Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters

by Mary Howard

July 20, 2017 was a very special day on #G2Great because this was the day a long-time wish became a reality as Kylene Beers and Robert Probst settled into the #G2Great guest host seat. On this memorable evening, we launched a virtual style celebration of their phenomenal book, Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (Scholastic). In an instant, exuberant hunger for the shared understandings that would disrupt our thinking stretched an expansive wing across Twittersphere (evidenced by an engaging conversation that exceeded the 1000 tweet storify limit).

I vividly recall the first time I held this exquisite book in my hands and excitedly opened the cover to soak in their wisdom. They captivated my heart with words that read like a promise: The Readers We Want. But as I read those first pages, waves of sadness washed over me as a sense of professional urgency escalated with each tear. I revisit pages 14 to 17 often because they illustrate the tragic consequences that our choices can have on the reading lives of children. And that lingering image moves me to celebrate Disrupting Thinking in their honor.

Each week, we look back at our #G2Great chat and reflect on key ideas illustrated by the tweets that inspired each one. But this week I decided to use just one tweet that set the stage for these reflections. (I’ll share additional tweets from Kylene and Bob at the end of this post with others from our amazing #G2Great family)

The moment I read Kylene’s words, I knew it reflected the big picture I wanted to capture in my post. And so with her words at the forefront combined with inspiration from the entire chat experience, I’d like share six disruptions that we must embrace to bring disrupting thinking to life in countless classrooms with our lead disruptors guiding us from the sidelines.

Disruption 1: Embrace CHOICE

Looking back on the chat, one word was a thread connecting every tweet: CHOICE. This word was easily the most repeated and always in the context of students. If we have any hope of disrupting our thinking and thus that of our students, it will require us to celebrate the texts that are most likely to awaken deeper thinking and bring it to the surface because our readers care about their reading. We cannot make this shift to disrupting thinking if we’re not willing to thoughtfully select and share the best possible texts we can find and then provide time and space for students to choose their own. By embracing choice, we are opening the door to reading that will beckon students so that books will become the impetus for disrupting thinking.

Disruption 2: Embrace TALK

Using these texts to engage students in meaningful and productive dialogue was another idea repeated across the chat. The central feature of these discussions was exploring how to let talk to rise naturally from engaging text interactions. We discussed experiences ranging from opportunities to share with a partner, in a small group, or as a whole class but in each talk variations, the focus was on keeping students at the center of this discourse. We agreed that teachers must lay a strong foundation for talk by explicitly modeling their own thinking and then support this process until we can gradually relinquish responsibility to students. We acknowledge that students deserve a leading role on the talk stage and so we create a supportive environment so that we can to step back and listen to in-the-moment conversations and then use those conversations as a springboard to next steps.

Disruption 3: Embrace IMPACT

The collective professional dedication evident in tweets loomed large across our chat as we set our sights on crafting learning experiences that would maximize student impact. A common discussion theme was that student talk would revolve around these text experiences –­­­ not for the sake of a grade or score but because we knew that those opportunities could change their lives in some way. We agreed that such life-changing moments should extend beyond our four walls since our higher purpose was to create a reading experience that students would carry with them long after it was over. In other words, we knew that these experiences could only truly impact students when our instructional pursuits were designed in ways that students would carry their learning into their homes and into the world.

Disruption 4: Embrace INVITATIONS

The word respect was another recurrent word across the chat and it was used in the context of inviting students to disrupt their own thinking. We acknowledged that the ideas the author brings to the thinking table are certainly relevant to the learning experience, but we also agreed that we must respect student thinking by extending them an invitation to the thinking table to merge the authors ideas with their own. Through invitations we stand to learn much about students as we consider new ideas that we could not have possibly have imagined without this deeper engagement. And in this two-way thinking process we begin to ask fewer questions as we invite students to generate their own. We do this because we believe that their thinking matters as much as the author’s and because we know that we cannot disrupt thinking if each instructional move along the way is recorded in a step-by-step, question-by-question lesson guide.

Disruption 5: Embrace UNCERTAINTY

Looking back across our chat, educators readily acknowledged that the path to disrupting thinking is littered with unexpected twists, turns, pauses, and challenges that inevitably arise when we do not know the final destination. We celebrate the amazing opportunities that come from the messy process that is inherent in the risk-taking disrupting thinking asks of both teachers and readers. There was a common understanding that if we are willing to follow the student thinking trail that is oft-riddled with uncertainty, that this uncertainty could provide the room students needed to move their thinking to new discoveries with new uncertainties and discoveries with each step along the way.

Disruption 6: Embrace POSSIBILITIES

I doubt that there is a single educator who has read Disrupting Thinking who doesn’t recognize the professional possibilities of new thinking. In a July 6, 2017 live Facebook event, Kylene and Bob reminded us that our goal is not just to identify “Best” practices but to explore NEXT practices. This central message of their remarkable book asks us to take a leap of professional faith from the first pages to the last. We do so willingly, meandering our way to the possibilities just out of view as we disrupt our own thinking and the thinking of our colleagues. It is my hope that these ideas will raise powerful conversation that will bring NEXT practices into focus and inspire others from a schoolwide perspective. And we are all eager to explore those possibilities in the new school year ahead.

