Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom

by Amy Brennan


On September 15, 2016 #G2Great welcomed Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris as guest hosts to celebrate their book, Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom. In their book, Kristin and Katie bring their readers on a journey to explore technology as a creative tool for the classroom.  

Throughout the chat I found myself reflecting on my own journey as I have learned about and explored different technologies.  That journey at times was uncomfortable, that uncomfortable feeling that we learn to embrace when we accept the perspective of a learner.  That feeling that has the power to make someone run for the hills or charge the mountain.  As a learner, I might want to run for the hills at times, but because of my curiosity, my choice and my commitment to learning, I choose instead to charge the mountain.  Of course, it helps that I have my #G2Great tribe on that mountain reaching out their hands to me as I begin the upward climb.  It helps all of us on our journey to know that we have Kristin and Katie to walk alongside us and to help us empower our students by maximizing the effective use of technology.

Embrace the journey, even when it is challenging

Technology brings this uncomfortable feeling simply because as it improves, technology is in a perpetual state of changing, and change is really about learning and growing. Take a moment to read the tweets below and be inspired by Kristin and Katie and their passion for the journey.  Bring along your curiosity and wonder and you will begin to envision the possibilities on this amazing learning journey.



Technology should elevate thinking and learning

Instructional choices around incorporating technology must be grounded in meaningful work and providing authentic opportunities for students to learn, create and share.  In this sense, the context and purpose of our technology choices requires thoughtful consideration and must be grounded in ways that will elevate thinking.  Technology or the latest, hottest new app cannot be used just for the sake of using it.  We have to remember to be thoughtful and intentional in our instructional decision making around technology implementation.  Asking questions such as “Is this meaningful?”  “What is the purpose of using this technology?”  “Will using this technology elevate students’ thinking and learning?”  Once we feel confident in these answers we can consider student choice.  Integrating technology adds a layer of responsibility on us to facilitate students making choices around the effective use of technology.  Kristin reminds us that even in the digital age we have to keep Allington’s research around choice, volume and response close by in our instructional planning and decision making.






Technology should amplify student voice

The final tweet from Kristin really exemplifies why all educators should read Kristin and Katie’s book, Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom.  Kristin closed the chat with this tweet, “At the end of the day, tech is about AMPLIFYing students’ stories. When we know a child’s story we can teach them appropriately.” The possibilities are endless when we incorporate technology into the learning environment.  So much is possible when we know our students and where they are in their learning as well as in their lives.  When we allow students to show us what they know, and listen to their stories we are in a better position to engage and motivate students to learn, create and share.  

Whether you are just beginning your journey or you are still on your journey in learning and using technology in your school, I encourage you to join me and charge the mountain and join us on the #G2Great mountaintop. As you look up to the top of the mountain you’ll see hands there to support you to the top of the mountain with Kristen and Katie’s book there to guide our continuing journey. We are grateful to Kristin and Katie for deepening our thinking and empowering us on the journey as we empower students and improve thinking and learning.



If you would like to learn more about Katie and Kristin’s work follow them on Twitter and check out the links below.    

Learn more about Kristin and Katie’s work here:

Kristin Twitter @KristinZiemke  • Katie Twitter @KatieMuhtaris

Link to Amplify

Link to Comprehension and Technology

Kristin’s website:

Amplify Teaching website

Multitouch Books Digital Discourse in Mathematics: Strategies for the Young Learner

Courses: Amplify! Digital Pedagogy for Today & Tomorrow

Literacy in Action: Create to Learn

Inquiry in Action: Africa!

Idea to power up creative practices across grades: free iTunes U course: Create to Learn: Literacy in Action

Kristin’s free iTunes U course Inquiry in Action: Africa! New ideas to bring to WONDER your curriculum.

Kristin’s post on reading digitally for Larry Ferlazo and EdWeek


Inspiring Our Work Through a Sense of Professional Curiosity

by guest blogger Donna Donner


On September 8, 2016 #G2Great hosted a chat, Inspiring Our Work Through a Sense of Professional Curiosity. This year I embarked on a new path in my professional journey. After the end of my first week of a new position in a new school, this was just the right dose of reflection I needed.  The topic of curiosity is so important to me as I begin this journey.  

The dictionary says, curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn something while the thesaurus calls it ‘a spirit of inquiry’.  I was in the classroom for so long and loved every moment with my students but I knew something was nagging at me – that  something more was out there for me to explore. So as I joined in on the #G2Great chat Thursday night I reflected about what curiosity meant to me.

On my 10 year anniversary my husband and I went snowmobiling through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Temperatures plummeted to 40 and 50 degrees below zero but we still spent up to 10 hours seeing everything we could before the sun set.  We didn’t let dangerously cold temperatures stop us. We were inspired by the beauty and the unknown. We were curious.


Just as I am inspired in my personal life, I am equally inspired in my professional life. Leaving my 5th grade classroom was hard, like being exposed to the plummeting temperatures.  My desire to know more and be more is like the inspiring views of the boundless beauty on my snowmobile ride.  My curiosity protects me from the fear of change. That “spirit of inquiry” ignites a “spirit of curiosity” for my professional journey.


As I continue to think about what curiosity means to me, I looked back on our first question. I was inspired by #G2Great tweets that led me to five key ideas that will support my thinking this year.


