October 17

Common Lit Delivers

Common Lit is a resource of which some may not be aware. However, they offer a plethora of resources many with SAT-like questions aligned to the standards. Today, I received an email reminding me of this powerful resource so I wanted to pass it along to all of you. Resources are free! It evens tracks student data! Teachers can choose standards to assess and even level text.

The link below will take you to examples of texts that feature people who have changed the world; there’s much power in that!


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

Image result for conferring
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

February 7

ReadWorks.org supports for ELL students

Did you hear the news? ReadWorks “Article of the Day” is providing supports for struggling readers including ELL and Special Education. They now have audio versions of the articles so students can “hear” the reading fluently as they follow along. There are also translated versions, but nothing in Arabic yet. Regardless of your students’ needs, ReadWorks provides us with more, leveled resources to support their needs.


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


November 8

Tell the story with fewer words . . .

Infographics convey information in fewer words, pictures and other visual representations. For some students these are more easily accessible than an article. Think about using these for your next AOW or adding them to your next text set or better yet, have students design their own. Here are a few websites to get you started.



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 9

Make logging reading more engaging!!

What would it be like to get rid of the reading logs and make the accountability piece of SSR+ more fun? Follow the link below for some amazing ideas to “ditch” the reading logs. If we make if more fun, they are going to be more willing to engage!


From the author, “. . . the key in all of this is to make reading public celebration, and to vary the ways in which you think, talk about, share and respond to text. When the method that you use to keep students accountable for their reading is fun and engaging they are less likely to view reading as a chore and more likely to enjoy it. Is the goal to collect a stack of papers in which students log their minutes of reading or is it to inspire a love of reading that leads students to inspire others to pick up a book?”


May 25

Creating Strong Writers

Creating strong writers doesn’t just happen, it takes practice . . . lot’s of it!! To create strong writers, we need to be sure to embed writing into our daily instruction. As Smekens indicates, there are different types of writing for different purposes. However, after asking students to write, we usually hear “Miss, how long does it have to be? How many sentences?” We must move students away from this. One way is by providing mentor texts that serve as models of good writing. Another way . . . create the model yourself by writing in front of your students! This is quite possibly the most powerful model because students get to actually see and hear the process as you think aloud; apprenticeship at its finest! Not comfortable with this practice? Reach out to your literacy coordinator who loves doing this with kids!

Check out Smeken’s ideas about writing for different purposes – https://www.smekenseducation.com/Build-Strong-Writing-Paragraph-.html

October 14

Text Based Questions

Our students struggle with supporting their answers with evidence when put into a multiple choice situation. ReadWorks.org comes through again with leveled text and questions. Use them as Articles of the Week, as part of a text set; whatever you choose, it’s about providing opportunities for students to practice. Happy Reading!



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

October 10

9 Instructional Moves for Teaching with Texts

Totally “borrowed” this from Gretchen Bajorek’s blog!

We are awesome at over-complicating things. (Teachers, I mean.) For example, take any lesson in which we need our students to read something.

by Dave Stuart, Jr

Authentic Redundant Literacy Schmoker graphic bounce pass (2)


We have two objectives in any lesson where kids need to read. First, we need our kids to understand the text. Second, we need them to do something with that understanding (analyze, argue, compare, determine, develop, integrate, interpret, summarize, etc. I’m just pulling words from Jim Burke and Barry Gilmore’s Academic Moves for College and Career Readiness — all fifteen of those are strong foundations for post-understanding, text-based lesson objectives). If we teach our students to do any of those things with their reading of a text, we can sleep well. We are investing in their long-term good.

To achieve these objectives, there are just nine moves at which we need to become awesome.

Before reading, we can do some or all of the following:

  1. Hook them into the reading,
  2. Introduce any vocabularythat might get in their way, 10 words or less,
  3. and/or set the purpose for their reading — explain how what they’ll be doing after they read ought to inform how they’ll read.

During reading, we can do some or all of the following:

  1. Model reading — e.g., demonstrating how to purposefully annotate, or reading/thinking aloud the first paragraph;
  2. Check for understanding;
  3. and/or allow for independent practice. Our goal for this last piece is that we’ve done just enough with the preceding moves to enable each student to effectively grapple with the text.

After reading, we need to teach our kids how to do one or more of the following in light of the text:

  1. Discuss (I like using Think-Quad-Share, a variation ofThink-Pair-Share; Jennifer Gonzalez of Cult of Pedagogy likes to use strategies such as Gallery Walk and Concentric Circles);
  2. Debate (I obviously like Pop-Up Debate);
  3. and/or write (I like Graff and Birkenstein’s They Say, I Say templates; the two-paragraph version is ideal for texts that make claims).

That’s it.

Those nine things, in the simplest, most minimalist combinations possible, are the moves we ought to be practicing again and again as teachers. My students don’t seem to be on the brink of revolt when I use those same nine pieces, all year long, with dozens upon dozens of articles, documents, excerpts, chapters, poems, etc. I suspect that this is because the ideas in the texts, the challenges they present, and the work we do after reading them have become a part of who we are as a family and a team.

LINK: Dave Stuart, Jr’s blog


October 3

Calling all Science Teachers

Check out ReadWorks.com for some great science articles to get students reading outside the textbook! Check out this article on the

“Human Microbiome: The Role of Microbes in Human Health” (1175L).

If the lexile is too difficult for all of your students, click on the “Step Reads” tab for a lower reading level; a great way to differentiate your instruction!


September 7

Paired Texts

As we begin the school year and think about Articles of the Week, some may find these paired text options useful. As a bonus, texts are leveled and come complete with questions, most of which elicit higher order thinking. Remember, our students need lots of practice with evidenced based reading and writing.  Check these out when planning your AOWs.