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Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Stenhouse Blog

Today I am featuring a great resource for teachers, the Stenhouse Blog.  Stenhouse is a publishing company for educators.  By using the link below, you can access the blog.  They feature educators as writers. 

The link below takes you to a page on the blog that focuses on action research for teachers.   With the start up of school, now is the time to think about how to use all of the data you will be collecting to inform your instruction.  Here are some great ideas.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Here are some great resources for using mentor texts in the classroom - as early as first grade. Well worth the read! Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
August 20, 2016 - Issue #515
If you are having trouble reading this newsletter, click here for a Web-based version.
Armchair Experts
When we are judging everything, we are learning nothing.

                                                                                       Steve Maraboli

My husband and I are watching the Olympic diving competition. It isn’t long before we are yelling out scores as soon as each diver hits the water. “He was a little over – can’t be more than a 7.5.” “That’s a 9 for sure – look how tight that flip was.” Sometimes the scores we guess are right, and sometimes they are way off. After a few minutes of this, we are laughing about how absurd the whole thing is. This is a sport we watch once (maybe) every four years, and within minutes we have deemed ourselves experts, thinking we can instantly judge something that has precise rules and standards. Of course we can’t, but that doesn’t stop us from piping up with judgments.  The problem is that it looks so easy to score, based on either a clean entry or something resembling a splat when the diver hits the water. The truth is that the real experts are looking at far more than one thing at a time.

You know where I’m going with this – everyone’s an armchair expert when it comes to education. The problem is that most of us only get to see the scores, and not all the work or even the materials used to produce those scores. But it’s the people behind the scores who give you the truth about whether there’s any learning going on or not, or whether a good score was even possible on a test with a lousy design or in a school where there are extreme issues of poverty and migration. No one would watch the Olympics if we only got to see the scores, with no performances. And the people who pay billions for the rights to broadcast the Olympics have learned that the ratings success formula isn’t to show performance + score. It’s life story + performance + score. Once you know the person behind the performance, you’re sometimes not even worried if they make it to the podium or not. You’re just thrilled to be watching someone on the world stage who beat all the odds to even get there.

Knowing this, it still won’t stop me from yelling out scores before they are posted. But at least I can laugh at the absurdity of it. I wish the same was true for everyone who thinks they know how to fix schools based on some numbers on a page.
This week we look at mentors and mentor texts. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy

Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: or Pinterest:]    

One goal of many primary teachers is to help students finish their drafts with an ending other than "The End" (or "they lived happily ever after"). Katie DiCesare shows her first graders many alternative examples, and she begins early in the year with powerful mentor texts:

Mandy Robek shares a delightful list of mentor texts that help students reflect upon and monitor their behavior in the classroom:

In this video, Ruth Ayres opens up her writer's notebook and mentors students on the many possibilities for filling the pages in their own notebooks:

Join Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan for the online course Making Assessments Work for You starting September 23. This course includes the book Assessment in Perspective, a DVD, three webcasts, and personal responses from Clare and Tammy to all your questions:

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

I rarely post advertisements. However, this is FREE and one of the new buzz phrases is "visible learning." Enjoy. It is after school on Monday, September 12, 2017.

Making Literacy Visible FREE Webinar
This webinar introduces key concepts from the book on which literacy strategies work and when they work. Fisher and Frey explain the importance of effect size in determining one's impact on student learning, and explore how best to take students from surface, to deep to transfer learning. Register Now

Saturday, August 13, 2016

This report takes a look at some important data with a clear, new perspective ... and confirms what many teachers have known for a while. Courtesy of SmartBrief.

Is the bar too high for Common Core literacy?
The Common Core State Standards have changed expectations and practices for teaching reading and writing. Some educators and experts are debating how best to teach -- and test student understanding -- wondering, in some cases, if the bar has been raised too high.
The Hechinger Report (8/2)  Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 8, 2016

This is an excellent selection of insightful observations about reading and how it impacts readers. I think it is well worth the read. Mr. Gaiman is a new author to me. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment. You can order the book on - kindle or hard cover.

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 31, 2016

Neil Gaiman, from 'Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming', and how the act of reading changes us: "Once in New York, I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons—a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth — how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, fifteen years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based about asking what percentage of ten- and eleven-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure."