Professional curiosity really begins with the individual

As Lauren points out, curiosity ignites something wondrous in us.  We feel alive, happy, and motivated as we explore and discover.  It must be my curiosity that drives me to want to be the best because it is not competition that fuels my fire.  I am not trying to be better than anyone.  I don’t even know where I am going to wind up but my role as a reading teacher affords me an opportunity to move in that direction as I explore the possibilities ahead.


Professional curiosity inspires our commitment to keep learning

My decision to leave the classroom has been years in the making.  My passion for all things literacy landed me as a reading teacher, a coach. So when I saw the question, What does professional curiosity mean to you? I knew this was important. My curiosity was fueled by my passion that brought me down this path, but now I want to be sure I stay curious as I sift through the initiatives, mandates, and difficult days. Chris Quinn’s tweet reminds me that professional curiosity is what links me to a growth mindset and my commitment to keep learning. This year I will commit to embracing a growth mindset as I navigate my new role to collaborate with teachers and grow side-by-side with them.


Professional curiosity flames a sense of wonder in all we do

The first day of school usually meant welcoming wide-eyed 5th graders into OUR room. I had my routines, my classroom management and best practices down to a science. This year as the doors in my new school opened, I was fortunate to stand by and watch through my admiring lens as teachers welcomed THEIR new students.  My curiosity piqued as I learned how amazing and unique teachers are.  I learned so much in my first week about how change can be the flame that keeps my curiosity burning.


Professional curiosity inspires us to do our best work for students

Spanish, Arabic, and Polish are some of the languages spoken by the students in my new school.  I have absolutely no experience with this.  How can I possibly be in my profession for this long and not know how to help students? This is a very vulnerable position to be in as a teacher.  I am a person who likes to have control over my teaching. I took the hand of a lovely 4th grader who speaks only Arabic.  I speak only English. We walked down the small corridors and stopped at things I thought would be important for her to know.  Girls bathroom, the office, the BOYS bathroom, and the fire extinguisher. Together we practiced saying the words that matched the places we visited. On this day, my curiosity inspired me to take a baby step for this one child within this one moment.

Professional curiosity inspires collective commitment to our students

During the chat I realized that I was feeding my professional curiosity right on the spot.  Fran reminded me that professional curiosity is about wanting to know more for the sake of our entire community of learners while Kari reminded me how this drives us towards figuring out what we can do to have the biggest impact. Suddenly, it hit me! My curiosity isn’t just a gift for self-fulfillment It’s a gift to be shared with others so that we can collaborate in a shared commitment to our students. I know that my impact this year will always lead back to children.


As I reflect back on the words of wisdom and inspiration from our #G2Great community, I am inspired by the impact of these dedicated educators on my own thinking.  I am EVEN MORE COMMITTED to “the spirit of inquiry” and the question that will continue to enrich my professional curiosity:

What will you do this year to enrich your professional curiosity?

Read more about Donna’s thinking at 4 O’Clock Faculty

Exploring Big Ideas to Maximize Schoolwide Potential with Dennis Schug

By Jenn Hayhurst


On September 1, 2016 #G2Great concluded our five-part leadership series, Exploring Seven Big Ideas to Maximize Schoolwide Potential with guest host Dennis Schug. Dennis is the principal of Hampton Bays Middle School in Hampton Bays, NY and he reminded us that leadership and learning go hand-in-hand:  “It’s critically important that we as school leaders model that we’re learners first. Our colleagues and students will follow.”     

How do we get to that “sweet spot”  Dennis describes so that we can encourage learning and growth for all members of a school community?  Promoting a positive school environment begins with three building blocks: Communication, Collaboration, and Professional Learning.

Everyone who participated in Thursday night’s chat embraced these building blocks and began an important discussion that needs to live beyond our chat. How do we continue to evolve our practices to expand our circle of influence? Learning and leadership are both within our grasp, and this how we will begin to unlock our personal and professional potential.  The conversation that followed revealed the dedication and “can do” spirit that these remarkable educators bring to the table every day when we open up…

Building Block One: OPENING UP  to what is possible – a  free flow of communication:

Building Block One: Dennis inspired us all to think about how communication opens the door to professional learning. My friend and mentor, Amy Brennan has been know to say, “I think better in the company of of others.” I completely agree! It is our professional responsibility to engage in a healthy back and forth dialogue about the issues that matter most in our schools.  This is extremely complex work and it requires us all to think deeply to find common ground. The time is now to build on a plurality, through compassion and a shared vision that welcomes many views and ideas:   

Building Block Two: OPENING UP  to more – unconditional collaboration:

John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”  To this I say, Dennis Schug, you are a leader to admire because you began a conversation around the importance of collaborative work. As you said, “In 2016  isolation is a choice.”  Our students will inherit a world that depends on pragmatic problem solving and we can all lead by example. Let’s look for opportunities to learn together:

Building Block Three: OPENING UP  to vitality – professional learning in action:

Great leaders are like beacons who light the way and begin a chain reaction for professional learning and growth. We selected lighthouses as the images for our administrative series because great leader like Dennis Schrug are sources of enlightenment. They take away the darkness and bring clarity where there might otherwise be confusion. They achieve this through supporting professional learning.  This is the spark that lights the fire  inside all of us to learn and grow.  We can all be learners. We can all be leaders. We can become beacons who light the way for ourselves, each other, our students, and their families:

How can we work together for what is in the best interest of our students? We begin by saying “Yes.”  Yes to what is possible if we open ourselves up to communication.  Yes to more if we open ourselves up to collaboration.  Yes to vitality if we open ourselves up to professional learning.  Dennis you made us think of our collective potential and have inspired us all to dream. You have stirred our excitement for a new school year. Thank you for hosting #G2Great and for your service in the name of students everywhere.

