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Making it all worthwhile!

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Just got in the best news of the day from a great teacher, Judy Toscano, a Headstart PreK teacher at Schulze Elementary School, Texas. 
“Took a look at the new Jazzles ELA interface. It’s great!  Love the menu on the side. I think it will be easy for the children to navigate.  Also like the different levels of the JazzleOke, great for all levels of learners.
As for how my 2011-2012 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.” 
While I designed Jazzles for Kindergarten and Grade 1, it’s ongoing success in PreK is amazing. Thanks Judy. Appreciated.

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Can you integrate rigor with joy to create peak level engaged, active learning?

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Education to Save the World is one of my favorite blogs. Today, they carry an articles “Your Turn: How do you create a joyful classroom?”
I read it with interest because it is missing or understating the concept of rigor.

Rigor sounds the opposite of joy and often is.
So what is rigor and how can you integrate rigor with joy to create engaged, active learning?

Richard W. Strong (2001) defined rigor as “the goal of helping students develop the capacity to understand content that is complex, ambiguous, provocative, and personally or emotionally challenging”. In her (2008) book ‘Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word’, Barbara Blackburn’ wrote that “Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.”

In a 2012 whitepaper entitled “How do you identify rigor in the classroom?” Rick Jenkins, Jeff Goldhorn, and Mike Webb wrote: “To teach with rigor is to teach accurately and completely. In order to teach accurately, a teacher must have knowledge of both content and pedagogy. Teachers must teach their content without error and have content knowledge that is deeper than that which they teach. Teaching accurately also implies a use of pedagogy that ensures students learn content for understanding. Content knowledge without pedagogy leads to superficial and short-term learning. Pedagogy without content knowledge can result in student misconceptions and misunderstandings.”

So there’s the challenge! Joy does indeed create engagement. But high engagement may come with very low rigor.
What’s the answer?

You have to create a pedagogy/methodology incorporating the rigor integrated with resources and activities that bring the joy!

With JazzlesELA, I have extensive song–themed resources combining animated, subtitled songs, karaoke and interactive song books enhanced with interactive games and printable activity pages. Scalable lesson plans provide the fun/joy with the rigor.

The program does achieve exceptional results – broadly it halves the time to achieve Common Core Kindergarten ELA outcomes.
Here are a few of my strategies:
• The attention and memory power of music and songs.
• Coral singing to create a happy, unified optimum learning environment.
• Singing to activate a class-wide common, oral vocabulary base (song lyrics) – irrespective of the range vocabulary levels (including ESL) of children entering the class. (Diversity is the biggest challenge in public school classrooms.
• The power of ‘whole /part/ whole’ and contextual teaching for developing reading and writing skills and strategies.
• VAK engagement for optimal learning.
• Creative Visual and Performing Arts.
• Interactive technology.
• Visual Literacy.
• Multiple, fun practice strategies.
• Themed, curriculum extensions.
• Guided and independent learning.
• Pair and group interaction.
How to increase rigor and combine the joy is the real challenge!
With JazzlesELA, you have a best practice case – supported by research.

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13. How Jazzles ELA’s ‘Matching Captions’ can Develop Mass Literacy.

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Number 13 in My Series – Strategies Making the Jazzles Difference
Jazzles ELA uses an advanced, customized version of a widely acclaimed literacy development strategy called ‘Same Language Subtitles’.

Integrated with music videos, the SLS strategy is endorsed by the Google Foundation, UNESCO, World Bank, various governments and academics as a way of helping millions of people, particularly the disadvantaged, gain access to regular reading practice and improve literacy.

Here’s how it works and why it’s so important.
Extensive research shows that subtitles such as the ‘Matching Captions’ in the JazzleOke animations, are read just like text in a book.

Unlike subtitles, close captioning and karaoke, the visualization of each JazzleOke animation is designed to create comprehension of the meanings in the ‘Matching Captions’ lyrical text. This way children relate the words they see to the content represented in the images.
This visual explanation of the connected text enhances comprehension.

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Additionally, the design creates a binding relationship between the audio, the sound track, the visualization and the ‘Matching Captions’.
This enables students to ‘take-out’ letter-sounds, while familiarizing themselves with words, phrases and meanings.

Watching the JazzleOke animations, reading the ‘Matching Captions’, seeing contextual clues in story lines, collectively singing and moving to the beat, all children (including English Learners, mildly autistic and disadvantaged students) experience an unbeatable combination of ways to absorb and internalize words and their meanings.

Even if too young to read with understanding, these ‘Matching Captions’ intuitively familiarize children with short sets of connected text while promoting ‘left to right tracking’ of words in meaningful context while also building familiarity with Concepts about Print.

By mixing entertaining cartoons with catchy music, prolifically alliterative alphabetic lyrics and specially formatted subtitles, Jazzles entertains while powerfully, yet intuitively developing all the foundations for learning to read.

Additional Benefits
Research shows that musical and phonemic processing interact – benefiting attention span, comprehension and memory.

