Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners

See the 1/11/18 chat HERE • See the 10/20/22 chat HERE

Written by Mary Howard

On 10/20/22, we had the great pleasure to welcome Regie Routman back to our #G2great chat for a renewed look at her incredible book, Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners (2018, Stenhouse). We first celebrated Regie Routman and Literacy Essentials on a #G2great chat 1/11/18.

It was a conscious choice to honor Literacy Essentials a second time. At the start of 2022, our chat team added a BLAST FROM THE PAST feature. We’ve held weekly chats since 1/18/15 with year eight coming January 2023. As of writing this post, we’ve supported 351 chats with many professional books. In an educational publishing industry in a constant flow of new books, we know that some are still desperately needed regardless of publication date. Our goal is to put important books back on the radar screen to for teachers who missed it when it was published. When we select a book for BLAST FROM THE PAST, we modify quotes and questions so that even teachers who attended the first time can see the book through fresh eyes and renewed perspective while bringing new research supported understandings they gained since it was published.

One quote we shared in both chats speaks volumes about the very heart and soul of Literacy Essentials and why nearly five years after its publication, it remains at the top of my list of MUST-READ books:

From the publication of her first book, Transitions: From Literature to Literacy in 1988 to Literacy Essentials, Regie Routman’s deep belief in teaching with a sense of urgency and her unwavering respect for how we expend precious minutes has been a central belief in all of her inspired work. Regie writes these words about teaching with a ‘sense of urgency’ in Literacy Essentials:

“Teaching with a sense of urgency means focusing relentlessly on what’s most important throughout every single day, moving at an efficient and effective steady pace, seizing problems and failure as opportunities for growth, and changing course as needed.” Page 55

Regie brings this spirit to life by highlighting three Literacy Essentials including: Engagement, Excellence, Equity. Across the pages of Literacy Essentials, she consistently honors a sense of urgency with every possible detail in repeated sections including, Take Action with ideas for moving forward; Efficiency Tips to fine tune our efforts, and a mesmerizing real-life personal Story at the end of each chapter that inspires and informs our professional lives. (Note: Be sure to check out the links at the bottom. The first two I shared offer free resources for Literacy Essentials. I also suggest perusing the Stenhouse June/July 2019 Literacy Essentials Book Study in an amazing conversation with resources, references and comments from Regie Routman.

Let’s pause for a moment to hear from Regie Routman and her heartwarming response to a question we posed about Literacy Essentials:

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

These are tough and traumatic times to be teaching, although that has always been true to some extent. What’s most important, I believe, is to lead with empathy and a compassionate heart, to collaborate with colleagues because this job is too complex to do by ourselves, and to be responsive to our students’ strengths, interests, and needs. Think about focusing on these 3 R’s first: relationships, relevance, and resilience–and establishing a classroom and school culture of inclusion, respect, and conversations that matter.

Through prioritizing high expectations, meaningful content, and wide choice in the texts students read and write, we can still bring joy to teaching and learning. None of this is easy, but my hope is that reading and discussing Literacy Essentials will make your teaching/learning/living life more satisfying, engaging, excellent, and equitable for you and your students. Use the detailed Table of Contents with sections to decide where to begin or dig in. I am by your side as fellow learner and teacher. Remember this: you can only do the best you can, and that has to be enough. Uplifting even one life is a huge accomplishment. For that learner, it can be lifechanging. Go easy on yourself, take deep breaths, and savor some moments in the day just for you. 

When Regie was on #G2Great on January 11, 2018, I had the great honor to write our post that can be accessed here. Since my focus in that post was on the book, in the remainder of this post I’d like to highlight learning shared on our twitter chat discussion to extend and support my initial blog post and Literacy Essentials

A great place to begin is with Regie Routman’s responses to our #G2Great questions. I’ve included the question followed by her thoughtful response/s:

Q1 Before we begin, let’s reflect on Regie’s challenge to approach our teaching with a “sense of urgency and relentless pursuit of excellence.” How do you make this a daily priority, regardless of roadblocks that may stand in your path?

Q2 In her book, Regie draws our attention to three areas that reflect Literacy Essentials for all learners: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity.Why are these essentials more important than ever?

Q3 Regie has long championed the reading-writing connection. How can the reciprocal role of reading and writing elevate our teaching? What is one way that you celebrate this mutual relationship in practice?

Q4 Regie reminds us that the end goal of teaching reading is to help students ‘BE READERS’ and she emphasizes free choice independent reading as our #1 priority. How do you bring this priority to life within each teaching day?

Q5 Regie writes, “Equity means we provide all students equal access to an excellent education— that is, we ensure they receive what they need and desire to reach their full potential.” How are you making this vision a reality? 

Q6 Regie asks us to focus on “responsible assessment” including formative and self-assessment to ensure that instruction addresses the specific learning needs of children. What are YOUR responsible assessment essentials?

We are very fortunate to have an incredible group of educators who join our weekly chat discussions. These amazing educators added an additional level of thinking for our Literacy Essentials discussion:



I’d like to reach back to 2018, the year that Literacy Essentials was published and Regie joined our #G2Great chat for the first time. On August 18, 2018, Regie shared this wonderful tweet that I’ve referred to on many occasions since it speaks volumes about central messages that appear across Literacy Essentials.

One of the beautiful things about having such an important book on our #G2Great chat twice is that it allows us not only to bring Literacy Essentials back into public attention, but also gives us two conversational references that invited old friends and new into the conversation over time in a collective merging of understanding ranging from 2018 to 2022.

Books like Literacy Essentials need to be on a shelf of honored books within easy reach, referenced so often that the pages are dog-eared with highlighting and pencil jots from cover to cover. I’m a long-time advocate for re-reading one or two books each year that spoke to me in the past. That is the intent of our Blast from the Past chat and I can’t think of a better book to reach for virtually or face-to-face.  

In her introduction, Regie writes a “Letter to my colleagues” and she poses a question that is pertinent to all of us, especially in such a challenging time in our history:

“How do we rise to the challenge of providing an engaging, excellent, equitable education for all learners—including those from high-poverty, underserved schools? In spite of all the obstacles we face—politically, professionally, personally—we teachers matter more than ever.” Page 1

There is no doubt in my mind that the answer to that question is to read Literacy Essentials from cover to cover, refer to it often and keep it lovingly perched on a shelf of honor for easy access.

