Reading Apprenticeship Blog on Sabbatical

March 22, 2012 by

Dear Readers,

Thank you for visiting and/or subscribing to the Reading Apprenticeship blog.

As you may have noticed, we stopped posting to the blog around the same time we began intensive work on our two big U.S. Department of Education-funded research grants—RAISE and Project READi.

Both projects are proving to be very exciting. However, the same folks who were writing our blog posts are now deeply involved with the RAISE and READi research, developing and  facilitating the associated professional development, focusing on completing the new revision of Reading for Understanding, and providing Reading Apprenticeship institutes nationally and in Canada.

Due to all of our activities and new development, the Reading Apprenticeship blog is on “sabbatical.” In the meantime, please visit the Reading Apprenticeship website often for the latest news and research.

We also invite you to join our mailing list for announcements of upcoming professional development opportunities and other news, which we generally send out about three or four  times a year. To subscribe to the Reading Apprenticeship mailing list, please complete the form below.

Engaging a Campus in Reading Apprenticeship

August 18, 2011 by

Since fall 2008, our campus has been “exposed” to a new way of thinking about reading. Through many in-service opportunities, faculty here at Renton Technical College have learned about the Reading Apprenticeship approach to reading. As a result, more than 1,500 of our students have experienced Reading Apprenticeship routines and metacognitive conversations in their classes.

As buzz was building about Reading Apprenticeship, we contemplated options for increasing the reach of the training we could provide to colleagues. The recent result was a collaboration with Reading Apprenticeship to develop a 30-hour online course for community college faculty. It was piloted this spring with 25 instructors on our campus, and is now an in-service option for busy faculty here and nationwide.

At Renton, this course has catalyzed transformations in a range of classroom practices and ways we approach texts with our students:

  • Faculty are now more aware of their own reading processes and more committed to learning about the reading processes of their students.
  • Faculty are thinking about new ways to create reading communities in their classrooms so that student reading and discussion about texts drive engaged learning, in contrast to teacher lecture and passive student note taking.
  • Curriculum approaches are changing in many of the programs. For example, the new cohort of nursing students will encounter a faculty group collaborating across the program to use Reading Apprenticeship routines and approaches.
  • Students are noting that when reading itself is on the table, with faculty and students discussing reading obstacles and confusions as problems to be solved, not only the reading but also the course content comes into sharper focus.
  • Faculty are asking that our librarians use Reading Apprenticeship routines in their information literacy workshops with students.
  • Administrators are commenting about the interest they hear from students and faculty about improving students’ reading.
  • Faculty are preparing for the fall quarter by requesting more Reading Apprenticeship training and purchasing document readers for use in modeling “Think Alouds.”
  • Faculty are “lining up” to enroll in the online course for the next academic year.

As the team leader for Reading Apprenticeship at our college, I am excited by the changes I am hearing about. There is a new and broad-based energy around reading, the sharing of reading routines, and an eagerness to try new ways of modeling for students what we as “expert” readers do. For three years, our team has been engaging our faculty, one step at a time, and now feel that we have overcome the sometimes formidable roadblocks of ingrained practice and resistance to change. So if your campus feels sluggish about Reading Apprenticeship, have patience. Over time, with leadership, support, and focused energy, your campus too can change.

Click here for more information about the
Reading Apprenticeship Online for Community College Instructors.

Blog Contributor, Michele Lesmeister

Michele Lesmeister teaches Adult Education classes at Renton Technical College in Renton, Washington. She has a BA in Linguistics and a Master’s degree in Teaching English. Since 1990, she has focused on teaching adults transferable language skills in writing and reading and sometimes math for health sciences. She has published two texts with Pearson Education: Math Basics for the Health Care Professional, 3rd edition, and Writing Basics for the Health Care Professional. Michele began her work with Reading Apprenticeship by attending the 2008 Leadership Institute in Reading Apprenticeship. She is leading a college-wide initiative of institutionalizing Reading Apprenticeship under the Achieving the Dream grant for her institution. You can learn more about the work in Reading Apprenticeship at Renton Technical College at

Everything That I Know About Teaching and Learning I Learned From My Pilates Teacher

