Listening Comprehension Matters – (Post #1 out of 6)

This week I have committed myself to reading at least one shift we can make in our literacy instruction from Jan Burkins and Kari Yates book, Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom.

Burkins and Yates share that one shift we need to make is to provide more opportunities for children to use and develop oral language. This makes so much sense as we think about the importance of storytelling in the early literacy classroom as well as providing opportunities for talk to happen in order for language skills to grow. Listening comprehension consists of 3 of the 4 processing systems in the brain: phonological, meaning, and context processing systems. Therefore, strong listening comprehension does affect reading comprehension and should be a focus in our classrooms. The fourth processing system, orthographic, is the added layer for reading comprehension which includes children being able to decode print in order to read it back and make meaning. Therefore, for the ultimate goal of reading comprehension to exist we must have both word reading and listening comprehension – this equals the simple view of reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986). By 8th grade most comprehension problems are due to limited language skills, not decoding. Therefore an emphasis on listening comprehension, beyond the some of the beginning texts kids read in grades K-2 is essential. In beginning level text, comprehension may seem fine, yet when entering into more complex texts in grades 3 and above, we may see a noticeable difference and a problem that we didn’t see previously emerges.

So, what does this mean?

According to Burkins & Yates, WE NEED TO TREAT ORAL LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT AS AN ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT FOR READING COMPREHENSION.

As I think about their suggestions, I am left thinking about what experiences are we utilizing in the classroom currently where we can enhance oral language development. A few thoughts…

  1. Listening comprehension goes beyond following two step directions – it is more than procedural.
  2. Oral storytelling and use of oral language should be a part of early literacy assessments and observed/assessed over time.
  3. Stop treating science and social studies as secondary to learning to read and write. Science and Social Studies give us content language to develop oral language and listening comprehension. Including a content focus builds background knowledge and strong vocabulary.
  4. Classroom structures such as community circle are a key time to develop oral language – specifically a time to repeat and expand on what kids are saying.
  5. The interactive read aloud is a powerful tool to introduce more complex text to students and provide time to talk to develop listening comprehension.
  6. Children need to have BOTH rich text exposure and decodable texts at a young age. Knowing listening comprehension is developed at a young age and is a part of the four part processing system a balance of texts needs to be included in a child’s reading diet.
  7. Utilizing independent reading in ways that our youngest readers are talking to each other is important. How are we developing oral language during independent reading? What do partnerships look like? What role do es storytelling play? How might we use puppets and role play during this time?
  8. Be intentional with the language we use – utilizing the academic vocabulary and what something is called is important. Do not water down the language.
  9. Small shifts can happen to be more intentional about language use and it doesn’t have to take a lot of resources.

Intentionally supporting oral language development will help with reading comprehension. It is just a piece to the puzzle but a very important one if a child is going to be able to read. It is a part of the Simple View of Reading and the components are further defined in Scarborough’s Reading Rope when thinking about what lies under comprehension: background knowledge, vocabulary, language structures, verbal reasoning, and literacy knowledge. Yet, adding the orthographic processing system is just as equally important.

So when you hear the “Science of Reading” proponents and the “Balanced Literacy” proponents argue the importance of word reading and making meaning (typically science of reading lean more towards word reading and balanced literacy more towards meaning making) – both are right. Both of these are important. The dichotomy that you either do word recognition or comprehension instruction is a false choice. Let’s not treat it as an either/or but as a both/and. Let’s recognize what we know about how the brain learns to read and use that in the classroom.

I look forward to writing more over the next few days as I continue to learn about shifts we can make in our classrooms to align more with how the brain learns to read.

31 Days of Writing #SOL21 #Day31

Not every day was great

Some days were hard

Yet the computer managed to be on my lap 31 days this month

Yes I used it for work, but also each day to write

The clicking of the keys each night and sometimes during the day

Happened

It happened 31 days straight

This seems almost miraculous to me

A habit has been born and though it may not happen daily in April

It will happen more than it did before

I have always loved to write yet I let other things get in the way

The Slice of Life Challenge has made me stop and write each day

Thankful for the push that SoL gave for me

And looking forward to the words that have yet to hit the page

Care-Free Day #SOL21 #DAY30

Waking up at 5:15 am while away, with no plans at all but to fill the day with joy brings anticipation for what might come.

Turning on the local news as background noise was just the start. Slowly, pulling out the computer and trying to connect to wifi to do a couple of small tasks and then write was up first. The clicking of the keys so early in the morning made me smile. For once I was writing at my preferred time of day – when my brain is fresh and when I do my best thinking.

I wrapped up my writing and made took time to make some oatmeal. I savored each bite as I started to see what Hulu might bring into or lives. Then I found it, a show my friend recommend, A Million Little Things. I started watching and realized Monterry would love it too. I stopped. He woke up. I fixed him some oatmeal and we started the series over so we can enjoy it together.

