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Teachers: Will We Ever Learn? And What I’m Doing About It!

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‘Teachers: Will We Ever Learn?’ is a headline in yesterday’s New York Times. Click here to open.

It’s a great article by Jal Mehta, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the author of the forthcoming book “The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling.”

He says in one paragraph: “… what happens in classrooms, hasn’t changed much in the century since the Progressive Era. On the whole, we still have the same teachers, in the same roles, with the same level of knowledge, in the same schools, with the same materials, and much the same level of parental support.”

Professor Mehta, not for the want of trying!
Unlike Sir Ken Robinson et al, there’s little point in complaining about lack of creativity in schools. I’ve sold my house to create and fund a totally new 21st Century Engagement Pedagogy designed to cater for VAK-T learning styles – using new ground breaking pedagogical resources.

Dianne Ravitch may not support the Common Core Standards. I do, because it provides a benchmark upon which DoE’s and ISDs can judge materials – mine included. And guess what, Jazzles ELA will beat any other PreK to K program hands down and meet/exceed CCSS ELA for Kindergarten!

So what am going to do about it today??
I’m taking time off to work out a new strategy as to how I can get DoEs, ISDs and Principals to say, in the words of Eli Broad, “Why not?” as in “Lesley Beth is claiming all these things about how her program is solving issues of engaging mixed ability PreK-G1 classes. Is it fact or garbage?”

Well just two weeks trying out Jazzles in a class would tell you. So why not try it??
As I said in previous blog, give me your toughest PreK-G1, and I’ll show you how I can engage, manage and motivate them! What’s the risk? NOTHING!
Except you might turn upside down the theories and resources of yesterday.

I’m Going Bush!
So for the next 10 days, I’m going bush – no phones, no electricity, so many stars, you’re dazzled!

And here’s a good summary of where my husband and I are going – courtesy of Australia’s greatest poet, Banjo Patterson

“And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word today,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.”

My husband, who’s British, insists on swimming. It’s cold but crystal clear – we drink it without boiling!
Back on the 22nd April – and thanks for all the hundreds of messages of support.
Tweet@lesleyBeth

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Time for TED debate on Quality PreK! Let’s Get Real!

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If you are a teacher like me, who goes to school everyday with the aim of improving children’s lives through education, please read this article in today’s (06/14/2013) ‘Education Next’ – ‘How Poverty Is Like Global Warming (& Other Parting Thoughts)’.

It is the last of a series of blogs between Michael Petrilli’s and Deborah Meier, the highly respected ‘founder’ of the modern small schools movement.

In the blog, Mr. Petrilli’s comments that “High-quality preschool, for instance, has great potential, but we don’t really know how to scale up the kinds of programs that have gotten dramatic long-term results.”

Read that twice.
What Mr. Petrilli is saying, by default, is that the programs that have gotten results (like Appletree in DC) have uneconomic teacher-student ratios and require lots of intensive training.

I completely disagree with Mr. Petrilli’s sentiments and substance.
I’ve posted my response on the Education Next blog site.

But, just in case, moderators at Education Next decide not to publish the response (be interesting to see), I thought the issue is so important, I’d publish it this blog.
(Update: After 24 hours, my response not yet published!)

Mr. Petrilli might not know how to scale up high quality PreK but I do!
I have spent 10 years doing it – developing Jazzles ELA.
It is a highly scalable ‘Arts in Education’ early education/beginning literacy program that transforms children’s intellectual and emotional engagement.

It’s not theory; its at work in schools in the US and Australia.
Two independent theses proves it works for Kindergarten children.
Anecdotal reports show it works for PreK.

I cannot provide the long-term stats that Mr. Petrilli relies on because that is a chicken and the egg argument.
After all, the egg is now being laid!

What amazes me is that there are so many educators, like Mr. Petrilli, who make statements like this yet so few who invite educational innovators, particularly ordinary, ‘working at the rockface’, teachers like you and me, to present their 21st Century solutions.

Think about this way!
Despite nearly 50 years of national focus, the majority of children in the U.S. are still failing to read at a proficient level.
So academia and mega-publishers really can’t claim to have monopoly on solutions – their record is not that good!