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Many educators are debating whether or not the CCSS is here to stay. Take a look at what California is doing! Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Calif. teacher-training program focuses on Common Core

California State University is offering a free training program to 5,000 educators who teach reading and writing. The course, intended to help boost students' college readiness, originally was designed for 12th-grade teachers but was expanded to educators who teach lower grades in response to the Common Core State Standards. EdSource (7/21)Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 27, 2015

I am posting this for every grade level. Read alouds are powerful instructional tools at any grade level. As you read this, try to think of the grade appropriate chalenges in the texts you use and how the read aloud can assist your students. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
July 25, 2015 - Issue #442
The Power of a Read Aloud
Why do they not teach you that time is a finger snap and an eye blink, and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment of its swift, breakneck circuit?

                                                                                Pat Conroy

It is early in September, and Beth Lawson is reading the picture book What Does It Mean to Be Present? by Rana DiOrio to her fourth graders.  The gentle, spare text and illustrations are about helping others, being patient, and enjoying simple pleasures like the warmth of the sun and the sound of the rain. The children are captivated by the words and images. As Beth reads the book, she pauses at almost every page, savoring each one. “What does this make you think of?” she asks again and again. Beth shares experiences of enjoying food (and her young son ever so slowly eating an ice cream cone). The children listen carefully, making connections in almost hushed voices.

As I watch, I am amazed at how much learning is going on so early in the year just from a read aloud. Why do we ever allow ourselves to get defensive about the value of read alouds? Maybe because someone peeking into the classroom would think an activity this pleasurable can’t possibly be good learning. But they’d be wrong. The process of listening and responding teaches children how to be kind, thoughtful members of a community. The cadence slows down the pace of the class just when the rhythm starts to get too rapid or stressful. And the content of each read aloud gives every child in the class a mentor text they share with everyone else, regardless of their reading level or mastery of the English language.

Five minutes here and there, every day in the first weeks of school, quickly adds up to dozens of shared texts and stories in a fledgling classroom community that can be used as touchstones all year long. It’s a paradox that the early days of school fly by so quickly, yet it is still such slow, hard work to build trust and respect. Taking time for extra read alouds in those first weeks of school, especially of picture books that require no more than a few minutes to share, is a way to slow down and enjoy some laughs together, or sigh with appreciation over beautiful language or a stunning image. Instead of talking about what it means to pay attention, respect your classmates, and honor literacy, everyone can live it. And what child doesn’t love being read to?

This week we focus on read alouds early in the school year. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Tony Keefer is Planning a Read-Aloud Sequence to Launch the School Year:

Choice Literacy is celebrating our tenth year! In honor of the milestone, our Classics series will feature the most popular articles and videos on the site from our decade-long run. This month's classic is Franki Sibberson's The Quest for the Perfect First Read Aloud of the Year:

Now is the time to plan to participate in the Global Read Aloud, which begins in early October. You can download planning templates and get more information on the event at this link:

Get organized for the new school year with our online courses for school leaders, Supporting Teachers in Writing Workshops (July 29 - August 9) with Ruth Ayres and Designing School Bookrooms (August 24-28) with Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan. To view descriptions or register click on the link below:
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Friday, July 17, 2015

Getting ready for next year? Choice Literacy has some great ideas on classroom libraries. Enjoy!

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
July 11, 2015 - Issue #440
Catching Your Breath

Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

                                                                                            Henry James

“You’re so lucky to have your summers off.”

That comment is almost as irritating to teachers as a gift of apple earrings. Most teachers I know are plenty busy in the summer working as tutors, leading training sessions, or going to conferences (usually on their own dime) to hone their craft and keep up their certifications.

And yet . . .we’re still profoundly grateful for summer. Though we aren’t fully off work, we have control over our time, which is no small thing. We usually have at least a few days that stretch long with light, with little scheduled. To feel that echo of childhood memories, where a summer day with nothing to do but play could linger like a year, feels like more and more of a gift the older you get.

A lazy summer day is a reminder why we’re human beings, and not human doings. There is such pressure to accomplish more in classrooms. The clock feels like a runaway train, with the rhythm of the wheels on the tracks clacking “what’s next what’s next what’s next” pulling us away from being truly present with students.

