Category Archives: PD

Looking Through Different Perspectives: Setting Reading Goals A common thread: Intention, Engagement, Observation

Literacy Coach:

Intention: The Wheel of Strategic Action (WoSA) is a powerful teacher tool.  One that is worth meaningful study.  However, there seems to be a disconnect from the tool to its true power.   If we  turn the wheel into a physical structure in the classroom it connects to strategies making them more relatable to children.  It makes this theoretical tool become a viable influence on learning.  Everything changes when we take theory to practice by placing it in the hands of teachers and students alike. Now we have a  structure that supports student reflection and goal setting, while reminding teachers to keep the reader at the center of instruction.  A place to house teacher made and student made tools.

Engagement: Bringing the WoSA from a graphic to a physical  structure offers many invitations for engagement. The most important thing to know

is that it is deeply contextualized through story.  A story about building a Skyscraper (an analogy for critical thinking).  Its power rests in the belief that there has to be room for  student voices as co-creators of that story so it is meaningful to them.  Not only do they add their voices to the story, but they also lend their efforts towards creating strategic tools.

Observation: The goals students selected for themselves were goals I would have chosen for them.  While conferring with students I found that the next logical step was to have children generate tools that they could use for  themselves or each other.  This was very empowering because as students negotiated strategies that worked for them they took their learning to the highest level by creating a tool to represent that strategy.  My scaffold for this work was carefully worded open ended questions such as – what would a tool for this look like? I sent children off to get supplies and they got right to work and created tools that really helped them make applications for their own learning.  

Classroom Teacher:

Intention: Jenn and I have been studying the WoSA and creating structures in the classroom that reflect this process.  One of my core values  is that instruction in my classroom is consistent and has a strong underlying structure.  Another, is the importance of goal setting as a way to put learning in the hands of students.  In an effort to find a way to marry the two, Jenn and I created our reading wall; a place to display a visual representation of the reading process and pair it with tools to be used for goal setting and independence.  

Engagement: Student engagement is the key to making the structure  successful.  It  has to be meaningful to the students, it has to fit in with our learning and there needs to be time set aside to explore it.  Children love choice and this is built into setting goals- they have the power to choose what they will work on and how. They engaged in reflective work through conversation about their own reading lives.  It became personal because it was part of their own narrative.  Students are given a voice in creating the structure and have personalized it to represent their thinking.  It is important that teachers  show that goal setting is valued by setting time in each day for work around individual goals.  The WoSA is a continuous part of  the learning in the classroom and is not something that seems disconnected from their real learning- it has a true purpose and place.

Observation: Students felt empowered.  They were able to verbalize the strategic action they were setting their goal around and how it would help them with their reading.  When given a choice of tools to support this work, children were evaluating the pros and cons of a variety of tools and selecting the ones that fit their needs best.  If they were not satisfied with the choices, they worked collaboratively to create tools that would work for their learning style.  Students felt proud of their work and were eager to have conversations with peers about it.  Every moment was valued and children were focused on the job at hand, planning how they would get started.


Intention: Students shared their intentions for goal setting through a grand conversation around reflecting our their reading lives (what they do well and what they are working on)  “Can my goal be something I already do good but I want to work on more?”  “ I want to try different things that I don’t do already!”  

Engagement: Students are excited about setting goals, making tools and working in the process.  It starts with deep reflection and then students quickly wrote their names on post its.  They clammered around the wall placing their post its on the strategic action that they wanted to explore. They were dedicated to this work and wanted to do it.  Tools were chosen or created- something that would support them in their learning.  Students got right to work because they knew this work was important. This level of engagement sparks agency.   

Observation: Here is what our students had to say.

  • “We all need different tools.  I want to use the award ribbon to critique my books and he wants to use the thumbs up and thumbs down.  I don’t like that one because I like to give awards instead. We can use whichever we want.”
  • “We worked really well together to make our tool and Mrs. DeRosa likes it so much she is going to put it in the folder for the rest of the class.”
  • “When we talk about books, the both of us never talk about what is going to happen.  We just keep reading.  I think it will be interesting to stop and guess what is going to happen.  This will slow us down a little bit.”
  • “She likes to make her own pictures to go with the connections.  I am not very good at drawing, so I think I am going to use the one she makes or maybe I’ll use the one in the book. I could try both.”
  • “Wow, she is able to use my tool to figure out the words.  That really helps.”
  • “This makes sense I think I should make a diagram of the word so you can see the parts.” She drew arrows and colored parts of the word.

