Blast From the Past: Maximizing Student Engagement in Literacy Across the School Day

By Fran McVeigh

On Thursday, January 20, 2022, the #G2Great chat included a new format for this seventh year of its existence. Periodically this year we will have chats labeled as “Blast From the Past” as the following graphic explains.

                                 Original Wakelet from 4/9/15 (No blog post available)

Before this post begins to deepen our common understanding of “engagement,” let’s visit the term literacy and some basic concepts.

 What is literacy?

Jill’s definition in this tweet comes from the International Literacy Association.  Her question about creating space for students to develop these skills across all disciplines is equally important as it deals with “across the day.” 

The goal has not been to say that every teacher is a teacher of English/Language Arts (ELA), but instead to say, “How do historians read, write, talk and think?” “How do scientists read, write, talk and think?” “How do musicians read, write, talk and think?” The questions remain the same across the disciplines. 

Who is responsible for literacy?

Students need experiences during the school days and years that build upon each other. Their work needs both coordination and collaboration on the part of teachers. An example of this would be in the formatting of student work. The issue is not whether “all students need to use APA format to write formal papers” but what formats do our students need to be exposed to as well as use in order to be aware of the possibilities they will encounter in life.  As teachers have these discussions prior to reviewing course expectations, students will be less confused about differing course requirements across disciplines, days, and years.

How can we support literacy learning across disciplines every day?

And let’s not forget what literacy instruction across the day is NOT!

Engagement:  What is it?

Many definitions as well as misconceptions surround “engagement.” Ellin Keene has a remarkable book Engaging Children that was part of a chat here.

Her description is included in Mary’s tweet.

Judy Wallis adds another dimension to engagement.

And Jennifer Scoggin and Hannah Schneewind in Trusting Readers include opportunities for studying student engagement as well as Classroom Indicators for Engagement. (link and here)

Engagement in Literacy Instruction 

Engagement is NOT about cutesy games, fancy fonts and big displays for visitors. Engagement is NOT about entertainment.  Engagement is NOT about compliance. Those issues were mentioned in 2015 and remain true in 2022.

What IS Engagement?

Four key factors were highlighted in our #G2Great conversation. 

Engagement IS:

  1. Play
  1. Curiosity and Enjoyment
  1. Deep Immersion
  1. Both Visible and Invisible

Engagement in Literacy Instruction Across the Day is a relevant topic in 2022. How this will be accomplished and what it needs to look like will best be constructed by the teachers in their own school buildings. Some important criteria include: maximizing time in meaningful, continuous text, teachers sharing their own authentic experiences, and teachers modeling engagement. The collaborative conversations around definitions of literacy, coupled with teachers’ experiences with examples of student engagement including modeling, will set the stage for increased literacy learning for ALL. A timeless topic that deserves to be revisited on a regular basis and must also include voices of students: Engagement in Literacy Instruction.

Whether you attended the #G2Great Blast from the Past chat or not, think about your current understanding of “engagement.” When are you most engaged? What does it look like? What does it sound like? How can you ensure those possibilities for your students or faculty? What will you do differently? How will you make sure that students have a voice? It’s 2022 and time to take a serious look at the engagement of the students in your care!

Reclaiming a Seat at the Professional Decision-Making Table

by Mary Howard

You can access our Wakelet chat artifact using this link

Last week, #G2Great celebrated our seventh anniversary with a fitting topic for a twitter chat home: Lifting Our Professional Voices in a Collective Gathering Space. Our commitment to #G2Great chat for six years and counting reflects our deep respect for collaborative conversations where collective voices can ignite in joyful harmony. For week two following our year seven anniversary, we chose a topic that felt like a timely chat transition: Reclaiming a Seat at the Professional Decision-Making Table.

One needs only to look at the state of education to understand why this is an essential topic. At a time when mandates and controlling political initiatives are at an all-time high, educators are being held captive by demands for obligatory acceptance. The ease for companies to tout their suspect wares for a hefty price has burgeoned out of control, exacerbated in a pandemic where the ‘learning loss’ narrative masks a hard core sales pitch. This is complicated in that those with control of the purse strings often have little if any educational background but are motivated by a personal agenda. Add growing self-proclaimed experts with a cause and a rally cry of “The Science of Reading” and we find ourselves caught in a political tsunami. Suddenly our coveted seat at that professional decision-making table has become a dreaded seat at a decision-taking table.

These challenges have put up one roadblock after another for educators who desperately want the freedom to make decisions in honor of children. This freedom can be the difference between a grab and go mindset vs informed choices driven by a responsive view of the teaching/learning process. It would be illogical to argue whether teachers deserve a seat at that decision-making table knowing that our ability to make decisions that are grounded in deep understandings is the tipping point to our success as professionals and to the success of our students’ as learners. Therefore, in this post, I won’t argue our right to have a seat at that table, but why that seat and the freedom to make decisions comes at a price. So let’s pause so that I can approach this topic with a connection to my life experiences.  

I have been a frequent visitor to Honolulu, Hawaii for years, working with schools before lingering awhile to soak in the island beauty. During these visits, I’ve taken countless lessons to become a surfer. I use the word “surfer” loosely since I’m not known for the much-needed grace and balance that actual surfers possess. Since a picture really is worth a thousand words, my visual collage below reflects one of my early surfing excursions. As you can see, my style seems to spread terror across the Waikiki waters, as evidenced by the horrified face of my instructor coaching me from behind the scenes and the ill-fated man ahead of me about to be mowed down by a little old lady perched on a wobbly piece of wood devoid of brakes. In my defense, I failed to notice him because I was too busy celebrating a long awaited prone position but I am very happy to announce that no human was harmed during my early learning attempts.

Video of early surfing lessons with what I learned about teaching link

So why do I share this? After five decades in education and long-time work with schools across the country, I believe that it’s important for us to relive what it feels like to be a novice now and then. Committed learning even when it’s hard illustrates the “price” we pay for the professional freedom we say we desire. I owed it myself and those around me to do all I could to learn how to surf so that I could gain new understandings and skills over time. Although I have definitely improved after countless lessons, I’m not sure that I’d want to be in the same ocean with me given my still shaky status that continues to this day. Without lessons and the patient support of coaches, I suspect that my face may well have appeared on the front page of the Honolulu Star Advertiser newspaper that day.

Surfers are no different than teachers. A skilled surfer is like a skilled teacher in that both recognize their obligation to their chosen field to respect the rights of those they serve by paying the price of unwavering commitment to learning and the rewards of our efforts: Knowledge. Experience. Dedication. Determination. Practice. Study. Collaboration. Patience. Reflection. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Both surfers and educators dedicated to their profession work for years to hone their skills in a never-ending quest. And just like teachers, surfers understand that each surfing experience and those who share the water with them are unique and different, thus requiring different responses for each situation.

I began teaching in a special education room in small town Missouri in 1972. Nary a resource or wise piece of advice was ever offered to me in that first year. I entered my tiny special education room armed only with my love for children and my determination to become the best teacher I could possibly be. Knowing now what a negative impact rigid adherence to programs can have, I consider it my good fortune not to have been tethered to shallow “stuff”. My enthusiasm, my willingness to learn, and my steadfast desire to do right by my kids kept me in a perpetual state of inspired learning. Yes, I was uncertain often in those early days. Yes, I made many shaky choices. Yes, I had to change direction often. But those early missteps set me on a path to seek better choices. In those early years, I embraced my imperfections and saw this as a gift in the form of a gentle nudge to the new thinking I needed. My success as a teacher was reflected by the success of my learners which earned me the right to sit at the professional decision-making table. I am still joyfully paying that price all these years later when my learning means as much to me now as it did then. If we stop learning, we are doomed to stagnate and our children are doomed to pay that price.  

