Running Records- Part 1

27 Aug

by Diane Powell, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

Josh's rrI’m going to share some thinking from the questions that were posed by teachers on previous Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative Twitter chats and could be a help to educators everywhere.  I’ll be using Marie Clay’s text An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement and Fountas & Pinnell’s The Continuum of Literacy Learning, PreK–8 as resources so you’ll know of appropriate resources to use in your continuing search for guidance around the use of Running Records.

1. Can you share strategies for helping teachers see value of Running Records as formative assessment rather than an event at the end of the term?

Teachers are very busy these days and unless they understand the power of Running Records and the rationales for using them, they will see them as optional or mandated a few times per year. One thing that often helps teachers see their value is to have them follow one reader over time by capturing the reading behaviors the reader demonstrates during oral reading. Looking across records of oral reading begins to show the teacher the ways in which the reader’s processing power is changing over time. It also allows us to think about how our teaching is impacting the learning of the reader –or not. The Running Record allows us to see how the reader is using strategic actions for thinking within the text – those he is using and those he is neglecting to use. How is the reader working in a balanced way to gain meaning from a text? What does he do when he comes to an unknown word? How is the reader showing us he’s monitoring his reading? How does his reading sound with respect to aspects of fluency? How does the reader search for and use information sources to read or self-correct? How does the reader adjust his reading depending on the text and the purpose for reading? All of these kinds of information can inform our teaching and the student’s learning. Yes, it takes some time, but the teaching becomes so much more powerful based on what we find in the Running Records.  Using them only occasionally is like taking only a portion of a prescription a doctor gives you – it doesn’t reach the problem to provide long lasting improvement for the reader!


2.  How often should readers be assessed with Running Records? How often should teachers be doing Running Records, besides benchmarking?

That depends on the reader. If a reader is making steady progress in his reading, it makes sense to check in with him every 2-3 weeks to be sure his trajectory continues in the right direction and he’s taking on new learning as well as strengthening his reading powers. High progress readers should probably have a check in about every 4-6 weeks to be sure they, too, are continuing to progress.

 On the other hand, if the reader is reading below grade level, he needs more frequent checks. A teacher should plan on capturing his reading every two weeks to see if any of the teaching that you’re doing is impacting his learning. If not, you need to adjust the teaching to work from the reader’s current strengths and move him forward. That’s often easier said than done and it may require help from a colleague who works with struggling readers or a coach who can see things you might be missing. Make sure you reach out for help in working with readers who are not making progress. They may be taking on the learning differently than you imagine and your teaching might be missing them where they are.

Part 2 of this post (next week) will answer some of the remaining questions on Running Records from our previous Twitter chats!

Readers’ Workshop

11 Jul

by Helen Sisk, Intermediate/Middle Grades Trainer

“As a classroom teacher, reading workshop is one of the simplest and hardest things I do.

It is also the most worthwhile.”       – Nancie Atwell                                                                                                     

Readers’ workshop has proven to be an organizational format used to build a supportive environment to meet the diverse needs of all learners and develop independent readers, who engage with good text, appreciate author’s craft, and become insightful, critical readers. Whew! Good use of 60 minutes of daily instructional time!

If you are new to teaching in a reader’s workshop, or you want to be energized and reflect on your current reading instruction, please join us for our summer institute at Lesley University, “Intentional Teaching in a Readers’ Workshop: Assuring High-Level Competencies for the Common Core.”

Irene Fountas and her team of literacy trainers from Lesley University are presenting the conceptual framework of the readers’ workshop on July 14-17. Some of the sessions include learning how classroom organization and choice empowers independent readers, ways that shared reading and minilessons apply skills and strategies to multiple contexts for different purposes, what to discuss during conferring in order to promote deeper comprehension, and how to use a variety of texts to build flexibility in thinking, talking, and writing about texts.

Hope to see you soon in Cambridge!


Rethinking Expertise in a Digital Writing Workshop

25 Jun

Kristen-Turnerby guest blogger and Literacy for All Featured Speaker Kristen Hawley Turner

Kristen is an associate professor of English education and contemporary literacies at Fordham University in New York City. Her research focuses on the intersections between technology and literacy, and she works with teachers across content areas to implement effective literacy instruction and to incorporate technology in meaningful ways. She is a Teacher Consultant for the National Writing Project and the director of the Fordham Digital Literacies Collaborative.

