Every Kid A Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing by Kelly Boswell

by Fran McVeigh

The Twitter chat is available in its entirety at this Wakelet link.

On Thursday, June 24th, Kelly Boswell joined the #G2Great chat to discuss her book, Every Kid a Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing. Other books by Kelly include: Crafting Nonfiction Intermediate and Solutions for Reading Comprehension coauthored with Linda Hoyt and these two by herself, Write This Way: How Modeling Transforms the Writing Classroom and Write This Way From the Start.

This is one of those blog posts that I began early in order to process the information and to do justice to the topic amidst a busy summer. I reread Kelly’s book. I listened to her podcasts. I reviewed her quotes and then fresh off four days of writing institute, I wrote three or four possible hooks. As the chat ended, I raced to my draft “possibilities” document full of joy. The chat had been exhilarating. Joyful. Respectful. Packed with ideas. And so student-centered. But I couldn’t find a way to begin this post. Or more accurately, I couldn’t find a way that I liked well enough to begin this post. I chalked it up to being tired and waited to reread the Wakelet Friday morning to save some tweets to use. But I was stuck without an appropriate introduction.

Saturday started out with a fantastic Text, Talk, and Tea Zoom with Clare, Franki, Laura and Lynsey. After they shared their text set, I kept returning to several ideas from Colleen Cruz’s keynote closing for the #TCRWP writing institute. Colleen talked about the trust that students place in their teachers and how we need to celebrate that trust and learning in order to appreciate, amplify and pass the mic. Here’s her slide:

Colleen Cruz #TCRWP Keynote, 06.25.2021

Appreciate. Amplify. Pass the mic.

We can do that because we find JOY and LOVE in students’ writing when we remove barriers and focus on providing the instruction that supports them in writing. This joy and love was what I saw as the vision behind Kelly’s book and the reason that her writing strategies DO get everyone writing. There’s no blaming students. There’s no shaming students. There is an expectation and a vision that everyone can write . . . once the environment and instruction is prepped for them. We can do that because we are ALSO writers and we value both process and product. We value writing… and writing… and writing!

After finding my own connections to Kelly’s book, I wanted to honor her purpose in writing this book because I, too, have heard these questions.

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

This book is a response to the question I hear the most from the teachers with whom I work – “What about those kids who don’t like to write?” 

Many of us, at one time or another, have found ourselves in the company of a few (or perhaps more than a few) students who shrug when asked about their writing. They slump in their chairs instead of jumping into writing with energy and vigor. They sharpen pencils or ask for the bathroom pass or decide it’s a good time to organize and reorganize their desk. They groan when you announce that it’s time or write or they barrage you with questions along the lines of “How long does this have to be?” 

Many teachers mistakenly think that the problem lies with the reluctant student. I had a hunch that, like most things, teachers and classroom environments created either reluctance or engagement. 

In this book, I set out to explore this topic – why do the writers in some classrooms seem so reluctant while students in a different classroom dig into writing with enthusiasm and joy? Could we, as teachers, create classrooms and writing experiences that could increase engagement? As I spoke to students and teachers and taught lessons of my own,  my hunch was confirmed: The environment and community we create in the classroom, along with some specific, yet simple, teaching strategies, have an enormous impact on how students engage with writing. 

And that vision led us to our second question.

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

One of the biggest takeaways that I hope teachers embrace is that the problem of reluctant writers is NOT the kids. As teachers, we have the power to embrace and use some simple, practical strategies that support ALL kids to engage in writing with enthusiasm and joy. These six strategies are outlined in the book: 

We can: 

1. Use mentor texts and teacher modeling to fuel engagement

2. Create a safe and daily space for writing

3. Expose writers to real readers.

4. Offer more choice (choice of paper, seating, topic, etc.)

5. Maintain a healthy perspective on conventions.

6. Shape and create a healthy writing identity through assessment

Let’s pull back the curtain and look a little further at some of the six strategies shared by Kelly during the chat.