FINAL THOUGHTS

These are hard times in education folks. Teachers everywhere are being told what to do and how to do it, what not to do and what to do instead, and even how to think (or how not to think even when they know better). But in hard times where politically fueled mandates and directives have taken over our schools, it is more important than ever for us to lead the life of responsible professionals driven by a quest for knowledge and the research and experience that feeds that knowledge. I cannot repeat often enough that this is the price we pay for a seat at the table. We talk about teacher agency, but agency comes with responsibility to the learning that prevents us from mindlessly reaching for a script or shallow activity just because it’s there. We read. We study. We explore. We question. We discuss. We research. And then we do it all again. Seth Godin reminds us that “Nobody dabbles at dentistry” so we refuse to ‘dabble’ as educators and instead work to “be extraordinarily good at whatever it is that we do.” If we truly desire professional freedom, we must first make a commitment to professional knowledge in the name of our own growth process.

Yes, I believe that schools have a clear responsibility to create a culture of professional learning that would help us all to do that, but the ignorance of schools for not doing so does is not a free ride for professional responsibility. Even if we find that our seat at the professional decision-making table is under lock and key, we have options if we so choose to explore them:

• Don’t wait for permission to take your place at the decision-making table; take that seat armed with references that show that you belong there. Become a dedicated action researcher who seeks evidence of learning in action. The seat is there but you may have to show that you deserve the trust of others first.

• Build a mini professional decision-making table and invite some like-minded others who are equally determined to make decisions for students. Explore the real life informants of living breathing humans and what this tells us about next steps decision-making Start a revolution with a team to support you.

• If these things don’t work, then create an intimate table for one where you have a space to use your knowledge to awaken your freedom to make choices. You may be surprised how your determination will inspire and entice others to join you. Change often with begins with one person. Be the one!

WISE ADVICE FROM OUR #G2Great CHAT

In 2012 I wrote the words that continue to guide my thinking in the book that launched #G2Great chat, Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters (Heinemann, 2012). My quote explains why we can never give up our quest to take our rightful seat at the professional decision-making table.

With each tick of the instructional clock, we can lift students to great heights of learning or hold them cognitive hostages in an instructional dead end. Great work doesn’t happen by chance, it’s a conscious choice we make using a new mind-set that forever alters our thinking. (page 93)

As I type these words, many educators are being forced into that instructional dead end and told that that are incapable of making decisions so therefore they need a fail proof fidelity box to follow with a vengeance. For some, this may seem like a blessing but for most of us it is a travesty of injustice to our role as professionals and to children who depend on us to behave like professionals.

There is a dangerous power game in progress in far too many schools and it is forcing teachers to play follow the leader in a mindless version of what teaching is all about. We can play this game and succumb to the pressure of power plays, or we can pick the battles that matter most based on our growing knowledge of research, children and meaningful assessments that help us to make the best possible decisions. Combine this with reflection that turns our teaching inward, and move us from teaching as an act of mindless DOING to teaching as an act of responsive THINKING. When we take time to internally ponder our own choices and how those choices support or hinder learning, we then embrace a higher professional purpose that can lead us to change. I’d say that’s a lofty goal that is well worth the effort.

Yes, professional freedom comes with a price, but the payoff is priceless.

Seven-Year Anniversary: Lifting Our Professional Voices in a Collective Gathering Space

by Mary Howard

You can access our Wakelet chat artifact using this link

When each January arrives to boldly mark the start of a new year, it awakens a sense of eager anticipation for all that stands before us and precious days ahead just waiting to be lived. Like other new years that loom large in our view, 2022 brings promises of hope for what could be at a time when the world has given us challenges like we have never known before. While Covid 19 is not yet in our rearview mirror, a new numerical combination of 2-0-2-2 beckons us to dream of better days ahead.

Your #G2great co-moderators including me, Fran McVeigh, Brent Gilson and Jenn Hayhurst share that same sense of hope and possibility as we enter 2022. But each new year also brings an added meaning to each of us. Every January since 2015 we turn our attention to the chat created on January 8, 2015 with a ten-week study of the book that inspired it: Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters (Heinemann 2012). That ten-week exploration has led us to one joyful knock on the anniversary door after another that inspires us to gaze back across the years and contemplate brave new conversations ahead.

To launch #G2Great Year 7, we celebrated a topic that has been our heart and soul from the beginning: Lifting Our Professional Voices in a Collective Gathering Space. Admittedly, we are selfishly motivated since we personally long for a space where we can think, wonder, and explore alongside dedicated educators. We would love to think that all teachers reside within a schoolwide community of learners, but we know that this is not reality for many educators. Invitational discourse has been the driving force of #G2Great chat since its inception and that vision continues. We embrace collaborative inquiry and have experienced its impact in action each week. We are honored to step into 2022 armed with our own curious wonderings along with those that each of you carry into our chat.

Since we were very intentional about crafting our anniversary chat topic for 2022, I’d like to highlight it from a twitter perspective: Lifting Our Professional Voices in a Collective Gathering Space. In this post, I’ll reflect on what drives our commitment to allocate time and energy for collective professional growth using twitter as our platform and how this can support shared learning and the continued professional growth we all desire.

Acknowledging our Professional WHY

We can’t discuss professional learning and our dedication to lifting our own voices in the company of others without sharing why we made a choice to bring #G2Great chat to life for seven years and counting. As professionals, we are fueled by our desire to deepen our understandings about the teaching/learning process and the research that supports and enriches those understandings. We know that no program or quick fix solution will ever be a worthy substitute for growing knowledge. We have seen blind faith in products lead to dependency as publisher fueled tethers distract our view and blur the lines of our professional responsibility to children. We created #G2Great chat in January of 2015 because we recognize resources with a strong research foundation can support our thinking, but it is flexible professional decision-making grounded in research supported knowledge that matters most. This inspires us to use #G2Great as a social media platform where we can merge our collective voices to build a dual lens of reflective practice through our eyes and yours. Ultimately, we know that our goal is to sharpen our view of thoughtfully responsive instruction.

Priya Parker beautifully illustrated our #G2Great WHY in The Art of Gatherings: How We Meet and Why it Matters. Our commitment to using social media as a gathering space around a particular topic affords opportunities to make sense of our educational world within a learning community. Through the process of lifting our collective voices each week, we put our hopes and dreams on display in fast-paced twitter conversations that can serve to extend and strengthen our beliefs and understandings on invitational thinking playground we created for that purpose.

Expanding our Professional Growth Reach

Seven plus years ago, social media was barely a blip on my priority radar screen, evidenced by the twitter eye rolling reflecting my disdain. But then one day I was invited to lead a twitter chat. After one “No thank you” after another followed by more eye rolling, I reluctantly agreed. As it turns out, this hour chat was life-altering and when Jenn Hayhurst and Amy Brennan invited me create a chat around my book a week later, I didn’t hesitate. A twitter convert suddenly emerged from the ‘not me’ ashes.