On a very personal note, I would like to express my deep gratitude to Regie Routman; for long-time dedication to this profession, teachers everywhere who put her words into action and the children who are at the center of all she does. I will forever hold dear your message and I’m so honored to call you dear friend. With much love and deep appreciation!



Literacy Essentials at (includes book excerpts from each of the 3 sections of the book, a video walk-through of the whole book, a Study Guide, and several podcasts; one “podcast” and Stories, personal and professional, that are woven throughout the book. (Highly recommended) 

Literacy Essentials Stenhouse website (more free resources including hundreds of professional articles and some videos, all related to the book’s content, that are hyperlinked for reading, viewing, and downloading for study and discussion. There is also a comprehensive, extensive lesson plan and downloadable samples of class authored books.

#G2Great chat with Regie Routman on 1/11/18 for Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence and Equity

#G2Great Wakelet artifact from our 1/11/18 #g2great chat with Regie Routman   

ORDER HERE: Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners (2018, Stenhouse)

Literacy Essentials Stenhouse Literacy Essentials Book Study (June/July 2019)

A generous list of Podcasts compiled by Regie Routman

Three-part podcast with Jacob Chastain: Equity with Regie Routman

‘Roaming Around the Known’ with an Adult Learner by Regie Routman

Regie Routman on What’s Essential Right Now in Education with Matt Renwick

Open Windows, Open Minds: Developing Antiracist, Pro-Human Students

A reflection by Brent Gilson #G2Great Co-moderator

This week the #G2Great chat was honored to have Afrika Afeni Mills join us to discuss ideas from her beautiful book Open Windows, Open Minds: Developing Antiracist, Pro-human Students. As I have the opportunity to reflect and share this week I wanted to start with her words.

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

In a previous role, I was the Curriculum and Instruction Director for an organization called Discovering Justice where I had the opportunity to revise the Children Discovering Justice curriculum, and to facilitate professional learning experiences for teachers in the Greater Boston area based on that curriculum. These learning experiences provided participants with opportunities to engage in conversations about race and U.S. history, and in that work, I noticed that while teachers enjoyed the learning experiences, they didn’t have opportunities to engage in this learning in an ongoing way, and that resonated with my experience as a pre-service and in-service teacher. 

From 2015 until earlier this year, I worked with a company called BetterLesson where I served as an Instructional Coach, Senior Manager of Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning, and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I was also able to connect with educators around the country through keynote, workshop and master class opportunities at conferences with my good friend and colleague Monica Washington (2014 Texas State Teacher of the Year). In that work, we noticed the same thing. 

In 2019, I published a piece on the Teaching While White blog titled A Letter to White Teachers of My Black Children. That post went viral, and the response told me that this was a topic that educators wanted to explore further. While the focus on Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning is vital, I noticed that there weren’t as many resources to support teachers who were working with students who identify as White to become antiracist and pro-human. 

My hope, especially in our current polarized climate, is that educators will see that we need to engage in our own racial healing, awakening, and development in order to be equipped to offer our students the learning experiences they both need and deserve.

Reading through Afrika’s thoughts above I am struck by her hopes at the end. For educators to take the time for their own racial healing, awakening, and development in order to be better equipped to serve our students in the ways they need and deserve.

I spend a lot of time reflecting on race and the world my students will be heading out into. I have written about this a lot before but in my own experiences, we do not have much diversity regarding race in our area. During the chat, I have the opportunity to reflect on my own childhood and questions about my own experiences with race. I grew up in a setting much like my students. The bulk of my ideas around race came from pop culture. I did not attend school with a Black student until Junior High. Largely my community was white. My first intern teaching experience in a “real city” was eye-opening. Different cultures, identities, and personalities. It was a wonderful and rich learning opportunity. This could not have been more starkly contrasted by my first job in rural southern Alberta. I remember doing Pen Pals with my old school and kids making faces as they read names they had never encountered or learned about traditions and customs different from their own. I knew in those moments it was important to help my students in these communities see the world outside their experience for the beauty there is.

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

The concept of windows and mirrors as introduced by Emily Style and further developed by Rudine Sims Bishop, is an important one for educators. All students deserve learning communities and experiences where their identities are accurately reflected back to them in the content, and ways of being that are implemented in the pedagogy (mirrors). Students also deserve the opportunity to gaze beyond the familiar to learn about identities and experiences that differ from their own (windows). This is how we create and sustain a truly whole and healthy society. Unfortunately, students of color experience far too many windows, and far too few, and often inaccurate mirrors, and White students experience far too few windows, and often distorted mirrors. 

As the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) inventories in 2012, 2015, 2018, and 2020 show us, there is far more representation of White characters than there are of People of Color in children’s books. Even the representation of animals far exceeds the representation of People of Color, which, by the way, is one of the things that makes current book banning efforts and legislation so absurd. The same folks who are pushing against what they’re calling “indoctrination,” “divisive concepts,” “anti-American” books and content don’t seem to realize that they’re supporting what they say they’re against. As educators, we have the ability, opportunity, and in my estimation, moral imperative to provide students with accurate, healthy, windows and mirrors. 

I always love the opportunity to write the weekly reflection when it is my turn and this week is no exception. I try to help my students with the idea of windows in the books we read as a way for them to see beyond themselves. Sometimes they remind me that they could use some mirrors too (if you have any rural white kids who love hockey, hunting, and ripping around on mopeds let me know…maybe I need to write it). We spend time discussing windows and the importance of learning about the world. We also spend time talking about the quality of the windows and mirrors. I was writing a paper for University this summer and focused on Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s work and Graphic Novel representation of indigenous characters. I wrote about how often the mirrors present were more like funhouse distortions. I wonder how often as educators we present students with distorted funhouse mirrors and cracked or broken windows. As Dr. Kim Parker has often mentioned we need books that focus on joy instead of only sharing trauma. We need quality mirrors and windows to not only support our students but also ourselves.

I love this quote from Afrika. It isn’t easy. It is the work of community.

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

You are not alone in this journey. There are many of us who have been, are now, and will be engaging in this important work, and we are here to support one another. There are an increasing number of resources to inform your journey as well as learning communities to fortify you along the way. This work isn’t easy, but as we teach our students, with support and effort, you can do challenging things. As the attack on the capitol on January 6th and racially motivated mass shootings have taught us, there’s far too much at risk if we don’t.