1. Use mentor texts and teacher modeling to fuel engagement.

2. Create a safe and daily space for writing.

3. Expose writers to real readers.

4. Offer more choice. (choice of paper, seating, topic, etc.)

5. Maintain a healthy perspective on conventions.

6. Shape and create a healthy writing identity through assessment.

In conclusion, I return to the final question for our author and just a few additional thoughts.

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

As teachers, the goal of all of our planning and teaching and conferring and assessing is, simply this: 

  • We want kids to fall in love with writing. 
  • We want kids to find words that they love and never let them go. 
  • We want kids to see writing as a way to connect with others, share ideas and engage in civil discourse. 
  • We want kids to know that writing is a powerful tool that they can use to think, reflect, remember and influence others.  
  • We want kids to discover that the act of writing is its own reward. 
  • We want them to know, deep in their bones, that writing has so much to give and so much to teach. 
  • We want kids to live joyfully literate lives. 

It starts with us.

When we provide time for students to joyfully tell their stories, we must Appreciate. Amplify. And pass the mic! This mutual respect and trust between writers and teachers of writing results in classrooms filled with joy, purpose and energy. To conclude, a repeat of the closing quote from the chat, in Kelly’s own words:

Let’s get started!

Additional Links:

Blog Posts (Heinemann):  https://blog.heinemann.com/conferring-with-kids-remotely-tips-for-remote-writing-conferences-from-kelly-boswell

https://blog.heinemann.com/positive-practices-for-you-and-your-students

Podcasts: https://blog.heinemann.com/podcast-demystifying-the-writing-process-with-kelly-boswell?hsCtaTracking=ee7df32b-f50a-49f2-adf8-67e9076b7157%7Cdc1d2e0c-2715-48ff-ab7f-4b640204da9e

Books: https://www.amazon.com/Kelly-Boswell/e/B00E59W45Q?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3&qid=1620140304&sr=8-3

Article: https://www.languagemagazine.com/2020/02/19/harnessing-the-power-of-a-teachers-pen-2/

Risk. Fail. Rise. A Teacher’s Guide to Learning From Mistakes

by Fran McVeigh

Wakelet link of chat artifacts here

Neither the weather or the continuing pandemic was able to dampen spirits and pull folks away from the #G2Great chat with Colleen Cruz on Thursday, February 11, 2021. As we began planning for this chat, I worried about being able to write about both the book and chat in a credible fashion that would do justice to the brilliance shared. As the chat ensued, I realized that I was right to worry with so much greatness packed into a 60 minute chat!

I first met Colleen almost eight years ago when she was my staff developer at my initial Writing Institute at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Eye opening. Jaw dropping. Work. Writing. Learning. And in the interest of full disclosure I have learned from Colleen, live and in person or virtually, every year since as I continue to grow my own literacy knowledge and skills.

Colleen is a teacher, a staff developer, an author, and an editor. She’s witty, fun, and avowedly “pessimistic” as she intertwines stories and research in her work and to help you envision possibilities. Previous #G2Great chats have been discussed in these blog posts: The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Real Strategies for the Real Classroom, Writers Read Better: 50+ Paired Lessons That Turn Writing Craft Work into Powerful Genre Reading, and Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice Podcast with Nell Duke and Colleen Cruz.

So where to really start with this mutual adoration of Colleen Cruz and her brilliance, this book and the chat? I reread all of my notes about Colleen’s books and presentations. I perused the Wakelet artifact from this chat and liked or retweeted almost a hundred tweets that included every single one from Colleen. How to organize? How to find a manageable set of tasks to meet my purpose: What to share in this post?

A Mistake. Two paired tweets from Colleen from the last question in the chat.

The initial tweet: research, current connection, a link (https://news.emory.edu/stories/2020/04/esc_covid_19_family_stories/campus.html), and a mistake. How did Colleen respond? Did she ignore her mistake? Did she deny it? Did she embrace it? Did she offer a bit of humor? How we respond to mistakes matters.

Let’s back up. What are mistakes?

The following tweets offer a glimpse into definitions of mistakes. You can learn more from the text excerpt, the audio book or the Heinemann blog listed below in the resources. Mistakes are hard to define unless you spend some time thinking about what they are and what they are not as #g2great team member Val Kimmel offers in the second tweet. Stacey and Nadine add on to the learning properties of mistakes.

