On 12/5/13, our Center hosted our third Twitter chat. The topic was for school administrators and focused on how to support teachers in their implementation of guided reading. Here is the link to the transcript for that chat:
We are excited to begin a series of posts highlighting the great work being done at our various Reading Recovery training sites throughout the Northeast. Our hope is to give everyone a peek into the many accomplishments of our Reading Recovery teachers and their students.
To start the series off, we are featuring the Springfield, MA site. The Teacher Leaders at that site are Lynn Santa and Rosemary Brown.
Below is a quote from a Reading Recovery Teacher in the Springfield district describing a family’s reaction to the progress their child is making in Reading Recovery: “When Addy’s mom came in to observe a lesson she told me that Addy never enjoyed reading and now she loves it. She said she is so excited to open her book bag and read her books. Sometimes she’ll read the same book 3 times in one night, first to her mother, then her father and then her older brother or sister! Mom also said she is always reading signs now when they are in the car or at the store.The whole family is very excited and involved and as we know that is why Addy is making the progress that she is.”
For more information on Reading Recovery, please contact Kelly Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org. And stay tuned for next month’s feature on the Boston, MA Reading Recovery Training Site.
Some of the tweets…
JoEllen McCarthy @imalwayslearnin
Reading is thinking & talking. Lean in, listen bc instructional read alouds help us to get our hands on kids’ thinking. – @dsantman #lfa2013
Jenn Sinal @sinal_jenn
Fountas- We need students doing more thinking, talking, and constructing ideas about texts. #lfa2013
Amy Booms @Humanities101
In Guided Reading, all students need to participate at their own pace by whisper reading! #LFA2013 w/Diane Powell
Here’s what attendees had to say about their sessions…
“Informative and engaging… So many wonderful resources to take back to my classroom!”
“Fast moving, interesting, fun, informative, and efficient. This presentation was full of ideas to use immediately in the classroom.”
“I enjoyed being given the opportunity to work with the other teachers throughout the workshop. It was a great reminder of how important and valuable collaboration is.”
by Irene Fountas, Author and Director of the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative
When my colleague Gay Su Pinnell and I created a gradient of text for teachers to use in selecting books for small group reading, we were excited about its potential for helping teachers make good text decisions to support the progress of readers.
With every good intention, the levels may have been applied by professionals in ways we would not have intended. We did not intend for levels to become a label for children that would take us back to the days of the bluebirds and the blackbirds or the jets and the piper cubs. Our intention was to put the tool in the hands of educators who understood their characteristics and used it to select appropriate books for differentiated instruction.
We are well aware of the importance of communicating student progress accurately to families. Rather than the use of levels in reporting to families, we have encouraged the use of terms like “reading at grade level expectation” or “reading above grade level expectation” or “not yet reading at grade level expectation” on report cards along with other clear indicators of a student’s processing abilities such as understanding, word-solving abilities, accuracy or fluency. In addition we have encouraged the use of indicators related to amount and breadth of independent reading.
Students actually experience a variety of books at varied levels in a rich literacy program. They may experience complex texts as read aloud or shared reading selections and a range of levels in book discussion groups or independent reading. Highly effective teaching provides a range of opportunities with different texts for different purposes.
In our best efforts to use assessment indicators, we want to be sure that our purposes best serve the children we teach and give families the important information they need. This may not mean using labels such as book levels that hold more complexities and are intended for the use of the educators as they make day-to-day teaching decisions.
Guest blog post by Terry Thompson, Reading Interventionist, Author, and 2013 Literacy for All Conference Speaker
Built around the work of Lev Vygotsky and his notion of the more knowing other, grounded in the work of Jerome Bruner and his colleagues, and fortified through Pearson and Gallagher’s conception of the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model, instructional scaffolding has long claimed a perpetual anchor spot in the accepted wisdom of literacy instruction.
And, even as so much of our work is tethered to this important concept, many of us struggle to move beyond its basic explanation, finding the intricacies of scaffolding difficult to nail down, if not downright elusive. Because it’s based on an interpersonal support system between the teacher and learner and – out of necessity – piled high with curriculum expectations, dictated time lines, and varying degrees of student needs, it’s no wonder that scaffolding has come to mean so many things to so many people. And confused even more.
So. What to do? What do we do with a concept that’s so significant to our work, but at the same time, defies our demand for simplicity?
My suggestion? Embrace this.
Embrace that there is no one, right way to scaffold a particular concept. Embrace that – instead of the teacher – the more knowing other could be just as easily a peer, a website, or even an entire learning community. Trust that our scaffolds can occur beyond a lock-step sequence or model. Recognize that these supports will get messy and allow them to be imperfect. Welcome those in-the-moment scaffolding shifts that chase the needs of the learner.
The key, here, is to allow for flexibility – flexibility in ourselves, in our thinking and in our scaffolds. Resting on an interaction between the student and the more knowing other, all scaffolds are intentionally focused on a learning goal while striving to place optimal responsibility on the learner. But in order to accomplish any of this, those scaffolds (and we) have to remain flexible. As writing teacher and consultant, Jeff Anderson, once remarked, “It’s a scaffold. Not a straightjacket.”
Effective scaffolding gets complicated. It just does. And, when we allow for this quality, we dismiss some of our fears about getting it right and move toward getting it better.
