Wednesday, April 29, 2015


What do you believe about the teaching of reading?
I have spent my entire career trying to figure this out.  Through all the years of being the mother of a sweet little boy that struggled to read, as an elementary teacher, a special educator, and now as a literacy specialist.

Beliefs matter!

My struggling reader needed help decoding words. It took a long time for him to understand that letters had sounds. A multi-sensory approach helped him to learn to decode. 
But, that didn't make him a reader. He finally fell in love with reading when he was 15. We found a series that caught his interest.

So, here are a few things that I believe:
Reading is about meaning, not just decoding words.
Some kids need extra phonics instruction in order to decode words.
We have to find books that kids will read and enjoy.

Others can fight reading wars, but I will do whatever it takes to grow readers. Phonics or the ways of Marie Clay-I believe that we must meet the needs of students.

Once my son became a reader, he became more successful at school. He went on to graduate college. It was a very long journey, but well worth every step!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Important Conversation #AgeOfLiteracy

Kid Sitting with a Tablet

The International Literacy Association has declared April 14, 2014 Leaders for Literacy Day. Twitter conversation will be heard around the world with #AgeOfLiteracy.
Through #AgeofLiteracy, advocates have already shared on social media what they will do to further literacy around the world. On April 14, that hashtag will be used for one-hour intervals of discussion focused on the most important topics facing the literacy community. All discussions will be nonconventional Twitter chats where conversations will develop organically outside of a standard Q&A format. Bloggers are also encouraged to join the conversation!
The conversation on the pre-event Twitter will include:
How to Engage Today’s Students (12 p.m. ET): keeping interest in the classroom while competing with ever-evolving education reform and technology.
How to Take Charge of Professional Development (1 p.m. ET): going beyond one-sided lectures to interactive and cyber-propelled PD.
How to Become a Powerful Literacy Advocate (2 p.m. ET):  what to do in your neighborhood and around the world.

Little Girl Reading a Book

How to Become a Powerful Literacy Advocate
Right Where You Are!

When you think of being a powerful literacy advocate, do you automatically feel overwhelmed?  Where do you start? What does that really mean?

For a teacher, it can mean finding time every day for children to read books that they have chosen and write about things that interest them. Creating a classroom library that reflects the needs and interests of your students. Helping parents to understand their child's reading and writing life, as well as growth opportunities. Joining in the conversation about literacy with their colleagues. It might mean moving beyond the building to community-based projects that support literacy. Teachers that are passionate about literacy can change their classroom, grade-level, building, and community.

For school leaders, there may be a need to develop a belief system.  What do we believe that students need to become lovers of books and great thinkers and writers?  When someone walks in the building, is it obvious that literacy is important? It is vital to have leadership that monitors and supports the growth of reading and writing. Leaders carry the vision of what a literacy-rich school looks like and support all stakeholders as they grow readers and writers,

Parents can be great advocates for their children and literacy. Provide opportunities for parents to get to know you. Help them understand what you believe and how you will teach their children. As parents increase their knowledge about literacy, they become more confident and vocal in their involvement with teachers and leaders. This creates a positive environment where parents are more likely to participate and volunteer at school. We need to break down the barriers that keep parents away. We need to find areas in the community where parents are involved and take our beliefs about literacy to them.

There is a wealth of information online and the ILA is a great place to start your journey to understand and support literacy in your school and community..

Monday, April 6, 2015

Literacy Planning for Back to School in April and May

School Kids at Schoolo

Literacy Planning for the Beginning of School at the End of School!

What can we do NOW to ensure that children have a seamless transition to the next grade and teacher? I think there are some simple ways to make this happen! Let's scaffold our readers and writers and provide them with a great beginning!

Kids Holding a Welcome Sign

*Have students write about what they like to read. Interests surveys are great and you can find those online.  Have students identify their favorite authors and book series.  It may be hard for them to do this in August or September after many have had a summer of not reading.

*Create a book bag for each student and send it to the next grade. Have students choose some of their favorite books, magazines, and articles. Think of the time it will save when they open that book bag (or device) and start reading in the fall.

*Make a list of possible book selections from the library.  This is a time for students to look at their reading goals.  What are their favorite genres? What books do they want to re-read?  What books are a little too hard for them, but they want to read them?  What non-fiction topics interest them?  What have they wondered about this year?  Creating interest for the library will help your media specialist plan.  Share this information with them and see if they need to order more books!

*Complete those benchmarks and make sure students are leveled appropriately for guided reading. The last benchmark should tell next year's teacher where to start!  Be sure to complete each section and create a plan for the student's next steps.

*Analyze student writing. The connection between reading and writing is so strong!  Let next year's teacher know what the writer's strengths are as well as areas of needed instruction. 

*Identify all struggling readers.  This is so important!  If a child is below grade level, then have a thoughtful way of sharing this information with the new teacher.  Send as much information as possible to them.  They need to know what you have tried. What worked?  What didn't work?  

Have you thought about creating a literacy portfolio?  Here are some artifacts to include:
  • Individualized reading and writing goals
  • Spelling inventories
  • Word identification assessments
  • Copies of published writing pieces from each unit of study
  • Formal running records
  • Record of reading progress-benchmarks
In addition to the portfolio components for grades 1-5, kindergarten portfolios include:

All of your hard work will be worth it!  

Children and parents will be less anxious about starting school!  You will already know about your students.

Teachers can start guided reading right away!  Think how easy it will be to form guided reading groups and gather materials.

Independent reading can start on day one!  No more finding books, if you have book bags ready.

Hope these ideas are helpful.  I would love to hear from you!