Thursday, April 20, 2017

Learning Visually: Resources for Secondary Coaches


Carrie Sand contributed this post. Click here for more of Carrie's thinking and writing.

As a typical literacy coach, I tend to know and follow the “rockstars” of our discipline. Regularly dropping first names of these reading celebrities into conversations, one would think that I’ve been friends with these people for years. So imagine my discomfort when my library media specialist asked me to attend the annual WEMTA (Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association) conference, and I opened my conference program to discover I didn’t recognize a single presenter’s name! In fact, other than the brief descriptions, I found myself relying on the oohs and ahhs of my library media specialist to direct me to the best sessions. Luckily, she know the rockstars of her discipline, too, because I was fortunate to attend a session led by Diana Laufenberg.


Laufenberg’s session focused on the power of learning visually. Scouring digital resources, she curates infographics that are mindblowing! As she was sharing her resources, I immediately began thinking about the complex reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills associated with implementing any of the resources she was sharing. I was also thinking about how visual texts can be an entry point to extremely complex thinking for all students. Finally, I imagined how these technology resources could be really motivating and engaging for both teachers and students, especially at the secondary level. Each resource made me more and more excited to get back to my district and talk about these ideas with teachers. I am still excited to think about how a coaching cycle could be built around just one of these infographics!


Check out all of  Diana Laufenberg’s resources on Learning Visually here: https://laufenberg.wordpress.com/keynotespresentations/learning-visually/

In my opinion, the “The History of the Two Party Vote” and “The Gettysburg Address” are not to be missed, but the resources on the website are almost endless. My only word of warning is be prepared to lose some time in link after link!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Literacy Essential Practice Guides


In Read, Write, Lead (ASCD, 2014), Regie Routman advocates for a school's articulation of shared beliefs in reading and writing. 

However, belief statements are broad, philosophical, and sometimes value-based. These statements alone will not improve student learning. We must take classroom-level actions based that align with our belief statements.

The The Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators recently formed an early literacy task force who drafted "Essential Instructional Practices" guides for prekindergarten and kindergarten to grade 3. (Nell Duke explains more in a blog post for the International Literacy Association.)



You might also be interested in What Works Clearinghouse's Educator's Practice Guide about reading foundational skills.

How do these practices align with your belief statements?
How do these practices align with your current practices?


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Study Groups with Jennifer Allen

Julie Schwartzbauer contributed this post. Click here for more of Julie's thinking.


I recently attended a professional development with Jennifer Allen. Jennifer is a literacy coach and professional developer. You may be familiar with her book Becoming a Literacy Leader or A Sense of Belonging. Jennifer uses a layered coaching framework. At the workshop I attended, Jennifer focused on coaching through Study Groups. If you are not familiar with the term Study Groups, think Book Study.


Though Jennifer typically has four different study groups running from October - April, you may want to start with just one or two. Jennifer meets with each group once per month, for an hour at a time. Her study group budget includes the book, office supplies and food. Jennifer purchases fun office supplies as study group giveaways and everyone appreciates food.


During the study group, Jennifer uses a detailed protocol/agenda that encourages participants to move through the hour quickly and accomplish everything they set out to. She reminds us not to exhaust every idea. “Leave teachers wondering,” says Allen.


I have included the protocol for Study Groups below or click here.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ideas from Wisconsin's DPI




Who can teach reading? What does a district reading specialist do? What assessment of reading readiness can my school or district you? Your colleagues at Wisconsin DPI have the answers to these and other questions related to reading and the law.

Ready-to-use classroom resources collected or created by Wisconsin educators for all content area in WISELearn Resources


Guidance for implementing Wisconsin's criteria for making an initial specific learning disability (SLD) eligibility decision

Updates on Elementary and Secondary Education Act (most currently reauthorized as Every Student Succedds Act or ESSA) in Wisconsin


BONUS: Promoting Excellence for All
Online resources (including an eCourse) about closing racial achievement gaps from Wisconsin schools that are excelling at this work.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Anita Archer’s Sentence Frames

Maggie Schumacher contributed this post. Click here for more of Maggie's thinking and writing.