Here’s something I’ve been trying on busy days to slow down the “doing” and get back to being right here, right now in the moment. I read recently that the average American looks at a screen 200 times a day. Seems unbelievable, until I think of how many times I pick up my smartphone, or pull out my laptop to read, write, or respond to emails. Every time I look at a new screen during the day, I try to pause for a moment and take a deep belly breath. Better yet, I close my eyes for a few moments while I take the breath. It’s surprising how restorative this is – we don’t call it “catching our breath” for nothing.  There’s a lot of research on the vicious cycle of shallow breathing during times of stress leading to more stress and cortisol production.  An extra 100 deep breaths a day, or even just a dozen, can do wonders for restoring at least a whisper of the calm you feel on a hazy July afternoon.

This week we look at classroom library design. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Andrea Smith shares what she learns by assisting a colleague in Helping Allison Redesign Her Classroom Nonfiction Library:

Ruth Ayres highlights the key elements of Effective Organization for workshop instruction:

Beth Holland at Edutopia gives examples of how schools and communities are reconceiving libraries as "learning commons" in this digital age:

Our online courses in July include Jennifer Schwanke's The Principal's Role in Evaluating and Supporting Literacy Instruction (July 23-27) and Supporting Teachers in Writing Workshops (July 29 - August 9) from Ruth Ayres. To view descriptions or register click on the link below:
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Monday, June 29, 2015

Here are some great articles on Launching Book Clubs and Reading Discussions...good information for the summer months. Enjoy. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
June 20, 2015 - Issue #438
Turning Children into Scholars
Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.
                                                            Dr. Suess
In the forthcoming book The Hired Girl, Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz’s main character and narrator, Joan, describes her first day of school. She was particularly nervous about starting school because her brothers did not like school and were often in trouble. But the day proved magical when the teacher took Joan and the other new students outside to sit under a tree as she read aloud to them. Miss Lang read the young students “Thumbelina” from a collection of stories by Hans Christian Andersen. Joan’s retelling of the experience--which includes an emotional relaying of the ups and downs of Thumbelina’s adventures--captures the way great stories, particularly when read aloud, engage us in powerful ways. Joan wraps up her description of that first read aloud experience with Miss Lang:

Oh, that story! I never, never could have thought of anything so beautiful. When it was over--I couldn’t help myself--I forgot to raise my hand, and I cried out, “Oh, please, teacher, read it over, read it over!”

Then I was aghast because I had called out, and I thought Miss Lang would punish me. But she gave me a lovely smile and said, “When you learn to read, you will be able to read the story all by yourself.”

I became a scholar that day.
(p. 32)

We think, talk, and write a lot about joy -- how to bring more into our personal lives and into classrooms. Joy is a tenet around which we try to frame all our work. We hope as summer begins you are celebrating your final moments with students. As you plan for the coming year, save room for joyous and powerful experiences with stories--perhaps even under a tree--as you read aloud from books. Show students the promise that is theirs on the other side of the words: as they become better and better readers, such wondrous experiences will be at their constant disposal. One day they may speak of a story you read and say, “It was then that I became a scholar.”

This week we explore book clubs and other reading conversations in classrooms.  Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris
Contributors, Choice Literacy
Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris blog at Burkins and Yaris -- Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, where their instructional resources have drawn a national audience. Their new book, Reading Wellness, is available through Stenhouse Publishers.
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Karen Terlecky combines teaching kindness, building community, and developing reading skills in Do They Care? Empathy Book Clubs:

Megan Skogstad from the Nerdy Book Club shares the Top Ten Reasons for Starting a Staff Book Club:

In Learning Is Social, Mary Lee Hahn describes different types of groups (from focus groups to partners) and how she explains them to students:

Our July online courses include Literacy Coach Jumpstart with Jennifer Allen (July 1-12), Text Complexity in Grades 3-5 with Franki Sibberson (July 9-20), and The Principal's Role in Evaluating and Supporting Literacy Instruction with Jennifer Schwanke (July 23-27). There are no set times you need to be at your computer for webcasts or discussions, and each course includes trial subscriptions to Choice and/or Lead Literacy and a DVD for viewing after the course is completed. You can view descriptions and registration information at this link:
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