Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

The Next Step Forward in Running Records: Getting to the Heart of Effective Instruction Through Deeper Qualitative Analysis

by Fran McVeigh

Entire Wakelet Can Be Viewed at this Link

The #G2Great chat was electrifying on 9/23/21 as the Twitterverse welcomed C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, and Jan Richardson for their chat around their new book, The Next Step Forward in Running Records: Getting to the Heart of Effective Instruction Through Deeper Qualitative Analysis. Dr. Jan Richardson is no stranger to #G2Great as she hosted on July 28, 2016 for The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading. This new text has so much information about running records that it would be ideal for a study by partner teachers, teams of teachers, or even a full faculty building level study. In the educational world, C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride and Jan Richardson have a total of over 100 years of experience that they honed as they wrote this text and their wisdom is found on every page.

Many educators are totally stressed by the role of assessment in their lives as they try to survive and even hope to thrive during these pandemic times. So let’s begin this post with the authors’ response to WHY they wrote this book.

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

We felt running records were falling short of their potential. Often times we would see teachers calculate the accuracy rate and ignore the analysis of other behaviors including errors and self-corrections. We hoped the book would provide opportunities for professional conversations around how running records can be used to make instructional decisions. The book incorporates questions we have received from teachers nationwide. The book addresses these questions and provides guidance on why running records are important, how to take, score, and analyze them, and connect the analysis to individual, small, and whole group instruction. Finally, the book provides insight into specific challenges that are uncovered through a detailed analysis of running records.

Email correspondence with C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, & Jan Richardson

There is so much to consider when using Running Records. They are simplistic in design: a written response to what the student said out loud while reading. That “inside out” view of student processing. The deeper meaning comes from the qualitative analysis with the changes in instruction coming from a study of student patterns and teacher reflection on instruction over time. To hear that teachers would often only calculate the accuracy rate is disheartening.

I would be remiss to not state my own personal bias. Running records informed my life as a special education teacher, as a classroom teacher, as a curriculum coordinator, and as a literacy consultant. The information gained from running records analysis has the potential to transform instruction for students. The information gained from teacher analysis of their own TOLDs would be reflective action research that could also change a teacher’s self awareness. Running records are powerful in the hands of a thoughtful, reflective, research-oriented teacher.

Let us continue. This post is going to identify five key points about running records from The Next Step in Running Records that were amplified by the chat.

Know your purpose for running records

Running records would typically be classified as formative assessments. This process: take a running record, score, analyze, and then connect to individual, small and whole group instruction. All of this information is used to then guide the teacher’s decision making in developing an instructional plan that includes choosing a book for instruction, choosing the next steps in letter and word work, as well as the next steps in vocabulary, language and strategic action. Other decisions include the type of passage to be used: a cold passage (never read before) or a reread of a passage that the student has read once before.

MSV is not the order of importance

MSV is the alphabetical order of three areas. Let me repeat that. MSV is the alphabetical order of the three areas.

It is not the order of importance.

There is synergy in the crosschecking that occurs often almost simultaneously between these areas. V or Visual is a priority for “phonics instruction” because it deals with attending to the print that is in the text in front of the students. Letters. Sounds. Decoding the words. Visual information is about the print (not the illustrations). The print is often the first area that many teachers consider when they want to know if phonics instruction is working/ sticking. V or visual information is important and many critics of balanced reading instruction claim that “phonics is last in instruction” because visual is last one listed in MSV. But the listing of MSV is truly alphabetical order.

(Note: I spend a lot of time on analysis of the visual information processing to ensure that phonics instruction is meeting the needs of students.)

MSV is an analysis of student reading behaviors

Why analysis?

What are some of the the key student reading behaviors?

“V or visual information stands for the ways in which children draw upon the alphabetic principle or the connection between letters and sounds. V also includes children’s use of orthographic patterns and their automatic recognition of high-frequency words.” (p. 23) Visual information does NOT include pictures/photographs.

M is meaning and is a focus on constructing understanding whether at the paragraph, sentence, phrase, or word level. The author’s use the example of a child reading “The house is brown” for “The horse is brown” where it does make sense at the sentence level but not the text level if the child is reading about horses. We do want student using both visual and meaning simultaneously and these types of miscues can easily be clarified as words that need to be studied in the middle (/u/ and /r/) as the beginning and endings are correct.

S is structure and deals with the language and the grammar. Some miscues occur due to language or grammar that is unfamiliar to students. Coordinating the language and grammar with the visual information in the text is a challenge when the child is working with text that is outside their current areas of cognitive practice.

Monitoring and self-correcting are also windows into student processing. What the student says is important as they attempt to solve a word. Student work in their head and out loud provides data for teachers to analyze.

