We spend so much time worrying about whether students will engage with the curriculum that we forget a really important part of the equation. Yes, students need to be interested. But what about the teachers? If the curriculum isn’t easy to navigate and fun to use, teachers aren’t likely to utilize all the tools and resources available. And that means the students will miss out too.
At the same time, sometimes the more open and flexible the curriculum is, the more challenging it is for students. Remember Whole Language Schools? Back in the day, we didn’t necessarily teach foundational skills the way that students needed to learn it. Instead, a focus on the science of literacy is necessary, just like we teach math–from a research-based perspective.
This week on the podcast, Lisa O’Masta of Learning A through Z is sharing how her organization is leading the way for this new way of thinking about literacy skills.
Tune in now!
About Lisa O’Masta:
As a strategic change agent and leader serving the education market for over 20 years, Lisa brings her passion for education and commitment to effective student outcomes to every organization she serves. As President for Learning A-Z, Lisa is working to energize and evolve the market leading, digital-first organization in service of K-6 students.
Prior to joining Learning A-Z, Lisa drove the disruption of the core curriculum market and set the framework that has become the standard for creation and distribution of high quality open educational resources as CEO for Illustrative Mathematics. She established and nurtured an exceptional team and community while always keeping the voice of the customer as the priority. Additionally, Lisa served as an executive for successful educational organizations including the institutional division of K12, Inc (aka Stride) and the K-12 core, intervention, and supplemental products at McGraw-Hill Education. In these roles, Lisa brought leadership and impactful experiences for students and educators.
Lisa brings her creative approach combined with her analytic thinking to ensure success of students and the organization. From start-up organizations like eInstruction, SchoolNet, and Illustrative Mathematics to established changing organizations like Laureate Education, K12, Inc and McGraw-Hill Education, Lisa brings an intellectual curiosity and pragmatic delivery that has resulted in positive student outcomes in companies that she serves.
Lisa holds a Bachelor degree in Marketing from Towson University and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Jump in the Conversation:
[1:39] – How we used to teach literacy
[2:45] – Applying math instruction knowledge to literacy
[3:19] – When you talk about the science of instruction, the real focus is on human being
[5:04] – Crack the code with foundational skills
[5:41] – Reading A-Z and other resources
[6:35] – How Reading A-Z is different
[9:01] – The importance of formative assessments
[9:30] – Resources for older kids should be appropriate for the age
[11:13] – We’re usually stuck teaching to the middle
[11:42] – Times of pulling out students for intervention is no longer
[12:30] – Supporting through the summer slide
[13:34] – Applying skills to give back
[15:43] – Giving access outside the classroom
[18:09] – What to include in well-rounded literacy support
[21:05] – Turbo Time
[26:30] – Lisa’s Magic Wand
[28:15] – Maureen’s Takeaways
Links & Resources
- Learning A-Z
- EdActive Summit
- Unicef Kid Power
- Email Maureen
- Maureen’s TEDx: Changing My Mind to Change Our Schools
- The Education Evolution
- Facebook: Follow Education Evolution
- Twitter: Follow Education Evolution
- LinkedIn: Follow Education Evolution
- EdActive Collective
- Maureen’s book: Creating Micro-Schools for Colorful Mismatched Kids
- Micro-school feature on Good Morning America
- The Micro-School Coalition
- Facebook: The Micro-School Coalition
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of at active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Hi Lisa, it is great to have you on Education Evolution today.
Lisa O’Masta 1:12
Thanks for having me, Maureen. Good morning.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:15
Good morning. And listeners today I’m chatting with Lisa O’Masta, president for learning A to Z, which ties in the science of reading and the science of writing to create cutting edge literacy materials. Lisa, let’s hear how learning A to Z is making a difference. I would love to start with how do we use to teach reading, writing literacy?
