A First Timer’s Guide to Registering for Literacy for All

We’re excited to announce we’ve opened registration for the 27th Annual Literacy for All Conference, co-hosted with The University of Maine and the University of Connecticut. This year the conference will be held October 23–25, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island. While we know many of you are veteran LFA attendees, each year we have more and more new faces joining us in Providence. Welcome to all first-timers!

We have made it even easier to register for the Literacy for All Conference! Simply visit our registration website and enter your email address to begin your registration process. We’ve put together a little guide to our online registration system to help make the process as quick and painless as possible.

An Important Note

We have created an online registration process that seamlessly guides you through the steps of registration. Please do not use your Internet browser’s “back” button if you want to go back and make a change, as it will cause errors and you will not be able to complete your registration. Instead, if you need to change something, complete your registration and then email us at literacy@lesley.edu and we will make the changes for you.

Before You Register

First, you should make a list of all the sessions you want to attend. You can find the full list on our website. Each time block is listed with a letter, i.e.: LCA, LCB, etc. Then, each session within that time block is numbered. So the full session code will read something like LCA-1 or LCC-4. You can only choose one session per time block, so you should have one LCA, one LCB, and so on.

The only variation is in the In-Depth sessions, which occur either in the C or F blocks. In-Depth sessions are three hours long, not the normal 90 minutes, so if you choose an In- Depth session for your C or F, you will not be able to choose a D or G, respectively, as the In -Depth session will run through that time.

If a session doesn’t appear on the drop-down menu that means it is sold out and you will have to choose another session. Sessions do sell out, so we recommend registering as early as possible to ensure you get all your first choices.

Second, know your method of payment. If your district will be paying for you with a purchase order, you don’t need to know the purchase order number to register. If your district will be paying for you with a credit card, you can still register yourself. When you get to the checkout screen, simply choose “Pay with Purchase Order” and then have your district call us with the credit card number, or fax or email us the PO within ten business days of registering.  Please note, if you are paying with a purchase order (PO), we require that you submit a copy of your PO to secure your registration.  If your PO has not been received by the opening of the institute, you will be required to provide a credit card in order to attend the institute.

We recommend that all attendees register themselves. The process begins with an email validation– you’ll receive an email with a secure link, which you’ll need to click on in order to continue your registration. Forwarding these emails can sometimes be tricky, so we recommend you register yourself to avoid confusion.

If someone else has to register for you, we recommend that you choose your sessions ahead of time and give the list to the person registering you. If someone else chooses your sessions and you have to change more than 75% of them after September 7, 2016, it will be considered a paper registration and a $15 charge will be applied to your account for processing.

When entering in your personal information, please note that there are separate spaces to enter your school district and your school name. When entering your district, please don’t use abbreviations like RSD or UFSD– if the district has a separate name (ie: Oxford Hills School District) please use that; alternately, please spell out the words Regional School District. This will help us keep uniformity in printing name badges, and help match up registrants to purchase orders when we receive them. 

Confirmation

When you’re done registering, you will see a screen with a green box confirming that your registration is complete. If you don’t get the green box, you haven’t finished registering yet! Once you get to that screen, be sure to read it thoroughly, as it contains details about which sessions have required readings and materials, a list of conference policies, your own detailed agenda based on the sessions you selected, and other helpful links.

In addition to the confirmation page, a confirmation email will be automatically sent to the email address you provided. If it doesn’t appear within an hour of you registering, check your spam and junk folders, as some email providers mark emails from RegOnline as spam by mistake. In the past, many were not able to receive RegOnline emails, because many schools block emails from RegOnline, so if you have a personal email address, we encourage you to use it, instead of your school email, when registering.  If you don’t receive your confirmation email at all, please email literacy@lesley.edu and we will re-send it to you.

Please help us be environmentally conscious! Do not print out your confirmation message to mail in with your check or PO. Instead, just make sure your full name and district are written on the PO or in the item line of the check. That’s all we need to match up your payment with your record in the system.

