Thursday, November 20, 2014

Webinar Notes

Six of us watched a webinar this afternoon.  The subject was Close Reading in K-5 Classrooms and was part of the series which the folks at CDLN are presenting throughout this school year.  Though the topic of close reading is well known and many of the procedures are familiar to us and practiced in our teaching,  we all agreed it was a worthwhile session. Good reminders and good review.  ANNNNNNND, I found some terrific sources for texts!  See below.   Here are a few webinar highlights:

Choose a close reading passage with the utmost care as it's generally a lesson spanning a couple of lessons.  This is a passage you consider worth the time and hard work of close reading:  a great speech, a classic poem, an important science article, etc.

 Your procedure may look like this

1. Day One:   Access Prior Knowledge ( KWL, kids list what they know, vocabulary activity…)
2. Day Two:  Diffuse the text for that Tier 2 and 3 vocabulary.  This is where marking the text with stickies, highlighting, Post It Arrows, etc.
3. Day Three: Do a shared reading.  Have your students jot down on a Stickie the gist of the passage…main idea.  Place these near each paragraph… the passage is projected.
4. Day Four:  Students read independently and complete a task which asks a text- dependent question.  Or provide a graphic organizer asking students to identify key details in each paragraph.  Another activity might be a Group Discussion where you can prepare a series of Blooms questions for whole group conversation.  We are reading about how conversation fosters so much meaning.

After the Webinar ended,  we were asked to complete an assignment by the 2nd Webinar in this series  and that is to choose a close reading text and plan a series of lessons with various literacy strategies which would provide all students access to the deep meaning within.

Hey, have you seen these text recommendations for rigorous and worthwhile ones for a close read?

or you might really love these text sources for close reads:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Are Your Kiddos Writing Stories?

One of my favorite graphic organizers for before writing OR during writing when they may hit a wall and lose the pace or direction.  This is on our 8th grade blog.   Check it out:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Different Strokes for Different Folks

I had a terrific opportunity to study differentiation for an 8 week period while working on my Masters.  It remains a key consideration in my planning because I came to understand the hallmarks of a differentiated classroom and it made sense.  They say that the proof is in the pudding and I say amen to that too.  I saw the results with the students I began to differentiate for.  In a nutshell, we know the basic reasons to differentiate boil down to 3:

1.  Learning styles
2.  Readiness levels
3.  Varied Interests

I know some students have been more successful and engaged when I've designed a lesson or assessment and included at least one of the hallmarks of the big D.  One of my favorite tools is a Choice Board. I love this Wiki I am sharing with you and return to again and again.  It may not appear that way, but each link in the left margin will lead you to loads of materials developed by teachers!  Click on the  Choice Boards.   I hope to work with you all in experimenting and creating a Choice Board for one of your  units.  Check out my favorite wiki:  


Have you used these before?  Do you think a work session I facilitate would be useful to you?  Please leave a Comment below if you have any comments or questions.  Let us share how we are using differentiation tools!  Please share if you find a useful tool on the wiki too.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I will not bore you with the details but...

… our first Literacy Team meeting led to a few goals for the HGS school year  2014-15.   Stay tuned!  Hint Hint:  Technology and Literacy came up a lot!


I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to share a few insights about what literacy means to a few of us... made by team members.

"That moment when kids say with confidence, "I can read!"   - Megan Smith

"Literacy is the foundation of knowledge and skills."   -Carol Morrison

"A book a day keeps boredom away."   -Carol Morrison

"When your biggest dilemma some day is which book to read!"   - Colleen Thomas

'My work is about helping those children who are missing the skills to make meaning." - Kathy McGlinchey

Monday, May 26, 2014

Myths and Fairy Tales About Independent Reading in ELA

What does an effective independent reading program look like?  Is there strong research to support it?  Do young readers just choose any old book they like and it's okay for their reading time and thinking?  What are "just right" books for young readers?  What do readers do before, during, and after reading a self-selected book?

These are a few key topics around the discussions of effective independent reading instruction.  Far too many folks have misinformation or a misunderstanding;  the former is a bit of a concern for many of us who have launched independent reading programs within their ELA curriculums but hear about colleagues and parents who think it just a D.E.A.R. program…a throwback from the 1970's.  A good program takes time to tweak and bring to full maturity.  My own IR is still a work in progress too.

ELA folks who have studied Nancie Atwell and Donalyn Miller's work with reading will no doubt understand the knowledge, talent, effort and commitment it takes to bring a "mature" independent reading approach to ELA instruction.  Offering students opportunities to read and read like crazy takes much behind the scenes preparation.  First, and foremost, is a passion to read young adult literature and keep ones self in the know about contemporary literature, particularly the literature which changes lives.  Communicating with readers runs a close second, and offering students multiple opportunities to write about and talk about the books they're reading is a hot third.  A great deal of celebrating goes on in IR, Book Talks, record keeping, reflection, sharing, blogging, letter writing, cajoling, patience, and more.

More goes on than meets the eye during an Independent Reading session.  For more thinking about this topic, please check out this article which provides a basic framework as well as the current research to support it…Independent Reading- The reading & Writing Project.

