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.

Celebrating the Professionalism of Reading Recovery Teacher Leaders

Part 2:  Ongoing professional development at the Teacher Leader Institute

by Eva Konstantellou, Reading Recovery Trainer, Lesley University

**Please read the 6/3/14 post for Part 1 of this blog post

TLI13_ChoosingBooksSessionIn addition to meeting for a number of days across the academic year with their university trainers for professional development, teacher leaders also attend an annual Teacher Leader Institute where they have the opportunity to listen to many speakers from inside and outside of the Reading Recovery community who present and discuss their research and its impact on teaching and learning.

Just a cursory look at the programs of past Teacher Leader Institutes gives us a glimpse into the rich opportunities for learning from expert scholars on fascinating topics:

  • Courtney Cazden on supporting children’s oral language development, especially when working with English Language Learners
  • Vivian Paley on the power of story and play in helping children become creative communicators
  • David Wood on contingent teaching
  • Elliot Eisner on artistry as an educational ideal
  • James Zull on the art of changing the brain through teaching that builds on the learner’s prior knowledge
  • Tony Bryk on school improvement and restructuring
  • Ron Gallimore on continuous improvement in teaching
  • Richard Elmore on the creation of learning communities in schools that sustain innovative work
  • Andy Hargreaves on investing in the professional capital of teachers

This month (June 2014) the Reading Recovery teacher leaders and university trainers will hear from Julia Douëtil, university trainer at the University of London Institute of Education, on the topic of building teacher understandings of how learners develop a wide range of mental processing activity.

Reading Recovery teacher leaders exemplify the conception of teachers as intellectuals who in collaboration with colleagues reflect on their thinking in an ongoing quest for building a coherent theory of literacy learning that informs their work with children, teachers, and schools.

For information on the complex roles of the teacher leader and on teacher leader initial and ongoing professional development please see:

http://readingrecovery.org/reading-recovery/training/for-teacher-leaders

http://www.lesley.edu/reading-recovery/

Celebrating the Professionalism of Reading Recovery Teacher Leaders

Part 1:  Refining teacher leader learning through ongoing professional development

by Eva Konstantellou, Reading Recovery Trainer, Lesley University

There’s an ongoing debate among policy makers on cultivating the leadership skills of teachers so that they become agents of change within educational contexts (see two recent issues of Educational Leadership, on “Leveraging Teacher Leadership,” October 2013 and “Professional Learning: Reimagined,” May 2014).

I cannot think of a group of educators that fits the profile of teacher as leader more than Reading Recovery teacher leaders.  The teacher leader role is complex.  Teacher leaders:

  • are expert teachers of children
  • support the learning of adult learners who take the yearlong course to become Reading Recovery teachers and continue supporting them through ongoing professional development
  • work with school administrators to ensure that safety nets are in place for the students most in need
  • oversee data collection and reporting
  • support development of the school literacy/Reading Recovery team
  • advocate for continuous support of Reading Recovery among administrators and other stakeholders

A critical feature of the Reading Recovery intervention is the inquiry-based professional development model that contributes to the effectiveness of Reading Recovery as an early literacy intervention. Following a full year of graduate level coursework in:

  • coaching skills
  • literacy theory
  • clinical work based on the theoretical work of Marie Clay
  • issues related to implementing an educational innovation

teacher leaders participate in ongoing professional development provided by faculty members at approved university training centers.  During their professional development sessions teacher leaders observe live teaching and reflect on teaching decisions in order to refine their practice and help support the learning of teachers.  They also engage in in-depth study and discussion of the work of scholars in various fields of study ranging from early childhood education, to psychology, linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, organizational theory, etc.

Teacher leaders are true scholar-practitioners who reflect on and assess the impact of their work through actively exchanging ideas within a community of practice.

Our next blog post will be Part 2 on this topic. BTG_Vermont

For information on the complex roles of the teacher leader and on teacher leader initial and ongoing professional development please see:

http://readingrecovery.org/reading-recovery/training/for-teacher-leaders

http://www.lesley.edu/reading-recovery/

Spotlight on Reading Recovery Training Site: Springfield, MA

Springfield ImageWe are excited to begin a series of posts highlighting the great work being done at our various Reading Recovery training sites throughout the Northeast. Our hope is to give everyone a peek into the many accomplishments of our Reading Recovery teachers and their students.

To start the series off, we are featuring the Springfield, MA site. The Teacher Leaders at that site are Lynn Santa and Rosemary Brown.

