MAT Blog

5 videos to help you celebrate Banned Book Week

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 11, 2013 9:44:00 AM

banned book weekIn case you’ve forgotten, Banned Books Week begins September 22. To help you celebrate, we thought we’d share five of our favorite banned books videos with you. We didn’t want to overwhelm you with too many videos, but if you are looking for more, check out Amy Erin Borovoy’s article here.

5 videos to help you celebrate Banned Book Week

Banned Books Week (1:57)


Bookmans Does Banned Books Virtual Readout(10) (02:05)

100 Banned Books (1:04)

Penguin Presents: Authors Stand Up for Free Speech (5:33)

How to report challenges to library or school materials (2:30)


Guide to Reading Comprehension

Tags: reading motivation, reading instruction, reading specialist, reading across disciplines, banned book week

5 Reading Strategies you can share with your students' parents

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Mar 14, 2013 12:31:00 PM

Reading StrategiesAt school, our students are faced with—let’s be honest now—agonizingly dull reading comprehension passages. Then, when they are done, students are asked comprehension questions (equally dull) about that passage. While we can’t control the content in these tests or the fact that students have to take them, you can find a way to help struggling readers relax, learn to love reading, and stop associating reading with the tests they face at school. Teachers can do a lot to make this happen, but we certainly can’t do it all, so we thought we were overdue to offer a few reading strategies to share with your students’ parents.

5 Reading Strategies you can share with your students' parents

Use a hands-off approach

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who had a habit of interrupting, correcting or attempting to finish sentences for you? You didn’t appreciate it very much, did you? If it bothers you, chances are that beginning readers aren’t going to appreciate it either. Instead of interrupting or correcting, give this a try: 

When the reader comes across a tricky word, don’t force them to stumble through it; instead, s/he should just say “blank” and continue on with the passage. Worry about that word later.

Allow the reader to choose or abandon a book
We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Allow the child to choose the books she reads at home—and don’t force her to struggle through something that is either too challenging or does not suit her interests. To struggle is to learn, but remember that you are teaching the child to love reading. 

If the child is unsure of how to find books that suit her interests and reading level, stop by Book Wink, a website that uses podcasts and 3-minute video book talks to introduce students to books they’ll love. Each video book talk is about a different topic, and additional “read-alikes” can be found on the website. In addition to this, users can browse Book Wink’s database where they can search for books by grade, subject, author, or title. 

Show a bit of empathy—even if you never struggled with reading
I remember catching my junior high math teacher after class one afternoon and asking her if she ever struggled with algebra. “Nope, I always loved it” was her response and five seconds later, the conversation was over. You see, I was looking for empathy and support from my teacher. While I anticipated that she had always excelled in math, I was hoping that she would at least admit to me that she empathized with what it meant to struggle with something.

Reading isn’t easy, even for adults. Try reading Finnegan’s Wake or Derrida and you’ll get a sense of what your students go through. We’ve all encountered texts that make us feel inferior. Likewise, we’ve all experienced what Kumar Sathy calls the “passive eye shift”: Your eyes scan the pages and take in the words, but your brain is on another continent, planet or universe! Keep this in mind and go easy on beginning readers.

Make read-alouds fun for you and the child
In her cornerstone text for teaching reading, The Art of Teaching Reading, Lucy McCormick Calkins says there are “only a handful of things” that everyone agrees are essential for teaching reading: “Perhaps the most important of these is the fact that children need to listen to the best…literature read aloud to them.” We’ve made it a habit to read aloud to younger students, but when they get older, for one reason or another, we tend to think that they’ve outgrown this. But good writing is meant to be read aloud.

There’s a story about a rather well-known poet, John Keats, who was given a new translation of Homer’s great works by a friend of his, Charles Cowden Clarke. That evening, Keats and Clarke sat up until daylight reading to one another and “shouting with delight as some passage of especial energy struck [their] imagination.” If a grown man like Keats did it, so can you.

Try out three of Esmé Raji Codell’s tips for reading aloud to children

  • Love the book yourself before you read it to the children: Read the book completely before you introduce it. Familiarity with the text will help you read with more enthusiasm; it will also help you stay faithful to the text when you are in front of a tough audience because you know that the text is “worthy” in the end
  • Choose books that are best when read aloud: Although you can technically read any book aloud, some are better than others. Try something funny, scary, or something that concludes with a twist
  • Be versatile in your approach: Read to them, but make sure that the child has the same text so s/he can follow along with you. Then alternate: You read a page, she reads a page; you read a paragraph, she reads a paragraph

    To complement the activities you may have planned for National Reading Month in March, we’ve put together a new guide, Writing Reinvented.Inside you’ll find:
    • Strategies for writing a thesis statement
    • Strategies to help your students defeat writer’s block
    • An engaging way to teach grammar…without actually teaching grammar
    • “Flash Fiction”: An assignment that challenges students to write a story in six words

    You can download our free guide here or by clicking on the button below

    New Call-to-Action


Tags: reading comprehension, reading strategies, reading comprehension strategy, reading motivation, reading instruction, reading specialist, reading fluency, reading across disciplines, Reading

Three More Reading Strategies for New K-6 Teachers, Part II.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Sep 27, 2011 10:35:00 AM

classroom reading strategiesAs a continuation of our discussion on Reading Strategies for new teachers, here are three more ways to prepare students for reading success. No matter what grade level or subject area you teach, we can’t emphasize enough that students must have a strong reading foundation–which includes a variety of comprehension strategies– to serve them well in middle and high school, and onward to higher education. These strategies are great for the new teacher, as well as the seasoned pro.