Singing along to Jazzles Matching Captions, transforms the usual passive-observation role of screen exposure that includes text into interactive conscious and subconscious learning. Benefits go beyond developing vocabulary, comprehension, fluency and concepts about print – because when children know a word and are then asked to use it in a phonological awareness exercise; they find the task easier than if they had to use an unfamiliar word.

Creative Writing – Teaching Tip!
Here is a way to develop listening, understanding and creative writing skills with the JazzleOke ‘Matching Captions’ Challenge!

Turn children into make-believe ‘Movie Script Writers’.

Have them watch the JazzleOke animation and then write their own ‘Matching Caption’ for the storyboard. (When developmentally ready.) This way you are turning ‘watching and listening’ into creative play that combines aural, visual and written skills! Creating ‘Big Picture Matching Captions’ is a powerful language learning strategy that is fun and anxiety free. Children are far more interested in learning to write and spell when they are using words for a purpose

“Very Funny! Excellent Idea!” “Mixing cartoons and learning is very suitable for teaching Phonics to EFL learners … even adults like watching cartoons!” Says Dr. Kusumarasdyati, PhD. Lecturer English Department, Surabaya State University, Indonesia

Special Education
For children requiring intervention programs, Jazzles ELA is a breath of fresh air! Suddenly, they are creatively learning more than just simplistic English. Singing along to the JazzleOke Matching Captions, children comfortably take risks with their pronunciation, knowing they will be unexposed to any embarrassment.

Singing allows them to concentrate very carefully on each subtle sound until they get it right!

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What one of America’s Most Respected Educators Thinks About Jazzles

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Back in 2008, James J. Harrigan Principal New York State Recognized Closing the Gap School, agreed to write a review of our Jazzles program. Since then, we have done an enormous amount of work on integrating Jazzles to meet and mostly exceed the Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten ELA; created ‘advanced’ ELA Lesson Plans, added a few resources, and renamed the program Jazzles ELA.

Principal Harrigan is a veteran educator with over 30 years experience within the nation’s largest Public School System. He is a past recipient of the New York State Catholic Teacher’s Association’s EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR, the New York City Board of Education SUPERVISOR OF THE YEAR award and the Emerald Society’s EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR. Here is his forword to a manual we created on the Jazzles methodology and pedagogy, soon to be republished.

THE JAZZLES LEARNING SYSTEM

If someone told you that your 5-6 year old child could be guaranteed to graduate from high school, more than likely graduate from college as well, and earn an extra million dollars over the course of their work career, you’d probably say “Where do I sign up?”

Well, the above scenario is not a hypothetical situation. In reality, nearly 40% of parents of children beginning school in kindergarten or grade one face this situation. Why? Because their children do not have the requisite skills to become proficient readers and will be relegated to a second class academic and economic status.

The cold statistics of decades of educational research confirm the following statement: Nothing is more critical to the academic success of a child, as well as their future economic and social well being, than the ability to read well and with understanding.

That is why, as a principal of an urban elementary school for 20 years, I strongly recommend the Jazzles Learning System as an effective and cost efficient tool to increase student reading achievement.

Before I return to why I know Jazzles is an effective program to help struggling reading and enhance the reading ability of all young readers, let’s briefly examine the state of reading in the United States:

Despite nearly 50 years of national focus on reading development, from the 1960’s ESEA legislation to the recent NCLB initiative, the majority of children in the U.S. are still failing to read at a proficient level. These statistics, based upon the most recent (2007) National Assessment of Educational Progress *(NAEP) of reading achievement, are sobering, if not alarming.

What does NAEP tell us? It tells us that only 67% of grade 4 students scored at or above the basic level, with only 33% of students scoring at the proficient level. Conversely, this means that one-third of this national representative sample of 4th graders scored below basic, that is, they do not even have an even partial mastery (the definition of basic) of the skills necessary to become good readers.

So what is the usual reaction to this dire news and depressing statistics?

Both parents and educators usually grasp on to the latest reading initiative or embrace the “flavor of the month” reading program. Alas, as any experienced teacher will tell you, there is no panacea or “silver bullet” to generate skilled readers.

However, there are communities and schools using curricula and programs, which defy the odds and turn out proficient and advanced readers. Their success story can be duplicated.

From my personal experience, the Jazzles Learning System falls into this elite category. Why? For a number of reasons:

Jazzles is practical and time-tested. An early childhood teacher with over 20 years of classroom experience teaching kindergarten and grade one students developed the program.

Jazzles utilizes a multi-sensory approach, emphasizing visual, auditory and kinetic activities and Jazzles is consistent with the latest brain research on learning. It takes the traditional activities of early childhood education and integrates them with 21st century literacy benchmarks and classroom technology advances – particularly interactive whiteboards.

What it really does superbly is take these traditional early childhood classroom activities, and through its interactive program of music, movement and creative games, it enhances and reinforces the literary skills expected of kindergarten and grade one students today.

Most importantly, Jazzles corresponds clearly with any balanced, comprehensive and sequential reading curriculum. Its games and activities are consistent with the essential elements of reading – phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension and vocabulary development. For example, the Jazzles Learning System emphasizes nearly three quarters of the English language words included in most high fluency and sight word lists.

Jazzles is an individualized and differentiated learning system. The technology allows the students, whatever their reading ability, to access the program at their own level. The scaffolded learning system allows students to advance at their own pace. Jazzles also works especially well for ELL and special needs students who react immediately to the positive reinforcement and feedback built into the program’s strategy. As these special populations increase in number and percentage in our schools, Jazzles can be one pragmatic solution to help these students reach state and national literacy standards.

Lastly, and most importantly in a school or home setting, Jazzles is a near perfect supplement to a K-1 reading program. Through its feedback assessment system, it allows teachers to identify and isolate particular reading deficiencies and utilize Jazzles activities to target, remediate and reinforce the skills necessary to bring students up to grade level.

There is probably no greater joy for a parent or educator than to see a reluctant or struggling reader become totally engaged and enthusiastic about reading.

I have seen this occur consistently with students using the Jazzles Learning System- you can make it happen for your children as well.

James J. Harrigan
Principal
New York State Recognized Closing the Gap School

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Have You Ever Thought Of Yourself as a Human Teacher?

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We’ll get to the question above shortly.

In the popular Blog of ‘November Learning’ there’s an illuminating article about ‘Why Schools Must Move Beyond One-to-One Computing’.

The story leads with the experiences of an ISD superintendent, who had spent the past month reviewing one-to-one computing programs in various school districts. He was trying to decide whether his own district should commit to the enormous expense of a one-to-one program at a time of declining resources.

To quote the Blog (click to open), the conclusion from his visits did not leave much room for interpretation.

“Horrible, horrible, horrible implementation from every program I visited,” he said. “All of them were about the stuff, with a total lack of vision.”
His research convinced him not to move forward with one-to-one computing.’

I empathized with his experiences and decided to post a contribution to the Blog based on my own experiences as well as my despair at how computerized beginning reading programs are promoted, and indeed accepted, in our school system.

Here’s what I said.

How I see it!
As you know I am a kindergarten teacher.
I got so fed up with the boring resources my school provided, I created my own program called Jazzles ELA

I wanted to use technology but in tandem with a well rounded, scaffolded, creative learning pedagogy that includes developing vital non-cognitive skills. (Discussion, sharing, problem solving etc.)

Jazzles ELA is blended learning with a very clear and ambitious vision about enabling every child, irrespective of social status, to become at least a proficient but preferably advanced reader and writer.

At the very center of Jazzles 21st Century Engaging Pedagogy is developing vocabulary (linked with knowledge), the single very best predictor of success in all school subject areas.

However, if you look at commercial PreK – K technology-based literacy learning programs that claim to teach children everything they need to know to read, their focus leads with ‘phonics’ and effectively rote learning of words, the latter justified by research that shows if you repeat a word 16 times, you know the word.

Can you imagine the computer programmers when they heard that statistic?? Ecstatic!

As NIFL’s Advisory Board Member, Dr. Richard Wagner, says “Vocabulary knowledge is really knowledge distributed across multiple sets of words rather than an individual word alone. Acquiring a new word or refining knowledge of one word can improve understanding of related words and concepts.”
It takes more than a computer program to do that.
That’s why the Jazzles interactive ELA pedagogy employs social interaction and group work, etc.

When I tried to license Jazzles ELA to the big publishers, even though one valued the program at $4.0m, unanimously their vision was for something teachers could set the kids could do all by themselves – enabling teachers to focus on those children requiring more one-to-one.

All of this came into focus this week, when I looked at the website of ‘StudyDog’ – claiming to be “the fastest growing children’s reading program for kids ages 4-9.

Here’s the StudyDog claim:
“StudyDog Reading provides a complete, research based, rigorous curriculum. Study Dog is aligned with Common Core and state standards and systematically develops skills with explicit instruction. StudyDog is the only online solution that delivers all the components for effectively developing essential skills for early elementary readers.”

Mmmm! We shall see!

Now read their fine print!
Here’s the very small footnote in a pdf entitled ‘Texas Language Arts Literacy Standards PreK – 1st Grade’. To save you clicking the link and looking at the very bottom of the last page, here is what it says:

“StudyDog is a supplemental, computer-based reading program and, as such, cannot meet those standards that can only be met by human teachers. Those standards are not shown.
So please, what’s the point of the program???

Love your thoughts on that!
And look, with Jazzles ELA there is no small print. I stand by everything I claim – and just for the record, Jazzles ELA meets/exceeds Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten ELA – and yes, it is designed for human teachers (weird StudyDog description!!) and delivers in such a way as to minimize classroom management and create maximum quality teaching time!

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