  • Why do we place so much value on their formula solutions?
  • Why do we never ask them to prove their solutions to engage diverse children on standard teacher/student ratios?

Why? Because if you can’t engage, you cannot teach them? And here’s a fact you’ll never read! A 2007 PISA (OECD) study, showed levels of ‘engagement’ is the single factor that differentiated the nations with the highest and lowest levels of student achievement. And that goes for PreK too!

So Mike Petrilli, Sir Ken Robinson, Lord Puttenham, Geoffrey Canada, Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, step up to the plate for a real debate on what constitutes a new model for high quality PreK that, unlike A+ schools, Appletree, (et.al.) highly scalable, highly cost effective (ok, let’s use the word cheap) and transforming for the disadvantaged.

I’m ready! Let’s do it on TED! BECAUSE it is a debate worth having!
And by the way, lets not focus always on poverty because there are so many abused and stressed kids we need to help too.
If you agree with this post, and your mad with the naysayers, use Twitter and Facebook to send it viral!
It’s worth it!

BIG NOTE:
Love it! New website ‘Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates‘ is publishing messages from teachers to the Microsoft founder

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11. U.S. students struggle with vocabulary! Why The Jazzles Vocabulary Approach IS the NAEP’s Vocabulary Approach!

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Number 11 in My Series – Strategies Making the Jazzles Difference
‘U.S. students struggle with vocabulary’, says a new study from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.
The same article adds ‘Vocabulary skills of students nationwide closely track students’ reading comprehension levels.’

So where do we go from doomsday?
Commenting on the research, Francie Alexander, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer for Scholastic Education, says the results show that developing a rich vocabulary “can become a huge task for students, one that schools must take on beginning in the earliest grades and continuing through high school.”

Does Vocabulary Development Have to be a Huge Task?
Certainly not! With Jazzles, children acquire vocabulary knowledge intuitively, easily and almost automatically, through the combination of:
1. Highly engaging, song themed, vocabulary rich resources.
2. The use of multiple mnemonic-based strategies to power vocabulary development – e.g. Matching Captions; prolific alliteration: developing vocabulary using connected text; lyrics emphasizing nearly 75% of words found in high fluency and sight word lists; creative writing using storyboarding; etc.
3. The use of creative arts for reinforcing and extending vocabulary and comprehension. For example, the use of drama and creative play to develop expressive vocabulary and oral skills.

Benefits go beyond developing vocabulary and comprehension, because when children know a word and are then asked to use it in a phonological awareness exercise, they will find the task easier than if they had to use an unfamiliar word.
See footnote: Research shows that, as in Jazzles ELA, musical and phonemic processing interact.

If every child had access to Jazzles ELA, I can tell you this.
Jazzles is absolutely ‘guaranteed’ to build your students knowledge not only of most of the words they need to know, but also hundreds of words that add sparkle to their texts!

As Headstart teacher Judy Toscano of San Antonio confirms (2013):

“As for how former students are doing, the Pre-k 4 teachers and the kindergarten teachers can see a huge difference between my students that have used Jazzles and other students that have not. They demonstrate a more advanced vocabulary and have letter names and letter sounds more developed. My students also show better scores on the assessments we administer then the other pre-3 classes on my campus.

Here’s the Jazzles Quick Guide to Oral Language Development!
Jazzles fosters vocabulary using group/choral singing supported by song-themed discussion topics, and visual and performing arts experiences.
1. The Jazzles animated song stories achieve high levels of intellectual and emotional engagement.
2. The content of each song story is both highly relevant but more importantly ‘relatable’ – perhaps best defined by Tracy Johnson, one of America’s top media audience programmers, as ” .. turning content into connective communication that resonates with the audience.”
3. The story content ignites curiosity that children can immediately explore using the Google and Bing (Maps and Video) toolbar embedded into our user interface.
4. The Jazzles Advanced ELA Lesson Plans provide teachers with discussion topics that achieve very high levels of student interest and interaction.
5. Widespread participation is achieved because, having related to the song animations, children are familiar with the ‘plot’. This creates the interest and self-confidence to share their knowledge and real-life experiences. This is especially important for ESL students.

The Jazzles Vocabulary Approach IS the NAEP Vocabulary Approach

“The results come from the biennial National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly called The Nation’s Report Card.
The NAEP vocabulary test demanded more high-order, abstract thinking from students, inviting them to use the context of a passage to figure out words’ meanings instead of simply asking them to define words in isolation.” Says USA Today.

That’s exactly what Jazzles does!
You would be amazed at all the creativity generated when children become TV reporters, weather anchors, ‘witnesses’ etc.!

I get children to work in pairs or small groups, planning an interview, creating a storyboard, playing a role, developing a story or dramatic performance related to the animated song story!

From the very first time they sing along to the Jazzles animated stories (JazzleOke 1), you can see just how fast and naturally students develop not only their oral vocabulary but also their communication and cooperative skills!
As a teacher, I just love their confident report-backs and group interactions!

Try It! Why Not?
Are you struggling because of vocabulary deficits, particularly with the disadvantaged?
Why not just test Jazzles in your classroom?
Just click the link to download and install the Jazzles ELA demo unit – ‘Blue Bus Blues’ (38Mb – no information required – includes uninstall.exe) – and then experience the Jazzles’ power to develop vocabulary and listening skills in real-time!

Start by referencing page 2 of the Advanced ELA Lesson Plans.
Here, you can see the structured Inferential, Literal and Evaluative Question prompts suggested. Now just add/tailor your own!

As Core Knowledge founder E.D. Hirsch Jr. says “Students don’t learn new words by studying vocabulary lists. They do so by guessing new meanings within the overall gist of what they are hearing or reading.”

Note:
Research shows that musical and phonemic processing interact – benefiting attention span, comprehension and memory. Source: ‘The Effect of Harmonic Context on Phoneme Monitoring in Vocal Music’’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine USA Also The Relationship of Lyrics and Tunes in the Processing of Unfamiliar Songs: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Adaptation Study’ The Society for Neuroscience

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A fun, new, ‘learn to read’ methodology for disadvantaged children?

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Can every child (including ESL, SPED and socio-economic disadvantaged children) experience beginning reading success?

Is there a new ‘learn to read’, multimedia approach that engages the spectrum of learning needs in every mixed ability class?

Interested? Test it out!
Digital/visual media, music, singing and movement engage today’s children.

The Jazzles ELA’s unique ‘learn to read’ methodology uses all these features to emotionally and intellectually engage beginning readers.

Together, they create optimal, simultaneous visual, aural and kinetic engagement by catering for every child’s preferred learning style profile.

Using supporting themed resources and visual and performing arts, Jazzles creates fun, interactive social and digital experiences that provides multiple forms of practice to consolidate skills without the dreaded ‘drill and kill’ that annihilates any learning/ teaching joy!

Try It! Why Not?
Your free, Jazzles ‘Blue Bus Blues’ Unit download allows you test levels of joy and engagement with your students, and explore how the Jazzles song-powered ELA program works.

Its key resource – JazzleOke 1 - shows how the 6 beginning ‘learn to read’ skills (Letter-Sound Correspondence, Phonemic Awareness, Vocabulary, Comprehension, Fluency and Concepts about Print) are acquired intuitively through fun visual, aural and kinesthetic interaction.

Can Jazzles unique ‘learn to read’ methodology be a life-changing, ‘beginning reading success’ solution for teachers with disadvantaged children in mixed ability classes ?
Let me know what you think.

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What Can Be Done When ONLY 12% of Black Boys are on Grade Level?

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The figure of 12% is to be found in Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu’s recently released book – ‘Understanding Black Male Learning Styles’ – in which he says, “Understanding black male learning styles is critical to academic success.”

Which takes us to today Thursday 11th April, Dr. Yvette Jackson will be the keynote speaker at the NYC DOE EMPOWERING BOYS INITIATIVE (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture).

Here Dr. Jackson will present research supporting her ‘Pedagogy of Confidence: Inspiring High Intellectual Performance in Urban Schools‘.

The essence is that high intellectual performance can be achieved when instruction and classroom environment are modified to include culturally relevant strategies through High Operational Practices that fortify the cognitive skills necessary for all students to meet the demands of the Common Core State Standards.

I Blend Research and Classroom Practice!
My Jazzles ELA program is built on research, focusing particularly on VAK-T learning styles and mnemonics. But some times I think research gets more attention than solutions.