Book Recommendations & Celebrations: Mindsets & Moves

What is right when it comes to teaching towards independence?  Gravity Goldberg (@drgravityg) begins her new book: Mindsets & Moves Strategies that Help Readers Take Charge by opening up a good conversation.  One that begins with John Hattie.  “The key to understand what is going on in each student’s mind.” (Hattie 2012 p37).  The completion or non completion of tasks is a limited view of what students are really doing in the classroom.  If this is all we have, really, we are missing the point entirely. A task that is driven by a product only, is sort of like a dead end.  It fails to lead us to greater understandings of the interior thoughts of students.  We don’t want to spend a lot of time copying over writing so it can be edited for publishing.  It also does not motivate students to learn grammar and spelling to promote transfer.  If we want to understand what is going on in student’s minds then we have to set up our teaching that way.  What do we know?  If we connect back to Mary Ehrenworth’s presentation:  Yes! You Can Teach Grammar In Workshop Three Essential Methods to Tuck In Grammar Effectively  

If we believe there are access points through process that reveal  insights as to what students are learning, and what they value most.  Then our data prompts what can be taught next. Right now third graders are finishing their narratives.  Torture.  There has been so much rich work; they have been immersed throughout the writing process, they have worked with agency (using the Interactive Learning Wall); they are accomplished except… now it’s time to edit and publish.  

Let’s continue this rich work using their writing as mentor text for inquiry that allows time for students to reflect back and evaluate their own writing.  We identify areas of grammar that our students need instruction around. Making observations and gathering our data informs this process.  “When we step back we can become admirers…” (pg. 2 Mindsets & Moves)   In terms of our work, as we highlight one area of grammar usage per week (using student mentor texts paired with professional mentor texts) we facilitate the inquiry process.  After, students are able to access their published pieces and determine how this work could help elevate the grammar in their writing.  When students are in the process of generating ideas and drafting their writing it can feel overwhelming to do this additional work.  However, if they are given a time when there is only one thing to focus on, it becomes more manageable and purposeful.  They have time to do this and then transfer it to their own writing, right then and there.  

Making interpretive observations can be elusive for many of us. The classroom environment is as important to this process as the observation itself.  The environment sets up students’ work; but teachers’ beliefs shape our observational lens. That is the link to our expectations. What if we tied our beliefs to Goldberg’s four primary tenants:

  1. All students are worthy of study and to be regarded with wonder.
  2. All students are readers, yet their processes may look different.
  3. All students can learn to make purposeful choices about their reading.
  4. All students can develop ownership of their reading lives.    

Goldberg Gravity.Mindsets & Moves Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge.Thousand Oaks:Corwin Literacy, 2016. Print

Consider this – these eloquent beliefs are the tools.  Tools that enable teachers to contemplate the “what” and the “how” that drives student learning.   Our perceptions and beliefs have real consequences; armed with this stance Goldberg goes on to name and affirm the “admiring lens”

For all these reasons this is a must read book! There is no telling how Gravity Goldberg will influence our thinking. One thing is for sure –  we are excited to find out.  

Recruiting Engagement and Establishing Expectations So That Kids Actually Read- Even When Classrooms Brim With Resistance

Cornelius Minor took us to the church (Riverside Church) during his session titled “Recruiting Engagement and Establishing Expectations So That Kids Actually Read- Even When Classrooms Brim With Resistance”.  He opened up his session with an interesting combination: being good natured and being real.  Basically he said we will be focusing on the kids that want to be there but don’t easily engage.  

Engagement is not just about amusement or being fun, it is about trying something that is difficult and when you fail, having the energy to keep trying.  During his session he demonstrated multiple ways to engage the learners (in this case, us).  The following is a list of ways he engaged us throughout his dynamic presentation:

  • High Five to signal that partners are ready to work
  • AB Partners- each having a different focus/ building energy
  • Infusing humor into partnership focusing on arguments by saying “In my neighborhood we call it protect my turf.”  
  • Choice- we chose the topics to talk about and the skill to focus on (give the audience what they want)
  • Being a storyteller (ushered us into his teaching day)
  • Being relatable (talked about his experience-we are a community)
  • Personalizing instruction by bringing the kids into his life through storytelling (I care about my students)
  • Giving them an out (I’m not perfect.  If you can’t work with your partner write me a one page note on why…No one ever wrote a note)

