Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, & John Hattie: The Distance Learning Playbook

by Fran McVeigh

On Thursday, September 24, 2020, #G2Great welcomed authors Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey to chat about their current book (which is one of the titles in this series, Link). The Wakelet from the chat is available for your perusal here.

Doug and Nancy are not new to #g2great. Previous chats include: This is Balanced Literacy, December 12, 2019; and All Learning is Social and Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom and Beyond, August 29, 2019.

This review of their book by Jackie Acree Walsh said so much that I actually thought my work was done as far as this blog post.

Echoing through the pages of this timely book is the message: Effective teaching is effective teaching, no matter where it occurs. Teacher voices and classroom examples animate core principles of research-based teaching and learning, enabling the reader to visualize practices in both face-to-face and online learning environments. Multiple self-assessments and templates for reflection support reader interaction with the content. The authors connect Visible Learning and informed teacher decision-making to all facets of effective lesson design and delivery, and address the important issues of equity and inclusiveness; learner self-regulation and driving of their own learning; and use of formative evaluation and feedback to move learning forward. A must-read book!
Jackie Acree Walsh, Book Flyer Link (Corwin site)

What a great book that builds on our existing knowledge and pedagogy as well as our values and best intentions! But never let it be said that I didn’t share my own ideas and thinking! Let’s get started with Doug and Nancy’s thoughts about a message from the heart!

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

Taking care of oneself is essential. Teachers are so giving, sometimes to the point where they sacrifice their own physical and mental well being for the sake of the students and communities they serve. Self-care isn’t selfish. It gives you the emotional muscles needed to serve others effectively.

So what does self-care entail? What do teachers and school staff need to be thinking about? Module 1 in The Distance Learning Playbook addresses this topic. Individual teachers and teams can work through this module to consider actions that will engage and impact students. An excerpt is available from Corwin at (Link) to explore a work / life balance.

One example: If you are considering a “standing desk” to avoid sitting all day every day, think about how you could “try this out” without spending money on a new desk.

HOW? Try a paper box . . . those sturdy boxes that reams of copy paper come in. Do you have one on hand? Or a crate? Set your computer on that box or crate to “raise” the eye level camera for distance learning. Find materials in your home that could be used to raise the work level of your desk in order to create your own DIY standing desk with $0 cost. WIN/WIN!

Do you want to increase the likelihood that you will carry through with actions to increase engagement and impact? Find a commitment partner and agree on what and when you need assistance from your partner in order to be successful.

All of this is possible because Doug and Nancy are quite specific about their success criteria and share those criteria as well as ways to think about rating the criteria and determining the importance of each factor. Link to an example.

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

The big takeaway is that we realized that as a field we know a lot about teaching and learning, and we didn’t forget it when we needed to engage in distance learning. We hope teachers will regain their confidence as they link what they know to new implementation practices.

This book is titled: The Distance Learning Playbook with a subtitle “Teaching for Engagement and Impact in Any Setting.” That “any setting” means that the basic principles apply across all settings. Yes, distance learning may be one setting but it does not wipe out all other teacher knowledge around pedagogy and curriculum. We don’t reset at zero when the delivery models change; instead, we sort and sift to ensure that we are choosing the BEST strategies and tools for engaging and impacting learning. This information is included in Module 9: “Learning, Distance or Otherwise”.

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

Like educators everywhere, we had to rapidly shift to remote learning this spring. But going forward, we knew that we couldn’t remain in a state of crisis teaching. John Hattie’s Visible Learning scholarship has transformed education worldwide. Dozens of educators opened their virtual classrooms to us to create a new visual lexicon for how those evidenced practices are enacted in distance learning. Weaving the two together has transformed the conversation. We hope that it sparks action about how schooling in any setting can be better than ever.  

“Action about how schooling in any setting can be better than ever” is the goal. Time, learning opportunities and resources like this text have provided examples of increased learning for students. With a “can do” growth mindset and a toolbelt of best ideas and resources, we can and MUST improve learning. And as a part of self-care and informed, reflective decision-making, our days do not have to be filled with doom and drudgery. We can and MUST build in time for laughter and relationships with our students, parents and communities in order to sustain our lives in these challenging times. Additional ideas on this line can be found in “Module 3: Teacher—Student Relationships From a Distance.”