May 27, 2011 by

A couple of years ago, when my son learned how to walk and then run and my partner and I realized that we would need to be able to chase him, we grudgingly decided to get back on that old “health and wellness” horse and started going to a Pilates studio twice a week. Almost immediately, I started making connections between my Pilates teacher, Hana, my learning experiences at the studio, and my own teaching. Even though my title is hyperbolic, it is also oddly true; I keep having epiphanies about teaching and learning by continuing to exercise with Hana.  For example:

  1.  Wow! Is it ever hard to walk into a new classroom for the first time! I always aim to lead with empathy as a teacher, but there’s nothing like being a new student again to make you remember how difficult it is to try something new. My own students tend to be stony-faced on the first day, and it is easy to forget that the vast majority of them are probably feeling incredibly stressed about the decision to actually TRY something. Does anything make you more vulnerable than letting a group of strangers know that you are hoping to change your life?

    by Jana Bouc

  2. It’s amazing how fast and how far you can progress just by doing what you can do without being criticized or shamed for your imperfections. As long as we are safe and trying, Hana does not comment much on her students’ form; as an ex-ballerina, her philosophy is, “You can be perfect when you’re dead.” The truth is that I literally can’t do many exercises correctly — I aim towards them, building up strength by doing the best I can. The physical progress that I have made by doing imperfect pushups and awkward stretches is something I connect to my students, who need to be able to express their ideas, both in conversation and in writing, without being judged against some distant standard. As long as we stay engaged, we will get there; indeed, there is no other way to get there.
  3. There’s nothing wrong with doing reps. There are certain exercises that we always do, come hell or high water, every single Pilates class. Sometimes the difficulty increases, or an element is added, but the basic routine stays the same. I used to feel self-conscious asking students to repeat activities too much in my classes, afraid they would get bored if I didn’t “mix it up.” Now I see the beauty and comfort of certain classroom routines that you know you can count on, and that you know are helping you to gain confidence and make progress. Making progress is itself engaging!
  4. Motivation is sustained by relationships. Really, this is the key to why I continue to surprise myself by spending money and time to go to Pilates twice a week. Against all odds, I feel like I belong in that studio. I don’t even consider not going because I don’t think of it as drudgery. I think of it as a gift that I am giving to myself. Hana has facilitated this emotional connection to the Pilates routine, and I study her because I feel that somehow, if I understand how she builds and maintains the relationships that she does, I will hold the key to keeping my students in class, engaged, doing what they can do in regular classroom routines as they move towards greater strength, fluency, and independence.

I haven’t analyzed all of the elements that make Hana’s teaching so effective, but there are things I certainly try to emulate. She knows everybody; she judges nobody. She is personally involved but also professional. She is absolutely confident that her students can learn, no matter what age, size, or physical limitations they present.

But still, there is something magical about a teacher who knows how to apprentice students in such a way that the change they seek is their very own — not a standard imposed from outside — but an ongoing gift to themselves. I guess this is the final reason I keep going to Pilates: an amazing teacher makes you want to learn more!

Blog Contributor, Nika Hogan

Nika Hogan

Nika Hogan

Nika Hogan is Associate Professor of English at Pasadena City College (PCC) and the Reading Apprenticeship Community College Coordinator for the Strategic Literacy Initiative at WestEd (SLI). She has a B.A. in English and Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Multiethnic U.S. Literatures from the University of Massachusetts.

Her work at PCC and with Reading Apprenticeship is focused on developing pedagogical, curricular, and institutional approaches and structures that will maximize the retention and success of all students, especially those entering college at the “basic skills” level. She has been involved in many learning communities through PCC’s Teaching and Learning Center and is currently the Activities Director of a Title V grant designed to scale up those programs to a broad first-year experience pathway that will, if she gets her way, integrate both reading across the curriculum and reading across the community. She lives in Altadena, CA, with her partner, their three-year-old son, and two extremely under-disciplined terriers.

Writing Apprenticeship in Reading Apprenticeship Classrooms

May 19, 2011 by

From time to time, teachers in our professional development institutes will ask, “What about writing? How does Reading Apprenticeship address students’ needs to develop as writers?”

