Tag Archives: Katie Clements

August #TCRWP Reading: Day 2

My joy of advanced sections during the August Reading Institute at the #TCRWP centers around the thoughtful and deliberate choice of sections to meet my needs.  As soon as I saw this title I was hooked because of the focus on “progressions” and “independence”.  Transfer is always in the back of my mind as well.  If a student doesn’t transfer the literacy work to both other content areas AND life, a lot of time has been wasted for minimal gains.

“Using Learning Progressions and Performance Assessments to Increase Student Skills and Independence” – Kelly Boland Hohne

On Day 1, less than 30 minutes into our first session, we were unpacking a strand.  In a group of five other new friends, digging deeper into the meaning of just one reading strand with this process:

Unpacking  a strand – do 3 things

  1. Study between the levels of the strands and note differences.  What is the key work of this level?
  2. Try to put into own words or use keywords from description.
  3. Try to imagine how that would look in a student’s writing about reading or talk or what it  would look like if the student is doing that work.

I appreciate so many things about the #TCRWP Institutes as the brilliant staff developers each have a different style.  And though my brain felt like it was melting, I was so excited (and yet a bit apprehensive) about digging into this work immediately. As in one strand with gradual release (Teacher modeling, Group Practice) and then a second strand in our group with constant check ins and support (if needed).  All On Day One!  I think this was the point where I tweeted out that I was getting my $$$ worth at #TCRWP.  However, it could also be where I first thought it, but had zero seconds to actually tweet it out!  The pace is not for the faint at heart!

When dealing with the progressions:  Do I have to do everything listed in the level to be “in” the level?   (Have you ever had this question about the rubrics or the checklists?)

No, No, No.   You just need to do more than the previous level.  This is why demonstration texts are critical.  If and when you make the thinking and the writing visible, students can figure out how to rise to the next level.  However, teachers do need to unpack these strands themselves for deep understanding.  Making a copy of someone else’s chart does NOT give you the background knowledge to help a student.  After all you, as a teacher, are more flexible when you understand the tool which is why you need to do this work yourself.

Where might you begin?  Which progressions stand out?

Focus on some key strands to begin with because they are repeated a lot (via Kelly Boland Hohne):

Literal – Envisioning/Predicting

Interpretive – Character Response/Change

Interpretive – Determining Themes/Cohesion

Analytical – Analyzing Parts of a Story in Relation to the World

Analytical – Analyzing Author’s Craft

We worked on these topics in small groups.  Our group focused on “Character Response/Change”, What does this look like across grades?  What would a demonstration piece of writing look like across the grades?  Here’s what the draft of my chart looks like!

Screenshot 2017-08-09 at 4.38.12 AMAs we use the chart, it’s highly probable there will be some revisions.  It’s also possible that there will be continued discussion about “quantity” and “quality” of responses.  Those are some of the common issues in trying to measure/assess learning. The key is to:


  • Make a plan.
  • Think about the information you plan to use.
  • Work collaboratively to consider theories about student work.

Making the invisible visible in reading comprehension is a lofty, noble and worthwhile goal.  It CANNOT be handed to you in a book, a set of standards, or even a set of progressions.  The meaning comes from digging into the work.

What work are you doing to build students’ independence?  


How will you know you are on the learning journey?  

How will you know when you are successful?




#TCRWP Reading: Takeaways Day 4

Writing about Day 4,

Anticipating how Day 5 will go,

Downloaded Nine, Ten.

Opened Nine, Ten.

Everyone will mention the same thing, and if they don’t, when you ask them, they will remember. It was a perfect day.”

Rush, Rush, Rush.

Pack, Toss, Go.

Downloaded Raymie Nightingale.

Opened Raymie Nightingale.

“There were three of them, three girls.”

Revise, Plan, Revise – Finish that homework.

Worry just a bit about the weight of the carry on suitcase.

Tweet about need for book 3 for flight.

Boarding pass screenshot saved in gallery.

Repack day/work bag.

What do I REALLY need for today?

Checking to see if there’s a long-lost “un-read” book on my kindle.


Something about writing Day 4 post that seems too rushed . . .

Not ready for Day 5

It’s too soon . . .

The beginning of the end!

Enough!  What about Day 4?

Amanda Hartman

Rev Up Your Teaching Muscles to Make Your Whole Group Instruction as Potent as Possible (Mini-lessons, Shared Reading, Read Aloud) (K-2)

We brainstormed a list of all the things that could go wrong in shared reading and then came up with some solutions.  What fabulous work for a grade level PLC or vertical PLC?  How many different ways can we solve those recurring issues?   If we don’t have the solution, we can reach out and pose the question on Twitter or check into the topics of the weekly #TCRWP Twitter Chats!

Pace . . . speeding up our instruction, and adding a bit more enthusiasm and excitement did help meet the “Engaging and Engaged” criteria.  It’s not about being a “mini-Amanda”(which would be amazing!),  but it is about considering exactly which behaviors contribute to the success of a lesson.  So many ways to check in on students – thumbs up, turn and talk, act out, share outs – without slowing down to wait for 100% of the students!


  1. Teaching students how to self-evaluate  is so important ~ Even on Day One in kindergarten!
  2. Lean teaching – less teacher talk and more student talk and work is critical – I already know it!
  3. Shared Reading – Use a story telling voice; not a point to every word boring voice!
  4. Not every Read Aloud book has a book introduction.  Don’t kill your Read Alouds. Know your purpose!
  5. Do you know Houndsley and Catina?  Such great characters with so many problems!