Lisa O’Masta 1:44
Yeah, happy to share that with you. So I always kind of talk about it in terms of a pendulum, right? Like, there’s science or research that goes one direction and we teach writing and reading one direction and then it swings back. And now we finally have science that says no. The the way to teach it is through explicit sequential, systematic and cumulative learning. And so before I think there was oftentimes teachers were had the opportunity to teach reading how they thought made sense for their classroom. And it did, right, we found that there was a lot of students that actually could resonate that way. But there were a lot of students that were still being left behind. And that approach didn’t work. And so as we looked at the science of reading, or the sciences of reading, really, we really understood that all students could learn through this more research focused approach. And I think the pendulum has done swinging, the battle is done. And I think it’s agreed upon now that we really need to move into this explicit way of instruction with the science of reading.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 2:43
So it’s really sounding a lot like my understanding of market instruction, you teach adding and subtracting before you teach multiplication, that it’s very sequential. And you’re saying that applies to literacy as well?
Lisa O’Masta 2:54
Absolutely, yeah, you can’t expect a student necessarily to understand a word or statement until you taught them the specific fee names that within those phonetics moments. So it’s important that there is a prescription in terms of how they learn.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 3:09
Got it. And I know you’re not new to cutting edge curriculum, I’d love to hear about your experience and how it informs your work at learning A to Z.
Lisa O’Masta 3:19
So one of the things that we focus on so much of you know, you hear about the science of reading, you hear about the science of writing, and the real focus is on the human being. And so when we really think about any of these applications, it’s about kind of making sure that you married or bridge the gap between research and practice. So the research is great, right? You’re going to hear lots of the research and understand what’s going on. And then most educators are like, Okay, so now what, and so making that practice, so tangible, and really practice and put it in to be able to, to protect yourself to use it is so very important. I kind of think about it, like if you’re going to the gym. So we’ve heard for decades that going to the gym can give you, you know, make you healthier yet, going into the gym doesn’t necessarily we don’t always naturally do it. Why don’t we naturally do it right? And so there’s there’s an understanding of trying to figure out how do we make sure that teachers understand why we don’t want to go to the gym, in this case, why we’re struggling to adapt or adopt the science of reading in that regard. So what we focus on, is putting the teacher at the heart of instruction. And when we do that, we start with understanding where they are in their journey, and creating resources and tools to be able to do that. And so I think about both reading and writing in the same way. So again, if you think about the goal of reading and writing, it’s about communication, right? It’s about speaking, listening, reading and writing. And so many times kept the focus just on the reading or just on the writing. And to be honest, they’re hard writing and teaching writing is hard. Teaching is hard. And so what we’ve really focused on is Think about it from so foundational skills are taught explicitly and systematically in order to crack the code, right, and so of how to read. And by practicing those skills, we lead to fluency in terms of our reading fluency, which allows us to free up our brain to concentrate on reading comprehension. Right. And so the same can be said for writing. So both explicit instruction on both writing and grammar skills, those are prerequisites for writing and what is learned. And so what we do is we provide resources for both writing and reading that free up our mindsets to be able to engage ideas and thoughts and what leads us to better learning.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 5:37
So what exactly have you created?
Lisa O’Masta 5:40
So in learning a to z, we have several resources, we’re most known for our reading A to Z or Raz kids, which is a very popular resource. And we are now introducing our foundations A to Z, our foundations A to Z and our writing A to Z programs, those are new programs that we’re just launching this year, and what those are focused on based on the science of reading. And so the foundation’s A to Z starts with all of the elements, word recognition, language, conference composition, so you get the decoding as well as the comprehension in terms of our language skills.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 6:13
Wow, impressive. And I want to look back around as you talked about teachers being at the heart of this, we know teachers are overloaded, they’re leaving the profession. And a lot of times their needs aren’t considered in the process of determining and implementing district curriculum. So how does learning ADC combat this? How are you different from all the other curriculums that are imposed upon teachers?