Two very important types of writing come immediately to mind. The first we might call “writing to learn.” In Reading Apprenticeship classrooms, students are routinely asked to annotate texts with their thinking, write metacognitive reflections, develop and use graphic organizers to gather and organize their thoughts while reading, and use journals and logs to promote and document their learning. They assess their own progress in reading and learning in a variety of forms, including reflective letters to their teachers. Frequent opportunities to put mind to text while putting pen to paper build students’ fluency of written expression.

The second type is the writing of formal essays, explanations, and arguments that are more often considered the target of writing instruction. In the Reading Apprenticeship Academic Literacy curriculum for ninth grade, extended thematic units of study involving multiple genres lead to a formal essay that draws on that extensive reading. These units demonstrate an “apprenticeship approach” to writing instruction that will be familiar to anyone practicing Reading Apprenticeship. In brief:

  • Writing is a purposeful activity in which teachers apprentice and guide their students to greater mastery.
  • The class identifies, examines, and discusses features of texts that demonstrate valued communication strategies using model or mentor texts.
  • Teachers model writing processes such as brainstorming ideas, drawing information from previous readings on key themes, planning the presentation/flow/structure of ideas through the essay, revising, and editing — all while thinking aloud during the composing process [a closer parallel to thinking aloud during the comprehension process would be hard to find].
  • Student talk — discussion of reading materials, ideas about how they connect to unit themes, and plans for writing about texts — pervades the learning environment.
  • Students work collaboratively to compose together, with teacher support, before going at an essay-writing task independently.
  • With the whole writing process and product in view, students are given frequent and multiple opportunities to try their hand at parts of the process and parts of the product, with teacher and peer support.
  • Teachers scaffold the writing itself with structural supports, or writing frames, as well as transition words and sentence frames, particularly for English learners needing additional support for expressing their ideas in English.
  • Students are given real audiences for their written work and publication venues for sharing their writing with a broader world of thinkers, readers, writers, and decision makers.
  • The mentoring, guidance, collaboration, and scaffolds fade over time as students move toward independence as writers.

Early in our history we were deeply influenced by the work of the National Writing Project and its promotion of teachers experiencing their own writing processes to build expertise as teachers of writing. Apprenticeship begins with teachers’ analysis of their own processes of composing meaning, whether while reading or while writing. Metacognitive routines (think aloud, talking to the text, ongoing metacognitive conversation) can serve important roles throughout the writing process as teachers model valued reasoning and decision-making processes while composing, promote student discussion of their varied writing problems and problem-solving approaches, and engage students in responding to one another’s ideas and drafts.

The beautiful thing about routine strategic apprenticeships in writing (and reading) is that once established, this instruction can focus on discipline-specific communicative purposes and forms of text, including description, explanation, and argumentation. As Susan De La Paz and Mark Felton wrote recently,

Support for writing [in history] may help students learn to read multiple source documents with the purpose of identifying and reconciling conflicting points of view. Conversely, support for reading historical documents may help students to develop more sophisticated claims, evidence, and counterarguments in their writing […. R]esearch in writing, at least in disciplines other than language arts, has largely overlooked this intimate relationship between reading and writing processes (175).”*

There is ample support in the research literature for this kind of apprenticeship approach to writing. Look no further than the recent monograph Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading by Steve Graham and Michael Hebert, published in 2010 as a Carnegie Corporation Time to Act Report available for download.

And in the recently completed Writing Intensive Reading Comprehension (WIRC) Study, Jim Collins and his colleagues demonstrated that assisted writing about reading improved fourth and fifth grade students’ reading comprehension. At the recent International Reading Association conference in Orlando, Collins observed that although writing was often seen as an instrument of testing in our schools and classrooms, it was not often used as an instrument of learning. He asked,

If we test kids by having them write about their reading, why don’t we teach kids by having them write about their reading?” [italics added]

*S. De La Paz, and M. K. Felton, “Reading and Writing from Multiple Source Documents in History: Effects of Strategy Instruction with Low to Average High School Writers.” Contemporary Educational Psychology 2010, 35:174–192.

Cynthia Greenleaf

Cynthia Greenleaf

Blog Contributor, Cynthia Greenleaf

Cynthia Greenleaf co-directs WestEd’s Strategic Literacy Initiative (SLI) and SLI’s research program and has contributed to several books on literacy and education. She received a PhD and MA in language and literacy education from the University of California, Berkeley, and a BA in linguistics from the University of California, San Diego, where she graduated magna cum laude.

