#TCRWP: Day 1 Reading Institute 2015


This was what I expected the streets of New York to look like after hearing Lucy Calkins call to action at Monday’s Reading Institute at Riverside Church (The Doors and “Light My Fire” were a part of my picture – No, not teachers setting fires! See why we can’t allow “personal connections” in the CCSS!).  One story was about camping and “This Little Light of Mine” and yet her passionate plea to the 1300 teachers, administrator, authors and leaders from 40 nations and 42 states was to notice the detail in story and in our lives in order to find the learning!  Quotes from “the Dons”, Georgia Heard, and Susan Boyles provided a back story for

“I hope that you are on fire as a learner and teacher of reading.

Learn from the whole of your life!

What you do in hard times tells a lot about you as a reader!” Lucy Calkins (june 29)

The reality was more like this as we surged through the streets back to campus.

fire two

How are you going to embrace trouble and be on fire as a learner?

How are you going to be a “Star Maker” in your organization?


2015 Reading Institute 


Session 1:

1st grade – Elizabeth Dunford Franco  – State of the Art Curriculum to Support First Grade Readers

We had the good fortune to explore excerpts from the new reading units of study.  In first grade Unit 1 is “Building Good Reading Habits”.  Teachers currently using the Writing Units of Study will appreciate the familiarity of the structure of the new reading texts.  A new piece is the growing anchor charts that thread across each bend and unit with “pre-made” pieces.  Liz had us all repeat an oath that we would NOT laminate the post-it pieces.

The three areas of focus for “Developing Readers Across the Year” in grade 1 are:

  • Word – Solving
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension

Liz shared that time is spent discussing that habits are what people do automatically without any reminders, so students will draw on their learning from kindergarten as they build habits before, during and after reading.  If the goal at the beginning of the year is to “Start Off Strong, students will need to:

  • Read a lot
  • Practice re-reading a lot


That means that teachers will need to plan for predictable problems and we were off to work.  We identified possible problems and strategies/tools to aid in these areas:

Engagement / Independence

Stamina / Volume

Partnership Routines

Here is an example of a tool we created to help partners with taking turns.

Mini-chart Partner Take Turns Speak & Listen

We were thinking that this could be a two-sided card with speaking on one side and listening on the other.

What would you create to help first graders with Engagement / Independence, Stamina / Volume. or Partnership Routines?

Session 2

Katie Clements – Embracing Complexity: Teaching Kids to Tackle and Love More Complex Nonfiction (Grades 3-6)

In what ways are nonfiction texts complex?

Research notes:

Nell Duke – Fewer kids are signing up for science class or science majors, due to complex NF texts and they don’t have skills / to read them.

1992 – over last 60 years the complexity of science texts has increased.

ACT – clearest differentiation is ability to read complex text

Richard Allington – Students reading of NF peaks in grade 3 and plummets afterwards

What is “Complex Text”?

Webster – A whole that is made up of complicated and interconnected models.

What are some of the factors of Text Complexity?

  • word level (words in text, how frequently used, whether unique, length of word)
  • sentence level (structure, length)
  • structure level  (one simple conventional or multiple in text)
  • meaning level  (abstract or not as clear)
  • knowledge demands (Is the content familiar? Are there allusions to current events?)

What are some quotes about text complexity?

Vicki Vinton – “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Stephanie Harvey – “Complexity resides in what’s not written.”

Mary Ehrenworth – “Complexity is not equivalent to difficulty.”

So what do teachers need to do?

  1. Build up Background Knowledge  This is critical when students lack knowledge in content. They will revert to reading pictures because text is too hard.

Mini – lesson Possible Teaching Point

“Today, readers, I want to teach you that when researchers find the texts on a topic are just too hard to read, they can get some other texts that are way easier. If you read an easier text first- really studying the words, the ideas, so that you master them – those easier texts can give you the prior knowledge you need to handle the hard texts.”

2. Deepen knowledge of genre –

Give students more knowledge of the nonfiction genre.  Tell them the names of the craft being studied so the secrets are unveiled! Specifically teach the language of the genre to students.