Below is a quote from a Reading Recovery Teacher in the Springfield district describing a family’s reaction to the progress their child is making in Reading Recovery: “When Addy’s mom came in to observe a lesson she told me that Addy never enjoyed reading and now she loves it. She said she is so excited to open her book bag and read her books. Sometimes she’ll read the same book 3 times in one night, first to her mother, then her father and then her older brother or sister! Mom also said she is always reading signs now when they are in the car or at the store.The whole family is very excited and involved and as we know that is why Addy is making the progress that she is.”

For more information on Reading Recovery, please contact Kelly Adams at kadams@lesley.edu. And stay tuned for next month’s feature on the Boston, MA Reading Recovery Training Site.

What Really Matters When Thinking About Text Difficulty: The Dual Needs of Struggling Readers

by Eva Konstantellou, Reading Recovery Trainer

coverIn his recent article in The Reading Teacher, “What Really Matters When Working With Struggling Readers” (click on “Get PDF” under “Article Tools” to read the full article), Richard Allington makes the important point that “struggling readers just participate in too little high-success reading activity every day” (p. 525) and blames this common practice for the failure of struggling readers to become achieving readers.   He argues that if struggling readers are asked to read texts that are too difficult for them, they will continue to flounder with very little chance of becoming engaged readers who learn from their own efforts.  He proceeds to suggest that the reading development of primary-grade struggling readers will be fostered if they have opportunities to read texts at a high level of accuracy between 98% and 100%, just like the better readers in the classroom.

Reading Recovery teachers understand the importance of having their students access texts they can read independently.  Reading Recovery students need to make accelerated progress so that they catch up with their classmates.  One kind of learning that contributes to acceleration is performing with success on familiar materials.  “Acceleration is achieved as the child takes over the learning process and works independently, discovering new things for himself inside and outside the lessons” (Clay 2005, p. 23).  Indeed in the 30-minute daily Reading Recovery lesson, students have the opportunity to read two or more familiar texts which provides for volume of reading practice, orchestration and practice of a range of complex behaviors as well as the understanding and enjoyment of stories.

In addition to choosing texts that allow their students to practice independent reading of familiar texts, Reading Recovery teachers also choose texts that allow their students to engage in independent problem-solving on new and interesting texts.  The teacher’s supportive teaching and prompting extend the student’s ability to problem-solve in texts that are just right—neither too easy that they do not offer opportunities for problem-solving nor too hard that they create frustration to the reader because he has to work on a large percentage of words which renders the reading dis-fluent and interferes with comprehension.

Fountas and Pinnell have also stressed the importance of having struggling readers access texts that allow them to perform like proficient readers:   “It is important for students to read a great many independent level books—texts they can read with an accuracy rate of 95 percent or higher (Levels A through K) or 98 percent or higher (Levels L through Z)”  (Fountas and Pinnell, 2009, p. 126).  They have also commented on the importance of selecting text for differentiated reading instruction that allow their students the opportunity to grow as readers:

“Students do need to take on more texts that are more difficult than those they can presently read independently.  But the gap cannot be so great that the reader has no access to most of the words and the meaning of the text”  (Fountas and Pinnell 2012, p. 2).  Texts that are a bit harder than their independent reading level have high instructional value because they help build the students’ network of strategic activities that will allow them to operate successfully in increasingly more challenging text.  These new, instructional texts become easy for students with successive readings and the processing system is strengthened as fluency and comprehension are also improved.

Struggling readers need to have opportunities to read a large quantity of engaging, delightful texts independently.  At the same time they need to extend and deepen their competencies through “reading work” in texts that offer them opportunities for problem-solving—searching for and using information from many different sources, self-monitoring and taking initiative to correct their mistakes, confirming what they’ve read, and solving new words by using a range of strategic actions.

Allington, R.L. (2013) “What Really Matters When Working With Struggling Readers,”The Reading Teacher, 66, 7, 520-530.

Clay M.M. 2005.  Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals:  Part One, Why?   When?   And How?  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann.

Fountas I.C. and G.S. Pinnell.  2012.  “The critical role of text complexity in teaching children to read,”  Heinemann. http://www.heinemann.com/fountasandpinnell/supportingMaterials/fountasAndPinnellTextComplexityWhitePaper.pdf

Fountas I.C. and G.S. Pinnell.  2009.  When Readers Struggle:  Teaching That Works. Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann.