Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk

By Jenn Hayhurst

Click here to access the Wakelet

Chances are good that if you become a teacher, you love to talk. Teachers know it in their bones that talk is important. It’s important for so many reasons: building strong relationships, the transference of learning, articulating one’s values and point of view within a pluralistic society, We are so grateful that authors, Shana Frazin & Katy Wischow joined our #G2Great community for a powerful conversation. Their new book, Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk published by Heinemann belongs in your stack! Reading this book, and viewing its resources is like having master coaches in your corner helping you along the way.

Joyful Teaching

We asked Shana and Katy, what are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices? 

Talk is a powerful vehicle for learning AND a great way to bring joy into every subject.  There are predictable cycles and purposes in conversation that, if we learn them and keep them in mind, will help us be more powerful thinkers.

Shana Frazin & Katy Wischow

Joyful teaching experiences begin with strong relationships built on talk. Once students truly believe that we honor their talk, we can teach them how to honor each other’s talk. This foundation of intentional talk forms a caring learning community. One where deep thinking will flourish.

Engaged Learning

Making the choice to author a book is a huge commitment. We asked, What impact did you hope that your book would have in the professional world?  Shana and Katy shared their WHY:

We wanted to help answer the questions we get from teachers all the time about how to make classroom conversations more engaging and meaningful. We wanted to keep talk front and center as we all wrestle with how to help all kids find purpose and passion in their schoolwork and lives. 

Shana Frazin & Katy Wischow

There is a lot of pressure to keep instruction moving along at a high level of productivity. Sometimes it may be tempting to limit students’ talk. Don’t do it – talk is the very thing that will ignite their learning process. They need to find the words.

Creating Identity Through Talk

Shana and Katy’s message from the heart for every teacher to keep in mind… 

We want teachers to remember that the heart of being a good teacher is knowing your students well. When talk is centered across the curriculum, students have abundant opportunities to reveal themselves as readers and writers, researchers and activists.

Shana Frazin & Katy Wischow

A student-centered approach to teaching rests on knowing who they are and being fully present when you are with them.

Thank you, Shana Frazin & Katy Wischow for authoring this beautiful book, Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk.

Breathing New Life Into Book Clubs

By Brent Gilson with Guest Blogger Travis Crowder

#g2great 8/8/19

This week we had the awesome pleasure of chatting with Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen about their new book Breathing New Life into Book Clubs The Wakelet of the chat can be found here.

Travis Crowder has written a great blog response to the book that we would like to share with you. Travis is a passionate advocate for literacy work and is the co-author of the fantastic book Sparks in the Dark which had its own chat and the Wakelet for that is available here and the Literacy Lens post here. The G2Great team is so grateful that Travis was willing to share his words with us.

Travis Crowder response to Breathing New Life into Book Clubs

A Friday afternoon. I watched them grab their books and notebooks and gather on the rug around the coffee table. Conversations from other groups created lively streams of energy around the classroom, but in this group, something was different. When they were settled and facing one another, they opened their notebooks, almost in unison, and began writing. Curiosity got the best of me. What were these students up to? I walked to the edge of their group, trying to catch a glimpse of what they were writing, careful not to disrupt the flow of whatever was happening. I didn’t know, but clearly, they did. And that was all that mattered. I squinted to catch a line in Keila’s notebook, and that’s when I realized the significance of their writing. In their book club book, the mother of a character had died, and they were capturing emotional reactions inside their notebooks. Without any prompting, they had decided that spilling their emotions on the page first would help them make sense of their thinking. Discussions migrated from groups across the room, pressing against the quietude of this group, yet their activity was unimpeded. After several minutes, when everyone had finished writing, Karina looked around the group and said, “Who wants to read theirs first?” The book club was now ready for discussion.

Book clubs possess the power to transform readers and to elevate students’ thinking, reading, and writing. The story above captures a beautiful moment in my classroom, one that we dream of as teachers, yet one that may not happen as often as we’d like. For several years, I was hesitant to include any book clubs in my classes for fear that students wouldn’t read, conversations would flatline, and several weeks of valuable time would be sacrificed because of poor management— mine and theirs. At first, the attempts were wobbly, and often, I felt lost in despair. With time and quite a few mistakes, though, I created routines with my students that helped us develop effective book clubs. Looking back, I wish there had been a comprehensive professional text to help me understand the nuts and bolts of managing book clubs, while providing strategies for holding students accountable for reading and discussions. Now, that text exists. And it is nothing short of brilliant.