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Exploring Big Ideas to Maximize Schoolwide Potential with Natalie Miller

by Mary Howard


On August 25, 2016 #G2Great continued our five-part leadership series, Exploring Seven Big Ideas to Maximize Schoolwide Potential. This week guest host Natalie Miller, principal of Cornelius Hedges Elementary in Kalispell, MT, deepened our “celebration of administrators who model by their actions what is possible when they make the shift to lead learner.”

Over the past four weeks, I have thought about this celebration of possible through the eyes of four remarkable administrators: Seth Berg, Matt Renwick, Tony Sinanis and Natalie Miller. As I reflect on their collective impact, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for their vision of administrators as lead learner. Yet my joy is hampered by the stark realization that their vision for what is possible is not the norm in every school. That concern drew my attention back to a quote we tweeted during our chat:

Quote PRE

This quote replayed in my mind as Natalie breathed new meaning into those words, elevating my desire for lead learner magic in every school. Administrators who inspire teachers “to yearn for the vast and endless sea” help us to envision leadership from the heart. With this in mind, I posed a singular guiding question to move us closer to that celebration of possible: WHAT IF?


And so as I look back on Natalie’s chat from a mindset of leadership from the heart, her words inspired me to ponder seven goals that I am hopeful can spark other schools to embrace a lead learner role through a lens of WHAT IF?

No 1

WHAT IF every administrator created a “positively contagious school culture?”

The word “relationship” has come up repeatedly in our series, and Natalie’s words champion this message as well. If we have any hope of creating schools where leadership from the heart is a reality, a positively contagious school culture must be our focus. Cornelius Hedges Elementary modeled these words when Natalie’s teachers enthusiastically surrounded her during the chat in joyful celebration of their lead learner. This mutual respect does not happen by chance but when lead learners are committed to intentionally nurture relationships that promote this positively contagious culture.

No 2

WHAT IF every administrator made decisions that “keep the focus on students?”

A positively contagious culture grounded in meaningful relationships allows us to shift our focus so that we can keep our eyes on the real prize –students. Our lead learners join forces with their staff to work toward a common vision that keeps students at the center of every effort. This is achieved through relevant professional learning experiences motivated by educators’ desire to know their students well for it is this knowledge that keeps students at the center on a day-to-day and teacher-to-teacher basis.

No 3

WHAT IF every administrator viewed “shared leadership as the foundation for success?

Once we have acknowledged student success as our ultimate goal, we can open the door to shared leadership in this spirit. This is not about compliance or doling out boxed programs and the STUFF that reflects lack of faith in knowledgeable teachers. Lead learners embrace a shared role that holds professional responsibility in high regard. Lead learners encourage their teachers to use understandings of literacy and children to guide decision-making as resources become flexible tools that honor responsive teaching. Lead learners bravely relinquish reigns of control so that they can make room for informed instructional choices.

No 4

WHAT IF every administrator welcomed conversations to “lead students to their highest levels of learning?”

When respectful communication and collaboration in a positive learning environment where students are the priority defines a school, it is evident the moment you walk through the front door. One of the hallmarks of successful schools where lead learners are at the helm is the deep belief in conversations that will engage teachers in generating questions fueled by their curiosity about students and steadfast commitment to lead them to the highest levels of learning. These high expectations are afforded every child because educators refuse to allow preconceptions spurred by labels and irrelevant or trivial data to blur their view.

No 5

WHAT IF every administrator celebrated their role as the school’s “Chief Storyteller?”

Schools that keep students at the center are proud of their collective efforts and willing to share their success stories with anyone who will listen. Lead learners not only pave the way for these celebrations, but encourage teachers and even students to become fellow storytellers. Social media offers a rich platform to instill a sense of pride in our work as we share with educators far and wide. In doing so, we commemorate our hard work driven by an unwavering passion to make each day the best possible learning day for the students who inspire that hard work and move us to share our collective story.

No 6

WHAT IF every administrator created an environment “for teachers to reflect on student learning?”

Research has long supported reflection as a powerful impetus to change. Effective teachers do not view the teaching experience as the end goal but as a way to closely examine their practices for the purpose of elevating those practices in the future. Lead learners encourage this professional introspection and offer time for teachers to share those reflections and use this shared discourse as a springboard to new thinking. Collegial collaborations allow teachers to analyze practices as they verbalize their thinking with others to take a renewed look at those practices from multiple perspectives.

No 7

WHAT IF every administrator demonstrates respect for all so “you can feel our smiles before you enter?”

And so we return to the “positively contagious school culture” that initiated our journey to WHAT IF. The culture Cornelius Hedges Elementary has created “where you can feel our smiles before you enter” stayed with me long after the chat ended. This is the very spirit of leadership from the heart enriched by administrators with the courage to make the transformation to lead learner. And that my friends, is where the magic lives, not only in schools where lead learners like Seth, Matt, Tony, and Natalie reside – but in schools across the country where possible could thrive if we change our view of what is means to be a ‘leader.’