Conference Events, Exhibit Fair, and Other Information

The conference registration desk hours are as follows:

Sunday, October 23, 2016: 10:00 am–6:00 pm

Monday, October 24, 2016: 7:00 am–5:00 pm

Tuesday, October 25, 2016: 7:30 am–9:00 am

The conference help desk will be open 7:00 am – 6:00 pm each day.

Literacy for All also includes an exhibit fair with booths showcasing classroom services and products for all grade levels and subjects. Exhibit hours are 4:00-6:00 on Sunday, 10:00–6:00 on Monday, with the Exhibit Fair from 5:00–6:00; and 7:30–2:30 on Tuesday. During the Exhibit Fair on Monday, you can enter to win something from our prize raffle, and get books signed by some of our featured and keynote speakers.

Please visit the conference website for information on hotels, parking, attendance policy and certificates of attendance, and sessions with required readings/handouts/materials.

Have questions? You can contact us anytime at literacy@lesley.edu or by phone at 617.349.8402.

Looking forward to seeing you all in October!

Science Writing for Children Made Simple

steve author pic2_crop

by Guest Blogger Steve Jenkins who is presenting a session at our upcoming 2016 Summer Institute entitled, “Writing About Science for Children: How Content Dictates Structure”

Writing, of course, is not simple. Writing about science is not simple, and writing about science for children is perhaps even less simple. So my title is just a questionable journalistic device to attract readers. But I have managed to come up with a few guidelines that I try to apply to my own non-fiction writing.

Since my own professional background is originally in graphic design and illustration, it feels a bit presumptuous to write about writing for an audience of literacy experts. When I began making books for children, I was inspired in part by my lifelong love of science — especially the science of the natural world. But I mainly wanted to explore the visual possibilities of the picture book. I’m still not completely comfortable with thinking of myself as a writer, though I’m getting there.

This story begins almost 30 years ago. I was reading piles of books to my baby daughter — my wife and I took turns reading to her every night, starting when she was too young to even sit up. Reading and looking at all those children’s books got me thinking that making a book might be fun. I say “making” rather than “writing,” because my first books were really about the illustrations. From the beginning, I was drawn to nonfiction about the natural world, and I quickly realized that words would be necessary if I wanted a book to convey much actual information. Or get published. I did make one wordless picture book, but most of the subjects I wanted to explore required some annotation.

Today, having published more than 30 titles, I find that writing has become my central preoccupation when I’m working on a book. I love the visual part of the process, and I’m always confident that — one way or another — a book’s visual challenges can be solved. Creating the illustrations is my reward for figuring out the structure and voice the subject demands. But the writing doesn’t get any easier. Just the opposite, in fact. In my early books I was blissfully naive about the writing process. I just wrote down what I thought would explain the image on the page. I didn’t rewrite as much. I didn’t spend all day on a sentence.

As I gradually recognized that getting the words right was as important (more?) as perfecting the images, writing became more and more of a focus. I remember being surprised and a little bemused that teachers and librarians I encountered at schools and conferences were reading my books and analyzing the way they were written, often recognizing patterns that had never occurred to me.

This may be more background than is really necessary, but I want to create some context for sharing a few of the informal writing “rules” I’ve developed for myself. These are rules that apply to my own writing — I’m not suggesting that anyone else should follow them (OK, maybe one or two of them):

Don’t underestimate the ability of young children to understand complex relationships and abstract concepts if they are properly explained.

New facts and information should be presented in a context that makes sense to children. Use metaphors or comparisons with familiar things. Even most adults can’t readily grasp large sizes, quantities, or spans of time.

Don’t mix different units of measurement or meaning in the same comparison. This is an unfortunately common practice in writing for adults: “There are only about 5,000 snow leopards left in the wild, and the population of Amur leopards has decreased by 80%.”

Clarify terms that seem simple but have multiple interpretations. This is a common problem with scale-related information: “Animal A is twice as big as Animal B”. What does ‘big’ mean? If it’s based on linear dimension, and if the animals are similarly proportioned, then animal A weighs eight times as much as animal B.

Introduce a few terms and vocabulary words that are probably unfamiliar, but not too many for the reading level of the audience. If possible, use new terms without formal definition in a context that makes their meaning clear. It’s more fun for kids to figure out for themselves what a word means.

Don’t anthropomorphize. Remember that these rules are for me. There are lots of good science books that use the first-person voice of animals, natural forces, even the universe. But these books make it clear from the beginning that there is poetic license involved, and that the reader is being invited to use their imagination to see the world from the perspective of some other entity. I’m more concerned about casual references to how animals “feel,” or what they “want,” in what is presented as an objective examination of their behavior.

If possible, anticipate the questions suggested by the facts being presented and answer them. This can be a never-ending sequence, one answer suggesting another question, so at some point one has to move on, but if we point out that an animal living in the jungle is brightly colored, it’s great to be able to say how color helps the animal (as it must, in some way, or it would have been selected out). Does its color warn off predators, attract a mate, or — counter-intuitively — help it hide? A colorful animal that lives among colorful flowers may be hard to spot.

Try to avoid the standard narrative. For many subjects, a typical story line seems to have developed. Often the same creatures or phenomena are used to illustrate a particular concept. Symbiosis: the clown fish and anemone. Metamorphosis: butterfly, frog. Endangered animals: rhinoceros, panda.

Don’t oversell science as entertaining, or make it goofy or wacky. Science is not primarily about making things smell bad or explode. There is thinking involved, and work. The fun and satisfaction come from understanding new things and seeing new connections.

Don’t confuse the presentation of facts with the explanation of concepts.

Finally, don’t follow lists of rules.


Summer Literacy Institute:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 through Friday, July 15, 2016

8:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Making the Writer’s Craft Visible: Teaching Purposeful Decision- Making in a Writers’ Workshop (Grades K–8)

Teach your students how to learn to write from Carl Anderson, Steve Jenkins, Nikki Grimes, and Jack Gantos!

Location: Lesley University – University Hall, 1815 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140

 

 

 

 

Reaching the Resistant Writer

By Mark Overmeyer, author of Let’s Talk: One on One, Small Group, and Peer Conferences, Stenhouse

Mark Overmeyer (1)

Mark Overmeyer will be speaking at the 2016 Literacy for All Conference at the following sessions. 

  • Sunday, October 23rd 11:00AM-4:00PM “Let’s Talk: Developing Writers Through Intentional Talk (GradesK-5)”.
  • Monday, October 24th 10:30AM-12:00PM “Scaffolding Instruction for All Learners in the Writing Workshop (Grades K-5)”  (This session will be repeated Monday, October 24th 1:30PM-3:00PM)

Reaching the Resistant Writer

One truth I have learned about resistant writers has helped me more than any other:

Resistant writers are better at resisting than they are at writing. They resist because they have practiced resisting.

I need to figure out how to nudge them toward practicing writing more than they practice resisting. And if I have a resister sitting in front of me, I am already behind because they have become very good at avoiding.

These kind of negative thoughts about resisters don’t help: “They just won’t write! They hate writing. It’s making me crazy. I’ve tried everything. If they won’t write, I can’t do anything about it.”

This kind of thinking is more helpful: “I wonder why this writer resists so much… I notice some days are better for him than others. What do I need to know about this writer to help him write more?”

When I think about my resisters as opportunities to learn – when I “love” the resistance – then I am more likely to provide meaningful support.

I do not claim to be an expert on working with resistant writers, but I have certainly had a lot of practice. I have become better at figuring out what to say and what not to say when working with resisters.

One resistant writer who taught me a lot was in my fifth grade class a few years ago. Jonathan was a passive resister. He didn’t say much at all during writing time, and he preferred to be left alone. Some days, Jonathan wrote nothing. Other days, he would write a few lines of text during writing workshop. I made the mistake of being overly enthusiastic about his progress one day, and he shut down for the next few workshops.

As I continued to observe Jonathan, he taught me that some resisters respond to an invitation to talk. Instead of being too enthusiastic – “That’s awesome, Jonathan! You got so much done

today! I knew you could do it!” – I started to talk to him more like this:

“Jonathan, I noticed you wrote more today than yesterday. What do you think made the difference for you?”

Allowing Jonathan into the conversation is what I was missing at first. When I started asking him what he thought, he engaged more willingly. I began respecting Jonathan as a writer who could articulate something about his own process. Our talks allowed him to learn strategies that he could replicate later. Peter Johnson, in his book Choice Words, would say that I am helping Jonathan build his identity as a writer here: I am no longer telling Jonathan what to do. I am including him in the conversation so that we can figure things out together and to build his agency.

One strategy I use now to help all writers, but particularly resisters, is to name specifically what seems to work. For example, if a conference reveals that choice makes a difference, I might say: “So today, it seems like choice helped you. I gave you some choices, but you also made a good choice about what to write. So one strategy that works for you as a writer is to choose topics you care about.”

On another day, we might come to the conclusion that talking with a partner supports writing: “Do you see how talking out your idea for even a few minutes helped you? You seemed more excited to start writing today because your partner liked your story.”

Slowly, over time, resisters like Jonathan who practice writing more than resisting start to change. As the months go by, writing replaces resistance.

Instead of being frustrated by resisters, try loving the resistance. Embrace the challenge. See resisters as opportunities to learn, as writers full of possibility.

 

Let’s Move from Word Study to Word Play!

By Timothy Rasinski, Ph. D, Reading and Writing Center, Kent State University

Tim. Formal. 2014%5b5%5d

Dr. Rasinski will be speaking at the 2016 Literacy for All Conference on the following dates:

“Why Reading Fluency Should be Hot?” (Grades K-8) Monday, October 24th, 1:30-3:00PM and again on Tuesday, October 25th, 10:15-11:45AM

“Phonics and Vocabulary Instruction: Word Study that Works!” (Grades K-3) Monday, October 24th, 3:30-5:00PM

I am a self-proclaimed and unapologetic lexophile, word nerd, or vocabulary zealot! I love words! I love to learn about how words came to be; I love the fact that some words have the same spelling but varied pronunciations and meanings while other words may have the same pronunciation but different spellings; and I love how words can be used to convey facts, tell a story, or elicit emotion. Words are wonderful for me. Yet, why is it that in many schools across the country students (and many teachers as well) do not find the study of words terribly interesting. Whether it is phonics, spelling, or vocabulary instruction, I have heard students use words such as “boring” or “not today” when word study is mentioned.

How can word study be so interesting for some and so boring for others? I think it is not in the words themselves, but in how words are taught. In many classrooms word study consists of rote memorization of lists of words or the daily completion of word worksheets that involve filling in blanks, matching words to pictures, or some other mind numbing activity.

A few years ago, my wife and I had an interesting epiphany. Every evening during the holidays, between Christmas and New Year’s, my family would have dinner together and then, after the dishes were done, we’d go back to the table to play a family game. When my wife and I were putting these games back into the closet a few days after New Year’s she said to me with a bit of startle in her voice, “Tim, do you realize the every game we played last week with our kids was a word game!” She was right. We had played Scrabble, Boggle, Wheel of Fortune, Taboo, Quiddler, Scrabble Slam, and several others. In each of the games knowledge of some aspect of words was essential to success. Most important, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we played these family games. Yet, at the same time we were stretching our knowledge of and proficiency in words.

Why can’t word study be more of a game than a list of words for recitation? I think we need to take a new look at how we teach words in our classrooms. The more we make word study into a game-like activity, the more engaging students will be in word study, and the more enthusiastic they will be about words. And, for those of you who like to play games such as Text Twist or Words With Friends, have you noticed that is you play these games regularly you get better at them. We have a special name for when somebody gets better at something – -it’s called learning! As students engage in word play activities on a regular basis they will indeed get better at the activities, they will be learning words and developing in themselves a fascination with words that will go well beyond the classroom.

One word play activity that I will take some credit in developing is called Word Ladders. It is an activity in which students start with one word and are guided by their teacher to add, subtract, or change letters in the first word to make a series of new words. The teacher guides the students by giving them hints about the meaning of the new words they are making. In my word ladders the first and last words are often somehow related, and this is what turns it into a game-like activity. Here’s a word ladder that you can do with your students this month.

April Start with the word April, take away the r and rearrange the remaining letter to make another word for a bucket.

Pail Take away one letter to make another word for a friend.

Pal Change one letter to make the name of a dog or cat’s foot.

Paw Change one letter to make a word that is the past tense of “see” or a tool for cutting wood.

Saw Change the vowel to make another name for a female pig; or a word that means to plant seeds.

Sow Add one letter to make the opposite of fast.

Slow Change one letter to make a word that describes when you want to demonstrate or reveal something to someone.

Show Add three letters to the end of “show” to make a word that describes the kind of weather we often get in April

Showers!

April showers bring May flowers!

Now challenge your students to make a similar word ladder that start with May and ends with flowers.

When we turn word study into word play, I think we will go a long way to turn our students and ourselves into lexophiles and word nerds! I look forward to sharing with you many more approaches for making word play an integral part of your literacy curriculum at the Literacy for All Conference later this year.

Rasinski, T. V. (2005). Daily Word Ladders, Grades 2-4. New York: Scholastic.

Rasinski, T. V. (2005). Daily Word Ladders, Grades 4-6. New York: Scholastic.

Rasinski, T. V. (2008). Daily Word Ladders, Grades 1-2. New York: Scholastic.

Rasinski, T. V. (2012). Daily Word Ladders, Grades K-1: Word Study Activities that Target Key Phonics Skills. New York: Scholastic.

 

Robert Slavin on the Success and Promise of Reading Recovery

Featuring Kim Marshall, Author of the Marshall Memo

This week, Kim Marshall summarizes the article “Getting to Scale: Evidence, Professionalism, and Community” by Robert E. Slavin which was published in the Journal for Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR) in January 2016.

Robert Slavin on the Success and Promise of Reading Recovery

            “One of the very, very few unquestioned success stories of evidence-based reform is Reading Recovery,” says Robert Slavin (Johns Hopkins University) in this article in Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk. First brought to the U.S. from New Zealand in 1984, this one-on-one reading program for at-risk first graders now involves about 6,000 teachers and 47,000 students in 42 states. Slavin attributes this going-to-scale success to three factors:

            • Evidence – Studies have established the success of Reading Recovery since the 1980s, says Slavin: “What this means is that in schools throughout the United States and in other countries, there is a well-defined group of struggling readers that can readily be taught to read. The evidence establishes, beyond any doubt, that nothing about these children means they are doomed to fail in reading.” Of course not all children succeed after 12 or so weeks of Reading Recovery, but that provides an excellent diagnostic indicator of out-of-the-ordinary reading problems requiring more-intensive interventions.

            • Professionalism – The key to Reading Recovery’s spread has been high-quality professional development (including behind-the-glass observation and critique of every teacher conducting lessons), well-defined procedures, and adaptation in light of new data.

            • Community – Reading Recovery works through district partnerships with 19 universities around the U.S., with teachers and professors, says Slavin, “engaged in a process of learning and contributing intellectually to a whole that is bigger than themselves.”

            The problem, Slavin concludes, is that Reading Recovery and other primary-grade remedial programs are reaching only about 6 percent of the approximately 800,000 first graders nationwide with moderate to severe reading difficulties. “In a country as wealthy as the United States,” he says, “why should every struggling reader not have access to Reading Recovery or a tutoring program with equal evidence of effectiveness? The reading success of first graders is far too important to leave to chance, yet in this as in many other areas of education reform, vulnerable children are left to chance every day. Why can’t educators use what they know to solve the problems they can solve, while working at the same time to expand their knowledge?

“Getting to Scale: Evidence, Professionalism, and Community” by Robert Slavin in an issue of Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk devoted to Reading Recovery, January-March 2016 (Vol. 21, #1, p. 60-63),

Want to read the full article? Access it through Taylor and Francis here.