Kathleen Tolan

Beyond Guided Reading: Expanding Your Repertoire of Small Group Work in Nonfiction (3-8)

Today we saw some different options for note taking for small groups.  The key is to record the information that is vital for continuing on.  Did you check in on Joey? Ok? Not?  Quick notes – no complete sentences needed – that will keep the groups and you moving forward.

We also presented our series of three lessons and had some superb coaching that led to our revision assignment for tomorrow!  YAY, Revision!  Fixing and making stronger YET leaner! What a challenge. Not more words  . . . but more precise words! Clarity in the Teaching Point and Link!

But the amazing part was watching Kathleen, quite masterfully, run three different groups in the room at the same time in 12 minutes.  Simply amazing.  All three groups were working on different goals.  All three groups had some group and individual time with the teacher.  It did NOT seem rushed.  But yet there was a sense of urgency and a need to get busy and accomplish the work!


  1. Written Teaching Points keep you focused!
  2. Try 2 simultaneous groups.  Assign locations and then get all students working on reading first!
  3. Know what your end goal is!
  4. Have your tools and texts organized with extras handy!
  5. Give it a go!  Nothing ventured; nothing gained!

Choice Session

Katie Clements

The Intersection of Guided Reading, Strategy Lessons and Book Clubs

Key Principles of Small Group Work:

  1. Kids do the heavy lifting.
  2. Small group work is flexible.
  3. Small group work is assessment – based. 
  4. Small group work is for EVERYONE. (so is independent work)
  5. Small group work empowers kids.  (set goals, work with partners, or lead own group)
  6. Small group work builds skills over time. (cannot master in 10 min.  – or expect transfer)

I loved creating this chart  (putting Katie’s info into the boxes) to compare the three types of small group instruction that we typically see in classrooms.  How are they alike?  How are they different?

Guided Reading Strategy Lessons Book Clubs
Who? Kids reading at or close to same reading level Kids who need help with the same skill, goal, or reading habit

Not level dependent

Kids who read at or near the same reading level
What? Teacher – selected texts

Slightly above independent reading level

Usually kids’ independent reading books Kids have limited choice over the books

Multiple copies of the same title

Why? Move kids up levels Help kids strengthen reading skills, goals, habits

Support transference

Deepen engagement

Deepen reading, writing, talk about books

Provide authentic reading experiences

How it goes? Book introduction

Kids read/teacher coaches responsively

Ends with conversation and a teaching point

Begins with a teaching point and brief teach

Kids try to do the work with teacher coaching

Ends with a link

Kids develop agendas for reading, thinking, jotting

Teachers coach in to support skill work and talk


  1. Book clubs provide so much student choice and need to be used more frequently.
  2. Book introductions can definitely go more than one way – so helpful to SEE two different ones for the same book.
  3. Scaffold student work – figurative language can be found on this page that I have pre-posted for you. (Student finds word -Teacher has narrowed down to this page, and this one, and this one! – So smart!)
  4. All students reading before teacher starts coaching tends to lead to lean coaching. (Not answering task questions)
  5.  Think as you read.  When do you wish for a tool? Something to help you through a tricky part?  That’s what students need!

How important is community to adult readers?  To our novice readers?  

How do teachers practice enough to be “skilled” at their teaching/coaching craft?



#TCRWP Reading: Takeaways Day 1

And so it begins  . . . this week I am attending the #TCRWP June Reading Institute and it’s off to an amazing start! This is what my brain felt like about 2 pm on Monday . . . with an hour and a half YET to go.

Exploding head

08 May 2001 — Exploding head — Image by © John Lund/CORBIS


Information Overload!

Just plug that CAT 6 cable directly into my brain and let me power on all the assistance I can.  It’s going to be an exhilarating experience!

Lucy Calkins Keynote

Why do we read?  How does reading benefit us as a community?  How does the community benefit when we are readers?  These questions weren’t posed by Lucy but so many questions ran through my mind today during her “Call to Action.”

“We come from 38 countries and 41 states . . . 1300 of you to learn about teaching reading . . . to learn about yourselves . . . to learn from each other . . . From places in the heart . . .To say no . . . To say yes”

TCRWP isn’t just an event. It’s not about attending for a week, soaking up knowledge, returning home, and regurgitating that knowledge to a welcome (or unwelcome) audience.  TCRWP is about the community – face to face this week –  on Facebook and Twitter in the future and even on blogs like this between institutes and Saturday reunions.  If you take risks, are vulnerable this week, you will never be the same reader or teacher of reading in the future.  You will grow. You will stretch. You will fly. Empathy is built day by day.  We can and we must learn and understand by thinking ourselves into other’s places.

Takeaway Questions:

  1. How will you support your reading community?
  2. Maybe we need a new educational story.  To reach, to dream, to grow strong . . What do you need in order to grow yourself?
  3. How can you grow your own version of #TCRWP?  Your own nest?
  4. There’s important work to be done.  It will be hard work.  We as educators are asked to outgrow our own work.  How will you outgrow your own work?
  5. It’s not just about naming the strategies, but inducting kids into the identities and values of READERS! How will you create a safe community for your readers?


Amanda Hartman

Rev Up Your Teaching Muscles to Make Your Whole Group Instruction as Potent as Possible (Mini lessons, Shared Reading, Read Aloud) (K-2)




Explanation and Demonstration.

