Welcome to Learning Ally’s blog. You've come to the right place if you are an innovative teacher who wants to transform more struggling readers into grade-level achievers.
September 25, 2018 by Valerie Chernek
The parable of the mustard seed is a lesson that all great things can happen with the start of a small thing – like believing that all kids can read no matter their disability or learning difference.
This is the premise of The Mustard Seed Project at Loyola University, Chicago, and the topic that Terrie Noland, our V.P. of Educator Initiatives, will speak about on October 9, 2018.
The Mustard Seed Project 2018 celebrates the 40th anniversary of a landmark document* set forth by the U.S. Catholic bishops. This document explores the urgent call for inclusion, and the necessary supports to provide Catholic school professionals a place to network and share best practices.
This year’s conference theme is “Moving from Inclusion to Belonging: A celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Pastoral letter on persons with disabilities. Conference participants will:
-- Formulate a school-based response to the Bishops’ Call for Inclusion, as articulated in the Pastoral Statement
-- Create a plan to move from simply including students with disabilities to supporting meaningful belongingness
-- Articulate next steps for creating school systems that facilitate the inclusion of students with disabilities
In her presentation, Terrie will share gleanings, research, and effective strategies she has learned working with U.S. K-12 educators across the nation. Terrie’s efforts have encouraged many educators and administrators to undertake a mission of building a schoolwide culture of readers, including students in inclusive learning environments, students who are reluctant readers and students with reading disabilities.
“Building a foundational belief system of inclusion can be an unstoppable force that makes the impossible possible for struggling readers,” says Terrie. “We must first understand the unique cognitive development of struggling readers and embrace the tools, strategies and resources that enable them to study in the class learning environment.”
Terrie adds, “These strategies involve supporting students socially and emotionally, while providing access to grade-level materials in a digital format they can easily absorb and learn from. It all hinges on building students’ confidence, then the magic happens and reading growth ensues just like a mustard seed that turns into a thriving and unstoppable crop.”
*The Pastoral Statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities (November 16, 1978) is one of the most important documents of the American Church regarding persons with disabilities. The document sets forth a vision of Church where all are truly welcomed. Increasingly, Catholic schools are responding to this call to open their doors to students with disabilities, yet they are in need of supports and guidance to effectively build more inclusive environments.
*Mustard is an ancient plant that's full of appeal for contemporary gardeners. The plants are easy to grow and produce seed in as few as 60 days. The greens are edible, the flowers attractive, and if the seeds are allowed to mature, they will self-sow and provide plenty for mustard making.
Categories: Assistive Technology, dyslexia, Education & Teaching, General, Learning Disabilities, The Digital Age
September 17, 2018 by Valerie Chernek
We’ve all heard the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Students thrive and succeed in school when they are supported by parents, teachers, and the community. This is especially true for students with reading disabilities or who struggle to read grade-level content. The key to gaining the support of parents is communication.
To aid you in connecting with parents as students begin to use Learning Ally’s human-read audiobooks, we've developed this helpful resource guide.
Host a Fun Parent Night or Event
One way to inform parents about Learning Ally is to host a parent night or event.
When you host a Parent Night to inform parents about the importance of reading with Learning Ally, you will build capacity in your ability to teach in the classroom. Students will have the support of their parents and feel more empowered to read in school and at home. They will also come to class more prepared and eager to tackle their assignments.
Support more students who struggle to read and get their parents involved. Check out all of the great teacher and parent resources and sign up for a demo today!
Categories: Assistive Technology, Audiobook Library, Education & Teaching, Learning Ally “How-To Use”
September 8, 2018 by Valerie Chernek
Learning Ally, a leading ed-tech nonprofit reaching more than 375,000 students last year, is one of fifteen honorees receiving the 2018 Library of Congress Literacy Award. The annual award recognizes the outstanding achievements of organizations (national and international) whose innovative and research-based best practices serve to improve literacy worldwide.
Andrew Friedman, CEO of Learning Ally, said, “We are extremely proud of this prestigious recognition and want to congratulate all of the nominees who share a mission of universal literacy. Throughout our history, Learning Ally has worked tirelessly to ensure all students who struggle to read due to learning differences and vision impairments have the same opportunities to realize their full academic potential by providing them with an equitable reading solution.”
Learning Ally has more than 70 years’ experience creating reading accommodations to help struggling readers reach their full academic potential. The organization has an extensive library of high quality human-read audiobooks and a suite of educator tools and resources to ensure student success. Research shows the solution has a positive impact. In a 2018 survey, more than 85% of educators agreed Learning Ally solutions helped students take greater ownership of their learning, achieve academically, and better comprehend grade-level texts.
