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.

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

We’re excited to announce we’ve opened registration for the 26th Annual Literacy for All Conference, co-hosted with The University of Maine, the University of Connecticut, and New York University. This year the conference will be held November 15–17, 2015 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 https://www.regonline.com/lfa2015 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.

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 October 1, 2015, 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, November 15, 2015: 10:00 am–6:00 pm

Monday, November 16, 2015: 7:00 am–5:00 pm

Tuesday, November 17, 2015: 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 pm 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 November!

Are You Teaching or Testing Comprehension?

irene_fountas_photoby Irene Fountas, Author and Founder/Director of the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative at Lesley University

All too often, successful comprehension has been regarded as a student’s ability to answer a teacher’s questions (which is one way of assessing comprehension), but it does not enhance the reader’s self-regulating power for processing a new text with deep understanding. Think about how your teaching moves may be focused on testing when you continually pose questions, or how you can shift to teaching or helping students learn how to comprehend texts for themselves.

Teaching for comprehending means supporting your students’ ability to construct the meaning of the text in a way that expands their reading ability. You can help them learn what to notice in a text and what is important to think about, how to solve problems when meaning is not clear, and provide scaffolds to develop their in-the-head systems for working through the meaning of the text. These abilities are generative, so students will be able to transfer what they learn how to do as readers before, during, or after reading to a variety of increasingly challenging texts in every genre.

Introduce the text to readers

When you introduce a challenging text to your students, be sure to help them notice how the writer constructed the meaning, organized the text, used language and made decisions about the print features. Help them know how the book works and get them started thinking about the writers’ purpose and message and the characteristics of the genre.

Prompt the readers for constructive activity

As students read orally, interact very briefly at points of difficulty to demonstrate, prompt for, or reinforce effective problem-solving actions that they can try out and make their own. Your facilitative language is a call for the reader to engage in problem-solving that expands their reading strengths.

Teach students how to read closely

Take the readers back into the text after reading to notice the writer’s craft more closely. Select a phrase, sentence or paragraph, or focus on helping them notice how the writer organized the whole text. Revisiting the text calls the reader’s attention to particular features.

Engage students in talk about texts

Talk represents thinking. When students talk about a text, they are processing the vocabulary, language and content aloud. This enables them to articulate their understandings, reactions and wonderings. When they learn to be articulate in their talk, they can then show their ability to communicate their thinking about texts in their writing.

Engage students in writing about texts

Writing about reading is a tool for sharing and thinking about a text. When students articulate their thoughts in writing, they confirm their understandings, reflect on the meaning and explore new understandings.

Testing is a controlled task for measuring what students can do without teacher help. Teaching is the opportunity to make a difference in the self-regulating capacity of the learner. Reflect on your teaching moves and engage in a discussion with your colleagues to shift from testing to teaching. When students focus on meaning-making with every text they read, they will be able to show their competencies on the test.

For more information about the Lesley University Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative’s events and trainings, visit http://www.lesley.edu/crr

The Lessons of Large Scale Literacy Reform

Guest blog post by Andy Hargreaves, Keynote Speaker at the 2014 Literacy for All Conference and Brennan Chair in Education in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College

Cover of OECD ReportLess than a year ago, I participated with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (the OECD who do the PISA tests) to do a review of the educational improvement strategy for Wales. Part of the Welsh strategy was to raise student achievement in literacy and numeracy (math) across the country in a relatively short space of time. Our report advised that the Welsh Government should rethink this strategy. Here’s why.

Large-scale literacy reform has been in vogue in the US and elsewhere for two decades now. It has been one of the driving forces of educational change across the country and many other parts of the world. One of the places it began was in New York District 2 in the mid 1990s. There, the Chancellor of Schools, Anthony Alvarado, and his staff, imposed a literacy program across the whole system, linked to measurable achievement gains, and backed up with detailed new materials and intensive one-on-one in-classroom coaching.

Harvard professor Richard Elmore and his school superintendent coauthor Deanne Burney articulated and applauded the reform design and its impact on results. Diane Ravitch later took some of the edge off the achievement gains by arguing that some of them were a result of gentrification of the community, not of the change strategy. But the more important point is that when the San Diego school district became enamored of the model, and transplanted Alvarado and many of his team members to implement it on the other side of America in a fraction of the timescale, the results were catastrophic. Gains were not sustainable and open warfare broke out between district factions as teachers and principals buckled under impossible high stakes pressure for short-term results. What was the lesson to be learned? Large-scale literacy reform has to be grown gradually. It cannot be imposed impatiently.

Across the Atlantic, England’s Blair Government was also setting about large-scale reform by instituting a national Literacy and Numeracy Stragey (NLNS). The strategy had an extremely tight focus so that many schools abandoned other curriculum priorities to accommodate it, it provided prescribed and paced instructional materials, it exercised relentless surveillance over implementation through the use of coaching and other strategies, and it imposed high stakes consequences for schools that failed to improve.

