Navigating The Literacy Continuum to Guide Responsive Teaching

by Helen Sisk, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative Faculty

 

helen-siskTeaching in a responsive manner requires us to think reflectively about literacy growth by noticing and analyzing student talk and written work. We reflect on why students respond in certain ways and know how to help them take on next steps in building a complex and flexible literacy processing system. It takes a skillful teacher to do this effectively.

One tool that can guide our decision-making is The Literacy Continuum: A Tool for Assessment, Planning, and Teaching (Fountas and Pinnell, 2017) It is a valuable resource to support us in observing what students know and understand as readers and writers and it informs our teaching. It is organized around eight literacy learning continua that span grades PreK-8. Not only is it aligned with literacy standards, it includes detailed descriptions of student progress over time.

The Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative at Lesley University is excited to offer an introduction to this continuum during our summer institute for teachers of grades K-6: “Navigating the Literacy Continuum to Guide Responsive Teaching,” This institute is an opportunity to delve into the new, expanded edition of the Literacy Continuum, and learn how to use it as a guide to observe, plan, teach, and reflect on literacy teaching.

The reading focus in this institute includes extending teacher and student talk for effective processing during interactive read aloud and shared reading. Two other components that further address comprehension include guided reading and writing about reading.  All of these literacy elements will be explored.

The writing focus begins by understanding the continuum of word study and how it progresses over the school year and across grade levels. We will study student writing to develop purposeful mini-lessons and the talk surrounding teacher-student conferences to identify strengths and next steps to address in teaching.

Come hear Irene Fountas discuss the Literacy Continuum and its impact on teaching and learning. Work in small groups with literacy trainers and other teachers to refine your practice and expand your knowledge about the teaching of reading and writing.

We hope to see you here at Lesley University for our Summer Literacy Institute, July 10-13, 2017. Register now!

So How Are Your Reading Interventions Working?

toni's photo for blogby Toni Czekanski, Assistant Director, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

Schools and school districts spend a lot of money on interventions designed to help students who have difficulty learning to read or write become more proficient in a short amount of time. This is the goal: to close the achievement gap. But how well are you implementing your interventions, and how often are you monitoring data on these students to be sure that what you are doing works for them?

LITERACY COLLABORATIVE

364In Literacy Collaborative we talk about Fidelity of Implementation. Usually it is in terms of your implementation of the LC model: leadership team, effective classroom teaching supported by ongoing professional development and coaching, shared leadership, data monitoring, and then…intervention. On the Fidelity of Implementation document we ask you to consider what you are doing for reading and writing interventions and how those interventions are working. What is the payoff for your students?

READING RECOVERY

Teacher and studentIf you have Reading Recovery in your school as your Tier 3 intervention, there are already built-in processes to help Reading Recovery teachers monitor their work with students. Each day they review what happened in the lesson, take a running record of a book that was introduced the day before, and make plans for where to take the student next. These teachers keep track of each student’s performance on a daily basis, and enter it annually into the national IDEC database. Each year these statistics are reviewed and an annual report is published on the successes and challenges related to Reading Recovery student achievement.

It is incumbent on each school to scrutinize their Reading Recovery teaching and data with the same rigor. In this way, the school is ensuring that students get targeted instruction that conforms to the national standards. That is the only way students who are in the bottom 20-25% of their class can possibly hope to not only catch up to the average students in their grade, but sometimes surpass them…and continue to thrive as they move up through the grades.

LEVELED LITERACY INTERVENTION (LLI)

LLI group photoWhat about Leveled Literacy Intervention? In order to implement this small group intervention with fidelity, lessons should be thirty to forty-five minutes long (depending on the level), and the LLI teacher should meet with students daily. Just as in Reading Recovery, frequent assessment assures that the students are working at their growing edge, and that the time spent on this intensive intervention has pay-offs when students meet or exceed the reading performance of their on-grade-level peers.

Schools that have invested in training LLI teachers and in materials to support the intervention then need to insure that the intervention is administered with fidelity. LLI students have been identified as needing help to succeed with reading and writing. If they do not receive the intervention as designed, then schools are compromising the ability of these students to make the big gains necessary to close the gap between them and their on-grade-level peers. Intervention is about hard, targeted teaching designed to make swift achievement gains. What can your school leadership team do to insure that interventions are administered as designed?

