Sticky Notes

A blog to talk about all things literacy. We are sharing experiences, tips and insight on how parents can help improve their child's reading.
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You may have heard about Heartbleed, an Open SSL bug and one of the biggest security flaws to ever hit the internet. This security bug is affecting nearly two-thirds of sites using SSL security. I am emailing to let you know how Reading Glue responded to the bug, and what you can do to protect yourself. The Heartbleed bug was announced on Monday April 7. Our web site’s hosting provider confirmed they had completely patched their systems by the evening of April 8. Reading Glue promptly deployed our own updates and updated our SSL certificates that same day.

We have not found any proof that data in our system has been compromised, but it is impossible to make this statement with 100% certainty. We are encouraging all users to visit their account settings, and update their password. We also want to encourage you to review other online tools you use that might be affected. You can visit here or here to see if a site you use seems to be impacted by this issue or not. Please note that changing your password on a site will not do any good unless the site has issued updates to defend against the Heartbleed bug.

The security of your data is very important to us, and this is why Reading Glue made it a priority to insure our services were patched as quickly as possible. Please contact us if you have any questions pertaining to this incident.

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Last month I was invited to visit Mrs. Sokolinski’s third grade class in Batavia, IL.  After using Reading Glue for about 1 month, they had some questions and lot of feedback that they wanted to share.  I was blown away by all of the great ideas the students shared with me.  Our team reviewed their feedback, and this week we are proud to release a couple new features that address their concerns.

Teacher Comments

Mrs. Sokolinski, as well as other teachers, have been interacting with students after seeing their reading log entry.  This was done by sending an email or leaving comments in the body of the reading log.  We have created a new comment system that allows a teacher to leave questions, feedback or praise a student’s reading log entry.  Many users have told us that teacher interaction through Reading Glue has been a huge motivator for students, and we hope that the new comment system makes these interactions even easier.

Daily Recaps

With the addition of teacher comments, we needed a way to make sure parents and students knew when a teacher commented on an entry.  Teachers have also told us that it would be helpful if Reading Glue gave parents a heads up when their child’s reading level changed in the system.  We created Daily Recaps, an email summary that lets parents know of any reading level changes or comments.  We want to avoid cluttering our users’ inbox, so we have been very selective on what triggers an email.  If it becomes too much, then parents can always turn this setting off by clicking on the “Account” link at the top of the page.

Reading Logs Expanded

We have updated reading logs to allow a student to select if they have read at home or school.  Previously we tracked it based on the reading being logged by a parent or teacher account.  The new selection enables home or school reading to be logged from either a teacher or parent account. It also helps make the data stored in Reading Glue more accurate.  We now enable you to track reading based on the categories read to self, read to others and listen to reading.  We also added a selection for the book genre.  This becomes very important for grades 3 and up.  Students can select which detailed genre they are reading.  Students in the lower grade levels can select from general genres like fiction or nonfiction.  We want to give a teacher insight on what and how much a student is reading based on genre.

Thank You

I want to personally thank Mrs. Sokolinski’s class for all of the great feedback.  I also want to thank all of the users who have emailed or contacted me giving feedback and suggestions.  We are very excited for you to try out the new features and provide even more feedback on how we can continue to improve.  We have several new data points that can be tracked.  How would you like to visualize this data?  Are there any unique ways you would like to use this data?  Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

This post is by James Stubblefield, one of the founders of Reading Glue.  James leads software development for Reading Glue, and also serves as a mentor for The Starter League web development students. You can follow him on Twitter @jameswilliamiii.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Nelson Mandela

When designing Reading Glue there were a lot of tools and options that we felt teachers would find helpful.  Every teacher we talked to gave us some amazing ideas and suggestions on what they wanted to be included in Reading Glue.  It would be easy to just throw everything into Reading Glue and see what tools people actually use.  Our team decided to take a different approach.  Over the past two months I have worked really closely with teachers to understand how they use Reading Glue.  The missing pieces became very apparent once we understood exactly how teachers were using our site. Rather than building blindfolded, we now know what tools to build that our users need and want.  Here are a few of those new tools that we are proud to announce.

