SOL14: Digging into History

ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 


Where do you live?  Do you consider your hometown to be the BEST in your state?  Or that your state of residence is the best in the country?   I often joke about the fact that I live in Iowa and literally in the “boonies” – out in a rural area, literally surrounded by a state forest on three sides.  My background includes being a “farmer’s daughter” and more specifically a daughter of a “porcine production manager”. (A story for another day about the fact that the pigs who were MONEY had air conditioning long before the family!)

But I must admit that I often have to suffer through bad jokes or questions about being from “Ohio” or “Idaho” as some folks just struggle with knowledge of the Midwest.  Iowa claims:

      • the first in the nation – Iowa Caucus;
      • the birthplaces of John Wayne, Donna Reed, and Johnny Carson;
      • the home of Olympian Shawn Johnson;
      • the birthplace of President Herbert Hoover;
      • Ashton Kutcher who is often seen at sporting events in Iowa;
      • The Bridges of Madison County and
      • The Field of Dreams.

This weekend I was looking for information about the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell.  I’m not sure that I really even knew what “Airborne” meant in military terms but my research was fascinating and highlights from the Army can be found here.



Do you remember “Saving Private Ryan”?  Do you remember where Private Ryan was from?  (clue – my state!) Private Ryan was a fictional character. (But Iowa did also have a basis for a family with multiple members killed in the line of duty  - The Sullivan Brothers from Waterloo, IA serving on the Juneau during World War II.)


The screenwriter for this movie, Robert Rodat, saw a memorial to eight soldiers who died in the Civil War and began to write this story  about one week during World War II that began with the assault on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, where three brothers in the same family were killed. (70 years ago last month)


Lincoln’s “Bixby letter” was used in the movie as a reason to search for and send Private Ryan, 101st Airborne Division, home to Iowa.  That letter is referenced here and is often recognized in the top three of President Lincoln’s epic writings.  (Although there is some debate about the authorship)

The text of the letter  -

“Executive Mansion, Washington, November 21, 1864

Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts:

Dear Madam: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln” (Fordham University, Modern History Sourcebook and a lithographic facsimile is available here at Wikipedia)



Draft Found poem:

Mrs. Bixby
your five sons
have died gloriously.
Weak and fruitless
to beguile you
in your grief
so overwhelming;
in the thanks
of the Republic
they died to save.
I pray
our Heavenly Father
may assuage the anguish and
leave you the
cherished memory of
the loved and lost
and pride for so costly a sacrifice
upon the altar of freedom.
Respectfully, Abraham Lincoln

(Did you click on any of the links?  Interested in learning more?  Go back and check them out!   Did you learn anything new? What questions remain?)

Many historic events have become the subject of movies and Steven Spielberg has produced some epic films.  What is the attraction to a movie?

Is it the characters?

Is it the stories?

Is it that “kernel” of truth that serves as the basis for the plot?


Why do you watch “historical movies” or read “historical books”? 

I love “history” when it includes a factual base with well-developed characters and a fascinating story!


Reading and Writing Instruction: Paired Mentor Texts

(This is the fourth post about new resources acquired in NYC while attending the 2014 TCRWP June Writing and July Reading Institutes.  See previous posts for  a compare and contrast lesson #CCSS hereStand for Children here, and a book review here.)

Why Paired Mentor Texts?

Pairing mentor texts enables teachers to meet several lesson goals at once. Students who study the true facts behind a story make connections to the text and to history or current events. In addition, finding patterns and contrasts between  two genres can serve to better distinguish them in the students’ minds.

How can we maximize instruction?

Compare and contrast two texts  on the same topic in order to solidify thinking around characteristics or features of the text

Texts:  The Survivor Tree  - two different versions

The Survivor Tree:  A Story of Hope and Healing - 9/11 Commission (Available at the museum)

The Survivor Tree Inspired by a True Story bCheryl Somers Aubin, Illustrated by Sheila Harrington


What do you notice from the book covers?  Stop, pause and jot a few notes.

