Can You Imagine?

Imagine a world where you couldn’t read the signs as you drove passed them on the street. A world where you couldn’t read the menu at your favorite restaurant. A world where you couldn’t read or send a simple text message to your friends and family. This is the type of world that we, as educators, are responsible for ensuring doesn’t happen for our students. We are the main resource for our students to be able to successfully decode and comprehend the material that we put in front of them. The statistics in this video are semi mind blowing to me. In a low-income area, there is 1 book for every 300 kiddos vs. 13 books (or more) PER CHILD in a high-income household. This reminded me of a project that some of the extension teachers put on at our school this past spring. All children that were in the intervention program were able to go “book shopping” before summer and take about 10 books home with them. There were everything from used books, donated books to brand new books bought for the kiddos. The smiles on their faces when they came back into my classroom with their bag full of books was incredible. It is our job as teachers to ensure that ALL students have books in their hands as often as possible. I was in another elementary school recently as well and I saw a “Take a Book, Leave a Book” book shelf! I am going to bring this idea to my school librarian and see if we can get something like this started in the library or in our school’s welcome center! What an awesome way to spread the love of literacy!

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Professional Development Video Options

Here are a few videos to use during a literacy PD presentation! I am a huge TED Talk fan! The video below can be used before presenting a PD on Interactive Read Alouds or just simply the importance of reading to kids. It might also be used when talking to parents about the importance of reading to children.

 

The video below would be great to show staff before teaching the I DO, WE DO , YOU DO model. This lesson is a great lay out for modeling a productive and successful comprehension mini lesson. She uses an engaging hook and the students are interactively involved in the lesson throughout. I always find it helpful to observe and watch other teachers and this would be a great way to share an engaging lesson with other teachers.

Enjoy! 🙂

Top 10 Best Websites for Literacy Leaders

Below are a few resources that are useful and essential in any literacy classroom! Some of these I use daily during the school year and others I recently found when I began this post!

Florida Center for Reading Research– http://www.fcrr.org/index.shtml

I have been using this website for a few years now! It has easy “grab and go” activities and resources that I include in my guided reading binder. I use things such as fluency enhancing activities, sight word games, etc.

EPIC! https://www.getepic.com

There is not a day in my classroom where I do not use Epic with my students! They have everything from fiction to non-fiction and educational videos and games to use with my mini lessons. Whether it is a planned lesson or an “on the fly” read aloud, EPIC is just the place to find the perfect interactive read aloud for the SMARTboard!

Read Works– www.readworks.org

Read works is created to meet the needs of a wide range of reading skill levels. You can chose the topic, genre and skill level of the text you are searching for.

University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learning – http://reading.uoregon.edu/

EduHound – http://www.eduhound.com/

The Reading Corner – http://www.carr.org/read/

RAZ Kids https://www.raz-kids.com/ 

RAZ kids is a hit in my classroom! We use it daily during our Daily 5 rounds and the students are able to read, listen and answer questions at their own pace. It automatically moves them to the next level once they passed all of the books at their given level.

Reading A- Z https://www.readinga-z.com/

This website is where RAZ originates from. There are a variety of resources that are ready to go and use for teachers with students of all skill levels. You can print out mini books or project a story on the board to use with a specific phonics pattern.

Scholastic Scholastic.com

Scholastic is the KING of all educational and literacy websites. This website houses a wide variety of resources for teachers, students and families to use to get kids engaged in reading!

Tween Tribune https://www.tweentribune.com/

News ELA https://newsela.com/

Tween Tribune and NEWSLEA are both great websites to use in the classroom to get students engaged in reading about the most current events. It can can be utilized for things such as close reading and also used as an option for independent choice time for the upper grade levels.

Top 10 Books Every Literacy Leader MUST Have!

In this post, I will be providing a list of 10 literacy resources and books that I have either used, read about or been suggested to read as I pursue my graduate literacy licensure!

Some of these resources I have used myself while others I have just recently stumbled upon while researching for more resources. Some of these texts are hands on for teachers working with students in reading and others are more directed for HOW to be a successful and productive leader in any given school. I used a combination of both because you cannot be a coach without having both the content AND the interpersonal relationship skills along with it in being a leader.

1. Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction by Jim Knight 

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This book is written by Jim Knight and involves professional development strategies that “facilitates change, improves instruction, and transforms school culture”. This book provides assistance and encouragement for coaches to implement school improvement programs. Jim Knight is an experienced trainer and researcher and gives us the “nuts and bolts” of instructional coaching. He also and gives us the essential skills that instructional coaches need (ex: getting teachers on board, model lessons, and engaging in reflective conversations, etc.)