Organize your class by reading groups

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We have created an option for teachers to organize students into reading groups.  This makes it easy for teachers to create the same log entry or note for an entire reading group without entering the information multiple times.  Create as many groups as you want and add / remove students as needed.  This tool is a major time saver, and is perfect for logging data quickly.

Establish and track classroom goals

Teachers have told us how much their students are motivated by seeing their classroom reading totals add up over time.  Many teachers were setting weekly or monthly goals for their classrooms.  We added the ability to set reading goals using Reading Glue, and visually track your classroom’s progress over time.

Notes now include snapshots and personal goals

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Our previous version of notes was about as basic as you get.  We noticed that many teachers were creating notes or using paper checklists to track skills such as comprehension, fluency and self monitoring.  We added some simple select boxes to replace what is being tracked by paper, and make it quicker to store notes digitally.  Teachers can also add some personal goals or store private notes for each student.

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We have now shared notes with parents in the dashboard.  They are able to see the snapshot and goals a teacher creates for their child.  Parents and teachers have both told us that they love the transparency and real time communication this option provides.

We have some other improvements in the works.  Do you have feedback or suggestions of your own?  Let us know in the comments or feel free to reach out to us through our support site.

"In trying to improve reading comprehension, schools made a tragic mistake: they took time away from knowledge-building courses such as science and history to clear the decks for more time on reading skills and strategies," they write. "And the impact, particularly on our most disadvantaged students whose content and vocabulary gap is so great, has been devastating."

Porter-Magee and Finn said they see the Common Core as a potential remedy. It theoretically requires teachers to introduce more non-fiction, and reading and writing based on evidence instead of personal narratives. Teachers are supposed to assign readings based not on a student’s actual reading abilities, but rather on the reading level of that student’s school year.

The above are a few snippets from a Huffington Post detailing results from a new study by the Thomas Fordham Institute.  You can see the full article here.  We work with many teachers who fall within the 73 percent figure mentioned above.  Teachers, we want to hear you sound off in the comments with your thoughts on changing reading instruction to be less about individual ability and more about text centered lessons.

In 1998, my home state of Virginia developed the Standards of Learning, much to the dismay of students, parents, and educators who had been teaching a particular unit, theme, or objectives for many years. The SOL’s, as they are often referred to, are a statewide curriculum created to ensure that all students receive the same instruction in the core subjects no matter what public school you attend in the Commonwealth. At the end of every school year, students in specific grade levels take statewide assessments to show what they have learned. Reading in particular is assessed starting in the third grade and throughout elementary, middle, and high school. I learned everything about this new curriculum in college so as a first year teacher in Richmond Public Schools, I would be fully prepared to implement the SOL’s in my second grade classroom. However, this change for veteran teachers was not so easy. In fact, the SOL’s have added pressure to the lives of teachers in many schools due to the fact that the end of year tests results are often used to evaluate the classroom teacher’s instruction.

Have our state standards changed reading instruction? Yes. Has it been effective? Sure. Do the Standards of Learning still exist? Yes, in fact they have already been revamped to make more rigorous reading instruction in Virginia. I believe a similar transformation will be seen nationally with the common core curriculum. It is wonderful that all children will be exposed to the same instructional objectives throughout the nation. It is important that teachers remember to be their creative and innovative professionals by making the standards work for your students. For example, we know that an elementary school community in Miami, Florida will not look exactly like one in Lincoln, Nebraska. While both third grade teachers may be required to use more nonfiction text to initiate close reading and deeper comprehension, each teacher must select a text or topic that matches the interests and backgrounds of his or her own students. Think of the language arts common core standards as your blueprint, while you, the classroom teacher, is responsible for meeting this standard by selecting books and developing lessons that motivate, engage, and educate your boys and girls.
Teaching our students the strategies behind reading and how to think about a text will certainly change reading instruction in a positive manner. Encouraging our students to make connections, predict, reflect, analyze, and form opinions before, during, and after reading a text is empowering and can be done with a variety of texts and through mini lessons from kindergarten to twelfth grade. As teachers, we are the leaders in our classroom and are responsible for our students’ learning. The common core standards may create a new style of teaching and new form of learning, but its how we implement these standards with our twenty-something students that will determine the change.