Breathing New Life into Book Clubs: A Practical Guide for Teachers, by Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen, is a gift to our profession. It’s as though both Sonja and Dana are standing at the threshold of the book, asking readers to join them on a breathtaking journey of thought. They take us through systems and routines that make book clubs manageable and inviting, and ultimately, a way to help students fall in love with reading. Both writers denounce superficial assignments and activities that demean literacy and provide ideas that nudge kids to develop authentic reading habits. Philosophy is threaded into the tapestry of Chapter 1, letting us know that their thinking is grounded in creating a culture of reading and assuring us that this work is possible. But it goes beyond that.

I love the types of clubs— genre, identity, goal, theme, and series— that they delineate for us. Prior to reading this text, I hadn’t given much thought to the type of books students were reading, other than attempting to focus clubs around a big idea, such as war or relationships. This delineation breathed new life into my thinking. Identifying the type of club we feel is most beneficial for kids will determine their energy, engagement, and success, all of which nudge us to provide book clubs again and again for our students.

In addition to helping us understand the different types of book clubs, a curated list— of wide and varied titles— is available to help us select the books we want to offer our students. They give us ideas and mini-lessons to create book clubs beside students, coach them into effective conversations about texts, and lead them into a life of living with books. If you’re worried that clubs will lose their focus and energy, set your heart at rest— they have you covered. Writing, sketching, creating bookmarks, and recording videos are just a few of the strategies to help students lean in to deeper conversation. And what’s more? Sonja and Dana walk beside you through each mini-lesson, offering ideas that will lift your book clubs from where they are to an even higher plane. Kids aren’t reading with no direction. They’re reading to think, to learn, and to grow alongside their fellow club members and classmates. And fall in love with books.

I want you to listen to this gorgeous section from the first chapter:

Book clubs are where students fall in love with reading, but we value book clubs because it is in these spaces that we witness humanity at its best. Through the process of reading and responding to texts, students come to understand each other better. They reflect on who they are, where they hope to be, and the ties that bind them together. The attitudes, traditions, values, and goals established in book clubs often become the principles that guide the way students live their lives. As such, we can invite students to record the story of their book club in a journal or on a blog— the laughs, the struggles, the triumphs, and the lessons learned that will stay with them (pg. 8).

So often, joy and community seem to be a missing pieces of language arts classrooms.  Book clubs, which can be full of life, love, and joy, can help kids prepare for a lifetime of reading, especially when created with teachers who want to see them develop into readers who can sustain volume and independence. The emphasis on understanding each other is a beautiful ode to empathy, and something we need more of in our world. When I work with kids to establish books clubs this school year, I will look for those places where students are maturing into better human beings. Book clubs help create that story— for us and for our kids.

Sonja’s and Dana’s incredible humanity glimmers on each page. Children are at the heart of this work, and with their brilliant thinking, both writers show us how we can move kids to engage with books and their world. Democracy demands a literate populace. It’s teachers like you and me, ones who are committed to this critical literacy work, who will shape the minds of tomorrow. We live in a world of uncertainty and pain, and each day, hateful rhetoric pierces the heart of humanity, eroding the integrity and decency we try to uphold. Sonja and Dana have given us a book that does not waver in its devotion to students, teachers, and books. With them, we can go into our classrooms and create a literate atmosphere based on empathy and respect. Let us not forget that we are fierce educators. And we have the capacity to show kids the indomitable power of story. 

Thank you, Sonja and Dana, for an unwavering allegiance to our profession and for helping me better understand the qualities and virtues of effective book clubs. I salute you and am honored to work beside you in literacy education.

Q and A with Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen

1.  What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world? As educators, we’ve yearned for a book that pulls together the research and best practices that could help us have the “best book clubs ever.” And although we found pieces of the puzzle, in various places, we couldn’t help but notice an important gap: There simply wasn’t a book that exclusively addressed the nuts and bolts of book clubs- how to create, maintain, and sustain them. We decided to create this resource for ourselves and other educators. 

2.  What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices? We must be unyielding in the goal of cultivating lifelong readers. This can be accomplished by staying true to three mantras: 1) Be Brave! Let Go! Pull Back! Students must have choice and ownership over their reading and their clubs. 2) Embrace Authentic Discussions! Students’ discussions will ebb and flow; trust that they will become stronger over time. 3) Joy! Joy! Joy! Build joyful reading communities by providing high-interest texts, helping clubs form strong identities, and encouraging students to read together. 