What changed? Suddenly, this eye-rolling gal from Oklahoma who spent most of her time alone on the road could engage in professional conversations with educators from all over the world no matter where I happened to find myself. Even after all these years co-moderating #G2Great chat, I still feel a sense of anticipatory elation each time I sit in front of my computer ready to engage in celebratory discourse with new friends and old. The chats we collaborate to create each week are the gentle nudge we need to revisit, reflect, and often revise our thinking and that nudge explodes in technicolor view on Thursday nights at 8:30 ET. I never cease to be amazed by how much I feel supported as a professional during the course of our twitter ponderings alongside others. New acquaintances have blossomed into trusted friendships across the years, and the generosity and dedication of educators has been overwhelming.

An Insider’s Perspective of a Twitter Chat

While I have certainly been twitter blessed over the past seven plus years, this seems like a good time for you to see the impact that our twitter chat is having on other professionals. As you read the inspired tweets from our #G2great chat last night, I hope that it just might entice you to join the conversation.  

I’d like to take a moment to depart from sharing tweet collections and celebrate one new #G2Great friend. This week, fourth grade teacher, Laura Reece, joined us for her first twitter chat. I am still inspired by her enthusiastic joy!

Last night Laura’s enthusiasm was a reminder that if we are going to ask our students to step into discomfort for the sake of learning, we should be willing to do the same. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your belief in your own professional responsibility to your students and sharing your love for teaching with us.

My Final Thoughts

I’m so grateful for the conversations and collaborations I have engaged in over the years. I am so grateful for that memorable day I chose to leave my twitter eye rolling days behind me and venture in to the power potential of the chat conversations we have come to cherish. Yet, I’m always surprised that so many educators have never experienced the gift of passion-fueled twitter dialogue that is only a reach away and accessible twenty-four hours per day.

As I come to the close of this post and the beginning of another year of engaging conversations, I’d like to pause to send a note of appreciation to each of you who join our chat on a regular or occasional basis. YOU inspired us to create #G2Great in January 2015. YOU inspire us to look forward to another year each January since then. YOU are the reason we stepped happily into year seven. YOU heighten our desire to explore the topics, authors, and twitter style discussion that we are grateful to support. All of our planning for each chat is done in YOUR honor because you ARE #G2Great and YOU motivate each of us to imagine new professional conversations as we lift our voices across another year.

Thank you for infusing professional passion into our #G2Great chat.

PAST ANNIVERSARY CHAT ARTIFACTS

Just as I have done in each anniversary post in the past, I’d like to share the artifacts that lovingly reside in our  Wakelet home awaiting others to follow across 2022 as well as the 271 blog reflections that extend and support each one. We look forward to adding more as we chat across 2022.

Anniversary Chat Artifacts on Wakelet

1st Anniversary chat

2nd Anniversary chat

3rd Anniversary chat

4th Anniversary chat

5th Anniversary chat

6th Anniversary chat

7th Anniversary chat

Anniversary Literacy Lenses Blog Reflections

Year 1: 1/5/16 (Blog Post launch)

Year 2: 1/5/17 The Gifts of YOU

Year 3: 1/4/18 (Curiosity Crew collaboration)

Year 4: 1/10/19 (Curiosity Crew collaboration)

Year 5: 1/9/20 WHAT IF?

Year 6: 1/7/21 Courageous Conversations

On our 5th anniversary, I wrote a post about the book that launched #G2great and have shared it in every anniversary chat since then: 10 Lessons Teachers Taught Me About Good to Great Teaching by Mary Howard 

Rooted in Strength: Using Translanguaging to Grow Multilingual Readers and Writers

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet Link for the archive of our twitter chat

On Thursday, November 4th, #G2Great hosted the first of a two part series on translanguaging. This chat featured Dr. Cecilia M Espinosa and Dr. Laura Ascenzi-Moreno and their book, Rooted in Strength: Using Translanguaging to Grow Multilingual Readers and Writers.

Words matter! Within this book you will see these words a lot: whole, grow, multilingual, translanguaging, strength and bilingual. (Word count from preview copy: 37, 39, 141, 220, 326, 695) The authors deliver with their focus on: multilingual, translanguaging, strength, and bilingual when discussing the needs of students at the emergent stage of learning an additional language. It will be important for you, the reader, to deepen your understanding through Cecilia and Laura’s viewpoint.

A translanguaging vision of reading posits that reading starts with the person. In other words, the multilingual person does not read in one language or the other, but rather brings his or her whole linguistic repertoire and social repertoire to the text. Reading cuts across named languages, modalities, and experiences.

Rooted in Strength: Using Translanguaging to Grow Multilingual Readers and Writers ( p.68)

This is a book about teaching for teachers that will help put bilingual students at the center of instruction. “You don’t have bilingual students in your classroom?” you say. Well, it is highly possible that you will eventually have students who identify as bilingual sometime in the future. Start planning now for your response. Your response to the ideas in this book will help you grow and practice seeing the “whole” in the multilingual folks in your own community. This book is bigger than just a “teaching book”. It’s an invitation to continue growing and learning both professionally and personally.

We asked Laura and Cecilia to respond to some questions in order to ensure that we included the author’s view of this text. I feel compelled to begin with this one which is usually the third and last one.

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

Teaching is an intellectual journey that pushes us to confront and renovate our understandings of students and their families.  When we center instruction on emergent bilinguals as whole people, we do just that – we engage in the difficult, but rewarding work, of equity-based teaching.  Every teacher can do this!  It’s about having an open and curious heart and mind. Meaningful change in literacy instruction starts with the recognition that emergent bilinguals need to come to our classroom whole (with their languaging practices & socio-cultural histories). A translanguaging stance challenges us to embrace a radical departure from too long held deficit views about bilingualism. There is great power and potential for innovation and creativity when we build on the strengths of emergent bilingual students.  This book is for all teachers who count emergent bilinguals as part of their classroom communities, those in general education, English as a new language, and bilingual education. 

Many professional books are vying for your attention. Full disclosure, this is an infomercial. If you are seeking more because you have worked on individual skills or mentor texts, this book will give you ideas to consider, implement and reflect on their use as you encounter bigger views of instruction AND assessment for emergent multilingual students. You will be amazed how you can focus on and celebrate what students CAN do with an open and curious mind. The following quote is about writing, but it’s also true of reading. The deficit perspective has got to go!

A second author question that we use at #g2great …

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

This book emerges from our professional and personal experiences as educators of emergent bilinguals. First, we were frustrated that most of the professional literacy texts we read, always kept emergent bilinguals at the margins. We wanted to bring them to the center of all literacy instruction. We also wanted to bring a stance – translanguaging – which has become more known across educational circles – into active dialogue with teachers in a way that would be practical and inspiring. 

We wrote this book knowing that for teachers, one of the greatest pleasures is to see their students deeply engaged in using reading and writing as tools for thinking, expressing, wondering and knowing. As new teachers we always looked for strategies to engage our emergent bilinguals – students who use two or more languages in their daily lives, in rich, thoughtful literacy practices. We also wrote this book with equity in mind – we know from experience that all pedagogy needs to be rooted in the fact that emergent bilinguals’ full participation as readers and writers is fundamental to any classroom where all students deeply engage in literacy.

Our hope with the book is that teachers see themselves as capable and excited to teach emergent bilinguals and that they understand how all students’ language practices are a key element to their success. We also want teachers to feel empowered through translanguaging pedagogy by understanding how they can shape literacy learning experiences through their deep knowledge of children.

