see, when airplanes are certified for flight, one of the preliminary kinds of test done is a wind tunnel test. The final part of airplane certification involves actual flying tests, using the actual plane, in real circumstances, e.g., flying between two cities. Some folks from the so-called SOR movement seem to want to make huge policy changes based on what are clearly preliminary/tentative results. They want to skip important middle steps in the normal process of applying research to educational practices. IMO, before suggesting major changes, they need to provide studies fitting the final gold standard of applying research to educational practices. That gold standard would be studies done evaluating the implementation of selected practices in actual district settings over several years, using reading tests that measure both decoding and comprehension. The comprehension measurement needs to be direct and resemble the testing used in many state-wide tests of reading. Duke has described such standards. You’ll find that in the chart in my blog entry referencing her ideas about reading being much more than just decoding words LINK.

Speaking of Nell Duke, for me, her newest proposed model for studying reading holds the most hope for finding common ground and common practices. Remember Duke is first and foremost a researcher. She doesn’t take sides or fit on a side. What she does do is what researchers are supposed to do. Researchers are supposed to find the cutting edge of our current knowledge and then push our knowledge into areas where it has never been before. Like all good researchers, she is not out to prove anything. She is out to discover something- new knowledge and new understanding. Her new model of reading takes “The Rope” and augments it with her considerable knowledge of the literacy process. You can read all about it in the special edition of The Missouri Reader. The Missouri Reader is a state journal of reading. In the way of full disclosure, I am the Co-Editor of that journal. I think that her model is one example of the kind of research that could discover common ground upon which we all could agree. Here is the link to the issue containing her article LINK.

In Conclusion:

In sum, I think there is hope for finding common ground and common practices. I think the search for common ground is most likely to be carried out by centrists, open-minded folks willing to learn from all sides. Those that know my work know that I am willing to do just that. I’ve blogged before about how, based on advice from Shanahan, an empiricist with whom I do not always agree, I now use both predictable and decodable books with my beginning readers. I’ve done so and I’ve been pleased with the results LINK. So have my teachers, parents and administrators. Let’s do begin the journey of locating the common ground. Let’s call a truce on the talk about what divides us. Let’s talk for a time about the things on which all sides might agree.  I’m sure that one of those areas of agreement could be to do a better job teaching phonics (all forms of phonics).  So, this is Dr. Sam signing off. I’m still that guy in the middle happily taking flak from all sides. I do so because my kids are worth it.

This entry is the final one in my series of op-eds about the reading wars. While I may pick up this topic again sometime in the future, in the coming weeks, I’m trying to line up some literacy leaders who will be sharing their ideas on how we might better serve our students.

Dr. Sam

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.

In addition to doing our separate sessions at LitCon P.L. Thomas and I have now scheduled a joint session where we will review our key ideas and also open the floor to questions about what we’ve said.

Here is a link to the LitCon conference, which will be held this January in Columbus, Ohio LINK

As indicated earlier, both J.L. Thomas and I are doing individual sessions. We are also doing a joint session with emphasis on allowing time for people to ask questions about the literacy issues we raise.