Monthly Archives: October, 2012

Reading and Thinking Like a Historian


My job is “Literacy Specialist.”  That usually means that I am working in the areas of Reading, Writing and Thinking.  I am always looking for evidence of student thinking in what students do, say and write on their learning journey.

Today’s incredible resource was shared by my fabulous coworker @lynnselking, a math specialist. She finds the most amazing resources because she is a voracious learner!  Thanks, Lynn!

The Stanford History Education Group sponsors the Reading like a Historian site.  This site  has 75 social studies lessons arranged in 12 units that begin with an Introduction and continue through the Cold War Culture/Civil Rights.  They are free and advertised this way:  The Reading Like a Historian curriculum engages students in historical inquiry.

A quick review of two units (2 and 4) met evidence of learning that would support College and Career Readiness Anchor Reading Standards 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 as well as Writing Standards 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10.  That was 17 out of 20.

As a professional development provider, I would be remiss if I did not caution you to consider the instruction and modeling that the teacher should provide in order to increase the likelihood of success for ALL  students as they read, write and think like historians.  (Passing out the tasks as independent assignments would not be the best use of this resource!) For those who have worked with Fisher and Frey’s Gradual Release of Responsibility, these lessons would easily fit into the basic GRR framework with a few adaptations for productive group work.   Caution:   this will be hard work for students who prefer the low-risk, low-thinking tasks of  skimming through the textbook to answer the “right-there” questions in the book.

Looking for a way to incorporate the Reading and Writing Standards into History?  Work with social studies teachers?  Know a social studies teacher who is looking for resources to help teach the Common Core Standards?  Check out the units for yourself and then pass on the link!

And the ultimate in history assessments?  Beyond the Bubble , A New Generation of Assessments, also from Stanford!

MUST FOLLOW Blogs


(As I write this post, I am going to practice CCR Anchor Writing Standard 1, “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” )

As I reviewed the blogs listed here on my page as well as the ones on my google reader, I thought about the power of technology.  I eagerly look forward to catching up on my “online blog reading” in order to see what is happening with many friends that I know in the virtual world. I have found that a “support system” exists that helps me increase my own understanding of literacy and the bigger educational world. This post takes a look inside some of those blogs that are a part of my own support system that range from a Twitter chat group and some of its specific members to a blog from work that greatly influences my literacy specialist work to a blog that makes me think about how students should be using blogs for real world writing. The topics and content may vary but blogs are powerful sources of learning as well as reflections of learning; just check these out!

1) #educoach  The #educoach Twitter chat takes place at 9 pm CST each Wednesday night. The chats are co-moderated by @KathyPerret @PrincipalJ and @shiraleibowitz. Because all three are very talented leaders, I am including all of their blogs under number one #educoach . The reasons for reading them are uniquely different and important! (Yep, cheating already!)

A) Kathy Perret’s “Learning Is Growing “ blog is a place where she records her reflections and new learnings. In the “About” section, Kathy explains that the name was inspired by the book Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. Kathy is an aspiring elementary principal who currently serves as a Reading Consultant for NWAEA in Sioux City, Iowa. As I reviewed Kathy’s blog for specific posts to recommend I noted that the archives extend to August 2010 with 70,829 hits recorded. This seems to be a blog with a great following! Favorite posts that extended my thinking included: “Discover Writing” posted on July 14, 2012,  “Angry Birds” – A Lesson in Assessment FOR Learning posted on February 15, 2011  and “ Think-Pair-Share Variations” posted on March 21, 2012.  These three posts represent thoughtfully written articles for teachers that include the background theory, actual implementation steps, and resources that would benefit a teacher implementing the strategies in a classroom.

B) @PrincipalJ’s blog is “Reflections from an Elementary Principal.  Jessica Johnson reflects on her practice, her learning and connects with other school administrators as an elementary principal in Wisconsin. Favorites of mine include:  “Ready for the First Day of Bucket Filling!”(Sept. 2012),    October 3, 2012,  “Do my teachers know how amazing they are?” that was about nominating a teacher for a state award who didn’t feel she was a viable candidate, and  “The decision to go school-wide with Daily 5” posted on February 9, 2011  that details how Daily 5 began with one second grade teacher the previous year. With blogs dating back to 2009 a reader could find many topics that would build upon his/her own understanding of life as an administrator or lead teacher in any building.