Over 20 % of Americans are multilingual and are speaking more than one language at home according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (Link) That compares with 56% of Europeans. Some experts propose that over half of the world’s population is multilingual. To be competitive in the world proficiency in another language or two may be required.

In the past many educators have been led to believe that teaching English as an additional language requires extensive training beyond a classroom teacher’s repertoire. Cecilia and Laura posit that it’s not about the specific skills of a teacher, but more about their own mindset, beliefs and actions.

The third and final question for Cecilia and Laura …

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

First and foremost, literacy instruction for emergent bilinguals must be focused on the whole child. If we are truly committed to literacy instruction that is transformative and equitable the identities and full capacities of emergent bilinguals need to be recognized, incorporated and built upon as essential to all literacy instruction. It matters that we take a stance of strength and that we normalize our students and their families languaging practices. 

Additionally, literacy and literacy instruction are never neutral. As teachers we have the power to privilege certain identities, histories, and language practices, while silencing others as substandard.

The theories we hold regarding how emergent bilingual children develop as readers and writers impact and inform our instruction in powerful ways.  We need to create opportunities to value and to build on each and all of our students bi/multilingual resources.

In Conclusion …

As a result of reviewing Cecilia and Laura’s answers and the post this far, you have had more opportunities to interact with these words: “whole, grow, multilingual, translanguaging, strength and bilingual.” Maybe you are confident in your knowledge and are now at the curious stage. What might be some next steps? Being rooted in strength may be easy for educators with a growth mindset. But let’s shake the cobwebs off and dig, and dig, and dig. You might consider where and how to begin using this list as a guide.

  1. Be reflective. Take time to pause, to consider, to reflect, to review your status quo. Begin with your own knowledge of these words individually: “whole, grow, multilingual, translanguaging, strength and bilingual”.
  2. Consider the impact of your increased knowledge for students in your classroom, building, district, and community.
  3. Place one student at the center and consider the whole of your knowledge about what that child can do.
  4. Study translanguaging principles (Chapter 1). Collect some translanguaging models with a range of formats. How will translanguaging solidify the strengths of the student from #3 above?
  5. Study the possibilities for a multilingual learning environment (Chapter 2). How will the student from #3 thrive in this environment?
  6. Deepen your understanding of reading and writing assessments that are always double jeopardy for language learners (Chapters 6 and 10). What new information would be available about the student in #3?
  7. Study reading and writing (Chapters 3-5 and 7-9). How is your new learning increasing the effectiveness of the student you are planning for from #3?

Grab a friend as a thought partner and get started! Your students will benefit!

Additional Resources

Scholastic Blog Post about Rooted in Strength: https://oomscholasticblog.com/post/rooted-strength-debut-title-cecilia-m-espinosa-and-laura-ascenzi-moreno-explores-how

Interview with Ernest Morell: http://teacher.scholastic.com/education/reachteach/reachteachlanding_cecilia_m_espinosa_and_laura_ascenzi_moreno.html

Bring me a Book Foundation Toolkits: https://www.bringmeabook.org/advocates/laura-ascenzi-moreno/

Websites:

Cecilia M. Espinosa

ceciliamespinosa.wordpress.com/

Laura Ascenzi-Moreno

https://www.lascenzimoreno.com/

The Comprehension Intervention Model: Nurturing Self-Regulated Readers Through Responsive Teaching

by Mary Howard

You can access our chat Wakelet HERE

On 10/28/21, #G2Great engaged in a long-awaited celebration that was years in the making when we soaked in a literacy gift from authors Linda Dorn, Carla Soffos and Adria Klein: The Comprehensive Intervention Model: Nurturing Self-Regulated Readers Through Responsive Teaching (2021, Stenhouse). The CIM has enriched the lives of students and teachers in countless schools and districts and now the combined CIM wisdom of the authors is available to us all.

My appreciation for CIM began with a book that I’ve referenced many times over the years: Interventions that Work: A Comprehensive Intervention Model for Preventing Reading Failure in Grades K-3 by Linda Dorn and Carla Soffos (2011, Pearson). In the preface, Adria Klein describes this 2021 book as a “completely revamped and expanded” follow up to its predecessor (page xiii). Having read both books, ‘revamped and expanded’ feels like an understatement since the pairing of the CIM book and Resource Manual offer in-depth detail enriched by forms, charts, examples and over fifty videos quickly accessed by QR Codes.

These dramatic revamped and extended additions deepen our understandings. Interventions that Work focused on grades K-3 but that reach is extended to the upper grades detailed in Chapter 8: Comprehension Focus Groups for Increasing Comprehension Power (pages 127-123). Chapter 9 is another important addition with Strategic Processing Intervention for Students with Reading Disabilities (pages 144-157). These new chapters along with refined descriptions of the layers of interventions, the Language Phase embedded across layers and added research on the transfer of learning will magnify the CIM implementation process.

With these gifts in mind, I suddenly find myself thinking back to the rocky Response to Intervention (RTI) journey launched by IDEA 2004. I have been quite vocal about the many missteps of RTI, which I detailed RTI from All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know (2009, Heinemann). This meandering RTI path is riddled with the deluded premise that we can buy our way to success through programs disseminated and mandated across a school or district. Add to this stunning fallacy the disconnect between interventions and instruction and the flawed data collection systems leading to flawed decision making, it shouldn’t be a surprise that our children have become the RTI sacrificial lambs.

Unfortunately, the most critical components of the intervention process have been glaringly absent in traditional RTI approaches, thus contributing to one failed effort after another. After seventeen years of missteps, we have been afforded an opportunity to leave those failures behind us and change the very face of RTI moving forward. The CIM book and Resource Manual combined will show us how to accomplish that if we are willing to read this book pairing and heed the wise advice of Linda Dorn, Carla Soffos and Adria Klein.

When Carla and Adria asked me to write an endorsement for The CIM, I was honored. From the first time I had learned about CIM, I was certain that it was the much-needed shift in thinking we needed to alter our RTI course. In my endorsement on the Stenhouse website I wrote:

The Comprehensive Intervention Model renews my hope for the future of educators who are wise enough to put the authors’ sage advice into glorious schoolwide action in honor of children.” Mary Howard, 2021

The HOPE I refer to is lovingly woven across each page of the CIM reference duo. Linda, Carla and Adria help us to re-envision the intervention and instructional process in a way that will later our RTI success trajectory. Since I can’t do justice to the brilliance flowing generously across CIM, I’ll condense this post to four central features of CIM that “renew my hope” in very profound ways along with a quote from the authors that highlight each feature. As you read, note that each of these four features are needed in combination as they work in support of and in coordination each other.

ONGOING PROFESSIONAL LEARNING

As soon as my copy of the CIM arrived, I took the authors advice to begin with Chapter 10: Implementing the Comprehensive Model for Literacy Improvement (pages 158-175). This chapter opens with the Ten Principles of CIM Professional Development Design followed by examples of districts that have applied these principles. The very heart and soul of CIM is reflected in the quote above. There are no programs to buy. There are no quick fix solutions to be forced into action. There are no scripts to follow. There are no data fueled devices that blind us to the needs of children. In every word, the authors demonstrate deep respect for teachers and the important role that knowledgeable educators play as “agents of literacy improvement” who are given the instructional support and coaching over time that is at the center of our efforts.