If you're considering launching an IR program, you should be commended.  Find a mentor, build that library, follow some good blogs, and for heavens sake, you won't be sorry to have read the best book on the planet about reading and books:  The Book Whisperer.  This book, as one blogger put it, is like striking gold!

-views of a Middle School ELA IR Teaching Nut!

Friday, May 23, 2014

One Stop Shopping

Are your students reading informational text next week?

I try to include a Close Reading strategy for my students to practice at least once a week?  Today I modified this one to fit an entry in novel they're reading.  I thought you might find this helpful.  I think it outlines the process for close reading clearly and simply, and grades k-8 could work with it.  I like that.  Students are provided with the formative assessment questions for an article they read at the end of the sheet.  How cool is that?  One stop shopping!

 Aaaaand, OMG, have you seen this k-8 resource for articles?  Holy Hanna!

I wish you a wonderful long weekend.

Memorial Day Parade in Ellsworth

Friday, May 16, 2014

Has it really been 6 years????

Yesterday afternoon several members of the HGS Literacy Team met.  Our mission was to complete an "exit" survey for MCLP folks. They asked us to look back over the last 6 years we have been working with them.  Have our students changed? Has our instruction changed?  What gains have we seen in this work we have done?  Is there a visible change in how we teach content?  How will we continue to stay current with best practices in literacy?  The following insights were shared during our reflection.  Please feel free to add Comments and share your insights.

  • The book talks have been helpful in staying current with content literacy.
  • The desire exists to continue learning, sharing, and growing in our work with literacy.
  • How will we keep this a top priority?
  • Speaking a common language of literacy on our teams has been positive.
  • Some teachers believe they have become better reading teachers.
  • It's evident that the teaching of reading and writing is evident in our classrooms.
  • Coaching has been helpful
  • Sharing strategies on the blog have been helpful reminders about the many ways we can support kids with literacy.
  • Sometime we want to look at information text in our assessment scores and see the trend since our work with MCLP.
  • We like the times we celebrate reading successes. WE want to look at more ways to celebrate.
What do you think?

Monday, May 12, 2014


While planning my lessons, I have been using Bloom's Taxonomy and various visual layouts of it to help me plan for questioning.  Okay, I understand the flip charts we were given are a handy resource for this but honestly, I am a visual learner so I've had my eyes peeled for the perfect BT poster.  Haven't found a poster version but found this handy online tool.

I am teaching my 7th grade students how to understand and write a variety of questions for their discussion groups.  Check out this neat online tool!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Wow! This site is worth a close read!!

Corbett Harrison has inspired my teaching more than once.  Some of you may know him from  I receive emails and updates from him at least once a month and am about to share some news with you.

Vocabulary has been a focus this year at HGS for our work with literacy.  Those of you who had a chance to attend either of the sessions I led on CODE will remember that I shared this reminder: our kids don't need to study volumes of vocabulary words, but instead they need to delve deeply into the words they're hearing and seeing...the "D" in CODE.

Harrison is a teacher and I am soooo going to use one of his ideas next year...all year.  I invite you to as well.  Here is a link to his ideas about students collecting and delving deeply into the words they collect.  His site is a bit busy but WOW!  It's worth a close read!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

1.  All of the Core Six Strategies:

2.   The text of The Core Six:
(chapter 2 focuses on the compare and contrast strategy)

Grade 7 Compare/Contrast:  Writing Prompt Followed:  Quickwrite all you know  and understand about effective delivery of a speech.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Goldmine of Resources

I am working with IT for a cost free use of this site.  Stay tuned.

Click here for testimonials from teachers who use the Tumbleweed Book Library

Click here for  K-3  Resources.

Click here for 3-5 Resources.

Click here for Teen Resources.

Books, Movies, Music and More!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Teaching Strategy for Vocabulary

Remember our workshop on C.O.D.E.?  I found a Pin for the E.  If you have dice, you and your kids will love this one!  Might be neat to ask the kiddos to share their experiences after the game!


  • Connecting with new words.
  • Organizing new words into meaningful categories.
  • Deep-processing the most important concepts and terms.
  • Exercising the mind through strategic review and practice.
  • Tuesday, February 11, 2014

    Student Motivation

    I'll keep you posted on something I am going to try in my lesson planning this week which may have the effect I am praying for...more engagement!  If you find an idea in this article or another tried and true, would you post here and share?  Let's get a discussion going!!

    Nearly every day I think about those students in my class who do not engage in reading and writing activities.  I believe we all long to see all of our students thrive during classroom experiences.  These winter days can bring about a lethargy too.  I have students who just do not want to do some activities I ask them to do.  It leaves me asking the question:  What can I do to spark motivation?  What is the darn reason I am getting attitude?  Why in the world would they not want to do this awesome activity I've planned????

    I found this article which gave me a couple of ideas to spark motivation, one idea of which I am trying out today....a more hand's on approach with a dash of social interaction.

    Tuesday, January 28, 2014

    Lit Moment of the Week

    This strategy is used widely and one of my I have not used for a while for some reason.  So many literacy tools, so little time.

    The folks at Engage NY are putting out some of the most highly regarded resources for teaching and learning.  Wick good stuff.  Here is a tool we have in our Thinkquiry books as well but this PDF is handy.