In closing, there is no doubt in my mind that leadership from the heart where lead learners inspire teachers “to yearn for the vast and endless sea” is achievable because we have seen it in action over the past four weeks of our series. And if every school administrator was committed to becoming a lead learner in a celebration of possible through WHAT IF?

Well in the words of Dr. Seuss, “Oh the places we could go!”

Special thank you to Natalie Miller and the wonderful staff of Cornelius Hedges Elementary supported by Instructional Coach Dani Burtsfield for celebrating your possible with us and to each of our incredible #G2Great chatters who inspire us with their dedicated enthusiasm week after week!


Five ways to connect with Natalie:

Twitter @nataliebmiller



School website:


Dr. Tony Sinanis Exploring Seven Big Ideas to Maximize School Wide Potential

by Amy Brennan

Tony Intro

On August 18, 2016 #G2Great welcomed Dr. Tony Sinanis to guest host Part 3 of a 5 Part Series: Exploring Seven Big Ideas to Maximize School Wide Potential.  Through our leadership series we are exploring the impact of administrators as lead learners.  This blog post was inspired by Tony’s leadership and provides a place for thoughts, reflection and learning.


In the midst of  preparations for the upcoming school year and the beginning of my second year as an administrator I took a moment this morning to sit back, breathe in and remind myself of my “One Little Word” for 2016…grateful.  I am grateful for those before me, who I can look to for inspiration, guidance and hope.  Dr. Tony Sinanis is a leader who inspires through his passion for learning and his passion for doing what is best for kids.  His guidance comes through in so many ways; his one to one conversations, his presentations, his blog and his books.  Dr. Tony Sinanis shows us that there is still hope in education. This hope fills me and lifts my perspective and I remain grateful for the leadership that Tony demonstrates.   I knew that I needed to write these words, and today once again Dr. Tony Sinanis has spread his positive leadership in a way to empower others to be leaders.  Check out his first tweet below to see the energy he brings!

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Connect, Inspire and Support

As I look back and reflect on Tony’s message three things come to my mind CONNECT, INSPIRE and SUPPORT


Connections are essential to the human spirit.  We desire connections and we thrive with connections because relationships are essential.  Through Tony’s leadership he shares the importance of relationships.  Tony values and nourishes relationships because he understands how these shape culture.  As a connected educator Tony values the role of social media and utilizes social media to share the story of his community.  Social media is a tool to extend and build more connections beyond the walls of your own classroom, school or district.  Face to face conversations are even more important to building relationships than ever before.  Connecting with all stakeholders and investing in relationships is the first step to building a positive school culture.

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Tony Quote Hacking leadership


We become inspired when we see someone who cares so deeply and has authentic, strong beliefs that cause us to take action or create something.  Being transparent in our beliefs, goals, as well as our own learning can inspire others.  Keeping kids at the center of their own learning, rather than “teaching” opens doors to inspire everyone in a community to take on the life of a learner.  Living as a learner inspires others and when kids are in the center how can you not be inspired?   Tony inspires educators, parents and students each and every day through his leadership.  

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Providing guidance and support are critically important when facilitating  any kind of learning.  Adults and kids need to feel safe and supported in order to take the necessary risks in order to learn. Empowering others to take risks as we learn and  lead strengthens the overall learning organization in ways that benefit students.  This creates ownership, and when we own our learning that is when we grow.  Tony shares with us the idea of supporting voice and choice for learners.

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Quote PRE-4

Through his enthusiasm you can feel the energy and passion that Dr. Tony Sinanis has for students, parents and teachers.  His commitment to learning is demonstrated as he shows us what it means to truly be a lead learner.  I have been fortunate to connect with Tony on Twitter  and meet him and listen to him share his passion at Long Island Connected Educators, I have read his blog and books.  Tony’s generosity in sharing his passion and ideas is inspirational.  I return to my “One Little Word” for 2016 and I remain grateful that through our leadership series we are exploring the impact of administrators, like Tony who are lead learners leaders who show us the direction and invite us to learn and lead.  It is through this that I find inspiration, guidance and hope.  


Exploring Seven Big Ideas to Maximize School Wide Potential Administrator Spotlight on Matt Renwick

By Jenn Hayhurst


Everyone Needs A Champion…

Sometimes a word can be a perfect fit. When I think of the word “inspire” and I think about the many talented administrators I have come to know, it’s really captures the essence of what makes them great . Dedicated administrators fulfill both definitions of the word. They do fill us with a feeling of elation to create great work in the name of students. They navigate the political tensions of running a school and do in fact, help us to breathe in and stay focused. They are brave and do whatever it takes so that we all keep students at the center of all the decision making.They are real life champions working for the greater good each day a school opens its doors.

InspireOn August 11, 2016 #G2Great welcomed Matt Renwick to guest host Part 2 of a five Part Series: Exploring Seven Big Ideas to Maximize School Wide Potential. Matt Renwick is a champion, who inspires us all.   

