Thursday, December 20, 2018

January 2019

SOEL Highlights of 2018

As we enter 2019, we look back on SOEL with additional members, more classroom observations for the Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy, aligned book studies, our arts integration collaboration with UMS, and considering our past to plan for our future.  Take a look at a few images we captured as part of our school year learning thus far. 

4th and 5th Grade Essential Instructional Practices in Literacy

On December 5th, 30 literacy coaches and teachers came together for a one day overview of the Essential Instructional Practices in Literacy, Grades 4&5.  Our theme for the day was "Shifts and Bridges".  Together, we did a close read and review of these Essentials to identify shifts from the K-3 Essentials and bridges to the Grades 6-12 Essentials.  We will host another overview in the spring, date TBD. 

Inquiry Into Disciplinary Literacy and Learning Meets in an Intermediate School

Thanks to IDLL member Melanie Dever for organizing and hosting the December 13th meeting at Creekside Intermediate in Dexter. After reading the grades 4&5 Literacy Essentials and the 6-12 Disciplinary Literacy Essentials, we got a chance to observe in several 5th and 6th grade classrooms. This helped us to see the bridges from upper elementary to secondary literacy practices.
Through a Success Analysis Protocol, we also elevated themes of success in disciplinary literacy instruction from IDLL teachers, and the student learning as a result.

Our next meeting is January 17th as part of the Responsive Teaching Institute. While it is a regular meeting date for us, everyone is welcome to register .

Upcoming Professional Learning Opportunities

RESCHEDULED: The 4th in our SOEL Teacher Research Webinar Series with Dr. Cathy Fleischer will be on February 13th at 4:00.
No registration is necessary. 
Join us at:
If you missed previous webinars, catch up HERE!

Echoes and Reflections Offerings

Echoes & Reflections is dedicated to reshaping the way that teachers and students understand, process, and navigate the world through the events of the Holocaust. The Holocaust is more than a historical event; it’s part of the larger human story. Educating students about its significance is a great responsibility. We partner with educators to help them introduce students to the complex themes of the Holocaust and to understand its lasting effect on the world.
Join us February 25th or March 5th. Free. Register HERE

Monday, November 26, 2018


SOEL Searching for the Essentials in Action!

The November meetings of the Study of Early Literacy (SOEL) network were hosted by elementary schools in our community. We only need to look to our local schools to see exemplary literacy practices in action! 
Our experiences with and connections to teachers and students helps us to see the Essential Instructional Practices in Literacy in an authentic way: 

Ann Arbor Northside STEAM hosted our November 7th meeting of SOEL 1- Equity, Engagement and Motivation in Literacy to look at prime examples of Essential #1- Deliberate, research informed efforts to foster literacy motivation and engagement within and across lessons.   In our brief observations across several classrooms, we saw an abundance of bullet #2- provides daily opportunities for children to make choices in their reading and writing in what children read, where in the classroom they read it, how they read it, and their reading partners. 
Thanks to SOEL member Brooke Stidham and teachers at Northside STEAM for our day!

SOEL 2- Reading Instruction in Early Literacy met November 14th at EMU during the Responsive Teaching Institute hosted by the AI Team of WISD. Presentations by Dr. Ernest Morrell and Dr. Laura Jimenez (two of five speakers) highlighted the importance of culturally relevant literacy practices, connected to Essential #8- Abundant reading material and reading opportunities in the classroom, bullet 2, books and other materials connected to children's interests and that reflect children's backgrounds and cultural experiences. See Dr. Morrell's and other presentation slides here for a snapshot of sessions.
 **Save the date for the next Responsive Teaching Institute on January 17th!   

Paddock Elementary hosted the November 15th meeting of SOEL 3- Writing Instruction in Early Literacy.  In our observations of writing instruction, we clearly saw Essential #6- Research- and standards-aligned writing instruction,
bullets #1- Interactive Writing Experiences, #2, daily time for children to write,  and #3, instruction in writing processes and strategies.  
**Thank you to SOEL member Tracy Terris and Paddock staff for hosting!

Grades 4&5 and 6-12 Essential Instructional Practices in Literacy

 On December 5th at WISD there will be an overview of the Essential Instructional Practices for Literacy in Grades 4 & 5.  Register HERE by November 30th!  $25 

6-12 Essentials for Secondary Literacy-
The Inquiry into Disciplinary Literacy and Learning (IDLL) network will meet at Creekside Intermediate on December 13th to examine the bridges from Grades 4& 5 Essentials and shifts into the draft 6-12 Disciplinary Literacy Essentials for which we are a pilot group for the state of Michigan. 
Our experience in a grades 5 & 6 building will help us understand the progression from literacy instruction in upper elementary into Disciplinary Literacy in the secondary grades. 
*Thanks to IDLL member Melanie Dever and Creekside staff for hosting!

