Blog


5 Ways to Improve your Students’ Reading Comprehension

October 3, 2018 in Learning

Reading comprehension is how students process, connect and learn from what they read.  To attain strong reading comprehension, students must be a active readers. This means students are not just just decoding words, they are actively thinking about the content they are reading.  Below are five tips to help your students build stronger reading comprehension skills that will allow them to have a better understanding and gain more from what they read.

Continue reading »

10 Ways to Build a Stronger Culture of Literacy at Your School This Year

September 6, 2018 in Classroom Fun

What is culture of literacy?

Culture of literacy is how literacy is viewed and ingrained into the day to day routines of a community.  A school that has a literacy centered culture provides meaningful opportunities for students to read and write throughout the day with quality age-appropriate materials.  Building a culture of literacy is not just about teaching children how to read, it is about helping them develop a meaningful relationship and attitude around literacy.

Continue reading »

16 Great Back to School Books to Read With Your Students

August 14, 2018 in Learning

What books will you read your first week back?  The first books you read with your students give you the opportunity to discuss all those “Back to School” feelings and set the tone for the learning environment you want to create with them this school year.  I like a balanced mix of “Back to School” books and books that encourage values I feel are especially important in my classroom. Check out the list below for my favorite books to kick the year off!

Continue reading »

A Day in the Life of a BookNook Reading Guide

June 25, 2018 in Company

Ciara Joseph – People Ops at BookNook and Reading Guide Extraordinaire

I want to live a day in the life of a Reading Guide…

That’s what I found myself countlessly saying when I started my PeopleOps journey at BookNook.  I heard great things about our application that was created to support children’s reading. I was shown how it was being used in local schools, but needed to see it all happen in the flesh.  I had far too many questions. I was emailing and calling colleagues to find out more details about how our program worked, but still didn’t have a solid picture in my mind of what exactly a reading guide’s purpose was.

I wanted to live a day in the life of a reading guide. Just one day was all I thought I needed to gain a better understanding of what they actually did. That one day led to months of 45-minute sessions, genuine conversations, newfound respect for school officials, and a sad farewell.

My reading guide journey began in January. Buena Vista-Horace Mann needed a reading guide early mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because we have a great employee volunteer program, I decided that this would be a great way for me to help out in our community. My manager agreed, and the next day I headed over to BVHM to shadow another reading guide. 

The minute I entered the school I was reminded of my own elementary school.

It smelled the same, the people there looked familiar, the sounds of laughter and mix of English and Spanish filled the halls and school yard.  I was taken aback by a feeling – or a thought – that this is where I’m intended to be. In this very same school, on this day, at this time, a voice in my head just said “This is where you’re meant to be.”  I didn’t understand it, I thought maybe I was just overwhelmed with the happiness I felt from others at the school and was just happy to be somewhere that felt good. I met a few teachers that day along with the school coordinator and office administrators. Everyone greeted me as “Maestra” (Teacher). I remember feeling uneasy, because I hadn’t gained that level of respect yet. Also, I wasn’t actually a teacher, I was just an HR person volunteering at a school. But, I went along with it. I greeted other teachers in the same respectful manner and spoke to those I met about BookNook and our purpose at the school.  

Serving as a reading guide came naturally to me. I’m an avid reader and was excited to see how our app tracked each student’s reading development. As a mom of a 10 year old, I was happy that I’d be reading with students that were around my daughter’s age. The students were all shy to meet me and had many questions about the previous reading guide and why they had missed sessions. I explained the circumstances and how I’d be reading with them until I hired someone for the position.  Never did I think I’d get to spend the rest of the school year working with them. While the months passed, I unknowingly started to bond with the students during our reading sessions and that was something too that I didn’t foresee.

My early mornings started with my daughter and I commuting on BART from Oakland to San Francisco. The greatest thing about these mornings were that we’d have enough time to grab a cup of lavender tea and a danish from Cafe la Boheme right before school started for the both of us. If the weather was nice, we’d take our time walking down the streets of The Mission District and then up the hills of Noe Valley until it was time for us to part ways.

