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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Here is some interesting information that my help inform instruction. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Bookmark and ShareReport: Students read mostly fiction, below their grade level
Students are reading fewer nonfiction books than fiction and often reading below their ability levels, according to a recent report from Renaissance Learning, the company behind the Accelerated Reader program. The report was compiled from anonymized and aggregated data on nearly 10 million U.S. students in first through 12th grades. T.H.E. Journal (12/9)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Here is another great post from Choice Literacy. I highly recommend the Literacy Shed link. There are some great resources there. Enjoy!

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
November 29, 2014 - Issue #410

Cheerfully Indifferent
Not my circus, not my monkeys.
                           Polish proverb
This summer I participated in a qigong class, which is sort of a mix of tai chi and martial arts (and that makes the class sound much more strenuous than it was). The group met on a gently sloping lawn at a retreat center in western Massachusetts.  The instructor was in his sixties, calm and funny, with an Irish lilt to his voice. He put us through our paces, all of us beginners looking earnest and silly as we mimicked the moves of a tiger, crane, and dragon. Midway through the class as we all tried to balance on one leg, he said, "The key to focus is to be cheerfully indifferent - to happily ignore most of what bothers you."
I looked out at the view - a stunning vista of a large pristine lake, with mist rising from it in the morning sun. Beyond it was a vast range of mountains, dwarfing the lake. This was in one tiny corner of the world, tucked in the Berkshires. It all made me feel small, in a good way. We have so little time and energy when it comes to all we want to accomplish. We know this, and yet we still think the biggest crime we can commit is to not care enough. But if you try to care about everything, you're just spending your entire life living inside your head. And it's so small compared to all that is out there. The arrogance is in thinking we have more hours or more to give than anyone else.
Ever since that class, I've tried to approach more messes (especially those created by other people) with cheerful indifference. What good does it do to feel your blood pressure rising or your jaw clench at the colleague who is always late to the meeting and needs to be brought up to speed, at the parents who seem to care about their child less than you do? The weight of the world starts to lift when you stay positive and don't invest any energy in things you can't change. A happy countenance is a blessing to anyone who experiences it, and our indifference is a gift to those tasks that need our focus, and the people who can most benefit from our concern. As George Lichtenberg writes, "Nothing can contribute more to peace of soul than the lack of any opinion whatever."
This week we consider some strategies for making minilessons more visual. Plus more as always - enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy


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[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Here are two features from the archives highlighting ways to make minilessons more visual.
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan explain to students how previewing is like watching a movie in Previewing and Picture Walks with Fiction Texts:
Shari Frost and her colleagues have many creative strategies for teaching with wordless picture books in Worth a Thousand Words:
The Literacy Shed is a treasure trove of films and images for use in minilessons:

Last chance to register for the online course Designing Primary Writing Units with the Common Core in Mind instructed by Katie DiCesare, which runs December 3-14. The course includes three on-demand webinars, a DVD, print resources, and personal response from Katie. Click on the link below for more details:
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

This article draws some interesting conclusions. Take a look and see what you think. Enjoy! Coutesy of ASCDSmartBrief

Report analyzes independent-reading selections
Students generally do not select challenging nonfiction for independent reading, according to a recent report. While students' selection of nonfiction has increased by 5%, the number still is below recommendations in the Common Core State Standards. The Christian Science Monitor (11/18)
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Friday, November 7, 2014

This is a review of 250 studies and the indications for the instruction based on the following conclusions: spending more time writing, writing using a computer and relying less on traditional grammar lessons. This is a ground breaking study. Please take the time to review. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

Analysis reveals effective practices for writing instruction
Word-processing software may help improve students' writing quality, according to a recent review of about 250 studies on writing instruction. Researchers identified three instructional practices -- spending more time writing, writing using a computer and relying less on traditional grammar lessons -- that they say could help improve writing instruction. The Hechinger Report/Education by the Numbers blog (10/27)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Here are some great articles on the use of short nonfiction texts. Enjoy!!!