How are you handling your self-care needs?

What impact are you designing in your lesson planning?

Additional resources: The Distance Learning Playbook – Corwin link Free resources – Corwin link Introduction to Visible Learning – Corwin link 3 part Webinar – Teaching Channel and Distance Learning Playbook registration – link Free Webinar: Going Deeper With Distance Learning, Tuesday Sept 29 @ 12pm PDT/ 3pm EDT – Registration on Corwin site

Checking Our Professional and Personal Pulse for the 2020-21 School Year

by, Jenn Hayhurst

Click here to view the Wakelet

This blog post is dedicated to all of us who are either working in schools or attending schools across our nation and throughout the world. Unless you are going to school right now, it would be difficult to understand the level of stress we are all experiencing. Teachers, administrators, support staff, and especially students are all coping with the impact of COVID-19 and it is not without some cost. This is why #G2Great focused on taking our professional and personal pulse for the 2020 -21 school year. As I think about how to shape this post I can scarcely get through the replies to question one of the Wakelet without my pulse beating like a rabbit.

Some are 100% virtual. Others are hybrid which may look like this: two cohorts of students attending in person Mondays and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays Every Wednesday is a virtual day for all students. Some are attending in-person full time with social distancing and mask-wearing. Others are attending full time within their own class bubble without social distancing. It may be easy to read and conceptualize what these options might be like; a person might say, “I get it, I am informed. I read the the CDC’s Continuum of Risk but school administrators and leaders know what they are doing.” You’d be correct to have confidence in us. We are doing everything we can to make school safe and secure for students and staff. However, we have never done this before, and it is the ongoing emotional strain of working within these systems that is like a silent oppressive force.

This teacher is speaking her truth, and her truth is very much in line with my own. Many of you reading this post today may be feeling the same way. We bring both expertise, empathy to the job regardless of our personal struggle. Whether we are showing up virtually or face to face we are giving it our all. The word that keeps coming back to me is resilience. Teachers are resilient.

Did you know, there are seven essential building blocks for resiliency? According to Kenneth Ginsburg, they are: competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control. It should be no surprise that teachers demonstrate all seven every day.

Competence & Confidence

Val brings up a very important point and good reminder for us all with her tweet. Use an asset lens because we all feel much better about ourselves and our circumstances when we feel competent.

Once you feel competent it is a natural shift to grow confident. Mollie is making another important point, growing confidence comes from putting your professional energy to tried and true professional practice. Emphasize “kidwatching” and relationship building and bring some familiar experiences back no matter what setting you happen to be teaching in right now.

Connection & Character

I got you Julie. Knowing that a caring community is there to give you advice, or just there to listen without judgement is something we all need. Get that any way you can. Maybe your school is not a place that offers that support, but then look for it someplace else. Twitter, and #g2great in particular have become very important to me. I know I belong, I found my people.

I was drawn to Fran’s tweet, because it is just good advice for us all. Living the advice offered in her tweet would be an excellent model of character in action. Especially living in these times where people of good character can be difficult to find. I can do my part, I can try to live up to Fran’s words and that helps to ground me.

Contribution & Coping

While I don’t know this for sure, but I would wager that Kathy Sahagain, paid for those books out of her own pocket. I feel it in my bones, but even if she didn’t, she is a great example of an excellent teacher. Teachers like Kathy contribute towards the wellbeing of students above all else. I have found, that while we teachers may have varied professional beliefs, the one constant is the compassion and dedication we have for students. We care. We do whatever it takes.

No administrators have said these words to me, but it helps me to know that they were said. I can borrow those words, and repeat them in my mind and that is helping me to cope with the strain.

Taking Control

I cannot give you a favorite book. I cannot be the leader who is present in your school to deliver the words that help you to cope with the professional load. I can be the little voice that reminds you to take control in this moment. May I direct your attention to my esteemed colleague and friend, Laura Robb? I say this on Twitter all the time, but I need you to really do it this time, “Listen to Laura…”

Whether you are coping with the pandemic just fine, or if you are drowning, or struggling like me, know that it is all ok. Everything you are feeling is ok, and needs no justification. There is so much that is out of our control, so grab onto what you can. One thing you can do, is to take good care of yourself.