I was very enthusiastic on these mornings, to say the least. Knowing that I was in the same vicinity as my child, could walk her to school, then teach at a school in the same neighborhood I was raised in, ignited something in me. It somehow seemed to satisfy a thirst for something I never knew existed.

When arriving to BVHM, I’d sign in for the day, then checkout iPads from the school’s lab room. I’d then head to the assigned classroom I was to teach at that day. On Tuesdays, I had the pleasure of using Mr. Frank’s classroom. I now realize that I don’t even know the teachers by their last names. Another great thing about the school is most of the teachers go by first names and allow their students to address them as such. Cool teachers, very cool!

Mr. Frank reminded me of an older cousin. Very down to earth, passionate about teaching and making a difference in the community, funny, and full of life. I’d see him often outside of the classroom, walking the halls and chatting with staff or giving advice to past students of his while keeping a smile on his face and having a few laugh out loud moments. It was apparent to me that Mr. Frank was definitely someone the whole school knew and adored.

On Thursdays, I held reading sessions in the ever so popular, Mira’s classroom.

Mira, was the teacher that kids would come in before school just to see. The classroom was inviting. There was a special zen about Mira’s room that made me feel naturally at ease the minute I saw the succulents that covered the window panes and the cotton braided rug laid out on the floor. Student’s artwork filled the walls along with posters that made me think, “Wow, this teacher is Woke!” -Woke is an African American Vernacular English expression referring to an individual’s perceived or continued awareness regarding social and racial justice issues.

I noticed the attention to detail she put into classroom rules and daily lesson plans that also filled the room. I enjoyed seeing how she translated plans into Spanish and hearing how she spoke compassionately to parent’s in their native tongue.

Though I didn’t get much free time to chit chat with both teachers during reading sessions, I was happy to have had a few good short conversations with them before and after sessions. They both spoke openly about their love for teaching and how rewarding their role was at BVHM. They spoke highly of their students and special events going on at the school. They were all around very welcoming and complete advocates for the youth. Seeing how they spoke to students and how they treated them and their family reassured me that I was in the right place.

My students were split into two groups. My first group started at 8:00am and I was joined by two fourth grade boys. Those two boys were usually my caffeine shots in the morning. They came in with so much character, and Tuesdays served as the informative, “tell me what’s been up” days. We’d share stories before reading, going around a small table, sharing what we did over the weekend or what’s been going on during the week. Our conversations would go from English to Spanish and I’d find myself resorting to English everytime I forgot how to say a certain word in Spanish. Each time, they’d help put me right back on track! Later in the school year we were joined by two more students who added a nice dynamic to our early reading sessions. My second group would join me at 8:45am and was a nice mix of students from different grades. They too kept me on my toes with stories we’d share and them letting me know what new fads were in, or what popular video games I should be playing.

I was surprised to see how natural reading was for them. I was happy to see them take the lead and volunteer to read first, stop to help another reader, or offer words of encouragement to their classmates. They came in each morning eager to read, eager to learn, and eager to teach and learn from one another. We spoke openly after reading sessions and shared our true thoughts on the material we read and the overall layout of the application. The students were never shy to tell me what they enjoyed or disliked about the program and I was happy to know they were comfortable doing so. While reading, we focused often on expression and comprehension. Students who at one point were reading almost robotically slowly started to express the true nature of the sentences they were reading. They started to sit higher in their chairs. Sharpening their voices, clearing their throat before it was their turn. Some even took on voice impersonations and narrated as if they were performing a show for all to see. This too brought a sense of joy to me, to see kids on their own acting while learning and gaining a new level of confidence while doing that. When we worked on comprehension, we focused on explaining the story in our own words and then pulling pieces from one another’s perspective of the story. We answered questions together and talked about parts we may have not understood, then would go back and reread the page together for more clarity.

