Christian Teacher, Public School

". . .the word of God is not bound." II Tim. 2:9b

Sunday, February 7, 2021

What Must Be Taught In Reading Instruction?

There are lots of things that get teachers excited. Lightbulbs going on, trend lines on a graph going up, rapport being cemented, the smell of the first sharpened pencil of the new school year. . . .

Ranking right up there in the top thrills of a teacher's career is collaborating with a great team to choose new curriculum.

At my district, I inherited literature textbooks that were published in 2007. There were no consumables, and we didn't have access to online resources now offered by the publisher to districts that purchase brand-new curriculum. That has meant a lot of reinventing the wheel, aligning outdated texts to new standards, and even consulting Teachers Pay Teachers for quick answers. Throw in three sessions in quarantine due to COVID outbreaks, and the existing resources' deficiencies became that much more glaring.

So it's easy to see why new curriculum on the horizon is a matter for celebration. I'm eager to have resources at my fingertips to help me meet the needs of individual learners. I can't wait to get my hands on standards-aligned, research-based lessons and their corresponding assessments. I want online everything, alongside traditional textbooks so learners can access texts from home or at school, in a format that works best for them.

As we gear up to examine what exactly we are looking for in a reading/ELA curriculum, my administrator has arranged for a half-day intensive workshop (okay, she billed it as a party) to help focus our quest.

And there's homework! Each team member received curriculum samples from one publisher, with more on the way, to review ahead of the session. And we're reading an article on the Science of Reading by Laura Stuart, National Director for The Reading League. You can find it on the Zaner-Bloser Science of Reading Hub.

In the article, Stuart spells out answers to the burning question, "What must be taught?" Synthesizing current studies on how children learn to read, there are five essential components of reading that must be taught, as Stuart says, "thoroughly and skillfully." These are: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluent text reading, vocabulary, and comprehension. 

Stuart explains each component briefly before going on to offer evidence-based principles of instruction, or, the nuts and bolts of  "How to teach it."

I'm excited to see what my colleagues bring to the discussion after reading our homework and browsing curriculum samples. And I'm wondering, how might our collaboration on February 12 change the way we teach, even before we choose new curriculum? 

Also Read:

Using Mentor Texts to Teach Writing and Enhance Creativity

Presenting a Lively Professional Development: Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Microfiction Story "Broccoli" Published in Crack the Spine

Today my microfiction story "Broccoli" was published in Crack the Spine, an online literary magazine. Click "Read Issue 265" and navigate to my story. 

I wrote this very short piece during Creative Writing class last year, when my students were sending 50-word horror stories to a contest. At the time I didn't enter because I don't like competing against my students. Now my story has found a home elsewhere.

Meanwhile, my school has entered its second period of quarantine this fall, and all of us teachers are busily creating assignment packets for our students. It seems like every family I know has its burdens now. There's a lot to pray about! Thank you for lifting up and encouraging students, parents and guardians, teachers, and administrators during this school year.

All the best,


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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Fall Reading and a Link to My Book Review: The Clan of the Cave Bear

Happy fall, y'all!

I'm looking forward to a book club evening at my local public library. The focus is genre fiction, and this time the genre is mystery. I headed over to Goodreads just now to see which mysteries I had read so far this year. The two most recent sure couldn't be much more different!

Barbara Ross's Sealed Off, #8 in the Maine Clambake mystery series, took me back to my roots in the Pinetree State. Even though I hadn't read books 1-7, I felt I could jump right in and follow the characters as they explored a secret room, feasted on good New England seafood, and solved a murder within their midst. I'm interested in reading the first book in the series to find out the characters' origin stories.

The Likeness by Tana French is the second in the popular Dublin Murder Squad series. Admittedly, the far-fetched nature of the premise (you're going to have to read the blurb on Goodreads) had me doubting whether or not I could get through this one. I kept reading, though, because. . .well, it's Tana French. Somehow, she pulled it off. If a little bit of grit in your mysteries doesn't bother you, start with Book 1, In the Woods, or read the series out of order, since each book features a different protagonist.

One non-mystery book that got me through my school's recent two-week quarantine period of distance learning was Jean M. Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear. While I feel the need to give a trigger warning about sexual abuse, the book offers a different world to readers in 2020 who are hungry for escape. Check out my review on the New Pages blog.

What mystery or non-mystery books provide readers a great escape this fall? Share your favorites in the comments!


Thursday, August 6, 2020

"Hold Fast," Here Comes Fall 2020

We've all decided that 2020 needs to end. As I smell the smoke of wildfires burning in the distance, the mantra "What next?" comes again to mind. It seems like diminished air quality fits right in with all the other plagues of the year of COVID-19. Yet we choose our own talking points, our own mantras, our own storylines within this drama that is 2020. As fall approaches and teachers return to schoool, what words of hope can we speak to ourselves and our coworkers? Surely Christians can do better than "What next?"

For me, the words "hold fast" are what I need right now. They come from Hebrews 3 and 4, speaking of how a believer must be faithful,  holding her confidence in Christ "firm until the end."

Our examples are Moses (Ch. 3 v. 2-5) and Jesus (Ch. 3 v. 1-6), as well as other believers who have come before us and who encourage us in our faith. We need these examples in troubling times. How did Jesus hold fast, "faithful to Him who appointed Him" (3:2)?  There is a choice involved, an exercise of the will. We may choose to fall away (3:12), to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (3:13). Or we may choose to hold fast our confession.

If we follow the example of Jesus, who has now entered into rest (4:10), we will also enter into rest when our work is done.

And what is the work? Chapter 3 verse 13 says that part of it is encouraging one another. Not saying to each other, "What next?" but "Hold fast!" For Christian teachers in public schools heading into the 2020/2021 school year, our work may be to make this year the year that we believed. The year that we held onto our faith in Him who appointed us, who called us to this time and this place and this task. Whatever the ministry is that He has called us to, may Fall 2020 be the time when we were faithful despite the chaos that surounded us.

Be encouraged, beloved. Encourage one another to hold fast our confession. Rest is coming soon.