Great Teachers, Growth, Learning…

Matt’s top three instructional building blocks to promote positive school environment are a belief in: great teachers, growth, and celebrating learning for all students. Clarity is essential so when we all understand what our building blocks for school culture are, we can all work together to make them a reality. We are part of something bigger than ourselves, because we are all champions for the same cause:

Empower, Success, Collaboration…

Creating a school environment that promotes empowered relationships is purposeful and disciplined work for a school leader. Knowing when it’s right to step into a leadership role and and when to step out of a leadership role honors collaborative work.  It shifts personal responsibility for our professional learning and each other when we embrace the thinking that we are all leaders. We are a championship team who are all working to win students’ success:

Conversation, Consensus, Team…

We merge leadership and instructional decision-making when we merge our beliefs. Our work is to encourage meaningful conversations, to find consensus, and to create a responsive team. Every championship team has a great coach, great leaders are part of the team so they seek out experts who will coach them achieve victory. Leaders listen:  

Time, Facilitate, Building-Wide…

Our best work for students comes to life when administrators think like champions. They inspire a collaborative spirit as if we were stepping into the area for a playoff game. They come to work to play hard and try new roles designed to coordinate our efforts. We are all leaders, we are all learners and this makes our schools great:

Welcoming, Being Present, Making Experiences …

We can’t stand on the sidelines. We must get out there and make connections of all kinds. By connecting our schools and communities we affect changes. Leaving a positive footprint begins when we all step into our leadership roles and leave tracks for others to follow:  

Assess, Focus, Choice …

Be a champion for a school culture that values professional learning – one that deeply identifies itself with success. Assessing and planning for this are essential parts that drive intentional decision making that accommodates teacher choice for professional learning.  This is how we grow teacher leaders.  When everyone immerses themselves in this process we embed learning throughout:   

Professionalism, Say Yes, Success …

Having a personal vision statement allows us to envision the school our educators and students deserve. Being a champion means saying “yes” to the work ahead and finding support that brings success:  

We are all champions! We can choose to be a source of inspiration that keeps the lights on in schoolhouses across our nation. If you are an administrator, like Matt Renwick, you can lead like a learner. If you are a teacher, you can be a collaborative colleague keeping students first. We can all be brave and know when to ask for help, holding tight to the belief that we are smarter together. If you are a parent, be involved and support your local schools. This is the work of a lifetime and we need everyone to be part of the team.

Thank you for inspiring us Matt. You’ve brought out our inner champions:

Opening Quote

Seth Berg: Exploring Seven Big Ideas to Maximize Schoolwide Potential

by Mary Howard


On 8/4/16, #G2Great embarked on a new journey with a five-part leadership series. Exploring Seven Big Ideas to Maximize Schoolwide Potential is a virtual “celebration of administrators who model by their actions what is possible when we create a shared role of lead learner.

And celebrate possible we did when Seth Berg, principal of Meadow Brook Elementary in Rochester Hills, MI, launched us on a joyful exploration. I met Seth early in my entry into Twitter when I happened on his remarkable blog and I’ve been professionally smitten ever since. Seth lives and breathes the harmonious merger of administration and instruction in the name of children and his first tweet was a testament to his commitment for this shared role:

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 10.08.58 PMSo as we begin our series, I’d like to reflect on Seth’s inspirational tweets that highlight our Seven BIG IDEAS. Notice that these ideas are not viewed in isolation but through a lens of deep beliefs interwoven into a beautiful patchwork of change:



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It doesn’t take long after entering a school building to get a strong sense that a schoolwide culture has been thoughtfully nurtured within a collective spirit of commitment. Seth emphasizes that our core values, those things we hold dear supported by research, are at the center of this culture. Yes these are challenging times, but if we adhere to the tenets of what matters most in our schools and as we work toward a culture based on a common ground of excellence, that culture is palpable the moment you enter the front door. It is evident that these schools view time as a precious commodity as demonstrated by each minute spent in the most valuable and purposeful ways as positive energy literally emanates from every intentional choice in the service of learning.



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This schoolwide culture where core values are celebrated is rises from respectful relationships that nurture positive interactions. These relationships do not happen by chance or because teachers are expected to become compliant disseminators of top down mandates. Rather, it is an outcome of shared leaderships where each voice is viewed as key decision-maker within a positive environment where educators work together to bring a common vision for what that school can be to life. When this happens, the celebration of possible is always in view as shared ownership reflects collective input. Mutual respect then leads to even more productive efforts as this thoughtfully intentional work has a direct impact on students.



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It is not unusual to see a negative trickle down effect in districts where leadership is seen through a lens of iron fisted directives. This same trickle down effect, however, becomes a positive force when shared leadership flows from a district to building level so administrators are empowered to do this work with support from all sides. Seth’s message of collaboration from a broader culture of leadership can have a significant impact on the collective energy across an entire district. The freedom that comes with this trust affords principals opportunities to promote and support change that is responsive to the unique needs of their individual buildings as schools set their sights on this staff, these students and this community. In other words, the leadership-instruction merger is not a recipe that is merely doled out to schools within the district to dutifully implement, but a collective willingness to address the most pressing needs of the individual school at that moment in time.



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As an educator, I can’t think of anything I would want more than to be in an environment where everyone is present, visible, connected, engaged and above all enthusiastic. When we acknowledge that we are all working toward a common goal focused squarely on meeting the needs of students, great things can happen. Those critical qualities Seth referred to then become the fuel that has the potential to drive all we do. In order to merge leadership and instruction, we must be on the same page, coordinating our efforts through collaboration and an unwavering collective commitment to elevate the craft of teaching so that we can enrich the learning lives of the students we are fortunate to have in our care. Schools that place a high value on being present, visible, connected, engaged and enthusiastic view students as the impetus for every decision on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis.



