All posts by Gare Thompson

The Shifting Textbook Adoption Market

A recent White House report states that the textbook market is valued at about $7-8 billion, with California, Florida, and Texas being the key adoption states. However, the textbook adoption market is changing.

The Old-School Textbook Adoption Buying Pattern

In the past, publishers focused most of their textbook development efforts on two states: Texas and California. Textbooks for these two states would often become templates for textbooks sold nationally, but according to a recent EdWeek article, California and Texas no longer dictate content in textbooks. Currently, there are 19 states that adopt textbooks in a variety of curriculum areas, and publishers are finding that these individual states want customized textbooks.

What Factors are Driving Change in Textbook Adoption?

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ELL Students and the Digital Experience

Schools continue to move toward digital lessons and digital experiences for students. Most students are digital natives and are comfortable in this world. However, not all students have equal access. How does the digital revolution affect ELL students?

Some ELL students are very comfortable with technology and how it works, while others are using it for the first time. Digital lessons, however, abound in the classroom. Across content areas, culminating activities in lessons often ask students to do more research on the Internet, use graphics in their reports, cite resources, and create digital slideshows. These types of activities are designed to help students acquire and adopt skills needed for 21st-century work. And a survey by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop shows that Hispanic-Latino families want their children to have these skills.

Access Starts with the Directions

However, there are several roadblocks for ELL students. Most educational websites and software tools provide directions only in English, which poses a barrier for ELL students. If they cannot follow the directions, ELL students may struggle to complete assignments and fall behind their peers. Situations such as this can easily lead to frustration and might make ELL students reluctant to use digital devices in the classroom. So how can we scaffold learning for ELL students in digital lessons?

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To Customize or Not to Customize, That’s the Question

According to a 2016 White House report, the U.S. spends over $1.3 trillion on education expenditures. And the instructional materials market for K-12, which includes state adoptions, is over $19 billion. In large states, such as Texas, it makes sense to customize a national program. With smaller states, a calculation needs to be made: does the potential revenue justify the expense of customization? What’s the best way to customize for a specific state?

Start with Gap Analysis

The first step is a gap analysis to analyze the state standards. For example, in Texas, we would compare the TEKS to the standards the national program was aligned to, usually the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This is a bit ironic, given that Texas never adopted CCSS. A gap analysis relative to CCSS is a tool you can use again and again as you develop plans for the many states that are moving away from CCSS or adapting it to create their own customized standards. Ultimately, the gap analysis answers important financial questions about the scope of work required for a successful customized program.

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Why It’s Critical to Implement Civics Lessons and the C-3 Framework

Recently, citizens once again exercised their right to vote. They used the power of voting to have their voices heard. But what does it all mean? Now is the time for civics lessons that teach students civic responsibility. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words,” and students must know how to act, deciding which actions are responsible and which are not. How do students treat others while making their voices heard? Civics lessons provide answers to these questions.

“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” —John Locke

Focus on the Thinking and Motivation Behind Actions

Students need to see that every civic action has a reaction and a consequence. The actions establish a chain of events; each action is linked to a subsequent one.


© Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
The heart of civics lessons is not necessarily the content, but rather understanding the thinking and motivation behind the actions taken by individuals or groups. When students read about events in history, they should be able to answer the following questions:

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Insights From NCSS 2016

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Mark Twain said, “What gets us in trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know that just ain’t so.” Today’s students are bombarded with information and images and there is a need for lessons that foster critical thinking and civic responsibility. The time for strong, innovative social studies lessons has arrived. The National Council for the Social Studies conference provided a showcase of lesson, organizations, and companies that are working to meet those classroom demands. Here are some insights we gained from the NCSS 2016 convention:

  • Learning from the past is critical in thinking about the future. Primary sources are perfect tools for seeing how events unfolded, the thinking and emotions behind the events, and the impact those events have on the world today. Organizations such as The Library of Congress, The Civil War Trust, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the Pennsylvania Historical Society are treasure troves of primary sources with lessons and programs that allow students to see the links between the past and the present. Companies such as Pearson highlight primary sources in their social studies programs. Gibbs Smith Education offers fine state history products. As we discussed in a recent post, it’s worth checking out your state or local historical society for primary sources that will enhance and enrich history lessons.
  • Often events are driven by economic decisions that continue to affect our daily lives. Students should learn to review and think about how the government spends money and how citizens benefit. Organizations such as the Council for Economic Education have many lessons and programs for students to explore these important issues.
  • Geography is about much more than learning map skills. Geography tells us about people, their environment, their movements, and how geography affects our daily lives. As individuals in a global world, geography knowledge is critical. The National Council for Geographic Education and Core Knowledge support geography teaching and learning at all levels where students learn not only about physical geography, but also human geography.
  • Social responsibility is critical in today’s ever-changing world. Students need to understand both the backstories of current events and must comprehend the why as well as the who and what of current events. Access to current events through videos, social media, print, and magazines is offered through Scholastic Magazines, Time Education, CNN Classroom, and Studies Weekly. These companies have products that allow students to focus on specific current events, discussing, thinking about, and understanding why things happen and what are the consequences.

