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Changing the Language: Using Social Media & Popular Culture to Teach Traditional Literacy Skills

What is “Changing the Language”?

“Changing the Language” now available as a peer-reviewed article: TALE Yearbook, Vol. 5, Fall 2018

We are in a time period in which technology evolves so fast, that we feel as if we will never catch up.  This definitely is an everlasting debate as it relates to education.  If you are visiting this post, chances are you have attended one my sessions over the need to “change the language” in order to reach our students in the classroom as it relates to literacy.

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SXSW Edu 2019 Proposal- VOTE NOW!!!

Voting is open until 8/30 on South by Southwest Edu’s Panelpicker wesbite, and I have submitted a proposal for my presentation, Changing the Language #SocialMedia Matters.

Session Description

The session will share ways to incorporate social media, technology, and popular culture into traditional literacy learning assignments. Outside of the classroom, students are using the skills taught, but many are unable to connect their learning. The presenter/speaker will work collaboratively with the audience via technology/poll (app) to explore and engage conversations they can use to transform the academic language that they use within their educational settings.
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Letter to a Young Teacher 2008 (Ten Years Later)

* This was written 10 years ago… I had just finished my first semester as a Doctoral student, and for a final assignment, I was asked to write a reflection that would be instrumental in giving advice to new teachers.  Now entering my 15th year in education, I am proud to look back on my journey, and I now cherish the opportunity to work with and mentor new teachers.  I have learned so much more since December 2008– and could probably write a book on my experiences in education, but my vision and purpose has not changed. Share this post today with a new teacher, as well as a veteran teacher who needs to be reminded that in the education profession, you “need caring and observant mentors to guide you along”.

New teachers: Find a mentor. Don’t wait to be assigned one.

Veteran teachers: Help a new teacher understand the importance and worth of this profession, and guide them along.  It doesn’t have to be a lot of work–your example may be all that they need.

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December 7, 2008

Dear Future Educator:

As an educator with six years of experience, I have done this job long enough to know that teachers as yourself need caring and observant mentors to guide you along.  However, I have not been in the profession long enough to forget what it is like to be in your shoes.  You are about to enter a profession that is rewarding and challenging. It is a place to showcase all of your talents.   Although you will establish a variety of daily routines in your classroom, each and every day will be different.  As an educator, your most important responsibilities are to be responsive and caring to your students, remain professional in a variety of situations, and evolve and grow each year.

Even if you go back into your old neighborhood and get a job at the school you went to, chances are the school has changed since you went to school there.  Even if it has not, you will be exposed to many situations that you never encountered or dreamed of as a student.  You are going to find that your teachers did a lot more behind the scenes to prepare and serve you than you ever knew.   Your job is to create an environment that feels safe to your students.  They should feel comfortable enough to participate and share in the learning environment.  As poverty in our country continues to rise, you may be in a school in which the students’ best place the visit is school.  It may be their most pleasant experience during the day. If you know nothing about poverty in schools, or need a refresher on how bad conditions can be, it is highly recommended that you read the book, “Savage Inequalities” by Jonathan Kozol.  He will discuss situations in our educational system that many probably only thought happened at schools in other countries—not in America.  Even_DSC2417 in the worst conditions, pay attention to things that would make your student a bit more comfortable—rather it be a nice picture or poster of outdoor scenery in a windowless room, or a reading area with bean bag chairs for students who do not get time out to read and relax at home.  If you cannot afford to spruce up your environment (I know a teacher’s budget is tight), use your students as a resource.  Use their work as a means to decorate your room.  Your class should reflect your teaching style(s), as well as be a representation of who resides there.

