If you want to remember something, read it out loud

“Read something out loud when you really want to remember it.’ These are the findings from a recent University of Waterloo study that found that “speaking text aloud helps to get words into long-term memory. Dubbed the “production effect,” the study determined that it is the dual action of speaking and hearing oneself that has the most beneficial impact on memory.”

Colin M.  MacLeod, the university professor who co-authored the study with post-doctoral fellow Noah Forrin, found that “When we add an active measure or a production element to a word, that word becomes more distinct in long-term memory, and hence more memorable.”

Their study tested four methods for learning written information: 1) reading silently, 2) hearing someone else read, 3) listening to a recording of oneself reading, and 4) reading out loud.  Results from tests with nearly 100 participants showed that reading information out loud to yourself resulted in the best remembering.

The researchers remind us that there are also other ways to build a good memory such as regular exercise and movement. Also, writing and typing words can enhance overall memory retention.

This research seems relevant to another set of findings in the literature: reading out loud to children helps to advance their reading, writing, and communication skills. This is another reason to read out loud to children – to develop their appreciation for reading out loud, and encourage them as they become proficient readers to read out loud to themselves. This will help them practice becoming good communicators and serve them in good stead when they want to remember what they have read.

Visit Storyline Online for Good Storytelling

Reading out loud to children helps advance their reading, writing, and communication skills. One of my favorite sites to supplement reading out loud by parents and caretakers is Storyline Online. The website hosts terrifically produced videos of actors (like Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, and Betty White) reading children’s books accompanied by wonderful illustrations and cool sound effects. At the end of each reading, the actors tell us why they liked the story. This is an opportunity to ask your child what they thought about the story too.

The award-winning website receives more than 100 million views annually from children (and adults too!) all over the world. And there are many types of stories in their library to select from.

Here’s one I listened to recently you might want to check out: A Bad Case of Stripes read by Sean Astin.

Happy listening!

 

Teachers learn how to teach reading in teacher preparation programs ꟷ maybe

One in five elementary school teacher preparation programs in the United States are addressing one or none of the five components that teachers must know to teach reading to children: phonemic awareness, phonics (alphabetics), fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

This is serious business. “Teaching children how to read is “job one” for elementary teachers because reading proficiency underpins all later learning.” (The National Council on Teacher Quality)

Unfortunately, many teachers are not prepared well in their preservice programs to teach reading. The National Council on Teacher Quality’s evaluation of more than 800 undergraduate programs for elementary teacher education determined that less than half (39%) provide instruction in all five essential components of early reading instruction. And, 19% of the programs require literacy coursework that addresses no more than one of the five essential components.

The unhappy conclusion is that “training for reading instruction is not adequate in many teacher preparation programs.”

The Institute of Educational Sciences surveyed 99 teacher preparation programs and more than 2,200 preservice teachers about how much preparation programs focused on the essential components of reading instruction [in 2010]. As summarized in Samantha Durrance’s recent blog, only “25% reported their preparation programs included a strong overall focus on reading instruction.” Interesting too is that teachers-in-training were “twice as likely to report a strong focus on reading instruction in their preservice teaching experiences as in their preservice coursework.” This means that many learned on the job, not in the formal coursework at their colleges/universities.

When I worked for two decades in Oregon, there was such concern about the lack of knowledge of teaching reading that many teachers were encouraged by their schools to gain skills in teaching reading.  Several universities joined forces to collaborate on a jointly offered set of online reading programs. The program still continues between two universities –they share a common curriculum of online literacy courses. Participants take courses at either Portland State University or Southern Oregon University (selecting one as “home” institution but able to take classes at either). This effort began as a grant in 2003 from the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, and I was founding Project Director of this effort.

The ReadOregon consortium offers three programs which enable teachers to gain skills in teaching reading: a 24-credit Reading Endorsement program approved by the state licensing board which enables teachers to add the Reading Specialist endorsement to their license; a 12-credit literacy education course of study for general classroom teachers; and a “courses-only” option.

I recall so clearly the in-depth discussions among teachers and school principals of what these programs must encompass to enable teachers to be prepared to teach reading better. They settled on seven thematic areas aligned with the International Reading Association Standards: 1) Literacy Foundations; 2) Literacy Strategies & Methods; 3) Literacy for Diverse Learners; 4) Literacy Assessment; 5) Leadership in School Reading Programs; 6) Literature; and 7) Practicum.

I’m proud that ReadOregon is continuing to prepare teachers of reading, and that many of the colleges and universities in Oregon — and in so many other states — are providing specialty programs in the teaching of reading.

But, I wish all teacher preparation programs were preparing teachers better before they entered the profession. Just a year ago, Kelly Wallace’s CNN report on the art of teaching teachers how to teach reading interviewed an elementary school principal who lays it out there: “Our universities do not teach teachers how to (teach reading) at the undergraduate level. [Teachers] are coming through a traditional track not knowing how to teach reading, just the overall basic components of it . . .  As a principal at a high-needs urban school with 1,260 students, up from 830 six years ago, [I] more than [have my] hands full just trying to keep [my]students and [my]130 teachers on track…faced with narrowing a stunning word deficit: Children living in poverty hear 30 million fewer words by age 4 than children in higher-income households, according to researchers.”

