The Most Important Part of Strategy Instruction

By Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, 2018 Literacy for All Conference Featured Speakers

With the publication of Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman
in 1997, ideas about comprehension instruction began to shift towards teaching students  to be strategic. Since then, powerfully influential books–such as Strategies that Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis and The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo–have helped us understand how to consider the strategic work of reading as a collection of processes that work together to help children comprehend text. While we agree that strategy instruction should be an instructional mainstay, we invite you to consider some of the more subtle aspects of teaching students to be strategic.

LFA2018-Kim-YarisLFA2018-Jan-BurkinsHere are five things to think about as you are working to develop strategic readers in your classroom:

  1. You can better teach reading strategies if you understand the reading processes of students.

    Listening to students read, talking to them about their understanding of texts, and knowing how they idiosyncratically approach and process text is quintessential to knowing which strategy will be most helpful to them. As a teacher you can know 1,000 reading strategies, but if you don’t know your students well enough to understand them as readers, you will not be able to effectively match the strategy with the reader.

  2. Students do not need 1000 strategies to be successful, in fact this may make them less successful. 

    The value of knowing a lot of strategies as a teacher is that we can then differentiate our instruction to meet the individual needs of students. Teaching lots of strategies to all of your students, however, will likely produce a cognitive overload. In the moment of figuring out the tricky part of a text, having three very-versatile strategies will prove more beneficial than having 15 specific strategies. In the moment of reading, problem solving must be on the run. Having too many strategies to sort through slows the whole process, which interrupts comprehension. Sometimes, less is more.

  3. It doesn’t matter how many strategies students know, if they don’t actually use them. 

    The real value of reading strategies is in their application! If students don’t–independent of teacher reminders and prompting–use a strategy, then it is of little value. The reading rubber meets the literacy road when you evaluate strategy instruction through the lens of student transfer–Do students know when, as well as how, to use strategies, and are they doing so independently?

  4. Isolated strategies are not the end goal. 

    The ultimate purpose of strategy instruction is that students integrate new strategies into their larger reading process. Knowing how to infer (or question or predict or clarify, etc.) is not enough. Proficient readers integrate strategies, flexibly using them in fluid ways. Putting all the strategies together is the ultimate goal.

  5. Not all students need explicit instruction in specific strategies. 

    Students who have balanced and integrated reading processes, who are already strategic and agentive as they work through text, probably need little (or even no) strategy instruction. They simply need more time to read. Their reading processes are already what Marie Clay referred to as “self-extending systems.” Be careful about one-size-fits-all strategy instruction, particularly if it replaces actual reading practice for students.

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Immersion Helps Children Envision the Possibilities

By Stacey Shubitz, 2018 Literacy for All Conference Featured Speaker

Instagram Stories have been around for two years. They came onto my radar about six months ago since several people I follow started creating them. I thought about dabbling in Instagram Stories, but knew I needed to watch a bunch of them before I tried on my own. (Even though Instagram Stories disappear from your profile after 24 hours – unless you save them to your profile from your private archive – I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself!) Therefore, I immersed myself in many Instagram Stories before creating one.

LFA2018-Stacey-ShubitzJust as I needed to view many Instagram Stories to help me figure out how one of my own would go, immersion helps young writers envision what their end products will look like. Regardless of the genre, time spent immersing children in the kind of writing you expect them to produce in a unit of study is time well-spent (Bomer, 2010; Caine, 2008); Eickholdt, 2015; Ray, 2006; Shubitz, 2016). After all, it’s hard to understand what’s expected if you don’t know what the finished piece could look like.

Typically, teachers share mentor texts with students during read aloud time. The first reading of a text should be to experience it as a reader. The second reading of a mentor text should be to notice craft or, rather, how the text is written. After reading a text twice, it is time to dig deeper to notice and note what an author did that made the writing come alive. Many teachers provide time for whole-class discussion of a text so that all students’ responses are honored and recorded on an anchor chart for future reference.

In addition, students can work with partners to read like writers. You may provide students with a variety of mentor texts (i.e., published, teacher-written, student-written) to read and explore together. Provide students with a variety of mentor texts – at different levels – so all students can engage in immersion with a partner.

There are many ways to help students read like writers.

Katie Wood Ray (1999) suggests:

  1. Notice something about the craft of the text.
  2. Talkabout it and make a theory about why a writer might use this craft.
  3. Give the craft a name.
  4. Think of other texts you know. Have you seen this craft before?
  5. Try and envision using this craft in your own writing. (120)

Ralph Fletcher (2011) encourages students to:

  • Make a copy of the writing and put it in your writer’s notebook.
  • Copy a sentence or short section of the piece in your writer’s notebook, maybe mentioning why you chose it.
  • Share it with a friend, zooming in on one part or craft element you really liked.
  • “Write off the text” – that is, create a similar piece of your own. (13)

While Katherine Bomer (2016) provides a third way to examine texts:

Step 1: Read Out Loud.

