Reading Strategies New & Old

Reading strategies have been around and utilized for a very long time and they continue to evolve. Sarah Gonser’s “4 Reading Strategies to Retire This Year (Plus 6 to Try Out!)” article points out just that. Some of these ol’ reliable reading strategies that are still being used may not be as effective as we once thought. However, there are new approaches and methods that are proven to work better than previous strategies.

Mandatory reading logs is one strategy that has been around for a long time. However, research has shown a decline in interest of students toward the selected reading because these reading logs forced kids to read instead of encouraging them to read voluntarily. Oral reading, if done correctly, is proven to improve a student’s literary understanding, but Round Robin Reading, Popcorn Reading, Combat Reading, and Popsicle Reading are not useful strategies because they tend to hurt a student’s comprehension, fluency, and pronunciation. Also, awarding kids prizes for reading is only a short-term help to get students to read. These prizes don’t create reading habits and can actually decrease the desire to read for those that already like to read.

Choral reading has shown improvements in fluency because in this strategy the teacher and the class all read a passage aloud together. This causes less stress on those kids that have difficulty reading because they don’t feel the pressure of the entire class judging their ability to read. Silent reading is one strategy that is still useful to this day, however it can be used more effectively by introducing new vocabulary that is in their book or giving a brief explanation of the plot before the students begin reading. Also, a teacher reading aloud to the class can be very beneficial to even the most uninterested kids, because this allows the teacher to better explain the idea and feeling of the story simply through their intonations and stopping briefly to ask what is going on in the story. This helps the students understand the story so much more and keeps them interested, invested, and curious.

The goal of retiring these old strategies and implementing new ones is to keep kids motivated and interested in reading. Providing students with books that they can get a real, emotional connection to will encourage them to read recreationally and tackle more challenging reads. We have to provide kids with more literature that can personally reflect them. Once we do that then they will enjoy reading and will seek out different books that can introduce them to new, unfamiliar, and wonderful worlds.

What’s a Wisdom Community?

I’ve had the pleasure of reading a book published recently: Culturally Inclusive Instructional Design; A Framework and Guide for Building Online Wisdom Communities by Charlotte Nirmalani Gunawardena, Casey Frechette and Ludmila Layne. This book details what a Wisdom Community is and how, by utilizing a framework of technology, communication, mentoring and supports, one could create their own community for the purpose of Transformative Learning! But, first: why do we wish our learning community be wise?

“Wisdom emerges from a rare mix of skills and values; humility, inclusiveness, kindness, generosity, and reflexiveness. Wise people listen before speaking and consider collective benefits before individual gains… Wise people engender transformative learning in themselves and others, while transformative learning increases wisdom.” Wisdom is the first element in the “WisCom Framework.” Next comes community (there’s a difference between a community and a group). Then: Communication, Technology, Distributed Co-Mentoring, Learner Support, Problem-Solving and the Collaborative Inquiry Cycle, and finally Transformative Learning.

When a community of people set out to transform their environment or achieve a goal, why shouldn’t they utilize a framework that serves not only as a vehicle toward success of the goal, but also contributes to self-discovery and learning? These two activities of serving toward a collaborative goal and also developing personal skills through learning are very helpful to each other. The authors of the book reference the sociocultural perspective of the Keresan Pueblo Communities of NM. This perspective relies on individuals to “give back” to the wellbeing of the whole community as a measure of wisdom. “Collective wisdom derives from each person’s contributions and shared experiences, and the social construction of knowledge leads to transformative learning.” In these times of political polarizations, may we all hope to benefit from collective wisdom and transformative learning.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

Who Is Eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program? A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the six criteria below: Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline; Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year; Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program. For more information on the requirements, the participating providers, and details on the three ways to apply visit,

Watch this short video on how it works: 

internet providers in NM: 

Vygotsky and Schema

Recently, I’ve been re-introduced to some the educational theoretical brainiacs of history. Let’s see…There’s Dewey, Piaget, Freire, and good ole’ Lev Vygotsky (and tons others). Vygotsky was known in education circles only after his death in 1934. He was Russian and lived through the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, which basically caused him to research and write to the political tunes of Communist Russia. He was a psychologist by trade. His research late in his life extended more in depth into the field of education. He was critical, yet admiring, of Jean Piaget who, about that same time, published the stages of cognitive development of which we still use today. You know: sensorimotor ( birth to 2), preoperational (2-6 years), concrete operational (7-11 years), and formal operational (12-adult).