COLLECTIVE COLLABORATION AND COORDINATION

One of the biggest missteps of the RTI process to date has been a pervasive view of interventions the as support offered beyond the general education setting. The quote above acknowledges that any effective RTI design is grounded in the idea that the classroom teacher is at the forefront of our efforts. The authors emphasize that if an intervention is deemed necessary, it is always seen as “in addition to” rather than “instead of” support. The classroom teacher is the first line of defense so intervention always occur within a spirit of collaboration and coordination. This requires collective responsibility as illustrated by the CIM as a systemic approach to RTI designed to create an intervention and instructional culture from a schoolwide and districtwide level. Without this, we rob children of important learning opportunities by using interventions as a substitute of daily instruction rather than using them to supplement instruction.

MULTI-TIERED SYSTEM OF SUPPORT

On page 170 in Figure 10.5 shown below is the most effective intervention design framework that I have ever seen in any RTI Model to date.

The authors write “A decision-making model with layers of instructional support and degrees of intensity provides a framework for meeting the unique needs of students with reading problems.” This four-section triangle may look like other RTI models at first glance, but it is distinct in design and intent. The layers are shown as least to most intensive from the bottom up. The least intensive is Core Classroom Instruction provided by the classroom teacher with most intensive Targeted Interventions at the top where SPI specialist Strategic Processing Interventions are provided by a SPI specialist. Two layers in the center provided by CIM Specialists inxlusw tier 2 with Classroom Small Group Interventions followed by tier 3 with Supplemental Interventions. These draw from the “portfolio” of intervention options described in chapters 5 through 9. This extended design highlights collective responsibility where collaboration and coordination are central to our efforts.

EVIDENCE-BASED DECISION MAKING

Educators have long experienced the ebb and flow of ever-present obsession with standardized test scores and numerical data linked to suspect programs. The CIM refocuses our attention to the child by emphasizing that multiple assessments with careful analysis help us uncover “evidence of the student’s knowledge, thinking and problem-solving” as we discover the patterns that begins to merge across assessments. This positions assessment as a thread that connects instruction and interventions within the context of active engagement in learning. With the support of learner-centered data that includes thoughtful kidwatching, we draw from varied informants that can lead to evidence-based decision-making on behalf of the children in front of us rather than what is too often purported to exist beneath a color coded spreadsheets. Combined with the joining of professional minds in ways that supports our shared understandings from unique perspectives, we have a responsive teaching design at its finest.

TWITTER STYLE GLIMPSE OF CIM FROM THE AUTHORS’ WISE EYES

During the #G2Great chat, Adria and Carla merged their reflections on our eight chat questions. I have spotlighted this incredible shared thinking below.

MY CLOSING THOUGHTS

As I come to the close of this post, I am once again inspired by authors Linda Dorn, Carla Soffos and Adria Klein. What they have accomplished in this paired resource will change the way that we think about the RTI process. No detail is seen as too small and every possible support that schools could need to initiate the CIM has been included across the book with other learning opportunities available to teachers beyond those resources.

Filled with gratitude , I pause to reach for this exquisite professional gift and my thoughts turn to Linda Dorn. I am fortunate to be one of many educators who has been inspired and informed by Linda Dorn. Lost in this moment of appreciation, I suddenly recalled an email correspondence from Linda dated December 23, 2010. I had been sharing the CIM widely, but after teachers had expressed concern about the requirements I wrote Linda for clarification. She quickly responded, explaining that teachers can implement CIM at two levels. While the first level does require specific training, Linda added:

However, because we realize that most teachers are unable to access the university training, we want to ensure that anyone who wants to implement the CIM has this opportunity. In these cases, we encourage schools to use the professional texts and DVDs as resources for implementing their RtI process. Some schools may have RR; others will not. And if teachers are interested, they can attend professional development summer institutes on the CIM in different parts of the country, including the CIM university training centers. 

Linda’s response reflects how much she believed in giving teachers access to the principles and support that I am now holding in my hands (those “DVDs” Linda mentioned are now accessed directly in the book). The first level of extended training is certainly preferable, but Linda’s words ensure that CIM is within reach of every teacher inspired to make this important shift. That’s not surprising given Linda’s contribution highlighted in a Stenhouse tribute:

Linda was the primary developer and lead trainer of the Partnerships in Comprehensive Literacy Model, a nationally recognized model that uses literacy coaches as agents of change… She believed that school-embedded professional development is critical for supporting teachers in new learning.” 

Those words come alive in the CIM book and resource manual. Linda Dorn’s dedication to CIM and the teachers and students who would benefit from it was so strong that she continued to work on this book while she was battling cancer. Following her death on 9/17/19, co-authors and dear friends Carla Soffos and Adria Klein stepped up and worked tirelessly to ensure that this book would one day be in the hands of educators everywhere. That long-awaited day has come.

As I type these words with the CIM perched lovingly within reach, I think about the many books written by Linda Dorn that are my frequent companions on my bookshelf. What better way to honor Linda’s legacy and the principles that guided her professional life than to put those principles into glorious schoolwide action in honor of children. This exquisite book will show us how to bring Linda’s legacy to life in classrooms everywhere.

With deep gratitude to Linda Dorn, Carla Soffos, and Adria Klein for making this possible

Textured Teaching: A Framework for Culturally Sustaining Practices

An Archive of the October 21st chat can be found here

By Brent Gilson

This week the #g2great community was blessed to have Lorena Germán join us in conversation around her new book, Textured Teaching: A Framework For Culturally Sustaining Practices. Lorena’s practice includes the groundbreaking work as part of the #Disrupttexts team. Beyond that, alongside her husband Roberto, they have established The Multicultural Classroom, and last year Lorena released The Antiracist Teacher: Reading Instruction Workbook. All of these tools and the community that she has helped build beautifully led to the message of Textured Teaching. With all working towards building a stronger, more just community, anything is possible.

Our chat began with a simple and powerful question.

“isn’t about saving but empowering.”

There was something about this question that I think set the tone for the whole discussion. As we seek out to build community, are we doing it intending to save? Which I feel assumes a savior stance that teachers should be actively pushing back against, or as Lorena suggests are we seeking to empower our students? Our community? And how are we doing this with love?

I think about my practice, moving away from grading everything, moving towards student-driven creation, moving away from rigid due dates, moving towards flexibility, moving away from being the deciding voice, and moving towards the power of community decision making and ownership. A few months into this school year, this question has made me pause to ponder these thoughts. To reflect on the community I am building in the class that I hope will start to step outside of it. As the chat began to take off, Lorena asked us to consider the pillars, our core values for teaching.  

I have focused much of my thinking and philosophy for teaching the last few years on a statement Dr. Gholdy Muhammad made once in a session she was speaking at,

I couldn’t help but think of that when asked to consider my core values, and as we see from other responses to the question, the answers were all variations of having our students as the focal point of our work. It starts with our students but most certainly can’t end there. Textured Teaching incorporates four traits: Student-Driven and Community Centred, Interdisciplinary, Experiential and Flexible. Throughout the chat, the idea of community continued to come up. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how important the community aspect is and why this book is so essential for education, especially at this time.