What are the different types of mistakes?

Getting beyond mistakes are “good” or “bad” takes some work or study. Not all mistakes are equal. Four kinds of mistakes include: stretch mistakes, aha moment mistakes, sloppy mistakes, and high-stakes mistakes. You can read more about those at Heineman here, “Not All Mistakes are Good”, check out the Facebook Live series here, or read from Eduardo Briceno at either Mind/Shift here or his Ted Talk here.

The goal: to be aware of the types of mistakes, when they happen, why they happen, your response to mistakes, and the effects of those mistakes. This will take study, thoughtful reflection and a bit of self-awareness. The danger is in continuing on the path of sloppy and high-stakes mistakes after knowing that these are harmful. Many sloppy and high-stakes mistakes are avoidable with careful attention to our words and actions. I wondered about characterizing Colleen’s Tweet mistake above as one of the four types . . . and yet, without an edit button in Twitter, mistakes can easily happen from nimble fingers on less than responsive keyboards. I didn’t see the mistake when I first saw the second tweet as I read the word “msitake” as I expected it to be – during the fast pace of the chat – rather than the word as presented on the screen.

My past week and two mistakes …

1. Missed a webinar. I signed in on the last five minutes. Yes, sloppy mistake on the time zone recording on my calendar. I emailed and apologized for missing and will take greater care in recording/checking the times on my calendar. (Self care? Definitely a tired mistake!)

2. Fabric rows on my quilt did not match. Border and final two rows were more than an inch longer than the above 7 rows. At the time, I thought it was a high-stakes mistake, but it was really a stretch mistake as this was my first “pieced” quilt and I had never even thought about the difference in the rows. Future: check and double check connecting rows as the pieces are assembled.

Fran’s notes

Are all mistakes equal? When do we give grace? And to whom?

Jill’s tweet above is the bridge between reflecting and learning and offering ourselves grace. Mistakes are not a cause for self-flagellation. Mistakes vary according to the type as to intent and impact. Even more, our responses vary. Do we automatically offer grace to some students? Do we like to share our magnanimity with the entire class when we bestow grace? Which students have to earn grace? All of these are questions just about grace that stem from Colleen’s tweet below. The most “telling” factor may be “Who do we withhold it (grace) from?”

So now what?

Think of a recent mistake of your own. Which of the types was it? What was your response? What is your plan for next time?

Now think of a recent student mistake. What happened? What type was it? What was your response? What might you say or do differently? Do you know enough? Consider which of the resources below will be helpful?

As Colleen Cruz says in Risk. Fail. Rise. and Val and Mary emphasize above, the value in studying our mistakes is so we “can learn to separate our ego and form a mistake-welcoming culture.” Mistakes as learning experiences. Mistakes as a sign of growth and a source of data to use to ascertain growth.

Where will you begin? And when?

Links and Resources for Further Exploration:

https://blog.heinemann.com/topic/risk-fail-rise – the Heinemann Blog with access to the podcast, audiobook sample, blogposts and FB live events

www.colleencruz.com – my website for upcoming events and to contact me

@colleen_cruz Follow Colleen’s Twitter handle

BLog: Not All Mistakes are Good: Identifying the Types of Mistakes Teachers Make https://blog.heinemann.com/not-all-mistakes-are-good?utm_campaign=Cruz&utm_content=144005030&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&hss_channel=fbp-96011276891

Is Learning “Lost” When Kids Are Out of School? (Alfie Kohn)

by Fran McVeigh

Wow! The Twittersphere was on fire on 10/22/2020 when the #G2Great chat discussed Alfie Kohn’s article from the Boston Globe, “Is Learning ‘Lost’ When Kids Are Out of School?” You can check out the article here and the Wakelet for the chat here.

I trust that you will want to check out the article as Alfie Kohn succinctly answers his own question. But that also causes a few more questions for readers which is why the discussion was scheduled with the #G2Great audience. What’s important? What matters?