Today, Learning Ally is driven by a keen desire to provide equal opportunities to learn for all struggling readers so they can succeed academically, and in life. The organization maintains a strong focus on innovation to truly support students with learning differences in tech-enabled classrooms. To better serve each student and support them on a deeper level, Learning Ally has developed more customized launch plans, personalized student reading incentive programs, and real-time reports to monitor student progress. This iterative and inclusive approach to developing products and services ensures all students with learning differences have equitable access to grade level content, can work to their ability, keep pace with their peers, possess a strong belief in self, and have hope for their future.
For Learning Ally, accessibility for all struggling readers is more than an ideal, it’s a promise. The organization believes all students with learning differences can succeed in school and in life with the right support and timely accommodations.
Learn more about Learning Ally’s audiobook solutions for educators and students.
About The Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program
Since 2013, The Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program awarded $1.4 million to 66 institutions in 30 countries through the generous contributions of David M. Rubinstein. Administered by the Library’s Center for the Book, Congress created the program to stimulate public interest in books and reading, and to encourage development of innovative methods for promoting literacy through effective best practices. This year, a selection committee evaluated 59 nominations with top monetary prizes awarded to Reading Is Fundamental, Washington, DC, East Side Community School, New York City, and Instituto Pedagógico para Problemas del Lenguaje, Mexico City. http://www.read.gov/literacyawards
About Learning Ally
Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit ed-tech organization delivering a comprehensive learning solution for struggling readers in elementary, middle and high schools. Our proven solution includes an extensive library of human-read audiobooks that students want and need to read, along with a suite of teacher-focused resources that ensure student success.
Learning Ally successfully partners with more than 15,000 U.S. schools, districts and leading state education systems across the country to empower over 375,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, the organization has helped to transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential to become confident, lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.
Categories: Audiobook Library, dyslexia, Education & Teaching, Funding & Awards, Student Centric Learning
August 31, 2018 by Valerie Chernek
Ninety-seven percent (97%) of elementary students with dyslexia at The Academy at Nola Dunn, in Burleson, Texas, met or exceeded the STAAR reading requirements this year and placed third in The Great Reading Games, a national reading competition offered by Learning Ally.
Dana Blackaby, the Dyslexia Specialist who works with the children says, “Reading engagement is critical to keep my students motivated and building skills, especially those who hate to read and have little learning confidence.”
In her fifth grade classes, 100% of students with dyslexia met or exceeded the 2018 STAAR reading requirements with 60% demonstrating two years growth. The class also read more than 130,000 pages in just seven weeks during Learning Ally’s signature Great Reading Games, an engagement program incentivizing struggling readers to read frequently and compete for awards, prizes and recognition for them and their schools.
Learning Ally is an edtech nonprofit audiobook solution that supports educators who want to bridge the gap between students’ decoding ability and cognitive ability.
“My students demonstrated significant improvements in reading comprehension and vocabulary skills,” says Blackaby, who also observed an increased level of reading engagement and a deeper desire to learn in her students. She attributes much of their success to the human-read stories in Learning Ally audiobooks with VOICEText enabling them to enjoy the content rather than struggle to decode every word.
A third grader read nearly 10,000 pages during the games to take his school to victory and win third place in the nation. Prior to participating in the competition, he tested at 40 wpm and now reads 61 wpm. “He was extremely proud of himself,” adds Blackaby, who encourages her struggling readers to choose audiobooks above their reading level and to talk with peers about the books they read.
In this video, a local Dallas news station interviewed Mrs. Blackaby, her principal, Lindsey Byrd, and students at The Academy at Nola Dunn about the competition and their reading successes. “Once you get them hooked on audiobooks, they feel strong and eager to read in class and at home,” says Blackaby. “Their efforts are reflected in their test scores and their learning confidence, and that is a win-win for everyone!”
About The Academy at Nola Dunn
The mission of The Academy at Nola Dunn, an innovative learning community, is to inspire and empower life-long learners by offering a brain-based environment and instruction including: experiential field trips, vertical and horizontal schedules, character focus and instruction, hands on learning, vertical teams and buddy classes, after school clubs, an Extended Day Program, and narrative report card.
About Learning Ally
Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit edtech organization delivering a comprehensive learning solution for struggling readers in elementary, middle and high schools. Our proven solution includes an extensive library of human-read audiobooks that students want and need to read, along with a suite of teacher-focused resources that ensure student success.
Contact Learning Ally at 800-221-1098. Schedule a demo at www.learningally.org/educators.
Categories: Curriculum & Access, dyslexia, Education & Teaching, Learning Disabilities, Student Centric Learning, Teacher Best Practices
August 9, 2018 by Valerie Chernek
Do Kids Hate to Read?
Search “kids hate to read” on Google and you’ll find an alarming batch of research to confirm that this is the norm in America.