Architects and admirers of the strategy like Tony Blair’s education adviser, Sir Michael Barber, claimed there were significant gains as a result of the strategy. Critics provided data indicating that the improving trend preceded the implementation of the strategy, they pointed to how the results hit a plateau once the easiest wins had been made (for instance by concentrating on what US scholars call “bubble kids”), and they revealed the existence of huge collateral damage in the form of a narrowed curriculum, loss of classroom creativity and the rise of teaching to the test.

One of the biggest problems was massive teacher burnout and professional disillusionment that led to a crisis of recruitment and retention of high quality teachers. What was the lesson to be learned? Simultaneous imposition of literacy and math reform requires teachers to change all their practice all at once and this is so overwhelming that it threatens the basic capacity of the profession to maintain its quality.

On the US’s northern border, the high performing province of Ontario also took on the strategy of large scale reform but tried to learn from the mistakes that had been made in England that it saw as providing insufficient support and imposing punitive pressure, and in San Diego by taking an off-the-shelf model and implementing it too fast. Inspired by the systemic literacy-oriented change efforts of Peter Hill and Carmel Crevola in the Catholic School system of Melbourne, Australia, Ontario created a literacy and numeracy secretariat that made these areas of change the province’s core priority. It paced the change agenda so that achievement gains would be steady and sustainable rather than spectacular but unstable. It also provided a stronger spirit and much higher levels of support than in England in terms of resources, training, partnership with the teacher unions and an emphasis on school-to-school assistance.

Ontario’s literacy gains of 2-3% or so every year seemed both steady and cumulatively substantial and sustainable. But even its more advanced strategy had its limitations. The literacy gains were not matched by similar gains in math over the whole reform period, and in the past four years, math results have actually fallen. In practice, reformers now acknowledge, the numeracy strategy was not nearly so intensive as the literacy strategy. What is the lesson to be learned? In practice, even Ontario, with all its change knowledge, couldn’t implement wholesale changes in literacy and numeracy together, so one half of the strategy fell by the wayside by default.

Wales introduced its own Literacy and Numeracy Framework in September of 2013. Drawing on the lessons of international reform efforts, the advice of the OECD team on which I served as one of two experts was, in effect, for Wales to have a literacy then numeracy strategy, or vice versa. Here is what our team concluded (OECD 2014, p76):

Effective continuous professional development and implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework may …. require judgments about sequencing. To implement the framework requires teachers to learn three new things: new content in literacy, new content in numeracy, and new pedagogical strategies for effective differentiated teaching in particular. For a primary teacher, these three areas of learning affect all their teaching, almost all of the time, all at once. There is increasing evidence that this is simply too much. For example, in Ontario, the effort to implement the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy in practice meant that while great gains were made in literacy, the other half of the strategy (numeracy) did not get implemented to any great extent and in recent years results in numeracy have actually fallen….. Wales should learn from this experience.

This is a valuable lesson not only for the nation of Wales, but for all nations undertaking system-wide reforms in literacy, or math, or both.

http://www.oecd.org/edu/Improving-schools-in-Wales.pdf

2814615_origAndy Hargreaves is the Brennan Chair in Education in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. His new book with Alan Boyle and Alma Harris is Uplifting Leadership and is published by Wiley.

His sessions at the Literacy for All conference include:

  • Keynote Session: Collective Responsibility For the Success of All Teachers and Students (Grades K–8)
  • Collective Responsibility in Business, Sports, and Education (Grades K–8)
  • Collective Responsibility in Action (Grades K–8)

 

NCLB Reauthorization Proposal and What Really Works in Turning Schools Around?

by Charlene DiCalogero
Assistant Director, Federal Grants Programs

Two items in the January 18th EdWeek caught my eye. The first is an article about the ongoing attempts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act most recently known as No Child Left Behind, as well as the Obama Administration’s proposed waiver/modification plan for some of NCLB’s provisions even if a revised version of the law does not pass.

The article includes a helpful comparison chart of what is currently in the law, and some major differences (and similarities) between the two proposed bills as well as the White House’s alternative plan.

Second is the back page commentary by Alan M. Blankstein and Pedro Noguera entitled “What Really Works in Turning Schools Around?”  Professor Noguera is a highly respected and progressive professor of education now at NYU, and formerly at Harvard. Two quotes that stood out:

“The first problem with the administration’s approach is that it specifies the remedy rather than beginning with an accurate diagnosis of the problem. Firing staff members or rewarding them based on performance assumes schools are failing because the staff is lazy or uninterested in improving. The actual problem is always more complicated.”

“There must be a clear and deliberate strategy for improving instruction. Professional development must be directly related to the skill areas where assessments show students are weakest. Professional development is effective when it is site-based, ongoing, and draws upon the expertise of the most effective teachers in the building. Creating a climate of collaboration among teachers is essential.”

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.