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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:

http://theglobalreadaloud.com/

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:

http://goo.gl/EWWiIn

 
 
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:

http://goo.gl/TRZDEu


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

http://readingyear.blogspot.com/2014/08/learning-is-social.html
 

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:

http://www.choiceliteracy.com/workshops.php
 
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This week the focus is writers' craft. All of these artices are excellent. One in particular you don't want to miss, is the article by Shari Frost on Rethinking Mentor Texts. Enjoy! Courtesy of Choice Literacy

 
The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
June 13, 2015 - Issue #437
 
 
Abandoning Big Things
  
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it.
                                                            W. C. Fields
 
Last month I sat in on an amazing discussion between author Jennifer Richard Jacobson and a group of fifth graders. They covered a wide range of topics, from specific character quirks in Jennifer’s latest novel, Paper Things, to writing habits and strategies. At one point, a student asked, “Have you ever abandoned your writing? I know that you must stop and start lots of stories. But have you ever abandoned something big?”

Jennifer paused, and then she explained how a few years ago she’d been working on a novel with magical elements. “It was fun to write, and there were many popular books out for kids with magic in them at the time. I’d done lots of writing on it. But something didn’t feel quite right, and my agent finally told me, ‘This isn’t who you are. Your gift as a writer is to write so well about ordinary children and adults going through hardships or extraordinary circumstances.” So Jennifer abandoned that book and went on to write Small as an Elephant, about an eleven-year-old boy dealing with the fallout from his mother’s bipolar disorder.

As I listened, I realized I’ve always thought that writers only abandoned writing that wasn’t working. What Jennifer was describing was something different. It wasn’t that the writing wasn’t good (if it came from Jennifer it was likely remarkable). In this case, the writing wasn’t right -- her agent explained that it didn’t fit who Jennifer was, and didn’t match her gifts as a storyteller.

Readers of this newsletter do lots of big things, and do them well. Letting go of projects because they aren’t going well can be discouraging, but we know deep down it’s the best choice. Far harder to abandon are the big things that are fun, or needed, or have been an echo of your heart for months or years. Professionally, it might be the splashy fall literacy event that takes up so much of your time in September. Personally, it might be the overseas adoption you’ve already wound your way through months of red tape and research to try to accomplish.

Teachers love summers for many reasons, and one at the top of the list is time for reflection. Is there anything big you should abandon? Do you need to be the friend or colleague who gently asks, “Is this project what you want or need now in your life?” People who leave their mark on the world ultimately know when it’s time to let go of something big, so that they can hold on to something bigger.

 
This week we look at writer's craft. 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:
   
 
Shari Frost is Rethinking Mentor Texts, repurposing books in reading strategy bins for writer's craft instruction:
 
http://www.choiceliteracy.com/articles-detail-view.php?id=894
 

The "near win" is a kissing cousin of the abandoned big thing. Sarah Lewis explains the power of embracing the near win in this TED Talk video:

http://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_lewis_embrace_the_near_win
 
 
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan have posted 10 Ideas to Promote Summer Reading at the Nerdy Book Club:

http://goo.gl/g8FgYB
 
 
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:

http://www.choiceliteracy.com/workshops.php
 
 
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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

This is one of the most comprehensive reports on Close Reading. It brings our focus back to the process involved and the purpose. It is well worth the time it takes to read it Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.



Building the Habits of Close Reading to Support Comprehension
Close reading is a popular term in elementary education today and a requirement in the new ELA standards. Dr. D. Ray Reutzel, educator and ELA expert, discusses the importance of students' ability to independently comprehend challenging texts and develop the skills and habits of mind necessary to unpack deep, embedded meaning.
Download the free whitepaper.Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Teaching theme is one of the most challenging tasks we face. It is often difficult for our students. Here are some good ideas, courtesy of Choice Literacy.