Powerful Whole Class Instruction for K-2 Students

  1. Clarity and Concise Language
  2. Engaging and Engaged
  3. Assess and Give Feedback
  4. Links and Skills (Strategies) to Independent and Partner/Club Work
  5.  Opportunities for Oral Language Development “


Read and Study Mini-lesson individually. (1st grade, lesson 10 – Readers learn new words as they read.) Mini-lesson Practice with Partners.  Mini-lesson planning table group. Mini-lesson Delivery. Debrief. Discuss Goals. Video of Mini-lesson. Discussion of how that was the same and how that was different. Mini-lesson Delivery. Discussion of Goals.

. . . and in all that “What were we studying in the Mini-lesson?

Teaching Point

Pacing – Vitality, Having students think alongside us, Student talk/listen/feedback




  1. Whole class teaching – staying focused is critical! Don’t let student responses lead you down the rabbit hole!
  2. Knowing the Teaching Point is critical. Forward, backward, what comes next? What came before? What it looks and sounds like when a reader REALLY does this.
  3. Focus on one Teaching Point. Not a “Never ending Teaching Point”
  4. Growing students means lots of practice.  That lesson won’t have teacher demonstration but will instead have tons of student practice – PLAN.FOR.IT.
  5. Study lessons together. Discuss the work together.  Build your own community to support your learning about the teaching of reading!

Kathleen Tolan

Beyond Guided Reading: Expanding Your Repertoire of Small Group Work in Nonfiction (3-8)

“Small group work is hard.  Our goal this week is to open up our repertoire about different methodologies to deliver small group instruction.”

What is your vision of small group work?  I’m most familiar with guided reading groups but also like literature circles and book club work.

What’s preventing small group work?

Management – What are the rest of the kids doing?

Fear – I’m not good at it! (not enough practice)

Results – It doesn’t really work for my kids. Or took 40 minutes to “drag that group through the lesson.” There’s no time to do that every day!

Today, I saw, heard and was a part of . . .

  1.  Demonstration Small Group
  2. Read Aloud Small Group

We watched Kathleen in action and then “copycatted that exact same lesson” into our small groups with two different members as the teacher (not me, not me!)

Remember that brain on fire at the top of this blog . . . this was the first time I’d ever seen a Read Aloud Small Group. So new. So much to absorb and process.  My mind was swirling. . . Where would this happen?  When?  With which students?  Why?

I had to take a deep breath.  And then another one. The engagement of the students in the Read Aloud Small Group was intense.  No student could hide.  Everyone had to do the work – in order to contribute to the learning. What a way to know exactly what kids are thinking and to “get them unstuck” and moving!


  1.  On any given skill I could be the top, middle, or bottom. The goal of small groups is to grow and move ALL readers – not just the “struggling readers”.
  2. TC – Kathleen – said that they have been studying small group work for the last year and a half.  It’s okay that I don’t know this!
  3. Increase your accountability for small groups with a public, visible schedule.  That will push you as the teacher as well as the students.
  4. Teachers over plan small group work.  The small group work should be a continuation of the mini-lesson.  It’s not about going out and finding new, wonderful text to use. It’s about more practice – more student practice and way less “teacher talk”.
  5. Feedback is hard.  It is about tone.  It is about the length of the message.  It’s also about giving and receiving feedback.  So very complicated!


What new skill/strategy are you practicing?  

Have you found / created a safe community to practice?  

How does what you are learning from your own learning impact your planning for instruction for your students?

slice of life 2016

This is my story of learning.

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  Writing makes us all more human!



#TCRWP: Day 5 Reading Institute 2015



Reading Institute 2015

Day 5 – Liz Dunford – State of the Art First Grade Reading Instruction

Purposes of Interactive Read Aloud:

  • Exposure to richer texts
  • Opportunity to model expressive and fluent reading – explaining voices
  • Supports growing repertoire of skills
    • Vocabulary
    • Comprehension
    • Speaking and Listening

Prompts that are transferable:

What ideas do you have about the book from the cover page?

Already having ideas? (preview chapter titles – if available)

Look closely at the pictures. What do you think will happen next?

So let’s think about the trouble and how they solved it?

How would you describe the characters?

What are you learning about these characters so far?

What words can you use to describe these characters?

What are the BIG important parts of this story? Retell those parts

How did the trouble start and HOW was it solved?

What lesson did the character learn?

What do the standards say about Speaking and Listening?


K- listen

1st – Take turns listening

2nd– listen with care because I want to say more


K- keep talking

1 – build on other’s talk

2 – link comments   “I also think…. But when you said . . . That makes me wonder. . .”


K = get help or clarify “I don’t understand.”

1 = ask peer for information or to clarify “What do you mean? Show an example.”

2 = gather information, deepen understanding of topic   “I see what you mean? Does that connect to? How does that fit? “

To truly learn about speaking and listening at a first grade level, study a partnership. Make a t-chart with “Strengths” on one side and “Next Steps” on the other side. Watch and listen to the interactions. Researching partners and their dynamics will help a teacher because it will provide the actions for small group, conferences, Mini-lessons, Mid-Workshop Interruptions, Partner work and shares. Everything the teacher does should be cohesive.

How do you spend your time?

If you only have 30 minutes for small groups, you must choose wisely. Build a chart. Make a plan. Time allocations might be:

Individual Conference – 5 minutes

Small group work -10 minutes

Guided Reading Group – 15 minutes

Partner Conference – 5 minutes

Look for patterns in your work.

Where are you spending most of your time?

Which student are you only seeing as an individual conference?

Is that the best use of your time?