If you were to begin to form a theory about these books, what would it be?


Before this summer, I would have jumped right in, read this first page, and had students make note of what the author was saying.


I might have considered an “inquiry approach”  where I read this page with the book cover completed covered and asked the students: “Which book is this?” with follow up questions like,  “Why do you think so?” or “What is your evidence?”

BUT, it really isn’t about just being able to NAME this genre of text.  Instead it’s about noticing HOW the author used the techniques of the genre to meet his or her writing goals.  And viewing one text at a time is slow because of the lack of comparison and actually limits the amount of text that students are exposed to over the course of a year.


New and Improved Plan (thanks to wonderful learning and time to plan):

Let’s look again using the “Know/Wonder” format from Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton’s, What Readers Really Do  Teaching the Process of Meaning Making.  We will begin by putting the first page of both books side by side.  Consider what you know after you read the first page from each book.  What information is the same? What do you still wonder after reading those first pages?



What do I “Know” after reading page one from both books?

Both pages include these specific words:  Gallery pear tree, World Trade Center, plaza, New York City, September 11, story

The first page one specifically says “Survivor Tree” while the second one says “over time, and with great care, she recovered.”

Structurally, the first page one consists of three sentences that are fairly complex.  The second page one has four paragraphs.


What do I “Wonder”?

I wonder if both books will actually be about “HOW” the tree survived and the fact that trees can be “resilient”?

Will the first book continue to be more factual and contain more information even though it says it is a story?

Will both books continue to have a lot of similarities in their information that will make it “easy” to compare those stories?

Will the second book read more like a story or narrative with the “tree” as the main character?

Does the use of a watercolor drawing help create the “feeling” of a narrative in the second text?

Which text already seems to have more “narrative” features?

Which one seems to have more informational features?

Why are both authors saying that they are telling a story?


Making predictions:

In this new and improved plan, the second stage will actually have us looking at the book covers.  Based on what we have seen on the two different page ones, which book cover goes with which page and why? (Claim and supporting details)  I believe this conversation will have a greater focus on the text and how the authors have begun their stories.  This attention to the author’s craft will help the readers grow in both their reading and writing.


Can you already tell which page belongs to which book?  What writing techniques helped you make that decision?
Which plan do you usually use with paired texts?
What other paired mentor texts do you have in your reading and writing instruction?

#SOL: Summertime

ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 



current river

Lazy sunny day.

even cold toes,
resting on the bottom of the canoe.

sparkly water and
sandy beaches.

Singly or as a flotilla,
Slicing through the clean and serene
Current River.

What’s your favorite summertime memory?

Book Review / Summer Vacation Plans?

Another book that I found at the New York City Public Library was this gem that is full of wonderful advice about what you should do this summer!

book cover

Have you seen this book?  Do you remember “Little Golden Books”?

I remember collecting a wide variety of these when my son was little.  They were a perfect length for bedtime reading and had such a nice “happily ever after” ending (or at least the ones I remember). These were constants on the shelves as I traded other books that I was using at school depending upon the season and the age.

I’m not saying that these are great literature and are worthy of “stickers” as we heard Jackie Woodson talk about at #TCRWP’s Reading Institute.  But do check out the messages that I found in a very quick perusal of the book’s pages.

turn off tv

(And it’s very important to note that this page says 1959.  I didn’t know that color TV had even been invented in 1959.  Maybe color TVs just hadn’t made it to Iowa yet! History of color TV here at wikipedia.)

So if you turn off the TV, you should . . .


Clever, NO?  Not convinced?

More wisdom . . .


or even . . .


What have you planned for your summer vacation?

Will you turn off TV?
Will you read a book?
Will you use your imagination?
Will you learn something new?

. . . a cute book that you will enjoy sharing!

