Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

#G2Great Who’s Doing The Work Series: Sharing A Love for Reading: We Can Do This Together

By, Jenn Hayhurst

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On Thursday June 23, 2016 Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris joined #G2Great to chat about shared reading. In their book, Who’s Doing The Work How to Say Less so Readers Can Do More, Jan and Kim offer a fresh take on this tried and true practice.  We are always growing, and in the search to understand more, we continue to evolve in our understanding for what works in the classroom. Refining our practice for shared reading enables us to do more to tap into its power.  Jan and Kim refer to this new slant of shared reading as“Next Generation Shared Reading” (p 57) that offers exponential growth for readers of all ages and abilities.  

Each week my #G2Great community pushes me to sharpen my instructional lens. As I look back on the chat some key points and ideas really stood out as we move closer toward Next Generation Shared Reading.

A natural context for shared professional learning…

A5 LauraLearning begins with authenticity and an open mind. Before we can fully appreciate a new take on this practice let’s zoom in on a little history. Shared reading was introduced by Don Holdaway in 1979 with primary children in New Zealand and Australia.  Holdaway’s Natural Learning Model is predicated on the belief that all learning is social, that children learn best through: demonstration, participation, role play and performance. Next Generation Shared Reading challenges us to think strategically while encouraging greater participation through collaborative work. We began our chat by taking an honest look at where shared reading breaks down:

hared reading is meant to be inclusive, to promote problem solving through the use of authentic literature that reflects the interests of your readers so they will want to do the work. This ought to be a joyful invitation for learning how to read. This is what it looks like when students are doing the work.

Shared reading builds a community….

Shared reading nurtures self-esteem and a feeling of belonging. It engenders consistency by linking instruction: literature, history, math, science, and writing all have potential for amazing shared reading experiences. It is a powerhouse for collecting formative data. When  students are allowed to do their work we can focus on ours. Our important work is to observing, recording, and recommending while students practice, and implement learning for themselves. Strategic planning bridges connections and provides collaborative learning through social experiences. Students “try on” more sophisticated texts as they experience success. In many ways, it’s the first step towards independence:

Using texts as tools throughout bands of complexity…

Next Generation Shared Reading takes this practice out of the primary grades and recognizes its power and potential to elevate the thinking and reading levels of students across all grades. When teachers understand how books work they understand how to create openings for students to access them. They can delve into complex genres while promoting the idea that all reading should be impactful and that understanding will be deeply personal. We uncover what reading means to students when we allow them to learn within a community that values many voices.  This is what it looks like when students are doing the work:

Parting words on shared reading…

Thank you Jan and Kim for writing a book that has inspired all of us to think deeply about shared reading. You remind us to take shared reading practices out of the box through a more flexible implementation. We have a repertoire of instructional techniques at our disposal and Next Generation Shared Reading offers a more limber cohesive way to utilize Holdaway’s dynamic work for our students:








Who’s Doing the Work: Saying Less So Readers Can Do More in Read Aloud

by Mary Howard


On June 16, 2016, #G2Great launched a four-part series with guest hosts Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, co-authors of a remarkable book, Who’s Doing the Work: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More (Stenhouse 2016). We began our journey with read-aloud, a topic we’ve spotlighted at #G2Great on three other occasions (see 2/14/16; 3/17/16; 4/21/16

This week, Jan & Kim helped us make a shift to Next Generation Read-Aloud as reflected on page 30: “Read-aloud is a commercial for learning to read. It entices children to lean into the tricky parts of a text for the reward of enjoying its meaning, and this understanding of the relationship between productive effort and its joyful benefits can motivate students during shared reading, guided reading and independent reading.”

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In other words, next generation read-aloud asks us open the read-aloud door wider as we invite students to engage in meaningful opportunities to do this productive and joyful work within and beyond the read-aloud experience. Over 1700 tweets and trending on Twitter within minutes and enthusiastic read-aloud suggestions reflected that our #G2Great chatters were ready to make this shift with gusto.