So here’s this blog’s takeout!
There is a solution for Black American boys in PreK-G2. It’s called Jazzles ELA.
It is based on decades of practical classroom experiences and the oft forgotten, old time teacher skills, of ingenuity and creativity!
(Sadly replaced these days by committee-based prescriptive pedagogies.)

Using Jazzles ELA, schools will significantly reverse 50 years of failed resources and pedagogies to achieve consistently high levels of reading proficiency among our most disadvantaged.

As Eli Broad (@UnreasonableEli), says in a current tweet ‘Anyone in any line of work can use “Why Not?” to make small but significant changes in day-today operations’.

So my little request to Dr Jackson, Dr. Kunjufu, and all schools experiencing this issue, is:
Why not review Jazzles ELA in the toughest school you can ‘throw’ at me?
All I need is 1-2 weeks, an Interactive Whiteboard, some photocopy paper and art materials.
(Notes: You’ll see an impact on day 1. Doesn’t need much teacher training, because Jazzles is essentially ‘intuitive’.)

Summary
Dr. Yvette Jackson’s is the ‘Pedagogy of Confidence’.
Mine is the ‘Pedagogy of Engagement‘.
Through it’s pedagogy, particularly teaching from what is known, children acquire confidence because risks of failure are effectively removed. (See my very next blog!!)

How Jazzles caters for Black American boys – without losing the girls (or anyone else!).

BLACK AMERICAN Students
Movement and rhythm components are vital – along with the full battery of Jazzles resources and strategies. This includes:
• Kinesthetic/tactile experiences.
• Processing visual information.
• Opportunities for expressive creativity (e.g. oral expression).
• Nonverbal communication (including intonation, body language, dance and drama, etc.).

Important strategies include working with background music playing (a key Jazzles language practice strategy) and creating an environment that encourages harmony, cooperation, and socialization.

Jazzles embeds all these strategies in its resources and pedagog

BOYS

Stunning!
Says New York Times Best Selling author Michael Gurian ( ‘The Minds of Boys’).

Jazzles resources and pedagogy is embedded with differentiated instruction strategies that create boy friendly classrooms – while still engaging the girls, both sexes at extraordinary levels.
For boys,Jazzles is full of experiential single-task focus projects and visual-spatial/body-kinesthetic learning, the latter catering for boys’ natural desire to move.

LOW SES
The Jazzles pedagogy tackles all the core challenges these students face including lack of vocabulary, general knowledge, self-confidence as well as behavioral and emotional problems. Features include:
• Jazzles ELA is a multifaceted program that enables children to experience and practice learning in a multitude of different ways. For example, a key vocabulary strategy is to use the JazzleOke cartoons to power language rich conversations, drama and topic exploration.
• By focusing on one JazzleOke theme a week, children rapidly develop a common class-wide language base familiar to every child. This enables every child, advantaged and disadvantaged, to join-in happily.
• Week by week, low SES students incrementally develop their language base, general knowledge, their confidence and the joy of learning cooperatively.
• With Jazzles, there are frequent, varied, and extensive language experiences through its directed listening and discussion strategies.
• This includes the role of rich language. Around 5% of Jazzles lyrics are composed of ‘big/unfamiliar’ words – like ‘astronaut’, ‘astonished’ and ‘outstretched’. These big words are the ones children find easiest to remember while also fostering word consciousness.
• For low SES students, song-powered Jazzles brightens their day with happiness and joy. It also provides unique opportunities to engage families in their children’s education, and in the process improve literacy standards in the home.

Re Other Groups
For Hispanic, REGED, SPED, ESL/EFL refer to Equity for All on my website.

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Today’s Kids Don’t Have Time on Their Side – Do Something About It Now!

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On July 7, 2013, the New York Times, published an editorial by well respected columnist Paul Krugman, titled ‘Defining Prosperity Down’.
Commenting on latest employment date, he wrote “Full recovery still looks a very long way off. And I’m beginning to worry that it may never happen.”

Growing levels of poverty, lack of certainity and opportunity for our children weighs heavy on the minds of myself and my husband who, figuratively speaking, took pen to paper to write a comment that the NYT published.

