From the category archives:

Use this! Activities & Resources

Summer Countdown

by Jennifer Kobrin June 16, 2011

It’s mid June. Many people think of this time as when schools and districts are gearing down, packing up classrooms, and preparing for vacation. But it can be one of the busiest times of year, especially for directors and coordinators of summer programs, who are frantically pulling together field trips, activities that must be the right mix of fun (so the kids come) and academically enriching (so parents and teachers are happy), nutritious daily meals, and everything from salsa lessons to horticulture classes with a huge range of outside partners.

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The Best Answer is a Question: Using Inquiry to Guide Learning

by Jennifer Kobrin June 8, 2011
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Earlier this week I heard a radio segment on NPR’s All Things Considered about Sam Fuller, a sixteen year-old that is part of a small section of the home-schooling movement called un-schooling. Learning for an un-schooled child is driven entirely by his or her interests and motivations. For example, Sam did not learn to read until he began playing the card game Magic at the age of 10, which required being able to understand text written on the cards.

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Reading for Life: What it Means to be Literate

by Rhonda H. Lauer April 6, 2011
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Recently, I’ve been thinking about the meaning of the word literacy. The definition has become a bit muddled lately; these days we talk about computer literacy, cultural literacy, and environmental literacy. Used in this sense, it means “knowledge of a particular subject or field.”

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8 Recommendations to Get All Kids Reading on Grade Level by 3rd Grade: “Do Now’s” for School and District Leaders

by Gail Meister March 30, 2011
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In 2008, Foundations joined the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Making Connections initiative, a decade-long effort to improve outcomes for children living in tough neighborhoods. The result of this collaboration is our 8 A’s—specific recommendations we believe will lead to all students reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade.

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Making the Right Call

by Claiborne Taylor January 26, 2011
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My parents moved to the suburbs to open up the world to me.

Like many in their generation, they saw the city around them crumbling and the outskirts of town as a place to find affordable housing, community pools, and, most importantly, good schools. Their decision had the pay offs that almost any parent would want. I went on field trips to museums, had classes capped at 15, and ended up attending a small, liberal arts college with red brick, white columns, and a study abroad program. In school, I experienced diversity…but mostly in books, movies, and on our annual trip to the world cultures museum. And community became synonymous with service rather than partnership or integration.

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Life is Stress: The Impact of Poverty on Childhood Brain Development

by Sharon DuPree January 19, 2011
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Think of the most stressful moments of your life– the times when you’ve felt the most anxious, the most afraid or the least confident. Imagine that argument with your spouse just before leaving home in the morning, only to be rear-ended by the aggressive tail-gater and then arriving at school to teach that class of antsy third graders or administer an important test. How would you do? Children in poverty—children who come from family environments plagued by unemployment, abuse and neglect, chronic housing mobility and the like—suffer stress levels higher and more chronic than the exceptional “bad morning.” This stress has a profound impact on their cognitive abilities.

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2010: A Year of English Learning

by Jennifer Kobrin January 5, 2011
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On Monday, children all over the U.S. returned to school to start the second half of the year. Although teachers (and former teachers like me) know the real year begins in September, I’m going by the calendar to present a look back at the year of English Learners and Learning in 2010.

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Leveraging Afterschool for EL Success

by Jennifer Kobrin October 27, 2010
Leveraging Afterschool for EL Success

“English Learners…I’m not sure we have any of those” the site director of a community-based afterschool program in California told me last year. I was skeptical. The program was in a neighborhood that had seen a large influx of Latino immigrants over the past 10 years. What’s more, a teacher from a neighboring school said more than half of her students struggled with English.

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Reading for Life: The Poverty/Illiteracy Connection

by Rhonda H. Lauer October 20, 2010
Reading for Life: The Poverty/Illiteracy Connection

According to recent US Census Bureau reports, more than 20% of children under 18 years of age live in poverty, the highest child-poverty rate in 15 years. That’s 15.5 million children.

Unfortunately, poverty and illiteracy are closely connected. Nationally, 1st graders from low-income families have 50% smaller vocabularies than their peers from higher income families. Before they even enter school, children living in poverty face a host of challenges that their wealthier peers do not: food and housing insecurity, poor health care and unsafe environments, limited exposure to books and language.

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The Importance of Talking

by Jennifer Kobrin September 15, 2010
Spoken Language and Literacy

Several years ago, I was involved with a study focusing on young children’s language and literacy development in rural Central America. Over several weeks, our team traveled to remote villages, often fording rivers swollen by mountain rains in a jeep or lugging stacks of supplies over precarious footbridges. It was not an undertaking for the faint of heart.

Using a survey, we asked first-graders’ parents if they read books, counted and named objects, or told stories to their children regularly (in addition to gathering socio-economic and demographic data).

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