This was just an abbreviated overview of complex reading behaviors that are detailed in The Next Step Forward in Running Records. These behaviors can be accessed during every running record taken of a child’s reading. What a gift for teachers and students.

A running record is the key to developing a responsive instructional plan

Reading behaviors operate together. They may be analyzed separately as MSV or physical behaviors during the running record but the goal is for the behaviors to work together in order for student processing systems to function effectively. The goal of analysis is to determine which ones and HOW they are being used in order to plan for the next layer of instruction needed by the child. And inn the tweet below, C.C. Bates shares one example of what is NOT an instructional implication.

Pay attention to patterns of behavior that emerge over time

Don’t shortchange running records by just looking at accuracy. Look for patterns over time to inform and guide responsive differentiated instruction.

Let’s return to the words of the authors for a response to question two for takeaways for teachers to embrace and question three with a message from the heart.

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

We hope teachers will see that capturing students’ reading behaviors and using the information to provide targeted instruction is time well spent. In the book, we show how running records are an integral part of the instructional cycle. We give suggestions on when to take running records, with whom, and how often. Most importantly we attempt to help teachers move beyond the accuracy rate to deepen their understanding of students’ literacy behaviors and their instructional implications.

Email correspondence with C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, & Jan Richardson

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

This book was a pandemic project. Focusing our energy on a topic near and dear to our hearts kept us grounded and moving forward as we tried to balance our personal and professional lives. Running records do require time, energy, thought, but we believe that children are always worth the effort!

Email correspondence with C.C. Bates, Maryann McBride, & Jan Richardson

Closing thoughts . . .

Are you using running records? If yes, how and why do you use them? If no, why not?

Any passage can be used for a running record that can be analyzed in order to determine the reading behaviors that students are consistently using as well as the next possible steps for instruction. Running records provide a window into a child’s brain to assess their reading behaviors. As a reminder, the word assess comes from the Latin assidere, which means to sit beside. Literally then, to assess means ‘to sit beside the learner.” A running record allows a child to sit beside an adult who listens intently to the child read and watches their reading behaviors. When I am taking a running record, I pull all that information together for analysis of those in-the-head behaviors along with the behaviors I observe during our work together. I believe it is important for an adult who understands the value of a deep analysis to listen to children to determine whether they are applying skills that they have been taught as they read connected text.

Isn’t that what every child in every classroom deserves?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

LINKS: – Running Records Webinar by Jan, C.C., and Maryann – Click on Teacher Resources for more on running records

Why do you need to read and study this book?

The book will help you understand the depth of the previous information as well as these Additional Tweets to Consider about TOLDS (a Teacher Behavior) that are an ENTIRE chapter in the book:

Reconsidering Our Professional Resources

by, Jenn Hayhurst

On Thursday, August 9, 2018 members of #G2Great’s PLN had an important conversation, Reconsidering Our Professional Resources: Calling Publishers and Marketers to Task. We’ve all seen them, those glossy brochures promising student success so long as “their plan of action” is followed with fidelity.  Nonsense! This is what I know for sure, success begins by believing in teachers. Smart, resilient, talented teachers; these are the professionals who have the power to make a meaningful impact. This blog as well as our weekly #G2Great chat exist to extend a platform that amplifies teacher voice. What was the message we sent out to the publishing world?

Listen to what we really need…

Thinking Outside the Box

Undoubtedly, there is an unlimited array of resource options at our disposal. Consumer choice is great and yet it can also be overwhelming. Boxed programs offer solutions but the truth is we have to think outside the box! Taking a more expansive view includes gathering the perspective and wisdom of other educators. There are are more opportunities to exercise personal agency than ever before, social media has given us access to each other. Now we can grow our Professional Learning Networks (PLN). We can support professional organizations nationally and locally. We can be ambassadors for professional learning.  

Get the Whole Picture

Educating children is complex, so when a  publisher or marketer, offers rigid solutions we need to get out the yellow caution tape, the orange cones, and flashing red lights because this is a professional danger zone.  We need to do our own research on their research!  We need to gather an array of formative assessments to look at how our students are performing inside our classrooms so we can inform any outside purchases. The most important thing to remember is to trust that we are the experts when it comes to our students. Once we know them, we know what resources we need to look for to inform our practice. 

Start off on the Right Foot

A dynamic faculty is more than having good teachers and administrators. A dynamic faculty has a shared vision. Once you have a vision making decisions about professional resources becomes easier. Two tweets stood out to me because they both speak to identity and vision. Roman (@NowakRo) knows himself he is a reflective educator who  values design thinking and collaborative work. Gravity (@drgravitygLLC) is a an author / researcher but I suspect the title she likes the most is… teacher who builds teams for collaborative work and shared vision. Know who you are, articulate what you value, and collaborate this needs to happen prior to purchasing anything. 


Raising the Bar

What does your curriculum ask of you?  Curriculum that is a living document, that is informed by real practice, requires more from us.  A go-to professional resource that maximizes the quality of teacher practices has to be relevant to decision making for day-to-day teaching. When research teams like those from Teachers College Reading Writing Project (@TCRWP) create resources you can be assured they are vetted in the field.  The work they recommend is born from their think tank and is work they are actually doing so it will be relevant. This kind of work is constantly changing and growing because it keeps pace with teacher learning and discovery.  

Everyone: On the Right Page

It is imperative to initiate collective conversations before money exchanges hands for professional resources because if we don’t listen to the stakeholders there will be no ownership. If there is no ownership initiatives  will fail.  Collective conversations are always at the heart of growth, and I think this is the best way to begin the design process for supporting a child-centered perspective. 

Don’t Miss the Mark

Authenticity is the antidote to basal programs and scripts  Authenticity can be realized when teachers have ownership over what they will learn and when schools invest in teacher education and learning. We are not so very different from our students. we are all at different points in our understanding for literacy instruction. As a result we all have different needs and our ongoing education education needs to match wherever we are in that continuum. So long as our learning rests squarely on students and their developing literacy learning we can’t go wrong. 

Cut to the Chase

We are living in the 21st Century of course technology has an important place in the classroom. However, it can be misused as electronic worksheets.  It should be our goal to enhance our practice through technology; while being careful that it  does not substitute or diminish  excellent teaching.  For one thing, teachers not tools make the decisions. For another, accessing print resources and digital texts to build rich classroom libraries  is an imperative. Students, teachers, and texts are the heart of the classroom. 

It’s ironic that we are asked time and time again to  look for answers outside of the classroom when what is really needed is to take a closer look inside our classrooms. When we asked teachers what they need, they told us. In the end, I think Mary said it best, “To do more great work, you need to make not one but two choices. What will you say yes to? What will you say no to?”  Good to Great Teaching Focusing on the Literacy Work That MattersThis is how we really put publishers to task so we may keep our students where they belong, at the center.

From Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Confident, Capable Readers

by Mary Howard

On 10/12/17 #G2Great was delighted to welcome Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward to our guest host seat of honor. As soon as we said our first “hello friends,” our dedicated #G2Great family of learners enthusiastically joined forces Twitter style as we collectively savored the message of their exquisite new book: From Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Confident, Capable Readers (Scholastic, 2017).

I first discovered From Striving to Thriving when Scholastic posted Stephanie’s video message on Facebook. This was just the inspirational impetus I needed to launch a journey of discovery that was a preparatory launching of this Twitter love fest. The icing on the cake was the opportunity afforded me to read the book pre-publication to prepare for our chat. But my excitement was multiplied ten-fold when I opened to their introduction and read words near and dear to my professional heart, “The Best Intervention is a Good Book” as a happily a recurrent theme:

Stephanie and Annie remind us why books must remain at the center of all we do – especially for our striving readers:

We’re firm believers that to fall in love with reading forever, all it takes is getting lost in one good book. When that happens, we discover that reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures. An entire generation became readers inside the pages of Harry Potter books. We advocate for our strivers every day so they, too, will experience nothing short of the transformative joy and power of reading. (p. 13)

The words transformative joy and power of reading reached out and grabbed me by the heartstrings, holding me captive until I turned to the last page of the book. As I read, I was struck by the idea that I was experiencing this ‘transformative joy and power of reading’ from a professional perspective and I knew that this sense of elation was precisely what our children deserve.

With this idea in mind, I perused their messages in our #G2Great chat to explore how we can create this ‘transformative joy’ for every child. And so, in honor of their wisdom, I’d like to share five Transformative Joy ideas we must embrace as we begin to put their words into action and move our children From Striving to Thriving:

Transformative Joy #1: Make Beautiful Books Your Beating Heart

Stephanie and Annie draw a line in the proverbial sand as they take a clear stance on the powerful role books play for our striving readers. They highlight the critical goal of increasing the volume of reading within a rich environment filled with books. They ask us to engage in ‘relentless book matching’ so that we can get just right book into the hands of the children driven by the wild readerly abandon only choice can awaken. We recognize the impact of bathing children in books across the learning day and so we make room for joyful engaged independent reading because we view it is a professional priority rather than because we find extra minutes here and there. We make a time commitment to reading and expend our energy putting this into practice day after day. And we do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.

Transformative Joy #2: Strengthen Your Bridge to Deepen Understanding

Stephanie and Annie ask us to return comprehension to a place of honor as the “Super Power” that will spur readers forward. They do not trivialize the role that decoding plays as one component of the reading process but remind us that teaching comprehension under the umbrella of listening and viewing will build a foundation for decoding through understanding rather than isolated sounds. We do this from the earliest stages of learning by using daily read-aloud and beautiful picture books as words and images become our springboard to reading as a meaning-making event. We know that each component of reading has a place but we also recognize that information sound-bites are not meant to be the meaning-making sacrificial lamb. We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.