In the introduction aptly titled Where The Story Begins, Kylene and Bob describe the seeds that grew into Disrupting Thinking with the words, “It Was a Child…” These three words should inspire celebratory professional wonderings that lead each of us to embrace our own disruptions in the name of kids.

As we launch this disrupting thinking journey, we celebrate the seeds of thinking Kylene and Bob have planted. And through this exploratory journey their words of wisdom remind us of the WHY that is destined to lead us ever-closer to the disrupting thinking we desire…

Thank you for filling us with new hope for tomorrow Kylene and Bob!

Disrupting Thinking tweets from Kylene and Bob

Disrupting Thinking tweets from our #G2Great Family


Disrupting Thinking Book (Scholastic) 

Facebook Disrupting Thinking Book Study

WEP 0082: Disrupting Thinking, An Interview with Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst: Why ‘How’ We Read Matters



Kara Pranikoff Guest Host #G2Great Teaching Talk A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking and Conversation

By Jenn  Hayhurst

I think by now everyone know members of #G2Great PLN like to talk. As a matter of fact, my good friend and mentor Dr  Mary Howard just hit 50.5 K Tweets! To use Mary’s words, “What can I say, I like to talk.”

Teachers embrace talk because it is foundational for creating community. A good conversation grants us access to higher levels of understanding. On May 18, 2017 Kara Pranikoff hosted #G2Great to discuss her new book, Teaching Talk, A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking and Conversation and we explored ways to leverage talk to develop greater sophistication for how to use talk to bolster thinking and learning in the classroom.

Bridging research to classroom practice is the heart of Mary’s book, Good To Great Teaching . When we say “yes” to research, the next thing to do is to make our classrooms home to action research. We are all approaching the end of a school year, and now is the perfect time to try out some of the practices we are learning about during our #G2Great chats so we can finish strong and use what we learn in the year ahead.  

As I think about how I can strengthen my  talk practices in my own teaching. These two tweets sparked my learning into action:

Jenny and Kara inspired me to think about and adjust my own practices. First I will more intentionally offer explicit models to increase student engagement within collaborative dialogue and second I will keep a concrete reference of that dialogue use as an instructional springboard to next steps. The following is a transcript of an exchange between a partnership. The transcript is from two students discussing the benefits of using Thinking Tracks. Thinking Tracks is a tool I created, after attending a Summer Reading Institute at the Reading and Writing Project. The intention for the tool is  to help students annotate texts quickly.


London: “Well a thinking track is really like used to jot down something. Like if I say, in the book Shortcut, they’re on a train track. That’s surprising to me, so I’d like jot down a surprising mark.”

Daniela: “Yeah, like um I will use this the Thinking Track by surprising. When they were all like looking and listening to the sounds and looking they were all surprised. I was surprised too that the kids were there on the train tracks. It is dangerous because they hurried and looked at the train coming through.  On the other side they thought a train wasn’t coming, but the train passed! Someone could have maybe got hurt.”

London: “It (this book) opens up with a big twist and we just started the book!”

Daniela: “These tracks, like funny, important favorite, and surprised, connecting, I wonder, and there is one more conforce, confus, confusing.” (laughing a little) “You can all use these even the little pictures that show us how to use them.”

London: “It’s just  a quick jot.”

What did my transcriptions do for me as a professional willing to shift my stance as a learner?

It shows me that both students have a strong understanding for how to use the tool.

It shows me that Daniela is learning how to integrate academic talk into her conversational speech.

This conversation gives me some insights as to the kinds of language standards I might want to lean into.

I can see that multisyllabic words, even familiar ones, might be still challenging to read flexibility.

I can use this conversation as mentor text to teach other students how to use the tool in a number of ways!

I can read it aloud to the rest of the class, or even next year’s class to demonstrate the value of the tool by pairing that with a copy of Donal Crew’s Shortcuts.

I can leave a copy of the transcript for students to read and annotate in a write around.

Just the act of transcribing their conversation sends a strong message to my students, we value talk here. It elevates their conversations to a new level of importance. They begin to see each other as a source of information to learn from. Wow!

I am grateful that Kara has elevated my own thinking about talk and I am going to use these points and her phenomenal book to fine tune my thinking this summer.  Yes, this just the beginning of my learning and  I invite you to join me so we can all delve deeper into her remarkable thinking. If you are reading this blog, you are the kind of teacher who is on a constant journey to bring your good classroom practices to great ones. It is every author’s hope that their work will inspire ours. When we read a professional book we are entering into a partnership that aspires to empower learning and benefit the intellectual world that we create for our students. We are co-creating a better opportunities for ourselves and our students. Happy reading.