Time for a run you say? Yes. We headed to the fitness studio where we were staying to only find it closed. Running outside it would be. We didn’t map out our run – we just said lets go two miles down third street and then come back. That two miles brought us to the Freedom Park monument where the history of African Americans in Louisville is shared along with the struggle for freedom. We literally ran into the monument. It’s why I love running in other cities – it’s the best way to explore and you never know what you may find. Mapping out a run works too but sometimes it’s just fun to run and see what you discover.

We finish our run, shower and head to lunch. It’s silent on the fourth street – a street that is usually packed with people. As we walk, we recognize this stark difference from when we were here over a year and a half ago. The pandemic has affected all cities and it was noticeable. Though not being busy made us feel safe as we walked down the street with our masks on, we couldn’t help but be sad and wonder when revival of cities will happen, when will life come back and will we be ready for the crowds again?

As we ate, we made plans to head to Waterfront Park. Not sure where we were going yet followed the GPS to get there. We found an open space with so much to offer and thank goodness restrooms were present. We then walked across the quarter of a mile bridge over the Ohio River. Breathtaking views and solace. More people on this bridge walking than anywhere else. Felt the need to be distanced from others – something we never would have thought about pre-pandemic.

As we walked back we decided ordering pizza and having the drinks we brought with us would be the best evening celebration for us. Just the two of us together – no worries in the world.

About 6 miles later we were back at the Airbnb apartment, turned on the TV, ordered the pizza and just enjoyed being together.

For someone who is always planned with so much to do, having this care free day and just rolling with where it took us was the best thing ever. Our anniversary couldn’t have been better. The stress of work was not there. The need to be there for others was not there. The tiredness that I usually feel mid day was not there. Just the joy of two people who love each other embracing the time together not thinking about anything else. Days like this are something to treasure and therefore wrapping it up with the words in this post just made all the sense in the world. I can’t wait to come back and read this years from now. Not eventful just joyful and that’s what matters in life.

8 Years and Counting! #SOL21 #DAY29

In 2006, my friends and I headed out to the club to dance and enjoy the nightlife. We had a venue that we frequented due to one of my closest friends dating someone that worked there (who is now her husband). We would go each weekend and every weekend we would see the guy in the hat. I remember turning to my friend Amanda and saying, I’m going to go say hi to the guy in the hat. He is here all the time just like us (no judgement please of my younger self). I walked up to him and said, hey you’re the guy with the hat. He laughed and we started talking. For 2 years we would see each other and talk. He was the only guy I knew that would talk about books at the club so I found myself enjoying our conversations. We both had a significant other at the time, so it never crossed my mind that he might be my future husband.

Then, I experienced a break-up. It was hard. I put all my energy into training for a half a marathon. While doing this, I kept going out and in 2008, an evening where I may have had a little too much to drink, I remember “the guy with the hat” asking me for my number. We both were out of a relationship. I gave it to him. He didn’t write it down. I was sure he would not call me. Then, one night he did. We talked on the phone for quite a while. He would never hang up first, I always had to be the one say bye (which was hard so we would talk for hours). Finally, one night we were talking and I still needed to go for a run so I asked him if he’d want to finish the conversation on the Monon and run with me. Surprisingly, he said yes. I guess this was our first “date” even though it was just a run.

Years passed and we grew closer. He became the person that made me laugh when I was sad. That made me smile when I was mad. He was the person that would dance like no one was watching. He was laid back and calm about everything. He was the person that helped me learn to slow down in life – that I did not have to have every minute of my day planned and full. He brought balance to my life. He was a keeper.

Then, December 2012 he proposed on Christmas. And I said yes.

We got married on March 29th, 2013 and have been married for 8 years today. As we drove to Louisville yesterday for a short getaway for just the two of us we reminisced about the past and could hardly believe that we have known each other for 15 years, together for 13, and married for 8. It seemed crazy, this girl who never thought she would get married, had seen so much heartbreak in her life from her parents divorce and her sisters various relationships. I had told myself I would never depend on a man to get me through life. I could live and love life as me.

And then Monterry entered my life. He is perfect for me. He has taught me that you don’t need to depend on a man yet you do need love in your life and someone that is there for you no matter what. He has also taught me that a relationship is about interdependence and that we do depend on one another in our marriage. Yet, with interdependence we also each value the others independence.

We continue to grow in our relationship, and for that I am thankful and blessed that he was brought into my life. Cheers to our marriage and the many more years to come that will continue to bring us closer in life and ground us in what is most important.

What is Normal, Really? #SOL21 #DAY28

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What is normal? Really?

Normal is what we make of it – the routines that we put together; the comfort we find in the people we hang out with or the things we decide to do; the way we choose to spend our free time. Normal is different for everyone and that is okay because our differences is what makes this world unique. My normal is different from your normal and that is perfectly normal.

For me, normal is being a white female who is a wife and an aunt but not a mother. Most make assumptions that Monterry and I have kids or that we want kids, yet our normal is to be there for others. We chose to not have children but love our nieces and nephews like they were our own. Our normal has it’s pros and cons but it is who we are. When people question our normal, it’s time to remember that our normal is not your normal. It is okay to not have kids and love kids at the same time. It is okay to make this choice in this 21st century.