Transformative Joy #3: Hold Tight to Your Professional Purpose

Stephanie and Annie ask us to approach reading in ways that will promote these experiences as an act of thinking rather than one of compliant doing. We know that this is only possible if we are willing to immerse children in books that will invite thinking and demonstrate this as we make what is invisible visible by sharing our own thinking publicly. We know that we can only celebrate “thinking-intensive’ reading opportunities by refuting the isolated tasks of thoughtless skill and drill and question interrogation so that we can opt for ample experiences that will engage children in the very reading opportunities that elicit the thinking we desire and children deserve.  We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.

Transformative Joy #4: Release Celebratory Talk into the Learning Air

Stephanie and Annie acknowledge the power of collaborative talk and ask us to do the same. When we keep books at the center and marry them with experiences rooted in meaning and thinking, we set the stage for lifting the level of talk to the highest heights of teacher-supported and peer engagement. We use whole class dialogue to support this talk within an instructional context and then offer ample opportunities to apply this learning. We value conferring as a scaffold to support this transition to independence followed by a wide range of opportunities for students to engage in collaborative talk so that they can begin to take ownership of this process as we step to the sidelines. We lift their voices into the celebratory air while ensuring that conversations elevate reading rather than substitute for these experiences as we offer children the very real-life opportunities we hold dear. We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.

Transformative Joy #5: Reawaken a Spirit of Common Sense Assessment

Stephanie and Annie emphasize assessment as a decision-making process that will lead us from where children are at this moment to next step efforts that will help them to grow. They ask us to make a shift from viewing reading as an isolated process of repeated assessments that rob teachers and children of the time we need to achieve each of the essential goals above. We know that this requires us to become expert kidwatchers who are present in the precious day-to-day learning opportunities that meet us at every turn. We use those experiences to inform our practices and illuminate next step efforts rather than numbers on a spreadsheet that cloud our view of the child in front of us. Above all, we view daily assessments from the lens of our responsibility to ensure the success of learners rather than to label them as a ‘struggling.’ We do this because we know that it matters deeply for our striving readers.

With these five points in mind, we step back and view them as one, knowing that bringing transformative joy to life in our classrooms requires a new mindset:

Within the pages of their beautiful book and generous sharing on Twitter, Stephanie and Annie show us what is possible. Driven by a deep commitment to our striving learners, they remind us that it is our professional responsibility to support a journey from striving to thriving. They celebrate the potential impact when we make room in every day for the practices that will enrich the learning lives of children and inspire us to refute those things that will not. I believe that their wisdom could at long last inspire a shift in the intervention mentality that has plagued us. This much-needed refocusing could truly make from striving to thriving our new professional reality. And we are grateful to follow their lead!

In closing, I’d like to thank Stephanie and Annie for their wisdom at a time when interventions have been reduced to joyless one-size-fits-all practices that minimize our efforts and blind us to the voluminous enthusiastic reading of can’t-put-down books. We are ready to joyfully launch a renewed intervention mindset that will offer our striving readers the very experiences we so willing offer our most proficient readers so that they can achieve their newfound status as thriving readers and experience the transformative joy they deserve. In their words,

And that my friends, is a professional imperative!


More Twitter Messages from Stephanie and Annie



Stephanie Harvey discusses what striving readers need

You Tube Video

From Striving to Thriving

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

By Jenn Hayhurst and Jill DeRosa

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

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

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

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


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

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




Saying “NO” to Trivial Stuff So We Can Say “YES” to Rich Substance

by Mary Howardtitle

On December 1, 2016, #G2Great continued our five part series, Saying “No” So We Can Say “Yes” with our sights set squarely on alleviating the trivial stuff that usurps time for the rich substance students deserve. Our willingness to say “no” to the work that doesn’t matter so we can say “yes” to the work that does is the heart and soul of Good to Great Teaching, the book that inspired our #G2Great Twitter chat.

And so in that spirit I look back to reflect on the impact of those two small but professionally monumental words that can have a lasting impact on the quality of our day-to-day practices. This week our amazing #G2Great educators drew a professional line in the sand with enthusiastic collective commitment to pull those words out of their back pockets in just right moments when the choices we make keep children at the center of all we do:

Making a commitment to celebrate time as a limited precious resource

Have you ever really listened intently to the sound of a ticking clock in an empty classroom? Well I have done that every day of my career so as an expert clock listener I can tell you that the sound reverberates loudly across the walls once we acknowledge that time is our most precious commodity. The stark realization that time is a gift that is utterly irreplaceable is a profound thought that should be at the forefront of our every move. Imagine if we were to leave a note in every nook and cranny of our classrooms that said simply, “Each minute is irreplaceable and if you choose to waste even one of them – you owe your students an apology.” (exactly what I wrote to myself). Teachers who say “yes” to rich substance view the wise expenditure of time as a serious responsibility, choosing to focus on what is most likely to have a positive and lingering impact on the lives of students.