Teaching Talk: A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking & Conversation

Breathing New Life Into the Talk in Your Classroom

Dynamic Teaching For Deeper Reading With Guest Host Vicki Vinton

by Jenn Hayhurst

When Vicki Vinton agreed to join #G2Great on April 27, 2017 to talk about her new book, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem Based Approach, we knew her message would resonate. We knew her words would fill us up and give us the energy that would keep us going at a time in the year when we need it most. Her message speaks to the untapped potential as we strive to trust in ourselves, our students, and in the reading process itself. This is just what we do; we are teachers who try to see the good around each corner so we may add to the collective knowledge of our community, one where hope overflows. That is what Vicki Vinton did as she turned on a light and revealed how trust can transform our practice to dynamic teaching.

Why did you become a teacher?  Each of us reading this post right now came to teaching in our own time and our own way.  While there are so many paths that lead us to this moment in our careers, there are bonds that bind us together. When I think about the kinds of teachers who belong to the #G2Great PLN I am convinced that they are in fact dynamic teachers. The dynamic teacher seeks out and embraces the changing nature of our work and is constantly looking for inroads for progress. Whether we are just starting out on the journey, have been in it for a long time, or are somewhere in the middle, it is necessary to be wholly optimistic and trust in our abilities and in our students.

Trust as Self Awareness

Trust begins when we are self aware of our own learning process. If we can imagine what we need to learn we can begin to imagine what students might need. Then we can begin the work of forming strong relationships built on trust. If we want dynamic teaching to take root in our classrooms we consider what students know about trust. We model what relationships built on trust looks like, and act accordingly:

Trust as Decision Making

As we set up our classrooms we consider many important things such as: where our libraries should go, how to make tools accessible, or how to best use the space to create flow. Finding ways to encourage trust is just as important. Trust grows stronger when we appreciate student potential and learn to ask the right questions:

Trust as Process

Trust helps our students to take on challenges as opportunities for growth. We cultivate classrooms that run on trust through authentic relationships. When we take time to listen to our students and are responsive to their needs our teaching becomes truly dynamic:

Trust as Opportunity

Trust is the thing that helps the wobbly bike rider start off. Trust is the thing that allows the actor to speak on stage. Trust is the thing that helps the first grader read that book to a friend. Trust is the thing that lets the young writer tell a story. As you read Vicki’s beautiful words know that this happens every day in classrooms everywhere, but first there was a sense of trust between teachers and students:

Teaching is complex work. There is so much to consider and it would be easy to overlook how important trust is to the work we do with students. We are so grateful that Vicki began this conversation so that we would discover these four levels of trust. We are so grateful to have her in the lead, asking the questions that make us dig deeper so we can be the best most responsive teachers we can be, because our students are worth it. 

Connect with Vicki Vinton

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach (Heinemann)

Vicki’s blog

A Toast to Provocations & Spirited Discourse: The Book Is Out!

Counting Down to Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Delving into Deeper Reading

Heinemann Video Clip with Vicki Vinton

Dynamic Teaching Facebook Group  

What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making

by Mary Howard

On 4/20/17 #G2Great was honored to open our welcome door to guest hosts Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton as we explored their co-collaboration gem, What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making (Heinemann 2012). From the opening tweet, it was evident that our #G2Great family wanted to be privy to what readers do. With our dynamic writing duo leading the way, we launched into a joyful exploratory venture Twitter style.

As I thought about the inspired chat dialogue, I realized that the same thing that motivated Dorothy and Vicki to write their book drove our collective enthusiasm. Through writing, they sought to understand the thinking students do in the course of their reading, motivated to ‘stalk the invisible’ for reasons reflected in a quote we shared at the beginning of the chat.

What Readers Really Do reads like a reflective diary of their efforts to confront this conflict. As the pages of their book unfold, we come to understand how they resolved their conflict through a thoughtful negotiation to new thinking that would ultimately change the way they approached reading. Through our shared conversational collaboration, we grew increasingly confident that their journey to new thinking would help us negotiate our own.

Since the book was motivated by troubling worries that may thwart our efforts to move toward new thinking, this seemed like a worthy place to start. Our first question asked teachers to name challenges they confront. Although challenges varied from texts to topics to mandates, each of these could be bundled under the umbrella of TIME! (This pesky challenge reared its ugly head on another #G2Great chat blog with Colleen Cruz)

Two early tweets from Dorothy and Vicki set the stage for tackling this issue by shifting our perspective from time as a challenge to time as an incentive. We still acknowledge time constraints we all face but adjust how we view time. We tackle this challenge by insisting on expending our precious available time in the most authentic and productive ways in spite of the inevitable challenges.

As I reflect on our remarkable #G2Great hour of wisdom with Dorothy and Vicki about what readers really do, the initial question becomes two-pronged:

What do readers really do and how can teachers create an environment that invites and nurtures readers to do those things with or without our support?

