Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to SOEL, RA and WC! 

                                                             WISD/LESA Literacy

Happy Holidays to all educators involved in the literacy initiatives at WISD and LESA!   Enjoy your well deserved break!


Motivating Students to READ over the Holiday Break!

Franki Sibberson of Choice Literacy suggests that teachers help students organize some reading time into their holiday break with this organizer: 

Thinking Ahead to Vacation Reading

When will you have time over vacation to read? Will it be short bursts or long periods of time?

Is there a book you’ve been hoping to finish? What is the title?

Will you be in the car or on a plane for a long time? What kind of books might you take?

What places will you visit that you might like to read about?

Will you have time during the days without much to do? Is there a book you’ve been hoping to
read that you haven’t had time for?

What nonfiction topics would you like read about?

What internet sites would you like to visit (favorite authors, magazines, etc.)?

What magazines or quick reads would you like to have on hand for short bursts of reading?

Which relatives might you like to read with? What might you read to/with them?

Is there anyone you’ll see over the holidays who you like to talk with about books?
What are you most excited to chat with them about at this time?

Sunday, December 1, 2013


The Early Language Gap is About More than Words

      Our Study of Early Literacy (SOEL) group here at WISD has been deep into reading recent research and learning from top experts at local universities.  Dr. Tanya Wright from MSU shared this video illustrating the importance of teaching more than just vocabulary words. Look below the "tip of the iceberg" to reveal what is included in truly understanding the meaning of a word.
*from the Shanker Institute

Writing Collaborative: Addressing Instruction for 21st Century Writing Skills

Writing Collaborative was developed at WISD by five Washtenaw County teachers. The mission of Writing Collaborative is to understand writing in content areas in order to make explicit the processes and strategies needed to expand and improve student writing. Writing Collaborative believes that:
  •        Teachers should maintain ownership for their                         students’ writing in their content area.
  •        An interdisciplinary approach is key to improving                   student writing.
  •        Content area teachers who understand their own                   writing processes are the best mentors for their                     student writers.
  •        Teachers are the best teachers of other teachers.
  •        Educational practice should be balanced with theory             and research.
  •        Students should have flexibility and choice when                   writing.
  •        Reading Apprenticeship provides a foundation for                 better writing instruction. 

Interested in training?  

     During the initial 3-day training, Writing Collaborative helps teachers help their students determine:
Ø  What we do when we write
Ø  The practices of successful writers
Ø  How to help students attend to their metacognition and
      make thoughtful choices as writers
Ø  Four Sure Things Teachers Can Do to Improve Student Writing
·       Mind the GAP:  genre, audience, purpose
·       Use models and modeling
·       Increase opportunities for students to write
·       Give appropriate feedback
*See the bottom of this post for dates and registration info. 

*We are interested in learning more about the needs of teachers in the area of writing instruction.  Please take this SHORT SURVEY to help us continue quality professional development in this area. 

*Have you already been trained in Writing Collaborative?   If you are a secondary science or social studies teacher looking to work more on your content area writing instruction, Dr. Chauncey Monte-Sano and Dr. Leah Bricker at the University of Michigan are offering opportunities. Contact Melissa Brooks-Yip at or 734-994-8100 ext 1266


Finding the Right Books for Common Core-

Aligned Reading

            In  Reading Today, Lauren Aimonette Liang (University of Utah), Naomi Watkins (University of La Verne), and Deanna Day (Washington State University/Vancouver) suggest ways to find challenging, high-quality texts that match the criteria of the Common Core State Standards. “Be aware of the various types of nonfiction, and strive to include a variety in classrooms,” they urge. Teachers should also consider different formats: picture books, magazines, novels, how-to guides, and a variety of informational texts. 
They suggest the following websites as resources:
• International Reading Association:
• Hornbook’s Nonfiction Notes:
• School Library Journal:
• Text Project:
• World of Words:
In addition, Liang, Watkins, and Day recommend the following books (each with a Lexile level):
Island: A Story of the Galapagos (J. Chin, Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, 2012 – 900L)
Lincoln’s Grave Robbers (S. Sheinkin, Scholastic, 2012 – 930L)
Kid Pickers: How to Turn Junk Into Treasure (M. Wolfe, Feiwel and Friends, 2013 – 1030L)
Frog Song (F.Z. Guiberson, Henry Hold & Company, 2013 – 950L)
The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure (M. W. Sandler,
Candlewick, 2012 – 1270L)
Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure (J. Murphy,
Clarion Books, 2012 – 1200L)

“Selecting Quality Nonfiction Classroom Texts That Meet CCSS Qualifications” by Lauren Aimonette Liang, Naomi Watkins, and Deanna Day in Reading Today, October/November 2013 (Vol. 31, #2, p. 25-27),; the authors can be reached at, and
**Shared from Marshall Memo #511


Upcoming Literacy Professional Development

Writing Collaborative (grades 4-12):
February 6, 7, and March 7, 2014 at WISD 8:30-3:30
April 29, 30, and May 16, 2014 at WISD 8:30-3:30  *See flyer here  

Reading Apprenticeship (grades 4-12):
January 28, 29 and February 12, 2014  at WISD 8:30-3:30
April 22, 23 and May 14, 2014 at WISD 8:30-3:30  *See flyer here

Speaker: Dr. Timothy Shanahan on elementary literacy and the CCSS.  March 11th , 2014  12:30

*All details, costs, and registrations can be found on WISDGoSignMeUP!

Friday, November 1, 2013


 Using Argument as a Tool for Integrating Science and Literacy

    Erin Washburn and Andy Cavagnetto share an instructional framework aimed at integrating best literacy practices for science learning. They argue that being scientifically literate is more than being able to “read” science texts and recognize scientific vocabulary, rather it is the ability to comprehend, interpret, and analyze. Through PONG cycles (Problem/Question, Observation, Negotiation, Goal), teachers can facilitate thinking: 

1. Teacher poses a problem or shares a focused           question.
2. Students make observations.
3. Students make evidence-based or reasoned             claim(s).
4. Students share and critique claim(s).
5. Students revise their evidence based claim(s).

Click HERE for the entire article from The Reading Teacher, a publication of the International Reading Association (IRA). 

Reading Like a Historian

Check out the Stanford History Education Group for Reading Like a Historian. This free resource was created for teachers to access material that engages students in historical inquiry. Each lesson revolves around a central historical question and features sets of primary documents designed for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities. This curriculum teaches students how to investigate historical questions by employing reading strategies such as sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. Instead of memorizing historical facts, students evaluate the trustworthiness of multiple perspectives on historical issues. They learn to make historical claims backed by documentary evidence. See research on Reading Like a Historian here.

*Thanks to Brandon Szwejkowski for sharing this valuable resource! 

Is there a Purpose for Teaching Cursive Today? 

    When an administrator posed this question to me a few weeks ago, I did some investigating on this topic with my colleagues at Red Cedar Writing Project at MSU.  It was a very lively discussion, and one teacher made a live binder for our collection of shared articles and conversation on the topic. 
     It's a little difficult to find an article that is 100% against cursive.  They are either completely for cursive or share equal (or less) time to an opposing side.  While most agree that students need to know how to read cursive writing, most also agree that we cannot justify spending loads of time on it in an already pressed- for- time school day. What do you think? 

PD Opportunities Nearby

MSU College of Ed Technology Conference

    The 30th Annual MSU College of Education Technology conference will be held on Saturday, November 16th, 2013 at Michigan State University in Erickson Hall from 8:30 am - 3:00 pm. The theme of this year's conference is online and mobile education. Through a continued collaboration between the College of Education, the MSU College of Education Alumni Association and the Master of Arts in Educational Technology Program, this year's conference will be FREE OF CHARGE to all attendees.  Light breakfast items will be available as well as coffee, tea, and juice.

 Literacy PD at WISD:

Writing Collaborative teacher workshops (secondary)

Winter 2014: Feb. 6, 7 and March 7
Spring 2014: April 29, 30 and May 16
Reading Apprenticeship teacher workshops (secondary):
Winter 2014:  Jan. 28, 29 and Feb. 12
Spring 2014:   April 22, 23 and May 14
 *See flyer here

Early Literacy: 
Tim Shanahan on Early Literacy:  March 11, 2014

*All details, costs, and registrations can be found on WISDGoSignMeUP! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Literacy in the Content Areas

     Supporting reading, writing, speaking, listening and thinking is essential for the content in every classroom and every grade. 
  To engage students in literacy tasks and skills in every classroom, teachers can carefully choose how to respond to students to promote that thinking. Consider these teacher talk stems and metacognitive questions while facilitating content with students.  These talk stems help to get students thinking rather than simply acknowledging an answer as right or wrong. Students can answer these questions in writing, through discussion, or if they can't answer them, this may mean re-reading is needed! 

What did you mean by that?
How does that work?
Can you explain that?
Tell me more.
What did your partner say?
Does anyone have a different idea?
What makes you think that?
Any other details about…..?
Where did you see that in the text?
How did you figure that word out?
Are you making a prediction?
How do you know that?
What was your process for figuring that out?
Talk to me…elaborate.
Did anyone else have an idea about that?
How did you figure that out?
*For more information, check out Reading for Understanding- the companion text to Reading Apprenticeship teacher workshops.
Organized Interaction- 
Clock Buddies for Partnering  
        As a former English teacher, I frequently partnered students for discussion, peer editing, and reading. One thing I used consistently and found very useful was the Clock Buddies organizer. Clock Buddies is meant to be a quick and easy way to create pairs for partnered activities while avoiding the problem of kids always having the same partners.  It begins with a clock face, with slots for names at each hour.  Each student has his/her own copy of the clock to make "appointments" with  12 different classmates. Students can keep these to use all semester or year long.  See the whole description on this site, and download a copy of a clock.  