This is a guest post by Kathryn Starke, an urban literacy specialist, author, and keynote speaker. She is the founder/CEO of Creative Minds Publications, a global educational company.  You follow Katheryn at:
www.creativemindspublications.com
www.facebook.com/creativemindspublications
www.twitter.com/kathrynstarke
www.pinterest.com/kathrynstarke

Today I stumbled across an interesting blog post by a parent lashing out at the use of reading logs by teachers.  You should check it out: The Reading Log: The Quickest, Most Effective Method of Killing a Love of Reading.

Many of the comments were agreeing with the author’s take on reading logs being a waste of time, and not being a good way to promote reading.  It made me realize that parents, and maybe even some teachers, might not understand why reading logs are used.

In a perfect world every parent would take the time to read or expose their child to reading on a regular basis. This is not a perfect world, and many households do not promote reading on a regular basis. In some cases a reading log may encourage a parent to promote reading when otherwise they might not.

I agree that at times reading logs seem like forced reading. You need to remember that your child is practicing and honing one of the most important skills they will learn in school. The skills and strategies used in reading can be applied to just about every subject that your child is learning.

Some children are wowed by the competition created by logging their reading.  My son is a visually motivated child.  He loves sticker charts, punch cards, and he also loves watching his reading numbers increase on Reading Glue each week.  For him, reading logs create a self-competition that continues to drive him to read each night.

Most importantly, reading logs help a teacher analyze what a child is reading. They give a teacher insight on what genre / types of books a child is reading. Teachers learn what types of books a child likes or dislikes. This knowledge can help teachers promote personalized learning that might be more interesting or engaging for the student.  On the flip side, teachers might be able to make suggestions to a parent based on what they see the child reading and enjoying in class.

Reading logs are a lot more than forced reading.  Sure they may be a pain to keep up with, but they serve important purposes in many different ways. What are the different ways you use reading logs in your classroom or home?  We would love to hear about your own experiences in the comments.

This post is by James Stubblefield, one of the founders of Reading Glue.  You can follow him on Twitter @jameswilliamiii.

With the start of school, the discussions around parent involvement seem to be taking place everywhere.  It is a critical ingredient in the recipe of a student’s success. I wanted to write about parent involvement from the perspective of a parent, and hopefully it might give teachers some ideas on how to engage us more.

Timmy the Paperboy

Improve your methods of communication

I try to take a vested interest in my 5 year old’s education, but this seems to get harder as my child gets older.  Like most parents, I am extremely busy.  My days are filled with building Reading Glue, coaching soccer, mentoring programming students at The Starter League, and meetings for the various groups I belong to.  Most evenings I am mentally exhausted by the time I get home and review what is in his take home folder.  For many teachers the take home folder is their main method of contact with home.  I wonder how many parents even look at their child’s take home folder every night?  In this day and age of digital communication, are we really still relying on a 5 year old to deliver important information home to their parents?  Teachers need to embrace technology and use it to communicate with parents in in the ways that parents are familiar with in their everyday lives.  Email works great for me, but texting may work for other parents.  There are some great tools that can be used to send out email and texting campaigns.  The goal should be to get the information in front of the parent, and not rely on them to dig for it.

Dictionary

Avoid using ‘teacher talk

I make it a habit to ask my son what he learned at school each day.  Usually I hear about every aspect of the school day except what was actually learned.  That is why I really appreciate it when teachers keep parents up to speed with what is being taught in the classroom.  One thing that is important is that you need to make sure the concepts you are describing are understandable by the parents.  Remember that parents are not educators, and they do not understand a lot of the lingo used by teachers.  If you require a parent to take the time to look up what something means, then you have probably lost them.  Try to find ways to break down terms and ideas in bite sized chunks that parents can understand.  Help encourage them to get involved instead of scaring them with terms and concepts that are foreign.

