Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Human Teachers STILL Required

" any millennial teacher with a large format display at the front of the class and a connection to YouTube and its clones will tell you, storytelling and reader motivation has evolved digitally."

Human Teachers No Longer STILL Required:
Storytelling and Motivating K-2 Readers with YouTube Videos
By Dr. Rose Reissman

Back in the late 20th century my mother, an elementary teacher, loved to do expressive read-alouds with her class of youngsters. She’d read with theatrical storyteller voices and gestures, which she would accompany by singing music that she’d improvise as the story progressed.  If she was really into it, she’d play a record in the background to set the class’s mood.

My memories of mom’s performances, which were intended to motivate emergent readers to engage with text, are very fond ones. She had a gift for putting her theatrical side at the service of developing a range of reading, speaking and listening skills in her young students. And they loved the literary experiences they had in her classroom.

However, as any millennial teacher with a large format display at the front of the class and a connection to YouTube and its clones will tell you, storytelling and reader motivation has evolved digitally. Readily available media items make it easy to for a class to view an animated or live action film of a story being read.

Indeed,  even as best seller print picture books arrive on bookshelves or are read aloud to young readers on classroom rugs or in library reading rooms, their digital counterparts are available online. Further, the now near ubiquitous YouTube video connects classes to authors or actors reading and performing books. 
In fact, for most any well known author, living or deceased (death is no problem as YouTube renders authors immortal); there is not just a single, but rather, multiple videos of readings or talks or Storyteller versions available.

Either in anticipation of a work’s release and sale, or to get intended young audiences involved by engaging  their multiple intelligences (spatial, musical, and kinesthetic) many book publishers are developing video trailers similar to those that generate audiences for movies.

So who needs a human teacher reading aloud with expression, voice changes. and recorded music in her single classroom, when the Internet is full of You Tube storytellers that can be looped forever and read on demand?  Should the teacher and young emergent reader or older elementary child take cover and run away from these non-human, forever energized, click and play rivals?  Is it “Game over, humans!” for  teacher-reader and young learner audiences?

Of course not! Don’t think of these available videos as replacements for the teacher, think of them as resources that the astute teacher can use to provide richer and deeper learning experiences. And for those teachers for whom giving a theatrical reading performance to a class seems out of reach of their own talents, these videos can fill an important gap and fill it well!

Use these videos to engage, to motivate, and to enhance learning experiences directed at fostering critical and comparative analytical listening and speaking skills!! 
Case in point: The newly published 'Ada Twist, Scientist' (2016) is already riding the Children’s NY Times Best Seller list.  I was excited and enthused about it, when I first got a copy from the bookstore. Then, I went online to find its author and illustrator chatting away.  How terrific, since I could extract a mystery question from what they said on YouTube, or a question about their appearance, or reference to the book my grade two students would read.

I could use these found media items to excite them in connecting the story with its real life creators.  Interestingly, its now bestselling author, Andrea Beaty, no longer visits classes, not even by Skype.  But my students will be thrilled to see and hear her in person as well as sly illustrator David Roberts. With the aid of the videos my students can feel they “had” them, and conveniently, right after Ada Twist story time in our class.  I could even throw in the added experience of having the kids draw and talk as they imagined how Andrea and David would look and sound and then have them check their conceptions against the YouTube provided reality.

Even better, we could talk about how the story might be read aloud in a different, deeper, or funnier tone than I read and the students could generate a range of styles and tones that would fit this story of the never still, always inquiring Ada Twist, its principal character.  This wonderful twiss to this literacy learning experience is made possible by a mere click on YouTube that enables us to find and hear several variations of styles for reading the story - a range of speaking and listening and interpreting which support the text but make it lively and engaging.  The students can decide subjectively, but with reference to text and the use of illustrations – as a sequence or one by one- which video storyteller version is the most effective for them and why and justify that choice with a few illustrations or words from the print story that were well conveyed in the multimedia format.

Beyond that, I always have kids do a media transformation of a print text to a performed play or a storyboard sequence.  Why not use the digital storyteller version of Ada Twist and the YouTube trailer or any of the online interviews for it as an anchor and have students with an available video camera or audio recorder (every Smart Phone has one), design their own book trailer to help Ada Twist twist her scientist way to the top of the Best Seller list or at least enable young George Lucas, Disney, and Pixar creators to become digital literacy storytellers and children’s literature and literacy marketers, themselves!!