Through the months I was able to closely monitor each student’s reading and leveling results. I was happy to see that all of my students were making progress and reading at higher levels than when they started. The reward I felt in being there just twice a week has been huge and has greatly impacted me. I’ve gained a better understanding of the importance of not only reading, but having a reading guide available when needed. It’s taught me the true importance of having teachers in classrooms, teacher’s aides to help when needed, and volunteers that can step in when teachers are out stretched. Though I was only at BVHM for five months, I left feeling like part of the faculty there. The students and staff left an everlasting impression on me and as the school year ends, I’ll be sad to no longer be there.

Yet, I’m hopeful for the future and looking forward to crossing paths with everyone there again and hope to be able to volunteer there some time soon.

BookNook Spurs Parent Volunteer Program, Produces Great Results

May 21, 2018 in Customer Stories

About 10 miles south of the Wisconsin/Illinois border, Carrie Modra is hard at work with her students. As a  Woodland School District 50 educator for 8 years in her role as a Speech-Language Pathologist, Carrie is an integral part of the daily ins and outs of the school day at Woodland Elementary East. In fact, she loves it so much that she has gone back to school to get her second master’s degree in  School Leadership and works directly with her Principal mentor because of her passion for education.

For the completion of her master’s degree, Carrie needed to choose a topic for her internship project. After discussions with her principal about school goals and needs, Carrie focused on third grade reading.  She was very excited to involve parents in the project, so she utilized the Woodland PTA to recruit volunteers for the BookNook program. This allowed for teachers to recommend students to BookNook and have volunteers guide the reading as an additional weekly reading support. Recruiting volunteers can be difficult, but Carrie was hoping to learn a lot through this project, and it felt like a great opportunity.

Continue reading »

Technology in Education: Overcoming Barriers to Success

May 1, 2018 in New Tech

This post is the second part in a series we are doing on Barriers and lessons learned on implementing Technology in Education. Check out part one here.

Overcoming Barriers: Emerging New Best Practices

As daunting as the barriers may seem, current EdTech research is finding several ways schools can remove or at least address them in order to achieve technology integration.

Involve Teachers in Decision-Making

First, developing a shared vision and technology integration plan can help overcome the leadership barrier (Hew and Brush). “Probably the most important issue to consider when formulating a shared vision regarding technology integration,” they write, “is to address the specific relationship between technology and particular curriculum content areas because a commitment to the curriculum is a critical scaffold for technology integration.” Notably, they recommend that “the vision should not be created by just the school leaders. Instead, “teachers, in particular, should be involved in the decision-making because teacher participation has been found to be one of the ingredients for successful wide-scale integration of technology in a school district.”

Strategic Placement of Resources

If there’s a scarcity of resources, schools can “introduce technology into one or two subject areas at a time to ensure that teachers and students in those areas have adequate technology” (Hew and Brush). Technology integration almost never happens all at once, and it’s often the rush to scale-up that leads to bigger problems.

Changing Attitudes and Beliefs

One clear benefit to teachers is a school leader who provides ongoing professional development, encourages experimentation and improvement, and grants freedom to take risks and make mistakes. It is “more important to focus on the features of professional development rather than its types” (Hew and Brush).

The most effective professional development does the following:

  • Focuses on content (practical skills, specific knowledge)
  • Gives teachers opportunities for “hands-on work”
  • Is highly consistent with teachers’ needs

A New Vision of Assessment

Schools must find a balance between “considering how technology can be used to meet the current demands of standards-based accountability” and altogether reconsidering assessment approaches once technology is integrated into the curriculum. Teacher’s can’t abandon standardized testing entirely, but they shouldn’t have to invent whole new assessments to include technology. Computer adaptive testing, or tailored testing, is just one example of how the technology itself can help educators re-imagine assessment possibilities.

A Mentoring Approach

Theodore J. Kopcha advocates for a model of integration that uses “mentoring and communities of practice to support teachers as they develop skills, pedagogy and beliefs needed to integrate technology in a student-centered manner.” Mentoring, Kopcha writes, “has been found to overcome many of the common barriers to technology integration.”

For instance, mentors provide teachers with “just-in-time support while they integrate technology into lessons they are actually teaching.” Good mentoring begins with knowing teachers’ needs and setting goals collaboratively throughout the entire process of integration.