New York – Then and Now: Compare and Contrast #CCSS Lesson Idea

I believe in the power of bundling the CCSS Anchor Standards so I was quite happy to purchase this book at the New York Public Library while in New York for the #TCRWP Writing and Reading Institutes.










I loved the content immediately as each page had a picture and a text block.  The organization was also easy as each two page spread had the “then” picture on the left page and the “now”picture directly opposite it on the right page. My mind took me straight to compare and contrast with “visuals” and texts.

We will begin with the front cover.  The book will be displayed via the document camera.  Each partner group will also have the picture.  The partners will have some time to study the picture and record the things that they know and those things that they wonder.  After all groups have had time to talk and record their notes, we will record their thoughts on chart paper or on a google doc on the screen.  Students will be well aware of the power of “…and the evidence of that is. . .?” as they listen, question, and challenge each other’s thinking.  Each partner groups will then develop a draft theory about this book and its contents.

Inquiry will continue with this picture (text folded under at first).

liberty then


So, here’s the first draft of my plan for grades 3-5.  We are going to use the “Know” and “Wonder” chart idea from What Readers Really Do especially now that I have met both authors, Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton.  We will begin with the picture only.  Then after all partner groups have several “Knows and Wonders” recorded privately, I will read the text under the picture.  Students will be encouraged to study the text as well.  They will add textual evidence in a different color of ink as the partner groups continue to add to their “Know/ Wonder” thinking.   Before the next picture is added, students will be encouraged to consider whether their draft theory is still holding up or whether it needs to be revised.


Similarly, picture 3, partners recording “Know and Wonder”

liberty now

After partner groups have recorded their Know and Wonders from the picture, the text below Lady Liberty, and from class discussion, we will continue to explore whether our theories still hold true.


Similar process for another pair of pictures  . . .

square then

square now


After working with these two pictures, students will pair square so that each set of two partners will be matched up with another set.  As a group of four, they will discuss their “Knows, Wonders” and patterns and theories.


On the next day the quad groups will again discuss whether they have additional “knows and wonders” to add, clarify, or restate.  Time will also be allocated to add, clarify or restate patterns and theories as well.  Partners will be encouraged to take a different set of “then” and “now” photos and continue to test their theories and patterns as well as answer questions that have arisen.


How will this work align with the CCSS ELA Reading Anchor Standards ?

The following list of CCSS ELA Anchor Standards could possibly be included in this study.

Key Ideas and Details:

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.1
Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Do you agree with these possible standards? Disagree?  What would you add to this instructional sequence?

SOL14: Stand for Children

ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 


stand for children










Last Thursday, Brooke Geller read this book to us to close out our small group reading workshop session.  It was powerful, it was moving, and it was a perfect ending to our week together.  This book was written after Marian Edelman’s June 1, 1996 Washington, DC, speech about the importance of putting children first.  300,000 attended that rally 18 years ago.

Do you stand for children?  What would evidence of your stand look like?

Back at the end of June, Chris Lehman wrote a post on his blog titled, “When There’s No White Horse:  Being Our Best Advocate“. If you haven’t read it yet, go read it.  Chris wrote that post as a response to another blog that had challenged ideas in Falling in Love with Close Reading authored by Chris and Kate Roberts.  Chris chose to take the high road when he said:

“We, as a profession, need to advocate earlier and often for the policies that come our way. We need to shape the decisions that are made in our districts. We need to be active with our administrators. We need to offer our professional expertise so by the time something gets to the babble stage, it’s actually worth babbling about.” (06.25.14,

He continues on and tells us in the next caption, “We Can’t Wait for Advocates, We Need to BE Advocates!”  (It’s not too late, you can still go back and read it!)  Use his “small steps” to get started!

  • Take back edubabble
  • Don’t malign district decisions, get in there are help to make them
  • Connect with other passionate educators
Your voice is needed!  Stand for children!  Don’t wait for someone else!
What do you stand for?