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Schools do not exist on a lonely island in the middle of nowhere. Rather, they exist within a larger community of support where we can maximize our potential within and beyond the four walls of our buildings. This two-way perspective will require us to be cognizant of the needs of our community and willing to initiate invitations to celebrate side by side with us in any way we can. We do this through events at a building level or through social media as we share our efforts with others. When we are proud of what is happening in our schools we want to open our doors to enthusiastically share our successes. If we find that we are unwilling to share our efforts and open our doors, then we may need to take a long hard look at what we are doing and make the changes that will alter our perception of our school and reawaken pride in all that we do because we know our choices matter.



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Those of us who are committed to professional learning respect both our personal and professional efforts as a never-ending process. Our lead learner administrators work to promote a mindset of professional curiosity that enables every member of the staff to reflect on and respond to personal and schoolwide queries about the learning process so that we can meet the learning needs of every child we are blessed to have in front of us. This curiosity inspires us to embrace discovery as we seek to understand this wonderful work we do so that we can do it in the most effective ways. Seth’s reminder to tap everyone and celebrate both the individual and collective progress we make along the way is essential for promoting a growth mindset designed to benefit teachers and in turn the recipients of our every effort – kids.



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Seth’s final message brought us full circle back to celebrating possible. His commitment to his school is so inspiring but it is his obvious belief in his own role as learner that left a lingering impact in my head and heart days after our chat. That sense of joy was then multiplied by a second tweet that elevated my appreciation for Seth as lead learner even more.

Seth Berg

Seth’s belief in the immense beauty of learning together and embracing these moments is what long-term impact is all about. To illustrate the message that left me smiling for days after our #G2Great chat, Seth shared a blog post that reflected his ponderings when his eyes happened on a weed that had gone unnoticed on his lawn:

“Beauty does seem to be in the eye of the beholder, and I believe that beauty does exist everywhere and in everything. So, it’s up to the beholder to live in such a way that beauty becomes apparent to others. What happens when educators lead in ways that expose beauty to those they serve?   What happens when educators lead in ways that encourage students to appreciate the unique and amazing beauty within themselves?  Take one more moment, look again, behold this weed, this nuisance, this lawn pest.

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So as I look back on our celebration of possible through Seth’s eyes I am once again drawn to his eloquent words that move me to close with a question: When we know that schools like Meadow Brook Elementary with lead learners like Seth exist, why isn’t every school and every administrator celebrating the possible our teachers and students deserve? It occurs to me that anything less cheats teachers and children of the best we have to offer. Our students are an intricate thread that ties each of us together in a glorious joyful merger, and this powerful union of administration and instruction can take schools to new heights.

Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” We obviously know better because we have have seen possible at work in schools like Meadow Brook. Shouldn’t possible then be a professional and personal imperative for schools everywhere? It certainly seems like a question worth asking…

I, along with my #G2Great co-moderators Jenn Hayhurst and Amy Brennan, am so grateful to see a glimpse of lead learning in action at Meadow Brook Elementary. Thank you, Seth, for launching an inspiring journey celebrating possible through your eyes!

Please join #G2Great on 8/11/16 with guest host Matt Renwick, principal of Mineral Point Elementary in Mineral Point, WI.






Next Step Forward in Guided Reading

By Amy Brennan


On July 28, 2016, #G2Great welcomed Jan Richardson as a guest host to chat about her book, Next Step Forward in Guided Reading.  This book brings Jan’s latest thinking to teachers and helps them to identify and target instruction that supports each and every reader.  Jan’s framework, Assess-Decide-Guide gives teachers a roadmap to work with students from PreA to Fluent readers.  In reflecting on the chat there are 4 ideas about guided reading that are worth lingering with for a bit.

Guiding Readers Forward to Independence

Independence is the ultimate goal of guided reading, this is where students can practice alongside their peers while the teacher leans back and observes.  The teacher can lean in only if needed and provide just enough coaching to prompt students to do the thinking work, access their reading toolbox and navigate the text using strategies they have learned.

Guiding Readers Forward Through Assessment

Jan’s framework begins with Assessment.  Assessment, a word derived from the Latin word assidere, means to sit beside.  As we sit beside the learners in guided reading we are watching and listening to understand the strategies that students are using. The assessment is what makes our teaching in a balanced literacy framework intentional.  Planning with intention allows us to be very clear in our teaching goals or objectives.  Jan’s message is supported by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and John Hattie in their book Visible Learning for Literacy.  The following quote from the book really validates the relationship and importance of assessment informing instruction. “Literacy learning can be enhanced when teachers communicate specific, relevant, and appropriate expectations for students.”  In order to identify learning intentions or objectives we need to know exactly what our students are doing as learners. Teachers can only communicate these expectations when they have used assessment to inform their instructional planning.

Guiding Readers Forward by Opening Space for Thinking Time

During guided reading we are often tempted to lean in too much by talking too much or jumping in too quickly.  The term wait time has traditionally been passed around in conversation especially with administrators and usually in a pre or post observation conference.  Leaving enough wait time for students to process is a crucial part of the learning process.  All learners need time to think.  The connotation of the word wait makes it feel like even longer when we are allowing time for a student to think.  Reframing wait time to thinking time opens up space for students to read, think and take action whether that action is employing a reading strategy or responding to a question or comment from the teacher or a peer or even generating their own questions.  During guided reading we need to remember to keep the focus student centered. We need to allow sufficient thinking time so that students have the space to think and then access strategies from their reading toolbox.  

