Posts Tagged ‘research’

New Research in Literacy

This past weekend, I attended the Cardinal Stritch Fall Literacy Conference. It was a short but powerful conference with JoAnn Caldwell as they keynote speaker (heard of the QRI? Yeah that’s her!). I’ll keep this short and sweet, but here are some key takeaways I have from the conference:

  1. Students SHOULD read frustration level texts.
    And all this time, we thought we should be giving students texts at their instructional level. There are some inherent flaws in that arrangement, though. If we don’t model strategies and comprehension with frustration level texts, how will they ever progress? Secondly, if we are giving them only instruction level texts (which are below grade level for intervention students), then they will never catch up to grade level, and we aren’t using the same level of cognitively demanding material. Grade level material will have more complex sentence structure, vocabulary, content, and depth. THAT is what our students need.
  2. Interventions need to focus on TRANSFERRING skills to the classroom. 
    It seems a simple enough concept, but how often do we actually acknowledge or work on this skill? What students learn in intervention should directly tie into the classroom learning. They should be reading a text at a similar level (but perhaps on a different topic), and we should focus on what Dr. Caldwell calls ‘concept free’ questions, or questions that aren’t directly tied to the topic at hand (ex: What is the theme of this story? How did the author organize this text?) I think LLI or Leveled Literacy Instruction does a great job of modeling these skills.
  3. Students can’t just jump in to a Close Reading.
    They need to get the gist of the story first. They need to recognize and acknowledge the topic, textual features, linguistic features, organization of the text, etc.
  4. Intertextual connections is a critical skill we often gloss over in school. 
    This means making connections BETWEEN two or more texts. How do they overlap? Agree? Differ? This is a skill that must be explicitly modeled and taught.
  5. There’s a new reading comprehension assessment, and you’re gonna want to buy it. 
    Have you ever given the QRI and thought, “This is such a wonderful tool, but it is so time consuming and laborious to give one on one. I wish I could give it to my whole class at once.” Well, you might like to know about JoAnn Caldwell’s newest tool, the CARA: Content Area Reading Assessment. It is an assessment of reading comprehension across the disciplines. At each grade level, there are 3 literature, 3 science, and 3 social studies passages. Yes, that means you can do a beginning of the year, mid-year, and summative assessment (Hello, SLO!). It is aligned to the common core, and it could serve as a wonderful modeling tool for teachers looking for assistance writing standards based questions from text.

The conference also had a panel discussing the major differences between the QRI-5 and the QRI-6. I own both, and I teach and use both, so this was very informative for me. I certainly can’t do the panel justice by replicating their wonderful Q&A, but I’ll summarize some key points I want to remember:

  • There is a new kind of passage called the Inferential Diagnostic Level passage. The passage type we are familiar with, Level Diagnostic, are still there as well. However this new kind of passage is designed to be read orally or silently in chunks. The reader pauses to respond orally or in writing to intermittent inference questions. The reader is allowed to look back at the text right away. Passages are a bit longer than we are used to, and readers provide a more concise summary at the end.
  • Level diagnostic passages from level 6 and up are no longer labeled as just ‘narrative’ and ‘expository,’ but now also include the discipline (i.e. science, literature, social studies, etc.). I asked Dr. Caldwell if that meant we had to give multiple expository selections to diagnose a student’s level, and she said no – either science or social studies would be fine. However, she also clarified that she might lean toward science, since it is markedly different from literature.
  • Self-corrections during the miscue analysis do NOT count.
  • To make room for the new passages, 11 ‘oldies but goodies’ had to go on a permanent vacation. I’ll miss “Pele” and “Octopus” most of all! ::sniff::
  • The prior knowledge questions now have sample responses to help with scoring.
  • There is no longer a prediction question prior to reading.
  • There is now an Oral Reading Prosody Scale adopted from NAEP.
  • The retelling section is shorter with fewer points – many shorter ideas were combined.

I truly enjoyed this conference, and plan to promote and attend again next year. I made a lot of wonderful new connections, and learned some invaluable concepts to enhance my classroom and university level instruction. And, I got to present my own research as well!