Well, Vygotsky had this crazy idea that learning was heavily influenced by a child’s culture and language, and if we would use these elements as building blocks to “construct” a child’s learning through a scaffolding approach, the learner would be better for it. This theory became known as constructivism, and is still discussed and debated today. The need to prepare children for standardized tests have taken us far away from constructivism. Typically, classroom teachers are more interested in where a student is going, versus where the student has come from. Is this fair? Isn’t there some serious SENSE in using a scaffolding approach, using a child’s “funds of knowledge” to increase learning potential. What do you think?

Do you need help paying rent? Find out about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program

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The NM Department of Finance and Administration released this today!

State Announces $170M for Rental and Utility Assistance
Assistance is for households experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19

SANTA FE – The state of New Mexico will grant approximately $170M of federal aid to New Mexicans for rental and utility assistance to households experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) will administer the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) in partnership with the City of Albuquerque. New Mexicans can apply for assistance at beginning April 5, 2021.

“New Mexicans have persevered through incredible challenges this last year,” said Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. “My administration has stepped up not only to fight the health effects of the pandemic but to assist businesses and individuals at every single opportunity – and this program is more of the same, as we put the dollars at our disposal to the best possible use: helping New Mexicans.”

“We know many New Mexicans require a variety of aid as a result of the pandemic, and as we acquire more funds, we will get the money out the door as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Finance and Administration Secretary Debbie Romero. “Our team has been working diligently on building this program from conception to launch.”

“Identifying New Mexicans in need of rental and utility assistance will take a collaborative effort, so in addition to our efforts, we hope to collaborate with nonprofits and other entities for community outreach, said Donnie Quintana, Local Government Division Director, and ERAP lead.

“This funding is an important extension of the safety net we have been providing for Albuquerque residents throughout the pandemic.” Said Mayor Tim Keller. “By teaming up with the state and local partners, we can streamline the application process and quickly get money to those in our community who need it to stay housed.”

Renters across the state are eligible for the program — except for residents of Bernalillo County, Dona Ana County, and those who live in a pueblo or tribal area. Those two counties, as well as tribal governments, will administer their own Rental Assistance Programs. Those seeking assistance should review the current FAQ at to learn more about eligibility and documentation needed for their application.

The state of New Mexico will either pay the landlord and/or the utility provider directly depending on the financial assistance request by the applicant. Landlords and utility providers are encouraged to download a W9 and submit it to DFA via as soon as possible to ensure a streamlined process for receiving payment. 

For more information visit or see attached FAQ to this press release.


The Retrospect; A Career in a Paragraph

Listen here for the podcast of this post:

As some of you know, I’ll be retiring from public education at the end of this month. I’ve spent 26 years in NM school systems. I started teaching at Onate High School in 1995, right after completing my Bachelors Degree. I taught special education, specifically something called C-level English. (This was the dark ages before inclusion setting caught on.) Most of my students were about as old as I was. Then I married the best guy and moved to Ruidoso. I spent the next 19 years there as a teacher, coach, principal, and college instructor. Those were incredibly fast and developmental years. Finally landing in Alamogordo where I spent the last of my career as a high school AP, district test coordinator (PARCC was almost the end of us all) and director of curriculum and instruction. Moving to NMSUA in January 2019 was one of the best choices I made in my career. That’s where this story ends, and the next one begins. Stay tuned for the next adventure. It will be even better.

Between Teacher and Child

A late afternoon snack; Episode 3. This is a poem that speaks about the power of a relationship between a teacher and a child, written by Dr. Hiam Ginott. I’m sharing this solid piece of advice: a teacher must wield their power carefully.

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.

The RTI Analogy

The Doctor will see you now.

Episode 2 – Teachers’ Snacks Series. In case you don’t know, I’m offering up our hungry New Mexico teachers some nutritious brain food in the form of small bite-sized PD. See yesterday’s morsels on Positive Behavior Supports. Let’s dive into some RTI today!

Response to Intervention: RTI. If a student is struggling academically (and/or behaviorally), you may be provided a SAT (Student Assistance Team) packet by your building principal or SAT chairperson. The first question you will have to answer, as you wade into the large amount of paperwork from a SAT packet, is: “What interventions have you tried, and what were the results?’

So, let’s think about RTI as a triage effort in a doctor’s office. You are the medical professional seeing a patient for the first time. From the outside, he seems fine. So, you start your examination by asking questions, taking baseline measurements like temperature and blood pressure, and comparing results to those of a “healthy patient.” All of a sudden, you notice an indicator of high blood pressure. Do you immediately send the patient to the operating room for an open heart surgery? No, of course not. You ask other questions and dig deeper as to why there might be an issue with high blood pressure. You might prescribe the patient a blood pressure medicine and then see how he RESPONDS to it before taking more drastic and expensive measures.