Post #TCRWP Institutes




“Leaving on a jet plane . .  . ” was used by Lucy Calkins in her Reading opening keynote on Sunday, June 22, 2014, but that sounds easier than reality.  Thanks to the hurricane and storms in the Midwest, many planes were grounded or crews were in the wrong location on Thursday, July 3rd.  So here’s to an extended stay in New York City.

Thanks to my sister’s generosity, this was my Thursday evening view (July 3) after I checked into my hotel.















A mere
One hour .  .  .
Sixty minutes  .  .  .
Three thousand, six hundred seconds.
Snoopy would say, “It was a dark and stormy night!



Do you see that thin gray line across the horizon?  That thin strip was the little bit of daylight left hanging around!


Picture 3:    Independence Day  at 6:00 am in New York City





A day of promise!

 Have you reached your destination?  Are you still in transit from #TCRWP?  Happy Independence Day (wherever you are)!

TCRWP: Reading Institute Day 5

Accelerating Readers with Brooke Geller

Our agenda for the day:

Supporting complex texts and close reading during units of study

  • Gallery walk

We displayed our learning in charts, brochures, flyers, and even blogs so class members could walk around and see evidence of learning.  It’s fascinating to see our learning displayed in so many ways.

  • Round table conversations

We met in grade level groups and discussed issues, questions, and/or concerns.  See notes below.

  • Celebration

Brooke read aloud from Stand for Children by Marion Wright Edelman and then we each stood and said who we were standing for.


 Notes from grade level round table conversations: 

Grade 7:  Using some tips from Tracy Fell including personalizing student notebooks, writing at personal reader’s history and publishing it the first week of school. Brooke shared this possible schedule for 7th grade.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Read Aloud….

Independent Reading

Reading Workshop Read Aloud…

Independent Reading

Reading Workshop Reading Workshop

Under this schedule Mondays and Wednesday will be component days and will include some vocabulary work.  This particular group of teachers will also have “Great Works” studies three times a year for 3 week units where they will do a whole class book.

Grade 6:  Because there is a focus on world cultures, they were looking for additional texts.   Home of the Brave, Long Walk to Water, Your Move by Eve Bunting, and Inside Out and Back Again were all mentioned!  They also talked about how characters change across series like Harry Potter – book ladders available on the #tcrwp website and this document was shared by Sandy  Brumbaum.

Grade 5:   Discussed launching the first unit and working with the close reading lenses at the beginning of the year.  Because many students have not come from workshop classes, discussion centered around transitions including:  reviewing curriculum calendars from grade 4 and concerted vertical alignment with adjacent grade levels.  READ ALOUD – Popularities – From book – My first French Kiss   One teacher shared using Home of the Brave (Applegate) early in the year with close reading work and then coming back to it later in the year as a part of  author study. HF – Counting on Grace

Grade 4:  They talked about access to notes from other grades, Goodbye 382 Shin Dang Dong for social issues, The Can Man, A Room of My Own, and Those Shoes, and Getting Through Thursday.


 Successful Book Clubs

Brooke reminded us of the videos that show students talking about books like Bud not Buddy, My Name is Isabelle and Night (MS) and that it is helpful to let the students see the videos so they have a picture of their goal.

 However, that video will NOT take the place of a mini-lesson.

Possible scenario for envisioning Book Clubs ( coaches, admin. & teachers)

  1. Watch video
  2. Create a  T chart of what want/ know about a book club
Looks Like Sounds Like
  • A group of people – 3 or more
  People talking


  1. Students set goals for own book club
  2. Meet as a book club
  3. Watch the video again and reflect on own work
  4. Revise chart based on own work, the video, and reflection


Social Studies Centers with Kathleen Tolan

We began with a whole group close reading  of the Gorillas NF Read Aloud Video

  • Notice the tone.  How would you describe it?
  • List the different ways the teacher engages the students?
  • What methods of teaching are used?
  • What scaffold or supports are used to maximize learning for all?
  • What skills are children being prompted to use?
  • What level of questioning is being used?
  • What evidence of accountable talk do you see?
  • Is the teacher able to assess students understanding of the content during the read aloud?
  • How might assessment follow this read aloud?