3.  What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind? We have the power to provide pathways that nurture a love of reading in our students. We hope educators will take part in a reading revolution that makes joyful reading and book clubs central.

We at G2Great would like to thank Sonja and Dana for their beautiful book and for joining us to discuss it. We would also like to thank Travis Crowder for providing the blog post for this week. If you are looking for more discussion around the book please check out Clare Landrigan’s post and video on her blog which is linked here .

Additional Links

Facebook Group: Breathing New Life Into Book Clubs…

Instagram: LitLearnAct

Most Recent Blog Post:…

Most Recent Podcast:…

these 6 things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most

By Fran McVeigh


My eyes were devouring the text. Everything about the author. Everything. It’s been my pleasure to know Dave Stuart professionally, online as a blogger and in person, for several years. He is a teacher, author, speaker and thought-leader. Dave’s work impacted my practices and thinking as an educator when he encouraged teachers (and me) to “not freak out” over the Common Core. Many authors have written books about focus. A search for “focus” at Corwin Press had 827 results. A search of Amazon Books for “focus” resulted in 101 pages with a range of 18-19 entries per page. Focus has been a pretty popular topic.

So what’s different?  “Focus on What Matters Most” is the conundrum. Who decides what matters the most? Each teacher? Each grade level? Each building? Each department? Each district? Each state?  Do you see the problem? Dave proposes that we “focus on what we already know” as we work “Smarter, not Harder” and he gives us “permission to simplify.” No fancy language. No slick new strategy. No magic silver bullet. We learn from and with a trusted colleague, as literally, Dave shares how to streamline literacy instruction while increasing student achievement.

There’s a no-nonsense attitude. A bit of a “git-r-done” response. Time spent, yes. Time wasted, no. And that was the core of the #G2Great chat with first-time guest, Dave Stuart, Jr. on Thursday, October 25, 2018, as folks gathered around the #G2Great hashtag to converse and share ways to focus teaching.

But let me give you one last piece of advice . . . this book will not solve all your problems.  This book will not help you work eight hour days or less. If that’s what you are looking for, please stop reading now.  Instead, this book will help you use a decision-making framework that focuses your values, your goals for your students, and some key content areas to work on improving.  YES, improving.  Growing your skills in a few key areas to maximize learning for students. A laser-like focus that will help your students grow into the life-long learners that you know they can be. Your reward will be in knowing that you have done the best that you can! Let’s get started!This was our opening quote. I’m going to invite you to take about 30 seconds now to pause and reflect. Pauses will be inserted at several points for some brief processing time. Pauses like speed bumps. Slow down, pause and think.

What are your thoughts about this opening quote?

What would it change for students in your district?


Mt. Everest

Dave argues that teachers need coherence of purpose, or an “Everest Statement” that encapsulates all that they hope to accomplish in a given year. What is the range of expectations for students? Academic? Life-long? Work-related? How broadly do folks think? During our chat, discussion of “Everest Statements” ranged from readers, writers, thinkers, talkers to building relationships with students and teachers and moving striving students to more successful behaviors and habits.

What is your “Everest Statement”?

Did you co-create it with your students?


Relationships with Students Matter

Students need to do the work of learning. In order to do quality work, students must see some value in that work in order to complete it with “care, attention, effort and focus.” Otherwise, the work remains undone or of such poor quality that it is difficult to ascertain if students are learning. Teachers don’t have to be master entertainers with cute gimmicks and gadgets for students to learn.  Instead, students need to know that teachers care and that teachers are asking them to do relevant work.


How do you connect with students? 

How do the students know that you are credible?


Knowledge Required 

Learning does not happen in a vacuum. So many facts can be googled but there is still a basic layer of knowledge that precedes talk about a topic. This aligns with Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. The key is not staying in the low recall level very long. What’s the implication for focus? Reading, writing, speaking and listening have to move to higher levels routinely and often. Analysis and synthesis require students to participate and think. Classroom routines and procedures need to nurture and lift up the complexity of student responses.


How often are students moving beyond recall?

What structures do you have in place for discussion?