Cornelius broke engagement down into three vehicles:

  1. Books being used (thinking about our audience). He recommended that when planning  read aloud, it’s important to select books that appeal to the interests or students. We should have the “coolest books around” and always be asking the question, “What do they love?”  This made us think about Steven Lane – In Defense of Read Aloud where he stresses the importance of accessing a variety of genres so that read aloud is accessible to all students’ likes.  Maybe Science Fiction is not a teacher’s favorite – student in the classroom may be longing for it – so… it’s got to be part of the offering if engagement is the goal.  He also shared an interesting way  to create text sets which put the students in charge of the work.  A SWAT    team is formed that includes: a bossy girl (the executive who organizes the text), the early kid (finds the text), the expert (knows how to think about a topic) and the class diplomate (keeps the team at peace).  This team will identify topics that interest the class, locate the text and organize them into text sets to increase the classroom library.
  2. Explicit Teaching (clear and demonstrative) Cornelius reminded us that “Teaching does not make kids better…practice makes them better.”  It is our job as teachers to be explicit when teaching our students.  A skill is something that matures over time. Strategies are meant to be outgrown- as we evolve in our functioning at any given skill.  He brought us through an activity focusing on the skill of inference using a short narrative poetry from:  Teen Inc.  This a great free resource for teachers it’s worth taking some time to look through.  Explicit teaching means not just naming the strategy but a brief stepwise method for engaging the strategy,  This is something we believe and have been focusing on for a long time- but it was great to have confirmation of our work.
  3. Talk (books are social) When teaching talk, you have to have a partner.  Partners need to have clear expectations and temporal boundaries.  He went into setting up partnerships for talking by discussing this idea of Partnership Day.  The thing that makes the talk meaningful is the ritual teachers create around partnerships.

To learn more from  Cornelius Minor check out his blog:  Kass & Corn or follow him on @twitter – @MisterMinor .  He is doing really important work and is a source of inspiration for us all.

Using Video and Film To Teach Narrative Craft

We are in an upstairs room, so the room is immersed in bright sunlight, it’s just a gorgeous day in NYC.  Maggie Roberts’ disposition is as bright as the room.  We are going to learn a lot. She is starting us off with a micro blogging exercise.  The directions are simple just write-it feels like a quick write, Maggie assures us all not to worry the writing will get better:


“The sky was dark and eery with clouds that looked like witches’  fingers. There was complete silence and calm in the air until that first “BOOM!” Within a moment, there was a flood of rain and the day had taken a turn.”


“It’s uncomfortable sitting in this chair with my computer on top of the bags on my lap.  It’s tilted at such an angle that I feel a constant pressure in my wrists.  I’m pressing my wrists onto my laptop so it won’t just slip down and crash on the floor.  I don’t care, it’s worth it. It’s worth the discomfort because I know I’m going to learn so much. Perched in this room with so many others waiting to learn, writing alongside each other… The city sounds are here too – the loud “HOOONK” of cars are carried up and somewhere in a distance a siren calls.”

Maggie is giving us great tips – try using Oscar nominated shorts as a resource for great digital texts – brilliant:

The Dam Keeper (Trailer Two) : What makes this a great piece of writing? (Broad  immersion – open ended what did you see):

  • Consider the emotional arc
  • Shifting mood and the use of color & music
  • Tension
  • Problem & solution (struggles)
  • Character development
  • Secondary characters
  • Setting the importance to the story
  • Relationships (help/hurt)

We Cool Modern Family:   Pair the digital text with a writing rubric (Angled Immersion): Narrative Writers Use Techniques Such As

  • Flashback and Flashforward
  • Multiple Plot Lines
  • Inner Thinking
  • Dialogue
  • Revealing Actions
  • Multiple Points of View
  • First Person Narrator
  • Reader Knows More Than The Character
  • Description
  • Metaphor
  • Tone
  • Symbolism

The Rise: (Collaborating With a Lens) Using a virtual space for online collaboration:

  • Students are given a lens to view the digital text
  • A place where you can create a room with stipulations for how long it will be open.  It allows students to backchannel during the video viewing.  This is a way for teachers to gather formulative data and for students to collaborate around responses.