The sound of the expressive human voice telling a story and reaching out to the audience at his or her feet will never be stilled; nor should it.  But that voice can be joined and strengthened in its reach to engage every child listener and reader in the circle of literacy by now including YouTube videos that connect the circle’s members with authors and story tellers who never tire or die or fade away.  We human teachers have nothing to fear from the Digital Storyteller, which is just another tool to use to reach readers and invigorate reading, writing, speaking and listening.  We will always be needed, and in the digital age, more than ever!

Dr. Rose Reissman writes, reads, and treats herself to multimedia experiences every day.  She is the founder of the Writing Institute, which has added PS 135 K as its latest school with over 150 schools in network.  Dr. Reissman writes frequently for the NTA-New Teacher Advocate -Kappa Delta Pi.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Actively Learn: Literacy Special Interest PODCAST Episode #20

Actively Learn:PODCAST Episode #20 May take a few seconds to load...

In this episode. Host, Mark Gura, shares his interview with
Jay Goyal, Co-founder of Actively Learn, a powerful literacy learning resource. Actively Learn was one of just 4 resources that the Literacy Professional Learning Network highlighted in its session at the 2016 Annual ISTE Conference as having special promise for technology-supported Literacy Instruction.

Listen to find out about this resource that promises to reduce student struggles in Reading Comprehension by helping teachers give them the correct support and better help them focus on constructing meaning while they read. Actively Learn can be used to help students to improve  thinking, writing, and collaborating skills through interactions inside the text that encourage deeper engagement.

As mentioned in the interview….
Take a Look at Actively Learn: 
Overcome the Limitations of Paper. Reading comprehension is hard. It requires a vast store of knowledge, skills specific to reading, and persistence when struggling. Cognitive research has established the critical practices to improve reading comprehension, yet two-thirds of all students still fail to understand what they read.

The reason is simple: the best practices are impossible to implement on paper.

* Actively Learn Blog
Big ideas and tips from our experts and the teachers who love us

Sunday, October 16, 2016

#ISTELitChat is back this fall 2016

Michele Haiken

Sep 20, 2016 9:57 PM
Michele Haiken
#ISTELitChat is back this fall with an amazing line up of guest moderators.  Join us THIS SUNDAY 9/25 at 9pm EST in celebration of librarians when guest moderators of #2jennsbookclub - a young adult literature twitter book club - Jennifer Lagarde and Jennifer Northrup address librarian's as a school's best resource and friend.

Mark your calendars for twitter rich conversations about topics relevant to technology and literacy.
September 25th - Librarian’s Are a School’s Best Friend w/@candidlibrarian & @jenniferlagarde of #2jennsbookclub
October 23rd - Guest Moderator: @LeeAraoz
November 27th - Guest Moderators @TheConnectedEDU
December 18th - Supporting ELL/ESL Learners in our Classroom
January 22nd - Guest Moderator @jmattmiller, author of Ditch that Textbook
February 26th - Addressing Dyslexia in Our Classrooms w/International Dyslexia Association
For more information check out
All are welcome to participate in twitter chats.
Michele Haiken
Rye Middle School Parents Organization
Stamford CT

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Student Animal Advocacy Online: Humane Education, Literacy Learning, and More

 by Dr. Rose Reissman

The author’s  sample animal advocacy project as it appears on the Jane Goodall website: It is hoped that teachers and students will become part of the site’s projectmap and develop online resources highlighting their local, national orinternational animal advocacy projects.  The site offers mini grants.

Middle School Humane Literacy

Humane education and citizenship learning can be made to happen jointly as a single classroom participatory action. This, without the class needing time or permissions for a school trip.