Lisa O’Masta 6:36
Yeah, and so if you really think about the way a teacher learns, or the way the teacher understands and utilizes new resources, they have to want to use them first, they have to be easy to use, they have to be engaging, they have to be easy to use, not only for the student, which is so much of the focus, but for the teacher. And so we meet teachers where they are we have built in embedded professional development throughout the process. So at any point point of service, right? Where a teacher struggling or a teacher gets an assessment back and they say, Okay, if this is where my student is, how do I provide instruction, and so we have short on demand professional development built in that will enable that teacher to be able to go okay, based on where I’m at today, based on one of my students is today, this is the type of instruction. And so our focus really is to meet that teacher exactly where they’re at, and help them on the journey. You know, so many teachers are hearing, okay, science of reading science of reading, what does that mean? And there’s curriculum and content out there people are, you know, taking materials and saying, Okay, this was science of reading, but we built our product from the ground up based on science of reading. And then we did it based on the understanding that this isn’t going to be easy for teachers to adapt. And so how can we help them from exactly where they are, so that whether that’s built in the PD, whether that’s instructional support throughout the process, making it really easy to use for first for the students and engaging, there’s gamification. And again, the gamification from the perspective of, we want to make sure that students are engaged, we want the engagement to be about learning, right, and not just about fun in terms of that to be fun, but it also needs to be about learning. And that’s not as easy as you might think. And so we see that a lot. And competitors are like, oh, let’s put a game here and a game there. We have. We are very focused gamification, and different types of learning, social emotional learning, that provides engagement, that empowers kids to grow their self awareness and compassion, which creates engagement. And we’ve created elements that really helped to create respect and kindness and empathy for the student, as well as helping the teacher on how to actually have those conversations.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 8:40
Nice. I want to dig a little deeper into the assessment piece. A lot of times we educators know how to do a summative assessment at the end of the unit and give a grade, but you’re talking about formative, you know, in the middle of the unit, I get an assessment back on this kid was like, yikes, this, this kid hasn’t grasped this yet. A lot of those teachers just have what’s next, what’s next. And what you’re saying is if we see that the student is missing something, and they haven’t gotten it, that you have instruction to help teachers unpack that and help the student be successful and not just move on.
Lisa O’Masta 9:17
Yeah, that’s right, Maureen. Um, so most foundational products oftentimes focus on K two or k three, but we focus on his K five. And we do that intentionally because we recognize that from the perspective of what you just talked about our own assessments, a student’s going to come into the process. And let’s say I’m a third grader, fourth grader, what I should know, we’re going to provide you the resources that take you all the way back. So I’m a fourth or fifth grade teacher, I have the resources K five to be able to pull from, and the same is true from kindergarten, first, second, third grade, I can pull forward if my students are doing better. And one of the challenges you’ll often see or that a student is in third, fourth or fifth grade, and they’re still trying to struggle with reading. We provide resources that are approved Wait for that age ban, right? Nobody, nobody in kindergarten or for earner, sorry, nobody in fifth grade wants to see materials for kindergarten first grader, right? So we’ve made sure to provide those resources of the three to five level as well. So that that kid doesn’t feel like that, that they’re looking at this elementary level materials for that. And yeah,
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 10:20
that is so important. No kid wants to go, Oh, I’m a dummy. I’m doing this really simple kindergarten stuff. So I think that’s super important. And what I hear you saying I’m equating back to math is I get that math is sequential. We have our kids in our in our micro school are self paced in their math, and we do an assessment and maybe they’ve mastered this whole unit, except for exponents, so that we can do a review just on that one piece and move them ahead. So you’re saying when you assess it might be a fourth grader is missing a skill that’s unpacked in second grade, and you have a way to access that piece to fill in gaps.
Lisa O’Masta 10:56
That’s right. So our assessment is adaptive in nature, that will, it’ll tell you based on the student’s materials, here’s what you need to provide them. And so then, depending on their grade level, that you can go forward or backward and provide those resources. So you have access to all of the resources you need to regardless to upgrade your teaching.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 11:13
That’s brilliant, because we in education are usually stuck teaching to the middle. And sorry, guys, we’re all going to be on the same page, even if this is boring you to death, or even if you’re lost. So this sounds like it really personalizes so that bright kid doesn’t get bored or mischievous. And that kid that needs a little extra help, doesn’t feel stupid, and just shut down and not want anybody to know that they’re stuck. It sounds like each kid gets what they need.