With this questions at the forefront of my mind, I perused tweets from Dorothy and Vicki and found that eight Big Ideas began to emerge. It is important to emphasize that each point is distinctive and yet inseparably interconnected. These Big Ideas can help us respond to the above question in ways that will move our collaboration from Twitter into the classroom:

Big Idea 1: Build a thinking bridge through modeling

In order to build a thinking bridge to independence, we begin by sharing the thinking that takes place as we read. By making our thinking public we are able to stalk our own invisible in order to make the invisible visible. Dorothy’s inclusion of the words “authentic” and “joyful” should be a reminder to us all to celebrate the authentic joyful spirit or reading and avoid reducing how we interact to student reading through a recipe of thoughtless sameness.

Big Idea 2: Start with the end in mind

An essential theme running throughout the book and tweets is the idea that we teach this thinking process so that students will eventually take ownership of that process. When our primary goal is to build identity and agency, we know that we must keep this goal in our sights from the beginning. We do this by offering support in the early stages but we are prepared to watch for the signs that will allow us to fade our support into the background as students assume increasing control of their own thinking.

Big Idea 3: Focus on building strategic knowledge

Making room for students to assume control of their own thinking is not about asking them to replicate our thinking. Rather, our thinking offers a supportive scaffold to help them construct their own meaning as they apply this process. This means that naming a strategy is far less relevant than helping them to be more intentional and strategic each time they engage in the thinking process. Over time and through practice, they will begin to internalize this thinking.

Big Idea 4: Be present in the teachable moment

In order to support the thinking students engage in, we must be willing to stalk their invisible in action. To do this, we must be present in students’ learning moments on a day-to-day basis so we can notice and celebrate the thinking that often happens when we least expect it. We adjust our stance from teacher to observer so that we can use our observations as stepping stones that will lead them to powerful new thinking opportunities in a wide range of varied text opportunities.

Big Idea 5: Celebrate the road to discovery

Teachers who are aware of their own thinking recognize that this process is a messy one. We know that the road to discovery can be littered with confusion, uncertainty, and possibility. Such a journey takes time so we must be willing to create experiences where students have time to linger a bit longer even when riddled with confusion, uncertainty, and possibility. This path Dorothy calls ‘huh’ to ‘oh’ is recursive rather than linear and so we support the unexpected twists and turns of thinking that can lead them from one discovery to another.

Big Idea 6: Use your noticings as next steps

We support this messy process as we become expert kidwatchers. Certainly our role as kidwatcher begins by noticing what students are doing as they read but we know that we must make them cognizant of our noticings. This allows us to support their efforts by exploring how we can use their reading to move them from where they are to where they could be. While increasing awareness of their own thinking as they read is an important part of this process, we know that awareness of NOW thinking must lead to purposeful NEXT thinking.

Big Idea 7: Gently nudge to new understandings

Noticing student thinking can help them take ownership of their own thinking if we are responsive to this process. We recognize that our responsibility is not to teach students to be compliant disseminators of knowledge by responding to preconceived answers but to pose genuine ponderings to help them to move to deeper thinking. Once we acknowledge their thinking we must then help them understand how they arrived at that thinking in the first place. This combined understanding moves them closer to agency, ownership, and independence.

Big Idea 8: Support a meandering path to meaning

When we acknowledge thinking as a process we must also acknowledge all that this implies. The dictionary defines process as a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. We do not view their thinking in terms of a product to be gathered at the end of reading but as a process to be supported each step along the way. Vicki celebrates this view by referring to thinking as a  process of drafting and revising. We expect thinking to grow or even change and so we nurture the winding path to understanding.


After the chat ended, a final tweet with Dorothy afforded me an opportunity to make a shameless book plug.

At #G2Great we see ourselves as professional cheerleaders committed to doing our best work for students. In the past few months, we have celebrated authors who share our passionate commitment to students. We spotlight their books at #G2great because we know their words have the potential to transform every classroom into the learning spaces our children deserve.

And thus my shameless plug. We don’t just celebrate new books at #G2Great because we worry that amazing books like What Readers Really Do may be missed simply based on a 2012 publication date. We are on a mission to put books, old and new, into teachers hands because the advice of amazing authors is truly “forever young.” But rather than taking my word for it, download a free chapter of this exquisite book also available as an ebook.

Thank you Dorothy and Vicki. Your words exemplify forever young and will continue to inspire us to do this important thinking work with our students now and in the future!

More thoughts from our #G2Great friends


What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making (Heinemann)

Demystifying “the Process of Meaning Making” and Close Reading (Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris on What Readers Really Do)

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach by Vicki Vinton (Heinemann)

Readers Front and Center by Dorothy Barnhouse (Stenhouse)


Feedback That Moves Writers Forward With Guest Host Patty McGee

by Jenn Hayhurst

On Thursday, April 6, 2017 #G2Great began a conversation with Patty McGee about her new book Feedback That Moves Writers Forward from Corwin Press. Teachers enthusiastically delved into the topic and the conversation sparkled with brilliance and optimism. I think @TeachWriteEDU  captured the #G2Great experience beautifully with her tweet:

I am filled with complete gratitude because as @TeachWriteEDU put it, “there is so much goodness here…” this chat spurred me to think about some  questions we all can ask ourselves.