Making a commitment to the beliefs and values that are your internal guide

Teachers who say “yes” to rich substance are committed to making choices in the name of children, but this process of assuming professional responsibility does not happen by chance. We begin by identifying our deepest innermost beliefs about teaching and learning that will then form the values that guide those choices. Once we embrace our beliefs and values fully, they become part of who we are – ever present and inseparably intertwined with our words and actions. Regardless of the demands that will always vie for our attention, those beliefs and values are infused into every learning experience and somehow enrich even those we may not have chosen for ourselves. Our beliefs and values elevate our work because we know that it is not what we do that matters, but how we do those things in the most effective ways and always grounded in why we are doing them.

Making a commitment to exploratory discoveries leading to new possibilities

Teachers who say “yes” to rich substance know that great teaching is a process of uncertainty that often leads us in directions we could not possibly have imagined before the learning begins. Purpose guides us on a messy pathway to what is possible but it is the step-by-step journey along the way that has the potential to dramatically impact each of us. If we are willing to set the stage for discovery and trust children to lead the way as we wait in the wings to support their efforts – well it is quite something to behold because those are the lessons we will never forget. When we craft the learning opportunities that are designed to instill a sense of wonder, our role changes as children become our teachers. Within that zone of unknown where discovery resides, meaningful, purposeful, authentic learning fills the air with the low hum of joyful learning. And we are forever changed as a result!

trevor-bryan faige-miller

Making a commitment to prioritize our daily professional non-negotiables

Teachers who say “yes” to rich substance hold tight to the practices that deserve a place of honor in every school day. While there will always be some things we cannot control, we can control what we choose to honor and refuse to relinquish regardless of competing demands. We do this by putting our non-negotaibles in the daily calendar, carved in professional stone so that nothing can replace them. We make them the center of our day because we know that we must fill each learning day with reading, writing and talking that will actively engage our students in enthusiastic learning. We don’t make excuses and we don’t covet anything that will force us to abandon those non-negotiables. Why? Because we are not willing to give up what we know matters most!

lesley-scheele valinda-kimmel

Making a commitment to respectful dialogue that has the potential to lift us higher

Teachers who say “yes” to rich substance know that in order to have the joyful experiences our students deserve we must be willing to initiate honest and even difficult conversations. We do this because we know that this respectful discourse has tremendous potential to increase the likelihood that every educator in the building will move closer to saying “yes” to the work that matters. Although many of us suggested closing our doors to do this inspired work, our #G2Great dialogue helped us reconsider the impact of opening our doors to become a model for school wide change. If we believe every child deserves the best we have to offer then we must work together to spread this commitment across the building in any and every way that we can so that every child will have the richest opportunities.

kathleen-smith aaron-thiel

Making a commitment to the opportunities today affords to impact tomorrow

Teachers who say “yes” to rich substance know that we must always keep an eye to the future but that today is where we are needed now. We celebrate each moment as we consider how to provide the opportunities that students need at this point and time, yet knowing that our choices will impact children long after the day is done. We work to ensure that we offer the learning experiences our students need at that moment and time but always with our sights on how that may change on a day to day basis. We accomplish this by knowing each child and using that knowledge to create a learning day to meet their immediate needs while building upon those needs as new opportunities arise. We know each new day is another opportunity to provide the interconnected experiences that will have staying power.

amy-brennan gravity-goldberg

Making a commitment to the children who inspire the work that matters

Teachers who say “yes” to rich substance make these hard choices because they know their students depend on them to do so. They have an unwavering dedication to each child and this dedication fills them with a resolute desire to make daily professional promises that know no boundaries. They refuse to be tethered to programs or scripts, willing instead to focus on the learning needs of their students as they hold tight to what matters. They do this because they are present in each learning moment and willing to use those moments as an instructional guide. They view children as a lesson plan waiting to be written, shifting their plans based on the child in front of them while always believing that every child can and will be successful.

courtney-kinney stephanie-ranger

This week, we challenged our #G2Great educators to put their commitment to students in writing:

In closing, I want to express gratitude for incredible #G2Great educators who bring their passion for teaching day after day. Our commitment will forever lift us above the multitude of absurd mandates, directives and questionable programs ever-present on the educational horizon.  Never lose faith that “No” is your stepping stone to “yes” and the antidote of roadblocks that cloud our view if we are willing to choose the one little word that will lead us upwards.

We choose children over mandates. We choose children over directives. We choose children over programs. And we do this by saying “no” to the trivial stuff that alleviates precious time so that we can say “yes” to the rich substance that will leave a lasting imprint on the learning lives of children. In an age of uncertainty, we need more than ever to hold tight to the literacy work that matters!

