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

We’re excited to announce we’ve opened registration for the 28th 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 22–24, 2017 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 www.regonline.com/lfa2017 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, ie: 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.  Please note, that on our online registration system, RegOnline, the sessions are listed with only the code and the presenter name, not the session title, as shown below.

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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 of sessions, including session code and presenter name to the person registering you.

When entering in your personal information, please note that there are separate spaces to enter your school district and your school name, as shown below. 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.

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When you’re done registering, you will see a screen confirming that your registration is complete. If you don’t see that screen, 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.

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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 22, 2017: 10:00 am–6:00 pm
  • Monday, October 23, 2017: 7:00 am–5:00 pm
  • Tuesday, October 24, 2017: 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 7:30–3:30 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, www.lesley.edu/literacyforall, 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!

Mapping Writing Units of Study…GPS Style

by Jessica Sherman, Primary Literacy Collaborative Trainer

9780325041926At our Early Literacy Institute this summer (grades PreK–1), Matt Glover will be spending time discussing his new book Projecting Possibilities for Writers: The How, What, and Why of Designing Units of Study that he wrote with teacher Mary Alice Berry. Those of us who have experience using a writers’ workshop- complete with minilessons, mentor texts, individual writing conferences, and sharing – have seen the multitude of benefits.  We also understand the underlying tension of what Matt and Mary Alice describe in their book as the “flexibility vs. planning dilemma.”

Writers’ Workshop has allowed teachers to meet the needs of the writers in their class by supporting them in whole group, small group, and individual teaching scenarios. Teachers have helped students read like writers. They have helped students notice the craft and conventions of writing used by mentor authors, so that students might begin to see themselves as authors and try to use these techniques in their own writing. They have learned about teaching the writers in their class rather than teaching how to improve the writing.

Navigating a successful writers’ workshop is a student-driven experience, and teachers have come to appreciate the benefits of being able to “follow” their students.  The day-to-day or week-to-week decisions that are part of this responsive path for teaching can feel incredibly freeing.  On any long journey, however, one questions always emerges –  “Are we there yet?” With no destination in mind, this trip can become meandering and endless.

Whether it is considering the proficiencies in The Continuum of Literacy Learning, meeting the demands of The Common Core State Standards or other state standards, fulfilling grade level genre expectations dictated by the district, or trying to coordinate cross-curricular units of study, teachers want to strategically coordinate their plans to take students where they need to go. Yet, they still want to be able to change course at any given moment to meet the needs of the students.

That’s why it’s always nice to have a map – not just a map with one straight line connecting the starting point and ending point through a series of sequenced steps, but one where teachers can “recalculate” at any point and still move towards their ultimate destination. Just like a good GPS provides us with a tentative route, but can reroute us if we need to stray, an effective writing curriculum map provides the same flexible guidance.

With Matt’s guidance, the primary grades faculty at our Center will spend four days taking teachers through a process for creating rigorous, responsive, flexible writing units of study across the year.  During their time at Lesley, teachers will design a (tentative) map for writing across the year and fully project a writing unit of their choosing.  There is still time to register for this exciting learning opportunity. Join us!

Building on the Learner’s Prior Knowledge

By Eva Konstantellou

Reading Recovery Trainer, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

“…The goal is to help children move from where they are to somewhere else by empowering them to do what they can do and helping them engage in activities through which they can learn more.”  Marie Clay, By Different Paths to Common Outcomes, p. 87

Teacher and studentContrary to the behaviorist conception of the child’s brain as a blank slate, recent research on the structure and function of the brain has put forward the notion that the brain is actually wired for learning and that any input from the outside world interacts with the learner’s prior knowledge to create new pathways for learning.