Step 2: Respond as a Reader.

Step 3: Reread.

Step 4: Read with a Lens.

Step 5: Talk.

Step 6: Record. (10-11)

There isn’t one way to read like a writer. Therefore, it’s important to provide students with a variety of ways to read texts – some are more structured than others – so students can find a process of their own to adopt. After all, we want kids to continue to do this work independently in the future.

After spending two to four days at the beginning of a unit of study to immerse students in a genre, it’s time to determine what they’ve absorbed. After immersion, set aside a day to administer an on-demand writing assessment (Calkins, Hohne, and Robb, 2015). On-demand writing assessments give students the opportunity to try out what they’ve learned after immersion. The data you’ll glean from an on-demand writing assessment will help you modify your whole-class instruction, if necessary, if you notice there are some big understandings about a genre the entire class is missing. In addition, you’ll be able to look at each student’s piece to determine strengths and areas for growth, which can help you set goals for one-to-one writing conferences. Furthermore, on-demand writing assessments provide you with data to create groups of students so you can create a series of small-group strategy lessons to meet multiple needs at one time.

We want students to feel confident when they begin the first non-immersion lesson in a unit of study. One of the best ways to empower kids to feel like they can create writing is to help them understand what it is they’re going to create from the start.

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References:

Bomer, Katherine. 2010. Hidden Gems: Naming and Teaching from the Brilliance in Every Student’s Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

—————. 2016. The Journey Is Everything: Teaching Essays That Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Caine, Karen. 2008. Writing to Persuade: Minilessons to Help Students Plan, Draft, and Revise, Grades 3-8. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Calkins, Lucy, Kelly Hohne, and Audra Robb. 2015. Writing Pathways: Performance Assessments and Learning Progressions. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Eickholdt, Lisa. 2015. Learning from Classmates: Using Students’ Writing as Mentor Texts. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Fletcher, Ralph. 2011. Mentor Author, Mentor Texts: Short Texts and Craft Notes. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Ray, Katie Wood. 1999. Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

—————. 2006. Study Driven: A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Shubitz, Stacey. 2016. Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

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.

Georgia Partnership for Educational Excellence Visits Literacy Collaborative School

The Georgia Partnership for Educational Excellence recently went on its annual Bus Trip Across Georgia that included educators and community and business leaders who are all interested in educational programs happening in the state. We were excited to find out they stopped at one of our Literacy Collaborative partner districts, Dalton Public Schools! Dalton has been implementing Literacy Collaborative and we are are so proud of their commitment and hard work. Below are a few things tour participants said about the schools in Dalton:

“My favorite of the trip! They have this reading thing done right. Love, love, love this! Saw students writing, reading their stories in front of the class and receiving both compliments and suggestions for improvement which were given with complete relevant feedback using the key learning concepts being taught. It was amazing to see 2nd graders articulate their thoughts and be able to give and receive feedback in such a meaningful and respectful manner.”

“After visiting, I believe that the innovation is not the reading program itself. It is the way it is implemented. It is good to see they are empowering teachers, emphasizing professional learning and making a long-term commitment to improving poor teachers and making good teachers great.”

“The amount of literacy used in the classrooms is evident and very astounding—verb charts, “What we’ve read” charts, etc. And I loved guided writing. I would love to implement this in my own classroom, especially for ELL students.”

“Reading program was fabulous. Commitment to all children is superb. Loved seeing it; it was a worthwhile stop.”

To read the whole article, visit https://dpsschools.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/gpee-bus-visits-dalton/

For more information about Literacy Collaborative, visit http://www.lesley.edu/literacy-collaborative/

Literacy Collaborative – a model for teaching and learning in your school

by Diane Powell, Assistant Director, Primary Level Faculty

ImageFor many years, schools have been consumers of program after program to improve student achievement. Oh yes, sometimes there are some positive impacts just because there is more specific teaching involved. We believe, at Lesley, that the money that schools invest in programs is short sighted! We are convinced that the only real lasting impact to improving student achievement is directly related to investing in the teacher who delivers the teaching, not the program. Programs don’t make the difference, effective teaching does. Not every teacher is working up to his/her professional capabilities (often not due to a lack of trying on their part) but once a school decides to make an investment in teacher professional development and the administration supports and guides the implementation of Literacy Collaborative, changes begin to occur.