We are grateful for your unwavering commitment to children #G2great friends!




DREAM BIG: Envisioning Possibilities

Guest bloggers Susie Rolander and Justin Dolci


Growing up, Thursday nights meant Cheers, Seinfeld and Friends. NBC ruled the ratings, but after those shows went off the air, the truth is Thursday nights really have been blah. That was until….#G2Great. While only in its second season, the ratings are through the roof.  Not many Twitter chats trend almost every week and word has spread across the Twittersphere that #G2Great is the place to be.
This past week’s episode, Dream BIG: Envisioning Possibilities, did more to inspire than Sam, Jerry and Rachel combined. We might be biased, but this episode was right up our alley because the scenes are near and dear to the work that both of us feel so passionately about.

One moment as we go to a commercial break….

We co-produce a small, independent blog 2 Teachers Let Me Shine. At the heart of this production, is our curiosity in identifying the critical factors that need to be in place in order to let students shine.


Now we return from our 30 second commercial break (Hey, 30 seconds is nothing these days)

Four highlighted scenes of this, sure to be Emmy Award winning episode saw the starring cast of #G2Great educators talking about the very things that inspired us to spin off our own dedicated journey. Those four critical factors that let students shine also just happen to let students and teachers Dream Big




Critical Factor #1: Building Relationships

If Neilson ratings were the only validation of the success of a show, we would be left with very few shows. (Horror!) The truth is, shows captivate different audiences because they build a connection and foster relationships with their viewers. In our ever obsessed data driven world, it’s very easy to lose sight of the lives in front of us.  In order for people to dream big, we must grow relationships which requires us to dig deeper than the number on a chart. #relationships

Critical Factor #2: Forming Community

Many successful shows have been built on the camaraderie of the cast. There is little doubt the behind the scenes deep friendship of the entire Friends cast was key in making their on screen acting even stronger. Similarly, the stars of #G2Great have created a powerful learning network (PLN) which pushes everyone to “build bridges” to Dream Big.  Isn’t it our responsibility to create these bridges for our students?  #community


Critical Factor #3: Seeing Strengths

Casting agents are faced with the difficult task of matching roles with actors which requires not only knowing the actor, but identifying their strengths.  Could you imagine anyone else but Ted Danson flourishing in the role of Sam Malone?  Likewise, we must find those secret places in the hearts of each of our students, their own individual strengths, and bring them to the surface. #strengths




Critical Factor #4: Risk Taking

The amount of piloted shows that are tried and rejected is jaw-dropping.  What makes directors and producers keep trying?  It is a culture of risk taking; failure is expected and embraced as part of the process.  What we see on TV is a result of the many dreamers, but behind the scenes are countless tries. Without perseverance, we would never find the gems.  Similarly, the cast of #G2Great made it clear that we need to embrace this risk taking and growth mindset in our classrooms and schools in order for our students to Dream Big. #takerisks #growthmindset


#G2Great is no longer a pilot!  It is here to stay.  You too, can be in future episodes.  It is a place where the cast of characters always Dreams Big and lets each other Shine. #2tlmshine Join us!

Our friend and fellow #G2Great cast member Trevor Bryan encapsulates it so perfectly….


Influence in Education: Leaving a Lasting Imprint

by Mary Howard1

On 5/26/16, #G2Great guest host Kimberly Davis spread her light on Influence in Education: Leaving a Lasting Imprint. Kimberly first left her imprint of influence on 7/16/15 when she inspired our BRAVE based on her amazing TEDx Talk, What it means to be Brave. Kimberly brings wisdom, commitment and joy to her work as illustrated in a powerful episode with Alise Cortez, Bringing our True and Best Selves to Work. In fact, I am fortunate to have been touched by her influential friendship over the past year.

When I asked Kimberly about her #G2Great chat vision, she quickly expressed her desire to “stimulate teachers’ ability to influence through professional learning and self-discovery.” We can leave a lasting imprint of influence as we inspire or are inspired by others in positive ways. Certainly her goal was in part met by virtue of educators participating in our twitter chat. But how do we accomplish this even when we are surrounded by negativity? As we explored this question, our #G2Great family left a collective trail of influential imprints.