In his fascinating book, The Art of Changing the Brain:  Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning, biologist James Zull writes that the brain consists of complicated cells called neurons that are connected to one another to form networks.  These networks represent knowledge that is stored in the brain and keep changing as new knowledge comes into the brain through concrete experiences and is integrated with existing knowledge through a process of reflection and testing.  All learners, Zull says, even newborn babies have some prior knowledge, which is the starting point for acquiring new knowledge.  The role of teaching in acknowledging existing networks and building upon them is critical.

The connections between Zull’s ideas and Reading Recovery teaching and learning are apparent.   Marie Clay’s theory of literacy processing puts the learner at the center of the learning process and sees instruction as a means of taking the child from where he is at to something new.  Instruction starts from what the child knows and builds upon that foundation to keep expanding learning into new, uncharted territory.

Assessment:  Surveying the Known

The assessments that Reading Recovery teachers use are designed to capture the child’s prior learning and are not seen as ends in themselves but as tools that will inform teaching.  The Observation Survey tasks administered by the teacher assess the child’s current level of performing on literacy tasks and based on the results teachers design instruction that relies on what the child can already do in order to take him toward that which is not yet under his control.  Starting from the known is what differentiates Reading Recovery from other interventions that work from a diagnosis of what is wrong with the child.

As a matter of fact, the teacher’s investigation into what the child already knows and controls does not end with initial assessment but continues throughout the child’s series of lessons in Reading Recovery.  The first couple of weeks of working with the child, referred to as Roaming Around the Known sessions, is a critical time in the intervention: the teacher refrains from teaching the child anything new but instead continues to observe and record what it is that the child already knows about literacy.  The idea is to bring to the surface all that is known or partially known about print, the letters, words, and the ways the child puts them together to make sense of the texts he reads and writes.

Instruction:  Building on the Known 

In all reading and writing activities of the Reading Recovery lesson, teachers teach in a way that takes into consideration the child’s prior knowledge.  For example, when the teacher is introducing a new text to the student, she chooses text that contains some familiar ideas, language, and visual signposts the child has already encountered (letters, words, punctuation marks) and tries as she introduces the text to the child to activate any prior knowledge the child has in these areas.  During the introduction and the first reading of the book, the child connects the new information that the teacher provided to what he or she already knows about how texts work and is able with the gentle support of the teacher to expand his current level of working on texts toward greater sophistication and complexity.  (See recent blog by Irene Fountas on the text gradient of difficulty).   Similarly, prior to writing a story in the daily lesson, the teacher talks with the child about a topic of interest to the child in order to compose a message, which the child then proceeds to record.  During the writing the child writes what he knows and the teacher introduces new learning.

The teacher thus works within the known, or in Vygotskian terms, within the child’s “zone of proximal development,” around a body of knowledge that is known or almost known, enabling the child to extend the boundaries of his knowledge through the guidance and support of a more knowledgeable other.


Zull, James E. (2002).  The Art of Changing the Brain:  Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning.  Sterling, VA:  Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Clay, Marie (2005).  Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals, Part One and Part Two.  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann.

Clay, Marie (1998).  By Different Paths to Common Outcomes.  York, Maine:  Stenhouse Publishers.

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.

Great Literacy Beginnings: Enhancing Storytelling with Technology to Support Children’s Language Development

By Cindy Downend

In the past few weeks, I have been working with Patti, a Literacy Collaborative Coach, to explore how we can continue to expand children’s language development in pre-k and k.  Knowing that language is the foundation for all learning, we are constantly seeking ways to encourage those children who are hesitant to speak. Patti and I have been brainstorming ways that we could use to engage and support those children who are shy or who find it difficult to express their ideas orally.   We decided to try using storytelling through smart pens (more about those in a minute) to support the language development of these children.

Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe have helped us to think a lot about the role that storytelling plays in encouraging young children to speak and express themselves.  In Talking, Drawing and Writing, they state, “Inviting children to talk about themselves and about what they know honors them for who they are.” Resnick and Snow (2008) have also helped us to understand how there are many different kinds of story structures and we must be sure to honor each child’s familial and cultural backgrounds.

