Fall Schedule of Online Teacher Workshops

This fall the National Humanities Center will hold eight online workshops for high school teachers focusing on specific topics in American history and culture along with primary source materials that can be used with their students in their classrooms. The 90-minute sessions are led by leading scholars of history, art, and literature and provide opportunities for sharing ideas with other teachers across the United States. Using online conferencing software that allows verbal exchanges among participants, these workshops are the newest offering from the National Humanities Center's education programs and build on its thirty years of dedicated effort to improving humanities teaching at all levels of education through engagement with scholars and professional development.

Workshops scheduled for this fall include sessions on consumer behavior in colonial America, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and art in the Civil War and early twentieth century, among other topics. The workshops will draw from, and help familiarize teachers with, materials in the National Humanities Center's Toolbox Library, an extensive archive of primary sources - historical documents, literary texts, visual images, and audio materials - which are supplemented with discussion guides and helpful notes.

Registration for each workshop is $35. All sessions are conducted live, online. Participants need a computer, an Internet connection, along with speakers, and a microphone. For participants who need a headset with a built-in microphone, one will be provided.

WHO: Teachers (K-12) of U.S. History and American Literature


Thursday, October 8:

"The Consumer Revolution in Colonial America"

Led by historian Maurie McInnis, University of Virginia

Tuesday, October 13:

"Why Some New World Colonies Succeeded and Others Failed"

Led by historian Kathleen Duval, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Tuesday, October 20:

"Lincoln's Gettysburg Address"

Led by historian Andrew Delbanco, Columbia University

Tuesday, October 27:

"Civil War Art"

Led by art historian Kirk Savage, University of Pittsburgh

Wednesday, October 28:

"The Cult of Domesticity"

Led by literature scholar Lucinda MacKethan, North Carolina State University

Tuesday, November 10:


Led by historian Reginald Hildebrand, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thursday, November 12:

"The Ashcan School"

Led by art historian Angela Miller, Washington University of Saint Louis

Thursday, November 19:

"In Search of the Civil Rights Movement"

Led by historian Kenneth Janken, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

WHERE: All sessions will be conducted online.

CONTACT: For more information, or to reserve space, please contact Michelle Walton-Shaw, 919-549-0661, mshaw@nationalhumanitiescenter.org

Website: http://www.nationalhumanitiescenter.org/

Central New York Teachers Participate In Federal Writing Project

Twelve Central New York teachers undertook an intensive, four-week Summer Institute in July at SUNY Cortland during the second year of the Seven Valleys Writing Project (SVWP).

The institute took place July 6-31 at Main Street SUNY Cortland, an extension facility the College operates at 9 Main St. in downtown Cortland. The educators honed their written expression and improved their grasp of research in education-related subjects.

"I used to laugh at the idea of having students write in class every day," said Nick Bessette, an English language arts teacher at Union Springs (N.Y.) High School. "Now I don't."

"At the end of the Summer Institute, I have come to realize how little I have used writing," noted Kathryn Cernera, English language arts teacher in the Ithaca (N.Y.) City School District's DeWitt Middle School. "I knew it was missing, but after being here, I have so many ways to sneak it into my classroom."

Since 2008, the College has operated a local branch of the National Writing Project, funded through the federal Department of Education, as a means of helping outstanding teachers across Central New York improve their practice through writing and research. In all, 26 area educators have been trained as master educators and returned to their home districts to share their new knowledge with colleagues and students by conducting professional development demonstrations after school hours.

"This whole institute has been a real shot in the arm for my teaching," said Tina Conklin, English language arts teacher in Chenango Valley (N.Y.) Middle School. "I want to go back and infect my school with an enthusiasm for writing."