The big takeaway here to think about ways to use multi-modal texts to critique, scaffold, or just to appreciate great writing.  How can students translate this kind of work into their own writing?  We can do this work by  teaching them to play with sentence length (syntax) or to get in touch with empathy through shared experiences with strong images.  Another resource Maggie suggested was to get Katie Wood Ray’s Wondrous Words (it’s in the @amazon cart – waiting for payday).  To learn more from Maggie check out her blog: indent or follow her on @twitter: @MaggieBRoberts .

Yes! You Can Teach Grammar In Workshop Three Essential Methods to Tuck In Grammar Effectively

The rooms are packed. Teachers are sitting on the floors.  There is an excited buzz in these rooms. Voices are rising and falling like the waves on the ocean. Sparkling with ideas and new learning.  We are feeling so fortunate to be in the company of so many talented teachers.  Mary is talking about running from place to place.  She is joking about grammar – yes we do really want to be in this room.  When you think of grammar and your kids and your classroom how do you ever fit it in? What is it? When do you press it in? We are turning and talking with a teacher from Connecticut.

The consensus – we don’t fit “it” in enough and maybe the best place for it is Interactive Writing…

Back together again… subject verb agreement – all languages are beautiful and challenging.  There are so many irregular verbs – that is our curse.  How can we help kids fixup their writing?  None is going to happen through small groups.  We need a systematic approach to grammar.  One that threads up throughout the grades.  How can we be “grammar ambassadors”?  Instructional Method for Teaching Grammar – Demonstrations, Inquiry, Interludes and  Extravaganzas. Think about the “stickiness” factor?  Teacher  Models: Brief (6 minutes) most will get from the lesson. Inquiry: Takes longer.  They are going to study (20 minutes) in their small groups with a specific lens.  Kids don’t transfer beyond what they already know and do, they tend to notice what they are already doing.  It provides an innate differentiation.  The idea of interludes and extravaganzas lends itself to a separate block of inquiry.  Nice conversations happening now. We were taking about and thinking about this idea as a stand alone that would cycle into  the UoS that would build and carry threads from grade to grade.  Maybe infusing some interesting writing that plays with grammar as mini-read-alouds.

Decoding (strong phonetic knowledge) reading happens when your brain attaches meaning to it.   Encoding (picturing the word and giving the spelling to that word).  It is not something that is able to be learned – if you’re not a natural speller – it just will be –  what it will be.  Many teachers are natural spellers (not Jenn).  One thing to know is that’s why Hatte is sending out the message that hard work is not always going to pay off.  This generation is learning to write and at greater volume than ever before.  The problem is the digital code- They are losing their control of high frequency words and capitalization.   Digital literacy is different.  What do we know about the research of stages of acquisition:

  • Recognition – story language (Read Aloud is so important).  They try to write the way they have been spoken to and read to… makes sense
  •  Approximation – Kindergarten small letters and big letters.for months that is learned sometimes the whole time. This shouldn’t frustrate us. Think about the challenges that kids are taking on in their writing.  Run on sentences… so lucky they are writing so much. This is a long stage.
  • Mastery – It is not realistic for first grade teachers to expect mastery of ending marks of sentences
  • Slippage – we worry about this but sometimes
  • Code Switching – kids are not fluid with the the natural vernacular and academic language.

Flash drafting – editing work all at once.  With the introduction of every new genre students can regress.  They may only have mastery in narrative not informational.  This makes so much sense to me.  Our brain naturally fills in the corrections for you.  Someone else has to look at your writing.  Writers only see what they’re ready to see – they see what they already do in their own writing.  Makes sense.  So others have to look at it, that’s why we have editors!  So smart the way TC wrote the UoS  – thinking about that’s why the second grade UoS does the publishing houses.

Now we are turning and talking again… The question – What is your mindset around grammar, punctuation, and spelling?  We believe it’s important to have a playful mindset around this topic.  Mary is showing a quote from Eats Shoots and Leaves:.  It’s suggested that we could have students write these themselves.  That’s an interesting idea.

We are looking at a demonstration – a quick grammar lesson.  She is using a Schoolhouse Rock Video: Schoolhouse Rock Xavier Sarsaparilla (Pronouns).  She is playing this video as we are exiting the room.  We are thinking about how having a scope and sequence and planning days of instructions embedded within the UoS is important work.  Making these lessons be inquiry based is a new idea – one that would promote the transfer through collaborative work.  Taking these fun videos is just another way to make this work more engaging.  Again, this is for the most part, confirmation of what we felt was missing in our UoS work in Reading and Writing Workshop.  It is so great to see we are on the right track – wink wink!