These questions provided a variety of lenses to process the demonstration!

Whole Group Activity Boston Massacre

We used a basic picture like this by Paul Revere and compared it to two other versions:




Discussion questions included:

Who benefits from Paul Revere’s image?

Who was the image created for?

And how does it affect that person in that time period?

Why did Paul Revere tell the story this way?

(We worked with two other pictures that my Mac is not allowing me to copy)

Then we layered in “The Bloody Work of King Street” by Paul Revere.

A great ending to our work with Social Studies Centers but just the beginning to our curiosity about all those old pictures of The Boston Tea Party and ALL of those old stories.


Kathleen’s wisdom:  Probably 30% of what you believe is actually true!

We want our students to read something  and then put it up against facts.  They need to be able to judge misinformation.


Closing Celebration!

Many thanks and accolades

3 songs sung by teachers

A tribute to Walter Dean Myers who passed this week

Kathy Collins – Keynote   Not so random thoughts on Butterflies, Thigh Gaps, and Teaching

Thigh gap, unattainable body mechanics, compared to NCLB!

So very funny!  Such a good way to end the week.  Kathy left us with a note of hope as she read the book, The Little Brute Family.

#TCRWP: Reading Institute Day 4

 Accelerating Student Progress with Brooke Geller

Today we shared our tools with the admonition to consider these two questions:  “What is it?”  “How will I use it?”

1) Teaching Main Idea with examples for both explicit and implicit Main Idea  (for work with teachers first)


2.  Post-it Thinking Continuum for Student Self- Assessment

Students can ask the question:  Where does my post-it fit on this continuum? and

How can I improve my post-it?


3.  Strengthening our Post-its

Samples on top layer with suggestions underneath


4. Strategies for Nonfiction Texts with Questions

Teaching strategies specific to NF texts


5.  Strategies to Grow Readers

Specific sentence stems/frames to increase thinking


6. Digital charts for analyzing point of view and what to do when I am confused

Sentence frames


Then we explored Guided Reading Book Introduction in small groups with a teacher, a lifeline and three students.  Before the second round, Brooke did some coaching to encourage engagement (and quality instruction):

  • wait time
  • questioning – name the student last
  • showing text – particular parts
  • displaying vocabulary
  • display powerful images
  • turn and talk early on
 Social Studies Centers

In Social Studies Centers with Kathleen Tolan, we  began by discussing our Big Edeas within our group.  We posted them on the wall and then returned to our Drumroll (see Day 1 for the write around charts).  While circulating the room, and visiting the write arounds, we were trying to match up our “Big Ideas” with the actual pictures from the write arounds.

This meant constant reading and re-reading.  It also required trust and messiness.  There wasn’t a clear cut 1:1 match.  Kathleen reminded us that materials and intellect can challenge each other.

Important Teaching Notes
  • We didn’t have “lectures” on “big ideas” and maybe kids don’t need those either.
  • Revision of Big Ideas can come from the work.
  • Some resources lead to bigger ideas!
  • This is messy!

Big ideas included:

Access to knowledge is empowering.
Gender determines the future of a colonist.
Sanctions don’t necessarily work.
Slaves were traded as resources.
Colonial boundaries changed over time.

Not all Big Ideas matched up to the pictures but the more times that we, as students, revisit both the Drumroll and the Big Ideas, the more that we will revise our Big Ideas and increase both our personal and group learning.  Not matching a picture was not wrong.  However this “re-focusing” on Big Ideas gave us a bit more structure to think about as we began our second round of center work.