Nurture yourself, treat yourself as you would your students, or a beloved family member, or friend. Take the weekend as a gift to yourself, because you are strong, you are talented, and you are resilient. You are doing the impossible five days a week, so breathe and take a lesson from the incredible Viola Davis and know you are deserving of self-care. You are worth it.

#BOWTIE: Building Meaningful Connections with your Students

Guest bloggers Brent Gilson and Roman Nowak with Mary Howard

On 4/25/19, #G2Great welcomed the second half of the newly reorganized #BOWTIE students back to the chat table to discuss the important topic chosen by our eighteen guest hosts: Building Meaningful Relationships with Your Students. On 3/14/19 eighteen other #BOWTE students engaged us in dialogue for Creating Environments that Work for Kids. This new addition makes the ninth time that #BOWTIE students have graced our chat as honored guests: 12/13/18, 4/26/183/8/185/25/173/6/1712/17/17, and6/9/16 (Sam Fremin). 

Anyone who has ever participated in our #BOWTIE chats are astounded to experience the insight these middle school and high school students bring to the professional thinking table. They study the teaching/learning process, write blog posts and present at national conferences like NCTE under the support of their teacher, Jason Augustowski. The #BOWTIE acronym (Bringing Our “Why” (because) Teachers Include Everyone) is an accurate reflection of their chosen role of professional co-conspirators since their wisdom affords understandings that gently nudge us to look at our own teaching from their perspective.

The commitment #BOWTIE students demonstrate to our profession is apparent each time they join #G2Great. We literally turn our chat over to them as they choose their own topic of discussion, write the chat questions and lead our chat family in an always engaging dialogue. This week seventeen students and their teacher, Jason Augustowski, posed questions in teams of three including

Doug Unger (grade 11); Spencer Hill (grade 11); TQ Williamson (grade 11); Ryan Beaver (grade 11); Kellen Pluntke (grade 12); Rishi Singh (grade 11); Vedika Mahey (grade 10); Anjali Jarral (grade 10); Jason Austowski (English teacher, grade 6-12; JChris Myslenski (grade 10); Sachin Srikar (grade 10); Ellie A. Anderson (grade 8); Ella McLain (grade 8); Madison K. Whitbeck (grade 8); Nyla Lindsey (grade 8); Connor Grady (grade 11); Finn Schaefer (grade 10); Charis Anderson (grade 8).

As you can see in this photo taken just before #BOWTIE chat go started, they were all ready to rock the #G2Great chat house…. and they surely did!

This time, we invited two #G2Great friends who believe as much in these remarkable young men and women and we do to guest blog. We are so grateful to Roman Nowak and Brent Gilson for sharing their thoughts around five questions:

Why are meaningful connections with students a professional imperative?


As educators, we must recognize the importance of having meaningful connections to support student learning and student success. We cannot hide behind “traditional ways” or lack of time. If we acknowledge the truth that students learn more and learn more deeply when they have that connection, we need to prioritize the connections we make with students. Building trust is a two way street, let us never ask of them what we would not be willing to do. If we want our students to be open, honest & authentic, we must show our willingness to be the same with our students. Let us strive to follow Spencer’s advice in building that trust with students.

Brent Gilson

How do we know our students without meaningful connections? How do we serve our students without knowing them? I don’t think we can do our job to the fullest without having that person to person connection. My kids know that I care about them, that I want to know their stories and because of that connection I can get more from them. The feeling of safety that comes from that group connection creates a classroom culture that promotes sharing, curiosity and a sense of community. Without the connection, just like a string of Christmas lights with a bulb burnt out, we don’t have that functioning classroom.

What could educators do to create more meaningful connections with students?


Connections are often made by simply taking the time to talk to our students. Learn about their family, their passions, their interests. Show students that they are seen and heard. Students want to feel that they are important and contributing to their class. It is up to us, as educators to let them feel that way. Some first steps in creating those connections includes greeting students at the door,  having their pictures and their families throughout the class, having lunch with them, including them or their stories in project types or assessments. Sometimes it doesn’t take much, but that connection that you build with a student will create a lasting impact.