Online Professional Learning Links

Did you know that several SOEL teachers are featured in videos on the site?    This is more evidence of authentic examples of the Essential Instructional Practices in Literacy Instruction in our county classrooms! See Caroline Jacob in this video, modeling Essential #4, Bullet 5: Listening for sounds in words to estimate spelling.

 Picture Books and Read Alouds are for EVERYONE!

Dr. Ernest Morrell is the director for the Center for Literacy Education at the University of Notre Dame.  In a recent two part blog post, his team at the CLE detailed how to use picture books at every age- also referencing the Essentials! 

See Part 1 for early and upper elementary grades and Part 2 for middle and high school grades. 
How do you use picture books and read alouds in your classroom?

Thursday, November 1, 2018


Teacher Planning & Implementation Day

Planning and Implementation Days were introduced this year to give teachers involved in an instructional or assessment network some intentional time to plan around their new learning in order to put it into classroom practice. 

On the first Planning and Implementation Day, October 18th, teachers had time with experts and consultants who frequently speak at our network meetings. Consultants were available on this day solely to support teacher's self identified professional learning needs.   

We were fortunate to have a plethora of expertise working with us that day:

Dr. Cathy Fleischer, EMU- Teacher Research and writing

Dr. Darin Stockdill, UM- Disciplinary Literacy

Dr. Gina Cervetti, UM- science units K-3

Heidi Roy-Borland, WLES, Coach-  K-3 reading instruction
Jenny Miller, AAPS, BLE - K-3 Writing instruction
Tonya Saragoza, MAS, Coach- Teacher Research, Reading Instruction 3-5
Tracy Terris, MAS, Coach- Reading and Writing Instruction K-3
Kate Rossetter, Coach, Howell-  PBL, Information in Action Kits
Members of the Achievement Initiatives Team at WISD - on literacy, assessment, responsive mathematics, & coaching.

Future Planning and Implementation days will be February 14th and April 18th.

Upcoming Professional Learning

Join us as we explore how educators can engage in culturally relevant pedagogy in literacy, mathematics, and science!

  • Decentering Whiteness Selecting Complex and Compelling Texts for your Classroom- Dr. Laura Jimenez
  • Mathequity - Dr. Aris Winger - Georgia Gwinnett College
  • Achieving the Goal of Leading for Equity - Dr. Richard Milner - University of Pittsburgh
FREE to all educators in Washtenaw & Livingston counties
$35 for all other attendees
Register HERE  


Essential Instructional Practices in Literacy- Grades 4 & 5 OVERVIEW for Literacy Coaches

The purpose of literacy essential instructional practices for grades 4 and 5 is to improve children’s literacy in Michigan. Professional development throughout the state can focus on this set of research-supported literacy instructional practices for daily use in the classroom. Expert research suggests that each of the 10 practices outlined in this document can have a positive impact on literacy development. The use of these practices in every Michigan classroom every day can make a measurable, positive difference in the state’s literacy achievement. Join us for a one-day overview of these practices. Cost is $25.00   Register HERE

*For questions regarding registration for any event, contact Jay Kirby at WISD. 

Monday, October 1, 2018


Literacy Professional Learning is off to a Strong Start!

K-3 educators in the Study of Early Literacy (SOEL) had their first meetings of the year to:
  • Look at the history of SOEL, now in our sixth year (timeline to come!) 
  • Write a Personal Syllabus to create a learning plan for the year.

The Inquiry into Disciplinary Literacy and Learning (IDLL) Network met at Saline High School for our first meeting to examine the new Essential Practices for Literacy Instruction in Secondary Classrooms, for which we are a pilot group this year.  Our study includes:

Upcoming Professional Learning

Register HERE for the Responsive Teaching Institute 

(SOEL & IDLL teachers, e-mail Melissa for a discount code) 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


Start Your School Year with Authentic Relationship and Community Building 

In these activities, students greet each other respectfully and then share interesting, meaningful activities that draw them together while practicing speaking and listening skills.

 They become more open to diverse people and cultures, ready to take a stand for equity. Such connections and understandings help create the optimal social emotional conditions for learning. They foster awareness of social biases and reveal possibilities for transforming them. 

       The activities are grouped by the domains of Teaching Tolerance’s Anti-bias Framework: Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action, with five advisories in each domain. 
See the entire guide HERE.

Powerful Literacy

Dr. Ernest Morrell, Professor of English at Notre Dame, and frequent guest speaker for SOEL and Responsive Mathematics, talks here about Powerful Literacy.  In listening to his definition we can see what is often lost among our mandates, programs, and test scores when it comes to thinking about what it means to be a literate individual. 

Upcoming Professional Learning Opportunities

Echoes and Reflections: Holocaust Professional Learning
Supporting educators and their students with the courage to question the past and the knowledge to impact the future.  