We had a page with four quotes for a whole class activity.  When working with quotes, Kathleen said people and dates matter so we googled dates for the  quotes that were missing dates so we could think about”time” implications as we worked on common themes between the quotes.  After discussing a quote in our group, we then did a quick write about what the quote meant.  Kathleen shared a fourth grade student response that was much better than mine due to the figurative language and the comparisons for freedom for slaves that was not a result of “liberty” from the British.  It was a great example that pushed our thinking about the possibilities for student learning.

Questions to ask as we plan social studies Read Alouds:

What reading skills do we want to emphasize?
What writing skills?
What note-taking skills (taught and/or used)?
What are the student learning targets?
What vocabulary should be in the word bank? (Does the order match the content order?)
What visuals should be included?
What partner materials need to be collected, organized, labeled and copied for students?


Closing Workshop:  Teaching Literary Elements Such as Mood, Symbolism, and Theme with Digital Bins  - Dana Johansen and Sonja Cherry -Paul

What are Digital Bins?  They are text sets that include:

        • Websites
        • videos
        • Photographs
        • Music
        • Primary source documents
        • Advertisements, etc

One example shared today was Theme:

“Theme is a thread that runs throughout a text.”

  • Pay attention to details:  characters, objects, colors, setting
  • Note patterns such as repeated images, phrases, emotions
  • Name the threads that tie this all together


Grade 6 Student Work Example for Symbolism


Create Text Sets Around Common Themes for Advanced Readers:

(have students compare across text sets)

  • Growing Up
  • Change
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Equality

Their presentation was really informative and provided many practical ways to plan for instruction in “understanding the craft of writing embedded and discoverable through reading!  Check out their blog here  and their book as well for tons more information!


Keynote – David Booth

Our friend from Canada, David Booth, knows that there  is  a serious problem surrounding boys reading “girl books.”  He works with students, parents, and schools in order to have them understand that the digital age is here whether we like it or not.   Loved the pictures and stories about his granddaughter as well as the fact that he “poked fun” at himself and his technological capacities!  Great speaker!

What was on your learning list for today?  Did you attend the 7:30 pm #TCRWP Twitter Chat with @clemenkat?

#TCRWP: Reading Institute Day 3



Day 3 of the Reading Institute ended appropriately with friends from the What Readers Really Do twitter chat including:  one author Vicki Vinton,  Ryan Scala, Julieanne Harmatz, Catherine Flynn, Tara Smith, Colette Bennett  and myself.  Interesting side note that we all Tweet, blog and love to talk literacy and education!!!  (Missing friends Allison Jackson and Steve Peterson)

ImageMust read book!

So what did we learn during Day 3?

In Brooke Geller’s session we worked on increasing our knowledge of nonfiction, made tools (pictures tomorrow), and began our study of guided reading and book introductions.  The assessment connections have been crucial – if we don’t plan to use the information, what purpose does it serve?  One of Brooke’s specialties is asking guiding questions to make us think about our practices. Examples:  Which students really need the structure and support of guided reading? Which students need more practice reading?  Are your students over taught and under practiced?  At what grade do you end guided reading for most students and move on to other structures with more student ownership?


Our Social Studies center work with Kathleen Tolan continued today with a lesson in note-taking (Teach students so this skill transfers across all content areas. Students don’t really want to copy every word, they just lack effective strategies).  This also means that you will be teaching nonfiction text structures in order for students to think about the format of notes that will best match the material / information being studied.  We played a round of “Guess My Text Structure” which we pretty much all failed in terms of speed of response.  The purpose was to provide a bit of “playful practice” with the types of text structures in a given text where students are required to provide evidence of their structure to win.  We ended our session with more center time.  (Still loving the open-ended nature of these tasks!)


Closing Workshop with Kelly Hohne – Close Reading of Informational Text

So, close reading AGAIN, Fran?  Really?  Are you kidding me?  There was the Close Reading Blog-a-thon.  And you have all those blog posts:

But stick with me and marvel at the sheer brilliance that I saw in Kelly’s work with us during the closing workshop.