"The program has helped 4,800 students gain access to a SVWP teacher consultant so far," said David Franke, a SUNY Cortland associate professor of English and professional writing who is the College's project director with Brian Fay, a teacher at the Onondaga-Cayuga-Madison BOCES. "The bottom line is that we anticipate our program will reach 18,000 students with a Seven Valleys Writing Project teacher by the end of five years. In our second year, we've taught a total of 26 educators from more than 20 school districts in Central New York. These teacher consultants practice in all fields and at all levels in the theory and practice of using writing to help students learn at the kindergarten through 12th grade level."

The SVWP will ultimately serve 79 school districts in an eight-county territory located within a 100-mile radius of Cortland, Franke said. The 12 teachers were competitively selected from 15 applicants and were required to have at least two years of teaching experience. Franke and Fay would like to see more candidates apply who teach science, math, social studies, art and other content areas.

The other Central New York teachers chosen to attend this summer's institute were: Quana Brock, English language arts teacher at Binghamton (N.Y.) High School; Deborah Gleason-Rielly, English teacher at Auburn (N.Y.) High School; Tish Evans, English as a second language teacher in the Syracuse (N.Y.) Central School District; Deborah Kisloski, English teacher at Horseheads (N.Y.) High School; Shannon Dawson, English language arts teacher at the Maine-Endwell (N.Y.) Central School District; Sarah Marcham, English language arts and math support teacher at Dryden (N.Y.) Elementary School; and Gerald Masters, an English and technical writing teacher at Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES Finger Lakes Technical and Career Center.

"Part of my job as a teacher is to pay attention to my students' passions," said Marilyn Mayer, a music, art and physical education teacher at Ithaca (N.Y.) City School District's Northeast Elementary School. "Listening to the things they say and the questions they ask — and all the silences in between -- is the only way to help them move to feel joy and take pride in the work they do."

"I'm reminded to take risks and that if I don't think the writing is interesting, no one else in my class will," said Joseph Cortese, history and economics teacher in the Homer (N.Y.) Senior High School.

"It was really an amazing year," Franke noted. "People work so hard, but it's really good work. They love it. They do research into their own professional research questions, for example, 'Does teaching grammar make elementary students better writers?' and 'How can I teach students to respond critically to their peers' work?' Stuff like that. At the same time, the teachers are helping each other compose their own writing, everything from memoir to poetry to fiction. On top of that, the group serves as a critical audience for teachers to develop their own ways to use writing in the classroom."

For more information about the SVWP, visit the Web site at www.cortland.edu/svwp or contact Franke at (607) 753-5945.

Children Can Learn A Second Language In Preschool

Interim results from an international research project which looks at bilingual education reveal that children can learn a second language as early as preschool.

The University of Hertfordshire is one of nine European partners in ELIAS (Early Language and Intercultural Acquisition Studies) which was awarded €300,000 by the European Union last year to research bilingual education and intercultural awareness in children through observational studies and language assessments in six project preschools.

The researchers use a concept called 'immersion teaching', whereby children are addressed in each language by the respective native speaker and asked to respond in that language.

The study focuses on bilingual preschools in Germany, Sweden and Belgium, where the staff members are teachers from the respective country, but at least one teacher is a native speaker of English. Data is also collected from nurseries in Hertfordshire and the bilingual nursery of the German school in London. Children’s progress in English is measured through a receptive vocabulary test and a grammar task that was designed within the project. So far, 266 preschool children aged between three and five took part in the tests.

The researchers found that although not all the preschool groups performed equally well in the tests, and there was a large amount of individual variation in children’s comprehension of vocabulary and grammatical phenomena, there was clear evidence that it is feasible for children to start to learn a second language in a preschool context, using immersion methods.

Dr Christina Schelletter, a senior lecturer in English Language and Communication in the School of Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire, who leads the UK investigation said: "We have found that immersion-type teaching can be of real benefit to children. Immersion is the best and most successful method of foreign language learning at an early age. The natural learning abilities of young children as well as their enthusiasm promise rapid and successful acquisition of the second language."

ELIAS will continue until October 2010 during which time it will document and assess the development of the children, organise teacher training events and recommend practical work for the preschools. Following the final symposium in 2010, a compilation of the results will be published for general public use.