My normal is being an educator who also has a passion for running, being a fitness instructor, and providing health coaching. I have a passion for my career as an educator as well as my career as a health professional. Some may think that I should choose one, but why? These both give me joy and therefore my normal is having two areas of interest that sometimes merge together and sometimes don’t and that is okay.

My normal is recognizing that I have affordances in life due to the color of my skin. I have definitely experienced marginalization as a woman and as a child who grew up in situational poverty. Yet I have never had to worry about being judged because my skin color is considered the norm. My husband does not have this luxury in life and as we continue to grow in our relationship I learn more and more about the differences in the way we navigate through life due to our skin color. My normal is different than his normal. And though that is okay, it is my hope that his normal changes in the future. Yet, right now, our normals differ in this area.

My normal includes me taking time to read and to write. It includes finding time to learn more as well as time to do absolutely nothing and just watch TV. It allows me to see my family again now that I’m vaccinated and it allows me to run with my friends. My normal is to stay busy – very busy – and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be the same as someone else but I feel best when I am being productive and doing something for others – my husband, my family, my friends, my colleagues, etc.

My normal is not your normal so is there really a normal? Yes, there are normative practices in society based on the various cultures that exist, yet normative practices within my own culture do not define my normal as I may enter into those practices or choose they are not for me. My normal is only mine. And I like it like that. Embrace your normal and enjoy operating as YOU in life.

Food. I Love to Eat! #SOL21 #DAY27

Food. I love to eat. I think this comes from my southern roots where fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, green beans, biscuits (not just plain biscuits but biscuits with brown sugar smothered on them), mashed potatoes, and more were on the menu when visiting my grandma Ebilene and the rest of the family in Kentucky. We loved getting together and eating.

Food. I love to eat. I think it’s because when I’m stressed, it becomes a comfort for me. For some reason, if I munch on some chips or I grab a few cookies, I automatically feel better. It just seems to melt my stress away.

Food. I love to eat. I think it’s because sometimes I just want to have something to do while I’m working or while I’m reading or while I’m watching TV. The act of munching on something while doing something else just brings me joy.

Food. I love to eat. I wish I didn’t because I have very little control. If it tastes good it’s like I have a bottomless stomach and just keep on eating more. And that doesn’t always make me feel good. It makes me feel sluggish. And I know this but I still do it – but why?

Food. I love to eat. Transitioning from eating foods that taste good to foods that fuel me so that I feel good has been a focus of mine the past 6 years. I’ve learned a lot so that I can still eat yet make better choices than I did in the past.

Food. I love to eat. And though I know what to eat in order to feel my healthiest self, I still sometimes don’t want to make that right choice. I sometimes want a treat. And so, yes, I sometimes have a treat.

Food. I love to eat. I eat in order to live a life where I feel healthy and strong. I eat to be around those that I love. I eat to drown away my sorrows. But most of all, I eat to live. I love to eat. Food.

Spring Break #SOL21 #Day26

So many people looking forward to some time off. Time to travel. Time to sleep. Time to meet up with friends.

I look forward to those things too but I mostly look forward to having some time at work: to just read, think and plan with hardly any meetings.

A day for me is moving from one topic to the next, working to keep the conversations organized, making list of things to do for others so that our work gets done. I love every minute of this – problem solving and thinking with others; yet every meeting gives me more to do.

Spring break is a time where I will take some time off, yet will also be in the office checking off items on the list, catching up on grant work, and doing some long term planning. I will also get to read in order to help with the planning work.

Spring break is a time where I will feel as though I can be more thoughtful and slow down just a bit before the end of the school year speeds up.

Spring break will come and go, yet for two weeks I will be thankful for the time I have to just get things done.

This Friday night I will be dreaming of the productivity that is to come.

Drought of Words #SOL21 #Day25

Another night where I have work to do but am too tired to do it. My day, today, was packed with meetings that give me energy for the work that needs to be done, but when I finished such a busy day at 8pm, the last thing I want to do is to work or to write. I know I will get up early but have to get my writing in tonight. I have committed to this. So, here it is, my writing. 2nd night in a row where I’ve been so tired I can’t even think about what I want to put into words. And that’s okay. The drought of words today will be ready for the rain tomorrow.

A Luxury, Hot Water #SOL21 #DAY23

Hot water.

Taken for granted.

It turns cold.

What happened?

Check the pilot.

It’s out.

Try to light it.

Can’t.

Going old school.

Boiling water.

Washing hair in sink.

Whatever it takes.

Such a luxury, hot water.

Waiting for the plumber to show up.

The day inconvenienced making all meetings hard.

Plumber rings the doorbell during a meeting.

Stress rises.

Water heater temporarily works.

Pay for short term relief.

Replacement is necessary.

Thankful for savings.

A luxury we cannot (well do not) want to live without.