Katie Clements – Teaching Students to LOVE complex Nonfiction

How do we ensure students are also critical consumers of nonfiction?

We watched two videos from google (Google Interview and Smart Dad) to begin thinking about the role of information in our world today. It’s changed from the world that many of us knew. (especially those of us who lived when dinosaurs roamed the Earth!)

A Series of micro – lessons for critical thinking to consider





1 Writing about reading – typically writing that matches the structure of the original text
Teaching Point- “Today I want to teach you that information readers write in order to better understand what they are learning as they read. Specifically, you can angle your writing so that it better explains the information. I could use boxes and bullets, but what’s my agenda? What can humans do to prevent or limit global warming? So I need to know the causes. And then I need to think about what anyone can do to prevent global warming and then I am thinking I need a third place to record What I can do personally so I now think a three column chart is the best way for me to be organizing my notes.”

I had to answer the question: “How I can take notes based on my agenda!!!”

“What’s my agenda?   What do I want to learn from the text today?”

“How can I write about my reading in a way that would help me capture that?”


Are sources trust-worthy?

2 (In Grade 5 or 6, this may be a whole class lesson.)

Authors will contradict or present slightly different spins on the same story– which one is true?

Global Warming by Seymour Simon

Is Seymour Simon trustworthy? Read his background. Is he trustworthy?

What parts of book should we consult? Paragraph on the author? Smithsonian as publisher?

When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses by Rebecca Johnson

Is Rebecca Johnson trustworthy?  How do we know?

Research – personal communications with experts

Considering qualifications: “If you have a birdfeeder in your back yard. . .” are you an expert?


How are you going to nurture a love of nonfiction texts for yourself?

How are you going to nurture a love of nonfiction texts for your peers?

How are you going to nurture a love of nonfiction texts for your students?

#TCRWP: Day 3 Reading Institute 2015

Oh, Happy Day!


My #OLW (One Little Word) is Focus!

And Focus was my goal today!

So I’m cutting straight to the chase and starting with my second session!

I literally only have two pages of handwritten notes from this session because . . .

We were working every minute!

(That could mean that I have a whole ton of photos, but remember “Focus” – no time to get side-tracked!)


Katie – Loving Complex Informational Texts

How can we accelerate students up through the levels of Nonfiction?

Today we studied the reading progressions in the new Units of Study in Reading that had their “birthday” on Tuesday of this week.  Katie modeled looking across two grade levels of the “Main Idea” study that has been our anchor this week, and then we were turned loose to choose our own progressions to review.  This was eye-opening, scary and yet, exhilarating work with collaborative opportunities to deepen our understanding as we read and discussed the content.

Our world of learning was then rocked by the three tools that Katie shared:

  1. Writing about Reading – Demonstration text written by the teacher
  2. Checklists for students constructed by the teacher
  3. Reading Toolkit pages

Then we could choose to create either Tool 1, 2, or 3.  My partner and I chose Tool 2. Checklist as we felt that would really be “beginning with the end in mind” if we constructed the checklist and then went back to write the demo text.  Here are our first drafts for our Analytical area:

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.59.36 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.59.58 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 10.00.27 PM

The chunk of “progressions” that this was based on is also included here:

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 10.13.58 PM

This is work for just one of the progressions for Informational Text with checklists drafted for students in grades 2-4.  The progressions include student expectations for 16 areas.  These grew out of ten years of work in classrooms where students were collecting post-its across a wide span of grade levels but the work did not increase in sophistication as it continued up through the grades.

Do teachers understand this work?  

Where does this fit into your current understanding of teaching reading?

Just a bit more about the Learning Progressions you see pictured above (3 strands = literal, interpretive, analytic)

  • Lays out growth over one year
  • Based on grade-level expectations
  • Written in first person, with student friendly language
  • Includes both external behaviors and outcomes and internal processes
  • Lays out 1 possible pathway for growth
  • Designed for student self-assessment (included in MWI and Shares)

Is this work that your students are already doing?

How would your propose to set up a course of study for your students to learn how to do this work with informational text?

And then we moved on to Performance Assessments. We completed the task as students where we were asked to respond in writing with multiple main ideas.  In our group, we seemed to either have a topic sentence that was a “series” or two distinctly different paragraphs dealing with separate main ideas.  “Real students” did neither so it is helpful to have our own ideas in mind but also be prepared for students to do something totally different.

Performance Assessments:

  • Eliminated skills already in Running Records
  • Included skills that are valued on state standardized tests
  • 4 main skills for each unit of study (Others are addressed but only four are assessed at the beginning and end of the unit)
  • Can be completed in one class period
  • Text used is designed for grade level readers
  • Not to assess reading level but skill level thinking so a teacher could read them to a group of students

How could these performance assessments inform the reader?

How could these performance assessments inform the teacher?

Switching gears from upper grades to FIRST grade!

Session 1

Liz Franco – UNIT 3:  Readers Have Big Jobs to Do:  Fluency, Phonics, and Comprehension 

As you can tell by the title, this unit focuses on the foundational skills.  It is targeted for readers in H – I – J band and specifically designed to build the skills and practice for students that will help them be successful as they encounter more difficult text.  We explored books in this range and found that the texts are more complex.

  • Past tense  – many irregular words
  • Figurative language – comparisons
  • Multi-syllabic – 3 syllable words
  • More complex sentences
  • Multiple phrases in the same sentence
  • More often than not – sentences are getting longer so line breaks are sometimes a scaffold but this leaves at K, L, M
  • More dialogue
  • Dialogue tags are varying
  • Fluency – read with expression to match the tags

Then we looked at running records from students to determine what we should teach.  What were the miscues?  What strategies might we try?

  • Rereading to self – correct
  • Cross checking
  • Check to see if it’s a snap word
  • Try the vowel sound another way
  • Use tools in the room (vowel chart)

And then we talked about the “HOW” for providing instruction . . . Possibilities for working with vowels:

Strategy Lessons – sounds vowels make – Readers have to be flexible – try it 2 ways

Small group shared reading

Small group word study with the vowel charts (Making/)breaking words AND THEN may make into small group interactive writing – compose something) or a Vowel sound hunt from books in their baggie

Key Point:  We aren’t convening a guided reading group of “H” students because we are going to give them “i” books.  Instead we ask:

What kind of H reader?

What supports tap into next steps?

Possible Tools:

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 5.43.20 AM

So, each student is provided with the instruction they need, not just marching through the levels . . .


“A student is ready for “I”, but he/she tends to karate chop words and not think about whole of text.  I will have more previewing work in my introduction.” LF

“A student is ready for “I”, but he/she tended to struggle with multi-syllabic words and not look through the words, I will put more VISUAL supports into my introduction.”  LF

“I am strategically planning who is being grouped together.  It’s not about the ‘letter’.’  LF

What small group?

What do the students need?

And how you are teaching?

So after Day 3 of this Learning Journey at the Teachers College Reading Institute, what are you thinking?

#TCRWP: Day 2 Reading Institute 2015


Session 1

Liz Dunford Franco – State of the Art Curriculum to Support First Grade Readers

We began with a study of mini-lessons in the first grade Book 1 of the new Reading Units of Study. With a partner, we read a sample, role played it and then debriefed with table groups with these questions in mind:

How are students engaged across these lessons?

What does the teacher do?

What does the student do?

Liz shared some tips for reading the lessons with our group. They included:

Use a highlighter to mark the language so you are clear and consistent.

Teaching Point – echo the language in the plan

Connection- This is where you can add your own personal touch and make it relevant but keep it short and sweet.

Make notes to yourself – ( My thinking – Consider a different color of post it for what you as teacher need to do or say in advance so everyone has “materials” needed.)

What does kid watching look like at the beginning of the year in first grade?

The teacher might be looking for evidence that a student is able to

Self – start

Refocus with a teacher gesture

Work with table group

Work with partner

Generate question

We talked about keeping the mini-lesson short and staying under the 10 minute guideline length for a true “mini-lesson”. Liz pushed us to think beyond just the “10 minute time limit” in order to determine where the lessons broke down. By studying “where the trouble was” in the lessons, we could see where we were losing time and avoid those behaviors.

What patterns did we see?

In active engagement, was too much time spent going back over the strategy for an extra mini-mini-lesson?

Did the Link involve reteaching instead of just a nod to the chart?

Were students being kept in the group and not sent off for additional work?

How could the teacher check in with students later (without losing time)?

Hand student a post it and then after all students are off reading,, say, “1, 2, 3 eyes on me! If I gave you a post-it, come back to the table!”

“Taking a sneak peek could be taught as an Inquiry Lesson”

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 9.05.39 PM

We jigsawed sections from the 2nd book – Unit 3 Learning about World – Reading Nonfiction with the following bends:

Bend 1: Getting Smart on Nonfiction Topics

Bend 2: Tackling Super Hard Words in Order to Keep Learning

Bend 3: Reading Aloud Like Experts

A feature that I loved and tweeted out was that in grade 1, Book 2 Nonfiction, students are put in the role of teacher to do their own read alouds! (This was always the goal with Every Child Reads in Iowa: students would be able to do their own Read Alouds, Talk Alouds, Think Alouds, and Composing Think Alouds.) I also loved to hear that kids need 10-12 informational books in personal baskets or common group baskets. At this stage I am waiting to hear more about both the Read Aloud 5 day plan nd Shared Reading Plan .

Possible assessments for Grade 1 students include:

Running Records – (msv)

Letter sound ID

Sight words

Spelling inventories

Comprehension to be assessed through Read Alouds, talk, conference and the use of a pre-assessment to determine whether students need another bend to build up habits or a unit from If/Then before beginning the nonfiction unit?

What are you thinking right now?

What “AHAs” did you have?

Any specific connections/questions that came to mind for the non-first grade teachers?

Session 2:

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

How can we support students in tackling and loving more complex texts?

We began with four minutes to teach about our non-fiction book with a partner (after a few tips about how to do this well). This was a great energizer for the group, as well as validating our homework assignment.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 8.57.17 PM

  1. DRAFTING main idea

We began with nontraditional texts: Main idea from text and pictures combined that Katie modeled and then main idea from a video that we practiced with a partner.


Don’t just name a topic.

As you read on, hold the main idea loosely tosee if it STILL fits.

Revise main idea as more information is added.

We watched a very short PSA video clip. First viewing: “As you are listening and watching – watch for the chunks, we will see how the chunks fit together!” We discussed.  Katie posted the three big ideas she heard and then put bullets under them. Before we watched the video again we were told to sort and rank details for a mini-debate.

As we worked on this, I tweeted out:

“Use of non-traditional texts. . . do our students know how to process/understand text that they will live with all their lives?”

Key Takeaways

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 8.58.10 PM

1. Revision will be necessary in complex text.

2.  I believe we have a moral obligation to teach students how to do this complex work with the texts that they are using in their lives. This means students will need to learn how to do this work independently!

