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Tutoring and Mentoring.................../span>
Reading by 4th Grade..................
Adolescent Literacy

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Link to A Kid-Friendly Dictionary and Pictionary

  • Gives easily understandable definitions of key academic terms.


Image from Stony Brook University Tutoring Center
Image from Stony Brook University Tutoring Center

Tutored Students Score Better
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"What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn if provided with appropriate prior and current conditions of learning."

- Benjamin Bloom (Developing Talent in Young People, 1985), originator of Taxonomy of Higher Order Thinking Skills.
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After more than 40 years of research, Benjamin Bloom asserted,
the middle 95% of school students become very similar in terms of their measured achievement, learning ability, rate of learning, and motivation for further learning when provided with favorable learning conditions.”

His conclusion is that great achievements are not the result of native genius but a “long and intensive process of encouragement, nurturance (affectionate care and attention), education, and training.”

Part of setting favorable conditions for learners is providing instruction that reaches the higher order levels of the thinking skills chart, not just remembering (memorizing).

You, as a tutor, must create multiple strategies for showing interest and curiosity about the topics students are learning. By conversing about what you both know, asking questions of each other and finding out information together. Make the interaction something out of the ordinary. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity for learning to occur.


supporting by encouraging
providing assistance engagingly
creating confidence to achieve
including humor in learning

Geoffrey Canada, founder of Harlem Children's Zone
Geoffrey Canada, founder of Harlem Children's Zone

Geoffrey Canada, a young kid living in a tough neighborhood, had a life changing experience of being mentored and protected.

In his professional life, Mr. Canada became a mentor to thousands of kids in the area he designed, Harlem's Children's Zone.

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Sean McComb, 2014 National Teacher of the Year, the youngest ever to win says he teaches because of the mentorship of one high school teacher.

"A few years ago a poll asked Americans to describe the best teacher they ever had. The most commonly cited word: care." -S. McComb


1. What did Geoffrey Canada experience and learn from Mike, his childhood friend and mentor, that inspired Geoffrey's life choices?

2. What did Sean McComb experience and learn from his mentor teacher, Brian Reagan, that Sean offers high school students he teaches?

3. Is there a friend or a mentor who helped you succeed through some part of school? Describe the methods and character traits that person possesses that were helpful to your learning.

4. Describe the attitudes and actions of your favorite instructor in K-12 classes and what he/she did to create enjoyment or excitement about learning.


Without a large vocabulary to use and recognize, school is not equal. Some students start school disadvantaged and remain disadvantaged.

Reading aloud at all grade levels teaches new vocabulary and immerses students in conversations to help them understand and describe ideas.

First Lady Michelle Obama reads Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
First Lady Michelle Obama reads Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

external image 200px-Podcast-icon.svg.pngListen to the podcast OR read the transcript.

Closing the Word Gap Between Rich and Poor

transcript of the podcast

5. Analyze information from"Closing the Word Gap Between Rich and Poor" describing why poor kids need to learn lots of vocabulary before entering kindergarten. Bullet point four reasons why this effort is so important.

6. Would you have thought of vocabulary as key to school learning success before you read or heard this information? Why or why not.

6. What course(s) in college have introduced the most new vocabulary for you to learn?

7. Of these strategies, which do you use when you see or hear new words whose meaning or definition you may not know?

a. use the text around the word(s) to understand the meaning

b. use a paper or online dictionary to define the word(s)

c. ask someone for the meaning or ask Siri

d. ignore the word(s)


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Three broad groups of 4th grade students struggle as readers:

1. Students with on grade level reading skills who lack interest.
These youngsters have the knowledge and skills to read on grade level books, but reading is not very interesting. Some read an assignment as fast as they can with minimal comprehension, skipping punctuation and inserting words they know for unfamiliar ones.
They need engaging reading experiences to build their interest in words and stories. They like dramatic read alouds and theater-like enactments of characters and stories.
2. Students who do not have on grade level reading skills and lack confidence.
These youngsters do not have the reading knowledge, necessary skills, to easily read books on or near grade level. They become stymied, frustrated and confused by words and phrases. They give up easily, reinforcing a negative self-image of being a poor reader.They need inviting supportive adults to read with and coach them to develop independence with reading fluency. Gradually the child will enjoy more independence in the reading process as she/he gains skills.
3. Students with on grade level or above reading skills and high interest who do not like assigned books.
These youngsters crave challenging and engaging reading experiences to sustain their interest in reading and to expand their knowledge of vocabulary and literature genres.
They need opportunities to choose their own reading, read alone or with friends, and discuss ideas and questions with adults and peers.