Some studies even suggest that the standard way of teaching -- to assign core reading from only textbooks or have students read books from only their decoding level -- could dampen enthusiasm to read at all. Face it, if a book doesn’t interest you, you aren’t going to read it.
The Nation’s Report Card says only 36 percent of eighth graders read at proficiency level. This statistic increases slightly to 37 percent by high school. Additionally 1 in 5 students are dyslexic. These statistics suggest that a U.S. classroom could be filled with many low-level and non-readers who aren’t going to make the grade. This is a daily challenge for teachers, like BeLinda Martin at Buffalo Gap Elementary School in Texas.
Mrs. Martin’s 5th Grade Class
Mrs. Martin is a Reading and History teacher. About 20 percent of her class doesn’t like to read and some students have never passed a reading test. Determined to flip this paradigm, Mrs. Martin gave up some traditional teaching practices and beliefs.
She no longer teaches only to the test. She does not accept the idea that students will remain stuck in lower reading proficiency levels, and she does not rely on direct instruction alone to engage her students.
What Mrs. Martin does do is make reading fun and playful for struggling readers. She uses e-books with human-read audio intertwined with reward-based activities to motivate students to read, and read frequently. Martin believes that students must enjoy the act of reading before they will be successful learners.
Do Kids Read for Fun Anymore?
The National Center for Education Statistics conducts surveys of 9-,13,- and 17-year olds as part of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) long-term trend assessment. In addition to measuring children’s reading achievement, this survey of about 26,000 students included how often these young people read for fun. The data indicated a sharp drop once students hit middle and high school. According to the study, half (53%) of all 9-year olds, a quarter (27%) of all 13 year olds and one in five or (19%) of 17-year olds read for fun each day.
Research Says Motivation is Critical for Learning Success
Overwhelming evidence now supports "motivation to read" does have direct implications when it comes to achievement. (Gambrell, 2015; Jang et al., 2015; Fisher et al., 2018; Gambrell, 2011; Applegate et al., 2010; Mucherah et al., 2008)
Additionally, teachers identified “creating interest in reading” to be what they most cared about (Applegate et al., 2010).
In her book, “When Kids Can’t Read,” Kylene Beers (1998) discusses how struggling readers tend to think that good readers are good, just because they are. These students do not realize that good readers employ strategies and techniques that help them read.
The reverse can also be true. Sometimes good readers’ strategies are so automatic they don’t realize what they are doing helps them get through a passage.
Confident readers monitor their understanding and determine meanings of words by using context clues and base word strategiesThey read with fluency, are willing and active participants in discussion and read with stamina.
You can Read Kylene’s article in School Library Journal, “LISTEN”.
Research by Beers, Melekogu and Wayne conclude:
-- “Struggling readers stop reading when the passage gets too tough, they turn to others for help, they read to get by, but tend to be inactive in discussions.” (Beers, 1998 & Melekogu, 2011
-- “Reading skill deficits can lead to negative attitudes about reading and lower motivation (Melekoglu, 2011). When struggling readers aren’t motivated to read, they don’t read and the result can be detrimental to their academic, social and emotional success. As one of the indirect but noteworthy reasons for low achievement in reading, motivation to read is an important key for all students with and without LD to be successful in school.”
-- “Struggling readers seldom get to experience how great it feels to finish a book and how much fun it can be to escape day to day life by jumping into a good book” (Wayne, 2011, pg. 8). (Melekoglu, 2011, pg. 249).
-- “Promoting motivation in struggling readers can have a positive effect and therefore should be an essential focus for educators.” Melekoglu (2011)
So how do we increase reading stamina and reading engagement? How do we help students understand the value associated with reading? How do we change the discourse for struggling readers and redefine a culture of readers? How do we ensure that students of all reading abilities are successful and improve academic achievement?
Let’s Continue the Conversation
Watch a recording of the edWebinar held August 29, 2018 by Terrie Noland who gives a comprehensive review of research that MOTIVATION does MATTER when it comes to struggling readers and academic achievement. Her 10 research-based points have implications for administrators, educators and students.
Gap in the Research
As importantly, there is also a gap in the current research. Terrie will shed new light on resources and strategies that “if addressed and implemented in schools,” could have a powerful and lasting positive impact on the motivation of struggling readers and their self-belief as successful learners and achievers. Join us for this EdWebinar. Educators receive CE credits.
Terrie Noland is the VP of Education Initiatives for Learning Ally. She develops engagement programs, professional learning services and communities for educators. Terrie has 25 years of experience as a motivational leader and developer of content.
Categories: Assistive Technology, Curriculum & Access, dyslexia, Education & Teaching, Educators, Learning Disabilities, Student Centric Learning, Teacher Best Practices, Webinars