The physical look of your classroom is just one small aspect of teaching.  Building relationships are a big component for new teachers as well as for any seasoned, veteran teacher.  There are three relationships that are going to be of importance to you.  One is the teacher and student relationship.  Another is the parent and teacher relationship. And last, the other is those relationships that are developed amongst colleagues.  You will have students and their families who are different from you, and though it will be a challenge, they will bring a new perspective to your classroom.  Embrace their diversity (or lack of), and use it as a learning opportunity.  Though not all experiences with students and parents will be positive, you will add knowledge and understanding in relating to other walks of life. Well known author, Lisa Delpit, supports what I am saying to you best in her book “Other People’s Children” when she says, “They (educators) must learn about the brilliance the students bring with them “in their blood”(Delpit, p. 182).  She also states, that “If we are to successfully educate all of our children, we must work to remove the blinders built of stereotypes, monocultural instructional methodologies, ignorance, social distance, biased research, and racism.  We must work to destroy those blinders so that it is possible to really see, to really know the students we must teach” (Delpit, p. 82).  Learn about your students’ likes and dislikes, let them know you are watching them and observant– find out their learning styles, teach them with lessons providing relevance to their communities–and in return let them teach you something.

Your students are watching you.  From what you are wearing, to your hair style, if you accidentally show a tattoo that is supposed to be covered up, to what color shoes you wear– they watch your every move.  If you ever wanted to be a celebrity, you are now one amongst your class of students and those who attend your school.  Even if you live in a large community, there is a chance that you may run into one of your students and parents of your students.  The chances are even greater if you live in the community you teach in.  Even if you did not teach a student, and they just saw you in the hallway a couple of times—they know you.  This example should show the impression you have on your students and parents.  Therefore, it is extremely important to be professional in all settings—with students, parents and colleagues (are you seeing a trend of whom you will be dealing with?).  You should be professional in your appearance, with your written and verbal communication, and how you respond to situations.  Do not act like you “know it all” as a new teacher—you can’t learn that way.

_DSC2350As you are working on your professionalism, begin to evolve with each day, each week, each month, and each school year.   Just as education has evolved from exclusive and rigorous grammar schools, to private religious schools, to segregated schools, to integrated schools, to charter schools, to magnet schools, to No Child Left Behind– you as a professional educator must evolve.  The best way to evolve is to be open to change and help within your classroom.  Go to staff development that your school district may offer—in most cases it is FREE!!  This (staff development) is similar to coaching for teachers, and a forum to discuss what is working well (or not so well) in classrooms, as well as an opportunity to network with other educators.  Why not take free help and suggestions?  In most professions, you have to pay for advice.  In your case, help is just a staff development away (or a visit with another teacher can provide insight as well).

The struggle that even veteran teachers are having is the struggles that we are having with high-stakes testing, and the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act.  This is an area in which I struggle with daily, but I am making moves in my career to voice my struggles and concerns.  As a new teacher, you may not feel comfortable with voicing your opinions (or even fully understand all of the laws—I didn’t), but know that there are educators and others who are working towards change in our current state of education.  For now, I can recommend that you focus on the well being of your students, and truly educating them.  You do this by providing them lessons that teach the relevance of what they are learning, and give them opportunities to “apply” or show what they have learned—not through a standard pencil and paper test.  Due to state and national laws, you still have to give standardized tests (don’t say test— they hate that word), and teach state standards.  Try alternative ways to assess –use oral presentations, have them do surveys, have them help you create assessments.  Make them “think outside the box”.  It may take more work and preparation on your part, but which is more rewarding—knowing one of your students can pass a test? Or knowing they are going to remember a lesson you taught for the rest of their life?

Your ultimate job as a future educator is to help someone, just as I am offering advice to help you.  I know that you chose this profession to make a difference in someone’s life.  Fight and create change in social justice issues that impact you and your students.  Know that there are many lessons that could not be taught to you in college or in a classroom when pertaining to this profession.  Know that you must instill that same knowledge in your students.  When you want your students to learn and get better at something, it takes more than just one class setting, and more than just a few days to master something.  Share with your students your struggles in school.  Show them how you grew and evolved into the teacher you are today.  Make memories for your students, and construct a foundation in which they can build upon to impact their future.

Wishing you a fulfilling career,

Mrs. Kamshia Childs

5th Grade Teacher/Doctoral Candidate


Recommended Reading/References

Delpit, L. (2006).  Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New

York: The New Press.

