Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Broadening Our Perspective: To Learn Is To Teach, To Teach Is To Learn

Valinda Kimmel

A few years ago, Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D., wrote an article in which she spoke about teachers as model learners. Dr. Gerstein posits that in order to lead students in the process of learning, teachers themselves must engage in reflection about “how they learn, set personal learning goals, regularly self-assess and adjust their performance, and use strategies to support their learning.”

Often when reading an article on progressive educational practice, it’s tempting to think of the ideas presented as more fantasy than reality. That is not the case here, however.

There was clear evidence of many in our #g2great PLN in the chat on Thursday who hold to the idea of teachers choosing to set specific goals for new learning; their own learning.  Educators engaged in a spirited discussion about the reciprocal nature of teaching and learning. And they shared specific ways in which they embrace the wisdom of “teacher as lead learner”.

You can see the chat here in its entirety. Let’s look at some #g2great questions and answers:

Teachers model the process of learning when they:

  • Set goals for learning
  • Articulate and make note of metacognitive strategies while learning
  • Respect the iterative nature of learning
  • Reflect often throughout the process
  • Make adjustments when necessary

There is no magic potion for maximizing learning for all students, but when educators commit to being the lead learner there is power in that stance.

Power that transforms.

The work involved to lead the learning is not easy, but it is a certainly a worthy pursuit.

Educators as Lead Learners. (2016, January 12). Retrieved from

Jennifer Serravallo: Understanding Texts & Readers

By Fran McVeigh

Back in March the #G2Great community hosted a chat featuring Jennifer Serravallo and her book, Understanding Texts & Readers:  Responsive Comprehension with Leveled Texts.  Here is that Wakelet.  Previous bestsellers are Reading Strategies (2015) and Writing Strategies (2017).  (Writing Strategies Chat)

Last week I had the honor to be at Hamline University in Minneapolis for Jennifer’s three hour keynote over this book with #G2Great friend, Kathryn Hoffmann-Thompson.  Three hours for this topic…not nearly enough to cover everything in the book but so much better than a shared presentation or just an hour for surface coverage.

A Memorable Opening

Jen opened by sharing her “Identity Web” and then gave us about five minutes to begin ours.  Identity webs are a favorite activity from Sara Ahmed, author of Being the Change. This was a practical and purposeful introduction.

I didn’t capture a picture of Jennifer’s Identity Web but I do remember the dancing, ballet and at home.  It captured a part of my mind that made a new connection and added to my picture of her.

As I tried to think of ideas and symbols for my web, I thought about a) this activity with Sara at NCTE and b) the fact that many of my friends comment on the conversations I have with strangers on the streets of New York City because of the college colors I wear.  That college identity is even more poignant because of this story of Sara’s. Sara in a city separated by 90 miles from me on this memorable date.  The possibilities for my web were easy to generate!

Classroom Connection

Create an Identity Web before school begins. Consider the aspects of your life that have shaped you. Share your web with your class.  Provide time for your students to create an Identity Web.

ACTION:  Use the identity webs of your students to audit your classroom libraries and ensure all students are represented.

And then the WHY.


Name Dropping

Fast and Furious



Fountas and Pinnell

Where do we start with Goals?

  1. It is all about comprehension.
  2. A five minute assessment conference

We watched a video of an assessment conference that involved a lot of listening.  It looked and sounded easy.  The hard part was listening and thinking about what the student “could do”.  As a first grader this student was working on the goals at the top. Any of them could have been choices – depending on the conversation. A student well matched to a text. Retelling.  Listening to what the student is paying attention to. Setting a goal for three weeks, working the goal, and meeting again with the student to figure out next steps.

ACTION:  Five Minute Assessment Conferences


A student.

Well matched to a text.


Listening to what the student knows.

What can the student do?  What might be  a next step?  Plan, execute the plan, and revisit in three weeks.

What is the beauty of this work?

Simple goal  (Not a SMART goal)

Focus on “Can Do” (Not deficits)

Short Term (Not a lifetime sentence)

Responsive (Not searching for a program)

How are you using Understanding Texts & Readers: Responsive Comprehension with Leveled Texts

How are you setting goals?