Literacy Collaborative, PreK–Grade 8, is a model for literacy improvement that supports a school’s efforts toward improved student achievement. The tenants of Literacy Collaborative that allows it to stand apart from other published programs include:

  • An ongoing school/university partnership
  • School leadership teams to guide and monitor the implementation
  • Professional development sessions provided by a trained literacy coach to enhance teaching
  • Coaching that supports the professional development
  • Interventions for those finding literacy learning difficult
  • A home school partnership
  • Ongoing professional development for the literacy coach at Lesley University
  • Professional resources by leaders in the industry
  • Assessment that informs and guides teaching decisions
  • Assessment that helps monitor the effects of the implementation

Whether you’re a primary building (PreK–2), an intermediate building (3–5) or both (PreK-5/6), or a middle school (6–8), we can help your think more about the critical investment of resources you have available that will begin the turnaround of your school. Even schools who are meeting the proficiencies of their state tests can be enhanced by Literacy Collaborative.

Programs don’t change student’s lives. Informed, effective teaching does. Call or email for more information about Literacy Collaborative and how we might become partners in this most important responsibility of schools – the improvement of student achievement for every child!

For more information on Literacy Collaborative, please call 617-349-8424 or email literacy@lesley.edu.

Introduction: An Inquiry Stance for Teaching and Learning

by Jill Eurich

In the next blog postings that I will be writing I am going to consider how an inquiry stance can be effective within any instructional framework. To begin to explore this powerful tool, let’s consider these ideas from Judith Wells Lindfors in her book, Children’s Inquiry: Using Language to Make Sense of the World.

 “Acts of inquiry stand as the ultimate act of going beyond: going beyond present understanding (intellectual); going beyond self to engage the help of another (social) but ever going beyond as self (personal).” (Lindfors, p. 14)

“Inquiry involves students in interactions that are abundant, diverse and authentic.”  (Lindfors, p. 67)

“If a teacher is modeling an “inquiry stance” for students, she is most likely asking real questions.  These types of questions are ones you actually wonder about yourself.  They are what Albritton called “honest questions” and Lindfors calls “acts of inquiry.”” (Lindfors, p. 113- 114)

Whether we are sharing an interactive read-aloud, teaching reading, writing, poetry, or word study, an inquiry stance allows us to delve deeply into a topic with students, to explore alongside of them as they investigate patterns in words, writer’s craft in texts they are reading or are being read to them, an author’s perspective, a character’s dilemma, a problem being tackled beyond the world they know, connections across books or poems. Most of all a stance of inquiry is a habit of mind in which, “curious creative meaning-makers are engaging one another in their attempts to further their probing into the workings of the world.” (Lindfors, p. 127)

Source

Lindfors, J.W. (1999). Children’s inquiry: Using language to make sense of the world. New York: Teachers College Press.

Expanded Time for Teacher Professional Learning: Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative Align with Expectations in High Achieving Nations

By Michelle LaPointe, Researcher

Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative require many hours of professional development to learn these high impact instructional strategies to help children learn to read.  Beyond the time required in training to upgrade skills, both also require substantial teacher time to diagnose student needs, plan lessons that meet those needs, collecting data to continuously understand student progress, and reflecting on the data. Although districts and schools in the U.S. may balk at the amount of time spent that is NOT in direct contact with students, this amount of time is more common in schools in other higher performing nations.

Teaching is a learning profession.  Teachers must constantly assess and analyze student progress and understand the strategies that will best meet the needs of their students.  Teachers need adequate time to plan and individualize lessons. In nations with high performing education systems, teachers are given adequate time for on-going professional learning and collaboration with peers around meeting student needs and improving classroom practice.  Planning, reflection, documenting classroom work and daily student progress, and collaboration with peers to share challenges and solutions are all vital components of the professional practice of teachers.  Each of these activities, even if not performed in the classroom or while in direct contact with individual students, is aligned with improved student outcomes and mastering challenging standards.  The following table demonstrates the amount of professional learning time that is available to and expected of teachers in other parts of the world (*note- if you are having trouble reading the table, please print the blog post):

Sources:

OECD (2010). Education at a Glance 2010: OECD Indicators. Paris: OECD.

*The New Teacher Induction Program: A Case Study on the Its Effect on New Teachers and their Mentors (2007)

± part of collective bargaining agreement created in 2005 and renewed in 2008. In Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United States (OECD, 2011, p. 74)

** Training and Development Agency for Schools

º In Finland, aspiring teachers work in schools affiliated with the university training program.  They learn instructional practice in classrooms, under the tutelage of exceptional teachers.

Data taken from Teacher and Leader Effectiveness in High Performing Nations (2011). Percentage calculated by author.