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Create a reading culture in your school


Creating a reading culture in your school


By Lauren Shapiro


Time and time again, I find that the schools seeing the most progress with reading are those with a strong culture of reading that reaches into every part of school life. The striking thing about these schools is not just that students are experiencing accelerated growth in their reading ages, but that they’re having fun doing it! There is no single secret to creating a reading culture, but with a healthy combination of inspiration and dedication you can make it a reality in your school.

The link between reading for pleasure and academic success

All the available research suggests that students who read for pleasure achieve greater success with their reading skills. The Guided Independent Reading report(published by Renaissance Learning) shows that students who read for between 15 and 35 minutes or more each day make the greatest growth. In other words, if students are given sufficient time in class to read books (i.e. not just to select books, but actually to read them) they will make more rapid progress with reading.

Independent research from the National Literacy Trust has found that students who use Accelerated Reader are more likely to have favourable attitudes towards reading than their peers. Taking quizzes is fun and motivational for students, and when schools adopt a range of initiatives alongside their implementation of AR they experience a transformation in students’ attitudes towards reading.


What you need in place

A successfully developed reading culture will rest on three essential pillars: time given to reading, access to appropriate books, and support across the staff team.

  1. 20-35 minutes’ daily reading time. A reading culture cannot emerge if students are not reading. Research suggests that the optimal amount of engaged reading time per day is approximately 25 minutes. Any less than this and students are not reading for long enough to experience growth in their reading skills.
  2. Access to the correct books. In order to make rapid progress, students need access to an appropriate number of books within their Zone of Proximal Development and that they will find interesting. Books below their ZPD will not provide sufficient challenge; those above it will be too tricky for them to access. And of course, if students aren’t interested in the books you have, they will not read them.
  3. Buy-in from the staff team. This is often overlooked, but is absolutely crucial to the successful development of a reading culture. Most schools have one particularly enthusiastic leader to spearhead their initiatives, but every member of staff needs to be on board if it is to have a lasting impact.


Creative ways to make it happen

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to establishing a reading culture: some ideas and initiatives that work brilliantly in one school will fall flat in another. These are some of my favourite initiatives, each of which I have seen used very successfully in the schools I work with as part of the Renaissance School Partnership.


Having a dedicated display or shelf of new library stock is a fantastic way to build excitement around reading and increase circulation. But these displays can be victims of their own success – the most sought-after books are borrowed straight away and the display of new books quickly looks more sparse than it should. If you have this problem in your library, why not embargo new stock for a week? It creates anticipation and creates a real buzz around new publications. I have seen students queueing for a library to open on a morning in order to get their hands on a new book!

Book trailers

Publishers are increasingly using digital media – and especially YouTube – to promote new releases. Book trailers are a fantastic tool for creating excitement for books that are on order or have recently been introduced to the library. Some schools show these in the library, in assemblies, or even in the lunch hall. To help inspire your use of book trailers, visit our Pinterest page with collections of trailers for primary and secondary students.

Student voice

Introducing a reading committee can be win-win for busy librarians and literacy co-ordinators. Committee members become much more engaged with the library and its activities, and also provide an enthusiastic volunteer force for any new initiatives you wish to introduce. The committee can help to choose the books purchased for the library, organise reading events, make posters, and keep displays up-to-date.

Use social media trends

Most students, in secondary years at least, are passionate users of social media. New trends and social media memes are finding their place in the classroom. For example, your students might like to show off their shelfies (selfie photos of their bookshelves) or display photos of their extreme reading (showing them reading books in unusual locations, like on a roller coaster or at a football match). These initiatives are even more successful when teachers and teaching assistants get involved!

Risk it for a biscuit

Cover a selection of books with brown paper and label the books only with the AR Book Level. If students are willing to risk reading books without first being able to see the cover or read the blurb, they get a biscuit (or another suitable treat!) for their bravery.

Speed dating with books

‘Speed dating’ is a fun way to get students browsing a wider range of literature than they might normally wish to. Books are set out around a classroom, and each student is given a score card. Students spend two minutes with a book, marking down a rating for it. When the time is up, they need to decide whether or not to commit to reading the book.

Change competitions and prizes regularly

Competitions work best when every student has a chance of winning, but most competitions favour students with particular strengths. To avoid giving out prizes to the same few students every week, and to keep the rest motivated and engaged, it’s helpful regularly to change the emphasis of the competitions you run . For the first half of term, you might want to focus on awarding students who achieve 85% or above in their AR quizzes. The following half term, though, you might want to change the focus to meeting points targets. The amount of engaged reading time, number of words read, growth in reading age – motivating students to increase all of these will help them to make progress in their reading skills and have fun doing it.