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
November 1, 2014 - Issue #406

Short and Smart 
It is with words as with sunbeams, the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.
                                           Robert Southey
I remember Don Murray's favorite apology when passing out a long draft for others to read was "Sorry -- I didn't have time to write it short so I wrote it long." Don believed writers honored their audiences by distilling ideas down to their essence. For him, the best writing was always the most succinct -- the fewest carefully chosen words in just the right order.
Don didn't live to see the days of Twitter, but I think he would have loved the challenge of saying something of value in 140 characters or less. It's not surprising that Twitter flourishes, even though writing length is not an issue on the web. Blog posts can go on and on -- no dead trees to worry about. Yet it seems intrinsic to human nature to appreciate economy -- there is beauty in the barrista who moves so quickly and efficiently to craft a delicious espresso or swirl a heart on the surface of a latte, with not one wasted movement.
It's easy to view short text as easy reading, a way to differentiate instruction for learners who can't handle longer tomes. But the best short texts (like poetry) present whole worlds in words. They are challenging precisely because they are so precise -- they show students the power of rereading, the possibilities of inferring, and the importance of punctuation when it's framing spare text.
This week we look at using short nonfiction texts in instruction. 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:
Here are two features from the archives with creative ideas for using short nonfiction texts.
Mary Lee Hahn has advice for Making the Most of Short Texts:
In Sticky Little Invention, Jill Ostrow encourages student responses that will fit only on a post-it, with powerful results:
The ultimate short text is a poem. Tanya Baker from the National Writing Project talks with Shirl McPhillips about teaching poetry and her new book, Poem Central:

The new online course Supporting Teachers in Writing Workshops: A Course for Literacy Coaches with Ruth Ayres runs November 7-18. The focus is on conferring, recordkeeping, and helping teachers at their point of need. Click on the link below for more details:
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Monday, October 6, 2014

Hre is a great post on the shift that the CCSS is making in literacy instruction. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

A reading strategy to compel, move students with text
Rather than viewing information in textbooks as "evidence," Mia Hood, an assistant professor of practice at the Relay Graduate School of Education in New York City, suggests a strategy that will enable students to better connect with the information. "Let's teach them to read for real and relevant purposes and also to return to the text to search for evidence when they must," she writes. "Let's teach them not only to use text as evidence to support claims, but also to let the text move, teach, frustrate, confuse, and compel them." Education Week (tiered subscription model) (10/1)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Here are some great resources, provided by teachers on close reading for a variety of materials. This is well worth the read. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

Message View

Close Reading with Teens and Tweens
From:Brenda Power/Choice Literacy <>
To:Darlene Bassett <>
Date:Sat, Sep 27, 2014 1:08 am

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
September 27, 2014 - Issue #401

Walk and Talk 
Walking is good for solving problems -- it's like the feet are little psychiatrists.
                                                                 Terri Guillemets 
I've been reading lately about the craze of counting steps, and it's likely only to get crazier now that Apple has announced a watch with all manner of physical tracking. It seems like every other person I meet these days is wearing a wristband tracking their progress towards the daily "10,000."  Although there is no doubt that walking is great for physical fitness, it may do even more for lifting the spirits and sparking new thinking after sitting inside for hours.
One of my favorite ways to break routine with students and colleagues in the fall has always been a "walk and talk." The activity couldn't be simpler. A brief article, issue, or idea is shared in the classroom, and then we pair up and go outside to walk and enjoy the sunshine while the partners discuss a focus question based on the reading or topic. After 20 minutes, everyone comes back to share insights and next steps.
Even someone on crutches appreciates the chance to amble outside and sit on a bench, soaking up vitamin D while chatting with a co-worker. Students have the opportunity to get their wiggles out, and often that leads to a surprisingly high level of focus on the task at hand.
If it's a sunny day and you want to bring instant joy and appreciation to your agenda, schedule an impromptu walk and talk as part of a meeting or literacy workshop.  Nothing slows down the fast pace of life more than a walk and talk.
This week we look at close reading. 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:
Gretchen Shroeder reinvents a classic high school assignment when she has her students do a close reading of Hamlet:
Nancy Boyer from ASCD provides a basic primer of strategies and research in Closing in on Close Reading:
This Prezi from Kevin Hodgson on the fundamentals of close reading is concise and includes embedded video. It might be especially helpful for teachers who are visual learners:
This video from the Teaching Channel explains thinking notes, a strategy that encourages close reading in high school:
We have three professional development offerings in October. Our live event, Coaching the Common Core, is at the beautiful Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine on October 18-19. The online courses are Franki Sibberson presenting The Tech-Savvy Literacy Teacher October 1-12 and Making Assessments Work for You with Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan from October 15-26.  The online courses include three on-demand webinars, a DVD, book, and personal responses from the instructors tailored to your needs on the class discussion board. Click on the link below for more details:
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Sunday, September 21, 2014