Throughout our chat, Jan and Kim helped us reflect on a question inspired by the cover of their book: How do teachers say less so readers can do more? As I perused enthusiastic tweets of dedicated educators, I discovered seven essential qualities that next generation read-aloud teachers choose to embrace:

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are COMMITTED

We cannot even begin to become next generation read-aloud teachers until we make a time commitment to daily read-aloud. In my Steven Layne blog post, a comment was posted by a teacher describing herself as a read-aloud ‘thief in the night:’ “We have a specific district level mandate that reading aloud to the whole class for more than a few minutes/day is strictly forbidden.” Next generation read-aloud teachers hold tight to read aloud by carving it into daily schedule stone and they let nothing stand in the way – not even ill-informed absurd district mandates.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are SELECTIVE

Within this time commitment, next generation read-aloud teachers celebrate book choice as the inspiration. They thoughtfully select texts, opting for the highest quality varied selections that will cognitively and emotionally connect students in ways that give them a reason to actively engage in deep thinking. Jan and Kim remind us, “Text selection is the first, and potentially the most important, aspect of planning a successful read-aloud experience.” Next generation read-aloud teachers take this challenge seriously, knowing that texts are the spark that can touch the minds and hearts of students and beckon them to do more of the work.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are AWE-INSPIRING

While book choice is critical, next generation read-aloud teachers also know that it is the delivery that can bring that book to life. One does not need to sit through many scripted read-alouds to recognize that JOY is the heartbeat of the read-aloud experience. Cautiously chosen and joyfully delivered texts can impact readers in substantial ways as we celebrate the beauty of the language, meaning, and pictures. When we take time to linger a bit longer in engaging texts, we merge our collective joy and collaboratively savor words, images and messages in delight.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are INTENTIONAL

Commitment, texts and joy form the foundation for next generation read-aloud teachers but they also recognize the value of well-planned instruction and refuse to leave this to chance. Planning is thoughtfully intentional so that they can make the most of every experience. They know books inside out before reading, carefully but selectively placing sticky notes at key points in the text that will afford opportunities to model, pause, reflect, and discuss. They have a clear purpose in mind and know how to breathe life into that purpose in organic and productive ways that will elevate the instructional goal without diminishing enthusiastic engagement. Of course, they have equal respect for providing opportunities to read-aloud for the sheer sake and joy of read-aloud.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are RESPONSIVE

Next generation read aloud teachers respect the planning process, but they have even more respect for students. They are mindful that instructional goals can pull students into the experience or push them out, carefully balancing those goals by keeping students at the forefront. They are willing to ignore sticky note pauses or selected teaching points so that student thinking can rise to the surface. They invite deep thinking by encouraging student voices to lift above their own, viewing turn and talk as a read-aloud staple. They celebrate the ideas readers bring to the read-aloud experience and use them to inform next steps.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are CURIOUS

Each of the essential qualities described thus far are crucial but next generation read-aloud teachers recognize that read-aloud begins and ends with our students in mind. They view kidwatching as an art and use student conversations and reactions in the course of the experience to inspire noticings and wonderings that can elevate heat of learning moments. They seek to understand and use student thinking as a stepping stone to know students at deeper levels. They take advantage of powerful learning to make adjustments on the run to quench their curiosity with actions that are continuously informed by students.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are COURAGEOUS

Finally, next generation read-aloud teachers are willing to courageously forge new paths to elevate the read-aloud experience. They offer students a steady diet of beautiful texts and strive to bring books and children together on a daily basis. They set the stage to help students understand how books work by designing a learning experience that will be both productive and pleasurable. Above all, they believe in students enough to turn over the reign of responsibility and trust them to do work they know may be messy. They embrace the mess, unfettered by the unknown while encouraging and supporting productive effort along the way. They accept this uncertainty bravely, knowing  payoff will be immeasurable in terms of benefit to students – and that knowledge takes priority over all else.

As I think back on our #G2Great chat with Jan and Kim I am personally inspired to move closer toward becoming a next generation read-aloud teacher. I am excited to embrace the exploratory spirit this shift affords as we enter uncharted territory ripe for thoughtful meanderings in a growth opportunity for students and teachers. As we work to achieve the seven essential qualities, we begin our own gradual release of responsibility toward higher levels of thinking where students do more of the work and read-aloud becomes our teacher

Thank you Jan and Kim for inspiring us to explore what next generation read-aloud has in store for us all! Now let’s get started…

Contact Jan: [email protected] Contact Kim: [email protected].

