#SOL15: More Questions than Answers

So the data is in, now what?

Progress Monitoring and Intervention requirements are set by the system.

But how to focus?

What do students REALLY need?

What questions will help the teachers move forward?

How can we organize the data to use it?

Here is my thinking.

We have all this data from the screener used three times a year.

Step One:  What if I put student names into the boxes so I can “see” who the students are that both did and did not meet the benchmark criteria? I plan to also record the score after the name so I can see those students who just made the benchmark and those who maxed out that part. Similarly, I can see those students who just missed the benchmark and those who are farther out from the targets.

grade 1 data sort

Grade 1 FAST TIER Data Sort

Step Two:  So what?

Should I use “Messy Sheets” to triangulate the data and look for patterns?  You can learn about “messy sheets” in the preview of Clare and Tammy’s Assessment in Perspective available here or in my post here.

Because this was a screener, there is no additional information about student performance/miscues.

What if we begin by looking at just the Sight Words subtest?

(Thinking about the fact that sight words, AKA snap words or heart words, drain time and brain power when a student has to stop and attempt to sound out “said” on every page of the book.)

What if we provide some instruction and begin to look for patterns in response to instruction?

Which students are successful?  

Which students are on target for the end of the year goals?

Does EVERYONE in the class need some work with sight words?

ONE way to sort this out might be to begin with the whole class.

blog one

Hmm . . . This adds more detail and now I am considering more than “red, green” and “does or does not meet the benchmark”.

But is this more helpful?

blog two

What do the students in the group scoring from 0-10 on sight words need?

Is it the same as those students in the 11-20 group?

Is there a difference in intensity for the interventions?  Frequency? Total time?  What will really close the gap and get the students on a trajectory to close the gap?

How do ALL students get what they need in order to continue making progress?

Are there some commonalities that ALL students may need?


How do you handle this dilemma – When your data just causes more questions?


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

#SOL15, Almost October, and #OLW

It’s Tuesday, time to write, and a topic is eluding me.

I’ve read this quote from Tara three times:

“The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”
Anne Lamott


What’s my strategy to get unstuck?

This is today’s strategy:

  • Read my blog posts from last October.
  • Read some other slicer posts.
  • And then start writing.
  • Write quickly.
  • Don’t pause.
  • Write.
  • Write.
  • Write.

What do I wish for students for 2015 – 2016?

  1. Sense of Urgency – There are no “do overs” so each day needs some strategic planning with specific targets in mind. What is the end goal?  Where do we need to end up?  And then backward planning . . . Ready, Set, Go!
  2. Focus on Students – Students First, Students Second, Students Third . . . Get the idea?  Students are at the center of every decision. In every classroom. In every school.  Every.Decision!  (and even knowing when to abandon the plan from sense of urgency because it does NOT work out for students!)
  3. Focus on Volume – Increase Teacher and Students’ Volume of Reading and Volume of Writing – Everyone needs to read and write more.  This will require a focus on literacy, as well as speaking and listening and thinking. Teachers will model reading and writing daily.  There will be evidence of living both a readerly and writerly life! And the reading and writing will be like Gold – not like a curmudgeon!
  4.  Joyful Learning – Not reading like a robot or due to assigned drudgery!  Creating an energized hub of activity – Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening and Thinking Joyfully! Happiness will ooze out of the corners of EVERY room! How do you celebrate meeting goals?  How do you celebrate writing?  How do students become the leaders in your classroom?
  5. And Lastly, Choice – Students will have choice in what they read and write daily. Being engaged in joyful literacy workshops daily means that teachers aren’t assigning chapters and questions or daily prompts. In real life, where are end of chapter questions or daily writing to prompts? When is the last time that a teacher completed end of chapter questions or daily writing to prompts? Readers and writers resent “made-up” busy work activities that are counter-productive to the items previously listed such as joyful learning, focus on volume, focus on students!  Students know when the work is a waste of time!

As mid-terms, October, and/or the end of the first month of school approach,

What do you wish for your students?

What are you planning for?


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

#FallInstitute2015: What Lester Said

What did participants hear Lester Laminack say @IowaASCD at their #FallInstitute2015?

Continue reading →

#FallInstitute2015 @IowaASCD

What do these have in common?

Miami Vice,

Golden Girls theme song,

Mr. Rogers,

Dalai Lama,

Black Swan,

Literary giants:  Ken & Yetta Goodman, Jerry Harste, Donalyn Miller, Reba M Wadsworth, Katie Wood Ray

Authors:  Ezra Jack Keats, Abby Hanlon, Cindy Ward, Linda Oatman High, Meg Kearney, Julie Brinckloe, Leo Lionni

Books:  Ralph Tells a StoryApt. 3, Cookie’s Week, Beekeepers, Trouper, Fireflies, Fish is Fish 

Peeks / Previews:  Three Hens and a Peacock, Moving Day, The Leaving Morning, Snow Day!

The number of books by Eza Jack Keats with Peter as a main character? (7)


What do they have in common? Lester!

(Lester Laminack – In case you know multiple Lesters!)

Where was I?