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Guiding Readers Forward by Advancing our own Professional Growth

Professional growth and learning is critical to improving student achievement.  According to John Hattie’s (2012) research, professional development itself has a large enough effect size to ensure that students will gain a full year’s growth in a year of school.  This is evidence enough to validate educators investing in their own professional growth.  Additionally some other influences include providing formative evaluation, teacher clarity, feedback, self-reported grades, metacognitive strategies, teaching strategies, student-centered teaching, peer tutoring, and quality of teaching.  There are about 60 more influences that are cited by John Hattie as having an effect size great enough to ensure a full year growth.  With this evidence available and knowing how much students’ learning is within a teacher’s control, it is essential that we engage in opportunities for our own professional growth.  Jan and Cindy offered some great suggestions for professional growth in planning and implementing guided reading.  Here are some ideas that may help to expand your professional growth.  

  • Create opportunities to read Jan’s new book and share with others.  Join a professional book club that extends this quick chat to talk deeper about Jan’s book.   
  • Start a Voxer book club where teachers can read and reflect where everyone will grow ideas about guided reading.  
  • Establishing a professional learning network to enhance your professional growth.  
  • In a digital or face to face connection, remember to be open to feedback from colleagues as well as students.  There is much we can learn about our practices from others who watch or more importantly from the learner.  
  • Work with a coach or a colleague this can provide you with an opportunity to videotape your teaching and reflect on the experience together.  

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At #G2Great we are grateful that Jan joined us to share her new book, Next Step Forward in Guided Reading and to share her insight into guided reading.  She also provided some examples of resources that are included in her book such as stage-specific lesson plan templates.  Take a look below to see some of the resources Jan has created for her latest book on Guided Reading.  Lesson plan templates for different levels in guided reading

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More resources Prompts Guided Reading Flip Chart

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#G2Great With Guest Hosts Kristi Mraz and Christine Hertz A Mindset for Learning

By, Jenn Hayhurst

Opening Quote for Blog

On 7/21/16 #G2Great celebrated the amazing book, A Mindset for Learning by Kristi Mraz and Christine Hertz. With Kristi and Christine at the helm, we spent the hour thinking about the stories we tell ourselves about growth and learning, and how to attempt to see the world through the eyes of our students. Promoting a growth mindset for students begins with us.

This post is dedicated to many the many voices who embrace the search for knowledge over the safety of what is already known.

Christine, Chris, and Mary…

It’s a funny thing that risk has everything to do with loss and yet it’s synonymous with growth. How do we build environments for risk taking? Well it’s a lot more than a collection of rules – it’s a frame of mind. Start the school year with fresh eyes and be ready to create a world for new students. Build spaces that support independent work. Look at classroom design and think, how am I supporting growth and learning? The choices we make are ours alone, and we are obligated to make smart decisions for our students:

Kristi, Jen, and Pam…

Learning is an experience. Our work is not done in isolation because every lesson is connected to a larger process. If we want to make a positive impact on how students perceive themselves then we have to hold them in the highest esteem. We need to read our students as thoughtfully as we read our professional texts:

Christine, Briana, Justin, Bryan, Eric, and Kristi…

Having a growth mindset is a lovely idea. If I believe I can do it, I can achieve it. How do our actions really support that kind of thinking? Growth mindset is rooted in the learning process itself. It isn’t accomplished by the end of the day, or week, or even the year. It’s the work of a lifetime. A growth mindset is a way of life that begins as an extension of our beliefs about ourselves and our students:

Akilah, Kristi, Kristin, Christine, Dana, Sonja, and Kate…

Our students are living in the narratives we write for them. The kinds of stories we tell them and ourselves impacts the kinds of teachers we become. Akilah’s tweet inspires me to write some professional development work around storytelling and growth mindset. Kisti shared a collection of articles about the power of stories, and Kristin shared a Prezi as a resource for growth mindset. Thank you so much! Our #G2Great PLN is a community, one that supports, connects, and encourages us to dream:


Mary, Christine, and Kristi…

We are teachers and joy is our job. Our message of joyful learning that embraces play is an important one to send out the to world.  We live in serious times and students will inherit a world that requires flexible thinking that stems from creative play. Our kids will need to be resilient in the face of adversity.  Empathy will deconstruct walls to progress, and persistence will help to unlock inner strength and stamina. We are not just teaching reading, writing, and math we are teaching students how to read the world. Above all else let’s be a part of building strong optimistic hearts and minds. Thank you Kristi and Christine for writing such an important book for teachers everywhere:

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Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts with Stacey Shubitz

by Mary Howard


Stacey Shubitz joined #G2Great on 7/14/16 to reflect on her incredible new book, Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts (Stenhouse, 2016) In the foreword, Lester Laminack illustrates why Stacey’s voice is needed to illuminate the powerful role of mentor texts, “Stacey is a thinker, a reflective practitioner who works with ideas and refines practice until it blossoms.” And blossom we did as Stacey planted new #G2Great seeds of mentor text joy.