Kimberly’s message of hope in education comes at a time when her voice is desperately needed. As I perused tweets of influential possibility, I uncovered five points that we can all embrace as we strive to leave our own lasting imprints of influence:

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 8.43.46 AMInfluence is anchored in our purpose

Our purpose is grounded in the innermost beliefs that lead us to do great work each day in our own arena. These beliefs inform and inspire our purpose so that all we do contributes to those beliefs. Without purpose, our path will be littered with the ‘stuff’ that can blind us to influence imprints worth leaving. Our purpose as educators is centered squarely on the recipients of our efforts – students. We seek to understand so we can make decisions that will lift their learning lives, decisions that are inseparably intertwined with our beliefs. Our beliefs are always in our sights so believability (What IF) is transformed into BELIEF-ability (What IS), as our actions reflect that we can be trusted to make decisions based on the beliefs we purport to hold dear.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 8.17.35 AMInfluence rises from learner “WANTS”

But purpose grounded in our beliefs is only the beginning. In order for us to truly have positive impact, we must be willing to acknowledge and respond to the WANTS of others. Our students’  wants begin with their desire to learn combined with unique needs they bring to the learning table (which varies from child to child). These wants amplify our determination to celebrate each child and honor their learning desires and needs. To do this, we set aside our professional agenda to make them our priority. We accomplish this goal by establishing relationships that help us to truly know students so that we can we tap into their WANTS at even greater levels. We believe every child desires and can achieve success and do all we can to help them become their best self in every possible way. We leave imprints of influence by assuming responsibility to meet their specific needs, refusing to be dissuaded by distractions that impede our efforts.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 9.20.04 AMInfluence extends beyond our four walls

Each child who walks into our classrooms brings more than their learning self to school – they also bring their lives outside our doors where they spend the bulk of their day. Understanding this life beyond the school day can help us create a bridge between home and school, a bridge that can strengthen our efforts from both perspectives. We are given a precious gift of time with students, but lasting imprints of influence come from creating this home-school connection. Building an instructional bridge of influence that follows them once they leave our care allows us to ‘step into shoes’ of parents and join forces with them to enrich and extend our efforts even if children are not with us. Understanding and respecting the “wants” of others is a courtesy we offer not only children but parents. Respect is earned and we earn respect when we afford are willing to afford others the same level of respect we desire. Respect is a two-way venture.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 9.42.15 AMInfluence is nurtured in the company of others

We  have all experienced a sense of professional loneliness even when surrounded by others. We can still leave lasting imprints in a lonely environment or when our words fall on deaf ears, but this is a challenging journey that can derail our efforts and rob us of the joys that enrich the experience. Yet if we are willing to take active steps to find our professional joy tribe of others who believe in our journey, we enter a celebratory exploration of enthusiastic dialogue. These collaborations can transform our teaching in ways that merge our efforts and leave collective imprints of influence as we walk alongside positive, uplifting others. More often than not, we find that our influence is multiplied and even changed by this collective experience along the way. Thoughtfully reflective joint ventures can be a powerful meeting of influential minds.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 9.31.45 AMInfluence begins from within

Kimberly’s tweet is a reminder that each of us hold the power of influence in our hands. Force and coercion seem to be commonplace in schools of today, but we cannot allow this to sap our energy and blind us to our influence potential. In spite of the popular but ever so flawed notion that we can force influence upon others through compliance, influence will occur only when we  assume personal and professional responsibility awakened by our commitment and dedication to our profession. Influence is not an act of being, but a lifelong process of becoming. The good news is that no one can rob us of our influence potential unless we allow them to do so. We all hold in our hands the potential to influence others and leave a lasting imprint. Teachers have always had the ability to positively impact others, even when it may not feel that way.


As I ponder Kimberly’s points, I am in awe of the immense potential that each of us have to be influential. You don’t have to write a book, stand on a stage, or have power to be influential (in fact some do those things without being influential). Your book is the book you write as you gaze into the faces of hopeful learners. Your stage is the stage you stand on each day to elevate the learning lives of students. Your power is the quiet impact you have on your own practices when  you seek to understand and enrich your work day after day. Each of us leave imprints of influence every day – even when we are not yet privy to that influence at the time.

Never underestimate your influence on others and those they in turn influence, knowing that we can’t be influenced unless we are willing to be influential. This is a ‘heart decision’ we make out of deep commitment and dedication to our work and our responsibility to do that work in the most effective ways.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 8.10.11 AM

Yes Kimberly, tomorrow is ours to win or lose and with the student stakes so high, winning is the only option. Thank you for leaving an imprint of influence on each of us and for inspiring us to bravely forge ahead as we strive to leave our own lasting imprints of influence on others so…

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 9.45.21 AMI hereby make a Heart Decision to Win Tomorrow by approaching my work through a lens of joy and wonder where the magnificent realm of possibilities will forever remain in my sights. I choose to spread a light as candle and mirror. I choose to leave a lasting imprint of influence on others and embrace the imprints they leave as I continue on my learning journey. I choose…

Will you join me friends?