The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
May 2, 2015 - Issue #431
 
 
Navigating Boston
  
Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves. 
                                                            Henry David Thoreau

I recently went to a conference at the JFK Library in Boston with my colleague Karen. Neither of us knew Boston geography well. It probably would have been safer if we had taken the subway once we reached the city limits, but we didn’t. Karen drove. Even with my talking navigation tool (the one that tells you when and how to turn ahead of time), we managed to miss a turn or two (or three). Once we'd missed a turn, my navigation app would beep and after a few seconds call out directions for a new route. Some of the roads eventually looked familiar, since we ended up retracing our steps once or twice (or three times). We arrived at our conference in time, but I had no idea where the JFK Library was in relation to the rest of Boston until I looked at a map, and I definitely would not be able to drive there again without my handy dandy navigation app.

Throughout our tour of Boston, we relied on a digital voice. She told us how many feet to travel, the names of roads, the turns to take, and exactly when to take them. The roads were so confusing with the diagonal intersections, merging cars, and traffic circles that we did not even try to navigate independently. We had no idea where we were going except for the name of the place. We had a wonderful day of learning at the conference, but we had absolutely no new learning about Boston geography.

When we were driving home with a long stretch of highway in front of us and no need to worry about turns and traffic circles, Karen asked me about one of her fifth-grade students who is struggling with research-based essays. The complexity of the task overwhelms him. He has to read, take notes, integrate information, organize notes, realize what information he might still need, locate additional resources...and that’s all before he has to write an introduction, developmental paragraphs with facts, details, and transition words, and then a conclusion that calls readers to action. This task, to a student who doesn’t read, organize, integrate, and write proficiently, must feel navigating Boston without much of a road map.

As Karen asked about her student and I thought about our experience, I made a connection. Even though I have written about the zone of proximal development before, I had never made such a clear connection to my own learning. Having someone tell me exactly what to do every step of the way meant I didn’t even try to learn. I just waited for my next direction, never trying to figure out a single thing for myself.

Maybe I would have tried if I’d known something about Boston streets.

Maybe I would have tried if I’d studied the route and a map before.

Maybe I would have tried if an object next to me didn’t beep and speak in an annoyed voice when I made mistake.

I am sure that if I’d had no help and just a bunch of crazy roads in front of me, I would have pulled over to find help, or I would have just given up.

Karen and I talked more about her student, asking ourselves,  “What part of the task could he do alone, without a constant need for directions?”

As tasks become more and more complex for our students, I think we need to remember the sense of confusion and panic when we are lost, as well as the fact that when we receive directions every step of the way, we don’t learn.

Now, if only I had a little more time to spend in Boston to break those navigation tasks into more manageable steps...
This week we looking at teaching theme, a tricky concept that requires a fair amount of navigational support from teachers. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Melanie Meehan
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Melanie Meehan is the Elementary Writing and Social Studies Coordinator in Simsbury, Connecticut. She has many fictional works in progress and blogs with Melanie Swider at Two Reflective Teachers.
Free for All
 
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
   
Franki Sibberson shares Two Lessons for Teaching Theme:

http://www.choiceliteracy.com/articles-detail-view.php?id=1875

Sara Johnson has posted a nifty video on teaching theme:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H6GCe7hmmA


Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan have collected many texts for teaching perseverance on a Pinterest board. This is a popular topic now for schools and classrooms promoting a growth mindset:

http://goo.gl/GCfZEw
Create a DVD professional library instantly and save big with our DVD Bundle Sale. Order the 24 DVD Collection and save 50% off the list prices of individual titles. The bundle includes over 40 hours of video and features Jennifer Allen, Aimee Buckner, "The Sisters" (Gail Boushey and Joan Moser), Clare Landrigan, Tammy Mulligan, Franki Sibberson, and many other master teachers working in classrooms with children. Choice Literacy members receive an additional discount of $100 off the sale price:
 


Join Lead Literacy or renew your Lead Literacy membership online in May and receive a free copy of Heather Rader's book Side By Side, a $25 value. Offer expires May 31 and is for online credit card orders only:

http://www.leadliteracy.com/subscribe

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