Lisa O’Masta 11:40
Well, I think the times of intervention and pulling out students who are behind this kind of, you know, we’re kind of over with that, because the fact is, is half the COVID. So many students are behind. And so treating those students like they require intervention, the fact is, is that a teacher in a classroom is going to have every right to be able to have different materials and different resources and be able to go, Okay, I need a third grade product. And I need a fourth grade product, what we want to make sure that they had everything they needed when resources that’s really easy to use for their students, and that the students are going to love it as well.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 12:14
Got it. And, you know, we talked about summer slide that kids over the summer, some of those regress. And now I’m hearing the face pandemic slide. So how is learning A to Z, you know, supporting families, educators, students in dealing with summer or pandemic slide.
Lisa O’Masta 12:33
So one of the things that we love is that we provide access to the school district for the materials all year round. And so they have the 12 months, many times the teachers will actually give them access to the parents and home visits, students can continue to work on it, teachers work with the parents, it’s very intuitive so that the parents can use it, we actually heard from so many parents during the pandemic, thank you so much, this was such a great resource that the school was able to provide them. And the same happens during the summer school. So when from that perspective, you have a lot of opportunity for them to be able to engage with the materials, they can continue to read all summer long, they can get points. And when they come back to school, there’s incentives around the point system. So there’s lots of opportunities around that.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 13:16
I love that
Lisa O’Masta 13:17
I know, as a parent, there have been times where I’ve had to seek out a summer reading program and, and you know, travel to get extra support. And so what you’re saying is parents can do it at home, and kids are motivated, because these points are going to be something great when they come back to school in the fall. Yeah, and we’ve actually added so we run a campaign to two times a year where students can actually apply their stars that we have, and they can actually apply them with our program with UNICEF kid UNICEF, power kick. And so students can actually. So most of the time, students have the ability to build avatars and build their things. What they can do that during this times they can actually donate their stars to, to giving fresh water to people in other countries, they can give food and then we’re actually launching a UNICEF program for helping students in the Ukraine as well are helping people in the Ukraine as well. And so I as a kid, I’m empowered to give back and help and we have found that students actually now save their stars. And we have found that it actually has increased reading three times so students who are engaged in the program actually read three times more with giving than they did ever before. So students really want to give back they want it and they see that by reading again on summer they can be reading during the school year they can read they can save their stars, and then they can donate them and really help other people in need.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 14:42
That is giving me shivers I think our kids have big hearts and want to connect with others. And that this is an incentive that makes it so they read three times as much doesn’t surprise me because I don’t know I just don’t feel like we tap into how big hearted our kids are often that maybe we’ll do a service project that’s isolated. But I think that you’ve tapped on something that really connects the heart and giving back to learning. So I’m very impressed, Lisa?
Lisa O’Masta 15:15
Well, we, you know, we were so excited to be able to offer it and the kids, we did it once to try it. And students just came back and said, Yes, More, please. And we were like, blown away by how much students want to give back. So why would we ever and then tying that to reading and their own reading instruction? It was a great win win for everybody.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 15:35
Oh, my gosh, yes. So we’re going to have your contact information in the show notes. And this sounds great for educators? What if my school doesn’t use that, and I’m an elementary parent, is this something I can access as extra support or over the summer?