The article we used was Gorillas in Danger  and if you open it up, you can follow along on a second tab or on a split screen.

(Disclaimer:  How I think this went!)

Kelly read the title and the first paragraph. She then asked us to think about that first paragraph.  What did it say?  What were we thinking?  After chatting with a partner, Kelly invited us to study the cover photo.  What impact did that image have on us as readers?  We then went to the word box and  discussed the specific words that had an impact on us from the definition.

Next Kelly reminded us that “beginnings matter” and that we needed to put our ideas from the first paragraph, the cover photo and the definition together as we worked to “see more”.   (Wow – close reading from a Read Aloud first paragraph, photo and definition as we BEGAN reading the article.)

Kelly reread the first paragraph and asked us to think about the visual images that were conveyed by the words.  We talked about “grooming, sleeping, playing” – human-like characteristics, the lush forest and the deliberate word choices by the author to make us more thoughtful.

Kelly then invited us to reread the first paragraph aloud with her (scaffolded – we had heard it twice so we were all successful) and  continued on through the rest of that column.  As we were reading we were to also be thinking about word choice.  We discussed those words that again seemed important to us and were also deliberate choices made by the author.


Kelly did not read the entire article to us and then ask us to reread it in its entirety a second time for vocabulary, a third time for main idea and sequence of events or a fourth time for point of view/stance.  

Instead Kelly carefully chose our entry points: the first paragraph (words), the cover photo, and the definition of “conservation” to begin our “close” reading.  We discussed those separately and then collectively. Then we read orally together. Not only did we have a purpose for rereading (fluency) but also for our lens of language and close reading.

Have you seen those moves before?

We had another go at “turn and talk” about the language in the rest of the text on the first page.  Then Kelly split the auditorium into three parts.  We listened to the second page under our assigned lens which was one of these:

1. language about the gorillas

2. structure

3. language about the conservationists

We ended with even more conversation about the purpose of this article and Natalie Smith’s view of the gorillas.

Kelly pushed us to notice more details in the story with the specific “read aloud” section.  We reread with specific lenses.  We read together.  We used the word choice of the author to help us support the BIG idea of this text. The lens of language paid off and helped us “see more” as well as be something “transferable” so students owned this text and other texts!

What did our language work look like?


What new thinking/learning have you added around the idea of close reading informational text?

Closing Keynote

Jacqueline Woodson (@JackieWoodson)

“Writing about the ordinary can show kids how extraordinary they are.” She knew that she was going to be a writer by the age of 7.  It took her 20 years to be a writer and “get those stickers”. Absolutely. Hysterically. Funny! Inspiring!  and oh, so great to hear her both recite and read her work!

It’s a new day!  What will you be learning today?


Joel Pedersen

be that #oneperson


All Things Literacy! Brianna Parlitsis


A meeting place for a world of reflective writers.

elsie tries writing

This is a place for my slice of life and general thoughts.

I Haven't Learned That Yet

This blog serves to document my path of learning and teaching.

Simply Inspired Teaching

Because your kids are counting on you

Reflections on Leadership and Learning

Sharing my learning experiences

AnnaGCockerille Literacy

The Generative Power of Language: Building Literacy Skills One Word at a Time

Reading to the Core

Just another site

Karen Gluskin

My Teaching Experiences and Qualifications

To Read To Write To Be

Thoughts on learning and teaching

Books and Bytes

Exploring the best of literature and edtech for the middle grades.

To Make a Prairie

A blog about reading, writing, teaching and the joys of a literate life

Raising Voices

Thoughts on Teaching, Learning, and Leading


Smarter Charts from Marjorie Martinelli & Kristine Mraz


books and educational topics

This is Who I am....... by Marleisa

wife daughter sister teacher student traveller home maker

Shannon A Thompson

You need the world, and the world needs good people.

Reading By Example

Rethinking the Role of the Literacy Leader

Teach Mentor Texts

Sharing Ideas and Resources


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