Technology as Part of School Policy

Veteran teachers Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher integrated technology into language arts classes, then began creating a technology policy to monitor its uses. Soon, the authors realized that most “technology policies focused on prohibition” rather than teaching students to use it constructively. So they created a school-wide courtesy policy that included expectations of technology courtesy, thereby fully integrating technology expectations into the whole school’s standards of behavior.

Conclusion

For as many barriers as schools face when integrating technology, there are equally numerous, as well as creative, solutions. All require deep collaboration, clear planning, and ongoing professional development and assessment. Technology integration is never quick or easy, but it can be successfully planned and implemented.

See the Source List for this article Here

Announcing A New Funding Round—And More Importantly What We’ve Learned

April 13, 2018 in Company

About a year ago, we announced BookNook’s first fundraising round. A group of dual-bottom line investors, led by Reach Capital, bet on a company with a very rough alpha product, a handful of pilot schools, and a vision that technology could be used to make engaged, collaborative learning happen for small groups of students.

Ten months later, we are thrilled to announce the completion of our seed fundraising with an additional infusion of $2 million, jointly led by Better Ventures and the Urban Innovation Fund that included new funding from our existing VC investors and new investors Kapor Capital, Redhouse Education, and Edovate Capital.

Early stage startups are in many ways thought experiments—you set out to test a set of hypotheses about how your technology can help people and expect to learn a lot along the way.  If you’re doing things right, you spend a lot of time listening, keeping an open mind, and embracing your failures when you hear about what isn’t working.

So what did we learn in the past year?  And what are we doing about it?

Hypothesis #1: Small Groups, Big Results

What we hoped to prove: Our biggest bet—and what makes us different from everyone else in the digital reading space—is our focus on small groups as the unit of instruction.  Along with our advisor David Pearson, we believe that something special happens when students work together in groups of 4 or fewer—and there is a lot of research to back that up. Continue reading »

3 Things the Nation’s Report Card Is Telling Us About Reading, and 1 It’s Not

April 11, 2018 in Opinion

NAEP 4th Grade Reading Scores over time. Screenshot from NEAP/US DOE

This week, the US Department of Education today released the 2017 results of its National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) better known as the Nation’s Report Card.

In what has become a grim ritual for the past 10 years, the numbers show no meaningful improvement in achievement and massive disparities for students of color, students with disabilities, and students growing up in poverty.  There are of course some bright spots, but on the whole it truly is a story of “national stagnation.”

During what often feels like a time of political paralysis, when even wildly popular policies like the fix to DACA can’t get done, it’s easy to write this off as another example of something that’s just stuck in limbo.  But the truth is quite the opposite. NAEP is telling us three things loud and clear–but there’s one thing it’s not telling us.

1) The New Digital Divide is in Early Reading

While NAEP has been gradually (and somewhat painfully) shifting to an online assessment, this year was the first in which the majority of students took the digital version.  This mirrors the trend in state assessments, the majority of which are now also taken on a digital device.

There are several studies that have shown that students perform worse on tests taken online rather than on paper.  The reason most commonly cited is that students, particularly those from lower income households, have less comfort and familiarity with the devices they take the test on.

2) Device Access Isn’t the Issue

While there’s no doubt that affluent students have better access to technology, that gap is closing rapidly and the amount of time kids spend on non-television screen time has increasing dramatically –from 5 minutes a day on average in 2011 to 48 minutes in 2017.

A similar transformation is taking place as the ratio of students to devices at school continues to quickly drop.  In 2017, 50% of public school teachers reported that they have a device for every student in their classroom.

So if the problem isn’t access, then why is there a persistent gap in how students do on paper versus digital assessments?  It’s about how teaching happens–kids are mostly taught reading with paper books and paper handouts, and then tested with digital passages.

If we were going through the paper revolution, moving towards a future where people did less reading online and more reading on paper, this would make sense–but of course, it’s really the exact opposite that’s happening.

3) Money Matters

Whether it’s buying devices or training teachers and paraprofessionals on how to use them, school budgets are hurting almost universally.