Here are a few tweets illustrating that point.

Where do we begin? Many government officials and capitalists would have us begin with assessments but if you espouse “student-centered” education then you already know that we must begin at the very beginning. Are there really gaps? How would those be assessed? And how would we really assess learning? And that circles back to student-centered learning. We begin with student assets as identified in the tweets below.

In the Boston Globe article, Alfie Kohn pulls no punches with his beliefs about standardized tests. Do they REALLY measure learning? Well, that then requires us to think about learning. Is learning merely the regurgitation of factoids, examples, and curriculum that could be answered by a Google search? Or is “learning” something else? What do educators believe? How would students respond?

Here are some thoughts on “What is learning?” from the #G2Great community.

So if we are not going to use standardized assessments to measure “Learning”, what can the education community STOP doing now? How can we help “Learning” be the sustained focus and not just the “flavor” for a chat response or a newsletter? How can we make LEARNING the focus of all our future conversations?

In order for instruction to provide opportunities for learning as well as choice, and adding in “student-centered”, what will educators need to be working on expanding? What about: Student agency? Empowerment? Choice?

These four tweets will jump start your thinking about additional actions for your school community.

Is learning lost? There may be some summer slide, but as previously mentioned, students have shared powerful learning from their at-home work that has longer lasting life-time implications for their communities. Where will change come from? What will it look like? It will begin with a belief in the need for change. We can no longer afford to prepare our children for the 20th century. Change has been needed for decades and is evident that we are now in the THIRD decade of the 21st century. The pandemic just made the need for change more visible when schools were shuttered across the U.S. (and Canada) last March.

Where will YOU begin? Who else needs to read and discuss this article with you? When? The time for action is NOW! The students are depending on YOU!

Additional resources:

Alfie Kohn (Books, Blogs, Resources) Link

Alfie Kohn – Standards and Testing – Link

Alfie Kohn – How to Create Nonreaders (Yes, 2010, but read all 7) Link

Weeding Harmful and Misguided Practices: Grading and Assessment (Final in 5 part series)

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet link

On Thursday, February 27, 2020, our five part series “Weeding Harmful and Misguided Practices” was capped off with our #G2Great chat for Grading and Assessment. What a fun series. What a daunting task to close out our series with this post.

Assessment is one of my favorite areas to study. I remember when a good friend of mine came to our agency to be our “Assessment Guru.” We had many conversations about the differences between learning and achievement as well as the many roles of assessment in literacy. Some conversations were quite spirited as we both grew our understanding in the application of best practices that would “Do the Least Harm.” Although cancer took that colleague and friend way too early, I remember that every meeting always included two things: 1) the meaning of the word assessment and 2) some quotes about the purpose of assessment so I am going to follow her example to begin this post.

What does assessment mean?

Assessment in Latin comes from “assidere” which means to “sit by.” Every assessment with students should be a matter of “sitting by” students. Every. single. one!

What quotes speak to us about assessment?

The #G2Great team chose the following four quotes to introduce this chat. The quotes specifically name reading and writing but they could also apply to speaking and listening as well. Which of these quotes would you add to your personal quote wall? Which align with your beliefs? How would we know?

Within this series we have stressed identifying practices that may inadvertently be harmful or even toxic for students, teachers and their communities. In the areas of assessment and grading, many folks have strong beliefs about the efficacy of their own practices. Many ideas often “work” in the hands of a skilled and knowledgeable teacher, but could they be improved on? Are there even more possibilities that could enhance student learning and decrease the toxicity of standardized testing situations that stress out and create anxiety even in our kindergarten students?

Think of a child you know well. Picture this child as you continue reading this post. How will your conversations and decisions impact this one child? Let’s get started!

What harmful and misguided practices should we weed? Rather than identifying a few tweets that exemplified the chat thinking, this list was collected from my review of all the tweets in the Wakelet archive.

Take Action: Take two minutes to think about something you can eliminate from your own assessment and grading practices. How much time will you gain from this change? When will you begin?

What practices should we strengthen and/or add to our assessment and grading repertoires? This list was also collected from the tweets during our chat.