New Tool:


Katie shared some ways that this tool was used in a fifth grade classroom and we brainstormed some additional ways that it can be used. As I read my homework assignment, I watched to see if these areas were also “complexity issues” in my book.   Much potential here!

How do you teach main idea in nonfiction text?

What makes it complex for kids?

Does it get “messy”? 

Kathleen Tolan – Closing Workshop

Groups and Maximizing Student Growth

Key Takeaway:  Small groups for all – not just struggling readers!

How can we get a routine for ourselves so we “know how it is going to go?

 We need to take interventions to mastery instead of introduction so students get reading practice and their work can be lifted. Because growth takes time, we need realistic strategies. Anything that is hard takes practice. Name it for yourself. Put the work into your daily schedule so the students can do it again and again and grow.

Kathleen share some of the frustrations of planning for small groups.

  • Sometimes it takes 45 minutes to plan for one session.
  • And then the leesson doesn’t go the way we want it to.
  • The students aren’t doing well.
  • There is no magic fairy dust to sprinkle on the students!

What would it be like to plan for the increments along the way?

Small Group Session 1:  Small groups should NOT be using new material. You will need to go back to the exact space in lesson plans. RETEACH! Don’t do a big demo or Think Aloud!  Instead invite the small group to “co-create the original lesson!” This allows you to turn the work over to the students quickly and also see which parts of the original lesson stuck with the kids!  This way withi minute two of a small group, students are at the. “Open your book and now you do it!” stage.

Coach! Coach! Coach!   Coach!

All of us do it together quick and then to transference.

Link – add in when we will meet them again! Put on schedule to make sure it is included. Check in is short – 10 sec.

Small Group Session 2:  Reread from Read Aloud

Redo what you did last time or shared writing from last work. Take this into your own book. Read – your 5-7 min. are up. But they are still there “DOING” the work!


Students don’t need us there for repeated practice. Leaning happens when you are not there! Set them up and give them tools!

Small Group Session 3:  We are working on envisionment. Go work.

Our goal is not to talk all the time. Use progression on enviosionment and write around the post it, naming the work.  When we use the progression, make sure you teach down all the way through that level and then teach one thing that leans into the next level.  Be realistic.  If a student is at level 2, don’t expect them to immediately jump to level 4.

Give one tip.

Students doing the work!!!

Repeat coaching one more time!

  • Small Groups – set 2 groups up. Move faster! Don’t get too comfortable. Don’t sit as Teacher! You will move faster! After 5 min. move on!
  • Need internal sense – Need to reset our clock!
  • Tangible tools. What can you leave behind?  What’s important?
  • If we introduce tools that go across content areas, look at the amount of practice students will have!

What is your routine for small group work?

Who do you work with in your small groups?


Mary Ehrenworth – Keynote

Remembering Grant Wiggins: Innovating “Teaching for Transference”

Mary shared that this session was the result of collaborative work from the TCRWP staff. Students in school need less drill and more scrimmage because feedback varies. Feedback in skills and strategies are “can you do them?”  In scrimmage feedback is likely to be, “How are you doing with them on your own?”

  1. book to book – Piggybook – Work you can do in any book

(characters in books are more than one way (strengths and flawa) Your opinion is more valuable when allow for nuance and acknowledge there are some troublesome parts!

  1. Book to book – (Characters with strengths and flaws)  Maddie and Tae – “Girl in a Country Son”

“What’s the most important thing?” Sorting and ranking made discussions stronger.

“What’s the next important thing?”

“What makes you say that?”  Don’t just nod your head.  Ask “Why is that important?”

3. Transference to another text – history text – Schoolhouse Rock – Elbow Room

(Stengths and flaws, Power and disempowerment)  Stems you might use are

“While it’s true…”  “Neverless…”

4.  Inside / outside school Transfer

Mary shared that she and Cornelius Minor will have a JAL article next week that included close reading of sports event that allowed students to “read their lives”.  Our goal should be to nurture transference form one book to another, from one reading experience to another, and from one reader to another.  How often do we feel like we are around the campfire having fun? Don’t want to leave the story?

How do you teach for transference?

#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 currrently 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 differentiator 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 thecontent familiar? Arethere 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. Buildi up Background Knowledge  This is critical when studnets 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 thesecrets are unveiled! Specifically teach the language of the genre to sudents.

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 definitons in understandable words

Structure (including text features)

  • number of structures
  • Signals that structure is changing

Knowledge Demands

  • the amount of prior knowlege 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 ust 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 contnt 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. 

#SOL15: Traveling!


“My bags are packed, I’m ready to go . . .

I’m standing here outside my door . . .”


On Friday I will be off on another GRAND adventure!


My home for the next two weeks!

Writing Institute:  June 22- 26, 2015

Advanced AM Section – Develop Toolkits to Support Narrative Writing (K-2) Celena Larkey

Advanced PM Section – Using the Best New Children’s Literature as Mentor Texts: Support Sky High Writing (3-8) Shana Frazin

Reading Institute:  June 29 – July 3, 2015

Advanced AM Section – State of the Art Curriculum to Support First Grade Readers (1) Elizabeth Dunford Franco

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

The week days will be packed with learning and collaborating with new and old friends.  The week nights and weekends will be filled with visiting with friends (including “Slicers”), continued learning, bookstores, museums and shows – “The Book of Mormon” and the Tony award-winning “Best Revival” – “The King and I”. That’s just a brief preview of my June!