There’s your analogy. When you first notice a student is struggling, you want to start your RTI process by “prescribing” a minimally intrusive strategy and continue to monitor results before moving that child into the more drastic and expensive process of a special education referral. You may find that the strategy doesn’t work after a period of no less than 2 weeks, and you might think of a different way to help the student. Rinse and repeat. Be sure your strategies are viable and proven. All along, you will be “charting” or documenting the results of your efforts with dates and outcomes. If in fact, after at least 4 weeks of more than one intervention, you cannot seem to “stabilize” your student, you then will move into your SAT referral process where you will already have all the documentation you need to move past step one.

If you become frustrated with the SAT process, and when I was a principal, most of my teachers did, you can always soothe yourself by singing a line from Mary Poppins: “A spoonful of sugar, helps the medicine go down..” Good luck getting that catchy tune out of your head today. 🙂

Stay hungry my friends.

Teacher Snacks

I’m starting a new blog series called, Teacher Snacks. Why?

  1. Teachers are often on the hunt for bite-sized applicable information they can apply to their learning setting immediately.
  2. Kids need snacks, and teachers need snacks too. I LOVE snacks – and really all food…

Teacher Snacks will offer short and concise information about topics and issues related to classroom instruction and student learning.

So, let’s get started.

Today’s Snack on the menu: Positive Behavior Rewards

You don’t need to implement an entire curriculum or program to reap the benefits of positive reward systems in your classroom. Utilizing positive behavior rewards as a classroom strategy is a way to communicate your expectation for behavior and reinforce it for further compliance. “Rewards” can often simply be a praise and a smile. Follow a few steps, and you’ll be seeing more compliant and desired behavior from your students.

  1. Identify the behavior you want to reinforce. For instance, transitions between classroom activities.
  2. Teach the expectation explicitly and in easy-to-understand steps (5 steps MAX – 3 is better).
  3. Model the expectation – demonstrate and role-play! (Doesn’t need to be Shakespearean here – just something that SHOWS what you want to happen.)
  4. Practice – EVERY student practices the behavior with a specific cue that you will use every time (consistency is key). For instance – “Time to switch” is something you can remember easily and from which the students can extrapolate exact meaning.
  5. When you see students complying with the expectation, NAME the behavior and give a praise. For instance, “Good job Johnny for putting your book back on the shelf.” Or “Sam, you’re awesome for plugging your device back in like that!” It’s fine to simply say “good job” sometimes, but it’s much more effective if you actually name the behavior you are trying to reinforce. -These are examples of effective VERBAL rewards. I’ll write more later on tangible reward systems for kiddos who need a little extra support.-
  6. Finally, CONSISTENCY is essential. This routine and your cue needs to be used in the same way every day. Most importantly, ALWAYS find a way to say loud and proud, for all to hear, that you like what you see.

Until next time, stay hungry my friends.

Rethinking Everything

Happy New Year! I know I’m not alone when I say this year HAS TO BE better than last. What a crazy year 2020 was; one to re-account for the grandchildren for sure!

I’ve caught up on quite a bit of reading over the holiday. So many titles include the word “rethinking” in light of the 9 month pandemic and its future influence on our lives. I just read an article called, “Rethinking Campus Spaces.” There were specific imaginings of what common spaces and residence halls on college campuses will look like in the Post Pandemic Future (PPF). Phrases like “doing more in less space,” and “saving money and preparing for uncertain future” were thrown around a bit.

As I’ve spent 2 years in higher education now, as a community college administrator, I’m fascinated with how the future might fold community colleges into their “at-home learning and working environments.” Make no mistake. The perceivable separation that used to exist between work and home or school and home have now merged. When we are released back into the wilds of our office spaces and classrooms, will we want to go? This is what we are all holding our breath about, ESPECIALLY in higher ed, with our disastrously low enrollment rates as of recent. How will we arrange ourselves and our daily lives in our new future? How will our “rethinking” transcend for public schools and institutes of higher learning? I’ve often thought higher education as being caught in some kind of time warp, trapped in hierarchical admiration of dusty books and dusty lectures. In the last two years, I feel my perception has been validated.

Not to say higher education, especially community colleges, aren’t working hard (very hard indeed) to stay abreast of modern educational pedagogy. But, if you peer closely at the delivery systems of colleges and universities, you do have to wonder, “how’s that working for ya?” Whatever happens in our educational spaces, we must “rethink” our own perceptions on how it’s supposed to be. Ask, “how CAN it be?’ Wildest imagination stuff is what I hope for.

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