Make Your Failures Visible

May 6, 2011 by

In my last blog post, “Herding Elephants,” I started a discussion of how to motivate people to change when change is hard. If a human being is basically a great big elephant of emotion being ridden by a tiny little “rational” rider, how do we, in a professional development setting, help the rider to nudge the elephant — who is usually comfortable with the way things are — to move in a positive direction for pedagogical and institutional change? I had the idea that one way to get the elephant on the right track is to share success stories in order to learn from and encourage one another.

Reading Apprenticeship Dimensions

Reading Apprenticeship Dimensions (Click to enlarge)

A wonderful conversation with Sandy Woods from Santa Ana College a couple of weeks ago made me realize that all of this elephant and rider business is just another way of attending to the social and personal dimensions of our classrooms. In fact, it is the Reading Apprenticeship emphasis on the social and personal aspects of teaching and learning that makes it such a powerful framework in classrooms of all kinds (across the disciplines and levels, and in professional development settings). However, this crucial component to learning, although so frequently dismissed as “touchy-feely” or “warm and fuzzy,” can actually be quite difficult to facilitate. A focus on success stories might make it feel even harder.

When Sandy told me about her early experience trying to build the personal and social dimensions into her Anthropology 101 course, it was clear that more was involved than warm and fuzzy. “It was awful,” she said and described a classroom of 50 students who didn’t know each other and were unwilling to take the risks involved in routines such as think aloud and pair share. “I really had no idea where to begin.”

Despite its “fluffy” reputation, building the social and personal dimension is one of the most rigorous and challenging intellectual tasks that we have as instructors and facilitators. A huge part of it comes down to our own ability to make our learning visible to others — to learn and grow and change as we go. This can be extremely difficult because, as an instructor, Sandy pointed out, “You don’t want to take your own risks. We forget that we have our own learning curve.” Grappling with all of this, she said, “I made myself miserable.”

Over time, she added, “I reached a ‘tipping point.’ I’m doing ice-breakers and name tags — which students think is hysterical — but I need their help. I do want to know who they are. That vulnerability is important. You have to show some vulnerability for them to be able to.”

I was so glad to have spoken to Sandy when I did, because by focusing on how to write the next blog post in my “Success Story” series, I had forgotten to consider how important it is to discuss our FAILURES with one another. Sandy reminded me that we can never build the personal and social dimensions of our own learning community if we don’t share our failures with one another — and she modeled it, too. Thank you, Sandy! You helped me realize once again that our instinct (or elephant comfort zone) seems always to assume the mantle of “the expert.” We figure, “People are paying for this. They want to know that somebody is in charge.” In fact, Reading Apprenticeship has taught us that the best way to teach is to make our own learning visible — and that includes a lot of missteps, failures, foibles, and awkward moments that we would rather forget!

So, in honor of Sandy and her enormous insight, I hereby amend my intended future posts from a “Success Story” series to a “Failure and Success Story” series. And funnily enough, many, many topics spring to mind! (Um, how long are the blog posts allowed to be? …)

Blog Contributor, Nika Hogan

Nika Hogan

Nika Hogan

Nika Hogan is Associate Professor of English at Pasadena City College (PCC) and the Reading Apprenticeship Community College Coordinator for the Strategic Literacy Initiative at WestEd (SLI). She has a B.A. in English and Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Multiethnic U.S. Literatures from the University of Massachusetts.

Her work at PCC and with Reading Apprenticeship is focused on developing pedagogical, curricular, and institutional approaches and structures that will maximize the retention and success of all students, especially those entering college at the “basic skills” level. She has been involved in many learning communities through PCC’s Teaching and Learning Center and is currently the Activities Director of a Title V grant designed to scale up those programs to a broad first-year experience pathway that will, if she gets her way, integrate both reading across the curriculum and reading across the community. She lives in Altadena, CA, with her partner, their three-year-old son, and two extremely under-disciplined terriers.

Reading Apprenticeship Professional Development Online?!!!

April 29, 2011 by

If you had told me a year ago that I would think of online Reading Apprenticeship professional development as a good step, I would have thought you were crazy. A hybrid of face-to-face and online? Maybe. But online only? Never!