The light of TRUTH…Rebuilding something Better.

The #G2Great team is so grateful to Afrika Afeni Mills for taking the time to share her words and lead our chat this week. We hope everyone will take the time to better learn about themselves so they can best serve their students. If you are looking for more of Afrika’s work and you should there are links below.


Open Windows, Open Minds Newsletter


Facebook: Open Windows, Open Minds

Instagram: Open Windows, Open Minds

LinkedIn: Afrika Afeni Mills

Twitter: @AfeniMills

Blog Posts:

Five to Thrive: Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Middle & High School ELA

Wakelet artifact consisting of all #G2Great tweets here.

By Fran McVeigh

The three authors of Five to Thrive: Answers to Your Biggest Questions about Teaching Middle and High School ELA who joined #G2Great on Thursday, October 6th are noted for their ELA knowledge. Matthew Johnson had not previously been here as an author, but his collaborators Matthew R. Kay Not Light, But FIRE: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom, and Dave Stuart Jr. these 6 things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most are familiar to many #G2Great followers. If they aren’t typically on your ELA radar, you need to elevate them now!

Also, note that two additional titles in this Corwin Press “Five to Thrive” series were represented on #G2Great previously. Christina Nosek with Answers to Your Biggest Questions about Teaching Elementary Reading and Melanie Meehan’s Answers to Your Biggest Questions about Teaching Elementary Writing. All of the titles are worthy of your attention!

Because this was part of the series, I am beginning with the authors’ responses to the questions which explain my interest in this book for the #G2Great chat.

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

The last couple years have been really rough for educators. This has led to a large number of new teachers entering the profession due to retirements and led to many teachers feeling exhausted, overextended, and burnt out. We wanted to write this book–which is about what works in the classes of three teachers in three very different locations (rural, suburban, and urban), and schools (small, medium, and large)–to help both those new teachers and those seeking to be new to focus on the areas that matter the most and can help them towards better, more equitable, and more sustainable teaching .  

Email 9/28/2022
What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

Arguably the biggest takeaway is that community is not a second-tier concern to be focused on once the real work is done. The pandemic helped to show us that building strong and positive classroom communities is essential work that we need to thoughtfully and purposefully engage in daily. Other themes that bubbled up were the importance of constantly listening to and consulting the students in an effort to build a true partnership, the importance of finding community as educators to keep our own lights burning bright, and the importance of revisiting and reflecting on important ideas/skills/topics again and again and again while designing instruction.

Email 9/28/2022
What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?   

Few resources are as precious as teacher time or student voices. We need to treat each with the respect that they deserve!

Email 9/28/2022

Key points deal with respect for teachers and the:

Value of community

Value of teacher time

Value of student voices

These key points are exemplified in the quotes and the responses in the chat. (The slides from the chat that include pretweets or quotes during the chat are in gray boxes separate from actual tweets that remain white like Dave Stuart’s below as I play with different format options in this post.)

Value of Community

“What we’re after is the active construction of class cultures that are courageous, curious, and collaborative; social places where students listen to each other, finding themselves both pushed and secure, challenged and inspired. We want a classroom where students measure their strengths and successes based on their own growth.” 

“…it is important to acknowledge that we should consider community building as the work of our curriculum choices and pedagogical moves throughout the entire school year.True community is not built with a couple of initial exercises. (p. 6

Value of Teacher Time

“We authors still believe that teaching is the best job in the world, but we get it when we hear yet another colleague say, I can’t keep doing this.” “On default settings, the secondary ELA teacher’s job isn’t sustainable.” (p. 116)

“What makes feedback effective isn’t how many words the teacher writes in the margins. What makes feedback effective is how much the student reads, understands, and ultimately learns from it.” (p 61)

What do we know now?

Value of Student Voices

“Listening authentically is effortful, after all. It takes significant bandwidth for students – and, frankly, their teachers – to tune out distractions and lock in on any speaker’s ideas for even the shortest amount of time.” (p. 13) 

And then what? So what? 

Perhaps you think this book is designed for beginning teachers. Perhaps you think it might fit into a secondary ELA methods course. Perhaps you think that a MS/HS ELA team could study this book together to build a more “common sense” approach to building a collaborative team. Perhaps an ELA teacher would hand it off to his/her administrator. Perhaps an administrator would hand this book off to a teacher new to the building.  All of these are possibilities.

If you embrace the idea of teacher stewardship in the classroom, you might consider these actions.

Volunteer to be a mentor.

Check in with a new teacher – new to your content, department, building, or district.

Pass this book on to an administrator who does not have an ELA teaching background.

Follow the authors on twitter, social media, or their blogs!

Study your classroom for its safety in sharing, connecting, listening and learning from each other. How will you nurture community for students and teachers? How will you nurture and protect time? How will you nurture your own continuous learning and reflection?

Additional Resources:
Matthew Johnson
Re-Write – Blog – Link
Essay of the Week – Link
Corwin Author Page – Link
Matthew R. Kay
Website – Link
Stenhouse Author Page – Link
Corwin Book Page – Link
Dave Stuart Jr.
Teaching Simplified – Blog – Link
Article of the Week – Link
Corwin Author Page – Link

The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library: Building a Collection That Inspires, Engages, and Challenges Readers

Take a look at our #G2Great chat Wakelet artifact HERE

On 9/29/22, we were privileged to welcome Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp back to #G2Great chat to discuss their incredible new book, The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library: Building a Collection That Inspires, Engages, and Challenges Readers (2022, Scholastic).  Donalyn and Colby also joined a past chat on 2/21/19 for Game Changer: Book Access for All Kids (2018, Scholastic) and more recently on 5/12/22, Donalyn supported a #G2Great discussion around her book co-authored with Teri S. Lesesne The Joy of Reading (2022, Heinemann)

Before I even finished the introduction of their remarkable book, I realized that I was happily holding a desperately needed educational gift in my hands. As I read their shared “HOPE” for The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library on page 13, I paused and nodded:

“We hope this book provides you with tools to look at your library through a different lens, curate it with students in mind, and tap its full potential throughout the year”. (p 13)

I’ve read many books about classroom libraries over the years, but I have never read a book that is more supportive, informative, and from the heart as this book that keeps the promise of “COMMONSENSE GUIDE” on every page. One needs only to look at the Table of Contents to see that Donalyn and Colby leave nothing to chance, offering every possible detail that educators will need. At a time when dictatorial mandates are at an all time high, Donalyn and Colby show us what a respectful flexible “guide” looks like with ample room for teachers to apply their wise advice in their classroom in honor of the students in front of them. It doesn’t read like a DO THIS but rather an invitation in the spirit of CONSIDER THIS. This elevates the role of professional as decision-maker.