I love that this green list is longer than the red (stop doing) list. If everyone at the chat and/or everyone reading this post were to remove one less productive practice and add just one better idea to assessment and grading, students and student learning would benefit greatly. So would the one child that you are focusing your attention on. Another action might be to take the green list to a departmental meeting, PLN, faculty, or leadership meeting and come to consensus on items that would enhance learning for all our students.

Alignment of beliefs and values is critical. We just spent time developing our own team mission statement for #G2Great so we would have some criteria for our actions and decisions. Beliefs, values, pedagogy, assessment, and grading also need to be aligned. Alignment increases the likelihood that everyone “in the boat” is rowing in the same direction, and thus the goal of increased learning will also be met.

Take Action: Where will you begin? Take two minutes to consider what you might add or strengthen in your current assessment and grading repertoire? Who will you add as an accountability partner? What will success look like? When will you have a conversation with your partner? Where might you begin with addressing your beliefs and values for assessment and grading? How will you know that your work is “helping” the student you named earlier to grow?

What is one area of assessment that has research behind it that all teachers should have on their radar?

Formative assessment.

Formative assessment has the potential to double the rate of student learning. The. potential. when. done. correctly! The. potential. when. the. focus. is. on. students!

Formative assessments have the following characteristics:

  • ungraded
  • quick
  • during the learning cycle
  • information is used to inform instruction
  • are for learning
  • are a part of the “process” of learning
  • may be about comprehension, learning needs or academic progress
  • may be designed by students
  • may have multiple answers

Formative assessments are not about having five, six, seven, eight, or nine of the characteristics above; instead, they are about the intent or purpose behind the assessment. What do we need to know in order to advance learning? What might need to be retaught? Which students are ready to move on to the next learning steps? Any of these questions could be the reason behind a specific ungraded, formative assessment.

Take Action: Take two minutes to think about your formative assessment practices. When and where are you most often adjusting instruction? When and where could you be more systematic in your use of formative assessments?

Where else do we turn for guidance in assessments? Our national literacy organizations have joint policy statements about major issues. It should be no surprise that the assessment standards were revised in 2010 when the “No Child Left Behind” accountability and assessment craze was sweeping the nation.

What do ILA and NCTE say about assessments?

Here are the joint 11 standards for assessment. Which ones do you value? How do all 11 align with your assessment processes? Which ones match up with your current assessment and grading practices? Which ones are you planning to strengthen?

How and when will you “sit by” students to check in on their learning? How will you encourage research-based assessment and grading practices? How will you include student voice and choice in the development of assessment and grading practices that will fairly and equitably “assess” learning? Where will you begin?

Eliminating or weeding harmful or misguided practices will free up time and energy for more effective and efficient research-based practices. You have identified some ideas in the “Take Action” sections. Students, parents and communities will appreciate the opportunity for active involvement (although they may grumble) in the changes. Provide time for students to increase their knowledge so they can self-advocate for appropriate learning activities and assessments. Include everyone. Continue to think about that one student guiding your decision. GET STARTED!

Resources:

Visible Learning and Feedback

https://visible-learning.org/2013/02/john-hattie-helen-timperley-visible-learning-and-feedback/

Will the real data please stand up?

https://blog.heinemann.com/will-real-data-please-stand-up?utm_campaign=Fellows&utm_content=107380213&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&hss_channel=fbp-96011276891

Three Key Questions on Measuring Learning

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-lea)dership/feb18/vol75/num05/Three-Key-Questions-on-Measuring-Learning.aspx

Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing (ILA and NCTE)

https://www.literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/resource-documents/standards-for-the-assessment-of-reading-and-writing.pdf

Reading Surveys: A Go To Data Source for Creating a Focus for Instruction

https://www.juliewrightconsulting.com/blog/2019/9/17/reading-surveys-a-go-to-data-source-for-creating-a-focus-for-instruction

#G2Great Embracing Books As Our Strategic Intervention Heart & Soul

By Jenn Hayhurst

May 30, 2019, marked the arrival of Part 2 of our 5 part series, Rethinking Our Intervention as a Schoolwide All-Hands on Deck Imperative. We had an inspired conversation about how we might embrace books as our strategic intervention heart and soul. When teachers use excellent trade books as a centerpiece for a classroom intervention, they are rewarded with authentic reading experiences with children. Good books combined with responsive teaching is just what is needed to bridge student gaps.