More inspiring #G2Great Tweets on new generation read-aloud below


Shifting our Perspective: Viewing Teaching from a Student Lens

By Amy Brennan

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People, places and perspectives.  Within our school systems there are so many different people; the students, the teachers, the parents, the administrators and other members of the community. These stakeholders each come from different places with different perspectives but the one stakeholder closest to the learning and arguably our most important is the student.  

On 6/9/16 #G2Great we flipped our perspective and brought in an expert.  The expert in this case, is a student with the perspective that should always be the first we consider in teaching and learning. To bring this perspective we were honored to have guest host, Sam Fremin, or as he is known in the Twittersphere @TheSammer88. Sam is a 9th grade student who is a two time panel presenter at NCTE and an inspiring young man who helped us to shift our perspective for a different view on our instructional practices.  

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Throughout our chat, Sam helped us re-envision eight essential instructional points that will allow us to make this shift.  


Re-envision Motivation

When we slow down and shift our perspective we can begin to view teaching from a student’s lens.  Reflection around Sam’s tweets allow for a thoughtful change in perspective and allow for the possible revision of our own thinking.  As we re-envision motivation Jessie Miller reminds us of something that seems so simple and obvious: if we ask and listen, students will tell us what motivates them.  Sam guides us to remember that as social creatures we crave the story.  We can facilitate motivation when we listen to students tell their stories.

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Re-envision Environment

Create a safe supportive learning environment where children feel safe to take the risks that are necessary in learning.  This statement is one that was the foundation of much of my learning as I prepared to become a teacher.  When students are at the center of the classroom, they experience comfort and ownership that will enhance their learning experience. Allowing for flexibility along with input from students will help to ensure that students are in a learning environment that will best support their learning.  As we begin to think about classroom design over the summer months, we need to consider the perspective of our students and plan for ways to engage them in the process of creating their learning environment.  How will you plan for ways to involve your students in co-creating the classroom environment when they begin the new school year?  You will want to think about this from the perspective of your students as you begin a new school year.  

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Re-envision Differentiation

The flexibility that comes with differentiation of instruction creates so many opportunities for educators to consider in planning.  These tweets below show us that we need to embrace reflection and change in order to best meet the needs of the learners who are the source of our planning.  Being open to feedback from your students provides the perspective of the learner and allows us to plan for true differentiation in learning.   

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Re-envision Engagement

True student engagement is not usually questioned because we know it when we see it.  There is a certain buzz about the room when we see students authentically cognitively engaged.  Engagement can be the doorway to a student’s learning as well as the constant vehicle that brings students along on the road to learning.  Monitoring engagement provides a way for teachers to collect and analyze data.  Using this data provides the rationale for changing our plans or simply put, being a responsive teacher.  

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Re-envision Collaboration

Collaboration is perhaps one of the most widely desired skills that employers are seeking for their future workforce.  Modeling for students just how collaboration works is one way that students learn how to effectively collaborate.  The partnership work that begins early in our reading and writing workshop are perfect “labsites” for students to practice skills and get feedback from peers as well as the teacher.  Expanding from partnerships to book clubs and then some larger groups offers the opportunity to build on this skill for college.  Jason, one of Sam’s teachers (@MisterAMisterA) emphasized that he was working on a 100% plan together phase.  Students create not only their assessments but their curriculum.   

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Re-envision Transfer

Transfer of learning is our goal in the learning process.  We want students who have learned in one context to be able to transfer that learning and apply it in a different setting.  When our students are able to transfer, it is only then that we know learning has stuck.  During the chat as Sam shared his perspective on transfer and reminded us that school is more than just curriculum, Justin (@jdolci) shared that we are not just teaching isolated subjects, we are teaching learning.  When we apply a student lens to transfer we can see the importance of teachers acting as facilitators to support those opportunities for transfer.  In the end, we want our students to take what they have learned in our school environment and transfer it to solving real world problems. The thinking skills we teach in literacy will serve our students well as adults, and this happens when we teach for transfer.