This became very clear to me in the introduction on pages 6 to 13. We are given a front row seat in Colby’s classroom as we gain access to the in-the-head thinking that inspired his decision-making process. We are able to see how he addresses the challenges presented during the pandemic without ever losing sight of his deep commitment to getting books in the hands of every student. We listen in as Donalyn and Colby make us privy to the analysis, observation, thinking, planning and adjusting in the name of the readers in his classroom and then take that a step further as they look ahead to a new year. Their book reads as if we’re standing on the sidelines, intently listening in as they consider every possible informed option and then use their collection of information to craft a classroom library space that Colby’s students deserve. Every page is a reminder to keep students front and center in the course of decision-making.

Donalyn and Colby make this clear in a quote we shared before our chat began:

The tweet below that responds directly to this quote is a beautiful reminder

If you attended our #Great chat, then you know that the fast-paced discussion provided a treasure trove of thinking in celebration of The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library. Obviously, there is no possible substitution for the detail Donalyn and Colby give us in their book so we highly recommend that you check The Commonsense Guide out HERE. But for the rest of this post, I’d like to draw from the wonderful twitter style discourse that can support and extend the book. I’m going to share this TWITTER WISDOM in two parts, starting with Donalyn Miller and followed by some selected tweets from the many wonderful teachers who participated in our #G2Great chat. Although Colby was unable to attend due to prior commitments, he was definitely there in spirit.



And let’s not forget this reminder from Judy Wallis


In this post, my goal was simple and personal and leads back to my long-time belief in the critical role of volume, choice and exposure to books that reflect our children not just as readers but as humans. To this end, this post is a celebration of the gift of understanding that Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp so generously share with us through their book The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library. This book looms large in our responsibility to our children and we are grateful that we were able to extend and celebrate this gift through our #G2great experience.

For me, this is the tipping point and what makes “The Commonsense Guide” a must read. In the wise words of my dear friend, Heidi Mills: “HOPE is a verb.” Donalyn and Colby model the spirit of this message by writing a book that will generously offers us the actionable steps that will bring “BOOK HOPE” alive. From cover to cover it reads like an invitation to teachers to create a classroom library that keeps children at the center of a collaboration as we learn how to breathe new life into a space in honor of and with the input of our children to ensure that the classroom library will indeed become ‘the heart of the classroom’. As if the book couldn’t get any better, they wisely add sections with Colby’s Classroom and Commonsense Suggestions from guest authors across the book. There is no detail left unturned as they show us how to bring children and books together in such a beautiful and personalized way.

I’d like to close with the quote we shared at the end of our chat:

We would like to extend our deep appreciation to Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp, both for writing The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library and for sharing their gift with each of us in our #G2Great chat.

Suggestions from our #G2Great chat friends for ideas and finding books



Order The Commonsense Guide to Your Classroom Library: Building a Collection that Inspires, Engages, and Challenges Readers by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp (2022 Scholastic).

Order The Joy of Reading by Donalyn Miller and Teri Lesesne (Heinemann, 2021)

Book Whisperer

The Author Village

The Book Whisperer Facebook Page

Live Facebook Announcement from Donalyn and Colby

Revolutionary LOVE: Creating a Culturally Inclusive Literacy Classroom

By Brent Gilson

For an archive of the chat check out the wakelet here

I wanted to start this chat by pointing out the importance of creating classrooms that are culturally inclusive and more specifically that are safe spaces for Black and Brown students. In an education landscape that is steeped in whiteness and white supremacy, I think it is important to mention that I am still learning and currently work in an area that has a very small amount of students that are of the global majority. I think that makes this responsibility to create these loving spaces all the more important but I am also acknowledging that I am not an expert, just a teacher doing his best to learn and getting a chance to reflect on a beautiful chat.

I was thinking all week about how I might be able to talk about the importance of creating culturally inclusive literacy classrooms. How I could authentically share the message of the authors and the chat participants. Ultimately I settled on a bit of personal reflection and sharing the wisdom and love that permeated through our chat last Thursday.

As a teacher in a largely white area, I often try to utilize the brilliant scholarship of Black and Brown (mostly women) educators. Often times we see the same ideas repackaged, given a new paint job and a new edition, and sold as new ideas. This is not the case in the work of those I and so many others learn from.

In my own classroom the work of Black women scholars like Lorena Germán, Dr. Gholdy Muhammad-Jackson, Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul, and Dr. Kim Parker all weave through the work we do. The words of Dr. Muhammad-Jackson cover the actual walls as I try to help all of my students see the geniuses that they are. While their scholarship came about to create learning spaces to celebrate Black and Brown children and their culture and identity their work is also rich pedagogy that benefits all students. As the chat with the authors of Revolutionary Love moved forward the thought that this work would have the same kind of impact in any classroom. Creating classroom spaces that honour and respect student cultures, and that are anchored around love and joy are good for all students.

As the chat continued so much wisdom was shared

“Committed to making something of what they learn about their students. Revolutionary Love is not just a phrase it is an act. A way that we honour our students. We honor their identity—every piece of it—so that they know it is not only ok but lovingly expected that they show up as their complete self.

Heart to Heart Connections. This is it. Start there, the work becomes easier when our students know we care.

Students at the heart. Connections from the heart. Revolutionary Love. Honouring all aspects of our students.

The educational world is facing a series of storms. Book bannings, racial injustice, laws that target communities of colour, laws that target LGTBQ communities, and so many more issues. What we know however is through building communities with a foundation of love we can withstand the storm. Revolutionary Love provides us with the inspiration to do so.