This is an old but recurring argument. The challenge is always how do we engage students who come from such diverse backgrounds. Well worth the read. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

What limits should be placed on assigned reading lists?
A Delaware school board's decision to remove a contemporary coming-of-age novel from the freshman reading list has sparked debate. Some say the action amounts to censorship. Others disagree, noting that the book still is available in the school library if students want to check it out. The Atlantic online (9/5)Bookmark and Share

Here are some ideas - written by a teacher - for using technology to teach grammar - creating a blended classroom. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Educator highlights ways to use technology to teach grammar, writing
In this blog post, educator Troy Hicks describes how he incorporates technology into a writing lesson on sentence combining. He includes examples and links of his and his students' use of screencasting and audio-recording tools to highlight their thinking processes as they experimented with grammar and structure in this exercise. MiddleWeb (9/3)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Here is a great article on the use and interpretation of rubrics. I would like to suggest teachers think about standardizing the use across grade levels and content regarding ELA. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

Why teachers should be on the same page when using rubrics
Rubrics become more effective in evaluating students' work when all teachers understand them and use them in the same way, educator Renee Boss writes in this blog. She highlights the process of the EQuIP Review Panel, on which she serves, and how educators work through differences of interpretation to reach a consensus on the use of a rubric. Teaching Channel/Tchers' Voice blog (8/28)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Here are some more great articles from Choice Literacy. We need to keep in mind that reading logs help students process their understandings. Teachers are often overwhelmed by the idea of reading logs, thinking they need to respond to every entry. I encourage teachers to have students share with one another and comment as well. It is a great way to create community as well as practice collaboration. Enjoy. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
September 6, 2014 - Issue #398

Clark Walking

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.
                                               Stacia Tauscher 
My son is almost 16 months old, and he can't -- or won't -- walk.
I protest to my husband, my mother, my friends, our pediatrician, my son's teachers:
He's been cruising for months!
He pushes his high chair all around the kitchen!  In fact, he can turn anything into a walker and push it around the kitchen!
He can hold big toys above his head while he shakes his hips... oh, and cackles! He taunts me!
He can stand and climb up and down the stairs!
And, in the ultimate bad mom move, I compare: His SISTER had been walking for four months by now.
It just makes no sense.
I tell his teachers, "So, I know if they walk for the first time at school, you won't tell us, right? Because you want us to think their first time is at home?"
They smile at me."No, we won't tell you, unless you ask us to." I nod vigorously. "He's so strong, though -- we aren't worried."
"Well," says one teacher, Ms. Stephanie, "he hasn't walked yet, but the closest he's gotten is holding these two trucks." She gestures to two large plastic trucks with handles on top (these women truly are angels). "He pushes himself along like this," she demonstrates. Bless her heart. "Maybe you could try that at home."  Another strategy in my toolkit. Perfect. We've got this.
Later that evening at big sister Zoe's swim lessons, Clark and I sit together in a curved plastic chair, watching through the observation window as Zoe ducks her head underwater and screeches with delight as she surfaces.  Next to Clark and me, two young boys toddle gleefully around the towering legs of their parents, and I get the fleeting, annoying question in my head again: Will Clark ever do that?
As if on cue, my warm, squishy little boy sighs deeply and tucks his fuzzy head under my chin, curling his knees to his chest and burrowing as closely in to my body as possible.  Oh little man, I think. You are perfect just the way you are, aren't you? I wrap my arms the rest of the way around his soft belly and squeeze his thick baby feet, and he giggles.
My son is almost 16 months old, and he can't -- or won't -- walk. Yet.
I hate myself for leading with that.  
I hate that too often my mind leads with that when it comes to "growing" my learners at school.  True, there are developmental benchmarks that every child should reach: at 18 months, my pediatrician will take a closer look at Clark's walking.  At third grade, we want all students to be reading.  At seventh grade, we want to make sure that all of our readers have the chops to conquer rigorous academic texts.
My reminder that day at the pool was that even in races against time, when there are strategies to be deployed, causes to uncover, and trucks to be walked with, there are celebrations, too.  Right now, at home my hesitant walker loves to snuggle.  At school, my rigorous text struggler can't put down the Percy Jackson series she's read three times.
With both my kids at home and the kids I get for seven hours each day in school, I need to be like Ms. Stephanie: keep calm, stay focused, and remember that every child is on a journey to celebrate.
This week we reconsider the use of reading logs in classrooms. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Gretchen Taylor
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Gretchen Taylor has worked as a middle school teacher for the Dublin (Ohio) City Schools, and a teacher-scholar in the National Writing Project. She currently works as a literacy coach in the district.