Kozol, J. (1991). Savage Inequalities. New York: Crown Publishers.

Kozol, J. (2007). Letters to a Young Teacher. New York: Crown Publishers.


Reposted by Dr. K. Childs, Educator, Author, Consultant with 15 years in education.  She has worked as a Paraprofessional, Teacher, Adjunct Professor, and Visiting Assistant Professor.  Her focus areas are Reading/ELAR. She is dedicated to scholarly activities that promote educational empowerment, student engagement, parent and community involvement,  and the creation of culturally relevant pedagogy. Visit drkchilds.com for more information on her work in education.

Solid Foundation: Using Teaching Strategies that Build Comprehension

If you are visiting this post, you are probably looking for the slideshow and accompanying resources to my presentation titled, “Solid Foundation: Using Teaching Strategies that Build Comprehension”.

What do you do once your students have a solid foundation in their literacy skills to help further develop them into fluent readers? How do we as educators move students to better comprehend text, and read for understanding? In my presentation I focus on the foundation of reading (the Big Five).  I use the analogy of  building a house to discuss the foundation (Phonics and Phonemic Awareness), the frame (Vocabulary and Fluency), I mention the roof (comprehension) as the peak, and most important piece in literacy learning.

Find my slide presentation below, as well as additional resources to improve reading comprehension with students:

Additional Resources

Dr. K. Childs Pinterest Board, Solid Foundation: Building Reading Comprehension

Strategies for Activating Prior Knowledge” (Baltimore County Public Schools)

8 Activities to Build Inference Skills” (The Teacher Next Door blog)

Adobe Spark,   App that can be used for Retelling/Summarizing Events in a story or text or Visualization, and Sequence

Discovering My Impromptu K-8 Portfolio

Looking back at artifacts from when I was in my K-8 years, I remembered fearlessness, exploration, and a level of confidence that I didn’t know I had at the time. I’d love to share more…

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through file cabinets, as I was searching for a document that was needed for income tax purposes, and I stumbled across a folder that contained my old end of the year testing records (from Kindergarten 84′-85′), old report cards from middle school, old results from my track meets, and metals/awards/certificates of honor.

Looking at the Kindergarten records, it showed that I already had strengths in reading, writing, and the ELAR areas.  My scores already showed a slight deficit in math in Kindergarten.  I got somewhat emotional looking at the results–I don’t really know why.  However, I think it just humbled me by reminding me of the journey that I took, and how far I have grown.  To see my beginnings and foundation, and how there are still many similarities yet many differences as well.

Students begin their primary years with their own set of issues and problems.  It’s not always a “clean slate”.  I was blessed to have a somewhat normal early childhood (though I did not attend preschool due to being well advanced academically).  Despite being bused to schools outside of my neighborhood (due to integration efforts by the district 15 years prior), and living in the poorest and most crime ridden area of town, my life was somewhat normal.

I was an ambitious, SUPER talkative (at home only), observant, and competitive child– and as a student that worked to my advantage.  I never gave my teachers any problems, and I was very willing to learn whatever was being presented.  As I got older, and entered fourth and fifth grade, I started to form interests in certain academic areas.  I attended Wichita School District #259, and each year I was tested in the spring using the ITBS tests.  Each year, I scored high in the areas of reading and English grammar skills, and my math slowly moved further behind on the scale.

Middle school was indeed an awkward time, as it is for most–but I really blossomed, and in fact, it was one of my most confident times in life.  I really explored who I was, and what I wanted for my future. I explored other languages in school, joined science clubs, the journalism club, student council, pep squad, choir, and became further interested in sports (particularly running my way to City League Top 10 in 100 and 200 sprints, and relay races). It was in those years, I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer, journalist, meteorologist or a teacher.

If I were to discuss any “rough patches” in my K-8 years, it would be that test scores zapped my interest in math (even to this day), and shook my confidence in my abilities.  I had been good at other subjects without much effort, but math required more from me.  I just thought my brain couldn’t process math problems correctly.  It took me getting to college in my senior year to find out that I was capable, but I just didn’t like doing things that didn’t interest me. I found that I was/am an over-thinker, and often this got in the way of simple processes. Not until I was working on my Doctorate, did I find that I was capable of doing amazing things in the area of math– once I got past my dislike and fears. (That darn statistics class!)