Lauren Shapiro
Senior Programme Manager

As an English teacher, Lauren gained extensive experience with Accelerated Reader and had responsibility for implementing the programme at her school. She joined Renaissance Learning in 2013 to work on the Renaissance School Partnership programme, which provides dedicated training and support to a small group of schools.

















courtesy of Renaissance

Educating girls is not just about social justice


Educating girls is not just about social justice

Pakistan is failing to meet its financial commitments promised under The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2012

17-Sep-17by Mansoor Qaisar



Educating girls is not just about social justice


The Constitution of Pakistan safeguards the right of education for all. Sadly, this has failed to bring to an end existing gender disparities. The Annual Status of Education Report 2016 provides for an interesting reading. It finds the following: 48 percent of the poorest girls in the 5-16 age bracket are enrolled in school as compared to 68 percent of the poorest boys from the same age group; 68 percent of girls from the 15-23 age bracket can read and write as compared to 83 percent of boys; girls comprise just 43 percent of enrolled secondary school students, with one in 10 completing education at this level.

Patriarchal values strongly govern the social structure in rural Pakistan. By comparison, the country’s urban centres as well as semi-peripheral regions are slowly moving towards more inclusive gender roles. Some 70 percent of women in Pakistan work outdoors, according to a 2016 Asian Development Bank policy brief on women’s workforce participation. Thus the general perception of cultural gender roles traditionally dictating that women are to remain in the private sphere while men leave the home to earn a living don’t necessarily hold true in those sectors where both men and women work in the fields and are expected to contribute equally to household chores. A survey conducted by the Pakistan Bureau Statistics during the 2013-2014 period found that women comprise 26 percent (15 million) of the total labour force. Thus long held concepts that see the rigid separation of the sexes are verily challenged across different parts of the country. Only in the most rurally isolated areas do these notions of strict gender roles apply. Poverty is one of the major driving forces behind unequal household resource allocation favouring sons. This is because of the latter’s accepted role outside of the home. Resultantly, boys’ education is from the outset prioritised over that of the girl child, given how strong the perception that the former must be equipped with the necessary skills to compete for resources in the public sphere; while girls need to specialise in domestic skills with being good wives and mothers remaining the end objectives.

Literacy and primary education are no longer simply a matter of social justice – they are intrinsically linked to economic growth, social well-being and stability. This places girls’ education at the core of all human development endeavours 

The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2012 covers all of Pakistan’s children from 5-16 years. Regrettably, though, it doesn’t extend to the final two years of schooling, which are essential to the girl child in terms of personal thriving and trying to build a better future for their families, communities and country. Pakistan’s education system is also critically under resourced; the government is failing to meet financial commitments promised under the aforementioned Act. It has, however, endorsed the new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on Education to ensure all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education by 2030.

These statistics shed light on Pakistan’s education reality. Prevailing gender disparities are much lower in as compared to rural areas. One possible explanation is that tribal, feudal and patriarchal traditions still endure. Moreover, there are very few employment opportunities for women in rural areas. Meaning little financial incentive exist for families when it comes to sending their girls to schools. Yet those who do make it to school consistently outperform boys. They also tend to be higher achievers at the university level. Unfortunately, the majority of girls never get the opportunity to develop their educational capabilities.

Education represents critical input in human resource development and is essential for the country’s economic growth. It increases the productivity and efficiency of individuals, while achieving a skilled labour force capable of leading the economy towards sustainable growth and prosperity. The progress and wellbeing of a country largely depends on the education choices available to the citizenry. In short, education can be one of the most powerful instruments of change, helping a nation achieve its goals by way of nurturing minds and feeding these with knowledge, skills, and competency to shape future destiny. Thus has come newfound and important awareness: focusing on literacy and primary education is no longer simply a matter of social justice – since they are intrinsically linked to economic growth, social well-being and stability. This places girls’ education at the core of all human development endeavours. And not just within a formal framework. It must also include focus on the health and status of women to early childhood care; from nutrition, water and sanitation to community empowerment; from the reduction of child labour as well as other forms of exploitation to peaceful conflict resolution.