“Was anyone able to get a video into Corkulous?”

Maryrose scanned her third grade classroom, her eyes coming to rest on Ricky, who had his hand in the air.

“Ricky, you know how to insert a video?” she clarified. The boy nodded. “Okay, everyone.  Ricky is the video man.” With this comment, Maryrose identified Ricky as an expert in that day’s writing workshop, and during the next half hour, I saw several of his classmates approach him for a tutorial.

In their unit on research, the students were creating biographical timelines of famous individuals; they used iPads for both web-based research and creating their projects, yet they also moved easily between the device and their traditional writing notebooks, where they took notes by hand that they then typed into the Corkulous app. It was the first time Maryrose had incorporated iPads into her classroom, and she was excited to see how her students might use them.

This shift in writing workshop pedagogy — adding technology to traditional methods — helps children to develop knowledge and skills that are critical to writing in a digital age. George Hillocks has suggested that writers need knowledge of “discourse” and “substance” in order to create effective written products. Hillocks has argued that each genre of writing consists of underlying structures (e.g., argument, narration, lists) and adheres to particular conventions that help to define the genre. Writers need to know these structures and conventional elements — called discourse, or more simply, form.

Furthermore, writers need to know what they are writing about, and they need to know how to find the substance of their writing. Adding appropriate details in an essay, for instance, may mean incorporating statistics or a quote from an expert. In a story, however, details may come in the form of an elaborate description of the setting or characters. This substance — the “stuff” that makes good writing good — is the content.

In short, Hillocks says that writers need knowledge of content in addition to knowledge of form. Writing workshop approaches have provided young writers the opportunities to learn about form, often via mini-lessons, and to generate content through revision in both writer’s notebooks and in written drafts.

However, writing in a digital age is different than traditional writing. Technologies have made new genres possible, even as they transform the forms of traditional genres like research papers. For example, embedded videos, images, and links can be used to enhance more traditional arguments or narratives in creative, thoughtful ways. On the other hand, digital genres, like digital stories or blog posts, represent new types of writing that open up possibilities for collaboration among readers and writers. These possibilities are exciting, but they place increased demands on writers.

Troy Hicks and I have argued that digital writing requires knowledge of various technologies — such as blogs, wikis, or video editing tools — and how those particular technologies can help writers to compose a product. In other words, in addition to knowing the structures and conventions of a digital genre, as well as the content of the desired writing, writers also need to understand how technology can help them to generate the substance or to create the product. In Hillocks’ terms, both the form and the content can change, based on the influence of digital writing technologies.

For Maryrose’s third graders to create effective timelines, they needed to use their devices to locate facts, dates, and appropriate visuals (e.g., images, videos), all to support their purposes of creating biographies. They also needed to know how to create a timeline using the appropriate app. Though they had practiced creating timelines using paper and pencil earlier in the year, this task asked more of them. It required them to learn how the device might support them in their writing — and how to troubleshoot problems in writing that would not occur in traditional forms.

As they worked, the students considered a variety of options as digital writers. Along with learning about the lives of their chosen person, students selected appropriate videos, images, and facts to include in their timelines.

At one point during the lesson, I saw Zeke ask his buddy, “Edward, do you know how to put in a picture?” Their tablemate, Dex, watched over Zeke’s shoulder while Edward demonstrated on Zeke’s iPad. When the three of them could not figure out how to shrink the image to fit where Zeke wanted it, Matt joined to show them how to do it. In less than a minute, Zeke had accomplished his goal of inserting the image into his timeline — and Maryrose was never called to the table. Instead, she was conferencing with another group, coaching them on the content of their timelines.

All four boys returned immediately to their own projects, each one likely having gained some knowledge of technology that would aid him in his own writing, contributing to both form and content. A few minutes later, Edward picked up his iPad and crossed the room to Ricky, saying to no one in particular, “I need to ask Ricky how to do a video.” The students knew what they needed to accomplish, they relied on their peers to help them learn, and ultimately, they developed their technological knowledge that would support their digital writing.

Incorporating technology can be intimidating to teachers who do not feel like experts in using devices, but Maryrose knew that she didn’t need to be the only expert in the classroom. She called on her students, empowered them to coach others, and learned alongside them. She took a risk in her classroom because she knew that students need to learn how technology might help or inhibit their writing in various genres.

This goal is important for all teachers of writing to consider. Technology affords writers many opportunities. For example, Maryrose’s students were able to create timelines with embedded videos and links to additional information. These types of data contributed to products that were much different than the paper and pencil timelines they produced earlier in the year. However, technology alone will not make writing better. Skills of research, including selection of evidence, are even more important as writers consider the content of their pieces. They should not be distracted by digital “bells and whistles” that can drown out their messages.

Because more and more writing is digital in the real world, it is important for young students to learn skills of technology and to understand how various technologies can shape a message, both in content and form. Maryrose’s third graders are developing in these areas — and she has empowered them to do so by seeing each other as experts in the classroom.


Kristen Hawley Turner is presenting at the 2014 Literacy for All Conference in Providence, RI on Monday, November 3 and Tuesday, November 4 (



Poolside PD: Time for a Few Great Reads!

16 Jun

by Cindy Downend, Primary Grades Trainer

Ahhh! Summer is here again. One of the best parts to the season is finding a little down time to catch up on reading some really good books. This summer, why not throw in a professional text or two along with those “beach reads?” Below are a few recommendations to consider adding to your list. A few I have read; the others are in my beach bag in anticipation. So find a chair out on the deck or chaise by the pool and enjoy!

9780787960759_p0_v4_s260x420The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni – This one will truly make for a good beach read as it helps you think about why teams often struggle to work together through an entertaining fable. If your literacy leadership team could use a little rejuvenation, this easy read will get you thinking. Lencioni defines the five dysfunctions as: Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability, and Inattention to Results. Then he outlines some actionable steps to help teams overcome these hurdles.

9780325049199-1Thrive: 5 Ways To Reinvigorate Your Teaching by Meenoo Rami – This is a very quick read that will refresh and rejuvenate your commitment to being an educator! Rami offers advice in 5 important areas to nurture your teaching soul: turn to mentors; join and build networks; keep your work intellectually challenging; listen to yourself; and empower your students. Rami will also be a keynote speaker at the Literacy For All conference in 2015 so mark your calendars!

booksLeadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky – Many educators I deeply respect have recommended this book to me so it is tops on my list. It has been described to me as the best book on leadership – ever! As I understand it, Heifetz and Linsky help us think about accepting personal responsibility for change and for taking risks in leading others

9780325046471Finding the Heart of Nonfiction: Teaching 7 Essential Craft Tools with Mentor Texts by Georgia Heard – I always find that Heard’s poetic voice entices me into her texts immediately. This is another short read to rejuvenate your use of nonfiction texts both in your teaching of reading and in writing. Heard also shares so many nonfiction mentor texts titles that you might entice you away from the beach to journey to the bookstore.

9780325027159_p0_v1_s260x420Finding Joy in Teaching Students of Diverse Backgrounds by Sonia Neto – the back cover description of this book hooked me right away. “Voices of hope. Voices of change. Voices for our children. The stories of the passionate teachers in this book will inspire and motivate you to find joy in teaching students of diverse backgrounds.” Passion, inspiration, motivation and an icy cold beverage! Is there any better way to spend a summer’s afternoon?

What are you reading this summer? Please share some of the professional texts that are in your beach bag.

Developing Collegial Trust Through Character and Competence

12 Jun

by Irene Fountas, Author and Director of Lesley University’s Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

“WiCoaching photothout trust there can be no coaching” (Echeverria,and Olalla, 1993)
As a coach for many years, I learned that trust and competence are the most important factors in supporting my colleague’s willingness to allow me to observe and discuss teaching and they simply could not be taken for granted. Let’s think together about what trust means in our work and how we can develop and maintain a trusting relationship with colleagues.

The development of trust begins with our own self-awareness, in the way we communicate in every aspect of our professional role, and includes our own ability to develop and reflect on our growing expertise. Here are some factors related to trust that we can all think about:

  • The ways in which we conduct ourselves with colleagues and also the way we conduct ourselves when not with colleagues – both in words and in actions, both verbal and nonverbal
  • Our ability to maintain confidentiality in all contexts
  • Our ability to listen carefully and accept our colleague’s thinking at face value
  • Our ability to validate our colleague’s work at their practice
  • The transparency with which we communicate about our professional work
  • Our level of knowledge or expertise in teaching and in coaching that gives credibility to our work

As the school year closes and as you think about your professional goals, reflect back on the level of trust you have developed in your school. Set some specific goals for investing in your own competence.