The following sentence frames were shared by Anita Archer at the RtI nnovations Conference in October, 2015. Anita Archer recommends the use of sentence frames as a way to give students a framework to support thinking and writing and to encourage the use of content vocabulary in writing. Sentence frames can also be used to provide scaffolding for academic language; teachers can post academic language starters in an anchor chart for students to see when having academic conversations in class.

Click here to access a template with many sentence frames.

To implement sentence frames, you first develop a frame for the type of writing you’re asking your students to complete (see examples attached). After you have the frame, you model how to use the sentence frame with your students; after, students will use sentence frames to construct their own writing. This scaffold can be very helpful for students who struggle with basic writing skills and structure. Over time, as students become stronger writers and internalize this type of academic language and structure, you would slowly fade the use of sentence frames during instruction until students can write independently.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What Are You Reading: April 2017

We start each month by sharing what we're reading - both for work and for fun. Join us by using the comments to share what you're reading. Click here for previous reading lists.


We seem to love Jason Reynolds around here. . . 

Lisa just finished All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiel.

Maggie just finished As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds. She says, "I've recently read this Jason Reynolds' book with our staff YA book club, and the title was a hit. Two brothers from Brooklyn, Genie and Ernie, are sent to spend their summer with their grandparents in the country in Virginia. Upon arrival, Genie learns that their grandfather, who he has only met once as a toddler, is blind. Genie's curiosity leads him to want to know everything about his grandfather's blindness. Over the course of their summer together, Genie, Ernie, and grandpa must discover what it means to be brave. If you liked All American Boys and Ghost, you'll love this too!"

Pax by Sara Pennypacker also seems to be a Lit Booth favorite. Heather read it recently, and Jaimie just picked it up.

Andrea just started Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.


Lisa recently finished Bluefish by Pat Schmatz.

Maggie is currently listening to King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard. She says, "This is the third in the Red Queen trilogy, and it has been exciting to work my way through this book as the red rebellion against the silvers escalates."

Carrie finished Noggin by John Corey Whaley. She says, "I've been recommending it to everyone I know!! Loved it."

Heather read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. She says, "Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, but one I did, I was hooked to know their story."  


Meghan just started Dumplin' (audio book version) by Julie Murphy.  She says, "I've heard so many good things and already one chapter in, I'm loving the tone and spirit of the main character!"

Meghan also said, "My children (ages 7, 5, and 4 months) and I are reading Listen! by Stephanie S. Tolan, a great book for any dog lovers. The main character is a 12 year old girl working through the loss of her mother, recovering from a car accident, and her best friend away for the summer.  She takes on the task of taming a stray dog.  Recommended reading age is grades 4-8, but my elementary age daughters and even my baby son are loving it as a read aloud!"

Andrea just finished Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. She describes it as an interesting combination of young adult issues entwined within a mystery.

Lisa just started I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak.


Barb's book club read Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. Set in NYC in 1977, the book is advertised as a story about Summer of Sam. It's really a story of a teenage girl who is the victim of domestic violence and is struggling to be an independent, Hispanic woman.

Maggie read The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin. She says, "This is the well-written account of 244 men from the segregated Navy base Port Chicago who refused to work until unsafe and unfair conditions at the docks were addressed. This came after July 1944, when an explosion at the Port Chicago base killed more than 300 soldiers. When all was said and done, 50 men were charged with mutiny. In the book, Sheinkin addresses the issues of prejudice that faced black men and women serving in the Armed Forces during World War II. Be sure to also check out Lincoln's Grave Robbers and Bomb."

The next book for Barb's book club is In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by  Joseph Marshall (Author) and James Mark Yellowhawk (Illustrator). The book club is focused on representation and diversity in young adult literature, and this text is focused on American Indians.

Maggie read The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud. She says, "In the second title in the Lockwood & Co. series, the frightening and macabre ghost-hunting adventures continue for Lucy, Anthony, and George as they continue to work to fight "The Problem" (the dead having risen to walk among the living) in London. If you haven't read The Screaming Staircase, be sure to start there!"


Barb is listening to Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. It's a memoir about Noah's time growing up in South African with a black mother and a white father. She says, "I've learned so much about apartheid!" 