How does feedback influence our writing identities?

Formative feedback and identity are essential to growing as a writer. Feedback is like a continuous story that we tell our students to extend meaning making. Feedback maximizes a learning stance from a position of strength. Feedback is an invitation for students to know that we hear them, we see them, and that together we are authoring their unique writing identities. This is big work. This may be how students decide what writing will mean to them. How will it will fit into their lives? Through feedback we strive and to help each student to find an original voice and influence:

With Patty in the lead, we all focused on how specific feedback builds a writer’s identity with our students:  

In Patty’s book she recounts an experience she had during a workshop with the incredible Ralph Fletcher: “In a writing workshop by the inspiring Ralph Fletcher a few years back, Ralph asked the audience of hundreds of teachers to raise their hands if they considered themselves readers. Most hands went up. Including my own. He then asked, ‘How many of you consider yourselves writers, or even like to write?’ I looked around, oddly comforted by the fact that I was not the only teacher who seemed to be doing their best to fake the love of writing for students.” (p 5)

What experiences formed your writer’s identity?

As I thought about these question, my thoughts turned back to the story of my childhood that had a lasting impact on my own writing identity…

Yellow sunlight streamed in through giant panes of glass, warming us as we sat around the kitchen table. Coffee cups steamed darkly in contrast to the brightly painted porcelain cow creamer. Her mouth, forever frozen, in an open circle of surprise. There I was drinking actual coffee with my father! No longer just a gawky twelve year old girl. No, now I am a writer. I am one of two writers, drinking coffee, and thinking deeply. My dad leaned over my paper, loosely holding pencil in hand and laughing at the funny parts. A swell of emotion filled me and I became light headed. I don’t know if came from the caffeine or the pure elation at his response to my writing. That experience marked the beginning of a lifelong love with writing… and coffee.  

A Call To Action – A #G2Great Community of Writers: What’s your story?

We invite you to reflect on the experiences that have shaped your writing identity.  Blog about it, so that we may leave each other feedback that elevates our practice. If you leave your links in our Comment Boxes we can continue to examine who we are as writers and practice giving feedback that pushes writers forward. We can generate writing experiences for ourselves so we may lift the level of writing for our students.

Patty McGee Links

Patty’s Websites:


Patty’s Book: Feedback That Moves Writers Forward (Corwin)

Help Students Reflect and Set Goals for Powerful Learning by Patty McGee (Corwin Connect)

The Power of NOT Answering Content-Specific Questions (Corwin Connect)

Three Moves to Awaken Dormant Writers by Patty McGee (Corwin Connect)

ILA Blog Post Part 1: Looking for a Fresh, New Design for PD? Try a Residency

ILA Blog Post Part 2: Looking for a Fresh, New Design for PD? Try a Residency

#BowTieBoys: Exploring Instruction Through Our Students’ Eyes

by Mary Howard

Have you ever had an experience that was so powerful it lingered long after it was over, intermittently tapping you on the shoulder to remind you it was still there? Well that happened to me November 2015, long before we brought my memory to life on #G2Great. March 16, 2017 is now a contributor to the growing memory in my heart as high school teacher Jason Augustowski and nine remarkable ninth and tenth grade students known as #BowTieBoys were our guest hosts. Ryan Hur, Ryan Beaver, Jack Selman, Dawson Unger, Spencer Hill, Sam Fremin, Sean Pettit, Joe O’Such, and Kellen Pluntke extended their reach across the Twittersphere.

I first learned of #BowTieBoys when I happily found myself in a session at NCTE 2015 led by Lester Laminack and Jason Augustowski. Hearing high school students speak so eloquently with such profound understanding of teaching made it clear I had witnessed something spectacular. I experienced that impact once again at NCTE 2016 and was so inspired that Sam Fremin became our first #BowTieBoy guest host June 9, 2016. I have since become a self-appointed #BowTieBoys cheerleader, a role I take very seriously.

Since Lester and Jason introduced the Bow Tie Boys to the world, it seems only fitting that they also introduce them to #G2Great:

When I asked the Bow Tie Boys to host #G2Great, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation. Wholeheartedly embracing the opportunity, students wrote their own questions based on personal educational interests and on chat night Jenn, Amy and I took a backseat to soak in #BowTieBoys wonder in a #G2Great version of side-by-side learning. Although this inspiring group has grown dramatically since 2015, it brought back the intense memory of our first meeting – and I was inspired anew!

From the moment #BowTieBoys took the #G2Great helm, professional enthusiasm exploded into colorful fireworks of collective enthusiasm that persists days later. Even though this was the first experience with a Twitter chat for many of them, they approached it will a spirit of enthusiasm. That enthusiasm was captured by a picture Jason took of nine students sharing their passion for educational excellence – and we were all charmed from the start!