Statistics point to extensive gender inequality here in Pakistan. Girls and women must overcome a great number of socio-cultural barriers in order to access their fundamental right to education. The international community has developed consensus through the UN Millennial Development Goals to remove gender inequality from the education sphere. For as previously mentioned, this is no longer about social justice alone – it is now a matter critical to the long-term development of society. Indeed, empirical studies have confirmed that gender inequality in education significantly impacts rural poverty in Pakistan, while female literacy is crucial to alleviate this.

This is why well renowned feminists like Martha Craven Nussbaum have relentlessly argued for the need to increase public expenditure spending on female education on a priority basis. It is the only way to achieve gender equality across the board.




courtesy of Daily Times

7 smart ways to use technology in classrooms

Sep 13, 2017 

Many schools and teachers have an uneasy relationship with technology: they decry its power to distract young people but see it as a necessary evil to be tolerated, or at least strictly limited. Fargo, North Dakota, third-grade teacher Kayla Delzer believes that technology can truly revolutionize education — but only if educators make wise choices about what is used and how it’s used (TEDxFargo Talk: Reimagining Classroom Teachers as Learners and Students as Leaders).




Also read  Tablets out, imagination in: the schools that shun technology



It’s way too late to try to keep tech out of classrooms — or children’s lives. “We may think we’re protecting students when we keep them in a tech-free bubble for the school day, but they eventually leave, graduate, get jobs,” says Delzer. “If we block technology from them, we might actually be inhibiting them. We need to put them in dynamic, responsive environments at school so they can be successful later on.” After trying different approaches and a variety of devices, programs and apps with her students, she has come up with some common-sense guidelines for how adults can help their kids use technology to their best advantage.

Tech tip #1: Something boring on paper is still boring on a tablet or a laptop.

“Using technology simply for the sake of using it is wasteful,” Delzer says. “If tech doesn’t transform your classroom, your teaching or your students’ learning, skip it.” One easy rule of thumb: If a project can be done using paper or pencil but you’re doing it on a computer or device, it’s not transforming your classroom.

One way that Delzer’s students learn math is by playing an augmented-reality geometry board game called Cyberchase Shape Quest. To participate, kids point an iPad camera at a paper board, which then comes to life with animated math challenges. “It teaches geometry, problem solving and spatial reasoning in an interactive, responsive way,” she says.

Tech tip #2: How tech teaches is as important as what is taught.

Delzer avoids any software that relies on drills and repetition to educate. Instead, she chooses programs that encourage kids to create. One example: Cargo-bot, an app that requires students to write programs that control a robot moving boxes. The goal, says Delzer, is to compose code that makes the robot carry the boxes in the most efficient way possible, forcing kids to develop a number of important abilities, like critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving and logic.

Tech tip #3: Let students sometimes be the teachers.

The thought of mastering many apps, devices and programs in addition to their regular lesson plans will probably make teachers feel overwhelmed. Delzer’s advice: “You don’t need to master every single tool before you hand it over.” She likes to give a new tool to a student and ask them to learn how to use it first. After they figure it out, they can teach everyone else — including the teacher.

Tech tip #4: Find technology that lets kids learn from themselves and each other.

Using an app called AudioBoom, Delzer’s students take turns recording themselves reading classroom books aloud. Each recording is approved by Delzer, who helps kids evaluate factors like intonation, phrasing, speed, emotion and accuracy. Approved recordings are turned into a QR code that is taped to the back of the book that was read. Some books have multiple QR codes attached to them, Delzer says, letting students hear the different choices that their classmates make when reading the same thing.

“At the beginning of the year, my students thought that fast reading was fluent reading,” Delzer says, but after reading aloud and hearing their friends’ renditions, they understand the importance of pacing and emotion. Kids can then re-record their favorite books and compare their own recordings to see how their performances evolve after practice. “This helped instill a sense of pride among my students,” says Delzer.

Tech tip #5: Rather than ban phones or YouTube, educators should find smart ways to use them.

“Many schools in the US block YouTube, but I’ve heard it’s the number-one search engine among students in grades 5 through 12,” says Delzer. “So much learning is lost when we block resources from our students. Also, students are pretty savvy, and they can get around even complex filters.”

Delzer’s students create video newsletters that are added to YouTube every month. “I started replacing paper newsletters with video newsletters in 2014 and never looked back,” she says. “There’s a lot of power in having students report what they’re up to, rather than my typing it up in a newsletter.” The kids plan the newsletters — where they evaluate what they’re learning and discuss classroom happenings — as well as film them, edit them and add effects.

Tech tip #6: Adults should serve as champions of digital citizenship.

A safe, friendly environment like a classroom is a great place for children to learn how to behave responsibly on the Internet. Delzer has written student rules for Internet use and they include: never tweet anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face or in front of their grandma; never share personal information; only go to appropriate websites; and always report cyberbullying to an adult. She set up a moderated Twitter account for her classroom so they can practice their digital etiquette, learn how to use social media, and explore their digital footprint. Her students tweet with experts from around the world; they also tweet with other classrooms around the world to share and compare what they’re learning.

Teachers should ask their students to Google themselves and then think about what their digital record says about them, advises Delzer. “93 percent of employers now use social media in some way to either recruit or hire employees,” she explains. “That means if our students have a negative digital footprint, they might have just a 7 percent chance of getting a job.” To practice what they preach, adults should also Google themselves and reflect on what they find.

Tech tip #7: Give kids some space to cultivate their own interests.

Inspired by Google’s former 20 percent policy, which let employees use that amount of their workweek on passion projects, Delzer lets her students pursue their own “genius” hours. Her students follow their interests for one hour a week, and some — but not all — of their projects are tech-focused. One student built a tin-can robot after learning how to do it by watching YouTube tutorials, and another filmed and edited her own movie. “It really gives kids ownership in their learning,” says Delzer.












courtesy of TED IDEAS

Tablets out, imagination in: the schools that shun technology


Tablets out, imagination in: the schools that shun technology


Parents working in Silicon Valley are sending their children to a school where there’s not a computer in sight – and they’re not alone

In the heart of Silicon Valley is a nine-classroom school where employees of tech giants Google, Apple and Yahoo send their children. But despite its location in America’s digital centre, there is not an iPad, smartphone or screen in sight.

Instead teachers at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula prefer a more hands-on, experiential approach to learning that contrasts sharply with the rush to fill classrooms with the latest electronic devices. The pedagogy emphasises the role of imagination in learning and takes a holistic approach that integrates the intellectual, practical and creative development of pupils.




Also read 7 smart ways to use technology in classrooms



But the fact that parents working for pioneering technology companies are questioning the value of computers in education begs the question – is the futuristic dream of high-tech classrooms really in the best interests of the next generation?

A global report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests education systems that have invested heavily in computers have seen “no noticeable improvement” in their results for reading, maths and science in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests. The OECD’s education director, Andreas Schleicher says: “If you look at the best-performing education systems, such as those in East Asia, they’ve been very cautious about using technology in their classroom.”

“Those students who use tablets and computers very often tend to do worse than those who use them moderately,” he adds.

Other reports have raised concerns about the potentially negative impact of social media on young people, and the disruptive behaviour associated with use of mobile phones and tablets in the classroom is being examined in the UK.

Beverly Amico, leader of outreach and development at the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, explains that their approach uses “time-tested truths about how children learn best”. Teachers encourage students to learn curriculum subjects by expressing themselves through artistic activities, such as painting and drawing rather, than consuming information downloaded onto a tablet.

For example, a typical lesson for fourth grade students might include learning about Norse mythology by making their own pictures of the stories, acquiring problem-solving maths skills through knitting or practising a modern language by playing a game of catch.

Amico insists that this more creative approach to education brings lessons to life and is far more effective than showing students a series of images on a screen.

“Lessons are delivered by a human being that not only cares about the child’s education, but also about them as individuals,” she says. “What do you remember as a child in the classroom? It is usually field trips, getting your hands dirty in a lab or a beautiful story. Those are the things that stay with you 50 years later.”

Waldorf classrooms are also designed to make students feel relaxed and comfortable, with natural wooden desks and plants. The idea is to remove the distraction of electronic media and encourage stronger engagement between teacher and pupil during lessons.

Amico claims one of the reasons parents working in the digital industry are choosing a lo-tech, no-tech education for their children is that it teaches students the innovative thinking skills many employers desire. She adds that students weaned on technology often lack that ability to think outside the box and problem solve.

Sarah Thorne, head of the London Acorn school, also questions the assumption that limiting or removing the use of technology in class will have a negative impact on student’s future employability.

Students under the age of 12 at the school in Morden, London, are banned from using smartphones and computers, and watching TV of films at all times, including during holidays. The school’s ethos is of a “gradual integration” of electronic devices throughout the child’s development with students allowed to watch television once they reach 12 years old and then only documentaries that have been previously vetted by parents. They cannot watch films until they are 14; the internet is banned completely for everyone under 16 – at home and and at school; and computers are only to be used as part of the curriculum for over-14s.

It may sound draconian, but Thorne believes taking a more considered approach to the use of technology in class allows teachers to help students develop core skills such as executive decision making, creativity and concentration – all of which are far more important than the ability to swipe an iPad or fill in an Excel spreadsheet. Besides, Thorne adds, much of the technology considered cutting edge today is likely to appear primitive in tomorrow’s world.

“School is a learning journey and you want to make it as complex, rich and interesting as possible. The problem with instant information is that the ease with which you can get from A to B and find the answers doesn’t reflect real life,” she says.

“In terms of concentration in class, we tend to have very little chatting because they are engaged in their learning. Children at our school are very absorbed in their work and that’s because we give them the space to do that.”

Thorne claims feedback from students about the restrictions has been positive; younger pupils relish the opportunity to play and even teenagers who have transitioned from a mainstream school admit they are happier.

Restricting the use of technology is also a challenge for 21st century teachers, used to the easy accessibility of resources and information that the likes of interactive whiteboards and computers allow.

 “It is hard work,” admits Ian Young, a class teacher at Steiner Academy Hereford, where digital devices are only introduced into classrooms after students have reached secondary school age. Even then they have a limited role in learning. According to Sylvie Sklan, the school’s chair of governors, this ethos is informed by a belief that digital devices inhibit imaginative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans and have no place in the education of young children. Again, children are encouraged to learn through play and artistic activities.

Young explains they keep attention by filling lessons with a mixture of different activities whether that’s illustrating books or quiet reading.

“You definitely have to be a lot more creative in how you deliver a lesson,” he says. “You have to work with your voice more, whether it is loud or quiet, to give them incentive. You need to make sure you keep them interested in what’s coming next. That is the craft.”

He adds: “Teaching is about human contact and interaction. I don’t think we are doing children any favours by teaching them through machines at that young age.”


Brazil must build 64,000 school libraries


Brazil must build 64,000 school libraries




Agência Brasil
 incontáveis linhas, incontáveis histórias, que mostra ilustrações brasileiras originais de 55 autores na Biblioteca Nacional (Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)
According to a survey, school libraries are more important than any other form of access to books for young people aged 5-17 –  (Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)




Brazil needs to build more than 64,300 libraries in public schools by 2020 to meet the goal of making libraries universally available. A national law enacted in May 2010 requires all school leaderships to build up a collection of at least one book for each enrolled student, both in public and in private schools. But with just five years to go before the deadline, 53% of a total of over 120,000 public schools in the country are still lacking libraries and reading rooms. As of today, more than 1,000 school libraries would have to be built every month in order to meet the target by 2020.

Requested by Agência Brasil, the data was provided by the Lemann Foundation, an NGO established in 2002 for the aim of improving the quality of learning for Brazilian students and training a network of leaders to drive change. It is based on information from the 2014 School Census, a yearly survey of all schools in the country.


The data shows large regional gaps in school library availability across Brazil. While 77.6% of public schools in the South region have libraries, in the North, that number gets as low as 26.7% of schools, and in the Northeast, 30.4%. In the Southeast, the rate is 71.1%, and in the Central West, 63.6%. The survey also revealed gaps between elementary and secondary schools – whereas 86.9% of public secondary schools have libraries or reading rooms, in elementary schools the number drops to 45%.

“Children need appropriate facilities to practice reading. Trying to make libraries universally available [within the deadline set by the law] is an impractical goal. So we need to think of ways to provide more spaces for reading and make more content available to students,” said Ernesto Faria, a project coordinator at the Lemann Foundation.

Christine Fontelles, head of the Ecofuturo Institute, runs a project called “Eu Quero Minha Biblioteca” (“I Want My Library”), which helps teachers, school principals, parents, and students request and set up libraries at schools. According to her, resources are lacking across all education areas in Brazil. “We’re a country that doesn’t recognize the value of libraries, one that still needs to understand that educating for reading should be the norm, and that public libraries are instrumental facilities that allow families and schools to help the youth develop these skills,” she said.

According to the 2012 survey “Retrato da Leitura no Brasil” (“A Snapshot of Reading in Brazil”) conducted by Instituto Pró-Livro, school libraries are more important than any other form of access to books for young people aged 5-17. The Ministry of Education reported that setting up libraries is a responsibility of the schools, since public education institutions receive government funding to invest in their facilities and it is up for schools to decide how to spend the money.



Translated by Mayra Borges





courtesy of EBC