Fall Literacy Leadership Talks Recap — 5 Takeaways from HMH Literacy Experts

The third season of our popular Lead the Way to Literacy Leadership Talks featured highly regarded education professionals with expertise in long-term English learning, translanguaging, learning mindsets, assessment, word skills, and more. Here are five takeaways from their webinars that will help support your efforts toward creating dynamic and robust literacy curricula, along with links to the recorded presentations.

1. Focus on the connection of oral language proficiency to writing proficiency.

Dr. Kate Kinsella highlights the profound connection between oral language proficiency and writing proficiency, emphasizing that “English learners and reticent readers can’t be expected to write what they can’t competently articulate.” She advocates for planned, intentional, interactive language development within writing instruction to support academic English learners in developing the linguistic tools necessary to effectively express their thoughts with distinct writing types. She questions the merits of traditional English Language Arts practices with less proficient communicators, such as graphic organizers and peer feedback, unless these curricular mainstays have tandem targeted language scaffolds to promote competent interaction. In her presentation, Dr. Kinsella provides clear exemplars of the instructional essentials that can support our most vulnerable students in making academic writing strides.

2. Encourage a healthy respect for words.

Dr. Shane Templeton sheds light on why English spelling is a far more logical system than most students realize. In dissecting the importance of word study as a whole, a system in which sound and meaning patterns effectively integrate speech, writing, and thought is revealed. “Expressly with developmentally grounded instruction in word study, these patterns will be learned over time and this knowledge will be the linchpin that underlies students’ reading, writing, and vocabulary development. Learning about the generative nature in which affixes, bases, and Greek and Latin roots combine enables students to learn target vocabulary words and thousands of additional words independently.”

3. Pinpoint the promise in speaking more than one language.

An instructional mind shift is at work in many districts that involves best practices for teaching a second language. Translanguaging involves the process of supporting students who are learning English, as well as those learning a world language, in leveraging what they know about their first language in order to develop their second (or third). This instructional approach parallels what bilingual speakers do at the unconscious level. In their webinar, the Freemans outlined specific strategies that teachers can employ to make translanguaging effective. The activities they shared made what could be an abstract process, into one that is concrete, manageable, and effective. “Translanguaging honors the complete cultural and linguistic backgrounds students bring to school by employing them as the foundation upon which their new language develops.”

4. Cultivate tenacious, curious learners.

Dr. David Dockterman shares the idea that when we encourage young people to be inquisitive, we create learners who will not only be prepared to make a living, but also make a life. Being curious about the world opens students up to asking questions, reading and investigating, taking risks, seeking contradictions to ponder and examine, and engaging in beneficial reflection. Dockterman explains that a way to reinforce this deeper level of learning in and out of the classroom can include “nudging.” This behavioral psychology term speaks to leveraging the tendencies of being human to encourage people to complete a task or realize a goal. “Marketers, app builders, and casinos use behavioral psychology to influence our choices and behavior all the time. Governments and some companies have started using similar behavioral nudges for more socially responsible goals. We can play with them in education too.”

5. Diversify assessments to ensure your students’ success.

Dr. Sheila Valencia believes that conducting assessments should be coupled with action steps to help students improve and become successful. “Assessment by itself won’t improve learning.” Utilizing different types of assessments can produce powerful outcomes for students with different learning styles and classroom needs.

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For more literacy thought leadership from previous seasons, watch here.

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