Mo Willems: The Opportunity to Learn More About Pigeon, Elephant, Piggie and Knuffle Bunny, Among Others: A Q&A Session

We are sitting on the floor.  We were lucky to get in at all.  The line for Mo stretched around the corners and up and down stairways.  Thunderous applause for Mo.  We can’t take any pictures – so we will not.  We can ask him anything we want: What your going to read is  our interpretation of the Q&A.

What did he gain from his year in France?

He spent a year in France, sketching, and limited access to him for business.  Business was only on Tuesdays.  He spent a year walking and sketching, the same amount of work but a whole lot less stress.  There was not balance from the “reactive” and “fed”.  My take away – our society has a lot of “have to” but not enough being “fed” self nurturing.

Will you ever get back to New Orleans?

Mo was from New Orleans.  There is a rich background of storytelling – that is fused by a lot of living.

Teachers who made a difference in your life and why?

One terrible teacher: an art teacher who threw away all his cartoons. Only gave him pastels for still life – you can do real damage.  This is a real job you have.

Best teacher: 7th and 8th grade history and Latin teacher.  She made sure there was context.  The dates were less important than the story.  We had to read the New Orleans Sunday Times, stressed the need to have a strong general knowledge.

Where do you get the inspiration to write Piggie & Elephant?

So funny – he is just very funny.  Early readers are harder than picture books.  There should be 50 distinct words.  The characters have been developed over a long period of time. His publisher was not completely on board – but he felt very strongly about them (Elephant Piggie) because he knew them so well.  The creative process is like a garden – and every once and while a tree bears fruit. Very important that they not be leveled – because he didn’t want to be limited – he wants kids to always think they’re cool.

As a writer what advice would you give your younger writer self?

It’s the same you have to love it and don’t be afraid to rewrite it.  Play around have time to sketch. It’s like you’re going out with characters.

His first chapter book came out Tuesday.  My Time In Paris.  It’s got to feel right.

What’s your favorite book?

Books are like your children – I love all my books equally.

Someone asked Mo to read a section of his new book.  He said no because he didn’t want to sway how we would read it.  So funny because when we were chatting with our subway colleagues, a  Literacy Coach said that she heard him read a Pigeon book and was so disappointed that he sounded so different than when she read it.  She wondered if she was reading it wrong.  But that’s the beauty of Mo’s books he lets the reader into the character.   It’s a place where kids can find there voice.

What’s a message for our students?

He doesn’t want to tell the children anything – but they should all write him a check! My books are meant to be played. Drawing is a physical entity for empathy.  There comes a day when children realize that they are not going to be professional illustrators.  Then they stop drawing.  He talked about family time around drawing, about emotions that come out through drawing.  So powerful.  The stories are meant to be conduits for children and self expression.  The Magic Point is where the characters take off and go into other stories written by children.

He hated Walt Disney because all the characters were so happy. He was not always happy as a kid – that’s why he identified with Charley Brown (finally someone had it worse).

Everyone has a name for a very specific reason Elephant’s name is for his favorite singer Elephant is Gerald.  Piggie is so pure she doesn’t need a name a platonic state of piggyness.

EMPATHY – when he went to France he had to learn so many unwritten rules.  Children are new and short – so think about that negotiating that reality.  Learn how to love an ordinary dog – the squirrel can disappear (it ran up a tree). Empathy is growth.  He is thanking us for our obvious passion.  We are on the front lines – this is true.  Thank you Mo.  His wife wrote the line “Trixi went boneless”.

What adult books inspire you?

Reads mostly nonfiction, philosophy,   Rome, Genghis Khan (meritocracy and old age).   Loss of memory – literate societies suffer a loss of memory. Genghis focused on storytelling that interests Mo.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both.  I never want to be the smartest person in the room – if you’re the smartest person in the room you’re in the wrong room.

Storyboards – draw a drop of rain falling over and over – or Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. is what writing can be .  Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs –  Norway is funny that’s why.

Our Take:

We are going to use this experience to inform our writing celebration for the Narrative UoS with a Q&A between classrooms.  We work so hard to have students respond to professional author’s writing and their peer’s writing.  How often do we ask them to reflect on their own writing in a deep meaningful way? In a meaningful way that is shared in a more public way going beyond their classroom peers.    Not often. The plan is to have each student setup a gallery; then, break up the other classroom into groups of four and do an impromptu Q&A.  We will let you know how it goes.