Where will you go and what will you be learning this summer?


Check out the writers, readers and teachers who are “slicing” here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy at “Two Writing Teachers” for creating a place to share our work.  So grateful for this entire community of writers who also read, write and support each other!

Looking forward to “seeing” fellow slicers:  Tara, Julieanne and Catherine soon!

#TCRWP: Information Writing

Well, the June 2014 week of Writing Institute ended one month ago.  The finale included a “flash mob”, laughing and crying, and singing.  Memorable.  Unforgettable.  How do we have evidence of our growth?

We wrote.  We wrote some more.  And even more.  We wrote again and again using the lessons that we were practicing orally and in writing during our sessions.  Here’s just a view of my drafts.

What patterns do you notice in the drafts?

 # Draft 1

DRAFT 1  Monday, June 23

“Writing isn’t really important if it’s okay to write poorly.  Writing should be high quality or don’t even bother asking students to write.”  Mary E quote to begin June Writing Institute 2014.

But students have to write at school.  There are 10 writing CCSS ELA Anchor Standards that specifically address writing.  Under reading, 4-6 also address the craft of writing.  Writing is important.

Writing –  what do authors use for beginnings?  A title – promise of the author to the reader.  Provocative beginning– engage, pull them in so they want to write, yet also fit within the context .  Delicate balance between student choice and teacher need for compliance – do what must be  done!


Notes and questions:

  • How did looking at how authors began help us as writers?  How could that be used by students in order to begin writing?  How could that also be used by teachers at PD
  • Look again at the titles that Mary chose.  How did she arrive at those?

When we write:

  • How do we begin?  Introductions? Prologue?
  • What language about writing would be inviting and engaging for teachers and students?

Some ideas. Not a lot of content – YET!

Draft Day # 2 

DRAFT 2  For MS and HS Teachers in Districts    What writing is important?

“Writing isn’t really important if it’s okay to write poorly.  Writing should be high quality or you shouldn’t even bother asking students to write,” according to Mary Ehrenworth (TCRWP Writing Institute.  June, 2014).But students do have to write at school.

Is “not writing” a viable option?  Not really, because there are 10 writing CCSS ELA Anchor Standards that specifically address writing in all content areas grades 6-12 as well as in the primary grades.  To underscore the importance of writing, CCSS ELA  Reading Anchor Standards, 4-6 also address the craft of writing.  Therefore, writing is necessary and important at school in order to address the standards.The CCSS propose that the three types of writing covered by CCSS.W. 1 opinion / argument; 2. Informational/explanatory; and 3. Narrative  are to receive approximately equal attention in the elementary grades.  As a student progresses through the grades, narrative writing is de-emphasized and more attention is paid to Standards 1 and 2.


What does this mean for Teachers?

Teachers in all content areas are expected to be able to assist students to be better writers within their content expertise.  Will they be “teaching” writing?  Let’s examine this question a bit farther.  Will the science teacher be teaching writing?  Yes and No.  The science teacher will be expected to read, write and speak like a scientist.  The student will use science vocabulary in oral and written work.  Lab reports might be one example of expected science writing. The science teacher has the knowledge and expertise to guide the student in reading and writing as an apprentice scientist.  The business education teacher will assist the students in reading and writing tasks that would be found within the world of business.  Does this mean that every content area class has to now write a term paper?  The CCRR Anchor Standards do not say that every class should be writing a term paper but there should be an expectation for daily reading and writing in each classroom, even in small doses.


(What changed in this draft?

  • Explicitly stated purpose
  • Bold headings stated as questions so text includes the answers)


Day 3 Draft


DRAFT 3 For MS and HS Teachers in Districts   


Draft: Well-rounded student – information and all –  parenting – everyone has a role . ELA will not be mastering science content but yet having some uniform expectations  (at least having conversations about how individual roles contribute to the greater good !)


Chapter 1  Begin at the Beginning

What writing is important?

“Writing isn’t really important if it’s okay to write poorly.  Writing should be high quality or you shouldn’t even bother asking students to write,” according to Mary Ehrenworth (TCRWP Writing Institute.  June, 2014).

But students do have to write at school.  Is “not writing” a viable option?  Not really, because there are 10 writing CCSS ELA Anchor Standards that specifically address writing in all content areas grades 6-12 as well as in the primary grades.  To underscore the importance of writing, CCSS ELA  Reading Anchor Standards, 4-6 also address the craft of writing.  Therefore, writing is necessary and important at school in order to address the standards.

The CCSS propose that the three types of writing covered by CCSS.W. 1 opinion / argument; 2. Informational/explanatory; and 3. Narrative  are to receive approximately equal attention in the elementary grades.  As a student progresses through the grades, narrative writing is de-emphasized and more attention is paid to Standards 1 and 2.

What does this mean for Teachers?

Teachers in all content areas are expected to be able to assist students to be better writers within their content expertise.  Will they be “teaching” writing?  Let’s examine this question a bit farther.  Will the science teacher be teaching writing?  Yes and No.  The science teacher will be expected to read, write and speak like a scientist.  The student will use science vocabulary in oral and written work.  Lab reports might be one example of expected science writing. The science teacher has the knowledge and expertise to guide the student in reading and writing as an apprentice scientist.  The business education teacher will assist the students in reading and writing tasks that would be found within the world of business.  Does this mean that every content area class has to now write a term paper?  The CCRR Anchor Standards do not say that every class should be writing a term paper but there should be an expectation for daily reading and writing in each classroom, even in small doses.