I am grateful for this opportunity to reflect and to the authors for their work. If you are looking for a copy of your own you can pick it up here

Whispering in the Wind: A Guide to Deeper Reading and Writing Through Poetry

You can access our #G2Great Wakelet Artifact of this chat HERE

Written by guest blogger, Travis Crowder

On 9/15/22, we were honored that our good friend, Linda Rief, returned to our #G2Great guest host seat to discuss her incredible new book, Whispering in the Wind: A Guide to Deeper Reading and Writing Through Poetry (Heinemann, 2022) following a previous #G2Great chat on her book Read, Write, Teach: Choice and Challenge in the Reading Writing Workshop (Heinemann, 2014). We were also honored that our friend, teacher and writer Travis Crowder wrote this beautifully reflective blog post. Travis describes himself as a Reader. Writer. Teacher. Learner and author of Reflective Readers: The Power of Readers Notebooks. He blogs and is currently a Doctoral student at UNCW. We are so grateful to bring these two dedicated and thoughtful minds together:

Travis Crowder Reflections on Whispering in the Wind

“Stafford didn’t read his words—he spoke them. He delivered his poetry, simple but elegant words, riding on his voice and cupped in his hands as if saying, ‘Here, peek in, look what I noticed that I want you to notice. Feel what I felt at that moment. Taste these words in your mouth and feel how they slip right through to your heart” (Rief, 2022, p. 2).

“His [Stafford’s] voice said, ‘Here, take these words. Make them yours’” (Rief, 2022, p. 3).

NCTE. Atlanta. 2016.

            I scanned the event program, looking for names I recognized and topics of interest. I recognized Linda Rief’s name amidst a row of others. Seeking Diversity, Linda’s first book, gave deeper nuance to my thinking about reading and writing workshop. At this conference, she was part of a panel discussing poetry and response. Since I had always loved reading and teaching poetry, I was sure I would gather new poems and strategies for teaching them. And further, Linda was someone I wanted to learn more from. So, I picked up my messenger bag and headed toward the lecture hall.

            The room was quiet when I arrived—thirty minutes early—but found a seat as the lecture hall filled with eager educators. Right on schedule, the session began.

            We had all been given Maggie Smith’s (2017) Good Bones, and I cradled the stapled pages in my hands as Linda stepped to the podium. She directed us to the text, and with her eloquent, dulcet tones, she breathed life into the poem. When she finished reading, she invited us to pick up our notebooks. Write anything this poem brings to mind for you or borrow a line and let that line lead your thinking. I borrowed a line and took it into my notebook. I wrote and wrote into the line/idea I found, only coming up for air only when Linda told us our writing time was over. This approach to poetry was different. It was indelible. And wonderfully humane. I was no longer just interested in this session. I was riveted to my seat, craving more of what I had felt in those precious moments of writing.

            After we had finished writing, she discussed the importance of response and artistic expression, even sharing several examples from her writing notebook. Those examples were exceptional, and they demonstrated a way of exploring poetry I had never considered. Yes, I had always loved poetry, but my way of thinking about them had been so limited. With that single session, Linda showed me a different way, and it has made such a difference for me and my students. I shifted from teaching poems to sharing poems. And while I had carried my love of poetry into the classroom years before, students were only responding to the questions generated while the poet’s gorgeous words languished underneath the weight of my thoughts. Yet here she was, saying, Try it this way. See what ideas unfurl.         

Whispering in the Wind, Linda’s latest book, is a powerful ode to poetry and response that offers more of that difference. With this professional text, Linda holds the idea of poetry out to us, nudging us to peek in and look more deeply at a poet’s language. Softly, deftly, she encourages us to find as many poetry collections as possible, read as much as possible, and share with students…as much as possible. But even more, she invites independent reading around poetry for students to discover poets they love and decide what it is they are looking for.

As students find poems they love and connect with, they are asked to take those poems into Heart Books, which are completely blank books that students fill with poetry that matters to them. On one side of a two-page spread, they write or paste in a typed version of the poem, and on the facing side, they create an artistic rendering of the poem. Of course, this structural set-up is only a suggestion. As students create the two-page spreads in their Heart Books, some keep poem and art separate while others let their sketches and drawings blend with the poet’s words. The beauty rests in choice and ownership—it belongs to the students, and they decide what works for them. Students’ work is featured across multiple pages toward the middle of the book. We, her readers, get to see the result of a master teacher leading young people into deeper reading and thinking.

Linda writes, “I was most impressed with the way so many students were motivated to go back to poems again and again, thinking through what they noticed the poet did that touched personally or helped them garner ideas or craft moves for their own writing” (p. 41). One of the things I love most about this book is a focus on possibility. There is no set group of questions or guiding ideas to take students through poems. But like that NCTE session all those years ago, Linda continues to invite all of us to read, find lines that matter to us, and pay attention to what we notice. Something is there. Just look and you’ll see what the author has for you.

There is a focus on reflection, too.

Before students begin the Heart Book process, they take note of their feelings about poetry. Then, they spend time across the year gathering their poems and filling the pages of blank books with poetry and original art. Later in the year, there is an opportunity for students to reflect on changes in their thinking. She asks them to consider: How has my thinking about the concept of poetry changed? With such a humane approach to teaching poetry, I imagine students’ thinking shifts dramatically.

In addition to Linda’s incredible philosophy about poetry and Heart Books, she adds art invitations and ideas to get students thinking about their Heart Books. There is no right or wrong—just an invitation. I can hear Linda’s voice nudging all of us to grab our notebooks, find poems that resonate, and start building our own two-page spreads.

And I can also hear her reminding us that choice matters. Yes, share poems with students. Ask them to write what comes to mind or borrow lines and write from them. But, surround them with poetry, too. Find poetry collections and help them become familiar with poets as they read and write their way into deeper appreciation. Linda advises that we “help students find poems that connect to their very core” and “see the world in ways they don’t usually see the world” (p. 156). She reminds us that connection is powerful, but so is diversifying how we see the world. Poetry is that powerful. It has the energy to change what we see and how we think.

Yes, poems are critical.

They are microcosms of the world and they guide us into intersections of thought that we may not have known were possible. For me, poetry has been a light. A radiance that emanates hope out of darkness. A spark of something more. In a time of standardized teaching and learning, I encourage language arts teachers to listen to Linda’s words. Like Stafford’s voice did to her, I am confident Linda is whispering to all of us, “Here, take my words. Make them yours.”

When we do, we’ll find the poems that matter to us, feel the poet’s words slip right through to our hearts.

We’ll find, all over again, that poetry still affects our hearts in the most unexpected ways.

And if we listen to Linda’s gentle guidance, so will our students.


Rief, L. (2022). Whispering in the wind: A guide to deeper reading and writing through poetry. Heinemann.