What is it about that word, intervention? To me, it gives off this negative connotation that students need something overly complex when what they really need is good teaching. So when our #G2Great team thought about having a chat that focused on using books as an intervention tool, it just felt right. The #G2Great PLN also seemed to agree:

We refer to books as a strategic intervention heart and soul because connecting with books is life changing. Literacy changes who we are in very real ways by influencing what we think about and even who we aspire to become. When teachers know who their students are they have this immense power to put students in touch with books that will resonate and reflect their identities and values back to them. It may sound lofty but as I read these tweets I see that this is inherently true:

There is so much potential for growth if we were to make a commitment to embrace books as our strategic heart and soul. Think about it. An intervention program that is built on good books and thoughtful teachers is one to celebrate. Invest some time getting to know students, add in a teacher’s expansive knowledge of books, and now there is real potential. There is the potential not only to improve a child’s ability to read but also to shape the identity of the reader. I think that Lester Laminack and Katie Kelly say it best in their book, Reading to Make a Difference:

Teachers build their bridges for their students one book at a time. Truly, the most effective interventions are both elegant and simple. A teacher, a good book, and a student with an open mind can change the world. Believe it.

On a personal note, I’d like to welcome, Brent Gilson to our #G2Great team. Welcome, Brent! What was once only three dedicated teachers has grown into a bigger more vibrant team.

Building Your Literacy Base: How Do You Define Literacy Expertise, Experts, and Research?

by Mary Howard

This week, #G2Great addressed a topic that is at the very heart of thoughtful professional decision-making. On 11/1/18, your #G2Great co-moderators enthusiastically reflected on building a literacy base as we posed the question: How Do You Define Literacy Expertise, Experts, and Research?  It was clear from the first tweet that our dedicated family of learners had strong feelings about this question and were eager to explore their thinking in the company of others.

Early in the chat we asked our friends to tell us who they depend on to inform their practices. It wasn’t surprising to see that the list of trusted researchers and authors who inspire them quickly grew: 

Richard Allington; Donald Graves; Don Murray; Peter Johnston; Marie Clay; John Hattie; P David Pearson; Lucy Calkins; Tom Newkirk; Taffy Rafael; Nell Duke; Ken and Yetta Goodman; Louise Rosenblatt; Kylene Beers; Bob Probst; Carol Lyons; Ellin Keene; Donalyn Miller; Kathy Collins; Fountas and Pinnell; Stephen Krashen; Stephanie Harvey; Regie Routman; Debbie Miller; Jennifer Serravallo; Gravity Goldberg; Kate Roberts; Maggie Roberts; Ralph Fletcher; Nancie Atwell; Penny Kittle; Kelly Gallagher; Kara Pranikoff; Dave Stuart Jr.; Cornelius Minor; Katie Wood Ray; Anne Goudvis; Georgia Heard; Jan Burkins; Kim Yaris; Susan Zimmerman 

After perusing the tweets of this wonderfully inspired chat, I found myself lost in so many thoughts about the direction I wanted this blog post to take. These are trying times and I couldn’t shake the sense of uncertainly that amplified the magnitude of this topic. Ultimately, I decided to share my own reflections this week and then add some selected #G2Great tweets at the end of the post.

Our committed quest for literacy expertise, experts, and research has long inspired informed professionals who are dedicated to excellence. That is, however, particularly challenging at a time in our educational history when we find that we must cautiously maneuver our way through a confusing maze of good, bad and ugly. This winding path leads us to amazing research and brilliant minds but it is also sadly intermingled with less than trustworthy quasi-research and self-proclaimed experts who seem unfettered by sharing narrow opinions without the benefit of experience to back it up. As professionals, these contradictions force us to traverse the twists and turns of jumbled chaos so that we can emerge with the research and experts we know that can be trusted to give us the most principled information.