Being able to disagree with someone without being disagreeable is a learned skill that takes practice and involves both listening and speaking. An argument can be as simple as rehearsing two sides to a question to determine the next course of action or as involved and complicated as a formal debate. Arguments in content area classes can be about which examples best define a vocabulary term or which traits represent historical figures or about which tool has the best consumer product rating in an applied science course. Dave uses “pop-up debates” to practice arguments. This is another example of a way to begin with some basic knowledge through reading, writing, or other media and then build up to evidence of the use of critical thinking.


What role does argument play in your classroom?

How might you use oral practice (pop-up debates) to build student skills before writing?


Public Speaking

Public Speaking. One of the biggest fears of most adults. If the speaking and listening standards at your school still resemble the Common Core standards, then speech is no longer relegated to a one semester high school course.  Speaking and listening are required of every grade level and every content area PK – 12. That’s not just wishful thinking. Speaking or discussing is an easy formative assessment. Speaking is a quick check for understanding after reading. It’s an important rehearsal skill. And it’s also complex because spoken responses also run the gamut of Bloom’s or DOK skills. There’s also a delicate balance between the level of comfort in sharing ideas and disagreements that is dependent on the level of respect, trust and community in the classroom.


What are my expectations of myself for public speaking?

What are the expectations for my students?


Does this apply to me?

An elementary teacher friend texted, “Should I check out the chat? Dave’s a high school teacher.” And of course, I said, “YES!  You must!” I believe this is a book that will frame conversations so all teachers can figure out what matters most. It will be incredibly helpful for content area teachers in all secondary classrooms. But I also believe that it’s helpful from the winter holiday on for teachers in second grade and all teachers in grades 3-6 (or any teachers on a PK-12 vertical team) who have ever asked any of these questions:

“How do I focus when planning curricula?”

“How do I focus when planning instruction?”

“How do I focus when preparing school or building wide policies and procedures?”

“How do I focus when feeling stressed or defeated?”

The role of focus in a teacher’s life is undeniable. Being as productive as possible during the teaching day frees up time for families and life outside of school. Time that is necessary to be the best teacher possible for every minute of the school day. Dave’s book won’t make all the decisions for you, but it will give you a framework for self-reflection and conversations with co-workers. That will put you on the path to a focus on WHAT REALLY MATTERS!

What actions will move you forward?

Where will you begin?



This post reflects some of the ideas from the #G2Great chat with a little background from the book.  You will need to check out the book to get the full picture.

You can simplify your teaching, teach all the standards and have a life. Dave Stuart Jr and these 6 things will start you on that journey. Grab a couple friends, read the free first chapter online, and get the learning started!

Links for Additional Exploration:

Corwin Book

Dave’s Blog

Check out the #NCTE18 program for sessions with Dave Stuart Jr.

Dave Stuart Jr. book signing at NCTE Saturday, November 17, 2018 at 4:15 in the Corwin Booth!

#G2Great chat Wakelet

Reclaiming Independent Reading as a Professional Imperative

By Fran McVeigh

On September 6, 2018, the stars aligned, the chorus appeared from heaven, and the #G2Great chat was literally almost trending from the first minute because Independent Reading is huge, hot, and hard to say “no” to. It would have been easy for teachers and edu-friends to say, “I’m busy. I will catch this  topic later.” For many attendees, it was the first week with students back in school. For others, school has been in session for two, three or even four weeks. But our crowd was splendiferous and the learning was off the charts.  It was inevitable. The quotes for this chat included words of wisdom from such literacy greats as: Donalyn Miller, Stephanie Harvey, Annie Ward, Ellin Keene, Nancy Atwell, and Richard Allington.

But just as I was narrowing down my final selection of tweets for this blog post, ILA issued their “Children’s Rights to Read” (link) and I was captivated. 

Ten rights. Ten simple rights. Ten rights that highlight the need for access and equity. Ten rights that don’t use the word “Independent” but wouldn’t that just be a redundancy? The “Children’s Rights to Read” are, in truth, aimed at the 750 million people across the world that cannot read and write at a basic level. This notion of “Rights” inspired me to think about whether these ten rights are in place in ALL schools in the U.S. and I am saddened by the knowledge that we have no evidence that they are firmly established in every school building.

The positives in our chat were that I found the following concepts:  value, access, love, ubiquitous, equity and sustenance. In the explanations for each concept, please note the crosswalk for the match to the “Children’s Rights to Read” as well.