2. Fountas and Pinnell BAS Kits

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This assessment is a HUGE new hit at my current building. We are required to assess our students before we send them to the next grade level. This keeps a cohesive and consistent track of student’s reading growth and success. The BAS kit is used “to determine student’s independent and instructional reading levels, teachers are able to observe student reading behaviors one-on-one, engage in comprehension conversations that go beyond retelling, and make informed decisions that connect assessment to instruction”. This assessment allows the teacher to not only find the level that a student is reading at, but also diagnose the deeper meaning of why they are at their level and what strategies they need individualized instruction on.

3.The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo

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This book is a great for any classroom teacher that pairs with a variety of curriculums and assessments.  This book focuses on a variety of reading strategies that can used in any grade level along with teaching strategies for whole group and small groups.

4. The Writing Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo

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Similar to the book listed above, this book is also great for any classroom teacher that pairs with a wide variety of curriculums and assessments.  This book focuses on multiple writing strategies from mini lessons and workshop style to independent practice.

5. Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction by Jim Knight

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This book, written by Jim Knight, is an addition to his first book to improve instruction in a school setting. He expands on the process for becoming an impact school through targeted, consistent professional learning that is done with teachers, not to teachers.

6. Differentiated Coaching: A Framework for Helping Teachers Change by Jane A. G. Kise

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This book is basically a coaching model based on teachers’ learning styles and learning how how those teaching styles can impact, positively or negatively, student success. This book was written in order to help teachers understand how their strengths and beliefs may “lock them into practices that can limit student success”.

7. Student-Centered Coaching: A Guide for Principals and Coaches by Diane Sweeney

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This text is all about school-based coaching that can be designed to directly impact student learning. This main focus of this book is shifting the focus from “fixing” teachers to collaborating with them. The text also explains how to design instruction that targets achievement and provides specific practices for leading a student-centered coaching effort.

8 The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson

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This book helps teachers meet the diverse reading needs of students and also gives some structure and a variety of tools for a successful guided reading group. Richardson has identified the essential components of an effective guided reading lesson: targeted assessments, data analysis that pinpoints specific strategies students need, and the use of guided writing to support the reading process.

9. The Guided Reading Teacher’s Companion by Jan Richardson

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This flip-chart guide allows teachers to find prompts, discussion starters, and teaching points to use with students to process more effectively, think more deeply, and express their ideas more thoughtfully. It is a user friendly book to use conveniently while working with small groups. Teachers can use these tools as starting points for in-depth inquiry based on specific reading behaviors you’re noticing.

10. Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional Leadership for Excellence in Every Classroom by Robyn R. Jackson

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In this book Jackson presents a new model for understanding teaching as a combination of skill and will and explains the best ways to support individual teachers’ ongoing professional development. The book teachers coaches and leaders how to learn how to meet teachers where they are and help every one of them develop the mind-set and habits of master teachers. The book provides real-life examples, practical tools, and strategies for managing time and energy demands.

Hey, Little Ant!

As I was up north at my cabin this week for the 4th of July, I saw some ants crawling across the bricks near the campfire. These little creatures made me think of a story that I read to my first graders in order to teach the essential language arts comprehension standard of learning the point of view of characters. I started telling my family about this story and how I use authentic children’s literature to engage students in active reading strategies and comprehension skills. Reading aloud to my students is honestly my favorite part of teaching primary aged students. It is what my first and second grade teacher did so well that captivated and inspired me to want a classroom of my own someday. These types of children’s stories and pieces of authentic literature are specific ways that educators can get students excited about reading. The smile and spark that I get when I tell people about specific books I get to read to my students (even around a campfire in Northern Wisconsin… ) to teach literacy is exactly what will keep the fire alive to instill a love of life long literacy within my students! 🙂

Effective Educator PD- What does it look like?

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Professional development is the groundwork for keeping teachers informed of the most current and effective best teaching practices which allows all students in that building an equitable education. Lyons & Pinnell (2001), explain some of the characteristics of adults educators as learners in a professional setting. As a potential future literacy coach or guide, it will be important to engage my staff in the given topic. There are many things to consider and take account when presenting content to the staff. The listed questions below are direct criteria to use when considering the staff: What do they already know? What are their past experiences? Do you have a group of newer or veteran teachers? Will the things you are teaching them be helpful in their classrooms now? Are you meeting the expectations of the group? Is what you are doing worth their time?These are essential questions to present to staff, similar to questions we ask when we teach our students in the classroom setting. Lyons & Pinnell (2001) also discuss the Constructivist Principles of Teaching.