Free for All

[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Melissa Styger changes the way her third graders respond to read aloud in Eliminating Notebook Clutter:

Are reading logs boring? Cornerstone for Teachers lists many alternative ways to hold students accountable for home reading:
Here are 10 technology-enhanced alternatives to book reports:
Jennifer Allen's Literacy Coach Jumpstart online course runs September 17-28 and includes three on-demand webinars, the Layered Coaching DVD, Jen's book Becoming a Literacy Leader, and personal response from Jen tailored to your needs on the class discussion board. Click on the link below for more details:
Inspiring learning, fabulous presenters, unique materials, and delicious food, all on the ocean at the beautiful Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine. What's not to like? Join us October 18-19 for Coaching the Common Core. Details and a brochure with a full description are available at this link:
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

This is a very creative - doable idea for composition. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief!

Ky. elementary school uses Twitter in classroom lessons
A Kentucky elementary school is embracing Twitter as an instructional tool, with students composing tweets that will be compiled into stories and maintaining protected Twitter feeds. In addition to using the social media site for academic purposes, educators say they also are teaching students what they should -- and should not -- post online. The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.) (tiered subscription model) (8/4)Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 18, 2014

This is an important study. Students are coming in with lower anguage nation wide. It is important for teachers to help students catch up early on. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

Study highlights language-development benefits of inclusion
A study of 670 Ohio preschoolers found that students with disabilities gain significant language skills when they learn alongside peers without disabilities who have strong language skills. Data show some students' skills improved by almost 40% when interacting with the most highly skilled peers. (7/29)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I have begun reading this book and think it is great. It is available on Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

Read, Write, Lead: Breakthrough Strategies for Schoolwide Literacy Success

n her new ASCD book, mentor teacher and instructional coach Regie Routman shares proven methods on how teachers and principals can ensure effective literacy instruction for all K–12 students, including second-language and struggling learners. Routman shares best practices for teaching reading and writing skills that reduce the need for intervention, offers tips on giving productive feedback to accelerate student and teacher learning, and provides a foundation for building professional literacy communities that help educators create sustainable school change. Learn more. Pick up your copy.Bookmark and Share

Sunday, July 20, 2014

This is a great - enjoyable way to learn. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief

Authentic learning through real-time Twitter chats
Once a week, students in New Zealand participate in Kidsedchatnz, a teacher-moderated Twitter discussion of various topics that leads to authentic learning for students, teacher Stephen Baker writes in this blog post. Baker also includes tips for establishing schoolwide Twitter chats, including setting up a blog to post topics and questions, and designating student experts who can help their peers with the tweeting. Media blog (7/10)

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