Young Writers and Sensory Detail

by Guest Blogger Brian Heinz, Author and 2016 Literacy for All Conference Featured Speaker

Brian Heinz

Remember that February trip to Puerto Rico? You stepped from the airport into warm tradewinds carrying the scent of the sea and hibiscus blooms. The chatter of fluttering bananaquits filled the treetops, and the cricket-like croak of the the tiny, elusive coqui punctuated the Spanish dialog and tropical music. Never been to Puerto Rico? It doesn’t matter. When you experience any place fully, it is internalized through your senses.

In my years of teaching Language Arts to elementary and middle school students, one of the shortcomings common to weak writing was the absence of sensory detail. Our young writers tend to be ‘visual’ writers, naming things that the reader can visualize, but forgetting that we experience places and events through all five senses. Many of my books for young readers are researched on location – riding a dog sled at -20 degrees in Canada, ten days in the Cheyenne River Canyon with wild mustangs, rafting swift rivers, or camping in wolf country. I amass sensory details that allow my readers to vicariously experience the environments and the events portrayed in my narrative fiction and nonfiction books.

With my young writers, I’ll often employ a “sensory template” to create a pool of words from which they can draw to enhance their writing. This list includes the five basic physical senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. (But remember, not only do your fingers ‘feel’ things. Our hair lifts with the breeze, our skin feels the dampness of a fog, your feet sink into mud or moss.)

We start with a statement that incorporates three critical elements of ‘story,’ the character’s name, a principal verb to create an action, and the setting (time and place.) This opening image launches our word bank. For example, if we decide to create a piece about a boy boating on a pond, the statement and choices may look much like this collection from a fourth grade class:

Michael is rowing his boat on a pond at sunrise.

See? : water, waves, ripples, flowers, grass, lily pads, fish (eel?), frogs, dragonflies, ducks, swan, trees (pines, oaks, or maples?), other boats, house, log, dock, people, clouds, bubbles, rocks, sand, reflections, alligator, turtle

Hear: croak, pop, buzz, splash, whoosh (wind), quack, crunch, plop, rustle (leaves), voices, laughing, chirp, thunder (rumble), snap, hiss, squeak (the rusty oarlocks, or a mouse)

Feel: wind, wet, rocking of the boat, sweat, raindrops, wooden oars (in his hands), tired, sleepy, warm sun on his face

Smell: roses (garden), smoke (fireplace), barbecue, dead fish

Taste: candy, chocolate, gum, sweat, peanut butter sandwich

I reminded this class that they need not include all five senses on their opening page. If Michael is rowing a boat, he may not be eating at the moment. This is the writer’s choice. The parentheses above are my doing, as I push my writers to be specific, to use precise language. Readers cannot visualize a ‘fish,’ but a mind readily captures the image of an eel. Keep a wary eye for students who generalize. Have them name flowers, or trees, or fish, or birds.

At this point, I create an opening paragraph using some of their words, which I underlined:

Michael pulled on the wooden oars. The boat rocked forward on a row of ripples. Frogs croaked from the lily pads and the sweet smell of roses drifted across the water.”

This paragraph pulls the reader immediately into the story. Now I can add another critical element: The Problem. Imagine this as the next paragraph: “At the center of the pond, Michael rested a moment. Suddenly, something large and dark raced upward and slammed into the floor of the boat, almost tossing Michael into the water.” Perhaps it’s the alligator from our word list? I haven’t said so yet. This creates suspense. Every student would want to turn the page. I could continue: “The water settled down. All was peaceful. A second time the boat was struck, splitting the floorboards, and water rushed in.” Now, I can mention that Michael can’t swim. The class is riveted. I’ve compounded the problem, still employing sensory detail.

In choosing mentor books, examine where, and how often, the authors employ sensory detail. Many of my books are used as mentor texts by teachers around the country. These include The Wolves, Cheyenne Medicine Hat, and NANUK: Lord of the Ice.

When a student, writing about being on the beach last summer, writes this – “While I was walking along the beach, I could smell food cooking on the barbecue.” – I don’t share in the experience. The sentence is permeated with passive verbs, general terms, and lack of sensory detail. But rewrite the idea this way – “My feet sank into warm beach sand as hot dogs sizzled on the grill.” We feel the sand, see the beach, hear the food cook, and smell a specific meat!

