Literacy for All: Professional Development for Administrators

17 Sep

by Eva Konstantellou, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative, Lesley University

Have you heard Andy Hargreaves talk about how to transform your school into a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility?

3d598a1d2c73ee18837641ad059fbc41_400x400Join Andy Hargreaves to hear his keynote and breakout sessions at the Literacy for All conference, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.  Professor Hargreaves’s keynote address on “Collective Responsibility for the Success of All Teachers and Students” will present the case for collective professional responsibility as the key to school improvement.  In his first breakout session, “Collective responsibility in action,” Professor Hargreaves will discuss ways of schools working together to improve performance. In his second breakout session, “Collective Responsibility in Business, Sports, and Education,” Professor Hargreaves will highlight school communities in which the role of school leaders is to nurture the teachers’ passions and inspire and uplift their teams’ performance.

Past participants have embraced the Literacy for All Conference as the premier professional development event in the northeast.  This year’s sessions and pre-conference workshops offer a wide range of topics that will support and lift the learning of all participants.  Administrators and school leaders are invited to attend a number of sessions that have been designed with their needs in mind.  

In addition to Andy Hargreaves’s sessions, the sessions listed below explore various powerful themes and will help school leaders think deeply about comprehensive literacy, systemic change, and the continuous improvement of teaching and learning.  Here’s a sample of themes explored in administrators’ sessions:

  • Fostering strong teacher-coach-principal relationships
  • Implementing powerful, research-based models of authentic literacy
  • Helping schools or districts monitor and improve their literacy implementation
  • Building understandings of best practices
  • Sharing the nuts and bolts about making RTI a reality
  • Supporting and sustaining systemic change
  • Developing and implementing a comprehensive literacy plan paying special attention to the role of interventions
  • Principals and coaches working together to improve student achievement and meet the Common Core Standards

LFA Brochure CoverThe following eight sessions will address the above themes:

PC-2- From Reading Specialist to Literacy Coach: Examining Essential Shifts (Grades K–8) Irene Fountas, Author and Professor, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative, Lesley University and Gay Su Pinnell, Author and Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

In many school districts across the nation, reading teachers are spending increasing amounts of time in the role of coach to support the professional learning of peers and improve whole school achievement. What will it take to grow professionally, from previously providing direct service to students, to supporting collegial learning? Topics in this institute will include: re-envisioning your role, building relationships with colleagues, anticipating challenges, using language that fosters teacher reflection and teamwork, developing systematic observation skills, identifying essential areas of new learning, helping colleagues re-envision their roles as team members, and working with your school principal to improve student achievement and meet the Common Core State Standards.

LCB-11- Triangulated Literacy Coaching: Fostering the Teacher-Coach-Principal Relationship (Grades 3–6)
Jennifer Felt, Literacy Coach, Oxford Hills School District
Margaret Emery, Principal, Oxford Hills School District
Haley Saurman, Classroom Teacher, Oxford Hills School District

Relationships are the foundation of successful literacy coaching; however, for student progress to be accelerated and continual, it’s imperative that the teacher-coach-principal relationship is strong and maintained. In this session, you will learn ways to develop and strengthen the relationship of key stakeholders in their schools through a systematic coaching model. We will provide examples of scheduling, data collection, and staff development, which has led to seamless coaching experiences and increased student achievement.

LCB-15- Improving Student Achievement and Elevating Teacher Expertise through Literacy Collaborative (Grades PreK–8)
Jess Sherman, Primary Literacy Collaborative Trainer, Lesley University
Heather Morris, Intermediate and Middle School Literacy Collaborative Trainer, Lesley University

Learn about a partnership between your school or district to implement a powerful, research-based comprehensive model of authentic literacy that demonstrated 32% improvement in student achievement in three years. Establish coherent instruction through the teamwork of classroom teachers, specialists, content area teachers, the principals, and the training of literacy coaches.

LCD-9- Using Inquiry As a Tool For Continuous Improvement (Grades K–2)
Alice L. Ensley, Primary District Trainer for Literacy Collaborative, Dalton Public Schools
In this session, we will explore a model that can be used to help schools or districts monitor and improve their literacy implementation. You will learn how to propose a hypothesis, gather soft and hard data to examine the hypothesis, set goals based on this data, and design and implement a plan for meeting these goals. We will use an actual case study from a Literacy Collaborative school district as a model for this session. You will have time to explore the needs of your school or district, and receive feedback about the kinds of data you could collect to begin your own inquiry study.

LCE-4 In-Depth- What Principals and Literacy Leaders Need to Know About Teaching and Learning Writing (Grades K–8)
Ruth Culham, Author/Consultant, The Culham Writing Company
As we enter the era of the Common Core State Standards, writing has never been more important. Teachers are hungry for leadership and support in making their writing classrooms places where important learning takes place every single day. In order to provide this support, principals and literacy leaders need an understanding of the best writing practices so they can be active participants in discussion about how to improve writing instruction. This workshop will address the four Ws– Writing Process, Writing Traits, Writing Modes, and Writing Workshop– and how to organize the school year around them.  It will provide hands-on experiences with tools to use in collaboration with teachers that promote discussion, track improvement, provide feedback, and inspire the changes that the Common Core State Standards are challenging educators to meet in today’s writing classrooms. This workshop is sponsored by Scholastic, Inc.