What Does Teaching for Transfer Look Like? Strategies, Skills, & Mindsets!

Good Morning Readers,

We are at the 89th Saturday Reunion at #TCRWP!  Each day we will be releasing our notes from the sessions we attend.  Think of  it as a five day series.  Our first session is with @MaryEhrenworth.  What you will be reading is our notes in real time and the conversations we are having around our learning.  Let’s see how this goes.  It started on the subway, bustling into a  crowed train – we knew we were with our people.  Immediately, we started chatting about Writer’s Workshop.  We shared information about our article on Heinemann’s Digital Campus, and another teacher suggested making it a totally digital resource!  What a great idea! I guess what we are struck with while we wait for the Keynote to begin is how generous teachers are with each other.  Here we are thousands of us – giving our time, our efforts, our thinking just to enhance our practice and all that we can do for our students.

Mary is talking – about being present and the rush is the joy of the day.  Grant Wiggins – backwards planning.  Think about the child – the skills and planning that helps children grow into their thinking.  The challenge of transfer is that even with brilliant instruction the kids were not transferring to their independent work.  Expilcit cueing systems kids often fail to transfer skills from one part of the curriculum to another part of the day. (We were talking about just this on the train!).

“You can provide students with training in a dozen reading strategies – provide helpful verbal cues, etc. and yet when asked to read on their own, they neither activate the strategies by themselves nor make meaning of unfamiliar materials.” – Grant Wiggins

” Students will typically not cue themselves to use all their prior learning unless they have been given lots of training and practice in this cueing  themselves.” – Grant Wiggins

Turning and Talking:

“I think transfer happens when we’re in GR.” – Jenn

“So when we’re doing GR how do we get them to cue themselves? “- Jill

“I think it’s when you are in the work with them being the scaffold to help them do the work right there.” – Jenn

Mary is talking about Read Aloud and deep transfer now; Picture a book that you love that you would use in read aloud.  Fly Away Home, by Eve Bunting. There is so much emotion and easily identifiable symbolism.  So many reasons.  If you don’t know it – here is a digital text: Fly Away Home

Mary is modeling how to do this work: “Today I want to teach you that characters are more than just one way. As we do this worka think about how this looks in your book. When I think that characters are more than one way. See how the small details say it’s suggestive. ”

Now she is showing this idea of inferring big ideas, from the small details in another book, The Piggy Book. Here is the book in as a  digital text: The Piggybook.  She is showing all the illustrations on document projector.  Our interpretations of her strengths and flaws:  Strengths: nurturing, organized, independent (she’s taking the bus).  Her flaws:  enabling others to take and not give back.

The important message for us to think about is that each reader takes something different to the text. Perspectives are swayed by your experiences – “Turn and compare”  is very purposeful prompt to generate discussions from a pluralistic lens.  Another great talking prompt: “What do you admire and what are you disturbed by” now she is using  a digital text: Maddie & Tae – Girl In A Country Song .  Our interpretations of admiration and disturbances:  Admire: the talent of the singing – and the fact that they are taking back power through humor.  Disturbing: to think about how objectified women are in our society.

It’s all about being flexible for transfer.  Not only for the type of book that’s being read but ALSO the kind of readers who is accessing the text.  How do we narrow the gap from Read Aloud to independence.  Now the project is thinking that students should be bringing their independent books to the read aloud.  That’s a heavier scaffold:

  1. Focus on an important reading strategy.
  2. Demonstrate and practice that strategy w/in one text create an immediate opportunity to try it

Fluid, Flexible, and Fluent – becoming innovative within that frame.  Treading mini-lessons to create a pathway to go from applying to synthesizing.  This is all about planting seeds during the read aloud for the sequence of mini-lessons to come.  Now Mary is back in The Piggybook.  We have to get this book!

Mary is having us turn and talk but in the best parts – such masterful teaching. Learning how to delay judgement so that they can be sympathetic and bring it from books to life.  What work do expect to do now?  Paying attention to how characters change, reserve judgement and how it effects life: knowing that when we talk about books we will each have a different perspective.

Not just thinking about the character but also lessons for life? What makes you say that? That makes students look at the discreet details and bring themselves to texts through perspective.  Video Be Brave

Teaching for Mindset (from one reader to another).   The transfer of joy – how open are you to teaching of joy? We are both very joyful about books.  We know what five books we would take to a desert island.  Another video: Kindle The Joy of Reading   We want to teach reading as one of the great joys of  your life.  Remember all the times we want to read.