8. Which of the three groups of readers describes you in upper elementary school? (If you were not in any of these groups in upper elementary school, how would you describe yourself as a reader then?)
Which of these groups best represents you today?


9. Educators cite grades 1-3 as those where students learn to read and grade 4 where students read to learn.
Analyze the information the Executive Summary reveals about the links between high school graduation rates and lifetime economic opportunities and summarize the links in bullet points.

Kwame Alexander with his award winning young adult novel, The Crossover.
Kwame Alexander with his award winning young adult novel, The Crossover.


10. Would you have predicted that a book about basketball written with poetry to communicate ideas and emotions might attract adolescent boys to read it?
Viewing the middle school students writing with Kwame Alexander, describe what surprised you about these writers.


11. Did a bookmobile come to your neighborhood in the summer? If you were a kid without books and transportation on a reservation or in a rural setting, in an inner-city neighborhood without a library, in foster care, or in prison, what might a bookmobile do for you?


Map of literacy around the world, 2011
Map of literacy around the world, 2011

Photo from Tulane Public Relations
Photo from Tulane Public Relations

12. In high school, did you complete all assigned readings or did you utilize techniques from the video to disguise not doing the reading?
  • Which of the techniques did you use?

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13. As an adolescent, what genres did you enjoy reading?
Would having an English class incorporating design principles to create new ways to analyze text or characters (the top of Bloom's Taxonomy) have appealed to you in ways that students describe in the article? Explain your ideas.

Elementary and Middle School Tutors ---


Class 4 Outline

All Class Opener

Reading Comprehension from FAT City Workshop

Sharon Workshop:

NO Word Books and
Radio Reading Strategies.........................
Bob Workshop:

NEWSELA website
and Kid-Friendly Language
of Academic Language..........................
Third Workshop:

Technologies to Support Reading
and Learning to Read

Site Meetings

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.31.08 AM.pngLesson Plan (Bob): Using Kid-Friendly Language

  • How many pages have you read this past week for your University classes?
  • What is the most challenging reading that you have had to do?
  • Why is that material challenging to you and what strategies do you use to overcome those challenges?

Recalling the Reading Comprehension Video from FAT City just watched, reading is making meaning from text, but when readers lack context, they struggle to make meaning from what they are reading.

Activity 1

1943 NASA Photograph

Hidden Figures Movie Trailer

Put three separate versions of the news story, "Black Women Who Helped Men Walk on the Moon," on three tables.
  • Version 1: 12th Grade reading Level
  • Version 2: 6th Grade reading level
  • Version 3: 2nd Grade reading level
Ask groups to read each version to:
  • Determine the reading level of the article
  • Identify words they do not know and words they think students will find challenging
    • For example: trailblazer
      • What would be a kid-friendly definition of this word? (To go where no has gone before)

Activity 2: Create the Text

Compose Kid-Accessible/Kid-Friendly Definitions for academic terms found in textbooks and on MCAS tests

  • Assemble cards with words that 5th graders need to know from the following sources
    • Explain we are playing a game in which teams of 2 or 3 students in each of the 3 sections of the 1/2/3 time are going to write kid-friendly definitions for words and post them on the whiteboard. This creates a completion among the 3 sections, not among those in each section.
      • Each pair or trio draws a word, writes a definition on a sticky note, has it reviewed by one of the site coordinators acting as a judge of kid-friendyness. Once approved, the word is posted on the whiteboard which is arranged in alphabetical order.

The Critical Words Your Students Must Know for the Common Core State Standards

180 Essential Vocabulary Words for 5th Grade, Scholastic

Selected examples:

English Language Arts







Parts of Speech






Electoral College


























Textbook Reading Strategies Presentation

The Best Places To Get The “Same” Text Written For Different “Levels”
  • Newsela
    • Articles written at 5 different reading levels
    • Writing prompts for student responses
    • Quiz testing reading standards
Text Summarizers

The Middle School High Five: Strategies Can Triumph, Amy Goodman, Voices in the Middle, 13(2), December 2005

Staples Reading Test

Test the Readability of a Website


Tutors need to adopt an inverted triangle in which they spend
  • most of their time on establishing the context of what students are reading;
  • a lesser amount of time on the sections and paragraphs of the reading;
  • and the least amount of time focusing on individual words in the reading
    • But in schools, the reverse happens and students struggle to define unfamiliar terms without a framework for those definitions

Lesson Plan Sharon

Reading Aloud in Radio Reading Style

The Science of Storytime, Science Friday, NPR
Storyline Online/ Harry the Dirty Dog

No Word Pictures Are Stories
Fossil by Bill Thompson
Lotte Reiniger's Birthday Google
Who was Lotte Reiniger?

Lesson Plan Brianna: Learning vocabulary and reading with online resources/Using Technology to Read and Learn to Read


Jay-Z Fresh Air interview
5:10- 6:08

Merriam-Webster Name That Thing Vocab Quiz


Online Dictionaries and Thesaurus

Visuwords online Graphical Dictionary

Shahi, a visual dictionary with Wiktionary content and Flickr images

Graph Words: Online Thesaurus


Merriam-Webster Word Central Rhyming/Thesaurus/Dictionary

Flocabulary is Educational Hip Hop

Text Summarizers

Interactive e-Books for tablets and phones

Open Stax Free Online Textbooks

Learning to Read

Sites That Fuel a Love of Reading from Common Sense Media

Active Reading Strategies, John Bean, Engaging Ideas

Active Reading Strategies, Princeton University

Guide to Reading Primary Sources

Reading Social Studies Texts

The Middle School High Five: Strategies Can Triumph from National Council of Teachers of English

Tutoring and Mentoring

Learning to Read After Decades Brings Joy

Philadelphia Mayor Tackles Illiteracy of One Third of the Adult Population

Mrs. Alvarez and Carlos

Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone
Geoffrey Canada describes how he views success, and how his work with the Harlem Children's Zone is accomplishing that.

Walter Dean Myers named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature
Myers' thoughts on the importance of reading and the story of this career.

That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It: Burkins and Yaris
Burkins and Yaris explain that celebrating mistakes and changing child perceptions of 'mistakes are bad' redirect the child's learning process to revise their own thinking.

One Student Tries To Help Others


This American Life: 364 Going Big
Geoffrey Canada explains why he created the Harlem Children's Zone. Paul Tough cites the research about critical differences in the lives of poor kids: vocabulary and the number of words kids hear each day.
0.00-1:20 intro
1:33- 5:45 intellectual knowledge difference
9:30-12:03 immense power of words

How home visits for vulnerable moms boost kids' brainpower

Closing the Vocabulary Gap In Chicago Preschools
(visual at bottom of the page)

The 32-Million Word Gap, The Atlantic

VERA Institute of Justice- The Price of Prisons
This fact sheet reports the amounts 40 states spend per inmate annually.

Pickles Comicstrip
Synonyms building vocabulary through a fun and amusing medium.

Scholastic Literacy

PBS Reading


Reading by 4th Grade

The Best Lesson for New Readers Might Be the One They Teach Themselves

Learning to read and write w/a phone program

Is reading pictures real reading?
Reading the pictures, giving context to the pictures, and making that context into a story.

Comprehending Advertising Video w/Few Words

A new way to read symbols and create meaning to the sounds provided.

Victor Borge's Phonetic Punctuation on Sesame Street 2:30

Victor Borge Teaching Phonetic Punctuation
Onstage performance, 45:07; the rollicking fun includes a longer version of Phonetic Punctuation.

Beating the Odds, Book by Book
Writer and ABC Correspondent, Bryon Pitts, tells his story of being functionally illiterate until he was nearly 13, and how he overcame the challenges.

What do you need to know (context) to find the humor in this song? How can the concept and context of this song be used to help students learn to read and write?

Adolescent Literacy

Top 10 Fiction Books for Teaching
Top 11 Non-Fiction Books for Teaching
Burkins and Yaris' top suggested books for teaching students everything!

Most US Teens Can't Read Their Own Pay Stubs
Most Teens Struggle to Read Paystubs.

Burkins and Yaris Language Arts Blog
Educators and researchers, authors and idea people, these two offer insights, ideas and strategies that are foundations for teaching/learning success.

Types of Readers and Reading Ability

Freedom Schools Build Readers and Leaders
An 8-week summer program for students 3rd-12th grade transforms students' reading, writing and thinking skills.

''What Adolescent Readers Need' A Call to Action: What We Know About Adolescent Literacy and Ways to Support Teachers in Meeting Students' Needs.


Benjamin Bloom, author of, Developing Talent in Young People,
is the researcher and originator of the concept of higher order thinking skills.
Bloom's Taxonomy

Chicago Vocab Gap.PNG
Cost comparison of what is spent in Chicago's public funds for one inmate, one child at the best preschool program, one child in a public preschool, and what is spent on each child in the 60th percentile of the neediest children.

PBS Newshour explores the issues that Chicago pre-K schools are facing with a 30-million-word vocabulary gap