Upcoming Literacy PD at WISD

Writing Collaborative teacher workshops (secondary content areas):

Fall 2013: Oct. 22, 23 and Nov. 14
Winter 2014: Feb. 6, 7 and March 7
Spring 2014: April 29, 30 and May 16
Reading Apprenticeship teacher workshops (secondary content areas):

Winter 2014:  Jan. 28, 29 and Feb. 12
Spring 2014:   April 22, 23 and May 14
 *See flyer here

Early Literacy: 
Tim Shanahan on Early Literacy:  March 11, 2014

*All details, costs, and registrations can be found on WISDGoSignMeUP! 

Friday, August 23, 2013


International Literacy Day

 September 9, 2013

     International Literacy day shines the spotlight on literacy needs around the world. There are still 780 million adults worldwide with no literacy skills.  This year, the International Reading Association's theme is "Invent Your Future" to focus on literacy skills adults and children need in school, work, and life.  See the IRA website for a Twitter Chat schedule.

    Michigan also joins in the celebration with their Michigan Reads! book of the year, Woolbur.  See the Michigan Reads! website for a programming guide, touring information, pictures, author and illustrator information, and a recorded webinar. 

Other ideas to celebrate literacy on any day of the year include:
  • Stage a Fun Run for Literacy and provide donated books to participants.
  • Use newspapers to go global — conduct a scavenger hunt for country names or compare how stories are covered by newspapers from different parts of the world.
  • Invite students, parents, or guests who have lived in other parts of the world to read a story or to talk about classrooms in other countries.
  • Have older students make books to share with younger students or donate to childcare centers.
  • Invite a publisher to your classroom or school to discuss how books are developed.
  • Ask a local bookstore to donate books to disadvantaged children or for reading contest prizes.

Literacy in Social Studies

     Teacher's College at Columbia University lists some recommended nonfiction journals and online sites that may help you expand your access to complex nonfiction. The online sites provide access to a wide range of educational videos and databases. The journals often provide access to the online archive as well as multiple classroom copies. As you can see, this covers K-12.

Sites for Digital Texts:

 The NYC Public Library site. Access ‘research’ and choose from online databases, such as Amazing Animals of the World, andHistorical Newspapers, and a digital archive of historical photographs.

 The Discovery Channel site. This site gives you access to educational videos and interactive websites. For instance, for interactive global warming and weather issues, look at:

 Provides accessible digital texts, including videos of current news in science, sports, entertainment, and world events

 Watch award-winning documentaries, including current episodes from Nova and Nature, as well as archived videos

 Video clips and full length shows on history topics from Ancient China to the Vikings to Watergate.

Visit the home page, the video selection, or the ‘kids’ section, for a wide range of educational digital texts

Nonfiction Journals That are Particularly Print-Rich, Include Complex Texts, and Are Engaging:
  • Click –  introduces fascinating science topics (grades K-2)
  • Ranger Rick –  includes several-page spreads on an endangered animal or other natural science topic (grades 2-4)
  • Zoobooks –  these expository books are each dedicated to a single animal (grades 3-8)
  • Cobblestone –  focuses on American history (grades 5-7)
  • Dig –  Archaeology for kids, grades 5-7. Each issue is themed (grades 4-8)
  • National Geographic for Kids  – comes in two levels (grades 1-3 and grades 4-6)
  • Sports Illustrated for Kids  – covers issues, players, and teams, with an emphasis on achievement stories (grades 3-6)
  • Junior Scholastic  – provides coverage of current news issues and investigative journalism (grades 4-7)
  • Upfront –  the New York Times  Magazine for teens. Focuses on investigative journalism (grades 7-12)
  • Sports Illustrated

Literacy and Technology 

     At a recent conference, literacy consultant Cornelius Minor asked the question what do you want kids to do with technology?  His point was that the outcome is not just to learn another cool technology tool, but for kids to express their thinking and learning and collaborate with others through using technology. Technology is a tool, not a learning outcome. This is food for thought as we sift through and learn the plethora of new tools out there which allow teachers and students to read, write, speak, and listen in various modes.  

Upcoming Literacy PD at WISD

Writing Collaborative teacher workshops (secondary content areas):

Fall 2013: Oct. 22, 23 and Nov. 14
Winter 2014: Feb. 6, 7 and March 7
Spring 2014: April 29, 30 and May 16
Reading Apprenticeship teacher workshops (secondary content areas):

Fall 2013:      Sept. 24, 25, and Oct. 17 
Winter 2014:  Jan. 28, 29 and Feb. 12
Spring 2014:   April 22, 23 and May 14
 *See flyer here

Early Literacy: 
Tim Shanahan on Early Literacy:  March 11, 2014

*All details, costs, and registrations can be found on WISDGoSignMeUP!