So with these big ideas in mind, Patti and I set out to try our hand at using smart pens as a tool for both encouraging and recording students’ oral storytelling with their drawings.  A Livescribe smart pen allows a writer to write or draw while recording his or her own voice.  The recording can then be played back to make it accessible to students anytime, anywhere.  The written/drawn text can even be uploaded to a computer and played back as a “pencast.”

After experimenting with the pens for a period of time, Patti reports that the use of the smart pens has proved beneficial in helping students to organize their thoughts for writing and also helpful in engaging students who are reticent to speak.  For example, a teacher may confer with a student while he is drawing and telling his story, working to both encourage and expand the child’s oral language.  Patti also mentioned that students who are often very shy when speaking to their classmates often love sharing their “pencasts.”  The pencasts might also be shared with parents and families.

In their new book, Literacy Beginnings, Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell state, “Language is the most important cognitive tool for interpreting and explaining the information they [children] pick up as they explore and learn.“   We would love to hear from our blog readers about successes you have experienced in encouraging young children to speak and share their ideas.

One Child’s Livescribe Pen Story

 “That’s the battleship Kohl.  We got to go in the battleship.  We got to go inside it.  There was windows on each side.  There was a ton of staircases and there was one way over here.  Or you could go downstairs and I’ll make the submarine.  There’s an eye scope with a big eye looking through it and there were no girls in it back then.”

Great Literacy Beginnings: The High Impact Prekindergarten and Kindergarten Classroom

By Irene Fountas

The young child’s first school experiences set the stage for his success in school. Think about the child who enters a classroom filled with peers and spends his day singing songs, telling stories, exploring science artifacts along with beautiful nonfiction books on the topic, playing restaurant with menus and writing on order pads, painting characters from favorite books, making his name with a personal letter puzzle, putting on a puppet show of a favorite folktale and making a book about his new baby brother. For this child, literacy is joyful and engaging from the start.

Today’s prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms play a critical role in assuring success for our children throughout schooling. The young child of today has entered a literacy world very different from a decade ago. We simply can’t have classrooms of yesterday for today’s children.

A high impact prekindergarten or kindergarten classroom is developmentally appropriate. This means that the teacher understands the child’s strengths and builds on them, leading the child’s learning forward (Vygotsky, 1986). Every child is ready for learning when the teacher considers each child’s unique development but plays an active role in assuring continuous learning. When Regi learned to read and write his name, he learned four different letters. And when he learned Reginald, he learned four more!

Join us for our special focus on high impact literacy classrooms at our four day Early Literacy Institute at Lesley University, June 27-30, 2011 and experience Fountas and Pinnell’s newest book, Literacy Beginnings.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ways to Develop Oral Language in Prekindergarten and Kindergarten Classrooms

By Kathy Ha

“Language is a child’s most powerful learning tool”
–    Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell

•    Talk with children throughout the whole day.
•    Really listen to what children say and respond to the message they are sending to you.
•    Expand on the child’s language in a natural way.
– If the child said, “I goed to see my grammy yesterday.”  You might respond by saying, “You went to see your grammy yesterday.  What did you do together?”
•    Read aloud to children throughout the whole day.
•    Encourage ‘turn and talk,’ a time when students talk with a partner about a relevant topic.  While reading One, Two, Three to the Zoo one might say, “Turn and talk to your partner about a time you went to go see animals.”
•    Sing songs with children.
•    Use every opportunity to talk with children about what you are doing.  While passing out snack you might say, “I am counting out how many cups I need.  One, two, three…now I need to get the napkins out….”
•    Provide opportunities for children to play.  They will take part in self-talk, talk with peers, and talk with the adult who is facilitating high quality play.
•    Engage in imaginative talk.
•    Ask open-ended questions, those that ask the child to respond with more than just one word.
•    Value the child’s home language(s).  The experience with a home language builds the foundation for developing academic English at school.