Below are just a few of the many inspirational tweets from our dedicated #G2Great friends


Dedication And Generosity: Celebrating Independent Reading

By, Jenn HayhurstScreen Shot 2016-03-06 at 10.58.30 AMOn Thursday March 3, 2016 #G2Great hosted a chat that began a conversation about the importance of independent reading.  This blog post is dedicated to anyone who is “holding tight” to this work, either at home or in the classroom.  It is for those of us who believe that literacy reveals a path of growth and self discovery through text.  

Question 1The following Saturday morning, I was part of an incredible team of teachers from my district, @SCCentralSD . We went to an event sponsored by a local organization called @TheBookFairies.  This amazing nonprofit opened their doors to teachers everywhere and we were able to shop for free books!   

Imagine all of us giving our time, the Book Fairies volunteers and so, so many teachers.  I am struck by the generosity of amazing people who gave up a gorgeous Saturday to build robust classroom libraries for students to enjoy:Question 2

Many people were telling touching stories about the readers and writers in their classrooms. There was not a mention of levels.  Wise teachers value levels because they are an important tool that informs instructional practices. Levels are not to be mistaken with labels that hinder a love for independent reading:

Question 3

We were all swapping stories as well as books.  You could hear teachers excitedly saying, “Oh this is so great! Jorge is going to be so happy!” “Look what I found.” “I can’t believe I found this book, my mother used to tell us this story!” and “I’m so excited I can’t wait to get to school on Monday!”

Question 4

It was quite a sight seeing everyone loading books into boxes, crates and bags.  One teacher could barely close her trunk for all the books she and her colleague were taking back to school.  We need to share our stories about the lengths teachers will go to promote  literacy.  We need to encourage our students to become connected so that they can share their love for independent reading.

Question 5

When we work together, we are creating a community with a purpose for reading.  We are being the change we hope to see in education. Literacy changes lives.  Our dedication and generosity to that effort is the flip side of the urgency we all feel.  For these reasons, teachers are opening up their classroom libraries and giving free access to books because that’s one way to keep students at the center of all that we do.

Question 6Our message is clear. We understand that now more than ever we need to “hold tight” to independent reading.  Think of a classroom library as a garden, and every book a child reads is like a seed.  Narratives and informational texts take root and grow to fill students’ heads with stories and ideas.  This becomes our context to teach children how to read.  But even more than that, we are growing a love for literacy that will last a lifetime.

Question 7

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 3.11.00 PM





Unwrapping the Joy of Read Aloud

By, Jenn Hayhurst

Beautiful Quote






 On February 4, 2016, #G2Great initiated our five-part series: Holding Tight to Practices that Matter and turned the spotlight on read-aloud

Teachers are living in a high tech, data driven, standards based world.  Rigor and grit are expected from students and there is no time to waste.  Should teachers squander precious minutes of the school day merely reading aloud to students?  After all, what would students actually be doing while a teacher reads aloud?   Besides, we have computer based programs that read to students, so teachers can use that time in more productive ways. Right? No that’s just scary!  There are those who believe the best way to support standards, rigor, and grit is to devote time that might be spent on read aloud to other pursuits.

Teachers who understand best practices in literacy instruction know that nothing could be further from the truth. I do believe that students need to develop grit and that we  are the gatekeepers of rigor. I also believe that reading aloud is a way to achieve both goals. Our brains are hard wired for story.  Just do a quick search on Google and the neuroscience evidence is overwhelming to support this claim.  But really, the only proof anyone needs is to to look out into a classroom full of students who are listening with rapt attention to their teachers. Children of all ages are drawn into complex narratives through a dramatic reading, or ushered into a world of wonder fueled by new ideas to understand the value of read aloud:  

I couldn’t help but feel elated as I read the Storify  from the February 4th #G2Great Chat, Holding Tight to Practices That Matter: Read Aloud.  Educators from all walks of life were extolling the value of reading aloud. Teachers shared links, books, and ways to support the work with gusto. Why would they do that? The only reason I can think of is that teachers are remarkable, unselfish professionals who are motivated by improving the lives of students.  

We are working to safeguard the practices that matter most because they have the greatest impact for student achievement.  Building a community around literature is one way to ensure that we build both community and critical thinking skills.  It seems simple but it’s true that everything begins with a great book.  To that end, there were so many great books that were shared and will, with a little faith, find great homes in classrooms everywhere.  Mary compiled a list of your recommendations and created a fabulous resource  to share ( just click here ) with everyone.  

I am not immune to buying more books than I can scarcely afford. I just bought Lester Laminack’s Snow Day!  It’s a wonderful book and I can’t wait to share it with students.   I wonder what books will be bought or borrowed because of last Thursday’s chat? How will this chat impact the work that happens with students? We constantly inspire each other to be the best teachers we can be because each day we spend with students is precious and we don’t have time to waste.  

There is no question in my mind that the precious minutes we invest in read-aloud is time well spent.

Click here to watch Lester…

Snow Day!
Lester Laminack video detailing how text structures influence read aloud