Twenty-nine states still have not returned to pre-recession spending levels in education.  Nationally, we are spending $450 less per student than we did in 2008, adjusted for inflation.  In a typical elementary school of about 500 students, that’s a $225,000 budget difference.

Teachers are on the march in Kentucky in Oklahoma because of their unconscionably low pay, and it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that those states turned in some of the worst scores in fourth grade reading.  In 28 states, teachers are paid less today in real dollars than they were in 2000.  It’s no wonder that principals report budgets and their teacher morale worry them the most.

At some level it’s a minor miracle that NAEP has more or less stayed flat during a decade of decreased funding and rising poverty among schoolchildren.  While simply throwing money at the problem is unlikely to help, smart allocations of dollars to address the crisis in school funding would go a long way in getting achievement growth back on track.

There’s also one thing that we should not take away from the NAEP story, both for this year and the past 10 years:

What We’re Doing Isn’t Working

While there are many matters of reading policy that reasonable people might disagree with, the one conclusion is that we should all be able to agree on is that our current approach at both the state is failing our kids.

Reading is a human and a civil right, and the bedrock of a child’s ability to learn and engage with the world around them. Yet only 37% of American fourth graders tested as proficient readers and among students of color and students growing up in poverty that number drops to 20%.

While 2017’s numbers show an improvement of 4 percentage points over the past 10 years, these are not ‘stay the course’ numbers.  If we keep going at this pace, it will be the year 2052 before even a slim 51% majority of American children will be proficient readers.

It’s time for educators and policymakers to rethink their approaches to early reading, by investing more in teachers and schools and by embracing the digital text revolution. This will bring teaching practices into line with how the vast majority of written text is now consumed.

We get only one chance at this–if students don’t master reading at a young age they will face a host of hardships throughout their lives.  We owe it to our kids to do better.

 

Technology in Education: Barriers to Success

March 22, 2018 in New Tech

Back in 1986, Ohio educator and school administrator Howard Merriman bemoaned “the challenges brought by the incursion of technology into the schools.” He was talking about electric typewriters and programmable televisions, but 40 years later, the problem for schools remains the same, even if today’s technology is vastly different. As current educators try to adopt new technology, they should find Merriman’s impulse familiar as they ask themselves how schools can ensure holistic integration across all grades, subjects and teachers.

What Is Technology Integration?

It’s more than teachers and students using computers, or simply putting course materials online. However, it doesn’t mean having students on computers all the time, either.

Continue reading »

Guiding Your Student to Success: Effectively Using Talking Points and Discussion Questions

March 13, 2018 in BookNook U

This is the 1st post in our new series: “Guide your Students to Success” that will explain how to best use the instructional components within BookNook.

Asking questions that will lead your students to higher levels of comprehension and being more critical learners is not easy. Educators spend a lot of time crafting questions that utilize Bloom’s taxonomy lead their students from being able to recall information all the way up to be able to higher order skills of evaluating and creating. With BookNook’s built in talking points and discussion questions that have been designed by educators, you can ask effective questions using dialogic reading techniques that will increase your students’ comprehension of each text and make your sessions full of energy and student talk time.

Continue reading »

The BookNook Olympics

March 6, 2018 in Company

These past few weeks at BookNook HQ in Oakland, we’ve been in the midst of our own Olympics. And no, we’re not talking about the March Reading Madness we’re working on with all of the schools using BookNook. We’ve been working hard with Olympic athlete, Kristi Yamaguchi.

In 1992, Kristi Yamaguchi won Gold in Women’s Singles at the winter olympics for the US Ice Skating team. Since that amazing performance, Kristi has worked tirelessly towards improving literacy skill and achievement for students.  Enter BookNook, which is in the hands of thousands of students across 14 states. After speaking with Kristi about BookNook’s vision of improving achievement for students across the country in all types of educational settings as well as help students achieve their dreams by encouraging academic success, she agreed to have her books featured alongside BookNook’s already growing library of engaging texts for students.