Lisa O’Masta 15:52
Yeah, so one of the things we focus on in this is about access. And one of the reasons that, that our reading A to Z and some of our learning A to Z products became so easily easy to adopt is that it can be purchased by a single person, it can be purchased by a teacher, it can be purchased by a parent, we predominantly focus on that on the teacher, and then the teacher hands it to that parent, but it can definitely be we do have parents who purchased it as well. And the focus is around affordability. So we wanted to make sure that access and affordability, we recognize that not everybody can afford it. And we also know that teachers are oftentimes pulling money out of their own pocket. So portability is one of the big things we focus on for everything we do. And so yeah, so they can come onto our website, they can, if their school district doesn’t offer it, they can actually purchase it for themselves for their students, and provide that and then they can have it for for the year using in the summertime as well. And if the school district does provide it, then most of the times they can have access to if their student has access to it, they’re there, they can send it home to their parent as well. So sometimes the parent knows that the students using it, they can just ask the teacher for access if the teacher doesn’t give it to them.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 17:01
That is so collaborative. And I have to confess, as a micro school director, I get so mad when there’s this great tool, and they tell me, Hey, it’s $3,000, whether you have 500 or 5000 students, it’s like, yeah, but I have 50 students, this is out of my range. So what you’re saying is, whether it’s a single parent or a single teacher, you’re making it affordable for any size group.
Lisa O’Masta 17:25
Yeah, that’s absolutely I mean, access, again, it becomes down to access and affordability and easy to use, right? Like at the end of the day, if a teacher can’t use it, she won’t use it. If the student can’t, doesn’t get engaged by it, they won’t use it. And then if you can’t afford it, then it doesn’t matter. So we really want to make sure that it’s very accessible. Obviously, we want to make sure it works, which is going back to the science of reading and building it from the ground up and making sure we have the resources and tools to support a teacher and their journey to teaching good math or I’m sorry, can use talking about math. Good reading. Instruction.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 17:59
Yeah. So okay, so your tool is amazing. What else do you coach parents and teachers to make sure they include in well rounded literacy support?
Lisa O’Masta 18:11
So yeah, I mean, honestly, it comes down to you need to read right? We, the research will tell us that everyone knows that you need to read the students and part of the programs that we offer the that these books, and then materials and resources can actually reach the kids as well. So a teacher can read to a student, a student can listen to the book, a student can follow along and listen to the book as well, we offer in terms of speech recognition. So there’s a lot of resources that help for students to be able to read it out loud to themselves, it’s recorded, it’s provided to the teacher. And then there’s actually automation in the grading of that to really help a teacher, obviously, time is of the essence in terms of that as well. So lots of opportunity for a student to be able to read and hear the reading, if the teacher can’t read them if they can, they want if they need a small group and the in their working, or in a small group, the student can sit with the resources. And if I’m gonna have a computer, and be able to listen to the book, be able to read back the book and record those materials as well.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 19:12
That I mean, that’s using technology so amazing. I think back many moons ago, when I taught kindergarten, I’d read a book to the whole class, or when I taught fifth grade, we had SSR you know, silent sustained reading, and I’d model reading, but I had no idea, you know, the kids comprehension as they were reading their books. So to take this idea of, of everybody reading and make sure that it’s accessible for everybody. It just sounds like such an important step forward.
Lisa O’Masta 19:41
Indeed, yeah, you know, it’s you can provide resources and tools, but they need to be able to see themselves as well. Right. And so one of the focuses we provide something we call meaningful conversations and with meaningful conversations, we focus on resources where all students can see themselves and there’s represent dictation in terms of both diversity and authenticity, and sexual orientation and different types of families and different types of, you know where students come from. And so it can be a book on your normal book on anything that you’re reading. And I can see myself I can see myself as a doctor, I can see myself with in different situations, I can see families with two mommies, I can see families with two daddies. Right? And so it gives me the opportunity to see myself in representation and go, Oh, you know, they’re like me, I can do this too, and they are excited about it. But again, at the same time, so much of the reading instruction is on understanding background, right, we now understand that background knowledge is important, and want to make sure that we’re providing that as well.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 20:45
Wow, Lisa, this is so comprehensive, and I’m still getting chills over the UNICEF service aspect. It’s like something I haven’t heard of my wheels are turning, how can I incentivize my students, so my middle and high school students, so thank you, I want to pivot, because I think it’s really important to understand the person behind the program. So I want to ask you some turbo time questions.