LCF-15- Meeting the Needs of All Readers: Making Response to Intervention a Reality (Grades K–6)
Clare Landrigan, Staff Developer, Teachers for Teachers
Tammy Mulligan, Staff Developer, Teachers for Teachers
Tom Morris, Principal, Franklin Public Schools
Jodi Fortuna, Assistant Superintendent, Hudson Public Schools
Marcia Uretsky, Principal, Newton Public Schools

Very few people disagree with the premise of Response to Intervention, but how do we make it work effectively in schools? Join our roundtable discussion as several administrators and staff developers share the nuts and bolts of how they make RTI a reality. Hear ways different schools create effective schedules and coordinate instruction between classrooms and interventionists. Learn more about designing small group and individualized lessons, monitoring student progress, and enhancing professional learning.

LCG-6- Systemic Change: A Literacy Journey in Rural Maine (Grades K–8)
Kelly Burns, PreK–8 Literacy Coach, Regional School District #19, Maine
Mary Graybill, Classroom Teacher, Regional School District #19, Maine
Jan Morse, Director of Instructional Improvement, Regional School District #19, Maine
Jane Stork, Principal, Regional School District #19, Maine

Systemic change occurs when all stakeholders are committed to student learning, student achievement, best practices in Tier 1, and professional growth. We will highlight the benefits of whole school collaboration, instructional coaching, common language, and common practices. We will discuss and explore our literacy journey within the Maine Partnerships in Comprehensive Literacy, and each presenter will discuss her role in supporting and sustaining systemic change. Small group activities, video clips, and discussions will be used to engage participants.

LCG-14- Implementing Comprehensive Literacy (Grades K–2)
Wendy Vaulton, Senior Researcher, Lesley University
Carolynne Beless, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Dennis-Yarmouth Public Schools
Michael Buonaiuto, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Cambridge Public Schools
Kevin Depin, Principal, Dennis-Yarmouth Public Schools

Developing and implementing a comprehensive literacy plan can be challenging. This panel discussion will explore the factors associated with successful implementation of comprehensive literacy, paying special attention to the role of interventions in creating success for all students.


Running Records- Part 2

4 Sep

diane_powell_2012_webby Diane Powell, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

See Part 1 of this post for questions #1 and #2 (!

3. Are Running Records taken from unseen text or previously used readers?

That depends on what you’re trying to do as the teacher.  If you’re forming groups for guided reading in the fall of the year, you will be using a benchmark system to see what the readers can do without teaching: where they are right now and in that case, the Running Records will be taken on unseen texts. This is also the case when you receive a new student throughout the school year. Find out what they can do without your teaching or influence and take a Running Record on an unseen text.

 When taking a Running Record on a seen (or previously read) text, you’re looking to see how your teaching has influenced the reader’s ability to process the text. This is the kind of Running Record teachers use regularly during the school year.  The reader has had a chance to read the text previously with the support of the teacher and other readers in the group and you’re checking to see how he does without further instruction. That is the kind of information you can then use to make next steps for the reader: does the reader need to be moved to another group because his reading is moving forward quickly or because his reading is moving more slowly than the rest of the group? How can you work with the reader individually to teach him something else he needs to learn how to do after a Running Record is completed? 

Both kinds of Running Records are important to your teaching – what they can do without teaching and what they are able to do after your teaching.

New RR Graphic #24. What level do you start taking Running Records?  Is it beneficial to take them on a level AA or A or .5?

I’m not sure what a AA or .5 level text is since it’s not part of our benchmarking system, but I would say that if you’re gathering readers together or reading individually with readers, you’d want to capture what they’re doing when they read orally.  You can learn a lot about a reader by observing what they do and don’t yet do while reading. Having said that, I would want to be sure to say that we don’t think it’s necessary or appropriate to move guided reading instruction down to preschool classrooms. Children in preschool classrooms need massive amounts of oral language and hands on experiences and play as part of their curriculum. If, however, you realize that a student is reading, I’d have some age/grade appropriate texts available for him to look through and learn from without the push of formal instruction. We certainly want to provide opportunities for readers to learn more about reading every time they engage with a text, but we’re not advocating guided reading with 4 year olds.

5. Besides Running Records, what are some other great assessments for readers?

We feel Running Records are the best assessments to capture what’s really going on with the reader.  It’s authentic since it’s what readers do – read. It’s not artificial like some of the resources teachers are being asked to do to check on readers. Having said that, though, we’d certainly want to be talking with readers about what they’re reading to make sure they are understanding and/or learning from the text. Having conversations with readers lets you into their thinking beyond and about the text. It also let’s you know if anything was puzzling about what they read and if they didn’t get to the deeper understanding of the text.  Once readers have had lots of experiences talking about what they’ve read, they can begin to be supported to write about their reading. That would need to be scaffolded by the teacher through modeling/demonstrating how to write about reading through contexts like interactive or modeled writing.  If teachers ask readers to do this kind of work without this powerful demonstration teaching, about the only thing readers can do is retell the story – a rather surface level  understanding of a story without necessarily getting to the deeper meaning of the text. And our hope is that the reader would be responding to a text, not retelling it. How do they react to the text through their experiences? It’s important that readers have the opportunity to respond to reading as they are learning to read so that they are able to do what’s being asked of them through more sophisticated standards that are currently driving our thinking.

I hope I’ve been able to help you think more about the power, purposes and rationales behind running records.

LFA Brochure CoverIf you would like to learn more about Running Records, our upcoming Literacy for All conference ( in Providence, Rhode Island, November 2-4, 2014 will offer a Reading Recovery session by Sue Duncan on Running Records (session # RRB-2) entitled, Making the Most of Opportunities: Selecting the Clearest, Easiest, Most Memorable Examples on Monday, November 3: Explore the idea of noticing and capitalizing on what the child can do to extend the processing system, using examples, running records, and videos.

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.


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