Covid-19 has drastically changed the way we teach. Two years ago, we were more connected to members of our community. You smiled at each other as you passed in a hallway. You gathered for community groups, sports, and other events. You knew your neighbours. The immediate impact of Covid in both schools and communities has been a distancing. Before, many teachers rarely had to think about ways to include community. Now, we have a series of hoops to jump through for a visitor to enter a classroom. And this disconnect doesn’t stop in schools. Communities have fractured. When we look at things like the Anti-CRT movements, the increased prevalence of censoring books and teachers that would dare teach critical thinking to their students, we see that community itself is under attack. Before, teachers might not have had to be as purposeful in their community involvement and empowering their students; now this work is more important than ever. Lorena gives us a supportive framework to begin to address these issues first within our schools and then outside of them.

There is so much work to do. Many brilliant educators like Lorena have started to provide tools to better meet the demands of the day. We need to pick them up and put them to action.

Remember folks, Small Steps Count. So, one at a time, forward.

Check out the links

Podcast with Lorena Germán: Teach Me Teacher Podcast: Culturally Sustaining Practice Part 1

Podcast with Lorena Germán: Teach Me Teacher Podcast with Lorena Germán Textured Teaching Part 2There’s also another podcast.

All of the Above Podcast : https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/all-of-the-above-podcast/id1339198232 episode #78

The Multicultural Classroom

#DisruptTexts

SLOW CHAT: Fueled by Collective Curiosity and Collaborative Conversation

by Mary Howard

You can read the Wakelet artifact HERE

#G2Great chat celebrates 7 years on 1/6/22. Your chat co-moderators often contemplate new chat designs for twitter style dialogue. This week, we decided to draw inspiration from the continuing challenges of this pandemic and its impact on our shared love for attending National Literacy Conferences. If COVID-19 had not thwarted our plans, #G2Great chat would have taken a break this week to attend the International Literacy Conference in Indianapolis, IN. Unfortunately, ILA shifted from an in-person conference to varied virtual opportunities. We know that this decision was not taken lightly and we are grateful that ILA chose to put our safety first.

Since we had already planned to take this week off, we decided this afforded us a wonderful opportunity to try something new. We had discussed using a SLOW CHAT format in the past, so we thought that this was the perfect time.

WHAT IS A SLOW CHAT?

For those of you who have never participated in a SLOW CHAT on Twitter before, some background information would be helpful:

In a typical chat, we gather at our #G2great hashtag on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. and share 7 to 8 questions across the night that are answered in real time. If you have ever taken part in our chat, then you know that this format makes for a fast-paced process of reading and responding to questions while engaging in conversations around those ideas.

By contrast, a SLOW CHAT is literally meant to slow down this pace using many variations that may span across one or several days. A few questions are asked at key points during the designated time and educators respond to questions at their own pace rather than during a live chat hour. Our one-day SLOW CHAT began in the morning with initial thoughts from your co moderators I share at the end of this post followed by five questions we posted every ninety-minutes during the day as we checked in across the day. Since we plan to do this again, putting our first SLOW CHAT into action was a wonderful learning venture that we can draw from in the future.

And so, in the spirit of our first SLOW CHAT I give you our first SLOW BLOG with five twitter takeaways that captivated my professional heart.

SLOW BLOG TWITTER TAKEAWAYS

Our deep desire to embrace curious learning in our lives has a much broader purpose. We cannot expect that our children will engage in and beyond our schools as curious learners unless we are willing to model a curious spirit each and every day. Our actions (or lack of) speak volumes.

Engaging in collaborative dialogue with other professionals on a regular basis gives us a lifeline to collegial support. These inspired interactions help us to fine tune, adjust and add to our thinking from both sides as we learn in the company of trusted others.

We make our own learning a priority not just for the sake of learning but in honor of the children that learning is dedicated to. The tipping point is when we carry our learning with us and make professional decisions that will lift learning to the highest heights in their name.

It is admirable for each of us to value professional collaboration, but the goal is to create a culture of collective collaboration that spreads across a school. Every child deserves to experience professional joy in action no matter where that learning takes place or with whom.

We all need a safe space where others support and fuel our learning. While we hope that this comes from within a school, it can also span across great distances. Used thoughtfully, social media can offer a safe haven where ideas, passions and curiosities can flourish.

Last Thoughts

COVID-19 pandemic has altered the landscape of our professional and personal lives in many challenging ways. Yet, there were also many blessings as we have traveled along a meandering path of uncertainty. Conference cancellations have been difficult for those of us who thrive on professional gatherings, but it also nudged us to explore options for learning together. These new learning doors have compounded our unwavering thirst for professional learning in any capacity. Yes, the pandemic altered where, when and in what way our learning happens. But our determination to hold tight to the WHY of professional learning has strengthened our commitment to celebrate our learning through this new lens. Fueled by Collective Curiosity and Collaborative Conversation was the perfect title for our first SLOW CHAT since it reflects a way of life that we are proud to lead on a daily basis.

We want to thank those of you who joined our first #G2Great SLOW CHAT. We believe deeply in collaborative professional JOY and we know that invitational discourse is possible in any form. Here’s to more SLOW CHAT in the future!

SLOW CHAT reflections from your #G2Great co moderators

Guided Practice for Reading Growth:  Texts and Lessons to Improve Fluency, Comprehension and Vocabulary

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet LINK

Laura Robb is no stranger to #G2Great. She frequently participates in our weekly chats and has been a guest host with principal son and coauthor, Evan Robb, for Schools Full of Readers: Tools for Teachers, Coaches and Leaders to Support Students. This link gives you access to the blog post and wakelet for that book. Laura and Evan Robb coauthored this blog post in 2020, “Breaking the Cycle of Professional Compliance: Teachers as Decision-Makers.” (Link) It was truly a pleasure to welcome Laura and her coauthor David Harrison to his first chat this week.

Routines. Habits. As I drove, I hit my turn signal. It was automatic. I had driven this route for years. More years than I can count (or remember). But I had to reach down and turn that signal off because that’s not the route anymore. Change. It requires thought and a conscious effort. Changing habits and routines is hard. What will make this travel change MORE automatic? More practice!

Teaching.

Teaching also requires thought and conscious effort. Teaching requires so many decisions that teachers need to consciously make. Gravity Goldberg and  Renee Houser tell us that teachers make 1500 decisions per day (Edutopia link). It’s exhausting and yet equally stimulating to make decisions that matter for students. We must TRUST teachers to make decisions that will increase student joy AND student learning.

What is the end goal? Here is Laura Robb’s response. 

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

Teach the children in front of you. Get to know them. Watch. Listen. Have conversations with them. Read their notebooks. Increase their reading stamina with daily independent reading of self-selected books. Respond to their needs by knowing and building on their strengths. Become a responsive teacher who can adapt instruction and interventions to students, knowing that their needs change throughout the school year. Remember, that volume in reading is the best intervention and can develop students’ joy in reading, positive reading identities, and create lifelong readers!

Laura Robb, email.

I wrote this book blurb for Corwin Press after the first time I read Guided Practice for Reading Growth and now after the third reading I believe it to be even more true. 

Book Blurb: Guided Practice for Reading Growth

“What is essential for reading growth?  David Harrison and Laura Robb provide guidelines and tips for schedules, routines, instructional practices and lessons that improve students’ reading skill and self-confidence with proven sustained growth by real students in real classrooms. The authors use the research and their classroom work to provide evidence that students working below their grade level do not need pre-made programs or one-size basals but do need knowledgeable teachers who know their students and align and craft guided practice that encourages students to work hard to meet their goals. This book details how guided practice reinforces and enhances independent reading, interactive read-alouds, vocabulary building and writing about texts in a reader’s notebook. The implementation of the ideas in this book will help teachers develop effective and efficient targeted instruction that capitalizes on teacher knowledge and relationships with the students in their classrooms.”