Any conversations that we have about using research to support our practices must include a discussion of our professional responsibility to read that research with a critical eye. In her recent post, Reading ResearchFran McVeigh, set the tone for this chat by illustrating the importance of using reliable research to inform rather than dictate our choices. An early chat quote from Nell Duke acknowledged this point by emphasizing our role in the thoughtful use of research. Nell Duke’s remarkable collaboration with Nicole Martin, 10 Things Every Literacy Educator Should Know about Research, reminds us of the potential dangers that research raises for “misrepresentation and misuse” and offers the purpose, role and function of research used by ‘informed educators.”

As we consider literacy expertise, experts, and research, it is important to understand that these do not work in isolation but rather are inseparably intertwined. Our committed desire to grow our own literacy expertise inspires us to pose curious queries. These queries lead us to the experts and research that continuously adds to our knowledge base and fuels more queries. Our increasing knowledge motivates us to ensure that these sources are dependable while we are aware that a single source is inadequate. We then seek the professional books and references that fine-tune our thinking and support our research-fueled understandings. Through these explorations we can then consider how this knowledge informs our current and future practices. Ours beliefs drive this process but we refine those beliefs based on our increasing knowledge. This intricate interweaving of experts and research that grows our literacy expertise allows us to bring that research to life where it matters most – in the company of children.

This inspired process of thoughtful exploration is critical given the internet and social media flood of conflicting information. While having unlimited resources at our virtual fingertips can be helpful, it can also make it challenging to weed through the sea of options that include both reputable and highly suspect references. This requires us to be responsible professionals who consistently question whether these offerings are solidly grounded on the best research. We remain must acutely aware of the dangers that can come from our refusal to question individuals, publishers and groups who happily cite research for less than admirable reasons:

Citing research to sell products

This is a common issue in an age where savvy marketeers are lurking in every corner since the internet has turned educational advertising into an instant sales pitch. This makes it common for high quality research to be cited solely for the purpose of selling a product which often doesn’t even reflect the intent of that research in the first place.

Citing research to justify practices

Social media has invited a plethora of questionable practices touted as research based. The grab and go convenience of sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers appeal to busy educators but adds a slippery slope where teachers can be sucked into time-wasting, convoluted, heavy on cute but light on substance lesson ideas and activities devoid of authentic research basis.

Citing questionable research to support an agenda

Growing groups who are currently shouting “science of reading” are building momentum, slinging verbal attacks at anyone who does not adhere to their beliefs. Nothing seems to be immune to their furor including many of our most respected experts, programs with a strong research basis such as Reading Recovery as well as universities, districts and even states across the country. The legal implications that have resulted make it even more important for us to be hyper vigilent.

Citing flawed and outdated research

In spite of the widespread failure of NCLB, Reading First and other “research-based” educational embarrassments, research rising from these efforts continues to be used with reckless abandon. While the intent seems to be to justify those practices and approaches it actually serves to confuse educators and perpetuate our educational missteps. Our educational history is littered with such mistakes and so we must acknowledge that not everything in our past is worthy of our support.

So where do we even begin when research sound-bytes of half-truths seem to cross our paths at every turn. Unquestionably, we start by making our own professional reading a high priority including books and references that are readily available and the research references. These references then afford us the opportunities to seek out the actual research so that we can read it for ourselves with a discerning and thoughtful lens. Yes, the dangers of research abound and there will always be those eager to toss research citings recklessly around for their own shallow purposes. But the only antidote that we have to fight this warped view of research is our own growing knowledge and our commitment to speaking up against those who use it for the wrong reasons.

And so in closing, our title, Building Your Literacy Base: How Do You Define Literacy Expertise, Experts, and Research?, holds the answer to where we begin since they work in combination. The very act of building our literacy base will help us to grow our literacy expertise through the experts, and research that support and extend that literacy expertise. This process is likely launch a powerful domino effect of a life-long love of professional growth that informs our practices in a never-ending quest for excellence.

Some #G2great tweets that inspired this post