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Poster Presentation Tips

Poster Presentation (c) Kristen Dembroski

I recently mentioned that I presented my research at the Reading Research Symposium at Cardinal Stritch University. I was very nervous about this opportunity – worried that I would be asked questions I couldn’t answer and that everyone would soon realize I was a complete fraud and take away my doctorate. I am pleased to report that this was not the case. I surprised myself at how eloquently I was able to answer all questions thrown my way, and with an abundance of detail, evidence, and visuals to support my claims. Of course I should have had more confidence – this is MY research after all! Many people are very interested in online reading comprehension, and I was happy to feed into their enthusiasm. What was more meaningful to me, however, was when we dropped the guise of research and someone would ask, “That’s wonderful. So, how would you use this in, say, an actual 3rd grade classroom?” That’s when I got excited. Turning research into practice – this is my bag, baby! I explained how I use these findings with my own students and some simple modifications I would use for various populations and grade levels. I directed people to more resources and ideas to support their own teaching practices with regards to online reading comprehension. I felt very helpful, which is the ultimate fulfillment for a teacher!

I walked away from this experience with a lot more confidence and some important notes, should I chose to do another poster presentation (which I definitely would!). Below are some tips I can share:

1. Laminate your poster – I envisioned hanging up my poster with tacks, but I was handed a role of masking tape instead. I wish I had laminated to protect my expensive investment.

2. Have a handout – Poster presentations are never as long as people would like them to be, and there is a lot of information to juggle. Visitors would appreciate a handout with a brief (very brief! 1 page, tops!) summary of your research as well as your contact information.

3. Put your poster online – Speaking of accessibility, visitors would appreciate a chance to study your poster in greater depth at a later time. It is helpful to place your poster online and give them a url (or tiny url) where it can be accessed. In the picture above, you will see a small paper just to the right of my poster – this contains a tiny url link to my poster on this blog as well as a copy of my business card (and email address).

4. Business Cards – If you have business cards, bring them and put them on display. This is an excellent opportunity to network.

5. Bring plastic sleeves for any supporting documents – As you can see in the picture above, I brought along several supporting documents like charts, explanations of my coding system, visuals of the assessment I used, etc. Visitors confused these with handouts, and some of them walked off. I wish I would have brought plastic sleeves to indicate that these items can be viewed but should stay on the table.

6. Classroom Tools – I have many exciting classroom tools and learning activities that I have subsequently developed as a result of this research project. My visitors would have loved to see them to witness how this research translates into practice. Bring along any visuals, interactives, tools, and assessments that apply to your research.

7. Common Questions – Be prepared to answer quick, common questions from multiple visitors. Here are some that I was asked several times: “What surprised you most about your research?” “What is the one most interesting thing you found?”

8. Poster Session Survivor Toolkit – Be sure to bring the following to your poster presentation: water, scissors, tape, a pad of paper, pen/pencil.

Be sure to look professional, wear shoes you can stand in for a long period of time, and have confidence and have fun! You never know who you’ll meet, or what exciting new ideas and opportunities you can discover!

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Reading Research Symposium

This Saturday, I will be presenting my research at the Reading Research Symposium at Cardinal Stritch University. I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity to share my research and findings with other professionals in the field. Conducting research and writing a dissertation is one thing, but being able to collaborate, get feedback, network, and gain a new perspective really makes all this hard work feel worth while.

The following is my poster presentation for this session:

Dembroski Poster Presentation 2014

I will be discussing my investigation of online reading comprehension via the ORCA assessment tool created by the University of Connecticut.

Below is my favorite (and most informative and interesting) flow chart created from the results of this research. I think it is very telling about the kinds of navigational habits that are found to be most successful for online reading comprehension:

Summary of Findings and Visual Representatino of the Effectiveness of Four Navigational Profiles Used by Phase 2 ParticipantsNavigational Styles Venn Diagram (c) Kristen Dembroski

And here are a few more flow charts and figures that help to visually explain the results of this research. Fascinating stuff, right? If you have any questions about my research, I’d be happy to answer them – please ask away in the comments below.

Pie Charts Representing the Number of Participants who Engaged in Specific Navigational / Reading Style – by Percentile Grouping. For each chart, N = 4
Kind of Reader Pie Charts (c) Kristen DembroskiFlow Chart representing the Number of Participants in each Percentile Third Group That Engaged in a Reading Strategy or Behavior (N = 12)Comparing Reading Strategy Usage Across Percentile Groups (c) Kristen Dembroski
 Summary of Findings Regarding Variables that Influence Online Reading ComprehensionVariables that Influence Online Reading Comprehension (c) Kristen Dembroski

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High Five for Friday! 5-23-14

Only 3 weeks of school left! We are barely surviving here, and everyone is going CrAzY! Here are the highlights from the week:


1. Assembly – We ended last week with an all-school assembly on Friday. There were basketball games, a choir performance, pom pons, raffles, shoot out competitions, videos, and so much fun! I believe these assemblies are important for so many reasons. They give us opportunities to teach and model appropriate behaviors in new scenarios, they build camaraderie and an all school spirit, a chance to appreciate one another’s talents, and they give students a time of release and a chance to build fond memories of school.


Teacher Gift (c) Kristen Dembroski

2. Teacher Gifts – There are 2 new teachers in my building that I have grown close to this year. They have been so much fun to work with, and I really appreciate how hard they are working with their students. I made them these teacher gifts – a post it holder. It’s just a plastic frame (about $1) filled with scrapbook paper, then wrapped in a ribbon with some fun embellishments to hold it in place. It’s an inexpensive but fancy looking and thoughtful gift that I hope they’ll like!

Art of Writing Conference (c) Kristen Dembroski

3. Art of Writing – You may have seen some of my other blog posts on the Art of Writing conference in Milwaukee. I think this is just such a unique opportunity for so many young authors and artists to be challenged, to network, and to learn a lot about their craft. Well our published book came in last week. My student’s artwork was featured on the inside of the front cover (we were ecstatic!).


PhD Books (c) Kristen Dembroski

4. Ph.D. Books – As I am nearing my defense date, I have been reorganizing my materials and preparing myself mentally for this important milestone. I took inventory of my textbooks I have purchased – wow! That’s a mortgage payment right there! There are books I loved and books I hated. I would say that I have learned the most from the handbooks in the lower left – they are quite expensive, but also a priceless wealth of knowledge. Any books that claim they can help guide you through the Ph.D. process with a smile on your face? Save your money.


Countdown 13 days (c) Kristen Dembroski

5. Countdown – 13 Days Left – Just Sayin’!

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Internet Research: Searching, Selecting and Citing Credible Sources

I have a new product in my TpT Store just in time for the Cyber Monday & Tuesday Sale:

Internet Research: How to Search, Select, and Cite Credible Sources

Internet Research (c) Kristen Dembroski

We often take for granted that our students, ‘Digital Citizens’, know everything there is to know about technology. We tell them to “go do Internet research.” But do they really know how to do that? I look over my students’ shoulders and see them typing in the exact question I asked them, verbatim. This gives them links to blogs and forums, but not the articles and credible sources we want them to find. They really are clueless, and why wouldn’t they be? Likely, no one has taken the time to model and demonstrate how to search appropriately online.

I am very impressed at how my students transformed throughout this mini-unit. At the beginning of the unit, I did a quick Google search on my SMARTBoard and asked students for their feedback – “Which should we click, and why?” Their only ‘go-to’ responses were “Blogs are bad. Avoid Wikipedia.” By the end of this mini-unit, I was getting very intelligent, thoughtful responses such as, “Well that might be a little out of date for what we are looking for.” and “Is that really on topic?” and “This news cite seems to be trying to convince me that this is a bad idea. I can tell by the language they are using, even though I trust the facts.” I was very impressed with my students, and I know they will be more educated consumers of digital text.

Since this is the area of my dissertation research, I knew exactly where to begin with creating this product for student use. First, there are several pages that teach students how to use search terms appropriately – lots of tips and tricks for getting exactly what they need.

Next, there are several pages teaching them how to select from the long list of search results they receive. I imagine that it’s very tempting to just start clicking on the first link, but do we ever stop to think about what we are clicking on? There is a poster, which is also available for free in my store, that presents 10 questions to consider when deciding if a source is credible or worthwhile.

Is it Credible (c) Kristen Dembroski

There is a practice page where students can look at a list of search results and discuss what they would click, and a sample article for them to read to decide if it met the criteria. I recommend doing several searches together with your students as they practice these skills.