These are big — almost insurmountable — deficits to reverse once children are in school.

Durrance in Are Teachers Prepared to Teach Reading gives us the unhappy bottom line: “Teachers can’t teach what they don’t know. Teacher preparation programs need to make sure their elementary teacher candidates understand how children learn to read, as well as how to help students who struggle with early literacy skills.”

Sometimes people ask me what my favorite work was in Oregon. ReadOregon was and is my favorite. Working with many devoted colleagues, I was doing something that would help prepare teachers to teach reading better. And so many children would reap the benefits.

Is picting replacing words in our digital age – is this the new literacy?

Is technology changing our definition of literacy? That’s the question posed by Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway, university professors studying how much time today’s youth spend with text-based materials vs. image-based materials.(1) They estimate that 90 percent of K-12 classroom time in the U.S. is spent with text-based materials, and 10 percent with image-based materials; but outside the classroom, 90% is spent with image-based materials and 10 percent with text-based materials.

The bottom line from their provocative article, Picting, not Writing, is the Literacy of Today’s Youth (May 8, 2017) hits the literacy question head on: “No question about it: picting is the new literacy. For better — for worse.”

As I read their article, I thought about prehistoric cave-paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphics, wondering if we’re heading back to an older era of communicating through pictures, respawned by new digital tools. Various North American Indian tribes drew or carved pictures into rocks—the pictures stood for an idea or individual word. Similarly, hieroglyphic symbols represented objects, or stood for sounds or groups of sounds—in a system of picture-writing used on ancient Egyptian monuments. Many view such picture-writing systems as precursors to writing.

Norris and Soloway describe the changing world of literacy—through our many digital networks —with picting emerging as a system using visual forms to communicate ideas and expressions:

  • Snapchat is a social media service where people send pictures to one another. Though a note (words) can be added to the picture, it’s an unnecessary add-on. Pictures disappear after 10 seconds of viewing, or 24 hours for a story made up of sequences of pictures. Our professors conclude that Snapchat is like verbal conversations that disappear, only now it’s the pictures that disappear. The population “picting” is huge: some 30 percent of millennials in the U.S. visit the Snapchat app 18 times per day and spend about 30 minutes a day using it, 158 million use Snapchat daily, and the average number of photos shared is 9,000 snaps per second.
  • Facebook is a video-based social networking site where the video content is growing rapidly in popularity.
  • Instagram is a visual platform—a picting site. There are 400 million active users daily/700 million monthly; 80 percent are from outside the U.S.; over half of millennials with access to the Internet use Instagram daily; Instagram is the second-most used social network among 13–17 year olds; and 95 million photos are uploaded per day (up from 70 million last year).
  • YouTube is a visually-oriented social network. In the U.S., it is used by over 180 million people, reaches more 18-34 and 18-19-year olds than any cable network, 81 percent of millennials and 91 percent of Internet users ages 13-17 use YouTube, 58 percent of Gen X and 43 percent of Baby Boomers use YouTube, and 400 hours of new videos are estimated to be uploaded every minute.
  • Pinterest is an image-pinning bulletin board site. It serves some 150 million monthly active users, with 70 million from the U.S.. There are 50 billion+ Pinterest Pins and 1 billion+ Pinterest Boards; and the median age of a user is 40, however, the majority of active pinners are below 40.

Our professors conclude from these amazing statistics that “picting is a real trend — and one that is significantly engaged in by the youth of today.”

That begs their core question for all of us: “Is the trend towards picting, and away from writing, a good thing for today’s youth?”

There’s no easy answer. Reading words and writing words are key to our culture, life, and jobs. We cannot realistically communicate only through visual forms. However, visual forms (e.g., photos, diagrams, videos, emojis, GIFs) often communicate in a way that words cannot, so they play a vital role in literacy — and may grow in importance in a digital age.

The statistics Norris and Soloway have laid out are compelling, the trend lines undeniably headed upward. As we trade more pictures (with few or no words) with one another every minute, hour, and day, let’s think about the impact on our children’s literacy skills especially.

This is a set of developments that will be evolving in this next decade of digital change, as Norris and Soloway conclude, “For better — for worse.”

☹ ‍ 🙂

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(1) Cathie Norris is a Regents Professor and Chair in the Department of Learning Technologies, School of Information at the University of North Texas. Elliot Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of CSE, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan. Their sites: www. imlc.io. See their Reinventing Curriculum blog at thejournal.com/rc

 

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Storyline Online: As Fast As Words Could Fly

Check out the video of Dulé Hill reading As Fast As Words Could Fly at Storyline Online. The book is written by Pamela M. Tuck, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, and published by Lee & Low Books Inc.. The story features Mason Steele, a high school boy who teaches himself to type on a typewriter given to him by his father’s civil rights group. His growing typing skills play out in an important story about prejudice and racial barriers. A thoughtful piece that would be great to talk about with your children. Important for adults too.