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Articles: Teaching & Learning

Best practices in reading instruction are always evolving, as researchers are constantly learning how to better support early literacy, particularly for young readers and struggling readers. Recent years have brought more changes to how phonics instruction is emphasized in reading curriculum. Many educators who taught during the Reading First era and later within the Common Core are uncertain about how to best support strong phonics instruction, and thus how to lay the foundation for reading success in their districts.

WELCOME RESPITE—Wellness centers at Gunn High School, left, and Palo Alto High School, right, are designed to stem the number of teenage suicides in the U.S. The centers work to teach students certain skills to help cope with stress and personal problems.

There’s a new tool in the battle against student depression, anxiety and suicide—the in-school wellness center.

Look for role models. Districts should find preschools that are already teaching STEM, consider what elements make it a strong program, and think about ways they could modify instruction for their own classrooms, says Phil Hampton, network director of VC STEM, an alliance of organizations working to enhance STEM instruction for students of all ages.

PRESCHOOL AND PINE CONES—A preschool student at Hopkins Public Schools, above, is already learning how to inspect a pine cone with a magnifying glass as part of a lesson in STEM subjects.

Preschool math performance predicts future academic achievement more consistently than reading or attention skills, according to new research from New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

Alex Fertig is a psychologist for the Parsippany Troy Hills School District in New Jersey. He can be reached at afertig@pthsd.net. Ray W. Christner is a psychologist with Cognitive Health Solutions.

Our goal with this column is not to imply that school administrators should take on the role of mental health professionals, but instead it is to impart information on strategies, based on the principles of cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT. 

MISCALCULATING MR. MIX-UP—Sara Gardner, a preschool instructor at Edward Everett School in Boston Public Schools, has the puppet Mr. Mix-Up purposefully count apples incorrectly so students can explain his mistakes.

When beginning kindergarten, Latino students are three months behind in math literacy when compared to their white peers, says a 2017 study conducted by Child Trends.

Deeper learning doesn’t have to be expensive, says Stephanie Wood-Garnett, vice president of policy to practice at the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national advocacy group for at-risk students.

“Deeper learning is not about buying things, but deeper learning done well could allow us to think more effectively or differently on how to enhance the time we have,” Wood-Garnett says.

Today’s deeper learning proponents urge schools to master rigorous academic content; think critically and solve problems; work collaboratively; communicate effectively; direct one’s own learning; and develop an academic mindset. 

Linda Mulvey is chief academic officer, Nate Franz is assistant superintendent of teaching and learning at Syracuse City School District and Manami Tezuka is supervisor of library media services.

The Syracuse City School District serves more than 20,000 students across 34 schools, most of which have been classified by the New York State Education Department as either “priority” or “focus” schools.

The challenge of finding curriculum materials in languages other than English is especially complex for districts embracing a growing trend: dual-language immersion programs, in which native English speakers join English language learners in studying academic subjects in two languages.

Across the country, for reasons both political and practical, even districts with substantial numbers of students who don’t yet know English seldom rely on native-language curricular materials.

Lou Pepe directed the film The Bad Kids, which looks at how the teachers and staff at Black Rock High School confront crippling generational poverty, and create small victories for the students who have often lost any sense of hope for their future.

Black Rock High School, remotely situated in California’s Mojave Desert, serves a population of students who are often struggling academically and living in households with poverty, drug use and neglect. 

Power in Numbers will teach principals how to design collaborative team-building projects and effective ways to analyze student learning in schools with their staff.

This guide helps principals improve instruction by strengthening their coaching techniques to mold teachers and staff into team-oriented leaders.

A new facility designed around an airplane hangar prepares students for new heights at Sterling Aviation High School, a magnet school.

When adding a mindfulness program, superintendents and principals may face parent backlash, possibly about religious concerns, especially when it includes yoga.

Fiona Jensen, whose nonprofit trains teachers in mindfulness instruction, says she has met with “pretty conservative Christian scholars” to make sure nothing in her curriculum can be misinterpreted as promoting Buddhism or any other religion.

“We’ve learned a tremendous amount about how careful one needs to be about how the curriculum is presented,” says Jensen. 

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