  • Encourage active participation.
  • Organize small-group discussions around common concerns.
  • Introduce new concepts in context.
  • Create a safe environment.
  • Develop teachers’ conceptual knowledge through conversation around shared experiences.
  • Provide opportunities for teachers to use what they know to construct new knowledge.
  • Look for shifts in teachers’ understanding over time.
  • Provide additional experiences for teachers who have not yet developed needed conceptual understanding.

Just like we provide successful and engaging mini lessons for our students, a meaningful and successful PD must be effectively planned and prepared for in order to engage and provide purposeful and essential information to all staff.

References:

Lyons, C. A., & Pinnell, G. S. (2001). Systems for change in literacy education: a guide to professional development. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

IRA

Interactive Read Alouds (IRA) are easily one of my favorite pieces to my literacy block in my first grade classroom!

Before I begin…

Watch this example!

From the IRA website, Linda Hoyt quotes, “When read-alouds are understood as powerful tools for teaching literary elements, building analytical ability, and addressing the standards, they can bring both joy and accelerated learning into the lives of our students.”

Interactive read alouds are a way that a teacher can make the most of read aloud time by using creative ways to use children’s literature to teach any grade level a specific standard along with building fluency and comprehension. Strategies include combining engaging guided conversations with reflective thinking for all learners at all skill levels. These lessons include strategic listening, speaking, reading and writing about text being read and allows all students to participate in the activities because the story is being read to them!

After I learned about this type of read aloud, I realized how valuable this time can be! Before I knew how to guide a successful IRA, I was using read alouds more as “time fillers” or just an extra daily activity. Now, I take advantage of each story I read by introducing new vocabulary, engaging students in conversations, and reflecting on specific comprehension strategies for all students involved! I also used to just pick a book up and start reading. The key component of an IRA is being INTENTIONAL. The teacher should read the story ahead of time to mark certain words to point out, places to pose questions and turn and talks along with any other interactive activities for students to engage in. I use sticky notes to note where I will be stopping within the story! This makes the IRA intentional and engaging!

I hope you try an IRA soon if you haven’t already!

Check out this link for more info! http://www.heinemann.com/interactivereadalouds/

Comprehensive Literacy Programs

flowchart 2 medium.pngWhat makes a comprehensive literacy program you might ask? Well, let’s dive right in and find the answer!

There are several essential components of a solid comprehensive literacy program. According to Irvin, Meltzer, & Dukes, (2007), “A school wide literacy action plan is an essential blueprint for improving student achievement. An effective plan requires the skillful use of data about student performance, literacy needs and expectations in the school and community, school capacity to support literacy development, current teaching practices, and effectiveness of the literacy program. To generate change, leaders must actively use a literacy action plan to guide decision making around instruction, programming, and resource allocation”. This quote is the foundation of what an effective school wide literacy plan obtains.

Just like we differentiate for every classroom of students, a literacy plan must be differentiated based on the needs and areas of concern for the students and staff at that particular school. The plan must start by assessing the major needs in the school. Every action plan must have goals that target literacy development (Irvin, Meltzer, & Dukes, 2007).

According to Irvin, Meltzer, & Dukes, (2007), an effective literacy action plan also allows all members of the school to understand the status, goals for the future, the actions to be taken to reach the goals, who is responsible, and how success will be measured.

Another key component is the effective use of data as part of the school wide literacy initiative. Data must be taken on student performance, school and community needs, school capacity, and teacher practices (Irvin, Meltzer, & Dukes, 2007).

According to Irvin, Meltzer, & Dukes (2007), A literacy action plan has five key components:

  1. Strengthening Literacy Development Across the Content Areas
  2. Strategic Interventions for Struggling Readers and Writers
  3. School Policies, Structures, and Culture for Supporting Literacy
  4. Building Leadership Capacity
  5. Teacher Professional Development

“Using a data-driven plan to monitor the program is important to ensure that the literacy action plan is effective” (Irvin Meltzer, & Dukes, 2007). This step is critical for all steps taken both in the school and within each classroom in order to measure success of any given intervention or successful literacy plan.

References:

Irvin, J. L., Meltzer, J., & Dukes, M. S. (2007). Taking action on adolescent literacy: an implementation guide for school leaders. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Blog #4 State and Federal Legislation Analysis

Obama Explains ESSA

Education is the overall foundation for all children to succeed in their lifetime. In order to ensure that all students receive a rigorous, equitable and successful education, there are laws through our legislation that have been put into place by both the state and federal departments. Specifically, in literacy, there are guidelines in order to ensure that all students are on the right path to literacy success. These are put in place in order to monitor students’ progression but also to ensure that teachers are working to ensure this progression happens sufficiently.