So what will ELA teachers teach about writing if content area teachers have to teach writing? 

Picture this:  Suzie Q is an ELA teacher who LOVES, LOVES, LOVES narrative writing.  She has her students write narratives at the beginning of the year, then she adds in some response to reading, some argument and informational writing.  But a review of her lesson plans and her curriculum map show that Suzie’s students spend 23 out of 36 weeks on Narrative Writing.

Or picture this:  Janie Smith is an ELA teacher who prides herself on giving students choices in what to write.  She begins the year with a unit on each of the following writing genre:  narrative, response to reading, argument, and informational writing.  Each of these four units are approximately four weeks long and are typically completed by the end of the first semester.  During second semester, students can choose their own content to write based on their other course assignments and needs, yet they know that each student will be asked to add at least one more piece of each writing genre to their portfolio collection with a reflection about how it is different from their first semester writing.


Which ELA teacher is not only following the spirit of the curriculum but is also focusing on the curriculum of the students?  Correct, Jani Smith, because she has taught the basics and then provides some student choices that allow for increased writing opportunities with fewer “fake” writing assignments just for teachers (OK, snarky – have not included this idea before that writing only for the teacher is a waste of time!)


Chapter 2   Predictable Scenarios in Students’ Informational Writing

Katie Clements, TCRWP staff developer, shared these three common predictable patterns of difficulty in Informational Writing for students in grades 3 – 8.  By being aware that other students have had these problems, you yourself can be prepared to plan for a mini-lesson or at the very least to have conference around these issues.  What and how you teach will be built on previous writing instruction in your classroom, but see if any of these ideas spark your thinking!


Possible Scenario for Informational Writing:

Only a tiny bit about each part
Jumps right in without setting up expectations

What changes did you note in Draft # 3?

What remains the same?  

What questions remain unanswered for the reader?


And then the final four page draft after comments from classmates and my writing partner. (I really struggled with how to “access this format” because I still don’t understand what a Mac can do!)

Still a draft – but formatted 

Over the course of a week, what did you see change?

Only fitting to share this as my Slice of Life this week:  Evidence of Learning at the June Writing Institute 2014!

 Do you save your drafts?  How do you know your writing is improving?

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



#TCRWP and A Teacher’s Toolkit for Teaching Writing

How many notebooks can a person have?  Readers notebook .  .  .  writers notebook .  .  .  conferring notebook  . . .  toolkit?  The name is not the most important thing . . . but in the interest of full disclosure, this blog is about the “toolkit” that the teacher would consider using during writing conferences with students OR in small group instruction.

If you want to learn more about toolkits, check out Anna’s post this week – “A Writing Teacher’s Summer Project Building a Teaching Toolkit” or Stacey’s “A Master’s Writing Notebook in Evernote” for some great ideas about “Why?” and “Should I plan to use tech?”

I began a teacher’s toolkit last year and have many of my favorite charts from #tcrwp and #chartchums drawn on the pages.   It has four sections:  the writing process, argument/opinion, informational/explanatory, and narrative.   The toolkit garnered some “oohs and aahs” from teachers and was a great first draft but it is now ready for an upgrade.  I’m mulling over my process (paper as in artist sketchbook or 3-ring binder or to bravely and boldly go electronic) as well as purpose (demonstrations for teachers in PD as well as classrooms) and I am at a crossroads.

And then I attended Katie Clements’ (@clemenkat) session at #tcrwp entitled, “Don’t Teach Empty Handed:  Toolkits that Can Help You Teach Explicitly, to Scaffold, and To Keep Track” and I knew that I would have even more questions before I could begin to assemble my toolkit.

Katie said . . .  “we can create a writing toolkit to take into our classrooms that has one replicable process that will LIVE in our writing.”  She quoted Brian Cambourne and how we need to make sure that learning from our demonstrations sticks.  That means that we need to check for high levels of engagement.  We often demonstrate writing as well as revision.  But sometimes the demonstrations seem to live only in the mini-lesson of our workshop.  Many writers would benefit from demonstrations on their own level so the purpose of a toolkit is to help students and provide additional demonstrations at their level.  (Clements, 06.24.14, Teachers College Writing Instittute)

So how do we do this?  Here was the process that Katie demonstrated.

Four Steps to Creating a Writing Toolkit

Step 1:  Study Student Writing and Determine Predictable Needs
Step 2  Create a Demonstration Text by Mirroring Student Writing
Step 3: Name the strategy that will move the writer and design the page
Step 4:  Use the toolkit to teach

Three predictable needs for narrative writing are:

  • Draft is swamped with dialogue
  • No tension (nothing changes between events)
  • Telling instead of showing (reporting)

Where would this list of predictable needs come from?  Conversation with your teaching peers, reviewing your conferencing data, and considering the needs of your students in previous years.  And then the key is to develop the resources in your toolkit for these predictable needs.  Consider setting up multiple demonstrations at different levels so that you have the just right example to move the student forward with the appropriate amount of scaffolding!

So what do you do with those predictable problems?  Here are examples of Katie’s toolkit pages.


This page includes demonstration text, chart, and place to practice strategies to move from repetitious ping – pong dialogue!



Paragraphing – always someone who needs a bit more practice.



Again, demonstration text, chart, and paper for immediate repeated practice,

Are you considering a toolkit for teaching writing?  How are you planning to use it?

(PS. Information writing predictable patterns were included in Monday’s post here. )


August 8, 2014  – A great new blog about teacher toolkits by Ericka Perry is available here.  Check it out!


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