In Craft Moves, Stacey celebrates the use of authentic texts in the form of picture books to “help writers notice things about an author’s work that is not like anything they might have done before, and empower them to try something new.” Stacey brings that goal to life on page after page of Craft Moves in a step-by-step journey further deepened as our #G2Great guest host.

As I perused each tweet, seven points emerged to translate Stacey’s Craft Moves message from enthusiastic dialogue to where our conversations matter most – in classrooms where we strive to bring books and kids together:


One of the most powerful aspects of mentor texts is that it provides a purposeful structure where we can initiate a thoughtful merger of reading and writing. Since beautifully written picture books are the heart of mentor texts, we are able to use this instructional union to honor the reciprocal nature of reading and writing and simultaneously inspire and enrich the literacy lives of students from both sides. With texts at the center and knowledgeable teachers selecting those texts in the name of students, mentor texts offer a rich approach to share picture books that will beckon our readers and then use those same texts as a model for student writers. In other words, mentor texts create a circle of understanding where wonderful pictures books are the very seeds we use to grow readers and writers. Quite honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that!


Picture books as mentor texts offer a glimpse into the instructional possibilities that abound between two covers. By inviting authors to become teachers in our classrooms, we can spotlight the very craft moves we want our students to use in their own writing as we zoom in closer as reader and writer. Within this mutually supportive process, we build deeper ‘transformative’ understanding that will strengthen writing. Picture books offer a treasure trove of craft moves in authentic ‘bite size bits’ (thank you Cathy Mere) as we engage students in productive dialogue that will serve as a springboard to their own writing. This wonderful joining of forces brings teachers, authors, children and texts to a joyfully engaging learning party.


The use of picture books as mentor texts raised a rich conversation about their role beyond the elementary grades. For too long, the impact of brief visual texts at every age has been ignored so it was exciting when Tricia and Mindi inspired us with their dedication to secondary learners. Conversations that rose from this dialogue encouraged teachers to adopt a broader perspective to view picture books as a resource that can be used across grades. With unlimited access to varied resources including highly sophisticated texts surrounding us, we would do our more mature students a great disservice by closing our minds to their tremendous potential across grades and instructional contexts. In fact, I was not the only one taking note of this thoughtful dialogue as it inspired Stacey to write a new blog post on the subject (watch for this post at Two Writing Teachers later this summer)


Stacey shows deep respect for the role of teachers in her discussion of mentor texts. Teachers select and mine these texts for craft moves and then use them in meaningful ways with children so Stacey acknowledges that the real impact resides in teacher decision-making. This is a much welcome shift from a current emphasis on teaching from a lens of compliance over professional responsibility. Through a personal exploration, teachers are invited to choose texts that will support craft moves according to their students’ needs and instructional goals as teachers maintain their critical role as responsible to their own teaching. Having a clear plan in mind serves as an instructional GPS but we also leave ample room for thoughtful meanderings that rise from in-the-moment teaching. After all, isn’t that what good teaching is all about?


Every excellent teacher knows that teaching is a process of discovery that begins with students. In order to effectively use mentor texts in our classrooms, we must know three things intimately: the book, the literacy process, and the children we are lucky enough to have sitting in front of us. We certainly acknowledge that our teaching begins with a deep knowledge of literacy and books, but we also maintain a steadfast commitment to our knowledge of students. We recognize that it is this knowledge of the learners in front of us that makes mentor text instruction responsive. Keeping students at the center acknowledges that the most effective mentor text lessons do not come from a scripted lesson design but from our close observations of learning in the trenches and our ability to translate those observations into flexible instructional practices.


Picture books offer a masterful blend of visuals and print for layered support that invites every child to the learning table. This combination of print and picture virtually opens supportive learning doors that may otherwise be closed to some readers and writers. Pictures books are the ticket that enthusiastically invites each learner into the experience. The role of mentor texts that merge reading and writing also allows us to use each stage of the gradual release of responsibility model as we blend whole class, small group, side by side and independent opportunities based on the needs of children. This flexible decision-making grounded in the needs of students empowers us to use the texts that will then empower our readers and writers in a glorious domino effect of benefits.


I place this final point at the end because it reflects the very spirit of all we do. While we entwine, expand, envision, embrace, elevate, and empower our efforts to use mentor texts, we do all of these things to entice our students into the experience of reading and writing. We know that we give our students a precious gift when we use beautiful texts that beckon readers and make them ‘hungry’ for more. By immersing students in texts that speak to their heart, we then strengthen that gift so that they can write from their heart. We also recognize that there is a cautious balance between mining a text for craft moves and teaching points and the risk that comes from sucking the very life from the texts we chose to inspire readers and writers in the first place. I can’t think of anything more important than achieving this balance as we celebrate mentor texts in our classrooms.

Like all of our #G2Great friends, I feel fortunate that Stacey is working diligently in her book, her blog and her work across the country to ‘refine practice until it blossoms.’ Stacey gives us a plethora of possibilities through twenty beautifully chosen text recommendations and text suggestions still rising from our #G2Great chat conversations so Stacey’s words of encouragement seem like a fitting close as she offers us a question and promise for next step mentor text efforts:

“Are you ready to build a classroom culture where students learn to grow as writers using the skills of published authors? I anticipate the authors whose picture books are featured in this book will become like rock stars in your students’ eyes. Be prepared to let authors inspire and energize your classroom.”

Ah yes Stacey, we are ready and prepared for that joyful venture indeed!