In a shorter sentence, the scene has become vivid. We have pulled the reader into the scene and allowed them to re-live the experience by using specific language and sensory details.

A word of caution as your students begin to employ their sensory details. There is often a transitional stage where students tell their readers what to experience by using preparatory terms like I felt… I saw… I heard… I smelled…  and I tasted.

Examine these two paragraphs, the first with the telling tags, the second without such tags.

“When I was at the beach I heard sea gulls screaming. I saw them diving into the water. I felt the sun on my face and I felt the wind blowing my hair. I saw a wave coming and I heard it crash on the shore. I could smell cotton candy from the refreshment stand.”

“At the beach, screaming sea gulls dove into the water. The sun beat down on my face and waves crashed onto the shore. Wind blew through my hair and carried the scent of cotton candy from the refreshment stand.”

 

Brian Heinz is the award-winning author of 18 books for young readers. His picture books include fiction and nonfiction, in prose and in verse, and in multiple genres including historical, fantasy, nature, adventure, and coming-of-age tales. His teachers’ text, Construction & Revision: A Writer’s Handbook for the Language Arts Classroom, will be released this September. A native of Long Island, he taught Language Arts and Science for 28 years. He now presents at more than ninety schools and conferences a year, and teaches “Writing for Children” at the prestigious Hofstra University Summer Writers Program. Visit him on the web at www.brianheinz.com to peruse his works, awards, and program offerings.

Brian Heinz is speaking at the Literacy for All Conference on:

Monday (10/24):

1:30pm – 3:00pm: Story: How Do I Tell Thee? Let Me Count the Ways (Grades 5-8).

3:30pm – 5:00pm: Revision & Editing: The Truth and Nothing But the Truth (Grades 3-8)

Tuesday (10/25):

10:15a – 11:45am: Revision & Editing: The Truth and Nothing But the Truth (Grades 3-8) *repeat session

The Art and Science of Responsive Literacy Teaching

searchby Irene Fountas, Director of the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative and Author

What really matters for each child in his journey of reading development is your response to his attempts to process a text. When you respond precisely to the reader’s observable behaviors, you can meet the child where he is and lead him forward.

Clay helped us understand that when we notice and build on a reader’s strength instead of targeting deficits, our teaching can be highly effective in building the student’s agency and independence. Each child’s response is often not simply right or wrong but “partially correct” (Clay, 300-301).  For example when a child reads “stairs” for “steps,” he made a meaningful attempt that fits the syntax and has letters that look similar. It is too simplistic to say it is wrong.

Think about the reader’s logic each time you notice a reading error. Think about what information the child used to make the attempt and how you can expand what the child can do to make sure the attempt makes sense, sounds right and looks right. For example, use language like the following:

  • “That makes sense, but does it look right?”
  • “That looks right but does it make sense?”
  • “You are almost right. Check the middle.”

My colleague, Gay Su Pinnell, and I have explored the effects of teacher language in facilitating the reader’s construction of problem-solving behaviors in working through a text. The teacher’s “facilitative language” promotes the reader’s thinking. As a reading teacher, we encourage you to eliminate judgmental comments like, “nice work” or “good job” and replace the comments with language that confirms the reader’s precise reading behaviors and enable him to develop new ways of thinking.

When you teach in this way, every time a child reads a book, you have the opportunity to support their construction of an effective literacy processing system. Instead of teaching your student “how to read this book,” your student will learn “how to read.” We refer to this as “generative” reading power.

How do these ideas make you think about your moment-to-moment responses to readers within the act of teaching?  Let’s continue the conversation about the language you can use to support “generative learning.”  We’ll have more examples to come in our next blog post…

References:

Clay, Marie, M. (1991). Becoming Literate: The Construction of Inner Control. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Fountas, I.C. & Pinnell, G.S. (2012). Prompting Guide Part 1 for Oral Reading and Early Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.