. . . In a land where learners were not to raise their hands to garner attention but were still expected to LEARN.

. . . In a land where KIDS were first and foremost.

. . . In a land where adults were mesmerized by storytelling.

. . . In a land where “Movie Reads” (AKA first reads) were like gold.

. . . In a land where “sitting perfectly still” was NOT required.

. . . In a land where THINKING was required (not optional)!

. . . In a land where conversation is buzzing about a Summer Read Aloud Festival!


But what did I learn?  

And how am I going to use it?

Well, the content in this book is SOOOOO insightful!

writers are readers

Reading and writing are reciprocal skills, or as Lester says “opposite sides of the same coin”.  This book is about more than just mentor texts because it answers the question “WHY do we need to study and use texts?”  As an example, Lester recited the opening lead from Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge.

“There was once a small boy called Wilfrid Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and what’s more he wasn’t very old either. His house was next door to an old people’s home and he knew all the people who lived there.

He liked Mrs. Jordan who played the organ. He listened to Mr. Hosking who told him scary stories. He played with Mr. Tippettt who was crazy about cricket. He ran errands for Miss Mitchell who walked with a wooden stick.He admired Mr. Drysdale who had a voice like a giant.  But his favourite person of all was Miss Nancy. Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper because she had four names just as he did.”

Not just a “party trick”

Instead this was a demonstration of the power of a well-crafted text when the lead was incredibly effective.  When do leads work?  When do they not work?   Teachers need a deep understanding of leads as both a reader and writer.  Using Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge as a mentor text might have students imitate the beginning in their own text.  But how would a teacher REALLY know that any one student or the whole class really had a deep understanding of what they read or wrote?

AHHH! . . .

So the goal is NOT to just write a lead like Mem Fox’s!

Not just imitation!

So then what is the purpose of using mentor texts?

There are several purposes, but it’s not just about “copying a craft move” into personal writing.  Using a mentor text is about studying and loving that text as a reader in order to fully understand and appreciate the care and attention that the writer has given to the work.  The “depth” of the qualities of the literature allow for multiple rereads or visits to the text in order to both admire and study the words, paragraphs and story.  It’s the reason that the literature may transcend time and cause us to revisit an “old friend”.

Using mentor texts is also not about just reading one text and then turning around and using that text as a model for an “activity” that involves writing.  True workshop writing means writing day after day, developing, growing and naming those moves discovered from reading that are now a part of writing craft.  But that takes time and study – multiple books, multiple reads, talk, and thinking. Not just being told in a mini-lesson to “Do this!”

What does that sequence look like?

Lester Laminack said it begins with a “Movie Read” of a carefully chosen “Best Friend” book. A book that the reader loses himself/herself in and becomes a part of the story.  A book that students must hear the whole book!

Then parts of the book may be revisited with students asking questions. Students may go in search of other examples . . . text structures, meaning, story elements . . . but moving beyond a surface look to a deep study involves time, purpose and attention to how reading the book enriches one’s own life. Reading, talking and thinking!

It’s not a new book every day.  It’s a planned, deliberate sequence that ends with students being able to revise and improve upon a description or substitute a “telling” for an inference.  It’s work but yet it’s fun without artificial motivation (punishments?) because students have stories they are bursting to tell and real audiences who can’t wait to unwrap those stories.

As teachers, we need to be more planful in our use of Read Alouds.  We need to carefully study the texts and consider how they can inform our instruction.  Use precise language. Check in on students’ schema and background knowledge.  Don’t stop when students have cows with “fish bodies”!

Read!  Write! Think!

Be true to students and their needs!

K – I – D – S! 

Additional Resources:

Unwrapping the Read Aloud with Lester Laminack

Videos of Lester and Reba talking about their book here.

Tweets from the @IowaASCD #Fallinstitute2015 are archived here.

(First draft / Round One of my thinking from a day with Lester Laminack!)

#SOL15: Writers ARE Readers

Today is dedicated to learning with  . . .


the co-author of

writers are readers

the incredibly talented and witty



What will we learn?

How to flip Read Alouds into Writing Opportunities!

Text Structure and Organization

  • Description
  • Sequence
  • Problem and Solution
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Cause and Effect

Weaving Meaning

  • Inferring
  • Summarizing
  • Synthesizing
  • Visualizing
  • Determining Importance
  • Making Connections 

Story Elements

  • Character
  • Setting
  • Plot (with attention to conflict and tension)
  • Perspective and Point of View 

and along the way we will laugh, talk, and celebrate students because writers ARE readers and today is @IowaASCD’s Fall Institute. A perfect learning day!

“The focus of Writers ARE Readers:  Flipping Reading Instruction into Writing Opportunities is to deepen our understanding of what we expect of readers, what we teach readers to do, how a reader’s insights can be the pathway into a more thorough understanding of writing, and how we as teachers can flip those insights to lead students into a more robust understanding of what it means to be literate.  We pursue the notion of helping students recognize reading and writing as mutually supportive processes to make their developing leteracy more meaningful and efficient” (p. viii).