Complex nonfiction texts are a lot like snowflakes – no two are alike!

Our continued work:

What are the ways the text gets complex?  What are the strategies that we can use?

The Explicitness and Complexity of Meaning/Central Ideas and/or Author’s Purpose

  • the number of ideas
  • the explicitness (implicitness) of the ideas

Language/ Vocabulary

  • familiarity of words , multiple meaning words – and then use secondary meanings
  • easy definitions in understandable words

Structure (including text features)

  • number of structures
  • Signals that structure is changing

Knowledge Demands

  • the amount of prior knowledge a reader is expected to bring
  • the degree of support the text provides
  • the amount of information the reader is supposed to absorb

Read some nonfiction text. What makes it easy?  What makes it difficult?

Closing Workshop

Developing Fluency and Understanding Figurative Language in Longer Books: Getting to Know a New Unit of Study – Brianna Partlisis

The “Fluency” work in the second grade units is based on the work or Tim Rasinski and involves the 3 P’s.

1. P – Phrasing – how you scoop your words together so not one word at a time.


What sounds right?

Try multiple ways.  Have the students mark up text, try it out and then try another way using wiki sticks (session 3).

2. P –  Prosody – matching expression!

Expression/Voice should match characters.  If a boy and Dad, they should sound different!

3P – Pace


Just right pace – session 5

Goldilocks connection

You do want students to be aware of this – NOT too fast, too slow, but just right!


Session 1 – reread aloud and in your head!


We read parts of our book again and again,

We read parts of our book again and again,

We read parts of our book aloud and in our head.

Understanding Literary Language

K L language – Metaphors, similes, idioms, homophones

“Sizzling like a hot potato” means . . . . .

Why would an author use that specific phrase?

This content seems to work best when aligned with poetry!

How are you explicitly teaching fluency, rereading and literary language?

slice of life

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

17 responses

  1. I’m smiling from across the river – what a great day you must have had!

    1. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!!! (Somehow the post published as a “scheduled post” – still working on more learning!) Silly WordPress!

  2. So much learning in just one day! I’m excited for our copies of the Units of Study to arrive so I can spend time with them this summer. Thank you for sharing all your learning and insights with us, Fran. You are a shining star!

    1. Catherine,
      I think you will love the new units. The “lessons” are leaner so I think the teachers will value that. Look for the “partner work”; I think that will be invaluable for maximizing learning!

  3. Thank you, Fran, for sharing your learning with us! So many good ideas.

    1. You are welcome! So much great learning at TCRWP!

  4. Again, a huge thank you, Fran, for sharing all that you are learning. I love the simplicity of how text complexity is described. It’s only Tuesday!

    1. Melanie,
      It’s interesting that our state focused on nonfiction so much during Reading First but since it was pre-CCSS and basically K-3, text complexity was never really addressed.

      It’s going to be a GREAT learning week! And you are so welcome! I appreciate the learning you share in your posts!

  5. What an exciting day filled with amazing ideas. I am sure your head must be spinning—I know mine would be.

    1. So much learning. It helps to write and share!

  6. That nonfiction work is truly amazing – have to sink my teeth into it and figure out how to put it all to practice. Thanks, Fran!

    1. Tara,

      You will love it! Exactly your cup of tea, dear friend!

  7. I can only imagine how your brain must be spinning. So glad it helps you process by writing because what a treat it is to read your thinking. Love the quotes on complexity!

    1. Well, this post was a bit of a muddle. The fire section posted and then I kept writing the summary from the day. When I finally hit publish, the original fire section disappeared and I only had the summary.

      I’m blaming it on WordPress gremlins though I am sure that it was operator error! Silly computers anyway!

      It’s so easy to report when there’s so much LEARNING!

  8. […] This was what I expected the streets of New York to look like after hearing Lucy Calkins call to action at Monday's Reading Institute at Riverside Church (The Doors and "Light My Fire" were a part …  […]

  9. […] evidence of my esteem would be in these blog posts:  here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Those nine posts share thoughts from the last year that […]

  10. […] 6. #TCRWPL: Day 1 Reading Institute 2015 […]

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