As I look back on our amazing #BowTieBoys chat, I want to spotlight each powerful questions individually since these pondering offer essential messages that should remain at the forefront of our educational dialogue. (Do yourself a favor and follow  them on Twitter and on their blog listed with their question)


Nine Lessons Learned from Remarkable High School #BowTieBoys

Ryan Hur: TwitterBlog

As the #G2great clock struck 8:30 EST, #BowTieBoys words of welcome flooded the Twitter screen in what one of our chatters described as ‘the most welcoming chat ever.’ Ryan reminds us to ensure that all students feel heard and appreciated just as we felt heard and appreciated. We can only develop a positive bond within a respectful and supportive community of learners that invites students to ‘the most welcoming classrooms ever.’

Ryan Beaver Twitter; Blog

I doubt that anyone would argue the tremendous affect personal interest can have on the learning process. The Bow Tie Boys’ questions and blogs are fueled by their educational interests and this has resulted in incredible learning opportunities that are driven by hard work and effort. Ryan reminds us that when we celebrate interests, we can awaken curiosity that in turn leads to more learning. Student interests and personal passions then become ripple their way to increased learning.


Jack Selman Twitter; Blog

Research has long informed the critical role dialogue and collaboration play in the learning process. Our weekly #G2Great chat illustrates the power of talk week after week as educators clamor to join a social media form of collaborative discourse. Jack reminds us that the end product of learning is not assignments or contrived questions. Rather, the goal is to actively engaging students in the process of learning that is elevated through meaningful talk that revolved around the learning. Engaged collaboration rises from a respectful community of shared learning where talk moves from the teacher to students.


Dawson Unger Twitter; Blog

Dawson’s question focused on gifted and special education students, but his message was about so much more because it illustrates our responsibility to meet the needs of every student in our classroom. Dawson reminds us that we can only meet this ethical and professional responsibility when we truly know our students. As we gain deeper day to day knowledge that occurs only in the trenches of learning we cam then generate differentiated instructional experiences that take students from where they are to where they could be when our teaching is student-focused.


Spencer Hill Twitter; Blog 

Just as our students are wonderfully unique from an instructional perspective, they are also wonderfully unique in the level of engagement they each bring to learning. As we address the instructional needs of students, we also address their emotional needs. Spencer reminds us that choice and passion are extraordinary contributors to this process of maximizing student engagement in learning. There is a big difference between assigning and engaging and the impact of this distinction can be quite dramatic – for better or for worse.


Sam Fremin Twitter; Blog

Our wonderful #G2Great family shows up on Twitter week after week, and Sam is a long-time member of that family (yes a high school student has been part of our #G2Great conversations for some time). Sam is committed to social media and the powerful role it can play on the learning lives of teachers and students alike. Yet, in spite of an escalation of technological advances and broad learning opportunities, many teachers and students still avoid it. Sam’s question is worth posing in every school, “Why limit student interaction?.” But this requires teachers to embrace it.

Sean Pettit TwitterBlog

Sean raises an issue many educators have also posed that questions the value of five-paragraph essays. Sean reminds us that when we shift our focus away from rigid rule-based writing to the creative thinking that is a critical aspect of writing, we can then increase the quality of that writing. We can achieve this important shift by designing a learning environment that encourages students to find inspiration around them. Student interest can spark the creative thinking that could teach students as much about the writing process because it is inspired by that thinking.


Joe O’Such Twitter; Blog 

Joe’s thoughtful merging of “humanity” with teaching to the test is an important one in a day and age where test scores hover over educators like a dark cloud. Joe reminds us that student success rather than test scores is the ultimate goal. His suggestion to offer individual learning opportunities that put learning back in the hands of students allows us to keep them at the center of our practices. I can’t imagine a better way to achieve Joe’s belief in teaching with “humanity” than to keep professional humanity inseparably intertwined with our efforts.

 Kellen Pluntke Twitter; Blog

Homework has regained attention in educational discussions so Kellen’s question is a timely one. With so much time-wasting homework assigned in schools across the country, Kellen wisely reminds us to allow student voices to enter the conversation. We can elevate homework experiences when it supports and extends instruction while highlighting student passions. When purpose and passion join forces, the homework discussion changes in both direction and potential for impact. This message is sorely needed in many classrooms.


This bonus question is inspired by high school teacher Jason Augustowski (blog) who participated in the entire #G2Great chat alongside students. As the resident #BowTieBoy cheerleader, I’d like to pose a question in their honor.

Jason is a model for what is possible when we trust students to lead the way. In Jason’s words, that begins by creating classroom where we model our unwavering commitment to students. Jason was in the sidelines all the way, yet always allowing students to remain in the #G2Great drivers seat by posing and responding to their own questions. He set the stage for this amazing chat experience while keeping students in the spotlight so they would shine in a powerful side-by-side supportive journey to a powerful new experience.

