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Education

Dr. Seuss and Literacy: 60 Years of ‘The Cat in the Hat’

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Roxanne Owens, chair and associate professor of Elementary Reading and Teacher Education in the College of Education, teaches Children’s Literature and serves as the editor of the Illinois Reading Council Journal. She is a sought after speaker on topics ranging from visual literacy to Dr. Seuss. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

CHICAGO — Sixty years ago this March, Dr. Seuss put a hat on a cat and revolutionized children’s literature. “By rearranging simple words into whimsical, outlandish tales, Seuss made reading fun for children,” said Roxanne Owens, associate professor of elementary reading at DePaul University. When children find joy in reading, they’re more likely to practice the skills that develop early childhood literacy, said Owens.

To mark Seuss’s birthday and Read Across America Day March 2, Owens discusses Seuss’ contributions to literature and offers tips for parents to make reading a joy for their children.

“If you can get children to like reading, that can make a huge difference in their education,” said Owens, who has taught in DePaul’s College of Education for 25 years. “A child needs to associate reading with warmth, nurturing and success — not being told what he’s doing wrong,” she said.

Cartoonist and author Theodor Seuss Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss, knew how to draw young readers in, said Owens. When “The Cat in the Hat” was published in 1957, most books in schools were structured, she explained. Standbys like the “Dick and Jane” books used foundational sight words – “she,” “he” and “it” — but lacked plot and weren’t particularly exciting to read, according to Owens.

Seuss took those sight words, the first words children memorize, and turned them into rhyming classics like “Green Eggs and Ham.”

“They’re very simple words but they’re so creative and fun that it made children want to read them,” Owens said. The illustrations in Seuss books also help children develop visual literacy skills.

“Literacy includes listening, speaking, reading and writing, and it’s important to develop those components as a child grows,” said Owens.

Tips for bringing joy into reading for kids

Finding pleasure in reading creates motivation, explained Owens. “If children aren’t good at reading, they for sure don’t want to do it,” said Owens. To avoid this cycle, parents can follow the PIECE method. “I tell parents that the reading experience should be pleasant, interesting, engaging and challenging enough,” said Owens. She offers these tips for keeping the PIECE when reading to children:

• Pleasant: Enjoy being with each other, meaning that reading is your time together. Keep your focus on that.
• Interesting: Read about something your child is interested in, whether that’s dogs, planets, cooking or something else.
• Engaging: Choose a book that will engage your child’s imagination — use voices, puppets or even homemade props.
• Challenging Enough: Choose a book that is right at or just above your child’s reading level. You want the child to be able to understand what you’re reading.

Owens notes that reading together is not a good time to quiz your child or to make it into a vocabulary lesson. “Reading in and of itself will help your child build skills,” advised Owens. “Children who read and are read to are constantly exposed to new words, new ideas, new possibilities. Not to mention correct spelling, grammar and the elements of a good story,” she said.

Reflecting on Dr. Seuss and his legacy, Owens calls his books “timeless.” She said, “There are many lessons to be learned and much wisdom to be gained from the books but the main reason Dr. Seuss’s books remain popular today is that they are just darn fun to read.”

Social Work Helper is a news, information, resources, and entertainment website related to social good, social work, and social justice. To submit news and press releases email [email protected]

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Education

Six Reasons Why Social Workers Shouldn’t Worry About the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria

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Photo Credit: Twitter

Earlier this month, Dr. Beverly Tatum just released a 20th-anniversary version of her ground-breaking and well-informed book Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria: And other conversations about race. She discusses the phenomenon at Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. This is a topic I think about a lot as the mother of a Black child.

In my son’s small, private, predominantly White school, I noticed that in his grade particularly all the Black students are in one classroom and all the East Indian students are in another classroom which are the two major non-White groups at his school. This got me thinking. School has begun and at public and private schools – elementary through high school – the Black students, the Latino students, the Asian students, etc. are probably sitting together in the cafeteria as I write this. And on that note, so are the band students, the drama students, the athletes, and so on…AND here are some reasons why school social workers, teachers, or administrators should NOT be concerned.

Yes, they are sitting together and it is o.k. We like to sit, play, live, and work with people who make us feel safe and comfortable and the fact is, that is often people who look like us. If I spend all morning and all afternoon in situations that make me feel unsafe and/or uncomfortable or with people who are different than me and I am the minority in numbers, then I want to be able to share a meal (a sacred joyful time in many households) with people who make me safe and comfortable.

Usually, this means being with people with whom I share some values and beliefs based on our identity. We have to remember that students, particularly those in middle and high school, are figuring out their multiple identities and how those identities intersect. Students are navigating a complex world both internally and externally. To help promote student wellness, let the girls sit with the girls and the drama students sit with the drama students and the Black students sit with the Black students…if they want.

Now, this does not mean that you should tolerate purposeful exclusion, discrimination, or mocking, but rather accept that students (like adults) need to create their own safe spaces. AND you and your colleagues should think about how you can systematically and intentionally create spaces for cross-cultural dialogue that may bridge any gaps at lunch tables or on playgrounds.