Join us October 9 & 10 at WISD from 9:00-3:00
  • Meet the public act requirement for teaching the Holocaust and other genocides.
  • Discover and utilize classroom-ready digital lesson plans, visual history testimonies, and additional primary source materials.
  • Align the curriculum to your school improvement plan strategies and district needs.
  • Make connections with what you are already do in your classrooms.
  • Enhance personal knowledge about the Holocaust and other genocides.

Friday, June 22, 2018

July & August

Summer Reading Lists for Educators

Whether it's for our own reading pleasure,  professional learning, or a mix of both, we should all make time to read this summer!   

Check out these lists for some ideas:
Kids Books (by teachers)

Upcoming Professional Learning

July 31-  Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy- An Overview

Register HERE

Anyone is welcome, but this day will also provide an overview of the Essentials in preparation for SOEL SI August 1, 2, 3**
The purpose of the Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy document is to increase Michigan's capacity to improve children's literacy by identifying a small set of research supported literacy instructional practices that could be a focus of professional development throughout the state. The focus of the document is on classroom practices, rather than on school- or systems-level practices.

August 1, 2, 3, SOEL Summer Institute

K-3 Educators- Join SOEL in Our SIXTH Year!
Register HERE  (THREE spots open!)

Because teachers are continual learners, dedicated to perfecting their craft, they participate in robust professional learning experiences, such as SOEL, as part of their career.

Rooted in the Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy, SOEL began in an effort to prepare teachers to not only teach students to learn to read, but to read to learn from the start of their literacy journey (Reutzel, 2014).

We know good teachers, effective teachers, matter much more than particular curriculum materials, pedagogical approaches, or programs.

Through learning together with literacy experts, professional texts, and teacher action research, SOEL teachers are powerful teachers of literacy!
'Probably the most compelling data is the difference in the percentage of kids who made their reading growth goals in NWEA comparing SOEL-trained teachers to others. Non-SOEL teachers averaged 58.1% of their kids who met their reading growth goals. SOEL teachers averaged 69.7% of their kids, 11.5% more. That's a big deal!'- District Curriculum Director

Engaging Students through Arts Integration and Student Participatory Action Research for Social Justice

August 9th   9:00-12:00 
      &          1:00-4:00  
* Register for one or both  
Arts Integration with Kimberly Boyd-  August 9th 9:00-12:00

A UMS/SOEL Collabortion:
Movement engages students in active learning! Movement and creative dance provide an opportunity to reach kinesthetic learners in a way that allows them to process and retain information efficiently. Join dance teaching artist Kimberli Boyd to explore warm-ups, creative movement learning activities, and simple structures for composing dances that involve students in active learning.
Whether your students are learning a new language, building a bolder vocabulary or discovering more dynamic descriptive word choices, movement provides an active approach to understanding nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, simile, and metaphor. This interactive and participatory workshop will share strategies that integrate best practices in teaching with elements and principles of dance. The result is a simple yet highly effective approach to enhancing student engagement, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and much more.
Objectives for the Workshop-  To know:
  • the basic elements of dance;
  • how to identify the movement potential in a poem topic
Be able to:
  • apply specific strategies for using simile and metaphor to write a free verse poem
  • apply structures that use improvisation to create dances inspired by prom theme introduced in the workshop.
  • the value of integrating movement and creative dance with poetry as a means of supporting student engagement, critical thinking, collaboration and creative expression.

 The Responsive Mathematics Institute continues this year, beginning with Dr. Vaughan Watson from Michigan State University. This professional development is an opportunity for teachers to learn how to use Youth Participatory Action Research as a means for incorporating social justice into the classroom. 

*Teachers are also invited to participate in the morning session from 9:00am - 12:00pm with Kimberli Boyd. The morning session will focus on Engaging Students through Arts Integration. Movement engages students in active learning! Movement and creative dance provide an opportunity to reach kinesthetic learners in a way that allows them to process and retain information efficiently. Join dance teaching artist Kimberli Boyd to explore warm-ups, creative movement learning activities, and simple structures for composing dances that involve students in active learning.

Friday, May 25, 2018


SOEL Teacher Research Presentations

On May 22, 23, 24, Study of Early Literacy teachers presented their year long action research projects around an aspect of their early literacy instruction aligned to the Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy.  

SOEL impacts teacher motivation and engagement in improving literacy instructional practices.

You can see all teacher presentations HERE and view snapshots of many in the video below. All SOEL teachers and their colleagues should be proud of the work SOEL teachers have done and presented this year! If you are interested in joining SOEL, attend SOEL SI August 1, 2, 3!