Lisa O’Masta 21:10
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 21:11
Okay, so what is the last book you read?
Lisa O’Masta 21:16
So I just finished reading a book called Switch. It’s actually a book that supports change management, right. And it really helps it actually works in terms of the focus is around, change in the classroom, change in home change, work, change in all different aspects, I even recommended to my sister who’s who’s, you know, working with her fifth grader at home, and just trying to work through some of the things and really what I love about this book. And I have to admit, I’m a little bit of a geek about whether it’s kind of self help books or better, you know, better development books, but trying to figure out, you know, what we can do what I can do, whether it’s with my team and great employees, whether it’s my kids at home, because I have four kids at home. So there’s elements, how can I help them evolve and change and really switch is a book that really speaks to how we can help understand my role I talked about earlier that, you know, we all know we need to go to the gym, but why don’t we? And so the switch really talks to helping us understand what causes us not to, and then motivating that driver in a meaningful way to change behavior in positive and healthy ways.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 22:31
I love it. How about two inspirational folks real for in literature that you’d love to meet
Lisa O’Masta 22:39
two inspirational folks. So wow, I would say so. Reed Hastings, who is the CEO and founder of Netflix, I think he is brilliant. And I’ve had a chance to see him presented times, but we’d love to just sit down with him. And the reason being is one of the things about what he’s done at Netflix, and you know, you can look at Netflix as a business, but I look at Netflix is really a brilliant way to think so here’s a person who saw something well beforehand. I don’t know if you remember Netflix, but Netflix was a CD that you could get it on, you know, yeah, but they didn’t call themselves back then Netflix, they didn’t call themselves CD company, right? Or some version of that. They saw the future and vision and they got people there. And so they met customers where they were, even though they knew they had a vision to take them further. And so I just think it’s brilliant, and he hasn’t been afraid to go, Okay, I’m gonna actually cannibalize this business to grow the next business. Right. And so often we get stuck in what we do, whether it’s with learning, etc, or other businesses, right, we’re like, well, we’ve always done it this way. If we stopped doing it this way, we’ll lose customers. And I applaud reheats Reed Hastings ability to go, you know what, this isn’t customers have moved, our journey has moved, and we need to move with them. And so it’s something I personally aspire to is just always understanding where people are, and meeting them there, and then helping them along that evolution. And if it means that you have to make hard decisions, in order to do that, I applaud his ability to be able to do that over and over again, and reinvent.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 24:18
Wow, I agree. What is a pet peeve of yours in terms of education,
Lisa O’Masta 24:29
the assumption that we build it and they will come. Right? And so if you really think I’ve worked for some great organizations, and some organizations, you’ve seen phenomenal products, things that are built and are like, this is the best product out there. Now that it’s out there, everyone’s gonna buy it and then all school districts are going to use it and teachers are going to be better and students are going to be better. And it’s just not the way the world works, right. We don’t just build it and then we will connect to some of the greatest products that I’ve seen. and never get adopted. And you know it, you know, it’s just there’s more to it than that you need to understand. And I keep going back to this because it’s so unbelievably important. You need to understand how people think how people process why they’re going to use something or not use something and how is this going to be effective? How are you going to make that? Individuals life easier, right? I can just say, hey, this fantastic product, but at the end of the day, if it doesn’t make my life easier, if again, it doesn’t marry the research and practice, right? So many times, it’s like, it’s based on research. Well, okay, but I can’t use it. It’s too difficult. I get into a classroom and my students crying, we’ve heard of other competing products, where they’re fantastic. They’re, they do everything the science reading says, but then students are crying, teachers don’t get it. And they’re frustrating. And that’s not working. So my pet peeve is when we create things that are based on research based on science, but forget that there’s actual human beings involved. Who aren’t there, right. Like, I mean, teachers are scared of so many of these things. How do we create confident teachers? How do we create teachers who have the resources they need at the moment, they need it in a really easy to use fashion? So that’s my pet peeve in a big way. Yeah. Talk about that. And so I’m purple.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:16
Yes. And I like to conclude every podcast, asking a magic wand question. So if you Lisa had a magic wand, and could transform literacy instruction? And just really kids and literacy period, what would your magic wand wish be?