Heather is reading Season of the Witch by David Talbot. She says, "My husband and I are going to San Francisco for the Summer of Love 50th anniversary.  This book is giving me insight to the 60s in San Fran."

Heather and Lisa both read Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf. Heather says, "This is about a man who wants to become a samurai. There are short stories throughout the book that are great life lessons.  The book is about 100 pages and a quick read. Oshkosh North High School's baseball team all read this book, because of the great lessons.  I highly recommend this book!"

Heather is also reading Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly. She says, "This book was handed out at my church. I try to read a chapter a day. There are thoughts at the end of each chapter to think about."    


Barb really wants to start Mem Fox's Radical Reflections. She says, "I was unexpectedly inspired and enamored with Mem Fox's presentations at WSRA's convention. I'm hoping to bring back some of my motivation by reading this book."

Jaimie is reading Visible Learning for Literacy: Implementing the Practices that Work Best to Accelerate Student Learning by John Hattie, Douglas Fisher, and Nancy Frey. The book, based on John Hattie's research, is introduced in a webinar.

Julie is reading Every Young Child a Reader: Using Marie Clay's Key Concepts for Classroom (Language and Literacy) Sharan A. Gibson. This book is geared towards K-2 classroom teachers and is based on Marie Clay's literacy processing theory.

Heather is reading Reading Nonfiction by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst. She says, "How have I not read this book yet? Looking forward to seeing the nonfiction signposts."



Meghan says, "I'm still reading Better Conversations by Jim Knight in a book club with other instructional coaches and this book is really impacting me, both personally and professionally.  I would like to do a building-wide book club with leaders from various areas (administration, literacy, PBIS, technology) at our middle school next year."

Meghan just finished The Book Whisperer (audio book version) by Donalyn Miller. She says, "Very inspiring and totally helped me get back to sharing the joy of reading with the teachers I work with."

Andrea is reading A Principal's Guide to Leadership in the Teaching of Writing by Lucy Calkins and Laurie Pessah. She says, "I just started it and although it is designed as a type of leadership calendar, it really digs deep into the process of reform over time.  I like the layout of the chapters aligning to months of the year.  Luckily chapter one begins with the steps and thinking an instructional leader needs to do in March which is "Prioritizing Writing Instruction in your School."  April is "Research and Planning" which aligns to everything we are currently trying to put in place as we roll out our initial implementation of the Lucy Calkins Writing Units of Study next year."



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Instruction & Literacy Tip #2 - Visual Literacy

Meghan Retallick contributed this post. Meghan sends a weekly "Instruction & Literacy Tip" to her staff. Click here for more "Instruction & Literacy Tips". Click here for all of Meghan's Literacy Booth posts.

This is a continuation of my new way to connect with staff in my district.  Each week, I'm sending out an email with tips for best practices in instruction and literacy.  This week I've been thinking a lot about how students analyze images.  A report from NPR detailed recent research on students' ability to assess information sources.  The researchers at Stanford's Graduate School of Education "described the results as 'dismaying,' 'bleak' and '[a] threat to democracy.'"  See the full article and/or 5 minute podcast detailing their research here.
Two findings from the study caught my eye:

  • Most middle school students can't tell native ads from articles.
  • Most high school students accept photographs as presented, without verifying them.
So what do we do?  This site might be a good start for holding conversations to analyze images with our middle and high school students.
On Monday of each week, a picture without a caption is posted on the website.  Students follow this protocol to participate in the conversation:
1.  After looking closely at the image, students think about these three questions:

  • What is going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can you find?
2.  Next, students can join the conversation by commenting on the website (or you could discuss as a class and post one comment).

3.  After students have posted, they can try reading back to see what others have said, and then respond to someone else by posting another comment.

4.  Each Monday, the site's collaborator, Visual Thinking Strategies, will facilitate a discussion from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern time by paraphrasing comments and linking to responses to help students’ understanding go deeper.

5.  On Thursday afternoons, the site will reveal at the bottom of the post more information about the photo. How does reading the caption and learning its back story help the students see the image differently?

Utilizing this resource on a regular basis will improve student analysis of visuals and inspire critical thinking and discussion skills.  What else do you do with staff and students to improve student's visual literacy skills?