Fran McVeigh, email.

Three big ideas form the focus of my thinking and understanding about this book based on Laura and David’s ideas, my previous work with middle school students, and the nature of curriculum/intervention plans and resources for middle school students. Let’s explore.

Instruction that meets the needs of students must be carefully crafted and implemented

No one lock-step, one-size-fits-all curriculum works. I see students in middle school and high school who are “not proficient” in reading. I am over-generalizing, but basically that means they missed a cut-off score on some skill area. Some argue that they must ALL need phonemic awareness or phonological awareness if they are struggling in reading. But what of students who have been a part of explicit phonics instruction who year after year are given another NEW phonics program because the last one was not successful and they are now down to literally TIER 6 in phonics programs and have very little time READING but spend much of their time in drills and isolated word work? Students are frustrated, disheartened and tired of “work that makes them feel stupid.”

Instruction can be so much more for students. The lessons Laura and David provide in Guided Practice for Reading Growth can be used “just in time” for student practice that they need NOW. Not after a data team meeting, but NOW to allow students to make accelerated growth without waiting for the roulette wheel to spin up their name at a pre-designated review.

David’s stories and poems are an excellent catalyst for instruction. The lessons Laura crafted are easily replicable by teachers. There are two sets that teachers are encouraged to make their own. Trusting that teachers know the students best, there is a set for partner discussion and a set for shared reading which lead to student writing. Talk. Writing. Part of the reciprocal action cycle of reading.

And then the finale. Part III in the text is “Next Steps for Guided Practice and Growth in Reading.”  The beauty of adding in fluency practice that is self-selected and performed by students is tantalizing. Maximizing efficiency and effectiveness with teacher data-based decisions about how to structure time and resources to meet student resources is teacher autonomy at its best!

Choice and agency are necessary for students to grow as readers.

Independent reading is a daily expectation in this structure. Students are allowed to choose texts that align with their interests. Teachers are encouraged to choose texts that students will find engaging.

Fluency practice as presented in this text is never reduced to reading rate, but instead, is all about the interpretation and the love of language. Empowering teachers. Empowering students. Empowering student learning. Empowering student progress. Empowering students as leaders. And again, providing practice opportunities for students to do the work themselves and choose their own reading materials!

Student reading identities matter.

Students have to find both the joy and belief in their own ability to read. By middle school and high school this is not easy. Some students have already fake read the same book three or four years in a row. Other students are quite good at shrugging off the “I’m too busy to read. Check out my activities” excuses. We’ve known about the importance of reading and writing identities but often not had the time, energy, resources or support necessary to grow identities. Successful and powerful reading and writing identities that respect their age, emotional maturity, and are worthy of both student and teacher time and attention. Choice and scaffolded instructional times provide opportunities for student identities to grow and mature.

This is further emphasized in the authors’ responses to the remaining questions.

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

The first big takeaway is to use formative assessments and relentless kid watching to identify students’ strengths and build on these strengths with guided practice lessons. Guided practice lessons are short, focus on what students need, and invite them to do the thinking and work that can improve their reading and enlarge vocabulary. The next big takeaway is that volume in reading is an intervention that can bring students reading below grade level into the reading life and develop their reading identities.

Laura and David, email.

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have on the professional world?

My work with fifth grade students entering school reading at a kindergarten to early second grade reading level pushed me to rethink reading instruction and intervention.  Besides having them read self-selected books every day for about 20-minutes, I began developing guided practice lessons using short texts to engage them in deep thinking, meaningful discussions, and writing about reading. Another goal was to enlarge their vocabulary and background knowledge, and watching short videos prior to reading worked well. Students loved them, but if a few needed to revisit the video, it was easy for them to watch it a second or third time on their own or with a small group. With award-winning poet, David Harrison, writing the poems and short texts for the guided practice lessons, students can read culturally relevant texts on topics they suggested through surveys conducted in grades five to eight 

         David and I hope that teachers of grades 4 to 8 will integrate guided practice lessons into their instructional reading. Once teachers try the lessons, there are guidelines in the appendix for developing their own guided practice lessons. To support teachers as they get started with developing lessons, David Harrison wrote extra poems and short texts that are in the appendix; there’s also a list of magazines teachers can mine for short tests and lists of poetry collections to investigate. The goal is for teachers to intervene as soon as they observe students require extra practice and gradually release responsibility for learning to students.

Laura Robb, email.

In conclusion, just as students need carefully crafted instruction, with choice and agency as well as support for reader and writer identities – so do teachers! Guided practice is a simple, yet practical way to provide students with opportunities to joyfully develop into lifelong readers who can and do read.

The Last Word: What would you like teachers to know?  David’s response


Five Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books by Melissa Stewart and Marlene Correia

You can access our chat Wakelet artifact HERE

By Brent Gilson

“I know lots of writers who love to create characters and invent imaginary worlds. But for me, the real world is so amazing, so fascinating, that I just want to learn as much as I can about it and share it with other people. That’s why I write nonfiction.” -Melissa Stewart

When I was a kid I did not spend a lot of time reading novels. The occasional Choose Your Own Adventure would be thrown into the backpack to read at home but generally, I was a reader of nonfiction. My grandpa was an avid bird watcher. I remember going to visit and just thumbing through his collection of books learning about the species of birds that would frequent his yard. I have the clearest memory of my other grandparents giving me these little binders full of fact files on different animals, I toted that around with me everywhere. The Komodo Dragon file was my favourite. My earliest Scholastic Book Fair memory is buying this sweet dinosaur book and giving out the stickers to my friends. Spending time learning about ecosystems in this giant book full of beautiful art and fold-out pages is another memory that I can picture as clear as it was yesterday.

The librarian at my school often had to remind me to return the Arms and Armour (Canadian not a spelling mistake) book. I think I checked it out more than any other book in elementary school. I would study the different swords of different areas and their armour. I would imagine what the battles could be like. I was not limited to facts; nonfiction books were the passport to imagination for me in those early years. I wrote stories of knights battling dragons, I studied their swords. These nonfiction texts jump started my fiction reading. They were more accessible, more engaging to the young reader than just pages of text. Beyond that, I learned. I built background knowledge of history and the world. In a time when disinformation is at an all-time high arming our kids with knowledge as they enter the world should be a top priority of teaching and utilizing nonfiction text provides a structure that is both engaging and informative.

As a middle school and high school teacher, I have noticed a decline in the drive to consume nonfiction that my elementary students had. I imagine it is a combination of the “I know it all” attitude the teenagers often proudly display and the fact that with academically heavier courses they no longer see non-fiction as an escape. Either way I want to get back into nonfiction in my classroom and after last Thursday’s chat, I know Five Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books by Melissa Stewart and Marlene Correia provides a wonderful structure to get teachers started.

We ask our authors to reflect on three questions that will offer readers insight for their thinking. Melissa and Marlene respond to our first question:

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

MS: As a children’s book writer, I developed the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction classification system for myself. I hoped that if I could get a stronger sense of the breadth of the nonfiction market, I might have better luck crafting the kind of writing publishers were looking for.