Treat them like people instead of products would be step one. Often the work (outcomes, assignments) become the focus and we forget that our kids are kids and that they should be our top priority. By no means do I think we should push the “work” aside but the stuff the really matters, how they are doing, family life, stresses, fears, learning what makes our kids tick and them knowing we actually care, is so much more important. Educators that focus on their kids and connections over the work seem to get the results on the work too. The same can not be said for those that do not see the value in connections.

What are some “meaningful connection” take-aways” you learned from our chat?


This chat has given me amazing reflection from soul. As an educator, whenever we have the chance to hear thoughts and ideas directly from students, there is immense power in those words.  I absolutely love this take-away from Chris Myslenski (below). In life, we often talk about the importance of balance: balance in our personal and professional lives, balance with our hobbies/interests and our families, etc. When creating connections with students, as important as it is to learn about students, we also have to be willing to share about ourselves. Be proud of your own story and do not be afraid of sharing important parts of your life with your students. When you can use personal examples to consolidate learning, this becomes not only an important learning strategy but an important human strategy. Students learn more than knowledge about subjects, they learn how to be people from us.


I look at the idea of class discussions and how we as teachers need to be more aware of how to build our students up but also respect their individual personalities. It is odd that we condemn things like Round Robin Reading (because it is archaic and puts striving readers on the spot) but often will try to drag students who prefer to sit on the edge into a conversation out of their comfort zone. Discomfort is ok, growing pains are a real thing but in the classroom, we need students to know that we respect the time it takes for them to grow and that what that growth looks like will be different for everyone.  

What is one way that #BOWTIE students have inspired you as a professional?


Ryan Beaver (below) has given me great inspiration and a huge dose of reflection. When we understand that day to day, year to year, our experiences will not be the same with our students. When we understand that we need to constantly adapt to the hearts before us, we will know that we will creating better learning experiences for our students. Including students in conversations and feedback for strategies, lessons and assessments will help us improve as educators. We know that students do not have the knowledge about metacognition that we do, however, they are the reason we are in the classroom. When we change our vocabulary from being in front of our students, to being in class with our students, we show them that they are an important part of the class. I will definitely be listening to Ryan and finding ways of including discussion about learning and strategies with my students throughout the year. My students deserve the best and I deserve to have that formative feedback to grow as a learner and educator.


The biggest piece for me has been the smashing of stereotypes. So many voices tell us students don’t really care about school. They just care about Fortnite and partying. The #BOWTIE crew probably do these things but they also advocate for educational excellence, they share how important it is for teachers and students to work together as a team. Our jobs as teachers are not to command but to connect. The #BOWTIE kids and their teacher have shown us the possibilities when this is the focus.

What advice would you offer #BOWTIE for using their voices to enhance the educational process in the future?


Never stop using your voice. Our voice is part of our identity and it is important to stand up with our values and convictions. I not only applaud #BOWTIE for taking the risk and sharing their thoughts with so many people around the world, I encourage them to never stop sharing their voices. Keep pushing and challenging the status quo; keep sharing the parts of you that are important. Your stories need to be heard, your stories will help transform education.


I would be more comfortable with them giving me the advice. All I would say is keep up the work, keep those voices strong but also make sure that you make room for all the “other” fun stuff out there. I don’t think they need advice in sharing their voice, they are already making education better for so many kids.

Mary’s Closing Thoughts

Your #G2great co-moderators (FranValJennAmy and Mary) are dedicated to this professional learning space where an invitational culture of joyful twitter style dialogue has been celebrated since our first chat January 8, 2015. #BOWTIE students bring our spirit of shared learning and engaging dialogue to life. They understand that the quality of their learning opportunities are dependent upon the quality of our daily professional choices. Their questions inspire us to take a closer look at those choices with students in mind as they encourage us to envision our teaching in a new light. 

The educators who return to our #G2Great chat week after week are dedicated to this professionally responsive process. We are all inspired by #BOWTIE students’ generous sharing of ideas that allow us to envision the impact of our teaching from their side of the learning experience. They encourage us to contemplate the intentional shifts that would maximize our efforts so that we may contemplate the richest possible learning opportunities.

And so, for the ninth time, we are grateful to our #BOWTIE students and teacher, Jason Augustowski for inspiring our thinking as we consistently strive to become the best version of ourselves in honor of students everywhere.  

Tweets from our #BOWTIE guest hosts this week