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

Building A Reading Community #TheEdCollabGathering #4

The talented and amazing Kim Yaris (@kimyaris of @burkinsandyaris) took us on a whirlwind tour of books and classrooms for fifty minutes of FREE learning via Chris Lehman’s (@ichrislehman) Education Collaborative free online PD all day Saturday, September 19th.

Did you miss it?

Here’s a brief glimpse of some of the characteristics that Kim showcased!

kim yaris building a reading community 9.19 ed collab gathering

Check out Kim’s session here!

So much to think about as you make sure that you have a supportive learning community in your classroom/building!

It’s not too late to follow along live (or later). Here is the agenda for #TheEdCollabGathering!

Learning on a Saturday!

Are you familiar with Jan and Kim’s book, Reading Wellness?  Their blog?


#SOL15: How many ways?

Does this chart look familiar?

ways to read a book

What does this chart really mean?

What does it look like to read a book in different ways?

As you read the following, think about which chart category applies?

Crinkle the pages

Squeeze the duck on the back cover – “QUAAACK!”

Label the pictures: duck, dog, dog, rabbit, rabbit, goldfish, goldfish, duck – one word per page

Use the same sentence stem for each page:  “I see a __________.”

Name the sound the animal makes with its name for each page.

Name the action the animal makes as it moves in a two word sentence. (“Goldfish swims.”)

Ask a question about each page:  “Do you see the _________?”

Name the picture and say something about its color.

Name the picture and say something about its size.

Count:  “One duck, one dog, two dogs, one rabbit, two rabbits, one goldfish, a second goldfish, and one more duck.”

Take the pages out of the mouth and turn them slowly again, without any words!

Tell a story beginning with “Once upon a time there were some animals . . .

Point to the picture and name the animals again!

How many ways did this grandma read one 8 page book?

How have you taught parents to read a wordless paper book?

What can you add to this list?


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

#SOL15: My heart is full!

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

― Joan Didion

My heart is full!

A glorious holiday weekend spent with family.




Time together.

Silly faces,




stolen kisses,


A study of a child,

how he looks,

how he laughs,

how he “talks”,

how he gnaws,

how he smells,

how he drools (could it be an impending tooth?),

how he brings us such happiness . . .

precious moments in time!

My heart is full,

Yet bittersweet tears . . . the leaving is so hard!


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

#SOL15: The Survivor Tree and 9/11

September is here and with September comes remembering.  How are you planning to talk, read and write about 9/11 this year?

Five Writing Exercises from the author – Cheryl Sommers Aubin

“Being Inspired

Think about what inspires you. What do you want to write about?  Is it being on a sports team, loving to read books, playing with the neighbor’s baby?  Then start writing!

Being Called

At the beginning of her talk, Mrs. Aubin told us about being getting a very strong feeling that she should write the 9/11 Survivor Tree’s story. She truly felt that it was something she was supposed to.  Have you ever had a strong feeling that you were supposed to do something?  Please write about your experience.


Write about something you survived.  Like a shot at the doctors, losing a family pet, having one of your friends move away, or even changing teachers or moving to a new school.


Mrs. Aubin gives the tree feelings and emotions. Think about something you could give feelings to.  What kind of story could you tell?

New Normal

When the tree returns to the memorial plaza, things feel both different and also the same.  Can you think of a time when you went somewhere and you had this same feeling?  Did you ever go back to an old school?  Did someone ever return from some place and he or she felt different but the same, too?”

Why do I write?

Today, I write to remember and honor those brave souls lost on 9/11.

I also write to share these possibilities for Writing about Reading directly from the author – Cheryl Sommers Aubin.

Today, I write as I reflect on the character of heroes!

(Check out a previous post about The Survivor Tree in “Reading and Writing Instruction:  Paired Mentor Texts“)


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

#SOL15: It’s all about nonfiction!

Inspired by and including ideas from #TCRWP #RUOS chat on August 24, 2015 led by Katie Clements (@clemenkat) about “Tackling Complexity” – grade 5 unit.


“All About Nonfiction”


Because you know I’m all about nonfiction

“bout that truth, no fiction

I’m all about nonfiction

‘Bout that livin’ in the world

I’m all about nonfiction

‘Bout that learnin’, no fantasy

I’m all about nonfiction . . .

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I like the real stuff

Not that made up stuff, that fantasy and sci fi,

‘Cause I like living in the real world, today’s world,

With learning in each day.

I see art, pictures, and videos showin’ pieces of real life

We choose it because it’s so real, we move in closer and closer for every detail

If you got a passion, name it and just let it rip

‘Cause learnin’ is more fun when you get to choose your own path to sail.

Because you know I’m all about nonfiction

“Bout that truth, no fiction

I’m all about nonfiction

‘Bout that livin’ in the world

I’m all about nonfiction

‘Bout that learnin’, no fantasy

I’m all about nonfiction . . .

Because you know I’m all about nonfiction

‘Bout that truth, no fiction

I’m all about nonfiction

It’s all about your world

I’m all about nonfiction

‘Bout your life – no kidding

I’m all about nonfiction!*

*Adapted from lyrics by Meghan Trainor “All About That Bass”


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

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