IDLL Practices in Disciplinary Literacy 

Inquiry into Disciplinary Literacy and Learning teachers and guests spent the day on May 16  digging deeper into disciplinary literacy practices in social studies, science, math and ELA.  IDLL will continue work next year by aligning current lesson plans and building new units specific to disciplinary literacy.  If you are interested in joining IDLL, come to our summer institute!  

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


SOEL 3 - Writing Instruction in Early Literacy

SOEL teachers observing Mini-Lesson and Conferring
The Study of Early Literacy, cohort 3, has a focus on writing instruction, Essential #6 of the K-3 Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy. Our April meeting was spent on Learning Walks in SOEL classrooms, specifically looking at Writer's Workshop.  Thanks to SOEL member Jennifer Miller for hosting our day! 

Literacy Learning Opportunities for All! 
 *See linked flyers for all information/registration

Thursday, April 5, 2018


Dr. Ernest Morrell on Building Powerful Family-School Literacy Connections

On March 13, we welcomed Dr. Ernest Morrell back for a third session this year on Every Child a Super Reader.  This time, Dr. Morrell led participants through a thoughtful planning session on building and sustaining school-family literacy.

Upcoming Learning Opportunities

Saturday, March 3, 2018


SOEL 2 with Dr. Gina Cervetti on Science Integration in Literacy

On February 28th, the Study of Early Literacy 2, welcomed Dr. Gina Cervetti from the UM SOE.  Dr. Cervetti believes we (educators) should support the development of KNOWLEDGE (not just isolated skills) through extended investigations and experiences, units of study, and conceptually focused reading. By combining what we know about literacy instruction with the NGSS, knowledge building will be the focus, as it should be.  SOEL looks forward to working with Dr. Cervetti next year in writing science/literacy integrated units, in line with both NGSS and The Essentials of Instruction in Early Literacy. 


  • March 13, SOEL 1 welcomes Dr. Ernest Morrell on Every Child a Super Reader at EMU. 
  • August 1, 2, 3 SOEL Summer Institute  (Save the Dates, more info. to come) 

IDLL at Millcreek MS- Disciplinary Literacy and Inquiry Based Learning

On February 21, the Inquiry Into Disciplinary Literacy and Learning was hosted by member Melanie Dever at Millcreek Middle School. Melanie and Ethan from Huron HS, led us through a process of thinking about what it takes for teachers to teach disciplinary literacy (as opposed to reading and writing in the content area), that disciplinary inquiry is about constructing and communicating knowledge, and this instruction is defined as supporting students' specific literate practices in the discipline for the purpose of disciplinary inquiry. 

Join IDLL!
  • May 17th at UM on the future of Disciplinary Literacy-contact Melissa Brooks-Yip if interested.  

March (and EVERY month) is Reading Month 

Are you looking for some new titles for YOU and the diverse readers in your classroom?  

Like book lists?   Follow me on Twitter!    @melyiplit 

Friday, February 2, 2018


 What are Teachers Reading? 

Teachers in The Study of Early Literacy (SOEL) 3 are reading Write Now! Empowering Writers in Today's K-6 Classroom by Kathryn Ganske.  With a focus on writing instruction, Write Now! details:
  • What writing instruction should look like in the age of high standards
  • The power of mentor texts to teach narrative and informational writing skills
  • Strategies for teaching argumentative and persuasive writing
  • Vision, choice and identity in motivating writers
  • Multi-genre projects to integrate social studies and science

Upcoming Literacy and Technology Professional Learning

IDLL hosts Dr. Liz Kolb on Learning First, Technology Second

March 22 at Huron High School, Ann Arbor
Hosted by the Inquiry into Disciplinary Literacy and Learning teacher network-  all are welcome! 


Learning with technology doesn't happen because a specific tool “revolutionizes” education. It happens when proven teaching strategies intersect with technology tools, and yet it's not uncommon for teachers to use a tool because it's “fun” or because the developer promises it will help students learn.
Learning First, Technology Second offers teachers the professional learning they need to move from arbitrary uses of technology in their classrooms to thoughtful ways of adding value to student learning.
*About the Author:  Liz Kolb is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan. She is the author of several books, and the creator of the Triple E Framework for effective teaching with digital technologies.

Dr. Ernest Morrell on Every Child a Super Reader

SOEL and Responsive Mathematics once again host Dr. Ernest Morrell on March 13th at EMU.
Register HERE
Dr. Morrell will continue working with participants around the 7 Strengths Framework, on how to foster:
  • belonging
  • curiosity
  • friendship
  • kindness
  • confidence
  • courage
  • hope


  • August 1, 2, 3:  SOEL Summer Institute at WISD- for educators focused on PreK- 3 (with a focus on early literacy instruction and the PreK-3 Essential Instructional Practices) along with Teacher Action Research.
                 Pre-register HERE

  • August 21: EdCamp as WISD- for all educators