Smith, M. (2017). Good bones: Poems. Tupelo Press.

We are so grateful to Linda Rief for hosting our chat and to Travis Crowder for sharing his personal reflections and learner, reader, writer and teacher. I have included our chat question with Linda’s wonderful responses below.

Q1 In addressing “Why Poetry” on page 3, Linda describes her 8th graders response when she asked about favorite poets: “They cringed at the word poetry.” Why do you think that many students have a visceral response to poetry? How can we change this?

Q2 Penny Kittle writes in her endorsement, “This book is a master class in poetry, teaching writing, and joy.” How do you approach poetry in a way that will allow you to teach poetry writing while you also create an atmosphere of joy around it?

Q3 Linda reminds us on p. 156, “…students can do their best work when given choices, time, mentor texts, and positive responses that keep them growing stronger both intellectually and emotionally.” How do you nurture these things in your classroom?

Q4 Linda emphasizes that in Heart Books, students “are responding to the poems they chose. Responding, not analyzing.” What do Linda’s words mean to you? How can this change their perception of poetry?

Q5 Linda says, “The more the students became involved in finding poems that spoke to them and spent time planning, playing with, and crafting their illustrations, the less the evaluation form mattered to them.” (pg 148) How will you bring Linda’s words to life this year?

Q6 As we close our #G2Great discussion with Linda, what are some key takeaways that have inspired new thinking or ideas that you plan to translate into your teaching this year?


Order Whispering in the Wind: A Guide to Deeper Reading and Writing Through Poetry by Linda Rief (Heinemann, 2022)

Blog post by Linda Rief: What Changes Kids’ Minds About Poetry? (Heinemann)

Blast from the Past Chat: BRAVE

Read our 7/16/15 chat HERE • Read our 9/1/22 chat HERE

by Mary Howard

This year, our #G2Great team added a new feature to our weekly twitter chat calendar. Since our first chat nearly seven years ago on January 8, 2015, we have had 353 chats and counting. We recognized that many chats need to be shared again so that we can view it from a new perspective and introduce it to those who didn’t see it the first time. We modify the questions in each Blast from the Past chat in order to contemplate a topic or book with fresh eyes that will invite a fresh discussion to inspire new thinking.

This week, we held our third Blast from the Past chat by looking back to 7/16/15 in a chat with Kimberly Davis: BRAVE. This was before we even launched our blog post so it gave us a renewed look at a topic without a written reflection to accompany it. We met our now dear friend Kimberly Davis through a shared friend, Dani Burtsfield, who told us about Kimberly’s TEDxSMUWomen talk: What It Means to Be Brave. I fell in love with this remarkable 14-minute talk the first time I saw it and I still watch it again when I need a ‘BRAVE boost’. I highly recommend it to those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to see it yet.

Early in her talk, Kimberly poses a question to the audience she later discusses:

How can any of us be our best real selves powerfully, (what I call brave), if we’re feeling afraid or vulnerable or anxious or stressed or overwhelmed? How can we be our best selves in the face of our inescapable humanity?”

As I reflect on BRAVE, other words come to mind from Webster’s dictionary:

This image was created using

Kimberly lives in the business world rather than in education but the wonderful thing I discovered years ago by exploring a world previously foreign to me is that there’s a lovely intersection where our two worlds collide into glorious harmony. I can’t think of anything more important than BRAVE for educators right now. At this very moment, our teachers are entering a new school year in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Through no fault of their own, the now find themselves face-to-face with ill-conceived mandates that are running rampant and people making these decisions have little if any educational background. Following mandates devoid of research basis can do great harm to our children and the teachers who are committed to them. Our teachers’ BRAVE is being challenged, stifled and ultimately erased. Schools don’t want teachers to have a voice and make decisions that would honor their children; instead elevating publishers and others with an agenda who waste our time and money with lies, half truths and total disregard for anything that falls outside of narrow views often grounded in opinion rather than substantiated reality. Educators who bring a vast body of research supported knowledge that could fuel their BRAVE, are being told in countless ways that their deepest beliefs about teaching and learning and years of extensive knowledge is of little value. Professional agency and respect is at an all-time low as scripts, packages, tests and very bad advice is at an all-time high. BRAVE is even more important when we find ourselves standing in front of a roadblock everywhere we turn.

Somehow, we need to rediscover the BRAVE that has been buried under the debris of nonsense. In the face of insanity, it could bring sanity and allow us to carry our BRAVE each day we enter our building, and into the teaching spaces where inspired work with children happens when teachers are unfettered of the dictates that block the way forward.

In this tweet with Kimberly Davis from our original chat, we talked about where to begin:

In other words, being BRAVE not only respects small increments of BRAVE – it openly invites them. You don’t have to climb Mt Everest or jump out of an airplane to be BRAVE. You just need to show up and start where you are at that moment and as Kimberly reminds us… “one situation at a time.”

In the Netflix special, Call to Courage, Brene Brown said,

“The key to whole-hearted living is vulnerability. You measure courage by how vulnerable you are. Today I will choose courage over comfort. I can’t make any promises for tomorrow, but today I will choose to be brave.”

Someday it feels as if our BRAVE is being confiscated, chipped away piece by piece until it’s a mere shadow of its former self. Is Covid 19 and the last two years of uncertainty a culprit? There’s no question that it was a factor. And yet, teachers did what they have always done so many people would be able to bear the weight of uncertainty, loss and sadness. They demonstrated superhuman resolve to rise above that uncertainty, loss, and sadness by showing a BRAVE the likes of which we have never seen before.

BRAVE does not need to be big and bold to garner that title. There are many shapes and sizes of BRAVE, ranging from a reluctant “I’m not there yet but I’m giving bits of BRAVE at a time” to “I’ll shout it from the roof top BRAVE. It all counts. For some, it can be a matter of showing up even when your heart is breaking or you can barely put one foot in front of the other. During this pandemic, teachers showed their BRAVE when our educational landscape went from Zoom-less to Zoom culture.

There is the BRAVE that teachers lived and breathed pre pandemic and the BRAVE that they continue to embrace every day when they are being told to do things they know is not in their students’ best interest. There are BRAVE robbers that have long existed in education with a barrage of attacks on teachers being told they’re not good enough because they aren’t doing what those people tell them they should. There are one-size fits all BRAVE robbers who want to standardize every aspect of education. Some days, empowerment feels out of the reach. And yet our teachers come to school every day, walk through the door with a smile even when their heart is breaking and do the right thing for children because that’s what they signed up to do. And that my friends is the heart and soul of what it means to be BRAVE.