When I shared the system on my blog in 2017, the response was tremendous. To date, that post has received more than 500,000 hits.

At first, I was surprised that the system resonated with so many people, but then I began to see its broader uses in a school setting. The table below from p. 49 of 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books, highlights that different categories can be used in specific ways during literacy and content-area instruction:

So that’s one of the book’s main messages. When students are familiar with the characteristics of the five categories, they can predict the kind of information they’re likely to find in a book and how that information will be presented. And that understanding can help them identify the best books for a particular purpose as well as the kind(s) of nonfiction they enjoy reading most.

MC: For me it was a realization over 15 years ago during a professional development workshop, where I was asked to list all the texts I had read recently. I quickly came to the realization that most of what I read and used was nonfiction (news articles, professional journals, recipes, etc.) That’s when I first began thinking about my own classroom collection of books and how few nonfiction titles were available. But, at first, I didn’t think my students would really want to read nonfiction. I was convinced, as many educators are, that they preferred fiction and stories.

I conducted a small-scale action research study that proved my assumptions wrong. I had students in my class choosing nonfiction over fiction at the library every week. From then on, I took a more deliberate approach, and my own interest and love for nonfiction expanded. I met Melissa, was impressed by her work as a researcher and author, and the rest is history.

My hope is that other educators and librarians will use more nonfiction, from all 5 kinds, in their instruction and in their book collections.

Melissa and Marlene give us more insight with the second question:

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

MS & MC: Many educators have a natural love of stories and storytelling. They fill their classroom libraries with fiction and focus their literacy instruction on stories because they assume that kids feel the same way.

But as these charts show, many children think differently. They prefer expository nonfiction—writing that explains, describes, or informs in a straightforward way.

How can you transform these info-loving kids into passionate, motivated readers? Hand them an expository nonfiction book on a topic they find fascinating. Marlene created this terrific Book Match Survey to help teachers, librarians, and parents do just that.

To show students that your honor and respect all books and all reading, be sure to include all 5 kinds of nonfiction as well as fiction in literacy and content-area instruction. Read nonfiction aloud. Feature it in book talks, book clubs, and whole-school activities. 5 Kinds of Nonfiction provides tips, tools, and strategies to help you share and celebrate nonfiction with students.

In our final question, Melissa and Marlene give us a sense of direction:

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

MS: It’s so important to meet students where they are in terms of their natural reading preferences. Once they have a solid foundation, they’ll develop the confidence to stretch and grow and blossom as readers. They’ll begin to explore new topics, new formats, new writing styles, new genres. It’s exciting to support students on this journey.

MC: Nonfiction has the potential to deepen student learning, fuel their interests, and cultivate their curiosity about the world. All students can LOVE reading! It takes getting the right book, in the right hands at the right time.

Nonfiction on Display: Melissa Stewart Dishes on the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction

Thanks to Melissa and Marlene for sharing their thinking about 5 Kinds of Nonfiction. Check it out as you consider what kinds of texts you are reading. You may surprise yourself.

Spotlight on Nawal Qarooni Casiano – Our Collective Strength: Children As Curriculum

Read Nawal’s beautiful #31daysIBPOC piece HERE and revisit our chat Wakelet here

Written by Educator Spotlight Guest, Nawal Qarooni Casiano

If I close my eyes, I might picture us all sitting on the ground, kneeled or cross-legged, poised and ready with the materials needed to weave. 

Together, as a group of educators committed to children and supporting their success in the world, we include our contributions over the next hour, one by one in rapid fire online answers, all to generate a substantial whole. 

That whole might be considered here, in the Wakelet, and if you’re like me, you might imagine the result as a green and grey kilim, patterned and wonky with charm.

That’s how the #G2Great chat felt for me. I was honored to be asked and humbled to be highlighted. And I was thrilled that folks had another chance to read the piece I wrote for #31DaysIBPOC, an incredible blog initiative hosted by Dr. Kim Parker and Tricia Ebarvia in a May movement to feature voices of Indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. 

But perhaps more than anything, the experience of the chat reminded me of what I’ve always known- that strength lies in community. That each of our unique experiences and ideas affect one another. That we learn from those around us. And that this too, is true for our students and classrooms.

While I couldn’t keep up in live time with all the brilliant tweets that came through, I grabbed several I loved below. For example, I initially appreciated a pivot to thinking about caregivers and what they would want to learn and know about their students. I adored the idea of ensuring positives from the pandemic’s remote learning could be integrated into this year’s endeavors. And I wanted to underscore this little list about centering students and their identities while being flexible with how they share learning. 

And then, I lost myself in the phrasing of ‘raw materials’ here, where I thought yet again about students as the curriculum. It requires a shift in thinking – that educators are facilitators of student learning and growth – as opposed to the sole contributors of new knowledge. 

Halfway through the chat, we discussed names and identities. I have written widely about my experience with the whitewashing of my name, and appreciated so much this tweet about ensuring our brown students don’t solely ‘find themselves’ in adulthood, followed by another about asking unapologetically about name pronunciation despite potential embarrassment. 

I adored these responses about authenticity for the audiences of our work – not just due to a teacher assignment- and no single ‘right’ answer, which ultimately lead to spaces where students feel they can be truly free to make mistakes, learn, and grow.

And lastly, I felt incredible pride and excitement when all of our colleagues talked about encouraging translanguaging and including audio recording as part of the writing process to ensure accessibility, and the amazing gift of hearing the author’s voice. I loved the book recommendations, from En Comunidad and Rooted in Strength to Life, Literacy and the Pursuit of Happiness, from Octopus Stew to We Got This – all very important additions to my understanding of teaching and learning.

But what I felt more than anything by the end of the hour was a validation for what I already knew. Throughout this incredible chat with dozens of educators all across the country, this is what I confirmed:

We are stronger together. Our collectivism matters. We are what we are seeking. 

A FINAL WORD FROM MARY

August 26, 2021 was a very special day on our #G2Great chat since it was the initial launching of our Educator Spotlight with our first guest, Nawal Qarooni Casiano. I can’t think of a better person for a new beginning that we plan to continue in to the new year between author visits and varied topics. Anyone who has the great honor to know Nawal knows the passion, dedication and joy that she bring to all she does so it seemed fitting to celebrate her on our chat first. Nawal took over every aspect of our #G2Great chat including choosing a reference, writing questions that would guide the discussion, leading the chat, and writing the beautiful words that you read in this post.

Those of us who know Nawal also know that she is humble so while she included nine tweets from our chat, she did not include include any of her own beautiful responses to each of our questions. I’d like to take that role by including her tweets below.

Thank you Nawal for sharing your gifts with our #G2Great family.

LINKS

Culturally Nourishing read aloud list – family stories about food (while learning about other cultures too)

Names resource list (community building) 

Phenomenal Teaching PEBC podcast: Planning for Culturally Nourishing Learning

Jasmine Warga’s The Shape of Thunder is About Difficult, Beautiful Things

Catch my piece in #31DaysIBPOC, a project Celebrating Educator Voices of Indigenous, Black, and People of Color 

Recording, Revision, Repetition: Empowering Multilingual Writers

Reading Between the Brushstrokes: Cultivating Curious Thinkers Through Curious Conversations About Art, my piece in the Reading Recovery blog

(she | her | hers)

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