Last year, standing at a WestEd booth at the Title I Conference in Virginia where I’d just made a presentation, my colleague Mark Kerr said to me, “In 10 years there will be NO face-to-face professional development.” When I gasped (this being the core of what we do at the Strategic Literacy Initiative), he amended it a bit and said, “Well, there will be no professional development programs that don’t INCLUDE a web-based component.”

Fast forward to spring 2010. One of the most energetic faculty leaders of our far-flung network of community college teachers — Michele Lesmeister — calls me and says, essentially, “We MUST develop a course on Reading Apprenticeship for our faculty!” In response, I recite all the reasons why it can’t work: “People won’t have the personal and social connections that are crucial to the professional development we do.” “People won’t really be able to practice with and learn from each other.” “People won’t experience all the varied ways different readers make sense of varied disciplinary texts.” “People won’t….”

Michele patiently explains to me that on her campus, instructors are eager to learn more about supporting students with Reading Apprenticeship routines, but they don’t have time to come to workshops for more than an hour, maximum. And, as someone who has taught many online courses, she assures me the medium is more flexible than I imagine for learning. I remain skeptical but am persuaded that we should give it a try.

This Monday, April 25, 2011, almost a year after Michele’s insistent phone call, we launched a pilot version of the first Reading Apprenticeship online professional development course, and I have to say my mind is changing in a big way.

We’ll know more as the course goes on, but in just the first week, I’ve seen 25 community college faculty at Renton Technical College dive in and try Reading Apprenticeship practices in a way that doesn’t usually happen after people come to one workshop. I have been very impressed with the focused and rigorous text-based discussions people are having on the discussion board, and I am eager to see how they will interact with the streaming videos and models of metacognitive conversation routines that will be introduced during the 30 hours of this 3-unit course.

For now, Reading Apprenticeship online PD is available only at the Renton campus as a pilot for a community college course. In the summer of 2011, we will offer the course to other community college faculties on a first-come basis. Beyond that, plans for other courses are in development. Stay tuned.

Blog contributor, Ruth Schoenbach

Ruth Schoenbach is Co-Director of the Strategic Literacy Initiative at WestEd. She taught and led reform initiatives in the San Francisco public schools in the 1980s and early 90s as an ESL teacher, curriculum developer, and professional development support provider in literacy. Since the mid-90s she and Cynthia Greenleaf have led the Strategic Literacy Initiative (SLI) at WestEd in developing the Reading Apprenticeship instructional framework and its parallel professional development model.

Personal Schema Building

April 22, 2011 by

Literacy Coach Rita Ramstad of Portland, Oregon sent this query to our online discussion group for participants of Leadership Institutes in Reading Apprenticeship:

I’m looking for strategies/information on helping students learn how to build schema independently.

A teacher I’m working with has asked students to choose independent reading books that have some kind of historical component to them (so, some are reading informational texts on historic events, but others are reading memoir, biography, historical fiction, etc.). They are running into trouble because they don’t have necessary schema.

At first, the teacher identified it as a vocabulary issue, but with reflection decided that problem is most often conceptual vocabulary, and that students’ usual strategies for determining the meaning of words (using knowledge of word parts, context clues, and references such as dictionaries) aren’t working for them. Students are able to recognize when it is their lack of background knowledge that is causing comprehension breakdowns.

Because each student is reading a different book, the teacher wants to work on helping them develop strategies for activating/building schema independently. Any suggestions/resources would be appreciated. Thanks.”

Here are some of the helpful replies she received:

  • How about using vertical text sets? Help the students find an elementary level book (non-fiction?) from the library that includes some of the same content as the book they are struggling with. Reading the simpler book will help them build schema to help tackle the harder book.
    ~ Omar Qureshi (Reading Apprenticeship Consultant, NM)
  • This is an excellent opportunity for you to integrate technology into your lessons. As the students are working with text focusing on historical topics, there should be numerous sites that would offer streaming media related to their text. Videos, pictures, etc. should help your students begin to form schema related to the topics they are studying. To help them refine their search, the teacher may want to provide them with a keyword.
    ~ Kathy Hawkins (Educational Consultant, PA)
  • I think it helps if the teacher gives examples of the kinds of information found in these types of texts. Even reading different historical genres, students can focus on setting (including place and time period), how the information they are receiving impacts or impacted the world today, how are the people(s) affected, or what personal connections they have with the text. Once students do this a few times, it will become part of their schema for reading these types of texts.
    ~ Robyn Murphy, (Literacy Coach, PA)
  • I get everybody into a computer lab with overhead projection, and show them how they can use Google to explore background information for what they are reading. For any place name and many other nouns, you can click “images” or “videos” and then enter the unfamiliar names or words, and get pictures and videos. A puzzling phrase can be entered in quotation marks, to find websites that use that same phrase, and you can see where it’s used, and how. If you type a question into Google, you may be directed to a site that gives you information.
    ~ Anne Agard (ESL instructor, Laney College, CA)