I am sharing all of this because I have a fifteen year career in education, and finding these items assured me the importance of my career and working with children and even older students. Growing up, I had support from teachers throughout those times.  I had teachers encouraging me. From my third grade teacher NOTICING and sharing with my parents that I was “bored” in class (and having me tested and sent to a magnet school), to my favorite fifth grade teacher Ms. Bonny Collins telling me that I had a “mental block” when it came to math, to middle school teachers encouraging me to sign up for challenging courses and not “take the easy way out”.

Never in a million years did I think finding my old “stuff” from elementary and middle school would later make sense to me, provide a revelation, or be of value beyond providing a memory. Finding these past educational and school related artifacts also showed me how fragile my career is, and the tiniest things have impacts on students.  What is just a test and “data” to lawmakers can be much more. Creating an encouraging, attentive, and safe learning environment is key in education.  My test scores, certificates, medals, results, and actions of my teachers shaped a part of who I am today.  Teachers, and those who work in schools– you make up a piece of your students educational portfolio, contribute your piece carefully.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, 2018

-Dr. K. Childs

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Teaching Students to L.O.V.E. Literacy Despite Common Core and Standardized Testing

If you are visiting this post, you have attended my brief lesson, “Teaching Students to L.O.V.E. Literacy Despite Common Core and Standardized Testing” that covers the purposes of ESSA, and how it relates to meeting the needs of all learners despite the challenges that educators face.

Objectives of the Lesson

  • Students will learn the goals and purpose of the ESSA.
  • Students will learn the challenges that educators face within the components of the ESSA.
  • Students will explore the creative manners in which educators can respond to and approach standardized assessment requirements due to educational reforms.

View the slideshow presentation below, and additional resources that provide information on ESSA and its components:


Additional Resources

Teaching Students to L.O.V.E. Literacy” by Dr. K. Childs (2016, 2017)

How Standardized Tests Shape—and Limit—Student Learning” National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE, 2014)

 “The Seductive Allure of Data” from Educational Leadership (Popham, 2003)

Three ‘Reforms’ That Are Deprofessionalizing Teaching” NeaToday (Walker, 2013)

Video: “3 Ways the Every Student Succeeds Act Looks to Get Families More Engaged in Schools”  The 74million.org (2018)

Investigating Informal Assessment

If you are visiting this post, you have attended my brief lesson, “Investigating Informal Assessment” that covers the purposes of informal assessment, and how it relates to emergent and fluent literacy learners.

Objectives of the lesson

  • Students will learn the various purposes of using informal assessments.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of informal assessments to literacy practices using scenarios to make decisions about the instructional needs of learners.
  • Students will learn key factors to consider and how to implement informal assessments when instructing emergent and fluent readers (K-3).

View the slideshow presentation below, and additional resources that provide informal assessment examples and methods, as well as resources to guide educators in using informal assessments in grade levels K-3.

Additional Resources

Overview of Informal Assessments

Examples of One-on-One Informal Assessments

Taking Running Records (Scholastic Professional Books)

Informal Reading and Writing Assessment Ideas (Scholastic)

Read2Grasp Website and App No need to use sticky notes.  Helps with text coding, and informally assessing students reading comprehension (ex. Text to self, text connections).

Formative (Informal) Assessment Strategies (Boston Public Schools) An excellent list that breaks down assessment strategies.

The Ultimate List – 65 Digital Tools and Apps to Support Formative Assessment Practices  A technology GOLDMINE full of digital formative (informal) assessment tools.

Scholarly Article: Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction (NCTE Position Statement, 2013)

Scholarly Article: Assessment the Bridge Between Teaching and Learning (NCTE, Voices from the Middle, Vol. 21 No.3)

Dr. K. Childs Pinterest Board on Informal Assessment