I’d like to close this post with a personal reflection on one of the many forms that BRAVE can take in our lives. There is a close connection between personal and professional BRAVE and one influences and fuels the other. In March 2020 a pandemic presented us with never before experienced challenges. It was an extreme wake-up call on so many different levels. For thirty years of my life, I had a long-time dream of moving to Honolulu. This dream amplified across the pandemic and yet, there were so many voices in my head telling me that it was impossible: Will I be okay without family or friends? Can I still travel from Hawaii professionally? What if I get sick? What if I need help? What if I don’t like being alone? Will I be able to find doctors? Can I manage without a car? Where will I live? Is it selfish to do this? All of these questions hung in the air like a dark cloud as I contemplated this move. Then one day I was watching a TV show called “The Big Leap” when the words that nudged me to make a decision rose from my TV screen. One of the stars of the show was giving advice to a woman starting over after a divorce:

Isn’t it more exciting not to know how the story ends?

Minutes later, I sat at my computer booking for an AirBnB. So many fears plagued me in those early days but then I thought about professional choices I’ve made across the years that required bringing my BRAVE to the surface. I couldn’t help but wonder why this was any different. I sold everything I owned, said goodbye to my brothers, nieces and nephews and on February 17, 2022, I boarded a plane to Honolulu. I had no idea what the future held but I was certain that I could figure it out in the place I’d loved for thirty years. I’ve now lived here for 191 days and counting – and I’ve never been happier. Have all of the worries that plagued me early on disappeared? No. But I’m living my dream in paradise, and I’ll figure the rest out out along the way without looking back.

You don’t have to move halfway across the country to be BRAVE. Once we understand what BRAVE means and looks like personally, we can draw from that professionally. BRAVE is different for all of us. Maybe it means it means moving to a new school, speaking up, standing up, fighting for what we believe or even choosing a new professional direction when the nonsense is simply too massive to ignore. BRAVE can come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, options, and perspectives. Nothing is too small.

You can read more about my journey on the blog that I’ve been keeping every day since I first arrived in Hawaii: THE BIG LEAP (Day 1: 2/17/22)

One of my favorite songs that illustrates this topic is If I Were Brave by Jana Stanfield. At the bottom of the video, several people shared their own brave. I smiled today because I’d never noticed one before that now has real meaning:

Bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii 28 years ago. LIFE is a one-way ticket… DANCE. Kay Lynn Satler  

I’d like to close with the words of Kimberly Davis in a quote we shared during the chat and then a few of her tweets from our #G2Great chat.

What It Means to Be Brave: Kimberly Davis TEDxSMUWomen

Side by Side Instructional Coaching: 10 Asset-Based Habits That Spark Collaboration, Risk-Taking, and Growth

The Wakelet artifact of all chat tweets is linked here.

By Fran McVeigh

It was truly a pleasure to welcome Julie Wright back to #g2great. It was four short years ago that Julie and Barry were on #g2great for What Are You Grouping For? in 2018 (link) and Julie again in 2021 for What’s Our Response? (link)

I often begin my blog post with the ending. This one is no different. This was one of Julie’s last tweets from our #G2Great chat for Side by Side Instructional Coaching.

Abby Wambach wikipedia

I loved the “WE approach” in Julie’s tweet. But to fully understand this tweet I had to look up Abby Wambach. I’m not a soccer fan so she was not on my radar. However, I quickly noted that she was “… the highest all-time goal scorer for the national team and is second in international goals for both female and male soccer players with 184 goals …” “Highest” and “second for both female and male soccer players” caught my attention because Abby is better than good. She’s a Great soccer player. Winners and leaders need to build capacity that sparks collaboration, risk-taking, and growth.

So fitting to have a “sports” connection in a coaching conversation.

Winners build capacity for a WE approach. That matches the OLD adage that ‘there is no “I” in team’ as found in the online Urban Dictionary (link).

Hmm. Soccer, leading goal scorer, collaboration, risk-taking, and growth and a #G2Great chat. All 10 of the asset-based habits in Julie’s book are critical for success in life. All 10 of the asset-based habits are a part of both the personal and professional lives of many authors we have featured on #G2Great chats. All 10 of the asset-based habits are a part of my life and those of many of my friends and my own thought partners.

It would be very easy to say,

“Go read the book,”

because it’s an amazing, thoughtful book that will provide guidance when you didn’t even know that you needed any further elaboration for some of the habits. But I can guarantee that Julie’s explanations and examples will allow you to dig deeper in EVERY single habit that you may believe you already excel in!

How can I make that guarantee? It’s a combination of my experience, my skills and years of personally working with and learning from Julie. Without doing the math and trying to count years, I can tell you that I’ve learned in a variety of settings with Julie including large groups of over 100, smaller leadership groups and 1:1 meetings whether they were face to face or via Zoom. And then I’ve also learned even more from her books and her participation in Twitter chats. Personally biased? Yes. Personal knowledge? Yes. I learn from Julie every time we have a conversation! She’s a thought partner/ thought neighbor whether near or far!

This blog post is going to be unlike any others that I’ve written for Literacy Lenses. I’ve included “process” many times, but not to the extent you will find here.

We’re going to continue with Julie’s purposes for writing this book as well as her hopes and dreams for all the readers in the next section with the three yellow headers and our basic author questions.

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

When schools need to trim budgets, coaches are often the first to be cut.  Or, they remedy the budget by reducing coaching time and giving coaches dual roles of classroom teacher and coach. While I think these are missteps for the district, I understand why it happens.  When I’m working in a school as the coach of coaches or instructional leaders, I urge them to build systems and structures that can withstand budget swings.  One of those is giving the natural school leaders—the people they rely on such coaches, department chairs, PLC facilitators, team leaders— the tools to support ongoing professional learning. Creating thinking partnerships across a learning community is key.  That’s because every student deserves to have a teacher who has a thinking partner—this work is too complicated and important to go at it alone!