Social Media as a Purposeful Professional Learning Tool

By Fran McVeigh

On July 18, 2019 the #G2Great Twittersphere was filled. Folks came from:


New York,
Alberta, Canada,

New Brunswick, Canada,

(and I apologize for any that I missed that you will find in the Wakelet here). Educators, teachers, administrators, coaches, college and university instructors, authors, readers, writers, and consultants. A Twitter chat about social media as a purposeful professional learning tool.

The chat opened with this quote.

Making professional connections, sharing ideas and resources and combating isolation were reasons shared by participants as evidenced in the following tweets from educators in 14 states and two provinces in Canada. These  ideas were supported by the original book study chat #G2Great.  Reducing teacher isolation is a common recurring theme.

One huge piece of social media is Twitter. Folks on Twitter know that they can find much good with a focus on following those individuals who add to professional expertise. They are enthusiastic. They share resources. They meet regularly and share ideas, suggestions, images and inspiration. But they also don’t live in a land of fairy tales. Dialogue results in sharing opinions and views. Sometimes data supports those opinions and views. Sometimes theoretical information supports the premise of the disagreement. Sharing information doesn’t always change opinions, but open and honest communication is strengthened by on-going dialogue.

A great deal of the tweets in this social media chat focused on the good that we the #G2Great users have found on social media. Not all of Twitter is a bed of roses. Many of us have had our share of questionable or even unpleasant social media instances. However, when the goal is civil discourse with responsible sharing of our thoughts and ideas, social media connects a world of ideas and a world of possibilities that reduce isolationism no matter where you live on Earth. Productive use of social media tools allows users to conduct research, reach out to experts, and ask questions. And these tools also allow people to express themselves, share their work, and get feedback and encouragement. Therefore, social media promotes active citizenship and should be encouraged. Productive social media use MUST be modeled, taught and used by students, teachers, and administrators.

Where should you begin?

Choose one . . .





and then to borrow from Andy Schoenborn above . . .”Listen. Dip a toe into the conversation . . .”

Start small.  Pick one idea or topic.

What do you want to learn? 

What do you want to chat about?

The depth of your learning is set by you, your current knowledge and your goals.  This “depth” can also be relative to your social media professional learning.  In a 2017 study “Effective Teacher Development” as reported here, Linda Darling-Hammond, Maria E. Hyler, and Madelyn Gardner, propose that six criteria need to be met in approximately 49 total hours for sustainable, difference-making professional learning that impacts student achievement.  Webinars, google docs, twitter chats, and Voxer groups could easily meet these requirements with a planned, cost-effective and efficient delivery system that would also reduce teacher isolation.

Are you ready to rock social media professional learning?

Learning Celebrations Showcasing Reflection on Process & Product

By, Jenn Hayhurst

On June 27, 2019 #G2Great hosted the chat, Learning Celebrations Showcasing Reflection on Process and Product. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about celebrations, and I think there is more to this topic than meets the eye. I mean on the surface, a celebration is a good time and that is certainly a motivator. Dig a little deeper, examine what is being celebrated, and we get a sense of collective identity, what is believed, what is valued within a community.

What if schools cultivated a day-to-day celebratory spirit when it comes to learning? That would mean, celebrations that were not just reserved for special occasions, but were present in students’ learning every day.

Imagine how joyful it would be to embrace a celebratory culture! A whole faculty dedicated to finding the “good” and putting their collective energy towards student growth and learning in a very public and meaningful way. As I read through #G2Great PLN members’ comments, I could get a sense of what that would be:

These tweets were so revealing, and I found myself feeling completely inspired. These teachers are all celebrating their students in profound ways. Each tweet honors and celebrates students’ efforts by elevating their participation, their work, and their process. Each time students are celebrated, their identity as learners becomes a little more formed. With each acknowledgment, the message is sent, “Yes, you belong here. You are worthy of attention and praise.”

Once students believe that they are valued, that they are seen and understood; then, they can begin to learn with a sense of agency. Part of this work is to teach children the language of reflection so they may set meaningful goals. When students are setting their own goals, and are motivated to achieve them, learning in and of itself becomes the main event:

If celebrations reveal beliefs, I have to wonder, how do my beliefs promote a celebratory culture? I believe in kids. Not just some kids, or those kids, but all kids. I vow to celebrate that belief in the upcoming school year. I will celebrate each student’s brilliance, and this will be my number one priority. Every day I am with my students I will be a celebration – of them.