As I reflected on conversations that rose from these questions, I realized that certain ideas were woven throughout the tweets like an intricate instructional thread of importance. These repeated concepts inspired me to create a visual reminder of the impact nine students and a teacher had on our thinking.

I’d like to end on a personal note. For several years, I’ve had a nagging concern that we’re missing the obvious in a constant quest to become the educators our students deserve. Thanks to the #BowTieBoys inspiration, I am now more convinced than ever that this missing ingredient is students. I’m not sure that we can ever become the teachers we hope to be until we open more teacher-student conversations.

Our #G2Great family values professional growth but #BowTieBoys illustrate a new layer of our life-long quest for understanding. If we are willing to hold up a looking glass of our teaching from students’ perspective, we can see our work through their eyes. And those are very wise eyes indeed.

So in honor of their continuing impact, please do me a favor. When you go back into your classrooms tomorrow, look into the eyes of your students and ask them about your teaching from their side….

because you’ll never know the wonderful places their responses can take you until you ask.

Gravity Goldberg and Renee Houser What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow?

By Jenn Hayhurst and Jill DeRosa

Now more than ever teachers need to be empowered, but it’s easier to find empowerment when you’ve got a friend at your side. On March 9, 2017 #G2Great celebrated the partnership of Gravity Goldberg and Renee Houser and their incredible new books What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow? NonFiction and newly released (click here) fiction edition.

Jill and I believe deeply in the impact of partnerships because the key to empowerment begins when teachers work together. Through these collaborations, we can inspire, support, and challenge each other to grow as professionals. Partnerships help us to feel safe as we embrace the notion that it is good to step out of our comfort zones. In doing so we yield greater rewards for ourselves and our students. Every Thursday night we gather with our #G2Great PLN  to learn together. This community is devoted to helping each other find our brave and push ourselves to be more responsive to the needs of our students.  

Gravity and Renee joined the #G2Great community and began with a question most of us can relate to:

Decision-fatigue, the challenge teachers face in making a multitude of daily decisions, plagues us all so this question ignited a dynamic discussion! It turns out that making small tweaks can generate a big instructional impact  within this process for teachers and students alike. This is just what so many of us needed to hear and what followed were some brilliant tweets! As we read through the tweets, we realized that many of us shared common beliefs – the seedlings for every great partnership! So we partnered your voices and through our G2Great collaboration we formed a supportive community where we could all appreciate advice that can empower what we teach tomorrow. You see, we are no longer separated by distance because we have a social media partnership where we can all lend our voices. We realized that these tweets were like the expert advice from colleagues. Using this expert advice, we generated A Top Ten Tips and Tweaks.


If you are reading this blog, then you are already a teacher who is a learner at heart. We hope that our words bring you strength so you may leave here empowered to teach tomorrow. Success is just one small tweak away.  Every day we make a ton of decisions some small, some huge. Our most important job is to help students feel empowered and capable to work on their own. This is true for us as well. Gravity and Renee wrote these books to inspire us. They believe in us and now we have our collective thinking to help us to believe in ourselves as well.  Thank you Gravity & Renee!

Corwin: What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow? Nonfiction
Corwin: What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow? Fiction
Amazon FICTION 3-8




Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students With Guest Host Pernille Ripp

by Jenn Hayhurst

On Thursday February 23, 2107 we welcomed Pernille Ripp into the #G2Great community. Pernille launched a dynamic conversation centered around what it means to embrace learning through a close examination of our own teaching. As I write this post I am thinking about Pernille’s brave question: “Would you like being in your classroom?”  

Pause a moment to think what these reflections from @lyonsroar and @ButlerNgugi and @JillDerosa mean to you:

There are many ways to link their thoughtful responses. But for me the linchpin is their open curiosity for student learning and a willingness to change upon reflection. In a very real sense their responses are at the heart of how #G2Great came into being.  Yes, for those of us who were called to teach, our work is extremely rewarding. However, that is not the driving force for what we do every day. Our work was never really about our personal fulfillment. A teacher’s work is always done in service of our students:

One small question leads to another and another and all at once we find ourselves immersed in curiosity leading down unexpected paths. Questions are the catalyst for growth. A teacher who creates a classroom that invites discovery is a teacher who is a muse for wonder. You may wonder  how might this become a reality in my classroom? Pernille reminds us that the most important work begins with a small shift when she asks us,“What is your small change for monumental differences?” Read @emilyfranESL, @katie_spadori, and @hodge_dv to see how they responded, what do they share?