As they enter a classroom door embellished with downloads of animal advocacy graphics and student posters protesting animal abuse, students can immediately act as animal advocates while learning grade literacy skills.  How better to further the goals of  middle school language arts learning, including text engagement, spoken and written persuasive arguments, and short research, plus range of print and digital texts for reading and writing,  than through integrating deep content study as students work to save animals. 
Two middle school language arts professionals, who have integrated student advocacy around the needs of abused animals into their teaching, do so based on their personal involvement with dog and cat rescue animals as well as their interest and concern about endangered chimps. 
Each was originally inspired by their personal experience in adoption and volunteering at an animal rescue site. They now make Human Literacy a favored part of their curriculum and define it as using humane content study, which can included:  viewing of videos, reading of texts, review of websites, interacting with rescue workers at local animal shelters, writing advocacy letters on animal rights issues, creating persuasive posters on behalf of abused animals, and unwanted pets needing adoption, as well as developing a website to link animals with adopting families in forever homes- a slew of literacy skills embedded real world actions.   
What is truly magnificent about humane literacy is that through focus on these deserving animals who obviously lack spoken and written literacy skills to communicate their needs and plight to government and public, students in middle school classes become their authentic voice and advocates as they validate literacy skills learning. 

Students address persuasive skills writing and reading, read across a range of print and digital texts and demonstrate speaking and listening skills as they fundraise for dog treats and medical care costs plus chimp sanctuaries at school . 
One of these colleagues' classes uploaded an animal advocacy project to Jane Goodall's website
( ), sharing their learning about the plight of animals and illustrating at the same time how this approach represents a door to literacy and humane learning in a real world context.
Copies of letters students sent their New York Council representative asking that he vote for legislation against dog fighting.  This complex issue deeply engaged students in online news texts like the emotionally gripping story of Oogy the pit bull, whose ear was torn off as a result of his having been deliberately bred for dogfights, the picture of a dog with half a face and one ear, the extensive medical support he received, and then his eventual adoption into a loving “forever” family, touched the students emotionally; far beyond the boundaries of   mandated ELA text engagement. 
Through such emotionally charged digital storytelling, middle school students were able to proudly and passionately voice their arguments against dog fighting in a set of letters. Katherine, a sixth grader noted:  “Dog fighting is bad because the owners make their dogs suffer so very much.  Dogs are sentient animals who can love and be loved.  They should not be used by owners as weapons against their own species. “   Nyla, another sixth grader, noted that dogs “deserve like children to be treated with respect and care.”  Nyla also advises the Council Member she wrote to, that he will gain votes if he “stands against animal abuse.”  Daysy wrote about Oogy (the dog) who had inspired her ELA teachers to coin the term “humane literacy” by saying that the story of this “dog with one ear teaches people that dog fighting is bad.” 

In their persuasive letters to their Council Person about dog fighting, students accomplished immediate citizen participation through a required literacy skill of letter writing. Through their involvement with the websites of the Unwanted Pets shelter in Brooklyn, students at Intermediate School 62 in that part of NYC, and of the ASPCA and Animal Shelter in Manhattan, two District 4 schools, there, actually contributed to saving specific dog’s lives or improving them immeasurably through helping them find “forever homes.”

In the case of the District 4 schools, I took a junior high class to the local Animal Shelter that was located a few blocks from the school.  A volunteer worker showed the students the stalls for dogs in which they were almost no chew toys, blankets, or other necessary items and explained to them how many of the dogs at the shelter were found abused or abandoned on the streets.  The students saw how alone the dogs were and how desperate for a petting or a walk in a small walled in courtyard.  Students learned how being anxious or territorial or unable to get along with other dogs or young children or being older than 4 often spelled doom for a dog, or at best made the dog less likely to be adopted.  The odds of adoption also went down if the dog was labeled or looked like a pit bull, even if that dog was gentle.

The students created posters for the dogs with the greatest odds against being adopted to persuade potential shelter visitors to adopt these deserving furry friends.  One of the dogs—Pluto- a large German Shepherd mix, aged 5, who was unable to live with any other dog and very territorial- was adopted and the class felt they had saved a life!!!  Due perhaps to the student posters online the students had a strong sense their actions were effectively saving a specific dog’s life....

To read the full article follow this link:

Dr. Rose Reissman is the founder of the Writing Institute, now replicated in 145 schools including the Manchester Charter Middle School in Pittsburgh. She is a featured author in New York State Union Teachers Educators Voice 2016 and was filmed discussing ESL student leadership literary strategies developed at Ditmas IS 62, a Brooklyn public intermediate school.