Tag Archives: @LitLearnAct

#SOL16: March Challenge Day 14- #OLW


So, Slicer Friends, we are excited that this IS going to be a repeat . . . but we are hoping for different outcomes this time! I am filled with JOY (#OLW) and so proud of my Iowa Teams!




If this sounds vaguely familiar, here’s how it looked last year during the March Challenge!

Our capital city, Des Moines, Iowa, is the site of first round NCAA Men’s Basketball Regional Games for the first time.  “Some of the biggest teams including Kansas, Kentucky, and UConn are headed to Iowa.”  Alas, no Iowa teams are playing in Iowa. (Only ISU is considered the home team, but neither UNI nor the Hawkeyes are there!)

Three teams from Iowa dancing.  March Madness.  ISU, #4 seed, is headed to Denver.  UNI, #11  seed is headed to Oklahoma City.  And the Hawkeyes, #7 seed are headed to Brooklyn!

Most recently both Iowa and ISU were out early in their conference championships but UNI went the distance.  What will be the NCAA results this year?  How far will each team go?  How far will your bracket go?


If you don’t have basketball brackets, what about book brackets?

litlearnact march madness

These brackets are courtesy of Dana and Sonja, AKA @litlearnact,  and you can read about them here.

Or what about these instructional strategy brackets from Dyan last year?

strategy bracket

You can learn more about Instructional Strategies Brackets here.

What work can you organize with brackets?

Where will you consider using brackets?

Process:  I watched the brackets tonight as well as a statistics professor on the news breaking down the odds of winning (1 in 76 billion chance of winning with a perfect bracket).  The idea was still swirling in my head during the Sunday night “hour long” local news.  Fresh new ideas this year: Des Moines to host Regionals and connecting both Book Brackets and Strategies Brackets.  I went to look for book brackets and immediately found Dana and Sonja’s bracket post from January and then the post from last March about Dyan’s strategies.  I decided to add “Joy” (my #OLW) and then I had my title and focus for the article.  Time to draft.  Revise, edit, preview, tag, grab the photos for the 3 Iowa schools, and “Voila”!  (2nd day in a row that I searched for my photos while still drafting in my head.  Depending on photo/visual selection – narrative could vary so why write until selected?) Post drafted during the last half of the news.  Eureka – post early (after 11 pm CDT)!


slice of life 2016

Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  It’s the March Slice of Life Challenge so be ready to read DAILY posts!

#ILA15: Pre-Conference Day Learning

Pre-conference day . . . a day to get the conference up and running.  For some a day to visit, vacation, or view some local attractions.


For others, a day of learning!  Day 1 of #ILA15 in St. Louis with @LitLearnAct.  A  MARVELOUS day of learning!  Institute 09 – Reading with Rigor:  Interpreting Complex Texts Using Annotation and Close Reading Strategies wth Dana Johansen and Sonja Cherry-Paul, the authors of this Heinemann text.


What is rigor?

There are many definitions of rigor and the dictionary ones are not conducive to joyous literacy learning. We created posters among our table groups of our own definitions of rigor.  This view of rigor extends the possibilities for our students.


What are some common myths about “rigor”?

1. Rigor means increasing homework for the students.

2. Rigor means students should do more and more work.

3.  Rigor is for some students but definitely not for ALL students.

4. With rigor, students should be able to do the learning without any supports or scaffolds.

5. The more resources you have and use, the more rigor increases for students.

6. No need to worry about rigor; the standards cover it.

7. Rigor is an addition to the curriculum.  So of course, you are going to have to take a favorite unit out of your school year.

8.  A teacher who is teaching with rigor will be a “Mean” teacher.

Of course, none of those myths are true according to Barbara Blackman in this resource.

rigor blackburn

How many of those have you heard?  

How many of those do you believe?

Stop, pause and have a moment of reflection.  How does this match your current knowledge and your thinking?

So just how do we keep the “FUN” and yet learn?

Listen carefully to what the girl says in this video.  Do you have any doubt about what she does and does not know?

She does say, “This is really hard.”  But she also says, “It’s so fun!”

Is that what your students are saying?

Are you sure?

We spent some time on the three components of text complexity.  There are three components of text complexity and the basic triangle has been included here before. It’s not just lexile levels and there are many “mis-matches” listed in that post that happen when ONLY lexiles are used to determine who should read any text.  Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, also explores lexile mis-matches in “Guess My Lexile”. Both Dana and Sonja encouraged everyone to consider all three elements at the same time when evaluating texts in order to truly find texts that will raise the thinking of the readers and not just promote reading through the text mindlessly.  To think about:

How are wordless picture books rated on text complexity?

( 🙂 That’s something that I have put on my list to research but it won’t happen during this conference!)

Where and how do we find complex texts?

Drum Roll, please . . .

There is NO magic list of complex text.

There is NO magic list of complex text.

There is NO magic list of complex text.

Text selection should depend on the students, their needs, the strategies they know, the strategies they need, their data, and their interests!  Text selection should not be the same, year after year, after year, after year, after year!

How much text should be used for a “Close Read”?

This has been answered previously; but only as much text as is needed.  An entire text is NOT read closely.  Doug Fisher’s beliefs in a range from three paragraphs to three pages was shared.  NOT a whole book!  Only pick the part of a text that is worthy, be strategic, because you are going to read that text over and over and over and over!  You may have to trick the students into rereading by changing the purpose and the questions. The questions you raise should drive them back into the text and be so interesting that the students want to answer them. For over forty years we have had data that tells us that rereading improves comprehension.

The session title included annotation so the next section in the day’s learning was not a favorite of mine. I love the simplicity of “Know/Wonder” charts because I don’t need to xerox story pages in order to WRITE on the texts.  (Know/Wonder source  – What Readers Really Do:  Teaching the Process of Meaning Making by Vicki Vinton and Dorothy Barnhouse)The CCSS say to “read closely” but the word annotation is not in the standards.  It is one way to read closely.  However, if a list of “codes” is handed to students and they mindlessly mark up the text, the students are missing the benefit of “listening to the text” and “writing to explain their thinking”!  That’s where the power is – not in pages that are bleeding highlighting or have complicated annotated code that students cannot and do not talk about!  Goals for annotation:  Mark only the most important sections.  Write down your thinking IN WORDS!”

Texts that we used for annotations:

“Casey at the Bat”

“How to Paint “a Donkey” by Naomi Shihab Nye

“Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou

La Luna 2011 Pixar

A Nation’s Hope: Joe Louis by Matt de la Pena

I appreciated the practice with texts.  “Walking the talk” as adults for those tasks that we ask students to do is always important to me.  All of these included conversations about “What makes this complex text?”

And then we moved to Text Dependent Questions. These are huge in the Publishers’ Criteria.  However, if you have a “Word” version of the ELA standards, search for the phrase “Text Dependent Questions” and see what your results are!

“No one can analyze or interpret texts without bringing themselves to the text.”

In this section, we worked with “Last Kiss” by Ralph Fletcher and had great conversations about whether a question that required inferencing beyond the words of the text was a “Text Dependent Question”.  At this stage it really makes sense to think about a variety of questions that are well balanced at the different DOK levels!!!

Quiz (If you know the text “Last Kiss”)

“If you were to interview Ralph’s mom, what question would you ask in order to find out how his mom feels about the dad not kissing Ralph good night anymore as a part of the bedtime ritual?”

Text Dependent?  

High Level?  

What are you thinking?

Literary Elements include many areas for instruction.  We spent some time on symbols and talking about how patterns of repetition by an author could lead the reader to symbols.  We looked at symbols in the “Last Kiss” and then  discussed what they meant and how we gathered evidence to support our views. (Symbols:  jellyfish, fireflies, handshake, “the kiss”, absence of the kiss)

Cartoons (do our students REALLY understand them?) . . .  Many students don’t really see the humor so they might be great sources of short text to practice on with students. Depending on the age of your students, you might look to “Calvin and Hobbes” to see how students explain what is really happening in the cartoon strip.

We also spent some time on the pitfalls or challenges of Nonfiction.  We explored an immigration text set that included a picture, first person recollection, and immigration statistics from the Library of Congress. .

Specific Challenges from a Black and White Picture:

  • Not in color
  • Can’t zoom in or out to examine specific details
  • What is this about?
  • Main idea?
  • Need background knowledge
  • Is the title helpful?
  •  Steerage passengers taking it easy on ocean liner . . . or is that a “sad” version of humor!

Do the challenges increase or decrease when additional source documents are added? What do you think?

Who should be generating the questions?

What do the standards say?

Session Takeaways:

It is possible to teach toward the ambitious new goals of the Common Core Standards.

Teachers and students need to use knowledge to sort, question, reank, synthesize, interpret, and to apply knowledge.

Teachers need to continue to READ complex texts collaboratively and share their thinking and the puzzles that remain.ILA

#TCRWP: Reading Institute Day 4

 Accelerating Student Progress with Brooke Geller

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

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


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

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

How can I improve my post-it?


3.  Strengthening our Post-its

Samples on top layer with suggestions underneath


4. Strategies for Nonfiction Texts with Questions

Teaching strategies specific to NF texts


5.  Strategies to Grow Readers

Specific sentence stems/frames to increase thinking


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

Sentence frames


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

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

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

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

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

Big ideas included:

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

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

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

Questions to ask as we plan social studies Read Alouds:

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


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

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

        • Websites
        • YouTube.com videos
        • Photographs
        • Music
        • Primary source documents
        • Advertisements, etc

One example shared today was Theme:

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

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


Grade 6 Student Work Example for Symbolism


Create Text Sets Around Common Themes for Advanced Readers:

(have students compare across text sets)

  • Growing Up
  • Change
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Equality

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


Keynote – David Booth

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

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