Whatever interventions your school uses, here are some things you might consider:

  • Time: is the time you have allotted for your interventionists to work with students adequate? Can they meet with students five days a week for the prescribed amount of time? Do they have adequate time between lessons to reflect on their teaching and record data? If time is tight, how might you stretch it?
  • Training and Monitoring: Have interventionists received adequate training in how to use materials and monitor data? Do they engage with ongoing professional development to keep their teaching skills sharp? Do they meet with other interventionists in the district to share experiences and problem-solve dilemmas?
  • Data analysis: Do interventionists have time to analyze data and meet with literacy teams to problem-solve when students are not making adequate progress? How frequently does this happen? Reading Recovery and LLI are short-term interventions. If students are not progressing after ten to fifteen lessons, another pair of eyes and ears might help to make shifts in the teaching that will help students be more successful. What procedures are in place to re-evaluate instruction that is not working and support interventionists who might need help in analyzing their work?
  • Team work: Do the administrators, classroom teachers, interventionists, and literacy coaches work as a team to develop intervention plans and monitor them for success? Does the administrator support the interventionists with time, space, materials, and ongoing professional development opportunities? Does the team meet periodically to review the progress of students taking part in interventions to determine whether those interventions are successful? What are the criteria you use to determine success?

These are all hard questions, but they can help you with the bottom line. And that bottom line is working toward student achievement through the diligent planning and implementation of effective interventions. An intervention can only be successful when done with rigor and fidelity, and when it is supported by close examination of assessment data and teaching practices.

Literacy for All: Professional Development for Administrators

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.

 

The Sharing of Amazing Books

by Helen Sisk, Intermediate/Middle School Trainer (our new trainer from Fairfax, Virginia)

* blog post from Friday, March 8th (when it was snowing here in Cambridge, Massachusetts!)

It’s snowing, again, and this southern transplant is fascinated with the uniqueness found in each storm – never the same old, same old. One storm, Nemo, created mounds of snow, yesterday it snowed all day and never accumulated, today’s surprise storm left traffic in a snarl. Schools aren’t closed and I’m in awe of the hardiness of my neighbors. All winter long, the changing weather keeps things interesting.

Isn’t that also how we want to keep our teaching – fresh and exciting?

Recently, I read the book Moonshot by Brian Floca to a group of educators. We were fascinated to learn about the first trip to the moon from a technical perspective interwoven with narrative and wonderment. And, we loved it – wanting to talk about it, to look closely at the pictures, and to reread it.  We searched the award it won – The Sibert Informational Book Medal, and discovered new nonfiction titles. We went to Brian Floca’s website and learned why and how he created this book. We couldn’t wait to return to our classrooms to share MMoonshotoonshot with our students.

We became engrossed with this book. How do we generate similar responses with our students? Are we sharing books that are new and amazing? Do our students clamor for them? Are WE engaged? We need to continue honoring classic picture books such as Owl Moon and Big Mama, but intentionally add books by different authors and novel topics that our students find captivating to expand their repertoire.  Constantly mixing it up engages us, too. It’s a teaching perk we need to tap.

We are all looking for the next great book. Please comment below on titles of books you and your students discovered this year. We’d love to hear from you!

Collaboration

by Jill Eurich, Assistant Director, Intermediate/Middle School

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I am writing this on Tuesday, January 2, 2013 and it looks as if the fiscal cliff has, for now, been averted but tough negotiations still lie ahead. As this whole drama unfolds I find myself thinking a great deal about collaboration. I believe in congressional and presidential terms it is referred to as “working with people across the aisle.” The struggle that has ensued over the past months has heightened my appreciation for the integral part collaboration plays in our work with teachers and students.

Our partnership with adult learners provides a variety of opportunities to collaborate. A vital part of our work as university liaisons to schools is to get behind the thinking of our literacy coaches and for them, in turn, to learn how to get behind the thinking of their teachers. This tentative stance, so crucial in coaching and the delivery of professional development, takes flexibility, insight and compassion. It involves taking on the responsibility to make our time together productive and toward that end to problem solve as necessary. Setting norms together and having clear, achievable outcomes are two key components in successful collaboration.

For students, productive collaboration is something that is taught and actively monitored. Looking someone in the eye when he speaks, careful listening, building on someone’s idea, learning language that can be used to respectfully express a different point of view are some of the skills that make a collaborative interchange one in which we benefit from the background knowledge and perceptions of others and use that information to further our own thinking. Whether it’s through interactive read-aloud, literature discussion, an inquiry approach to reading and writing in a genre, or countless other instructional opportunities throughout the day, collaboration opens up new avenues of thought and deepens our understandings. Today’s students will become tomorrow’s President, members of Congress and other parts of the workplace. It will benefit us all if as they take on these roles they both value collaboration and know how to collaborate effectively.

Text Difficulty

By Irene Fountas

Director, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

What is the role of text difficulty in helping our students learn how to read?

Over many decades teachers have attended to the difficulty level of texts. You know well when a text is too hard for a student to process and the reader begins laborious sounding and guessing that can only result in a loss of attention to the meaning of a text.  You also know well what smooth, phrased reading sounds like when the student can process a text well independently.  And you also know when you have given the student a text that is not too difficult or not too easy, so the reader can learn how to do something better.  You know that the text supports your effective teaching and the student’s ability to learn.

Over decades, many have used a variety of mathematical formulas to assess the difficulty of a text. Clay (Clay, 1991) argued for the use of a text gradient as it can support or interfere with the reader’s ability to put together an effective system for processing texts.  Of course, she argued, any gradient must take into account the student’s unique experiences and language so all gradients are fallible.

A consideration of difficulty level is essential but different readability measures are based on different elements.

The Fountas and Pinnell Text Gradient™ A-Z was designed as a tool to support classroom teachers and teachers working with small groups to select texts for small group instruction. It is a complex gradient, as it takes into account ten different characteristics of text and goes far beyond mathematical formulas that are based on word and sentence length only.  They include:

  1. Genres/Forms- the type or kind of fiction or nonfiction text (e.g., biography, informational, historical fiction, folk tale, realistic fiction, fantasy). Also, the particular form (mystery, oral stories, picture book, graphic text, short story).
  2. Text Structure– the way the text is organized.
  3. Content– the subject matter of the text­– what it is about, the topic or ideas.
  4. Themes and Ideas– the big ideas in the text, the overall purpose, the messages.
  5. Language and Literary Features– the literary features (such as plot, characters, figurative language, literary devices such as flashbacks).
  6. Sentence Complexity– the structure of sentences includes the number of phrases and clauses.
  7. Vocabulary– the meaning of the words in the text
  8. Words– the length and complexity of the words (syllables, tense, etc.)
  9. Illustrations– the photographs or art in fiction texts; the graphic features of informational texts.
  10. Book and Print Features– the number of pages, print font, length, punctuation, and variety of readers’ tools (e.g., table of contents, glossary).

When the ten characteristics are used as a composite, the approximate level of a text can be determined.  And when the teacher begins with where the learner is, it can be productive and help the student climb the ladder of success.

The following chart shows the approximate goals for each grade level.  The arrows represent the goals, not the reality.  When you begin with where the student can learn, you can provide teaching that supports continued progress up the gradient.

We hope you will continue to engage in the analysis of texts to be sure to match texts to readers for one small part of the literacy instruction   you provide.  Of course, it will be important to also offer students daily opportunities to engage with complex texts geared to the grade and age level in interactive read aloud and book discussion groups.

We encourage you so share your experiences and comments on our blog.

Clay, M. (1991). Becoming literate: The construction of inner control. Portsmouth, NH. Heinemann.

Fountas, I.C. and Pinnell, G.S. (2009). The Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Book List, K-8+. Portsmouth, NH. Heinemann.

Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter Johnston

by Diane Powell, Primary Trainer

I just finished Peter Johnston’s latest addition to the world of education – Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives.  Published recently by Stenhouse, and just like Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning, it was a page-turner as he helps us think more deeply about how the language we use in classrooms not only shapes children’s lives in school but also how it impacts the ways they view themselves and others in the greater world as adults. He speaks about the ways we continue the praise of children often to a disadvantage as they grow. He also puts out a charge to us to focus on educating the “whole child” – not just the academic one. There are links to the language of parenting as well.

A few quotes (and there are hundreds) I’d like to share to nudge your thinking include the opening quote found on page 1, “Children seldom misquote you. They usually repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said.”

In chapter 3 on page 28, “…learning takes time and work, but intellectual change happens. The more you learn, the smarter you get.”

Opening chapter 4, “’Good Job!’ Feedback, Praise, and Other Responses” on page 35 these quotes caught my eye: “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”(by Norman Vincent Peale) and “If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge.” (Unknown).

From “Taking Moral Development Seriously” page 91 comes this one: “Unfortunately, the more high-stakes testing pressure is applied to teachers, the more authoritarian they become and the less inclined they will be to invest time in social problem-solving.”

And finally, in Johnston’s closing paragraph on page 124 come these words of wisdom: ”Ultimately, we have to generate a more productive vision for society than the one that has been guiding schooling, and we must equip children with what they need to construct that society. Given what we know, failing to attend to students’ civic, social and broader cognitive development in school is not only academically short-changing children, it is criminal. Well, now you know….”.

I would encourage everyone who was struck by the power of Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning to rush and get a copy of Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives and dig in. This text has the potential to spark a variety of interesting book club discussions in your school.  Enjoy!