Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

The First Five: A Love Letter to Teachers by Patrick Harris II

Title slide from G2Great chat featuring The First Five

By: Brent Gilson

For a record of the chat please check out the wakelet archive here

I sit in the car for my 30-minute drive on the highway to my first teaching position. Part-time in a Grade 3 classroom. I was welcomed by the most incredible group of veteran teachers. Wonderfully kind ladies with 30+ years of experience each planning to teach until they couldn’t anymore. Walking in fresh out of University I had big ideas and plans. They wanted me to follow their binders. Teach with fidelity to the things they had always done. I opted to follow my heart. I remember the incredible things that little group of 8 year olds did. I remember as I sat and told them about my dear friend and mentor who had just lost her friend to a terrible tragedy. I remember these little faces tell me that we needed to do something. So we started the Familiar Stranger Initiative and the whole class ran around doing kind acts for others, including kids on the playground. We even wrote a picture book together. That first year and the years that followed shaped who I am now. No longer an elementary teacher but still reading picture books with my students, still in awe of the brilliance they display.

This week the #g2great chat was honored to welcome Patrick Harris II to lead us in a reflective discussion inspired by thoughts from his beautiful new book The First Five: A Love Letter to Teachers. As the chat opened we were inspired by Patrick’s own words.

Reflection is such an important piece of the work that we do. Teachers who joined the chat shared some of their reflections about the advice they might give new teachers based on their own experiences.

One theme that comes out of Patrick’s work is the importance of looking at students and teachers as people first. As the world of education seems to be pulled away from unique, autonomous work and towards conformity and standardization Patrick reminds us of the importance to resist this pull and the WHY that is so important.

As we continued to chat the idea of inspiration came up. Why did you become a teacher? Who acted as your inspiration? As teachers read The First Five I believe they will find inspiration for themselves. As Mary Howard states,

So many teachers shared their inspiration. Family members, neighbors, and teachers who impacted them.

Magic. I think as we all look at what we hope to do as teachers Patrick’s words above really encapsulate it. We hope to make Magic in a single room. For each of our students. The question though is how? How can we create that space? What do we need to do to ensure that the space we help create with our students is one of Magic?

One word. Trust. The key to unlocking change. Trust that folks are working for the best of students. Trust that we can ask for help and support and it will come. Trust in parents that they are doing the best they can. Trust in colleagues that they are doing the same. Trust that an offer to help is extended with sincerity.

The world of education is a bumpy one right now but all we need to push back the dark is a little light. Patrick’s words serve as more than just a little light. His humanity is all over this inspiring book. As many of us are starting our school year soon or already have it can seem pretty hopeless. Leaning into the support of our friends and colleagues. Trust each other and look for those willing to support. They are out there and some of them are writing beautiful books.

In closing with much thanks to Patrick, here are some of his words.

Developing Digital Detectives: Essential Lessons for Discerning Fact from Fiction in the “Fake News” Era

Cover Slide from #G2Great chat featuring book title, author names and chat details

By Brent Gilson

For the archive of the chat please visit the Wakelet here

From the Authors-What motivated them to explore this topic?

It’s not hyperbolic to say that we believe this is the most important work we can be doing right now. As we state in the introduction to our book, Until we get a handle on our own ability to determine what can and can’t be trusted in the information we consume, we stand very little chance of truly confronting the other problems we face as a species.

Without fail every day at the start of my grade 9 class a student will start the day with a “Mr. Gilson, did you hear about [insert topic] and I always ask them to fill me in. The majority of the time the information I get is partly true with a mix of misinformation, disinformation, and a sprinkling of alternative facts. I often times push back, I ask them where they heard this partly true thing. More often than not it is social media: some TikTok video or a snippet of Fox News or MSNBC that has been edited and crafted to tell a different story than the one intended. When I try to illustrate the gaps in information or the outright false information they are repeating, they are often skeptical of me. 

I don’t remember this problem growing up. We had newspapers and new programs with trusted anchors that were just there to give us the news. It seems as technology increases and attention spans decrease those responsible to get information to the masses have adopted the mindset of entertainment is better than education. This model has dire impact on our students and schools as students are faced with a sea of information. I think about the scene in Alan Gratz’s Refugee when Mahmoud discovers that the life jackets his family purchased were fakes. They looked alright but when needed could not keep someone from drowning. Without the proper support, our students will drown in this sea of information in the time of fake news, misdirection, and flat-out lies that fill our news cycles. Students need tools to navigate these seas and this week the G2Great team was so grateful to welcome Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins to discuss their work Developing Digital Detectives.

From the Authors- What do you hope are the BIG Takeaways for teachers to embrace after reading your book?

Technology has evolved at an exponential pace in the last few decades, but guess what hasn’t evolved very much at all in that time? The human brain. Mis-, Dis- and Mal- information are problems rooted in human behavior, which means the solutions to those problems can be found there, too!

As the chat began participants reflected on the importance of Information Literacy, the ability to discern the Mis- Dis- and Mal- information from the truth.

Question 1 from the chat Jennifer and Darren remind us: "In a landscape filled with misinformation, information literacy is more vital than ever.” Before we begin our #G2great chat tonight, respond to that statement.

Jennifer LaGarde response. Mentions how false information isn't just to misinform but divide us.
Chat response discussing the importance of teaching kids to evaluate information
Chat response highlighting the constant flow of information and how that information can be harmful.

As teachers reflected two pieces that stood out to me particularly were those of Christie Nold and Jennifer herself. The idea that so much of the book banning conversations are fuelled by this twisting of the truth and purposeful misrepresentation to cause fear is something I think needs more attention.

Chat response highlighting books banned based off misinformation.

Additionally Christie’s point regarding the use of misinformation as a recruiting tool. Praying on our youth as a means to further the hateful agenda of white supremacy. 

Chat response mentioning the dangers of recruitment of young people into white supremacy through misinformation.

Next, the chat covered strategies for how to deal with information that triggers an emotional response.

Image shows Question 2 for the chat. Asking how we deal with triggering information.
Chat response highlighting ways to help students process information that triggers them.
Image highlights another strategy in dealing with triggering information
Image highlights a strategy for dealing with triggering information
Image highlights a strategy for dealing with triggering information
Image highlights a strategy for dealing with triggering information

We might help students to look at the information presented to them with a lens of thoughtful reflection rather than jumping to the idea that we disagree and therefore it must not be true. To analyze things we need to take time. Too often even adults, when faced with something they disagree with, turn off their ability to process and just look for reasons it is wrong. This inability to really look at information makes it even more difficult to maneuver to find the truth. If adults struggle with it and have years of experience how can we expect our students to do so without support? 

One very common concern that often comes up in classrooms is the “dreaded” smartphone. Schools have policies that police how/when/if students can have phones out. Students, in my experience, need support in how to leverage their phones to be the tools for learning that they have the potential to be. While considerations like access need to be considered, when used well smartphones can be powerful learning tools. This year I had students making movies for projects with only their phones. Apps designed to be powerful learning tools are readily available if teachers simply put aside that need for control and help students see how useful our phones can be. 

These are troubling times when forces that mean to do harm have learned how to weaponize information and the internet to spread misinformation and hate. Our students are spending more and more time in these waters and without the proper education on how to discern fact from fiction we are putting kids in harm’s way.

Developing Digital Detectives provides us with the tools and language to help our students navigate these waters. We need to prioritize this instruction in our classrooms so that our students are prepared for the world at their fingertips. Literally.

The G2Great team is grateful to all who participated this week in the chat and especially to Jennifer and Darren for leading this discussion and sharing their expertise.

From the Authors- What do you hope teachers can take to heart after the chat?

News, Media and Information literacy can’t be treated as an “add on” or something we do during “advisory” periods when time allows. We must find ways to embed these skills across content areas and grade spans. Our kids, our communities, indeed our world, are depending on us to prioritize this work.


Developing Digital Detectives: Essential Lessons for Discerning Fact From Fiction in the “Fake News” Era by Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins

  • Our monthly  newsletter. It’s free and is organized into 5 sections: Explore (one resources to explore). Teach (one resource to each). Think (one resource to think about). Follow (one Information Literacy leader to follow). Bort’s Bonus: (something extra that we think people will find useful.
  • The Developing Digital Detectives study guide we created for people to use when reading our book as part of PLCs, etc. 
  • The Evidence Locker comes with a digital repository of well over a hundred resources, activities, etc. Our book is like a cookbook, with all the recipes, and the evidence locker is the pantry – with all the stuff you need to get cooking!

Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-8 Classroom

See 9/15/16 chat Wakelet HERE • See 6/30/22 chat Wakelet HERE

by Mary Howard

On 6/30/22, #G2Great engaged in a BLAST FROM THE PAST CHAT where we look back across our six plus year history so that we can revisit a previous chat with fresh eyes. Technology has played an increasingly prevalent educational role in recent years, so we chose a book with that in mind that we had initially spotlighted on 9/15/16; AMPLIFY: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-8 Classroom by Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke (2015, Heinemann).

Early in the chat, James Oloo made an observation about AMPLIFY and why it is still an important professional resource even seven years after publication.

While advances in technology have supported our instructional endeavors across the years, we have seen mixed technology results ranging along a spectrum of good, bad and ugly. As Katie and Kristin eloquently remind us in a book that highlights the very best of the “good” in that spectrum, technology should be designed to AMPLIFY what we are already doing in a way that is student-centered and will enhance and support our efforts. On the other hand, we have also seen a dramatic influx of products that turn technology into one-size-fits-all scripts that tether our children to a computer screen and usurp precious minutes that could be spent in far better ways. When marketing ploys for financial gain take priority over the needs of children and our responsibility to meet those needs in meaningful relevant ways, technology has taken a dark turn that is disconcerting. If you have ever wondered which end of the good, bad and ugly spectrum your school or you as a professional falls, please read this wonderful book. You will see technology possibilities along with pitfalls to avoid as you distinguish technology designed to AMPLIFY vs. to CONSTRICT.

Katie and Kristin make this important point in a quote we shared in our chat:

Their words should become a centerpiece that will guide our choices about the WHAT, WHEN, HOW and WHY of technology. Our educational goals of literacy, independence and critical thinking remain the same whether we use technology or not. If we relinquish these things, technology is not designed to AMPLIFY but to divert our attention away from what matters most. There is no end to the tools that are available to us, but this does not mean that all tools or the way that we view and use them are worthy of children. In other words, technology does not alter our central goals, underlying purpose and deepest innermost beliefs but rather brings those central goals, underlying purpose and deepest innermost beliefs to life in ways that honor the many instructional choices we make in a day whether technology is part of those choices or not. In my mind, this has been the tipping point for technology that is used in responsible and responsive ways and technology that dishonors the day-to-day instruction that occurs in our schools in the name of students.

These tweets from Judy Wallis and Jen&Hannah highlight this point:

Katie and Kristin further elaborate that day-to-day instruction in the name of students in their book, emphasizing that technology can be used to AMPLIFY the strategies that we are already using when technology is not used. There is an invisible thread that connects those strategies in either case.

“Using technology doesn’t mean that we throw out those strategies that we’ve found to be successful with students.”

This distinction was apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic as technology took a center stage presence in our teaching by necessity. For the first time in our history, online teaching was our only option as teachers everywhere had to pivot in an instant. Since many schools did not offer the support that teachers needed to learn and apply available tools, we began to see a range of technology support through free webinars, podcasts, sessions and a variety of books from respected authors in addition to Amplify: Read the World: Rethinking Literacy for Empathy and Action in a Digital Age by Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris (Heinemann, 2019), Connecting with Students Online: Strategies for Remote Teaching & Learningby Jennifer Serravallo (Heinemann 2020), and The Distance Learning Playbook: Teaching for Engagement and Impact in Any Setting by Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey (Corwin, 2020). Each of these books had the same message that technology is a tool that should be used to empower (or amplify) rather than diminish our teaching.

Technology can and should draw from the strategies and practices that we are already using. It’s not an either/or proposition of using technology or using the strategies when technology is not in use but using technology to merge and celebrate those same strategies and practices in meaningful ways.

We certainly learned this lesson during the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessity to pivot at a moments notice to technology-based teaching. Teachers quickly began to recognize that technology used in thoughtful ways did not require us to abandon what we held dear but did require us to highlight what was most essential in our face-to-face teaching and apply that to technology and the existing available tools that were plentiful. For many teachers, this was an important part of the learning curve, even in the midst of chaos. In many ways, it was a wakeup call to maintain our sights on research-based knowledge that guides our professional decision-making with or without technology.

Judy Wallis and Fran McVeigh share important points:

I’d like to end with this student-centered reminder from kindergarten teacher Mollie Nye. Regardless of the choices we make when it comes to technology, our children are the overarching guide for making those decisions based on their needs at that time. This is not about using technology for the sake of using technology but rather keeping our commitment to always remain steadfast in our belief that we have a responsibility to be responsive to students to the needs of students and keep tat at the center of all we do.

I’d like to reiterate Jame’s Oloo’s tweet I shared at the beginning of this post that AMPLIFY continues to be relevant still today. We are very grateful to Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke for inspiring us yet again with a second look at AMPLIFY.


AMPLIFY: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-8 Classroom by Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke (2015, Heinemann).

Read the World: Rethinking Literacy for Empathy and Action in a Digital Age by Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris (Heinemann)

A Guide for Amplify AND Read the World by Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris (Heinemann)

Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris Website: Read the World + Amplify

Radical Listening: Reading and Writing Conferences to Reach All Students

By Fran McVeigh

The Twitterverse was full of inspiration (wakelet archive) June 23rd when Dan Feigelson joined the #G2Great chat to discuss his new book, Radical Listening: Reading and Writing Conferences to Reach All Students. Much importance has been attached to conferences for both reading and writing, but yet it’s an area where many teachers feel unprepared and often anxious or even fearful of conferences. Perhaps these emotions come from personal experiences. Maybe they stem from a lack of knowledge. Or perhaps the anxiety is from a combination of a lack of conferences in their own reading and writing lives and in their own confidence of how to conduct and what to say in those conferences with students.

Let’s begin with fear for just a minute.

Fear: “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger” (Merriam Webster online dictionary)

Common fear responses in schools:

  1. Fight- argue against the importance, minimize the value, close the door and ignore
  2. Flight – leave the situation whether it’s the classroom, building or district
  3. Freeze-do only what one knows, often the minimum and hope no one notices

What do you think of when you hear the word conference? What’s your role? Are you the conferee or the person facilitating the conference? Does it matter?

If just hearing the word “conference” makes you fearful, anxious, or antsy, then you need to explore those feelings. Is it a fear of the unknown? A fear of being less than perfect? A fear of just doing/ or being less than your best?

What will reduce that fear? What will make conferences more “doable”?

In Radical Listening Dan proposes that the goal of reading and writing conferences is to help all students reach their full potential. Practical. Doable. Impactful. Equitable. Dan uses active listening as the focus in conferences where we listen to, learn from, and guide students. Conferences will make sense after reading this resource.

Let’s begin with the questions that the #G2Great team asks all authors.

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

In a conference I always try to convey that the child’s thinking is just as important as what the grownup has to say. I may be the one teaching a new skill or strategy, but I can’t do it without pinpointing what would be most meaningful for the individual student in front of me. With this in mind, I try to avoid too much paraphrasing, which can come off as correcting, i.e., the way you said it wasn’t clear enough, so I’m going to say it better. It’s a subtle difference, but naming what the child did – “So you are the sort of reader who really pays attention to how the author wants you to feel” –  is more empowering than restating and signals listening just as powerfully. 

Dan Feigelson email

Tip: The power of naming what the child says because paraphrasing can be seen as “correcting”

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

My hope is that teachers start to see their literacy instruction as two parallel streams. There’s the stuff you have to cover because you are teaching 2nd grade, or 5th, or 8th; the end-year expectations or standards for that age group. But at the same time, there are the things you’ll teach this year to these kids, who no commercial curriculum writer or education official ever met. Apart from the obvious importance of targeting instruction to the individual learner, this also send the message to kids that they can and should be owners of their own learning, and not feel it is something irrelevant which is being thrust upon them against their will. 

Dan Feigelson email

Tip: Two parallel streams with the “have to teach items” and “individual learner streams”

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

One message, which may feel counter intuitive, is that no matter how far behind a student may be as a reader or writer, it just plain doesn’t work to only ever address their weaknesses. If the subject of your 1:1 teaching interactions is always what the student does least well, she will begin to dread those conversations. We can usually address these things more effectively in partner or group situations, which feel supportive, like we’re-all-in-this-together. Confer to the strength, not the deficit.

The other message, from my heart, is that we should allow ourselves the time and space to be fascinated with the way our students think. It sends a powerful message to them, and just plain makes teaching more fun!  

Dan Feigelson email

Tips: 1) Confer to the strength and 2) be fascinated with student thinking

So, why this book? Why this book now?

Democracies of thought when student ideas, noticings, and experiences are honored. What are you honoring with your conferences? What is your intention?

Where do we start? What’s the beginning access point for conferences?

  1. Relationships – Conferences are a place to build relationships.

Conferences benefit the speaker and the listener with radical listening.

2. Listening for “the general in the specific”

Teach the writer not the piece of writing. Teach the reader not the piece being read. What can be taught that will transfer?

3. Use the reciprocity of reading like a writer and writing like a reader to inform conferences

Colleen Cruz’s books are another touchstone. Check out the post about Writers Read Better here.

4. Encourage children to go deeper in their thinking “in such a way that it sounds like an invitation rather than a criticism

Close readers may have noticed that part of that last slide was already in this post but it’s important to note that “paraphrasing can come off as correcting.” Pay close attention to the student’s responses to your few conference words.

5. Invite students to be active participants in their learning through conferences

Conferences need to be a partnership between readers or writers and Radical Listening can help provides some tracking ideas so that each student has the opportunity to maximize their own growth.

In conclusion, there’s no ONE way for conferences to go. Take a deep breath. Think about what makes conferences hard. Plan your structure. Explore your options. Prepare. The teaching in conference should build on previous instruction. Conferences are where your students will stretch and grow as long as you remember to reach the reader or writer – not “fixing” the current work or focus of the students. Radical listening is definitely a great resource for student conferences; it’s an even better resource for teacher learning.

Closing quote 6/23/2022 #g2great chat

Additional Resources

Radical Listening: Reading and Writing Conferences to Reach All Students (2022, School Library Journal)

Radical Listening: Reading and Writing Conference to Reach All Students by Dan Feigelson (2022, Scholastic)

 Reading Conferences, Listening, and Identity by Dan Feigelson (2022, Language Magazine)

 Lessons from the Pandemic: Making Time for Listening by Dan Feigelson (2022, International Schools Services/ISS)

 Reading Conferences Reimagined: Student-Driven Conferences to Deepen Critical Thinking by Dan Feigelson (2014, Heinemann)

Practical Punctuation: Lessons on Rule Making and Rule Breaking in Elementary Writing by Dan Feigelson (2008, Heinemann)

Teaching Readers (Not Reading): Moving Beyond Skills and Strategies to Reader-Focused Instruction

You can read our chat Wakelet artifact here:

by Mary Howard

On 6/16/22, #G2Great welcomed first time guest host, Dr. Peter Afflerbach as we explored his remarkable new book, Teaching Readers (Not Reading): Moving Beyond Skills and Strategies to Reader-Focused Instruction (2022, The Guilford Press). We knew that his message would inspire critical conversations, so we weren’t surprised when fast-paced twitter style discourse reached a fever pitch with the first question. With the all-too common push and pull in our schools positioning the Reading before the Reader, these conversations are needed more than ever, as reflected in a pre-chat quote:

Dr. Afflerbach repeated this issue in his book introduction and conclusion:

It is time to focus on all of the factors that influence reading development, to examine their power, to understand their relationships, and to realize their promise in nurturing accomplished and enthusiastic readers. It’s time for teaching readers.” (page 4 & 161)

Yes, it is time; in fact that time is long overdue. It’s time for us to widen our perspective and reposition our priorities from the READING to the READER to ensure that our readers do not get lost in the mix of curriculum mandates, standardized testing and a narrowed lens of “The Science of Reading” that suggests the flawed view that there is a single science that has all the answers. Peter Afflerbach shared his thoughts on this subject during our chat.

In his book, Teaching Readers (Not Reading) and generous sharing during our chat, he offers wisdom and research we need in order to understand and reverse the current focus from Reading to Reader. This book is needed more than ever as we are asked embrace the depth and breadth of all of the “sciences of reading” as reflected in this chat tweet.

In each of our #G2great book chats, we ask our guest authors to respond to three questions. We know that understanding the thinking and motivation that went into writing the book we are celebrating can offer insight that will support and extend our thinking at deeper levels. Let’s begin with the first question:

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

I wrote this book to push back on the idea that there is a single “science of reading.” Across my experiences with teaching readers, I’ve understood that reading strategies and skills are essential for our students’ reading success. I’ve also learned that strategies and skills are not all that our developing student readers need. They need motivation and engagement, self-efficacy, metacognition and self-regulation, healthy attributions and epistemic development. Each of these represents “science,” and each should be given full consideration as we teach readers.

I’ve taught and researched readers for over 40 years—my first position was as a K-6 reading specialist in a small rural school in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Since then, I’ve taught middle school remedial reading and high school English. I’ve directed 2 university reading clinics where practicing teachers are working toward Masters’ certification as reading specialists. And, for the past 3 decades, I researched reading comprehension strategies. I can certainly testify to the importance of strategy and skill, but I know that the thousands of children I’ve worked with need more than strategies and skills to become lifelong, successful readers.

From day one of my first year of teaching, I’ve been interested (and fascinated) by the complexity of factors that influence our students’ reading development and achievement. Our most accomplished teachers know these factors well, and make sure that instruction regularly addresses students’ need for metacognition, motivation and engagement, and self-efficacy. The research on the relationship between these factors and reading development is conclusive—they must be operating for children to reach their potential.

It’s in this era of learning more about the essential nature of metacognition, motivation and engagement, and self-efficacy that we must confront the idea that there is a single “science of reading,” and that effective strategy and skill instruction is all that our students need to thrive as readers. Remember that the research cited in the Report of the National Reading Panel is a quarter-century old, and that the NRP was constrained in terms of the research that was included. I’m a teacher, and I’m a scientist who has contributed to the strategy and skill literature. I like to think that most sciences continually evolves and that over the past 25 years we should expect to have new insights into reading, how it develops and how best to teach readers. There’s the rub—we know the power of these “other” factors, including motivation and engagement, metacognition and self-efficacy—but they are not regularly acknowledged by a majority of states and school districts, rarely acknowledged by the popular media, not included in most reading curricula and not evaluated by our high stakes assessments. A result is the vast, missed opportunity to further foster students’ reading development.  

In another tweet during our chat discussion, Peter Afflerbach sets the stage for drawing from all of the sciences that matters in teaching the reader beyond a mere skills and strategies perspective:

In his book, Peter Afflerbach details this relevant research by devoting an entire chapter to each of these “SCIENCES” of reading that have long taken a back seat in schools that preference a narrow view. Each research-proven chapter reflects the heart of those “sciences” and support our next step efforts:

Let’s pause to turn back to our Twitter chat discussion. We opened our chat with a question that focused on the title of the book, so I’d like share some of the amazing twitter responses, including three from Peter Afflerbach:

QUESTION 1: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

Before we begin our chat, Peter Afflerbach’s title is an invitation for a reflective pause. What do the words “Teaching Readers (Not Reading)” mean to you? What can schools do to support a collective shift in thinking?

Just imagine the benefits that could rise by posing this very question as we provide opportunities for them to engage in a discussion of the distinctions between these two viewpoints followed by a book study using Peter Afflerbach’s Teach Readers (Not Reading). Now imagine extending that discussion to what this looks like from each side with pictorial evidence shared by teachers on a visible display that represents an instructional shift to the Reader (Not Reading).

Now let’s look at Peter Afflerbach’s response to our second question:

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

A first, BIG hoped-for takeaway is for teachers to be affirmed in their views of students as complex people, with diverse combinations of characteristics—including but not limited to strategy and skill. A second takeaway is that our instruction should be broad-based, of course informed by research, and certainly not limited to the current and quite narrow conceptualization of the “science of reading.” There are “sciences of reading” (emphasis on the plural!) and we should consult these sciences when creating instruction and building classroom environments conducive to student growth. A third takeaway is that the details of how we promote motivation and engagement, how we teach and foster metacognition, and how we help build self-efficacy—a belief is self as a reader—are included in dedicated chapters within the book. A final takeaway is that there is the overriding demand for research-based reading instruction, so let’s make sure we consult all relevant research!

With the ”more complete portrait of the student as reader” in mind, I’d like to share some new thinking that we would need to consider before change is even possible. Since there’s no way to do justice to extensive detail Dr. Afflerbach has given us in his book, my goal here is simply to spotlight responsibility to this process as professionals. They key ideas are meant only as a starting point to a long-term process that includes a deep study of Teaching Readers (Not Reading):

• Begin by acknowledging the collective impact of these shifts in thinking

• Critically examine the existing resources that may be derailing our efforts

• Ensure that we preference teacher efficacy above programs that dictate

• Re-envision professional learning in place of professional development

• Support professional learning along the way through expert coaching

• Trust knowledgeable teachers who know the child as key decision-maker

• Take a good look at what our actions reflect that we value as informants

• See and know children through an individual vs one-size-fits all lens

• Support collegial discourse that will celebrate our children from all angles

• Push back a focus on THE science and widen our discussions to SCIENCES

Before I share my final thoughts, let’s look at Peter Afflerbach’s response to our third question:

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

Learning to read is hard for some students and easy for others. Regardless of the path a student takes to becoming a successful and independent reader, it’s so important to understand each of the factors that influence progress. Our understanding of these factors improves our instruction and supports our students. Reading strategies and skills are always essential for reading development and reading achievement. So too are metacognition, motivation and engagement and self-efficacy. 


Every person reading this post, our tweet artifact, and Peter Afflerbach’s book has long experienced the issues that are creating an environment where we are moved further from the READER and ever closer to the READING. Those who know the research and have made an investment in their ongoing professional learning know that our attention on Teaching the Reader (Not the Reading) is too often pushed into other directions. This is exacerbated by the pandemic fueled “Learning Loss Narrative” that has caused a narrowing of the literacy playing field and further motivated a preoccupation with raising test rather than raising readers. Couple this tragic perception gaining traction with our ongoing love affair with programs that promise speedy miracle cures and we find ourselves pushed further into a narrow field. With all of these forces at play, our Readers are taking a backseat in as the Reading remains front and center. As a result, a checklist of skills and strategies that can be dutifully checked off with pride are moving us closer to curriculum driven rather than reader-centered teaching.

We know what to do and Peter Afflerbach provides us with both the research and a pathway for reprioritizing our attention on all of the factors that will help us to focus on Teaching the Reader (Not Reading). This is not just about plugging these factors into a lockstep schedule. Rather it is about understanding how each of the “sciences” work in concert and in support of each others. This means that we must avoid viewing them in terms of a single “lesson” but what we do across the entire learning day in every aspect of the curriculum. But first we must loosen the ties that bind. As long as we continue to hold a death grip on programs and narrow prescribed curriculum that preferences a single science and ignore others that are critical to the success of our readers, we will continue to do a great disservice to the READERS who are depending on us.

We are so grateful to Dr. Peter Afflerbach for sharing his vast wisdom on our #G2Great chat. We know that his thinking will inspire much needed change.

The remaining Q2 to Q6 questions with Dr. Afflerback responses are below. His thinking here and in his book offer a guide that will support our change process.

QUESTION 2: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

Do you believe that current reading instruction reflects the breadth and depth of our knowledge of how students’ reading develops? What explains the phenomenon of understanding reading development broadly, but teaching reading narrowly?

QUESTION 3: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

From a developmental perspective, what else matters for student reading success besides strategies and skills?

QUESTION 4: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

Should the research influencing reading instruction be labeled the “science of reading” or the “sciences of reading?” Explain your response.

QUESTION 5: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

Describe the importance of motivation and engagement for student reader success. How do you ensure that motivation and engagement is a central feature of your instructional efforts?

QUESTION 6: Teaching Readers (not Reading)

Peter Afflerbach writes, “… our vision of students’ reading development and of the important outcomes of our reading instruction is constrained by what we look for. (p. 34) What varied student-centered understandings help you to broaden your vision?


Teaching Readers (Not Reading): Moving Beyond Skills and Strategies to Reader-Focused Instruction by Peter Afflerbach (2022 Guildford Press)

Understanding and Using Reading Assessment by Peter Afflerbach (ASCD 2017)

SESSION by Peter Afflerback The Sciences of Reading: Metacognition, Motivation & Engagement, and Self-Efficacy

Mary Howard Session Notes on the above webinar:

Mary Howard session notes; Fueling Curiosity with Peter Afflerbach, Linda Hoyt

Meaningful Reading Assessment: by Peter Afflerbach and Adria Klein (Benchmark

12/29/21 message from Peter Afflerbach about Teaching Readers (Not Reading)

Creating a Schoolwide Culture of Responsive Kidwatching

You can revisit our #G2great Wakelet Chat Artifact HERE

By Mary Howard

On 6/9/22 our #G2great chat focused on an ever-essential topic of discussion: Creating a Schoolwide Culture of Responsive Kidwatching. Our chat has often emphasized dialogue around formative assessment where kidwatching finds its home such as Re-Examining and Revising Our Thinking To Transform Our Practices: Formative Assessment on 5/6/21 and Formative Assessment and Maximizing Our Potential: Assessment that Informs on 10/11/18. We have discussed kidwatching in many chats, but this week it was the conversational chat star that was worthy of our central focus.

Since we intentionally merged the words RESPONSIVE and KIDWATCHING, let’s take closer look at the word “responsive.” To do this I’ll draw from Larry Ferlazzo’s wonderful interview with Regie Routman shortly after her incredible book was published: Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners (2018, Stenhouse)

Formative assessment is integral to responsive teaching-in-action, which depends on carefully observing, listening, and supporting students so that students remain engaged, inquisitive, and learn more. That is, in the act of teaching, based on our observations and students’ responses and actions–and in our reflections before and after–we modify, adjust, and revise our teaching to better meet students’ strengths, interests, and needs. Successfully integrating formative assessments into meaningful instruction is often what separates a teacher who struggles from one who can aptly handle any situation. Regie Routman

Responsive Kidwatching illustrates and celebrates the influential impact of professional decision-making and invites us to gather varied in-the-moment observations so that we may engage in “responsive teaching-in-action.” What we learn from students immersed in the learning process offers the informants that will support the choices we make on their behalf as we “modify, adjust, and revise our teaching to better meet students’ strengths, interests, and needs.”  In this way, we teach with a lens on students who are squarely at the center of our efforts and acknowledge our responsibility to address their unique needs in meaningful, purposeful and intentional ways. Without our commitment to remain “responsive” to students within the kidwatching process, it will be just one more empty educational term on the battlegrounds of failed efforts.

So, now let’s shift our focus on kidwatching with meaning, purpose and intent.

In each #G2Great chat, we craft six questions around our weekly topic that will guide our discussion. The focus of our six questions this week is shown above. Certainly, each discussion focus is important, but the three highlighted questions are critical entry points. Until we reach agreement about what we mean by kidwatching, have a strong sense of perspective about our role, and can verbalize our central purpose, we are doomed to dishonor the very heart of kidwatching from the onset and reduce it to yet another barely recognizable research-supported practice devoid of value.


Our first chat question will determine the very success or failure of kidwatching. How we understand and define kidwatching directly impacts how we approach and ultimately implement Responsive Kidwatching in a way that will reflect intent. What better way to do that than to draw from two experts on the topic, Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman who eloquently define Kidwatching in their influential book, Kidwatching: Documenting Children’s Literacy by (2002, Heinemann)

 The primary goal of kidwatching is to support and gain insight into children’s learning by

(1) intensely observing and documenting what they know and can do;

(2) documenting their ways of construction and expressing knowledge; and

(3) planning curriculum and instruction that are tailored to individual strengths and needs. (page x)

Responsive kidwatching is dependent upon all three of these features since they work in support of the kidwatching process. One cannot work in a vacuum as they are complementary. It’s worth emphasizing that we do not engage in kidwatching because it’s the hot topic of the day or required based on a district or program mandate but because we understand what it is and what it looks like in practice so deeply that we are compelled to make it an integral part of every learning day.

#G2Great Chat Twitter Responses to Question #1


To honor a strong commitment to kidwatching means putting it into action in the context of teaching and learning and for the purpose of enhancing the choices we make for the sake of student learning. Kidwatching isn’t what is merely scheduled into an obligatory blip on the radar screen of the week if we have time, but a process that we willingly find a place of honor for in each learning day.

When we are dedicated kidwatchers, we observe students while they engage as active participants in the learning process with a curious spirit that drives us to understand who those children are, how they learn and how their identity as a learner and human impacts that learning. This curiosity drives us to know and understand more through close observation, a process Carol Ann Tomlinson aptly refers to as “sleuthing” in So They May Soar: The Principles and Practices of Learner-Centered Classrooms (2021, ASCD)

Consistent, persistent moment-by-moment teacher watchfulness of students as they learn. (p. 150)

What kind of mindset brings this to bear? One of my favorite pages in Kidwatching by Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman is wisely positioned on the first page with a beautiful list of statement about what drives their kidwatching beliefs. Each statement begins with the words: I am the teacher who… Just imagine how we would merge our beliefs about the teaching/learning process and our beliefs about Kidwatching in this way. What would that look like? Why are we doing it? What beliefs drive those efforts? We wondered about that too and so we turned this wondering into the basis of our second question that our chat friends responded to eloquently :

#G2Great Chat Twitter Responses to Question #2

Just imagine what thinking we might not only uncover but discover from a collective perspective if we posed this question based on what each individual brings to the instructional process since kidwatching is an essential part of what we all can and should do:

I am the principal who…

I am the teacher who…

I am the coach who…

I am the support staff who…

I am the interventionist who…



One of my favorite descriptors about kidwatching is from Kenneth Goodman so we used his words in question 3:

“To REVALUE is to notice and build on what learners can do, and to help them value and reflect on the knowledge they have.” Kenneth Goodman

What I particularly love about Kenneth Goodman’s words is the emphasis on focusing on the strengths children bring to the learning process and making them privy to those strengths as a pathway to new learning. The process of REVALUE directly contrasts to the ever present “learning loss” narrative that asks us to focus our attention on what we purport that children are unable to do. In contrast, Goodman asks us to gaze through an appreciative lens to uncover what they are already doing to use that as a stepping stone to next step efforts.

When we capture those noticings, we elevate in the moment observations over time as a reference to support and extend new thinking. Putting kidwatching onto a concrete written tool of our choice allows us to hold on to what we heard, saw and think. This also allows us to look across days at collective noticings where patterns to emerge that impact our professional choices in actionable ways no just on a particular day but across days. This visible reference could also highlight whether what we are focusing our attention on REvaluing or DEvaluing what children bring to the learning experience. We knew that this question was an important part of our chat discussion and our chat friends did not disappoint.

#G2Great Chat Twitter Responses to Question #5


The practice of responsive kidwatching is more important than ever in an age where we find our schools and questionable publishers that cater to them hyper fixated on that “learning loss” narrative that is far removed from the spirit of kidwatching. Couple this with a never-ending obsession with standardized tests that label children in ways that lead to impersonal directives, and we find ourselves caught in the perfect ‘data storm’. Rigid curriculum and numerical-fueled assessments connected to them have slowly confiscated common sense and de-emphasized up close and personal professional observation as a key informant. Several principals have illustrated a common misconception to me that reflects how kidwatching has been reduced to an irrelevant sacrificial lamb by referring to any form of teacher observation as “opinion.” This ill-informed perspective is a blatant misconception rooted in other-focused directives that ignore the spirit of kidwatching and shamefully disregards the impact of our educators who are committed to research informed understandings.

Our children rely on teachers who bring knowledge to the teaching/learning table over blind faith in numbers without a face. And they rely on us to use RESPONSIVE KIDWATCHING to model our belief in all the wonderful thinking our childrem bring to the learning process. Dedicated kidwatchers believe that the on-the-spot actions of children in the course of each learning day tell us far more than any number on a spreadsheet ever could.

It’s time to make a collective re-commitment to kidwatching and ensure that it’s a visible feature in every classroom in every school. And so I want to close with a wonderful question that Janelle Henderson posed in her incredible post, Will the Real Data Please Stand UP:

Just imagine the collective commitment to kidwatching this would invite!


Kidwatching: Documenting Children’s Literacy by Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman (2002, Heinemann)

Kidwatching 2.0: Top 3 Moves for Real-time Assessment to Meet Every Student’s Needs by Julie Wright (Corwin)

Will the Real Data Please Stand UP by Janelle Henderson (Heinemann)

Maximizing Our Potential (part 5): Assessment that Informs by Mary Howard

Re-Examining and Revising Our Thinking To Transform Our Practices: Formative Assessment by Brent Gilson

Lifting Literacy

By Brent Gilson

For an archive of the chat check out the wakelet here

Last fall I was drawing in a school year filled with new challenges on top of working on grad school. It was interesting how I was learning about Successful Literacy Initiatives at the same time as we were embarking as a division on some new initiatives. The disconnect between what I was learning and what was been done caused an additional level of stress. So I spent more time researching and the consistent piece that always came up when looking for successful Literacy Initiatives was that they are student-focused, data-informed but not singular in focus and focused on teacher development and capacity. As we set out on the chat this week we looked at the topic of Literacy Initiatives and our experience with them, the successes and the failures, and where our focus needs to be.

Teachers discussed the positive and negative experiences that they have encountered with Literacy Initiatives. How they can go sideways when they do not follow student needs and when teachers, who are doing the work are left out of the process. Even more difficult when those making the decisions are not examining the full picture which we are seeing a resurgence of in the current SOR movements in some states leaving huge portions of reader development out of the picture. 

When we consider the most important people in the room, our students, we get a better focus on what needs to be done. The knee-jerk reactions from those outside the classroom who are imagining wide-scale problems that do not exist for the majority of students tend to do more harm to all readers by limiting teachers’ choices and thus the choice of our students. So what do we need?

So we discuss flexibility and that we need to start with our students, we need things in place to help ALL students achieve. What does that look like? How can we demonstrate that we are respecting all students while also addressing any shortfalls or areas of concern?

It seems so simple. To support our students we need to work with them in mind. To support our teachers we need to provide them with the knowledge to do the work. As Kasey states below

Building up the knowledge our teachers need to meet the challenges of today is an important piece of any successful literacy initiative. One size fits all intervention or PD will miss the mark in a high percentage of students and teachers. We (all of us in the education system) are unique so we have unique needs that need to be addressed with unique ideas whenever possible. Unfortunately, we too often fall for the snake-oil salesmen who sell the quick fixes to “save us time” when really it is smoke and mirrors dressed up as support.

As classroom teachers, we are often the last consulted and the first blamed when Literacy Initiatives fail. As we reflected on Thursday the answers seem pretty simple. Invest in kids, Invest in teachers. This does not mean there are no programs or assessments out there that will not support this work. It does mean however that we should not build our work around a program that ignores the expertise of teachers or the lived experience of our students.

Successful Literacy Initiatives should have a goal to support our students in all areas of literacy. This knowledge comes from working with our kids and building off the work of experts. This is not quick work. There are so many possibilities for what causes students to struggle in literacy work. We need time, knowledge, choice, flexibility, and most of all respect to find these answers.

Like Dr. Miah Daughtery states, “we teach reading for liberty.” The consequences of an illiterate population are catastrophic. Our students need to receive the support to find success. Successful Literacy Initiatives can be that support.

The Joy of Reading

By Brent Gilson

For an archive of the Twitter chat check out the wakelet here

A few years ago I walked into the doorway of a very crowded conference room in Houston Texas at NCTE. The room was full with teachers seated on the floor and a friend was sitting right at the front on the floor as there were no chairs left. Presenting were Kylene Beers and Teri Lesesne on a book and reading-related topic. I can’t remember the specifics but I do remember that both Kylene and Teri motioned me to come in and just sit in the space right in front of them. This was the only time I got to speak with Teri in person but luckily over the last few years I got to know her through social media and we shared some joyful conversations about books and reading. When Donalyn told me about this project she and Teri had started I knew it would be a beautiful tribute to readers and reading. As it turns out it has also become such a beautiful tribute to Teri who passed away this last year. 

The Joy of Reading is a beautiful book. Not just in the message but in its carefully crafted layout. Beautifully Donalyn and Teri have crafted a book that invites the reader in and makes the stay welcoming. As teachers of readers, we know that helping to cultivate that joy is one of our most important jobs. Through their wise words and experience, Donalyn and Teri provide the reader with guidance on how we can do this in our classrooms without neglecting the academic “rigor” that so many in leadership call for. 

Donalyn joined the #g2great chat this week to celebrate her friend Teri and their new book. As we got started the first question

As the chat continued we discussed our reading lives. It was eye-opening for me to see so many other teachers, and avid readers were feeling a bit lost in their reading lives. The pandemic continues to have an impact on all aspects of our lives. It is something I often consider with my students. How can I expect their reading lives to bounce back when mine is more of a rollercoaster at times?

I think the chat also showed us that we can and will find our way out of this reading apathy and so will our students. We just need to make more room for joy.

The question becomes, how do we get there? How do we rebound and bring back joy to the reading lives of our students? How do we do the same for ourselves? Teri and Donalyn provide a blueprint for this in The Joy of Reading. Commonsense suggestions to help our students find their joy and help teachers build an environment that cultivates it, a community.

As the chat neared its close we discussed how we could create that authentic reading community. One built on talk over tests. A community that relies on the readers in the room working together, celebrating each other, and sharing books. Too often teachers are stuck between this desire to build a community and the ridiculous things that we are forced to do to assess our students. I remember this summer while taking a grad course the professor talked about the way we find that balance. We don’t attach assessments to our independent joyful reading. We can save that for the instructional reading moments because they will be plentiful.

Students are assessed enough. They need some time to just breathe. To go on adventures through a wardrobe, discover magic in a new land, fight for justice, step into the lives of others, and see themselves reflected in the story. Our students need time to find the Joy of Reading as Teri and Donalyn remind us. It is there. We just need to nurture it. Watch it grow.

Donalyn and Teri have impacted the lives of so many readers and The Joy of Reading in the hands of teachers looking to make a difference will impact so many more. Teri Lesesne was a fierce advocate for reading and reading joy and her legacy will live on through all those working to bring Reading Joy to the classroom.

The #g2great team is so grateful that Donalyn could join us to chat about this wonderful work she and Teri brought to us all.


The Joy of Reading Audiobook read by Donalyn Miller (Heinemann, 2022) 

The Joy of Reading by Donalyn Miller and Teri Lesesne (Heinemann, 2022) Book order information with downloadable sample 

Leading Like a C.O.A.C.H: 5 Strategies for Supporting Teaching and Learning

5 St Transcript of All Tweets Here

By Fran McVeigh

ByOn Thursday, May 5th, 2022, the Twitterverse lit up during our chat with Matt Renwick about his new book, Leading Like a C.O.A.C.H.: 5 Strategies for Supporting Teaching and Learning. Matt’s first visit to #G2Great was in 2016 as a part of an Administrator Spotlight “Exploring Seven Big Ideas to Maximize School Wide Potential” here.

Matt’s interest in teaching, learning, and leading is well documented. This book review of Regie Routman’s Read, Write, Lead is one piece of his thinking that dates back to 2014.

That statement still holds true today in the ever changing landscape of social media and contentious discourse about the purpose of school, literacy and the cultures they represent.

Why does it matter who leads? Why do we need to think about different strategies for leading? These two recent tweets from Michael Fullan add depth to our thoughts about organizations and leadership.

Twitter 5/6/2022

What is a leader?

a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group. Music. a conductor or director, as of an orchestra, band …

Guiding head? Directing head? Conductor?

The nuances are vast. Many of us have experienced a variety of leader actions that have been affirming as well as actions at the opposite end of the spectrum that may have been less than supportive or varying midpoints.

Let’s begin with author question 1 and Matt Renwick’s own words.

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

A decade ago, I wrote a blog post titled: “Can a principal also be a coach?”

This was my second year as a head principal for an elementary school. I was finding it difficult to support instructional improvement through traditional evaluation and supervision alone. What else could I be doing to influence teaching and learning?

My previous experience as an athletic coach led me to explore instructional coaching as a viable approach within my leadership position.

Ten years later, I’ve seen the fruits of this labor in a variety of ways:

·   Teachers feeling more confident to take risks and try innovative practices.

·   More clarity around what we are trying to accomplish as a school and why it’s important.

·   Better conversations with and among faculty around our goals and efforts.

I wanted to write this book so other leaders have a set of strategies to apply in their own schools.

Matt Renwick

Who are the leaders in your building, district, community? And what characteristics do they have in common? Matt Renwick suggests that the acronym C.O.A.C.H encompasses their roles. Let’s start with this set of strategies and some tweets that are aligned.

Create confidence through trust

Organize around a priority

One. Priority.

Not 10.

Not 5.

Start with 1 priority!


Affirm promising practices

You will see promising practices while on learning walks.

Communicate feedback

Begin with strengths. Be posse

Help teachers become leaders and learners

Author question 2 adds more of Matt’s thinking about teacher takeaways.

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

Two takeaways:

·   Schools don’t need to be “fixed”.

·   Leaders should instead focus on their school’s inherent potential for sustainable success.

The first takeaway is a competing response to all the rhetoric we hear around schools as “failing” or “in need of improvement”. This is not helpful language. Students, teachers, and communities hear this and may start to believe it.

To counter this, I encourage leaders at every level to take a step back and first ask, “What’s going well?”

This appreciative lens should reveal a variety of strengths, for example:

·   Classrooms with lots of books for independent reading,

·   All students knowing at least one trusting adult who cares for them, and

·   Opportunities to interact with peers with different backgrounds, beliefs, and interests.

The very structure of school – surrounded by books and friends, and supported by caring adults – makes it an amazing place on its own. Let’s start there and build upon it.

Matt Renwick

And the final author question …

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

Celebration is at the heart of learning, for both students and educators.

This is about more than just acknowledging success as learners. It’s important to recognize people’s efforts to improve. These milestones serve as waypoints on our collective journey to schoolwide excellence.

For teachers, you can do this every day with your students and many do.

What I am asking pg principals and other positional leaders in my book is to get into classrooms regularly and first affirm what teachers are doing well. These visits are called “instructional walks”, a practice first developed by Regie Routman in her book Read, Write, Lead. Leaders can engage in instructional walks by simply noticing and naming the instruction happening in classrooms, handwriting observations, sharing these notes with the teacher, and then engaging in a brief conversation about their practice. Instructional walks are strengths-oriented and the surest pathway to influencing instruction.

Essentially, I am trying to operate as a principal in classrooms how I would want my leader to be if I were still teaching: recognizing my important work while facilitating authentic conversations about how we might improve both individually and collectively as a school.

Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an expert on leadership from both a teacher stance and a building principal stance. His study, his reflection, his continued deep focus on teaching and learning and coaching provides the credibility for C.O.A.C.H. as the five strategies that will be the most efficient and effective. Just think, you could get started on those 5 strategies NOW ( as a teacher or administrator) and you would be miles ahead of your current thinking (and actions) by the start of the next school year!


Be curious!

  • – – – – – – – – – – – –

Additional Resources:

Matt’s website link

Books link

Newsletters link

SLOW CHAT: Professional Reflection as a Stepping Stone to Decision-Making

4/28/22 Wakelet SLOW CHAT HERE • 10/14/21 Wakelet SLOW CHAT HERE

by Mary Howard

On 4/28/22, #G2Great held our second SLOW CHAT in our six + year history. Our first one was on 10/14/21 as we explored Fueled by Collective Curiosity and Collaborative Conversation. This week we took a closer look at an essential topic that is critical to the success of teachers and students and yet often takes a back seat to conversational priorities: Professional Reflection as a Stepping Stone to Decision-Making. The word ‘Stepping stone’ in our title is intentional since the professional change is not a map carved in stone but directional possibilities.


We launched #G2Great weekly twitter chat on January 7, 2015 with 340 chats to date. If you’ve attended our chat, you well know that when the clock strikes 8:30 EST, after welcoming hellos the twitter flood gates are opened. A fast-paced conversational playground ensues where tweets literally flash into view at warp speed as reading and responding to questions occurs simultaneously with reading and responding to comments. Even after six+ years doing this chat, your co-moderators know this is an impossible feat. For that reason every tweet in every chat from start to finish is lovingly housed in your honor here:

A SLOW CHAT slows down the frenzied pace by shifting from six questions over an hour answered in real time to three to five questions across the entire day answered in a leisurely timeframe. Since people come and go, this is less of an in-the-moment live conversation than a conversation that happens over time the course of one or more days.


It’s hard to understand what reflection is, until we acknowledge what reflection IS NOT since there has long been an educational push and pull in most things that are valuable in our teaching. Exploring the downside of reflection ensures the likelihood that we will adjust those missteps and ground our conversations around reflection from a positive stance.

What Reflection IS NOT

In education we have a near obsessive professional penchant for taking powerful concepts we throw into a blender so that we can keep only those parts that will be cheapest, easiest, fastest and of course, least effective to apply. We often take that obsession a step further by ‘programizing’ bits and pieces into a box that dictates the HOW TO in a simplified way. In other words, we take a good idea in theory and morph it into a barely recognizable act of DOING in practice as we ignore the very THINKING that is paramount to the reflection process. Thus, we reduce Reflection into a singular act rather than the multi-layered process intended. The powers that be then pat themselves on the back for adding reflection to a so-called list of accomplishments and delude teachers into embracing the shallow heartless remnants of the original by dictating the HOW WHEN WHERE (and shaky version of the underlying WHY, often force-feeding teachers fill-in-the-blank mandated forms as justification.

We would expect that every professional is familiar with the word “reflection” after all these years, but the question then becomes how it is being defined. I find that reflection has become less of a topic of discussion in schools since it’s not a new concept which often means that the depth of understanding that allows us to embrace it as a practice that lives and breathes in every learning day is often missing. The heartbeat of reflection rises from teaching and learning interactions that occur where real children reside, so let’s turn our attention to explore the flip side of this discussion:

What Reflection IS

Reflection is not the one-dimensional process that I described above, but rather a process of layers of practice that work in concert. When I think of reflection supported by research, I think of a multi-dimensional process that include five big ideas:

Notice that I used the same color, size and font for the words Inspiration and Transformation. This was intentional since I see these as bookends of a process where inspiration is our initial curiosity-inspired desire to know more and Transformation is the ultimate goal, or the action that represents the changes that we have made through our next step choices. The other four words support those moves through Observation (looking at our own instructional moves and the impact that it has on our children), retrospection (looking back in time to take a closer look at our teaching), Introspection (turning that thinking inward so that we can contemplate any adjustments that are needed) and Exploration (contemplating new thinking we can apply in the company of children).

The record keeping that rises from this process is essential as it leaves a paper trail of our thinking so that we can begin to notice professional patterns. I also see this process of capturing our thinking in a concrete way as motivators that can invite us to initiate action research where we record these shifts in practice over time to assess and analyze how it is (or is not) having long term impact on children. For me the power of reflection comes when we find ourselves in the cusp of NOT KNOWING and approach that with a deep desire to understand how we can use the unknown as a springboard to professional adjustments we make in the name of children.

Through reflection we can view our day-to-day choices with a sharper lens as we look inward to analyze the impact those choices have on the recipients of our efforts – our children. Knowing that what we do and say each day reflects our underlying beliefs in action that may or may not reflect our intent, we understand that our best teaching comes from taking a closer look at those choices. We acknowledge that the messy and imperfect reality of teaching and learning invites us to make and modify our choices as they unfold. When we use our belief fueled actions to gaze into a reflective mirror, we are afforded a rich opportunity not only to hold ourselves accountable but to use WHAT IS to envision WHAT COULD BE.

I like the unique slant that John C. Maxwell puts on the reflective process:

“Reflective thinking is like the crock pot of the mind. It encourages your thoughts to simmer until they’re done.”

Allowing our thoughts to simmer gives us time to linger in our thinking after the fact, although I would argue that thinking that rises from this lingering is never “done” but rather reflects a professionally perpetual change process. Day after day and year after year, we use what we learn from our reflections in our current teaching to fine tune and elevate our future efforts. And we do this not only for ourselves but for our children.

We are very lucky to have wonderful educators who have joined our chat discussions over the years, so before I slow this post down to its essence, let’s take a look at the tweets shared in the course of our SLOW CHAT:


And so, just as I did in our first SLOW CHAT, I’ll close with a SLOW BLOG by sharing five twitter takeaways from our reflection chat that captivated my professional heart.


  1. Reflection is a central feature of our professional practices but it requires that teachers possess a depth of understanding about the research support for this process to implement it effectively.
  2. Reflection is a multi-dimensional process that allows us to use our professional decision-making and students engaged in learning as a pathway to explore new understandings and apply that where it matters most.
  3. Reflection can take place in a wide range of ways but to be effective it must be an ongoing practice rather than a one-shot effort so that it becomes a part of the very fiber of how schools enhance our daily instruction.
  4. Reflection can occur in a wide range of ways but there is power in having other sets of eyes that comes alive when we collaborate with colleagues such as peer observation or video taping a lesson for discussion.
  5. Reflection can inspire us to initiate action research in order to use this process to document the impact on learning over time and analyze that for the sake of making far reaching changes in our teaching for years to come.


In a question shared during the chat, we included a powerful quote from Debbie Miller shown in the slide above that is a perfect closing point:

“No one has a patent on the truth. Find yours.”

As Debbie Miller said so eloquently, reflection allows us to position our own teaching as a pathway for internal truth seeking. This seems like a particularly relevant point that is particularly crucial as schools are seeking to mandate instructional compliance and there are growing groups that are forcing their own unsubstantiated truths upon the educational world. Add to that the never ending standardized testing that provides a numerical form of flawed truth that is equally unsubstantiated and we have a professional storm brewing as teacher empowerment is under attack. Teachers are understandably confused by these mixed messages that ask us to be compliant disseminators who blindly follow the lead of others. Teachers who are knowledgeable are rightfully resisting that push and pull between what we are obligated to do and what we know to do. They want desperately to hold tight to a decision-making role that is inherent in highly effective teaching. Reflection affords us a way to turn our teaching inward and gaze from new eyes based on our children and then use this to literally transform the day to day choices we make on their behalf…

And that my friends, is the best form of truth seeking I know.