Because it’s straightforward and complex, simple and intricate, exact and evolving – all at the same time – growing our understanding of instructional scaffolding is a professional discipline that requires long term commitment and dedication on our part. It won’t happen overnight. But it will happen.
Beyond its basic underpinnings of release models and more knowing others, instructional scaffolding is essentially a chameleon: a breathing, organic concept that evolves and flexes to fit the needs of the learner and the situation. Any attempt to wrestle it into a neat little box only dilutes its effectiveness. So, embrace the flex plan!
When we demand rigidity, we actually limit what scaffolding can do for our learners.
Terry Thompson is an author, teacher, and consultant, living in San Antonio, Texas. He trains teachers of readers and writers in grades K–8. Currently a reading interventionist, Terry has served as a classroom teacher, basic skills teacher, Reading Recovery teacher, and literacy coach. He holds a master’s degree in psychotherapy and cognitive coaching and travels throughout the country consulting with classroom teachers and literacy specialists. Terry is the author of Adventures in Graphica: Using Comics and Graphic Novels to Teach Comprehension and is currently writing his second book Construction Zone: Building Scaffolds that Empower Readers and Writers.
Terry will be presenting two workshops at this year’s Literacy for All Conference in Providence, R.I. on Monday, November 4, 2013:
- Comics to the Rescue! Using Comics and Graphic Novels to Scaffold Comprehension (Grades K–8)
- When Working Hard Is Hardly Working: A Closer Look at Scaffolding Versus Rescuing (Grades K–5)
Guest blog post by Laura Robb, Author, Coach, and 2013 Literacy for All Conference speaker
Independent reading is alive and well in the primary grades. Research shows that independent reading starts to wane in the middle grades, and continues to lessen through middle and high school. Many high schools do not require independent reading, yet all require that students on teams practice their sport to gain skills and automaticity with plays and muscle memory. It’s the same with reading: students have to practice and apply what they learn during class to choice reading to become skilled readers.
Share your suggestions on fostering independent reading, especially in middle and high school, in the comments section.
Laura Robb will be presenting these two sessions, sponsored by Scholastic, Inc., at the Literacy for All Conference in Providence, R.I. on Monday, November 4, 2013.
- Writing to Improve Comprehension and Analytical Thinking (Grades 4–8)
- Vocabulary Matters: Improve Comprehension, Writing, Thinking, and Speaking (Grades 4–8)
There’s still time to register for more than 100+ sessions for Reading Recovery and PreK–8 educators!
by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz, Authors and Featured Speakers at the 2013 Literacy for All Conference
Charts are here, there, and everywhere. Teachers spend a great deal of energy and time creating charts. They hang from every nook and cranny of each and every classroom. They are the expected norm, a part of pedagogy, and a sense of pride. But they are also an ongoing challenge. Why? Because in spite of this attention, interest, and passion for charts on the part of teachers, students often appear oblivious to the charts. They do not seem to grasp the reason for charts, the why of charts, and often do not use the charts as a result. For many students charts have become blended into the background like wallpaper, absorbed into the subconscious, or simply exist in schools like fire bells and cafeteria smells. They just are. But when charts seem unimportant to the audience we hope to reach, then it is the purpose that needs to be made perfectly clear for both students and teachers.
Start by asking why you make charts in the first place. We have found the most effective charts come out of a need to make our instruction crystal clear. Charts help when planning lessons because a chart forces you to break down an idea into concrete steps. They help us test out the language that will be used and repeated over and over. They lead us to think about student engagement. And charts help us consider the different learning modalities that exist in our classrooms. Which children need visuals? Repetition? Linear-sequential steps? The sketching out of a chart allows for revision and editing which leads to efficiency and effectiveness in our teaching.
Then we need to make sure our students understand the purpose behind the charts we make and how charts can help them meet the increased challenges we plan to set forth. Try asking some students what they think the charts are for, but don’t be discouraged if you hear things like, “They’re for the teacher” or “They’re when you don’t know something and you have to cheat.” This just means they really don’t understand the purpose of the charts and this is a quick remedy. Start with some real life scenarios that illustrate how people in the world use checklists to help them be more strategic or to remember complex steps. Commercial pilots know how to fly jets, but they still use charts to double-check themselves and to set the right course. Doctors are very smart people who use charts and checklists so they can look for patterns and be more strategic in figuring out a patient’s needs. Even your own use of the notes function on your smartphone shows how you need help remembering things you know but don’t want to forget. The most brilliant people in the world use charts to scaffold and support the work they do.
Finally, find opportunities to model how the charts in the classroom can be used to make students become more strategic, flexible, and innovative as they grow and learn. For example, when San Ho kept finding himself starting every piece of writing the same way, he went up to the chart on writing leads: Hook your Reader, and decided to try some of the other suggestions. He shared that he was getting bored with his own writing and that using the chart got him to try out some new strategies which helped him be excited about his writing again.
Charts are here, there and everywhere for a reason. They help both teachers and students clarify, challenge, and scaffold in ways that are authentic and useful. Charts also help teachers turn learning into an active process for students by making information visible and accessible to all.
Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz are co-authors of Smarter Charts (Heinemann 2012). They will be presenting two workshops at this year’s Literacy for All Conference in Providence, R.I. on November 4 and 5: Visible Learning: Charts in Action and Beyond the Basics: Optimizing Classroom Charts for Independence.