Forcing students to sit together in some orchestrated inclusion situation will always back-fire. Let it happen organically. You cannot force people to like each other just because it is a rule in a student handbook. Rather, you can teach students to talk to one another and to hear each other’s stories. You can create spaces and facilitate times for dialogues and learning. Cultural competency is a value and a skill that should be integrated into our schools’ academic curriculum and co-curricular activities.

The dialogues about this should be ongoing. Cultural competence should be reflected throughout every aspect of our schools. Students may still choose to sit together by identity group and with ongoing dialogues, but there will be more awareness and understanding of why. Have you paid attention to what the students’ other needs are? The Brookings Institute estimates that 1 in 6 children come from food insecure household. Add to that the fact that at least half of our school-aged children have a mental health need. And these are just two examples of need.

Our students have a multitude of needs and obstacles that need addressing before we can even get them to attend to sitting and playing together. If a student is struggling at home, in their personal life and space, it is even more challenging for them to be ready to discuss and embrace sitting with people different than them. A student may be worried about what others know and think of their situation. Or, a student may be too distressed to attend to their neighbor. Just think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – individuals need food, shelter, safety – basic necessities before they can begin to think about and get situated in belongingness and love for others.

The guilt or discomfort we may feel about students sitting together based on identity groups or shared interests has nothing to do with them. No matter how you, myself, or our peers feel about race relations or interacting with groups of different social identities is not how the children of the 21st century feel.

Not a scientific study with proven significance, but still worthy of mention, Good Morning America has done a series called “Black and White,” in which Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts interview children about their thoughts and feelings about race. When Roberts asked them if their different skin color makes them different from each other the children answered in unison “No.”

We should not place our expectations, guilt, hurt, anger, etc. on them. Students have their own emotions to deal with as it relates to equity, inclusion, and social justice. They don’t even always use the same language to describe it. We need to see them and hear them and let them develop their own space and ways of facing race relations in the 21st century.

Inter-racial friendships may be challenging for some kids to form as Nadra Kareem Nittle points out in her article “Why Interracial relationships are Rare Among Children and Adults“. Children, especially young people, are navigating their own identities and navigating someone else’s adds some sort of pressure or complication to their lives. When your school begins to create a cultural competency plan, include the students and the parents.

Diversity work in schools and anywhere is best done when it becomes part of the integrated fabric of the school and is not just an add-on 1 day or 1-semester program. If you want the students to sit together in the cafeteria or anywhere else, then the school needs to have an ongoing, comprehensive, effective, and impactful plan that begins on day 1 and never ends. The National Education Association has great resources that schools can utilize as a starting place.

Teaching for Tolerance is another resource to find culturally competent and relevant educational information. Remember too that cultural competence needs to be shown in who is hired at the school and who holds leadership positions. Diversity and cultural competence need to be seen in photos, posters, and textbooks year-round. And parents and guardians (as extensions of the schools) need to also have the tools to facilitate such conversations at home and with their families.

So, I am okay with the fact that my son is in the same classroom with the other 3 Black students in his grade. I know that he has always played and sat with all the children in his school, and vice-versa. In reconsidering our concerns about all of the Black children sitting together, social workers should help teachers figure out why this is or is not okay for each child, and administrators should think about what will work best for each school’s culture.

The famous Black scholar W.E.B. Du Boise wrote that the “problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” It is now the 21st-century and we should ask ourselves what are we doing if this problem still exists? We also need to think beyond the dichotomy of the Black and White binary and make sure we pay attention to the diversity and intersectionality within our schools and neighborhoods and speak to that specifically, and not just speak to Black and White students.

In the coming decades, the population of our country will continue to become increasingly diverse. Soon, we will need to ask ourselves “Why are the White students sitting together in the cafeteria?” And then we must be prepared to answer that question and do something about it.

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Education

Group Work: How to Make it Work

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Cooperative learning, collaborative strategies, group rotations—whatever we decide to call it, the research behind group work in the classroom makes a strong case for embracing collaborative learning. As beneficial as it is, however, group work can easily go awry if the planning and structures are not in place. Here are some suggestions for well-managed group work in the classroom.

Consistency is key when introducing group structures and routines.

Rotations, stations, and group collaboration involve much more than having students circulate through different activities together. Before you can even begin the actual group work, students need to be explicitly instructed on how they will form and work in their groups. Devote some time to having students practice moving into their groups in a quick and organized manner. Encourage students to have only necessary materials out during group work. Practice timed cleanup so that groups familiarize themselves with the amount of time needed to wrap up a work session.

Teacher-derived groups should be deliberate on multiple levels.

Be sure that groups contain personalities that will jive and complement one another. Also be careful to level the groups so that there are higher-ability and lower-ability group members in each group. When possible, groups should be gender-balanced and small enough that every person will play a vital role in the process and product. For the typical classroom, groups should be kept to 4 students or smaller to allow for accountability.

Begin implementing group work by stressing the importance of the process, not necessarily the product.

Of course the end result is important; however, cooperative dialogue, perspective-taking, and synergy are the foundations for a successful group—perfecting the product will come later. You want the groups to work like a well-oiled machine in the sense that each person knows that her individual input is necessary to achieve the end goal.

Have open dialogue about that end goal.

Part of the nuisance of group work is the fact that every group member has a different work ethic, mindset, motivation, and concept of the result. We have all experienced the headache and stress of completing “group work” individually because a partner or group mates were banking on someone else completing the job. To avoid this common pitfall, encourage groups to discuss what each individual’s end goal is and work on compromising from there.

If one person’s goal is to complete the task in as little time as possible, assign that person one of the initial planning, prewriting, or beginning tasks for the project. If another person expresses a deep desire to perfect the group’s project, put that person in charge of checking the final product against the rubric and making edits or adjustments as needed. If one person simply aims to turn something in for credit, put him or her in charge of organizing materials, brainstorming ideas, keeping the group’s notes, etc.—the key is to play to each person’s strengths and desires so that everyone’s intrinsic motivation leads the group to the same end goal.

If one person simply aims to turn something in for credit, put him or her in charge of organizing materials, brainstorming ideas, keeping the group’s notes, etc.—the key is to play to each person’s strengths and desires so that everyone’s intrinsic motivation leads the group to the same end goal.

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Education

5 Motivational Books That Will Help Improve Your Relationships

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Sometimes, motivation is necessary for students and teachers to enhance their relationship. In many cases, teachers criticize their students without understanding the challenges they face both at home and at school. During my school years, I was bullied because I was considered soft or not being a tough guy, and I never fought back. To be honest, it was some of the worst years of my life, but I endured it. I also experienced that some of my teachers couldn’t control their attitude towards students especially with me. Maybe you have a difficult relationship in your life, but how do you get through it or try to change the outcome?

Motivation to endure is what kept me going no matter what circumstances I was facing. Now that my school days are in the past, I still need motivation when it comes to facing barriers and challenges in my daily life. Reading inspirational books have given me insight into myself and others, and they help to give me the energy and excitement to continue my journey no matter how bad my situation is. Not only do they apply to improving teacher-student situations, but the lessons learned from these books can be applied to any relationship.

Without further ado, I would like to share five motivational books that would help build a long lasting relationship:

1 – Hit Your Life’s Reset Button by Marc V. Lopez

Marc V. Lopez is a guy who prioritizes God before anything else. He preaches and attends a Roman Catholic praise and worship group known as The Feast founded by Bro. Bo Sanchez. When I participated in a bible study session, he inserted himself promoting his book. I immediately bought it from him, with his signature on it. Marc and I are friends in real life, and I consider him as one of my mentors in life.

For those who lean towards spiritual guidance, this book may appeal to you more than the others. It focuses on improving your relationship with others by putting God at the center of everything. The book costs $4.99 on Amazon.

You can find out more about Marc’s book here.

2 – The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard

When it comes to personal power, Brendon Burchard is my man. Ever since my friend introduced me to Brendon Burchard, it changed the way I look at life. Sometimes it is easier to gain insight into oneself by reading their journey of someone else. I was inspired by Brendon Burchard’s story from his struggles to success. The main concept is how to look at every situation in a positive way, even if you’re at the worst point of your life.

The Motivation Manifesto is free of charge, and you only need to pay for shipping. I pay something around $7+ for shipping, and it arrived at the post office in less than a month.

You can find more about Brendon’s book here.

3 – Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Another motivational book that I want to recommend is Simon Sinek’s Starts With Why. I bought this book a couple of years ago, and it’s something that inspired me to develop my leadership skills. I firmly believe that this book would be great for anyone looking to become a better leader or manager. It shares inspiring stories from great leaders from the past on how they were able to lead their people to achieve success. If you want to become a better leader, start with this book.

The book itself cost around $10 in the bookstore. You can buy this on Amazon marketplace too. There’s paperback, hardcover, Kindle version and more.

You can find more about Simon’s book here.

4 – How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People teaches you how to navigate stressful relationships. Even if you meet difficult people, the book can teach you how to manage them very well. If you’re a teacher who has problems in handling difficult students, or a student who has an arrogant advisor, this book is for you to read.  If you want to learn how to have more success in your relationships and becoming influential in your social networks, this book will help start your journey.

The book cost you $9 in average. It may be only $9 to spare, but reading the whole thing might get you thinking that it’s worth millions.

You can find more about Dale’s book here.

5 – 25 Ways To Win With People by John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell’s 25 Ways To Win With People. It teaches you how to be a better communicator and help you learn skills to change the dynamics of your relationships. This book gives principles to guide you to better love and treat others well, and it also discusses leadership and how to understand different personalities. Once you are able to see your relationships from a different lens, it will be easier to develop and improve them.

For the price of this book, it’s around $15.99 for a paperback cover.

You can find more about John’s book here.

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. – Carl Jung

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