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

There are a few key take-aways from my book that I hope educators will embrace:

1. Having an asset-based stance—grabbing the good that lives across the learning community—brings JOY and SUSTAINABILITY to this work.  No one shows up to be picked apart, worn down or fixed.  Teachers show up to do good.  If we start with assets and then ask teachers what they want to get smarter about, we can help lift that work by providing support.  This stance works for all ages of learners, adults and students alike.

2. Building relationships in our work in schools matters.  It really, really, really matters!  Don’t shortchange it.  It is what builds the good (assets) and shapes culture.

3. A habit is a practice we do regularly.  When we land on coaching habits that others can count on, we build consistency and trust.  Find your go-to habits (mine are building relationships, co-planning and co-teaching) and then build your coaching routines around them.  

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

Coaching is a lot like neighboring (reference goes to The Art of Neighboring by Pathak and Runyon.  It’s all about building relationships, an essential coaching habit that creates opportunities to do things together that we could not otherwise accomplish alone.  When we choose to make ourselves available to others in our learning community, it’s more likely that we’ll have time to focus on them.  It’s also more likely that we’ll co-create a list of priorities…together!  

Everyone has something they can give (teach or show others) and something they can get (learning from others).  If we build a learning community that has a constant flow of giving and getting, we all get smarter about the needs and wants of our most important stakeholders—our students.  Coaching creates the opportunities to get smarter together, building short and long term capacity along the way.

Typically by now, I and my fellow #G2Great blog post authors have moved on to thoughts from the actual chat in the form of tweets or summaries of big ideas. But this next section is going to share with you some “behind the scenes” #g2great processes from the development of this chat with Julie as an example of our ongoing professional learning.

We (#g2great team) ask our authors to write four questions for the chat. These were Julie’s questions in a simple format with our own first and last question. Remember that you can explore specific responses to the questions in the Wakelet (link) for an overview of this book and topic.


8:35 Q1 Our focus in this chat is on instructional coaching. Reflect on your life experiences.  What are your go-to habits for sparking collaboration, risk-taking and growth?  What attributes make coaching successful? When has coaching been beneficial for your work? How might you partner with a coach this year?

8:44 Q2 Julie believes every student deserves to have a teacher who has a thinking partner because the work we do in schools is too complicated and dynamic to be done alone.  Reflect on your experiences. Who have been your thinking partners and what made your partnership so valuable?

8:53 Q3  In Side-by-Side Instructional Coaching, Julie talks about “sniffing out the good”, using assets as a source of energy, and naming areas that might need a “lift”, or support.  We can use both as entry points to get smarter about our work with students.  How does or can an asset-based stance shape the work you are doing in schools? 

9:03 Q4 This book is written for instructional coaches and anyone interested in or charged with facilitating professional learning—department chairs, team leaders, teachers, curriculum directors, administrators, and others! Julie writes about 10 habits she uses to support professional learning.  What habits do you use in your work and why do you use them?

9:11 Q5 Julie shares simple coaching tips that have a powerful impact – things such as “ask I wonder questions”, “listen more than you speak”, and “provide a note catcher for teachers to hold their thinking”.  These tidbits honor teachers’ time while also increasing autonomy and agency.  What would you add to this list?

9:20 Q6. As you reflect on our chat and the 10 asset-based habits Julie has identified, where will you begin to use this information? Which habit(s) might you strengthen? Which habit(s) require more thoughtful consideration? 

One way that you could begin to study Side by Side Instructional Coaching is to study Julie’s quotes and questions with a friend/neighbor. That might be a place where your professional learning could begin.

But Julie didn’t just stop with quotes, questions and responses to our author questions; instead she challenged us with some possibilities that we could explore.

I share these ideas with you to give you ideas (straight from Julie) on ways that you might USE this book to extend your own professional conversations around coaching.

PD Option 1

This book is broken into 3 sections:  Preparing to Coach, Coaching, and Extending Coaching.   

To prepare to coach, Julie suggests developing relationships, communicating plans to stakeholders and defining beliefs.  How do you use one or more of these habits to create conditions for successful coaching?

During coaching, Julie focuses on designing goals, co-planning, co-teaching, and creating tracks to showcase evidence of growth.  How do you use one or more of these habits to examine curricula, plan with teachers / teams and shape pedagogy?

Julie extends coaching with reflection, building capacity, and prioritizing across the year. How do you use these habits to grow the skills of the teachers/teams to stay focused on their important work?

email from Julie Wright

If you work with a group of coaches or folks who have some coaching responsibilities, how might the questions in Option One inform your work before, during and after coaching opportunities. How might the answers to the questions further define your work? How might your curiosity and joy combine to create deeper collaboration, risk-taking, and growth?

Julie shared her thoughts about the applicability of the contents for all content areas and we are delighted that Benchmark made sure this book title was inclusive of all content areas!

Or you might intentionally consider PD Option 2: “We could hyper focus on a few habits specifically.”

Focus on Beliefs (just one example)

One asset-based coaching habit is to use teachers’ beliefs as an entry point into the work.  Select a topic—purpose of education, learning, assessment, balanced literacy, classroom libraries, or play-based experiences and share one of your beliefs.  Then, we can see how our collective thinking around beliefs inspires and grows new ideas.  I believe _____________.


One asset-based coaching habit is to use teachers’ beliefs as an entry point into the work.  Julie works alongside teachers to select a topic as the focus.  You can select a topic such as education, learning, assessment, balanced literacy, classroom libraries, play-based experiences, and so on. Let’s pick a topic and see how our collective thinking around beliefs inspires and grows new ideas.  Name a belief you have about play-based experiences? I believe _____________.

[we could swap this out for classroom libraries or another one if you prefer]

Deepening Your Understanding

With this book, you have many choices of future actions. Do you increase your own capacity by working with a “thought partner” or a “neighbor” as you read and reflect? Or you could study the questions that we began with in the #G2Great chat and consider the responses from Julie Wright and all the participants. You could also choose to try out option 1 or option 2 above. This book is so inviting that you can begin with any of the “before, during, or after categories” or the individual 10 habits.

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

The ball is in your court.

How will you increase your own effectiveness?

Where will you begin?

Find that thought partner and start collaborating. Your only mistake would be to NOT take up the challenge to begin reading and thinking with my esteemed colleague, Julie Wright, the very minute that you open this book. You, your students, and your colleagues will benefit from your learning collaboration. The time is NOW to get started with your very own “WE approach” to collaboration, risk-taking, and growth!


Order book here:

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!