Using these ideas from the forum and others from her own investigation, Rita created a handout to respond to the teacher with the original schema query. She generously offered to share that handout here (click to download pdf).

Blog contributor, Jana Bouc

Jana Bouc

Jana Bouc is the Program Coordinator of the Strategic Literacy Initiative (SLI) at WestEd. She works with school principals and district administrators to plan on-site professional development and since 2000 has been working behind the scenes to support and coordinate many facets of SLI’s work. She is also an artist who enjoys sketching and painting and maintains her own art blog at

What Makes a School “Distinguished”?

April 15, 2011 by

Dixon High School, in California’s rural Central Valley, was just named a “California Distinguished School” in recognition of its sustained delivery of “rigorous education for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap.” For those of us who have worked with the Dixon faculty and administrators to implement Reading Apprenticeship, the award hardly comes as a surprise.

Since 2001, Dixon High has made Reading Apprenticeship its signature professional development initiative. Every teacher learns how the Reading Apprenticeship framework applies in disciplinary instruction. Literacy instruction is a shared responsibility across the school.

The difference this schoolwide commitment makes was immediately palpable to Dixon faculty. After the first year of Reading Apprenticeship implementation, English teacher Lisa Krebs observed the changes in this way:

It’s interesting, all the benefits of reading. You never really connect reading with the litter on campus, or reading with attendance. Even my desks were cleaner, like there wasn’t time to doodle. There’s physical evidence that they were more mentally engaged. It starts with reading, but it’s really about how kids feel about themselves, and their own abilities and their own power.”

In 2000, Dixon High School had been labeled “underperforming” by the state. In 2011, Dixon cited the ongoing importance of Reading Apprenticeship in the school’s application for “distinguished” status:

Reading Apprenticeship permeates our academic curriculum, from humanities courses to the electives. Most teachers, regardless of field, see themselves as reading teachers and work diligently to help their students access complex and pertinent texts.

For nearly the past decade, Reading Apprenticeship has enabled Dixon High School students to become more proficient and confident readers throughout their studies.”

Gayle Cribb, a Dixon history teacher who helped draft the school’s application, describes the steady growth in student achievement for all students at Dixon, and especially for Latino and low-income students, as a concerted effort by teachers to respond to students’ potential and to make good use of the support they were able to draw from Reading Apprenticeship:

As a school, we were highly motivated to turn things around. We cared about our students and we had pride in our own professionalism. Together, the faculty and administration decided to make literacy a schoolwide focus, so then it was a question of finding a literacy approach that felt right. We were drawn to the Reading Apprenticeship framework because it really honors who students are and can become. The professional development worked for us because it has parallel respect for teachers, it takes us seriously.”

Dixon High School is what we like to call a Reading Apprenticeship “classic.” It is a gratifying example of how a powerful vision of students and teachers can result in powerful learning.

To read more about Dixon High School or to view a video excerpt from one of Gayle Cribb’s history classes, see Dixon’s story on the Success Stories page of the Reading Apprenticeship website.

Blog contributor, Ruth Schoenbach

Ruth Schoenbach is Co-Director of the Strategic Literacy Initiative at WestEd. She taught and led reform initiatives in the San Francisco public schools in the 1980s and early 90s as an ESL teacher, curriculum developer, and professional development support provider in literacy. Since the mid-90s she and Cyndy Greenleaf have led the Strategic Literacy Initiative (SLI) at WestEd in developing the Reading Apprenticeship instructional framework and its parallel professional development model.

