1. Hi this is Katie McKnight for K-12 Teachers Alliance and we're going to talk a little bit about content area literacy strategies and what it means with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). So first of all, let's have a couple of reminders about what content literacy actually is. Content literacy (reading and writing in the content area) is a way for us to understand specific subject matter and it also is a collection of strategies that help and support our students to become more active and independent readers.

    So content literacy is generally defined then as the ability to use reading and writing for the acquisition of new content in a given discipline. And one of the things that's paramount about content literacy is tapping into what kids already know – their schema, their background knowledge. So we need to provide strategies that actually set kids up and get them ready to read difficult or challenging texts that we often experience when we're learning new content.

    So here are a couple strategies that can help our readers as they are learning content:

    • Provide readers who struggle with decoding or word recognition with opportunities to hear the text read aloud. So using an iPod in class where the kids can actually listen to the text is super helpful and also very helpful for English Language Learners (ELL) and also for kids who have special needs. So it's a way to differentiate teaching strategies in order to make the text accessible for all kids.

    • Give readers for whom word recognition is a problem supplemental reading materials that include visual clues to word meaning. That's where the Internet can be particularly helpful because the Internet often has images and pictures that go along with the text that can help struggling readers or kids that are learning new content to understand the text. And when you can, allot extra time for readers who actually struggle to complete assignments. Encourage struggling readers to use texts that have lots of symbols, icons, etc. Sometimes those are bothersome for good readers, but it's super helpful for kids who are trying to understand the content and the meaning in the text.

    • Implement strategies. There are all kinds of strategies and vocabulary strategies that are useful for teaching kids new content. Things like question/answer relationship, survey question, review/recite, concept sorts, concept maps, and vocabulary slides – all of these are great, rich activities for kids when they're learning new content in their reading.

    So if you are using textbooks, here's a couple of ways to use textbooks more effectively:

    • So the first use is empathy. Do you remember when you had difficulty in a subject and the text was difficult? So remember how that can sometimes be a struggle for students.

    • Help the students to get started. We need to “front load” our teaching. And that's where content literacy strategies can be helpful.

    • And I don't mean this (this sounds a little jokingly), but don't leave kids alone with their textbooks. Giving kids their textbooks and then sending them away is not helpful. The textbook is a tool for learning, but go beyond the textbooks – supplement richly because there's so much more information and the textbook should be a source, not the sole source for learning content.

    • And then choose wisely. Be selective with assignments. Be strategic about what is most important. And again, supplement, supplement, supplement richly and go beyond that textbook.

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  2. Hi this is Katie McKnight for K-12 Teachers Alliance and the subject of this podcast is about educational technology and what it means for the 21st century classroom and also integration of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). So often times when I talk to teachers about education technology I talk about the fact that I use the metaphor that we are tending to drive around in a Fred Flintstone car and our kids are driving around in the Toyota Prius. And the kids look at us and think to themselves why are the teachers driving around in the Fred Flintstone car when they could be driving around in the Prius?

    So we need to start looking at the tools that our kids use in their every day life and how we can use those tools for effective teaching and learning opportunities. And the bottom line is that this is the kids’ world – this is how we find information and use information. So I often say to teachers when I work in schools is that the way that we think about texts, the way that we create text, the way that we learn from text and the way that we create text has completely changed because of technology. So I was in that last generation that actually pounded out papers on an electric typewriter. So I'm not what so would call a "digital native." I'm a "digital migrant...a digital immigrant." And so I need to learn the technology just as many of you who are listening to this podcast would as well.

    So here's my suggestion: Each month, you take a technology that you think might be useful in your classroom – be it something like Edmoto, Animoto, Moodle or something like Glogster or even Twitter. I've seen Twitter use in classrooms or Google docs. And take that technology and really tinker with it. Good teachers are always tinkering. And technology is one of those things that we need to tinker with in order to feel comfortable with the technology and use it in the classroom.

    So here are some of the things that I've been seeing in classrooms with technology:

    Just last week I was in a classroom in Chicago where the kids were using Google docs. There were 20 kids in the class and they were setup in teams using laptops and the Google doc was projected on a screen with an LCD projector. And I'm watching as the kids are discussing short stories and ideas that have come from those short stories all on Google docs. And the teacher is there as well [on the Google doc] and responding to what the kids are saying and what they're posting on this Google doc. And what was really interesting about it was a couple of things:

    1. Every kid could participate in the conversation at the same time. That was the first thing. So the idea of democratizing our classroom and classroom discussion has a different kind of manifestation with that kind of technology.

    2. The teacher could actually watch everything that was going on and participate in all the kids' conversations.

    3. There was a written transcript of the kids' discussion that they used later on when they were creating papers and projects and were able to go back to what they had discussed originally about the stories and how their thinking had changed.

    So that's one example of how technology can be very powerful in the classroom and also allow for differentiation because all kids can participate in meaningful ways in those kinds of discussions.

    -----------------------------

    Relevant Links:
    Edmoto: edmoto.com
    Twitter: twitter.com
    Animoto: animoto.com
    Google Docs: docs.google.com
    Glogster: glogster.com
    Moodle: moodle.com

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  3. Hi this is Katie McKnight for K-12 Teachers Alliance and the subject of this podcast is Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and what they mean for teachers in the 21st century. So the first thing that we need to think about when we look at CCSS and this new generation of standards is one of the most important aspects about it:

    We have put student learning at the center now and go back to what drew us all to the profession - our students.

    So the students are really the center of the Common Core State Standards which is also manifested in the fact that the language of the CCSS is written from the student perspective. So we need to use the CCSS as a lens as we consider the “how and why” of our instruction at the classroom level. And just a little sidenote too, you may notice that there is some overlap between CCSS and state standards (probably up to about 15%). But one of the things that is most important about the CCSS is that it’s really looking at skills and how skills can be used and developed in order to acquire content knowledge (and be able to use that content knowledge in significant, meaningful and original ways). And that's a different level of understanding – it's the highest level of understanding when kids can synthesize, analyze, apply and talk about and be able to articulate new understandings on their own. So there's a strong interdisciplinary emphasis on literacy skill integration in the CCSS. So literacy really is at the core for understanding science, social studies and mathematics and all of our important content areas. And this makes it very different (the CCSS from state standards).

    So the Common Core State Standards also emphasize that rigor connects with our students and that's a way for them to develop these skills and new understandings. So what this means for teachers is that our students must be well-read in a wide variety of texts in many different subjects. So there's less emphasis on textbooks and more emphasis on original documents and novels and texts that we can find also on the Internet. So CCSS also positions its students becoming increasingly independent learners, so many of the standards describe tasks for students to do independently without assistance.

    So let me say it again - it's all about application. Application, application is at the core of CCSS.

    So in order to achieve that, we need to also go back to each other - to our fellow teachers and colleagues and build those professional learning communities where we can talk about classroom instruction and learning opportunities for students and be able to share on our strengths as teaching professionals. So we often do this now a lot (formally and informally) when we are drinking coffee at our breaks or such (when we do have breaks in schools) and really talk to each other and build on each other's talents about how we can support our students to apply what they are learning. So things like inquiry projects, portfolios, web quests, literature circles, collaborative projects - are all examples of valuable learning experiences where kids are applying the skill sets and the knowledge that they're learning. So immerse your students in rich textual environments and inquiry kinds of opportunities. Inquiry opportunities require increasing amounts of reading and avoid assumptions about kids and reading. Kids will read if we have texts and subjects that are engaging and interesting to them. So with that, I want to go back to the first thing I said which is that student learning is at the center so we need to go back to what drew us to the profession of teaching and those are our students.

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