What’s Your True North?

There are so many resources out there – so many theories – so many ways to teach. What is best? Teachers have to craft their own lens for what they value. Think about this as we consider the process for reading and writing. What map will you use? What route will you take? With understanding comes cohesion and vision. We have to have vision, it’s our true north, if we want our teaching to have direction and purpose.

We know that education is not static – there are undulating currents that pull and push us through reforms and initiatives. We are told to say goodbye to one idea and hello to the next. For us, we are guided by Fountas & Pinnell, The Reading & Writing Project, and Jennifer Serravallo. Growth can only happen with meaningful reflection and for that the voice we hear is Dr. Mary Howard. Their works inform and inspire us, and that’s how new ideas are born.

The truth is we are guiding the ship, and for us, these giants are helping us to set our course for this school year. We spent the day combing through the new Reading Pathways book. With analytical eyes we examined the Informational, and Narrative Learning Progressions. How can we blend this new work with our current beliefs? We are holding on tight to Fountas and Pinnell’s Wheel of Strategic Actions and have a deep appreciation for Jennifer Serravallo’s The Reading Strategy Book. We are always looking to take our good practices and make them great by informing them through research (Thank you Dr. Howard).

All of this work can be put into action through goal setting. The kind of goal setting that is steeped in the process and runs on a child’s perception. As we blend these works and ideas we looked for patterns that could fit together and work in a real classroom. To create structures that make sense to an eight year old and would allow our teaching to filter in, so we can construct a course for the long voyage ahead.


Transferring Professional Development & Deep Planning for “Next” Instructional Moves

Does that make sense to you?  That’s a tried and true prompt I ask my students as they work to decode so they can find meaning in text.  I guess the real question that is on the lips of every teacher is how can we support struggling readers when there is a myriad of reasons as to why they struggle? Or, at least at our last professional development day this was a hot topic for exploration.

It seems to us like there are two leading reading profiles that are particularly challenging to us:

  1. There are students who comprehend beautifully but can’t read aloud.  We know that we have to approximate pronunciation from time to time.  We do believe that meaning should be the primary focus for learning how to read… but don’t we have to teach students to read fluently so they have confidence to say the words correctly?  Absolutely!
  2. There are students who read beautifully they sound amazing. When they finish they can give a basic retelling, but that’s it. These readers miss major points concerning multiple characters, and nuanced meanings, and often times cannot fluently connect pages in a text to summarize and predict and then go back and confirm and/or revise.

What instructional move fits the need?Temporary Large Image for Blog Image

Building a repertoire of  instructional moves allows us to follow the students to the teacher’s goals. We build the context through student needs and adjust our instructional style to make it relevant to the goals.

Guided reading is the continuous observation of developing readers and within the small group children are part of a community sharing and connecting ideas- it is an ongoing conversation.  These are groups that they return to again and again to develop and grow as readers who question, discuss, connect, reread for new understanding and explore shared text.

Strategy lessons are a place for troubleshooting; a time to focus on a specific strategy within their independent text and that makes a difference. There is an expectation at an independent level that children can do the work that a reader needs to do.

  • One way to use this is to take a challenging teaching point like summarizing and use the independent book as the vehicle for your instruction.  The benefit to this is that children don’t have to negotiate meaning they can concentrate on the skill.  We provide a strategy  to troubleshoot the skill.
  • Another way is to assess their independent level and push their thinking within the level so that we can gather formative data on how the reader is progressing with minimal scaffolds.

Thinking about all of this as a kind of toolbox for instructional approaches – doesn’t  it make sense to provide instruction through different approaches.  It seems more intuitive to offer instruction through:

Guided Reading – When we are trying to assess and know the reader, to build and grow ideas, and to be social around a text. Our focus is always on comprehension through teaching points and strategic actions.  It offers teachers a chance to understand what the reader needs so they can progress to the next level of understanding.

Strategy Lesson – When we already have a sense of the reader and we want to push them to greater autonomy.  We do this through strategic fix ups and monitoring for level of skills. It offers teachers a chance work in a highly focused way for less time and allows the reader opportunities to practice with more independence

Does that make sense to you?  Intentional teaching is driven by meaning. Teaching is a delicate balance of intention and instructional choices.  On that note, we thought you would enjoy this: