Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Teachers Doing the Work: Thoughtful Planning For Intentional Read-Aloud

Jenn Hayhurst

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How can we use read-aloud as a springboard to reading, writing and thinking? This was the question that sparked the first of a #G2Great four part series: Teaching With Intention Maximizing Our Instructional Power Potential. Our chat on April 21, 2016 has come and gone but I am left feeling refreshed and renewed as I begin this post. Even though educators came to this conversation from different points in their careers, everyone learns from each other. What does this plurality of thinking offer us? Clarity.  It is that clarity and our ability to respond to our own questions about read-aloud that help us to maximize our professional potential.  

Q1 How can we more intentionally frame read-aloud to increase student engagement in ways that maximize our instructional POWER POTENTIAL?

Takeaways: Real engagement is not show and tell, it is experience and learn:

  1. Read-aloud energizes engagement through student interests
  2. We elevate our students’ status and create relevant experiences
  3. We move away from compliance towards ownership
  4. We create readers who love to read

Q2 What do you look for when using read-aloud as a flexible instructional springboard?

Takeaways: Stories and ideas flood students thinking through read aloud:

  1. This creates an intellectual and social context for learners
  2. Reading aloud opens pathways for communication, to promote deeper understanding
  3. Making room for students to talk, draw, or write is a scaffold to express abstract thinking in tangible ways

Q3 Read-aloud is a powerful framework to build language & vocabulary. What can we do to intentionally enhance those goals?

Takeaways: It is our own questions that help us to grow:  

  1. Begin by starting with texts that you love, then find out what your students love. How do we use this fertile ground to grow relationships?
  2. Instructional planning is organized around meaning making. How do my students learn best so they can access this text?  
  3. Whenever we stop the flow of the story be mindful of the enjoyment factor. How do I use the structure of different genres to select my stopping points and demystify the author’s craft?
  4. Build vocabulary lessons from context to allow students to practice and transfer. How can I use the classroom environment to promote transfer for all students?   

Q4 Peer collaboration and sharing is a crucial aspect of read-aloud. What is your favorite approach to bring readers and books together?

Takeaways: Read-aloud is an experience that we can use to structure meaningful collaboration:  

  1. See students for who they are and let their interests drive them
  2. Plan in options for collaborative learning
  3. Use  kidwatching to gather formative data

Q5 How can we integrate writing so the writing will elevate the academic AND emotional experience of the read-aloud?

Takeaways: When I put these tweets together it’s pure instructional magic:

  1. Reading multiple versions of a story reveals the author’s craft so students can attempt to transfer learning to their own writing
  2. Considering what a student decides to write about reveals their perspective to us while promoting engagement

Q6 Varied flexible reflection options after read-aloud allow us to create a more personalized experience. What options do you offer?

Takeaways: Read-aloud and reflection work hand-in-hand:

  1. Give students options to make a choice for how to reflect: written, partners, groups
  2. Don’t let this dynamic learning end in elementary school.  Middle schoolers need instructional techniques like turn and talk to engage their reflections too

Q7 Based on #G2Great chat tonight, what is one instructional shift you will make so that your read-aloud is more intentional?

Takeaways: Teachers are willing to modify their practices based on their own learning. Professional collaboration allows us to fine tune our practices:

As I reflect on our #G2Great chat on read-aloud I am reminded how important it is to collect students’ thinking through: anecdotal note taking, reader’s notebooks, post-its, and exit slips. I use each of these things to look for patterns in their thinking. This is live data that can help me to differentiate and drive comprehension instruction with even greater intention. My collaboration with Jill DeRosa  a third grade teacher in my building, elevates my thinking around keeping the child at the center of all we do, by asking the question: “Where is the child in all of this?” We responded to this questions in two recent posts, Unlocking Each Other’s Potential and You Can’t Do This Work By Yourself

Each Thursday night #G2Great teachers from all over the world come together to do the work that we need to do to become more skilled at our craft.  To think about ways that will help our students thrive and grow.  Thank you for helping me to think deeper and longer so that I can continue to grow my practice. As each of us grow together, it is our students who reap the benefits of our collective learning.  

Igniting Deep & Joyful Learning through Purposeful Play

by Mary HowardAd

On April 14, 2016 #G2Great welcomed guest hosts Kristi Mraz, Alison Porcelli and Cheryl Tyler, authors of an amazing new book, Purposeful Play: A Teacher’s Guide to Igniting Deep & Joyful Learning Across the Day. Their personal commitment to the topic is evident from the first page with the words that implore us to take action: ”Play isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity.” This message quickly reverberated across Twitter in a celebratory ripple effect of newfound appreciation for purposeful play as #G2Great moved into trending overdrive.