Expert teaching is a marriage of art and science and is bound by careful observation. The content we need to know above all else are the students we are so fortunate to serve

Thank you Pernille. Your words sparked an amazing conversation that cut to the heart of what teaching is really all about. You reminded us all of our ability to influence our students through careful reflection and observation. We make a difference every day we enter the classroom as we open up our minds and hearts to what students need most:

Pernille Ripp Links

Pernille’s website:

Pernille Ripp on passion-based learning and empowering students (youtube)

The Students’ Voice: Empowering Transformation

Global Read Aloud: One Book to Connect the World

The Educator Collaborative Gathering Global Read Alouds, K-12

Pernille Ripp, Amira Abdel-Aal, & Alumni from New Horizon Irvine

Passionate Learners by Pernille Ripp (Amazon)

Empowered Schools Empowered Students by Pernille Ripp (Amazon)

My ITEC Ignite – The Least We Can Do

(Pernille’s newest book): Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration

Beliefs, Collaborations, and Compromises Finding Common Ground

by Jenn Hayhurst

On January 12, 2017 #G2Great opened up a conversation that allowed us to find a Common Ground for Beliefs, Collaborations, and Compromises. With every good conversation it has become clearer to me that Twitter is a vital tool for educators. I say this because it offers a free public forum that promotes professional engagement and growth. Educating our nation’s youth is a nuanced and complex endeavor. We will never agree on one way for teaching and learning. The reason is that there is no simplistic “one way” to teach. Teaching and learning is sophisticated work and cannot be boiled down to formulaic rituals.

Our common ground is our dedication to students, and our ambitions for personal excellence that pulls the thread through the needle and knits us together in a common goal: let us do all that we can to keep students at the forefront. How do we do this? The answer lies in the questions we ask ourselves:

  • Beliefs intentionally help us define why: What is my why?
  • Collaboration opens us up to innovation: How can I embrace innovation?
  • Compromise necessitates shifting perspective: How can I learn from another to inform my next move?

Chances are if you’ve read this post you are already a connected educator, You are leading by example so we thank you for your dedication and service. You are supporting the same kinds of professional constructs that our students are sure to inherit in an increasingly connected world. We need you now more than ever. According to Current US Poverty Statistics: “The official poverty rate is 14.5%, meaning 45.3 million people in the US live … More than 1 in 5 children in America (21.8%) are living under the official poverty line.” One thing we can all agree on is that all children have a right to a quality education – and teachers are our first line of defense.

Poverty is not an abstraction for teachers. Its impact is revealed to us through the more than 1 in 5 children who come to school each day and depend on us to do the right thing in their name. Teachers are leaders and we need to sound the call and encourage our colleagues to take action. Get connected. Get engaged. Be prepared to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It does not matter if we all agree. The real heart of the matter is that we keep the conversation going.
Here are some tweets to bring back to your schools as a rally cry. Get connected  because our students deserve our nothing less:

Saying “No” To Teacher-Centered Practice So That We Can Say “Yes” to Student-Centered Practices

By Jenn Hayhurst

Kathleen Tolan Memorial Fund

Dear Readers,

On a personal note, this blog post is dedicated to the memory of Kathleen Tolan, who devoted her life to student-centered practices. She would have been the first to, unapologetically, say “no” to whatever was not in the best interests of students. For this, and so many other reasons, she was a teacher to admire.

On December 8, 2016 #G2Great continued a conversation in our Five Part Series: Saying “No” So We can Say: “Yes” as we examined the topic – Saying “No” to Teacher-Centered Instruction So We Can Say “Yes” to Student-Centered Practices. These conversations are essential to the health and well-being of our profession because as we examine our beliefs, we clarify the work the work that needs to happen in our classrooms. Our professional growth is both an individual and collective process. If we keep the conversation going, we can begin to uncover the power of our impact. Ours is a community that is devoted to discovering professional empowerment.

Get Set:

Saying yes or no to any practice begins with reconciling what we believe. Now more than ever we need to make decisions around best practices that link to an authentic philosophy for educational practices. Our stances must be informed by formative and summative data and  it is imperative that we read and write professionally,  This is how we have the good judgement to say yes or no to a mandate that does not keep students at the center of decision-making:


Get  Ready:

Part of keeping students at the center of instructional decision-making means that we value independence. We say yes to independence when we flex guided practice. Setting explicit goals, modeling and reflection are some practices that we need to incorporate into our instructional day. These are practices that every teacher can say yes to despite any mandate that comes our way:


Letting Go:

During the chat our conversation took a turn toward agency. For me, agency is a topic I return to again and again. It is the ultimate intention for every teacher – to have students who work with as Peter Johnston put it “a sense of agency”. Working in classrooms We know there are many paths to independence as we work to create our maps for empowered learning. No matter where we work or what curriculum we follow there is always room for the gradual release through guided practice and collaborative learning. When we can finally let go and have and give students room to teach and learn from each other we know we have achieved a classroom built on a foundation of high expectations that students can grow into:

A teacher’s life is immersed in growth  We are always evolving as if we are waking up to new understandings for how students learn best. Coming together each week for #G2Great is a way to uncover these best practices and that is amazing. However, I think what I love the most about our brilliant PLN  is that no matter where anyone is in the journey, we are always coming back to kids at the center and to learn with a sense of joy and wonder.