Continue reading »

5 Creative Uses of Technology in the Classroom

February 20, 2018 in Classroom Fun

Considering the pervasiveness of smartphones, the concept of “technology in the classroom” isn’t without controversy. The jury is still out on whether or not kids should be allowed to or even encouraged to bring their phones to class.

However, research does indicate that when teachers use technology in fresh and innovative ways in the classroom, it’s actually quite beneficial. Giving lower-income students access to the technology they might not have at home helps bridge the achievement gap, noted one Stanford study. Furthermore, according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, integrating technology into a lesson plan keeps students engaged and on task. Here are five creative ways teachers can incorporate technology into the classroom in a way that students will connect with and enjoy.

Have Students Post Their Creative Writing Assignments or Essays in Personal Blogs

Continue reading »

Our new Leveling Feature adjusts reading level in between assesments

February 5, 2018 in Company

We’ve been hard at work here at BookNook on our new 3.0 release. One of the things that is really exciting for us is our new “Leveling” feature. Students will be presented with a passage of text, which they will be instructed to read through. As they make errors or self-correct, the guide can click or tap on each word and mark that word as such. Once the student is done reading, they will be presented with a series of comprehension questions.

At the end of the leveling session, the guide will be given a result: move the student up, stay the same, or move them down a reading level.

Check out the video to see it in action!

We’d love to show our hard work off a little more (yes it’s a #shamelessplug) – so grab some time with our team by requesting a demo!

Or, if you’d like to read more about the release, you can go to our BookNook 3.0 release page!

5 Tips To Encourage Reading During Winter Break

December 19, 2017 in Learning

With the holiday break fast approaching, our kids will have more leisure time while school is out! What better way to spend their time than curled up with a good book, or being read to by family and friends?

fatherdaughter

1. Make books special

Teaching your child the value, proper handling, and all they can gain from reading makes the practice of reading more desirable for children. If they learn to take good care of books and know that books can “take you places” and teach you new things, they will see books as holding greater value. Books make great gifts and stocking stuffers too!
Continue reading »

9 Fictional Families I’d Want to Eat Thanksgiving With

November 22, 2017 in Opinion

Two of the things that matter most in my life are family and food, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy Thanksgiving so much.

Even though the entire BookNook team has plenty to be thankful for this year, I thought it’d be fun to imagine what Thanksgiving dinner would be like with the characters from some of my favorite children’s books.

Continue reading »

Six Things Principals Are Thinking When They Get Pitched Edtech

October 20, 2017 in New Tech, Opinion

A guest post by Sara Shenkan-Rich, Principal of Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Daly City, CA.

principals-main

As a principal, I get pinged by edtech providers almost every day. Everyone has a new solution that is going to “disrupt” my school. Most of the time we ignore the emails and phone calls, but every now and again something breaks through the noise and catches my interest. When we talk to edtech companies to learn about what they have to offer, there are a few main questions that I am thinking about as I listen to their pitch.

1. Which of my million problems does this solve?

Being a principal means first and foremost being a problem solver. I have to tackle everything from getting substitute teachers in when someone is out sick, to dealing with discipline issues for students, to helping families connect with social services when they are in a moment of crisis.

Continue reading »

What Helps Students Master Reading?

September 26, 2017 in Learning

boyinlibrary

Ask 100 people if it’s important for a child to learn how to read, they’ll all say “yes.”

Ask them when a child should develop these literacy skills, there may be a little discussion about it, but it’s safe to say we all agree that by ages nine or ten a child should be able to read on their own. It’s called reading proficiency and it’s been a hallmark of our education system since its inception. Continue reading »

Kansas Bets on Blended Learning to Boost Reading Skills

September 20, 2017 in Company, New Tech

Reading is an issue that many communities are grappling with at the statewide level; in the past 5 years, 36 states have adopted legislative or funding programs specifically targeting improvement in early reading.

blog-kansasannouncement

We’re very excited to be part of a unique and innovative approach by the state of Kansas called the Reading Roadmap, a collaboration between the Department of Education and Department for Children and Families that takes a very bottom-up approach to school support, and focuses on close alignment between what happens inside and outside the classroom.  Continue reading »