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How to Manage Classroom Instruction

Not having heard something is not as good as having heard it; having heard it is not as good as having seen it; having seen it is not as good as knowing it; knowing it is not as good as putting it into practice.—Xun Kuang, c. 312-230 BCE

Choosing Instruction Modes

Facing a classroom of students who represent different levels of learning curves is not an easy task. We know students learn better by doing, but they may not all be ready at the same time. This is a key reason for planning how to manage classroom instruction.

An effective way to start planning is to ask yourself:

  • When should I teach the whole class?
  • Should I move some students into group work?
  • When are students ready to work independently?

The choices you make directly affect students’ learning and the structure and pacing of lessons. The presentation below gives an overview of when whole-class, small-group, and independent modes work best in classroom instruction. Just click “Start Prezi.”

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5 Keys to Unlock Read-Aloud Success

Why Read Aloud?

Simotas_Reads_to_Students_at_PS70When I first taught kindergarten, I read aloud The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The kids in my class loved it and we spent hours discussing caterpillars, eating habits, stories, and Eric Carle. Luckily for me, the third-grade teacher down the hall, probably tired of hearing me read the book aloud again and again, offered a wonderful list of books to read aloud. The list included fiction and nonfiction. To this day, I’m grateful (as I’m sure my students are, too!) to this teacher. Over time, I’ve learned from first-hand experience how important a read-aloud is.

Research supports the importance of read-alouds for developing fluency, background knowledge, and language acquisition. Allen (2000) reminds us that those same benefits occur when we use read-alouds beyond the primary years. Read-alouds are one classroom practice that students never outgrow.

As a working author, I’ve spent time researching and thinking about what makes a good read-aloud and how to ensure everyone has the best read-aloud experience. Typically when writing, I read aloud what I have written. A read-aloud has often served as an excellent editor. It’s a good habit for kids to use when they write. Here are five key things I suggest to do for an exciting and meaningful read-aloud.

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5 Keys to Assessment Literacy

At Victory, we have been developing many kinds of assessments. Whether the assessment is high-stakes summative testing, a performance-based task, or formative student self-assessment, assessment has a huge impact on classroom instruction. This means assessment literacy is a critical tool for teachers as they develop curriculum and apply classroom strategies.

What Is Assessment Literacy?

What does assessment literacy mean? It may help to consider other types of literacy. Science literacy, for example, means being prepared to understand and discuss science issues, especially as they impact social and political decisions. Visual literacy involves understanding how people use visual information, and choosing a visual approach that supports your goals. Digital literacy is the ability to use technology tools, and choose which tool is most appropriate for a given purpose. In the same way, assessment literacy is the ability to understand the purpose of each type of assessment and then use this knowledge to make better assessment decisions.

From our experience, these are 5 keys to assessment literacy:

5 Keys to Assessment Literacy
key-flipped-small 1 Understanding different kinds of assessments and their purposes
key-flipped-small 2 Recognizing the best assessment to use for a given situation
key-flipped-small 3 Knowing how to prepare students for each kind of assessment
key-flipped-small 4 Knowing how to implement each kind of assessment
key-flipped-small 5 Getting comfortable with interpreting assessment data

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5 Keys to Digital Literacy

Recently, we premiered our digital lesson on the Boston Massacre at the ISTE and ILA conferences. The lesson was a big hit. It inspired many discussions with technology coordinators and educators on what makes a lesson good for digital literacy. The table below summarizes what we learned, and the video that follows gives concrete examples of how the 5 keys to digital literacy are executed in the Boston Massacre lesson.

5 Keys to Digital Literacy
key-flipped-small 1 Make sure the lesson has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
key-flipped-small 2 Each interactive should build on the previous one so that students gain practice and automaticity in skills and strategies.
key-flipped-small 3 Processes for working through a digital lesson need to be consistent.
key-flipped-small 4 Cross-curricular activities encourage students to employ skills and strategies from other disciplines in new ways.
key-flipped-small 5 Make sure students are using data, analyzing it, and using 21st-century skills.

Are We There Yet?

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