Kevin’s end message is not that we need to rethink the role of ‘Arts Integration’, but we need to do it now!!
DoEs, ISDs, politicians (on comfortable salaries), today’s kids don’t have your time on their side. You need to act now!

Here’s what he said:
“Paul, I am afraid long-term unemployment, particularly for disadvantaged, is a reality. It will get worse.
When I grew up I worked for employers like Unilever (Lever Bros) and Interpublc who fostered my career.
Today, its carnage for every employee.

I live in Australia where the average wage is $70,000 but where property values now exceed 10 times earnings. A different type of poverty!
I am not sure of the solution but I do think its foundations is PreK – G1.
We have to create literate kids with confidence – and instill in them the ethos to create their own way to earning money without relying on organization unless they are like COSTCO which do the right things by their employees.

My kids went to top schools, they live very comfortably and I know they look after the people who help them.
Paying garbage wages is a social disgrace but if you look at TV soaps, etc, why would you be surprised!”
Kevin Condon Sydney
TAKE OUT
Arts Integration has the ability to power literacy, build confidence, creativity and instill all children with a positive view of their ability to succeed!
JazzlesELA.com proves it! If you have any doubts, just ask me!

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Can You Measure Rigor?

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EXEMPLARY SCHOOLS is a great forum on Linkedin.
The other day, a discussion started on engagement in learning featuring a great infographic.

Kevin, my husband, I wrote a comment as follows:
“The concept of ‘engagement’ is like ‘fun’ – everyone claims their program is fun – except they are never asked to prove it. Same with ‘engagement’ – except not as used as often and certainly never required to be demonstrated but it is critical to learning. A 2007 PISA (OECD) study, showed levels of ‘engagement’ was the single factor that differentiated the nations with the highest and lowest levels of student achievement….!!

The reason he did this is because I was working in an inner city school putting engaged learning into practice!
So here’s the story!

Jazzles ELA excels in engaged learning! Seriously you could stake the proverbial house on Jazzles versus any other program to engage today’s diversified classes.
It’s one of my hobby horses because it is so important yet no one seems to care!

So we were both somewhat overwhelmed by the followng response from Professor John Sizemore, M.Ed., who teaches in the highly respected Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education. He’s a bit of an expert in this area. His resume notes: “John brings a practitioner’s perspective to the students entering the field of education or honing their skills to be principals. He has served in many administrative roles in public education, most recently as assistant superintendent in the 100,000 student Jefferson County Public Schools. John has served as consultant to a variety of urban and rural districts across the country, focusing on restructuring schools. Additionally, John has published articles on teacher advisory programs and principal leadership in restructuring the middle school. John received his B.A. in Social Studies, his MA in Guidance and Counseling, and his Rank I in Supervision and Instruction from Eastern Kentucky University.”

If you are a member of LinkedIn, you can reference the article by clicking this link: 27 Ways To Increase Student Engagement In Learning

Here’s what Professor Sizemore had to say:
“Maria, I totally concur with Kevin. School leaders and teachers speak of rigor, but it is really just talk. Until you measure rigor, it is all conjecture. With research I have been doing on rigor and engagement, in over 40 schools engagement follows rigor. As goes rigor so goes engagement. Early on l speculated active learning was the trigger to engagement, meaning that if you pedagogically tended to active learning that rigor would result. After more than 20,000 observations, it is clear rigor (thinking level) is at the top of the food chain. In every school’s data, when rigor increases so does engagement. You can have high engagement, but it is resting on the good nature of compliant students. This was determined by schools results that had high engagement, but very, very low rigor. In this case, it was a rural school district with students that did what the teacher asked.

Kevin is so right on with his analysis. School and teacher leaders talk of rigor and engagement, but until you measure these areas, you do to know. Thankfully, I have developed a quick assessment tool to get empirical results. The schools with whom we work know the difficulty of trying to change rigor and engagement. The difficulty in improving schools is In knowing how to change systems which then change school results.

We have found school leaders are challenged with knowing what to do too change results. It is not more PD, but the right PD which focuses on how to increase rigor,
By John Sizemore”

At long last we have found someone who knows how to measure rigor – we hope to use his assessment tool either directly or as the basis for a thesis. If you know anyone interested in this, please have them contact me.

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