C) “Sharing Our Blessings” is Shira Leibowitz’s blog shared in her own words “because for Educators and Parents, Counting Our Blessings Just Isn’t Enough.” Shira is a lower elementary principal in New Jersey. A special favorite of mine is the post “Who’s Afraid of Principals?” posted 10.09.12 that so aptly conveys a student vision of adults and reminds adults to stop and think about the perceptions of our students!  Posted on 04.22.12 is “The Learning Walk Shuffle” which details an evolution of learning walks to the current foci of differentiation and student engagement.  That is one post that I have reread multiple times! “A Team of Coaches” posted on 02.13.12 provides information about the specific roles of the math, Hebrew, science, educational tech, enrichment, media and literacy, and literacy and learning strategies coaches found in her building. All of these coaches work together as a coaching team to support meaningful professional learning.  Shira talks frankly about professional learning required to design and support all students and teachers.

2)  Quick Reviews and Ideas is a blog by @ksteingr (Kristin Steingreaber) who is the media director at Great Prairie AEA (Ottumwa and Burlington) where I work. The purpose of this blog is to connect students with new media resources. Teachers and/or students will be interested in the reviews. The October 24th post is a review of the book, The giant and how he humbugged America by Jim Murphy. Publisher information is included as well as why this may appeal to students in Iowa:  “Hull claimed that he got the idea to create the giant while on a business trip to Ackley, Iowa” (page 47). Curriculum connections to books from the National Council of Social Studies are also included in the book reviews found in the October 21st post as way to increase reading within curricular areas. The blog archives list 53 posts for 2012, 56 for 2011, 67 for 2010 and 78 for 2009 as further evidence of the long standing tradition of book reviews. Busy teachers will appreciate that the reviews are succinct.  Looking for a specific title?  There is a “search” available on this blog that allows one to focus on specific titles and/or topics.

3) This last specific post “Ideas for Integrating a Student Blog into Your Curriculum” by @penilleripp is on the “Blogging through the Fourth Dimension” site and is a “Must Read/Follow” because it includes education musings, technology and lessons as well as Pernille Ripp’s Life as a Teacher.  Need ideas on how to incorporate student blogging in order to make writing as authentic and as meaningful as possible without it becoming another homework burden?  If yes, then this is the post  you need to read.  Thinking about student blogging?  Then this is the blog for you to follow.  Mrs. Ripp has 150 posts archived for this year alone which could greatly inform any reader looking to add to their own knowledge of technology and writing. Any teacher who is considering student blogging will find additional resources and food for thought on this blog!

So this was quite lengthy. Did I support my claims that these were great “must follow/read” blogs? Was the reasoning valid? Was there sufficient and valid evidence? Where could I have improved my argument?

Hello and Welcome!


I really do love to write.  But lately I have been busy with google sites(5), moodle courses(3) and wikis(5).  I thought that I was already writing a LOT because my computer seems to be busy a lot. However, as I was finishing my Christmas shopping today (no haters, please!), I realized that those were all “work-related writings” and that I wanted something more.  So here I am.

This week I had the pleasure of working with some awesome high school English Language Arts teachers.  They were like sponges and really pushed me to think about ways to support them, in spite of or despite, our current focus on primary literacy.

So what resources to begin sharing?  Common core resources are at a premium and here are three that have helped me increase my own understanding of the standards and all the implications for curriculum, instruction, and assessment!.

Delaware has questions aligned to both the Reading Literature and Reading Informational Text. You can find grade 8, grade 9 or grade 10. Why link these resources?  I believe that teachers can use them for conversations around these snapshots of grade level expectations and as they think about logical progressions for instruction.

A second resource is The Common Core Daily.  Check out this daily publication for links to books, videos and other resources that might be of interest.

And my third and final resource for this post is Burking & Yaris’ Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy.  The authors, Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, write daily and have many posts that will help deepen your understanding of the Common Core Standards as well as additional resources to explore!

Were these resources ones that you already subscribed to?  What other web resources would you share with high school English/Language Arts teachers?

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