Finally, there are several pages on how to correctly quote an article and how to cite an article, in both MLA and APA format. An answer key is included.

I hope you will consider adding this mini-unit to your Expository Writing or Research Unit, especially for Technology Education, 21st Century Skills, or Information Technology classes.


Also, don’t forget that Monday and Tuesday are the Cyber Sale days at TpT! TpT is offering 10% off everything on the site using the code “CYBER” at checkout. I am also offering a 20% off sale for everything in my store. You math wizards will notice that this comes to a total of 28% off EVERYTHING in my store! Fill your wishlist, fill your cart, and get ready for Monday! Click here to get started 🙂

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Website Credibility

This week, as we work on our Argumentative Writing Unit, we are currently preparing to locate evidence on the Internet. Before we can find appropriate evidence, we need to learn how to determine which websites are credible and reliable.

As a pretest, I gave all of my students a handout of Google search results screenshot. I asked them which links they would click on, given our specific topic and purpose. A large percentage of the students chose the first link simply because it was the first link – not considering that the 2nd or 3rd link were actually a better fit. Then, I sent my students to a website and asked them if it was a credible website. The majority of them wrote something like, “yes, because it has good information and facts.” It was then that I knew we needed a conversation on determining the credibility of websites.

Through our class discussion, I heard the same ideas over and over again – blogs and wikipedia are bad news. I fundamentally disagree with these statements, and I have been working on deconstructing this illogic and convincing my students otherwise. Wikipedia used to be considered a highly unreliable source. However, each page now has a list of references and self-appointed curators who monitor the page. While I would not use Wikipedia as a direct source in a paper, I would use it as a starting point to familiarize myself with a topic, then follow the source/links at the bottom for more direct information. Blogs can also be reliable, if written by an expert in the field and/or if it includes credible citations and resources. UN-teaching these Internet myths has been a real challenge with my students.

Below is a list of ideas we generated as a class to decide if a website is credible. There is never a clear black/white answer. It is best to consider all of these ideas together, then make an educated guess as to whether a site is trustworthy enough to include references in your writing.

If you’d like your own copy, you can download the FREE poster here. If you have any comments on this poster – ideas for improvement, or ideas we forgot – please add your thoughts in the comments! Thanks!

Is it Credible (c) Kristen Dembroski

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Bring on the Debate!

We have begun working on our Argumentation Unit – a Common Core aligned unit in which students investigate all sides of a topic, choose a side (or in my classroom, I assign stakeholders to make sure that all perspectives are represented), debate and discuss the topic as the stakeholder, come to a compromise or solution as a class, then write a final paper in which they use reasoning and evidence. This all follows the TELCon writing structure – Thesis/Topic, Evidence, Link, Concluding Sentence.

Controversial Topics (c) Kristen Dembroski

So far, we have begun by selecting 8 Controversial Topics to discuss as a class. (First, we had to even define ‘Controversial.’) For the past two days, we have been deciding which questions we might be interested in investigating as a class based on interest and researchability. We start by considering each question, one at a time. I have the students generate a ‘pro’ and ‘con’ list in their notebooks. Then, they took some time to dig around on the internet and see what kind of evidence they could locate to support either side.

The steroid question is definitely of high-interest amongst my students. However, there is an abundance of research and evidence for the ‘No’ side of the argument with very little supporting evidence on the ‘Yes’ side. For this reason, we decided to eliminate #4. My students are VERY interested in #8 (Fast-food restaurants) and #5 (Cloning). If they decided to go with the cloning topic, we will first have to define cloning and learn more about it before we can develop reasons and locate evidence.

Tomorrow, we are going to pick the one question we will pursue as a class. Then, we will generate a list of stakeholders in the argument – each student will be assigned a stakeholder role. Next, we will generate a list of questions we have about this topic as well as a list of information each stakeholder may need to locate.

I am taking them through this whole process of the Argumentation Unit using both my Argument Unit materials and The Paper Chain, an Argumentative Writing Instructional Workbook. It is very helpful to go step-by-step through this process with them. I will be sure to continue posting about our progress as a class. This is a very high-interest unit – I can’t wait for 2nd quarter to teach it every year!

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