June 8

Conferring with students builds skill and confidence

Reading and writing conferences are incredibly important in building a student’s literacy identity. Conferences remove them from being just one of the “crowd” in the classroom. Students become the only one in the classroom and their individual needs are being met. “Getting at the Heart of Conferring” reinforces the ideas that many are already implementing. If you aren’t conferring with students, consider adding this very important formative assessment routine to your classroom practice next year.

Getting at the Heart of Conferring: Empowering Readers and Writers

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April 8

Reading Apprenticeship Goes Campus-Wide in Pasadena California

This article is worth reading! The approach they took is much like our approach!

Report Identifies Pathways to Success When Implementing Reading Apprenticeship

A new report on the adoption of Reading Apprenticeship at Pasadena City College (PCC) published by Equal Measure found that teachers reported Reading Apprenticeship “helped them better connect with their students” and “brought structure, guidance, and improvement” to their practice. Students “became more resourceful and empowered to lead their own learning” once given the tools to access the materials on their own. Read the report here –  https://www.equalmeasure.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/PCC-WestEd-Vignette_FINAL_011018.pdf

January 24

Teaching outside the box

Here is an idea that brings the real world into the classroom to engage and excite students. Needless to say . . . I love it!


Teaching Lord of the Flies in a Completely Different Way

In this Education Week article, brothers Chip Heath (Stanford Graduate School of Business) and Dan Heath (Duke University CASE Center) say that “peak moments” in life that we remember forever – a wedding day, a successful public presentation, an award for exceptional accomplishment – share certain characteristics with peak moments in school – a swim meet, prom, senior musical performance, science fair, football game, debate tournament, choir concert. What are the common factors? “They’re all social,” say the Heaths, “often performed in front of an audience, and involve an element of competition or pressure. There’s a sense of pomp and circumstance about them – notice how often we actually wear distinctive clothes to them.” And with the school moments, almost none of them take place in classrooms, even though that’s where students spend virtually all of their time in school.

How can schools create more peak moments in classrooms? Here’s an example. In 1989, social studies teacher Greg Jouriles and English teacher Susan Bedford decided to teach Lord of the Flies a little differently at their California high school. One day during a routine discussion of the novel, a visitor strode into the classroom and distributed an official-looking document announcing that the book’s author, William Golding, had been charged with “libeling human nature.” Students were told that they would put Golding on the stand in a “Trial of Human Nature,” taking on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, and the judge. The trial would address fundamental questions of literature and history, including: Are people good or evil? Is civilization just a thin veneer over violent instincts?

For several months, students prepared for the trial, and when the day came, they dressed up in suits and costumes (Stalin, Gandhi, Atticus Finch, Harry Potter) and took a bus to an actual courtroom where a jury of administrators and alumni sat to render a verdict. The trial idea was so successful that it’s still being implemented in this high school every year, three decades later (in some years Golding is found guilty, in other years not guilty). “The day of the trial is a powerful peak moment,” say the Heaths: “a culmination of preparation and practice, delivered in front of an audience, with real stakes and immediate feedback. Every year, the student speaker at graduation mentions the trial. The prom? It’s mentioned sometimes.”

Could this kind of exhibition or performance task replace traditional final exams? That sounds crazy, but consider, say the Heaths, which “more closely resembles work in the real world: the intense collaboration of an exhibition requiring students to frame and deliver a project under deadline pressure so that an audience can view and critique it? Or an exam with 10 multiple-choice and three short-answer questions?” Worse still, consider the finding of a study at an elite private school showing that when students were asked to retake their June final exams three months later, their average grades fell from B+ to F. All the exam preparation these students had done simply evaporated over the summer. And consider an American Institutes of Research study showing that students who engaged in deeper learning reaped a number of benefits, including better collaboration skills, motivation, self-efficacy, and on-time graduation rates. This was true of all student subgroups.

“So how can we feel satisfied,” conclude the Heaths, “delivering the usual academic experience – one that students, on the whole, can barely remember?”

“Student Motivation” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath in Education Week 10 Big Ideas, January 10, 2018 (Vol. 37, #16, p. 4-5), https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/01/10/the-secret-to-student-engagement.html


September 21

Are they really reading?

It’s time for SSR+ in your classroom. Are your students really reading or are they really faking it? Here are some tips to help make this very necessary time authentic.


September 5

What do kids REALLY need to find success in the real world?

This is an interesting article. Things to consider . . . Are you doing enough of these things? Are they consistent?

7 skills your child needs to survive the changing world of work

A group of Catholic school girls look at their phones as they wait on the route that Pope Francis will take later in the day near St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York September 24, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - GF10000219774

Back to school … but are your kids learning the right lessons?
Image: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Education may be the passport to the future, but for all the good teaching out there, it would seem that schools are failing to impart some of the most important life skills, according to one educational expert.

Dr. Tony Wagner, co-director of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group, argues that today’s school children are facing a “global achievement gap”, which is the gap between what even the best schools are teaching and the skills young people need to learn.

This has been exacerbated by two colliding trends: firstly, the global shift from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, and secondly, the way in which today’s school children – brought up with the internet – are motivated to learn.

To read entire article – https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/skills-children-need-work-future

January 27

“Writing is crucial to literacy development” (Kelly Gallagher)

Over the past several years, I have been fortunate to work with an incredible array of teachers from across the United States who have given me valuable insight into their professional challenges. For a while now, I’ve started each workshop by asking the same question: “How many of you are seeing a decline in your students’ writing abilities?” Sadly, no matter where I’m presenting or what the demographic of their students, the teachers’ responses overwhelmingly confirm my worst fears: Wide swaths of students are not developing their writing skills—skills we know to be foundational to their literate lives.

Why are writing skills in decline? To answer this question, one might start by reading a recent study of U.S. middle schools conducted by the Education Trust (2015), in which the researchers examined a key question: Do classroom assignments reflect today’s higher standards? Their findings were sobering. Only 38 percent of assignments were aligned with a grade-appropriate standard. About 85 percent of assignments asked students to either recall information or apply basic skills and concepts. (The assignments were “largely surface level,” the report noted.) Only 1 percent of assignments required students to think for extended periods of time; most assignments could be completed in one class period.

This lack of rigor was especially evident in schools’ writing expectations for students in middle school (see fig. 1). Read more

January 13

Teaching all girls

Though focused on a specific group, this article really got me thinking about teaching our girls in general, especially those new to this country.

To the Educators Who Will Teach My Black Daughter

by Jemelleh Coes

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Every holiday season, I celebrate the year with my sorority sisters, a group of professional women of color. The conversation often turns to the topic of education, including our observations about how education can empower, and at the same time marginalize, oppress and discriminate.

We find ourselves returning to this topic because my sisters and I were all Black girls raised in the American public school system. Because we have become educators, nurses, lawyers, business owners and dedicated professionals, many acknowledge our successes, and say we’ve “made it because of our education.” What they often do not see …



October 11

The importance of genre

Disciplinary reading practices are imperative if we are going to lead students to reading closely and critically. This article provides a small piece of these practices. We must expose our students to a wide-range of reading in a wide-range of contexts if we are to move them to being proficient, independent readers. This article is intended for teachers.

Hall Talk vs. Bar Talk: Noticing Nonfiction Genres