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Re-envision Homework

Homework is big topic for debate in recent years.  Parents, administrators and teachers have their perspectives and during our chat Sam shed light on the issue of homework from the eyes of a student.  Sam reminds us that students need to understand the rationale behind homework.  Our students know when homework assignments are not purposeful.  Sam’s choice of the word disheartened in the tweet below should call us to attention and remind us that students need to know the rationale behind homework assignments.  We have to ask ourselves if there is a rationale for the work, can we we explain it to our students. Sam’s words remind us that no student should feel disheartened ever about homework. Sam’s suggestion about using homework as a way to “broaden” our students’ horizons is a piece of advice well worth listening to and implementing.  

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Re-envision Technology

Students like Sam are in a great position to offer their perspective to educators. Looking through the lens of a student in this area shows us how important it is to stay current and use technology to enhance instruction in the same way it is used in the world.  If technology is present in every aspect of life as Sam points out, then so should it be in schools where students are being prepared to enter college and careers.  

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People, places and perspectives. Our school systems are built from people from different places all with different perspectives. If we believe in the strength of the many people within our instructional setting, the different places they’ve come from and the unique perspective each person brings to the learning experience, we will discover the immense power in our school system.  As we embrace people, places and perspectives, we build bridges that will shift our lens to varied viewpoints and catapult collective learning.  That is where there is true power  —  collective learning.  We are all grateful Sam allowed us to re-envision our teaching through his eyes as we look ahead to a new year.  

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Looking Back on 2015-2016: Reflecting on the Past To Enhance Our Future

By Jenn Hayhurst

Teachers are getting ready to close our classrooms for summer, and begin to open our minds for deep reflection, and planning for future goals. On June 2, 2016 #G2Great asked teachers everywhere to ponder their practices more closely: Looking Back on 2015 2016:Reflecting on the Past to Enhance Our Future. As I consider my personal impact during the school year, some nagging questions begin to cycle through my thoughts:  Did I do enough? What could I have done differently? If only I had a little more time, maybe I could get to that next thing – whatever that thing may be. Can you relate? If you can, I feel as though a good story might help put our hearts and minds at ease.

Dottie Hayhurst is a petite efficient woman who has a knack for making things grow. Each year she works with diligence to plant her tulip bulbs in the fall. With deft determination she nimbly digs deep holes and places each bulb with great care. She considers many things: Will the colors compliment each other? How far apart should the bulbs be? Where will they get the best light? How should they be arranged so that they enhance the flagpole, the driveway, the walkway? Then she tucks them soundly into the ground, she tends to the soil, and finally she lets time do its job.  By the spring her garden is just lovely. Joyful growth colors the world to celebrate spring. Dottie’s garden offers up tulips to the world as a beautiful tribute to her dedication over time. She makes the world better one tulip at a time.

A garden needs time and constant care. This is also true for teaching.  Honing our craft is a slow and steady process of reflection and goal setting. There are days when students’ learning seems invisible to us. Having a vision paired with professional experience helps us understand that growth is happening below the surface. No matter how committed we are to student growth, for many children that growth happens on its own clock.

Our impact can have an opposite effect too. We can set children back, not even realizing what we’ve done if we’re not reflective. We must reconcile the challenges of our own practice and the time and development of children. Our response to that truth is to be fully present and mindful, to find ways to measure growth.

Let’s celebrate the idea that students are always becoming.  Especially when they do not have the self-awareness to know this for themselves yet. Make a promise to show them all the great work they have done and will do based on all the great work they’re doing now. When we have an unwavering belief in students we are giving them what they really the most.


So as each of you look back on the 2015 -2016 school year, reflect on these questions:

  • How did I make my students feel about themselves?
  • What evidence do I have that shows I made a positive impact on their lives?
  • What do I know about this child as a learner?

Every child should know they are unique and are worthy of all our attention and high expectations. It’s as simple as saying, I believe in you. They need to hear this whether they are in elementary school, middle school, or high school. We are not here to “fix” children but to learn alongside them. We cannot be the teacher we hope to be in the coming school year if we are not open to learning. Learning about students is the only way to them grow. In the 2016-2017 school year, let’s make the world better…

One student at a time.