Bicycle Riding and Scaffolding Schema

April 2, 2011 by

I clearly remember learning how to ride a two-wheeler. I was in first grade and Mr. Haberstroh, my friend Terry’s father, took it upon himself to teach me.

Bike, by Jana Bouc

by Jana Bouc

The first thing he did was remove the training wheels. As I climbed back up on my transformed bike, my heart banged against my chest, both in fear of falling and the promise of freedom. Mr. Haberstroh assured me he would keep one hand on the handlebars and another behind me on the seat. Up and down the street I pedaled with Mr. Haberstroh running alongside, both hands on board. When I was balanced and confident, he announced the next step: to ride with his support but only from behind the seat.

Again I pedaled up and down the street, a little wobbly at first, but gradually becoming more and more balanced. I looked to my right and saw that Mr. Haberstroh was simply running beside me.

I kept practicing, and Mr. Haberstroh stayed by my side. Then I suddenly noticed that he was gone. I stopped, turned around, and saw him about six row houses back. He stood watching me with crossed arms resting on his chest. I greeted his proud smile with a smile of my own. For the remainder of the day, Terry and I rode our bikes all around the neighborhood in celebration of my newly earned independence.

Many of you probably have similar stories of learning to ride a two-wheeler. You can probably recall the gradual release of support until you were finally pedaling on your own. This same process can be applied to our instruction. When introducing a new concept or new skill, we can scaffold the learning so that eventually students become increasingly more independent.

During this past school year, the secondary social studies teachers in our district came together for a follow-up day of Reading Apprenticeship professional development. Our focus was on scaffolding and schema-building strategies, and our goal was to learn how these strategies prepare students to navigate and make sense of challenging text on any given topic.

Using the topic of New York City tenement life at the turn of the twentieth century, we explored a range of primary and secondary sources, being metacognitive about how we were building schema and how such schema-building could scaffold our students’ understanding of content topics.

We learned how to utilize digital images, photographs, and digital media to build background knowledge. For example, we viewed a five-minute scene from the movie Gangs of New York and recorded what we noticed about housing. From there partners viewed digital photographs of tenement living taken by Jacob Riis during the late 1800’s, and we recorded more observations.

All the while, we discussed what we noticed, what it made us think about, and what predictions we might have about life during that time. These observations served to engage our brains, jump-start our thinking about tenement living, and help build schema for reading about the living conditions in New York City during that time period.

Research tells us that we all learn best when new knowledge can be applied to that which we already know. By tapping into what our students already know, we increase the opportunity for a greater number of them to actively participate. Taking the time to build students’ schema sets them up to be successful. Success, we know, is extremely motivating — especially for those who may need a hand on the handle bars as well as the seat!

Blog Contributor, Sue Kinney

Sue Kinney

Sue Kinney

Sue Kinney is the Assistant to the Superintendent for Staff Development and Student Intervention in the Boyertown (PA) Area School District.

She works with teacher leaders and literacy coaches to provide ongoing professional learning for teachers K-12. She also leads Response to Intervention implementation for her district.

Common Core State Standards: Aligned with Reading Apprenticeship

March 25, 2011 by

I was recently asked “Does Reading Apprenticeship address the new Common Core State Standards?

The answer is “Yes!” In fact, they cite our work multiple times in the Standards, especially in relation to the importance of providing students with supported instructional experiences with sufficiently complex texts to build their academic reading skills.

What are the Common Core State Standards?

The Common Core State Standards clearly define the knowledge and skills students should obtain during their K-12 education so that they graduate from high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. For the first time, emphasis is placed on meeting literacy standards in each of the core academic disciplines.

The Common Core State Standard (CCSS)

  • are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • ensure consistent expectations regardless of a student’s zip code;
  • provide educators, parents, and students with clear, focused guideposts;
  • include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • emphasize literacy across all core academic disciplines;
  • build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • are internationally benchmarked, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • are based on evidence and research.

The development of the standards was coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and other experts. The federal government was not involved in the development of these standards and individual states choose whether or not to adopt them. To date 48 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories have signed on to the CCSS Initiative.

How do the Common Core State Standards Align with Reading Apprenticeship?

Compare this excerpt from the Common Core State Standards with the description of Reading Apprenticeship that follows. People who know Reading Apprenticeship will not be surprised by the close alignment.  Read the rest of this entry »


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