On the state level, Minnesota is ranked one of the top 10 states in our country for a reason. The statutes that are put into play are to provide a solid education for all students that receive an education within our state. The state’s goal for teachers, parents and most importantly, students, is to have them reading proficiently by third grade. This is the literacy goal that aligns with having teachers providing comprehensive reading instruction. The state also requires teachers and staff to identify before the end of kindergarten through second grade the students who are not reading at grade level before the end of the current school year. The given reading assessments must also identify and evaluate students’ areas of academic need related to literacy. The progress and provided reading instruction for the specific needs of English learners must be monitored as well. The state also holds us accountable for parent communication and involvement with students’ families that are not reading at grade level along with resources and strategies to use at home. For students identified as intervention eligible, the district shall provide reading intervention to accelerate the student’s growth and reach the goal of reading at or above grade level by the end of the current grade and school year. The state also has legislation regarding teachers receiving professional development to promote the use of the most current and best practices. All of these subdivisions are put into place to ensure the quality and success for all students that enter a school in the state of Minnesota.

On top of the state’s legislation, the federal laws have held teachers accountable as well. In 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which resembles the commitment to equal opportunity for all students. This law advances equity by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students., requires that all students in America be taught to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers, ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards, helps to support and grow local innovations, sustains and expands this administration’s historic investments in increasing access to high-quality preschool, and maintains an expectation that there will be accountability and action to effect positive change in our lowest-performing schools.

Knowing the pieces to our state and federal legislation laws will allow teachers to become knowledgable of the expectations for both teachers and students to obtain a successful and equitable school experience at any school in our country.

References:

2016 Minnesota Statutes. (n.d.). Retrieved June 20, 2017, from       https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=120b.12

(n.d.). Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Retrieved June 20, 2017, from     https://www.ed.gov/essa?src=policy

Blog #3 Using Data to Inform Teaching and Learning!

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Data, data, data. To be completely honest, I used to find myself rolling my eyes at the thought of all of the data studied in our PLCs. However, just like any job, we really DO need “research” and concrete data to back up our daily instructional and overall classroom decisions day in and day out. Anecdotal records, informal observations, formative check ins, and summative assessments are all essential ways to gauge and evaluate the level of understand and growth from each individual student.

Exit and entrance slips for any math standard can be used to pre and post assess a student in order to ensure that it has been mastered. If not, that is where intervention strategies and reteaching/relearning happens. This is how our first grade team runs our math instructional model and uses our extension teacher for small group Guided Reading Plus intervention time. We communicate this information to families and parents by entering each standard into our online grading portal and also use progress reports with this information listed as well. Parents then can see whether their child is beginning, developing or secure in that standard or strand. We then reassess these standards to show growth.

In reading, we use a few different assessments that drive our instruction forward. The AIMSWeb words per minute timed reading along with a sight word check in are a few of the common assessments we use across our first grade classrooms. We use the famous “Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System” to assess the guided reading levels of our students. This is also how our Tier 2 and Tier 3 groups are decided. We use the exit and entrance criteria to decide which students need another “boost” and which students can exit the extra intervention. We communicate this to parents by sending home letters from the intervention teachers explaining the process and introducing themselves. We also share what reading level their child is currently at when they enter and exit the intervention groups. We also send home quarterly progress reports along with checking in regarding growth and progress during monthly communication nights as well. We also input this data into our online grading system as well along with other language arts standards for parents to view as it us updated.  

Assessing students takes A LOT, and I mean A LOT A LOT of time from our instruction time. Therefore, if we are already using up precious learning time to gather this critical student data, we need to actually utilize, analyze and adjust from it. The simple and informal anecdotal and informational observations are all part of formatively assessing growth and progress among all students. These small observations lead to bigger decisions during a lesson. Whether students are grasping the standard or content determines the next step in instruction. It is key to know where your whole or small group is at in order to move on with a lesson. Not all lessons will go as planned and not all groups of kiddos will respond the same as the last year’s did. Teachers need to be quick thinkers, adjustable and flexible with making instruction decisions for students. This is best practice and will ensure growth among all students, no matter their skill level.

Assessments are like dominos and if the small informal observations are used to adjust instruction, then the formative and summative assessments should be straight proof of the growth in the classroom. This data should be shared with parents as often as possible and also with any other adults working with that student in the building so that all communication lines are covered. Involving students in their growth is important as well. Communicating the success and growth throughout the year and having students be involved and make goals for their own learning is a huge motivator and part of allowing students to take ownership of their own education and learning!