Lisa O’Masta 26:40
I think it comes down to engagement and joy. Right? and inspiring curiosity, ensuring comprehension and just creating joy in a classroom and joy for students. You know, it’s, it’s never going to be easy for everybody. You talked about mathematics, right? Sometimes math is easy. For some people, sometimes math is not. Sometimes reading is easy. For some kids, sometimes it’s not. But at the end of the day, if they can find joy, if teachers can inspire that curiosity, right, and just really help students find that joy and engagement to read, because that’s what it comes down to. If I love to read, I’m going to figure out how to read if I find joy in reading, and I think so many of the times the products can that we we’ve seen in the marketplace. They can be like, you know, you focus on the reading instruction, the phonemic stuff, you need all of those components. But then the kids forget to learn to read like they forget to the joy of fun. And I think that’s to me, if I could make a magic wand it would be that every student can find that joy and we provide the resources for all teachers and all educators to be able to connect that and help students find that joy.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:50
Absolutely. Wow, Lisa, what you are doing is impressive. And I really appreciate your time today, unpacking this science of literacy with us. Thank you for joining us.
Lisa O’Masta 28:03
Thanks, Maureen. I appreciate the opportunity.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:14
Lisa’s background from MBA at Johns Hopkins to creation and distribution of high quality open educational resources when she was the CEO for illustrative mathematics, to experience with a major educational textbook company gives her a unique and deep perspective. She weds this background and experience with a focus on the human needs of teachers, and a desire for joy for learners. Talk about bringing head and heart together to learning a through z. I was truly schooled by Lisa as she explained that the science of literacy tells us we need to be very sequential in learning, reading and writing. Back in the day, I was involved in a whole language school. I taught kindergarten and fifth grade. My guess is the whole language school is the other end of the pendulum. We had kids embedding reading, writing and communicating into many daily experiences. Creating this literacy foundation that Lisa talks about doesn’t mean that we need to do away with free writes writers workshops, and writing across the curriculum. Just like math is sequential, and also ideally integrated into other subjects.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 29:36
The same is true for literacy. And I have to do a shout out to learning a through z for their brilliant idea of connecting the rewards students earn for reading with service to others, that these stars that are earned can be translated into helping developing countries have access to water to support putting those in the Ukraine and other services through UNICEF Kid Power is impressive. I had to look up UNICEF Kid power because I wasn’t familiar with it. And it turns out that it’s a program of UNICEF USA, that gives kids the power to save lives by connecting their activity to real world impact. I’ve added the link in the show notes. Our kids have big hearts and love giving back. And also like learning when there’s a purpose. It’s no surprise that students participating in the UNICEF Kid Power have been reading three times more than the average student. I think it’s a great reminder for all of us that learning needs to be relevant. And we need to find meaningful ways for our kids to contribute to the greater society. Kudos to learning a through z for wedding science with such humane practice, and who doesn’t want the emphasis of learning to be on joy for our learners. Also, please join many of my podcast guests and me for our second annual Ed active summit on April 28, and 29th. The link is in the show notes. This free event for educators, parents and those supporting the evolution of education is an act of love by the participants. We will record the event if you cannot attend in person. And we can also give you continuing ed credits. Come be inspired by the many ways we can be innovating to make education more relevant and equitable for all of our wonderful learners. Until next time, thank you for being a part of the education evolution.
Maureen O’Shaughnessy 31:55
If you are finding yourself thinking, I need to do this in my school. Let’s talk about it. I consult and also have a book TEDx talk an online course to support starting learner driven schools and programs. My goal is to help schools and individuals find new innovative solutions to reaching every student. Let’s create an action plan together. Visit educationevolution.org/consult to book a call and let’s get started. Education evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now before you forget. I really appreciate it. Thank you listeners signing off. This is Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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