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As it turns out, research supports our collective enthusiasm. Dr. Stuart Brown, the world’s leading researcher in the science of play, states that “what play does better than anything else is unite what is in your head and your heart.” Celebrating play as one of the best exercises for the brain, he lists an impressive array of by-products including lightheartedness, empathy, hope for the future, optimism, flexibility, and adaptability, making a strong case for purposeful play in our classrooms.

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In a nod of enthusiastic support, our #G2Great chatters added a myriad of benefits including opportunities to discover, explore, negotiate, imagine, create, rehearse, problem-solve, revise, collaborate, engage, innovate, elaborate, persevere, cooperate, compromise and plan. Add social and emotional intelligence, growth mindset, motivation, choice, curiosity and flexibility to that lofty collection and the ‘necessity’ in purposeful play is elevated to a new sense of urgency.

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What makes Purposeful Play such a powerful book is that it is brimming with research support that inspires us to embrace purposeful play and affords ample evidence to convince naysayers while their treasure chest of tips and suggestions in a step-by-step illustrated guide transports us to a visual playground of pure joy. They don’t just tell us how to make purposeful play a reality – they show us. Purposeful Play is a magical mix of compelling research evidence and practical application that is sure to bring the play movement back into glorious view.

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This message comes at a time when far too many schools view recess and other forms of play as expendable in favor of an ever-increasing emphasis on academic rigor. In response, Kristi, Allison and Cheryl highlight the rigorous nature of play as ‘play in work and work in play.’ In or out of our classrooms, purposeful play engages children in enthusiastic ‘rigorous’ learning that can fuel our instruction to a new level. Our favorite new play friends remind us that although we may not have a choice in what we teach, how we teach is always in our hands. In others words, purposeful play as a personal and professional priority is a choice.

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This week on #G2Great, with the gracious support of Kristi, Alison and Cheryl, our chatters made a conscious choice to make purposeful play a personal and professional priority and their excitement was palpable. Teachers left with a new resolve to embed purposeful play into every learning day. Best of all, our #G2Great Twitter playdate will impact our students and make them the lucky benefactors of their enthusiastic determination.

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Kristi, Alison and Cheryl keep the promise emblazoned on the front cover of their book. Through research support and words of encouragement and guidance, they take us along on a purposeful play “joy” ride toward igniting deep and joyful learning across the day. In their words, “Play connects us to the world and to each other and offers unlimited possibilities. So come. Let’s play!”

Oh yes indeed girls. Let’s play!

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Follow Kristi at Kinderconfidential & Chart Chums with Marjorie Martinelli and Heinemann

Revisit a few of our #G2Great Purposeful Play tweets below

Thriving as Professionals with Meenoo Rami

Guest Blog Post by Susie Rolander @suzrolander


On April 7, 2016 #G2Great, we were lucky to have Meenoo Rami, author of Thrive, as a guest host on our Thursday night chat.  Just as her book helps us to thrive in the professional work that we do, Meenoo’s message on the chat was that when we make our own learning a priority, our students in turn benefit greatly.

Meenoo’s message supports Carol Dweck’s idea of growth mindset.  Since the publication in 2006 of her book, Mindset, Dweck continues to remind us that we are actually on a continuum between fixed mindset and growth mindset.  My friend @JDolci, an amazing educator, lifelong learner and questioner, illustrated this continuum when he was faced with putting together a complicated easel this week.  He reverted into the “I am so terrible at putting things together” mindset but luckily used the growth mindset to assemble it (with the encouragement of  our Voxer network).  As we work to strengthen our professional growth mindset, Meenoo’s message helps to guide us. Her words give us a roadmap for our own learning journey.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.20.39 AMMeenoo’s tweet reflects a responsibility that we all have to reach out to others in the teaching community in order to help them grow.  Thrive gives us a template to offer to teachers in our community.   This message of mentorship is more important than it has ever been before because many teachers feel isolated.  Meenoo encourages us to step outside the boundaries of our school environment to connect with a greater teaching community.  

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 8.53.33 AMA dear friend has been teaching for over 20 years.  She goes to the end of the earth for her students but she hadn’t read a professional book in years and had no current mentor to look up to.  By her own admission, she was stuck, isolated and bored.  Her years of experience and successes in the classroom make her such an invaluable asset to her school community, but she lacks the spark, the drive and the community to help her grow.  She was eager to learn but the PD her district offered never seemed to meet her personal learning needs.  I shared with her that Twitter has provided me a platform where I can grow in the company of others.   She was ready to break down those barriers.    

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.14.03 AMMeenoo suggests here that as mentors ourselves we don’t want to change others, only spark their own personal growth.  She also clearly advocates that we all hold the roles of both mentor and mentee and she encourages us to help others learn and learn from others.  Meenoo emphasizes the importance of being in a community of learners in order to thrive, but we each have to find our own path to accomplish this.  Professional inspiration can come from many sources, including our students.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.19.51 AMScreen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.09.28 AM     Herein lies the great impact of Meenoo Rami’s book, Thrive.  She gives us, the teaching community, a guide to help us all continue to grow and learn as teachers, no matter how long we’ve been in the field.  She lays down the groundwork to be able to cultivate a growth mindset around our very important work.  As guest host on this week’s #G2Great chat, Meeno shared her amazing wisdom with a group of eager learners.  Her clarity in the importance of growing as educators beyond our comfort zone resulted in changes that could be felt in the course of the chat.  

During last night’s chat and in Meenoo’s book, Thrive, she reminded us of the importance of cultivating professional growth and curiosity which, in the end, greatly impacts our students.

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(RE) Invigorate your teaching with Meenoo’s newsletter and remarkable book, Thrive.

Susie Rolander & Dani Burtfield will be leading a book study on Thrive with Meenoo every Tuesday during June. Stay tuned for time or contact Susie or Dani. #EdThrive

Thoughtful Decision Making

by Amy Brennan3

Charlotte Danielson has observed that teachers make over 3,000 decisions a day. These decisions have been categorized by Danielson as “nontrivial” meaning that they are more complex and more significant than one might at first imagine.  These decisions impact the small humans we teach each and every day.  The educational journey of each student is impacted by those 3,000 plus decisions we make each day and, therefore the call to be thoughtful weighs even greater in our minds as educators.

This practice of decision making and thinking resonates even more with me as I continue to reread and reflect on the book Quiet Leadership by David Rock.  He suggests that when we work in a field that compensates us for thinking, the way to improve performance is to improve thinking.  This is different from previous management models left over from a time when most workers were focused on processes.  Therefore in considering thoughtful decision making it seems that if we improve thinking we improve decision making and overall we improve the learning experiences for our students.  Simply stated, when we improve our thinking we improve our students’ thinking.

On March 31, 2016 #G2Great we came together to deepen our understandings around thoughtful decision making.  During our weekly chat, we often begin by sharing quotes from leading thinkers who make us think deeper.  As an extension to our Thursday night #G2Great chat, I will return to some tweets and highlight thinking around these quotes that generated collective discourse.

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The potential of our instructional power is at its greatest when we balance instinct with deliberate thinking around our decisions.  Instinct comes from the experiences that are already hard-wired into our brain as maps.  We know or can predict the outcome of certain situations and this needs to be in balance with intentional thinking when making these 3,000 decisions each day.  Thoughtful decision-making is at the heart of all great teaching and learning; great teachers put students at the center of those decisions.  Take a look at the tweets shared out and it will be easy to see how we as educators put our students at the center of our thinking and decision making.

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If we let this quote from Stephen Covey inspire our thinking it won’t take long to realize that our classrooms are the residual outcome of our decisions.  In maintaining our belief that students are at the center of our classroom then we could argue that student decision making then also results in the learning process that can be seen in our classrooms.

John Hattie has said about our students, “Give them the skills so they can be their own teacher.  We truly make a difference when we teach students to see their impact, they become more engaged in this thing we call school.”  When we join together as collective learners in our classrooms we can make a difference, involving students in classroom decisions is a powerful way to advance learning.  In fact if you look at rubrics used for teacher observations (Charlotte Danielson’s Framework or the NYSUT Teacher Practice Rubric) in the distinguished or highly effective column and multiple times across different domains or standards you will see descriptors that include actions on the part of the students.  Releasing responsibility to students is valued across these areas and has a correlation to their learning processes.  When students are involved in the teaching and learning not only are they invested in their learning, they learn that they have something to do with their own success and this will not only engage them as Hattie pointed out, but build intrinsic motivation.

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The process of reflection was the focus of our #G2Great chat while our blog is really a tribute to the words that are tweeted out into the Twitterverse each Thursday night at 8:30pm EST.  As we think about thoughtful decision making we have to consider all that we learn from the reflection piece of that process.  Especially powerful is the opportunity we have to reflect with others, while we can do this in person or with our PLN in a virtual sense, the process is the same.  David Rock has said, “Making decisions can be a difficult process, and having a sounding board can make a big difference.”  The additional benefit of this collaborative reflection as Rock points out is that “having others stretch us is a way to grow faster than we would on our own.” Each and every week at #G2Great I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with others who reflect and stretch my thinking and decision making in a way I cannot on my own.  Grateful for reflection.  Grateful to share thinking.  Grateful to grow and learn.  Grateful for all the tweets that inspire great work.

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