  • What are ways you have developed and maintained trust with your colleagues?
  • Are there examples of relationships with colleagues in which you may need to work to regain trust?

We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post about what you have found to be important in creating a partnership with your colleagues that nourishes and supports the journey of change. The level of trust you have developed will lead to improved literacy achievement for children who depend on us for our expertise.

Celebrating the Professionalism of Reading Recovery Teacher Leaders

5 Jun

Part 2:  Ongoing professional development at the Teacher Leader Institute

by Eva Konstantellou, Reading Recovery Trainer, Lesley University

**Please read the 6/3/14 post for Part 1 of this blog post

TLI13_ChoosingBooksSessionIn addition to meeting for a number of days across the academic year with their university trainers for professional development, teacher leaders also attend an annual Teacher Leader Institute where they have the opportunity to listen to many speakers from inside and outside of the Reading Recovery community who present and discuss their research and its impact on teaching and learning.

Just a cursory look at the programs of past Teacher Leader Institutes gives us a glimpse into the rich opportunities for learning from expert scholars on fascinating topics:

  • Courtney Cazden on supporting children’s oral language development, especially when working with English Language Learners
  • Vivian Paley on the power of story and play in helping children become creative communicators
  • David Wood on contingent teaching
  • Elliot Eisner on artistry as an educational ideal
  • James Zull on the art of changing the brain through teaching that builds on the learner’s prior knowledge
  • Tony Bryk on school improvement and restructuring
  • Ron Gallimore on continuous improvement in teaching
  • Richard Elmore on the creation of learning communities in schools that sustain innovative work
  • Andy Hargreaves on investing in the professional capital of teachers

This month (June 2014) the Reading Recovery teacher leaders and university trainers will hear from Julia Douëtil, university trainer at the University of London Institute of Education, on the topic of building teacher understandings of how learners develop a wide range of mental processing activity.

Reading Recovery teacher leaders exemplify the conception of teachers as intellectuals who in collaboration with colleagues reflect on their thinking in an ongoing quest for building a coherent theory of literacy learning that informs their work with children, teachers, and schools.

For information on the complex roles of the teacher leader and on teacher leader initial and ongoing professional development please see:

Celebrating the Professionalism of Reading Recovery Teacher Leaders

3 Jun

Part 1:  Refining teacher leader learning through ongoing professional development

by Eva Konstantellou, Reading Recovery Trainer, Lesley University

There’s an ongoing debate among policy makers on cultivating the leadership skills of teachers so that they become agents of change within educational contexts (see two recent issues of Educational Leadership, on “Leveraging Teacher Leadership,” October 2013 and “Professional Learning: Reimagined,” May 2014).

I cannot think of a group of educators that fits the profile of teacher as leader more than Reading Recovery teacher leaders.  The teacher leader role is complex.  Teacher leaders:

  • are expert teachers of children
  • support the learning of adult learners who take the yearlong course to become Reading Recovery teachers and continue supporting them through ongoing professional development
  • work with school administrators to ensure that safety nets are in place for the students most in need
  • oversee data collection and reporting
  • support development of the school literacy/Reading Recovery team
  • advocate for continuous support of Reading Recovery among administrators and other stakeholders

A critical feature of the Reading Recovery intervention is the inquiry-based professional development model that contributes to the effectiveness of Reading Recovery as an early literacy intervention. Following a full year of graduate level coursework in:

  • coaching skills
  • literacy theory
  • clinical work based on the theoretical work of Marie Clay
  • issues related to implementing an educational innovation

teacher leaders participate in ongoing professional development provided by faculty members at approved university training centers.  During their professional development sessions teacher leaders observe live teaching and reflect on teaching decisions in order to refine their practice and help support the learning of teachers.  They also engage in in-depth study and discussion of the work of scholars in various fields of study ranging from early childhood education, to psychology, linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, organizational theory, etc.

Teacher leaders are true scholar-practitioners who reflect on and assess the impact of their work through actively exchanging ideas within a community of practice.

Our next blog post will be Part 2 on this topic. BTG_Vermont

For information on the complex roles of the teacher leader and on teacher leader initial and ongoing professional development please see:


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,574 other followers