For more information, see: http://www.elias.bilikita.org/

Readers' Choice Literacy Grant

Better World Books announced the creation of its Readers' Choice Literacy Grant. Twice a year, Better World Books' five primary non-profit literacy partners are now invited to submit grant proposals which will then be voted on by consumers on www.BetterWorldBooks.com. The winner each time will receive a significant grant to fund its proposal. Voting for the first grant will begin on Oct. 23, 2009. "We want to keep growing public awareness of the importance of literacy, and the Readers' Choice Literacy Grant is a great way to deepen our readers' engagement and empower them to help make a difference," said Better World Books CEO David Murphy.

Every book bought on BetterWorldBooks.com funds global literacy through Better World Books' five primary non-profit literacy partners (the National Center for Family Literacy, Books for Africa, Room to Read, Worldfund, and Invisible Children) as well as through nearly 100 other non-profit organizations.

She's Going Back To School But Can She Read?

The fact that children who do not read well by the end of Grade 3 are at risk of dropping out or failing to graduate is one of the grim conclusions made in a report released by the Canadian Education Statistics Council.

The report, "Literature Review: Key factors to support literacy success in school-aged population" was prepared by principal investigator Julia O'Sullivan, Dean of the Faculty of Education at The University of Western Ontario. It explores the gaps in students' opportunities to learn to read and identifies those at risk based on how well Canadian children can read in Grade 3 or Grade 6. Statistics prove that at least 30 per cent of students across the country cannot read or write well enough to support success in school by the end of Grade 6.

"These students move to junior or senior high where reading is not taught and these same students are expected to read well enough to learn from textbooks in subjects ranging from science to history," says O'Sullivan. "Then they have to write about what they know and think. But without those reading skills, success is highly unlikely."

And while many students are doing well in Canada's current education system, the report says it's unacceptable that nearly one quarter will not graduate from high school. The costs for these students, their families, communities and Canada are much higher today than 25 years ago. Today, Canada competes against countries with higher graduation rates whose students often speak two or three languages.

Efforts to improve reading and writing skills, historically, happen at the primary and elementary levels. But the report urges that those efforts must be intensified for young children and expanded to junior and senior high school if more students are to succeed. And that means more literacy teachers in high school settings.

O'Sullivan explains, "Reading, or the ability to get meaning from print, is fundamental for school success for all students. It is the golden ticket that every child in this country has a right to expect. The challenge for Canada is to raise the bar and close the gap for all of our students. Every single child is entitled to learn to read, to attain that golden ticket."

Read the full report here

Web Site Sells Words and Supports Literacy

Buy a word and support international literacy efforts. Web entrepreneur Jeremy Burghall has created the Web site www.EveryWordIsForSale.com with the goal of raising $2.4 million. Burghall is donating 25% of the total raised to ProLiteracy, the world's largest organization of adult literacy programs.

The www.EveryWordIsForSale.com Web site consists of the entire text of the book "The Science of Getting Rich," by Wallace D. Wattles, first published 99 years ago. Each word is available for purchase as a hyperlink advertisement to the buyer's Web site.

"The book inspired the idea for the Web site," Burghall, 27, said. "I want to increase opportunities for people seeking self-improvement. ProLiteracy's international programs give budding entrepreneurs in developing countries the basic literacy and math skills they need to help their businesses succeed."

Individuals and companies can buy words for $100 each with the stipulation that they must purchase every instance of the word. The most common, and therefore most expensive, word is "the," which Burghall hopes to sell for $123,900. Supporters are encouraged to buy words related to their products or services. For example, attitudetravel.com has purchased the word "travel."

"Partnerships with young entrepreneurs like Jeremy are so important to the work ProLiteracy does around the world," said Lynne Jones, ProLiteracy's vice president for development and membership. "Many of our international partner programs offer literacy instruction that helps adults start and grow their own small businesses."