1) Assessment: It is important to assess students in their general reading abilities on a regular basis.  Even if you do not see your students for the subject of reading, consider using the assessment strategies as outlined in the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills (DIBELS) one to three-minute assessment tests created by Ruth A. Kaminski, Ph.D. and Roland H. Good, Ph.D. of the Dynamic Measurement Group. Their work on DIBELS is based on previous work on Curriculum-Based Measurement conducted by Dr. Stan Deno and a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota, which began in the 1970s, and continues today. You can gain free access at

Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) offers Reading 510, a dynamic, case study-based course which will take Elementary and Secondary teachers through the process of learning how to use these screening instruments effectively, and what to do with the results.This distinctive course, tailored to meet the State of Michigan Reading Requirement for Professional Teaching Certificates, will provide teachers from every state with crucial information to help identify the problems of struggling readers and offer possible solutions.

2) Collaboration: Talk with your fellow teachers on a regular basis to share ideas about teaching reading.  They may be able to provide new material that covers any number of specific topics, including comprehension strategies.  If you are struggling to find strategies that pertain specifically to your unique content area, consult the Internet.  Many teachers post their ideas on discussion boards, forums, and lesson-submitting sites. Check the right-hand column of our Marygrove MAT website for content-specific information.

3) Reflection: It is important to reflect on your curriculum, specific lessons, and students' progress on a regular basis. If you don't find yourself doing this naturally, remind yourself to do it by scheduling time for it. You’ll be glad you did, and before long it will become second-nature. MAT Academic Director Diane Brown sets an alarm on her cell phone to ensure her daily reflection time. “I have an alarm that goes off every day at 2:05,” she says. “This is my ‘get your act together, you have three hours left in the day’ alarm…it started as an accident, but has proved to be incredibly valuable in getting me to fit everything in the day.”

For more ways to boost your students’ reading comprehension levels, download our Free K-6 Reading Comprehension Best Practices Guide.

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B


Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

Tags: reading comprehension, reading strategies, reading across disciplines, comprehension strategies, Collaboration, Reading, Assessment, Reflection, Reading 510

Three Reading Strategies for New K-6 Teachers, Part I

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Sep 23, 2011 4:24:00 PM

Marygrove MAT reading strategies for the new teachersNo matter what grade level or subject area you teach, reading is an essential component that crosses all disciplines.  Preparing a student properly is a big responsibility. Students must be armed with a strong reading repertoire–which includes a variety of reading comprehension strategies– to serve them well in middle school, all the way through higher education. Here are some key reading strategies for new teachers to use, in particular. However, these will serve as helpful refreshers for veteran teachers, too.

1) Direct word analysis instruction: Students need explicit instruction to build their word knowledge and expand their skills and strategies for word analysis, which includes phonemic awareness, structural analysis, and context clues.  Students can obtain these skills and strategies through word walls, word sorts, songs, rhymes, and more. Consider subject areas and age levels when selecting strategies for your students. Marygrove College offers an excellent guide on explicit word analysis instruction for teachers.

2) Literacy rich environment: In order for students to start developing and then further grow their comprehension strategies, they must be exposed to a wide variety of literature on a regular basis. Give your students exposure to many different types of books, magazines, newspapers and web resources. Provide reading opportunities during structured and non-structured times.

Teachers can get inexpensive books at garage sales, church book sales, second-hand bookseller clearance tables, and a really great resource we heard about called Paperback Swap. Also, you can appeal to your student’s families for donating age-appropriate books for your class.

It helps, too, if you can sort your classroom books into levels for multiple intelligences. Fountas and Pinnell is a good resource. But if you need some good, free lists, these will get you started. You can keep your leveled books organized by color with color-coded stickers on the book spines, then sorted into sturdy dishpans of the same color. Presto! A leveled library for students to help themselves!

The best way we know to preserve a classroom library is to buy hardbacks whenever possible (check out those garage sales!), and cover paperbacks in clear contact paper. Stamp your name on each book, or place a bookplate inside each one. 

3) Integration: Reading is an essential component of all subject areas. No matter what you teach, reading will play a prominent role in the curriculum. For elementary teachers who cover a wide variety of subjects, consider how you will incorporate reading across your curriculum. Integration methods can include, but are not limited to, thematic units, peer conferencing, research projects, and author's chair. 

Give students the opportunity to use knowledge from content areas, such as social studies and science, in relation to specific comprehension strategies or reading skills. Literature Circles in content areas are an effective way to do this. In our Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT)Teacher as Hero course, we champion Harvey “Smokey” Daniels’ peer-led book discussion groups. Laura Candler is a helpful resource on setting up literature circles in your classroom.

For more ways to boost your students’ reading comprehension levels, download our Free K-6 Reading Comprehension Best Practices Guide.


 Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B



Tags: reading strategies, Classroom Reading Strategies, reading across disciplines, comprehension strategies, new teachers

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