Herding

Tell us what to do

If you really want to get parents involved, then tell them exactly what to do.  Give them a plan of action to follow.  Don’t give parents a bunch of options to choose from.  If you give us 5 options to choose from, then we will waste all of our time trying to figure out which option to pick.  Take the thinking out of it.  If parents have to take an extra 10 minutes to figure out what to do, then you have probably lost them.

When we first started talking to parents about Reading Glue, we found that most really want to be involved in their child’s learning.  The problem is that this involvement faded away due to one reason or another.  We found that most parents recognized the importance of reading, but had no idea how to help their child improve their reading ability.  They didn’t have the patience to dig through teacher websites and learn about strategies and techniques that could help their struggling reader.  They did not know what their child’s reading level was, or what books would be a good fit for their child’s reading ability.  We built Reading Glue to tackle these problems, and make the barrier of entry easy for parents who want to be involved.  Try to keep the barrier of entry easy for your parents as well.  When in doubt, keep it simple!

This post is by James Stubblefield, one of the founders of Reading Glue.  You can follow him on Twitter @jameswilliamiii.

Lego picture by Flickr user libertyandvigilance CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, Dictionary picture by Flickr user gadgetgirl CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Sheep picture by Flickr user arbutusridge CC BY 2.0

This past summer we released the initial version of Reading Glue for parents, and were amazed by the number of teachers who checked out the site. We received an overwhelming amount of feedback that asked for a version of Reading Glue that can be used to manage an entire classroom.

Today I am proud to announce on Sticky Notes the release a version of Reading Glue that is tailored for teachers. Teachers have access to additional tools that allow them to manage classroom reading practice, and get an overview of what students are reading inside and outside of class.

Some of the features include:

  • Track up to 40 students
  • Monitor reading level history and performance data
  • Use online reading logs with the entire class
  • Easily take anecdotal notes on students during reading groups
  • Add titles to our virtual library
  • Free 14 day trial, no credit card required

We started Reading Glue with the goal of providing parents with effective resources to use at home, and this has not changed. Reading Glue is free for parents whether their child’s teacher uses the system or not. Parents can easily connect with student accounts that a teacher creates. This allows both teacher and parent to have insight on what kind and how much reading is taking place in the classroom or home.

I am confident that you are going to love what we have put together for you, and so I invite you to give the new version of Reading Glue a try.  If you have feedback, then please share it.  You can reach out to our customer support on the site, or you can email them support@readingglue.com.

Still not sure, head on over to http://readingglue.com to learn more.

Sincerely,

James Stubblefield - Founder

Strong links exist between a child’s ability to comprehend spoken language and her ability to comprehend written language.  ”Studies on children’s reading comprehension show that the most powerful predictor of reading comprehension is not decoding accuracy or reading speed, but listening comprehension, the ability to understand what someone says” (McGuinness, 2004).  Parents can promote their children’s listening comprehension by:

- asking them to paraphrase directions (“What did I ask you to do?”)

- asking them to retell information in books.  ”Retelling is a generative task that required the reader to construct a personal rendition of the text by making inferences based on the original text and prior knowledge” (Gambrell, Koskinen, & Kapinus, 1991).

Children’s response to parents’ inquiries about their school day are often met with the standard response, “I don’t remember”.  Teachers can enhance the conversations parents and children have about school by:

- using web sites or newsletters to provide parents with specific details          about classroom events and activities.  I recommend www.teacherwebsite.com,  l use  a free  web site for teachers.  I also use an “Ask Your Child” link in my web site to promote  conversations between my third-graders and their parents.

- designing talking points for guided reading books that children take home to practice    with their parents.

This is a guest post by Sue Sokolinski, an Elementary educator in Batavia District 101 and an Adjunct Professor in the Literacy Education Department at Northern Illinois University.  Sue is completing a doctorate degree in literacy at NIU.  Her research focuses on the influence of parents on children’s early literacy development.  Sue was also the former chairperson of the Illinois Reading Association Adult and Family Literacy Committee.