When we value something, in our personal or professional lives, we make time for it. It gets priority scheduling. It’s not left to chance.  It’s never, “Well, if there is time left, we will do independent reading.”  Or my most hated because it also speaks to access, “When you get your work done, you can read independently.”  (GRRR!) The old Mathew Principle:  The rich keep getting richer while the poor continue to get poorer!  When independent reading is a priority, I often see it as a “settling in routine” where students enter the classroom and are expected to have their book out and be reading when the bell rings.  When independent reading is valued, it’s woven into the schedules and routines so tightly that students will beg for “just two more minutes so I can finish this chapter, PLEEEEASE!”

Value = establishing priorities for what matters

Match to Children’s Rights to Read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


Access is so multi-faceted that is difficult to pick a starting point.  The number one criteria for access is often touted as time. Is it perceived as a necessity for all students or a luxury?  That depends on the value of that time. Would any teacher say that Independent Reading was not important? Then schedule it first. In ink. Boldly. Confidently. After time, the next issue is texts (physical books, magazines, and digital resources including video and art).  Where does a teacher develop that classroom library? What about the new teacher with an empty room?  But broader than that: is there a classroom library in the science lab, math classroom, economics classroom, and more importantly in the office waiting area? Location of texts could be access, value or equity. Other aspects of access to consider may be more subtle. Access to time to talk about books. Access to a knowledgeable adult/teacher to conference with. Access to that next book on the To Be Read (TBR) stack or that long awaited book that just arrived from the publisher when there are NINE names ahead of yours on the waiting list. Access to books about people like you, your community, and your background. Access to books that interest you.  Access to new books that have recently been published. Access to conversations about the books with other kids in your class, your school, your state, or your country.

Access = choice of the right texts at the right time!

Match to Children’s Rights to Read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


A love or passion for reading begins at an early age. It is supported when we read aloud, read along with children, and listen to them read. That takes time and texts. It may begin at home or at school. How do we continually grow and nurture book love in our students? As parents, teachers, librarians, or administrators – those many roles that we have – what is our end goal for students?  Will their score on a summative state assessment be what the student takes away from their time in the classroom?  Or will it be the fact that you helped them fall into love with reading? You helped them explore their interests. You helped them find books and authors that opened whole new worlds. They grew. They changed. They lived their lives differently because of that new found love or passion for reading.

Love = an opportunity to change lives

Match to Children’s Rights to Read: 1, 3, 4, 5, 8


When something is ubiquitous, it is pervasive, worldwide or universal. The belief that Independent Reading is a mainstay of reading instruction is ubiquitous for teachers who have a goal of helping students get lost in that “just right” book.  Teachers who are readers. Teachers who love books. Teachers who know which titles are being published.  Those are the teachers who can connect students with books that will change their lives and put them on a path to continued reading.

Ubiquitous = a need to build lifelong, independent reading habits

Match to Children’s Rights to Read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


Equity in reading means that all students have the opportunity for Independent Reading.  It’s not “what you do when your work is done” because some students never do get their work done. It’s not “pull-out intervention” time. It’s not “pull-out for special education service minutes.”  Equity also means that everyone has access to texts at school and at home. Lack of wifi does not limit access to  digital texts. Students and parents are not expected to personally buy the books on the summer reading lists. Students who are primary caregivers in their homes are not judged when reading logs or notes to parents working multiple jobs simply forget! When equity and Independent Reading are both priorities, then it is a part of Tier 1 for every student. All students. Every Student!

Equity = zip codes do not determine learning

Match to Children’s Rights to Read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


How important is reading?  That seems to go back to the value of reading. Is your view of reading that it is necessary for life?  Does reading nourish your mind, thinking and soul? Do you agree with Rudine Sims Bishop that texts are mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors? If yes, than having a reading life is a part of your required sustenance plan. Not a luxury.  Something that must be prioritized into a daily routine or schedule.

Sustenance = the power of “flow” to hook readers for life

Match to Children’s Rights to Read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

So if you remember how an acronym works, these characteristics detailed above, Value, Access, Love, Ubiquitous, Equity and Sustenance spell out


Yes, it was a bit cheesy to use “Value” as the first concept.  But it’s important, critical, imperative! It all comes down to our professional values. What do we hold near and dear? What do we know is vital for our students? What does it take to create readers?  What does it take to create literate beings who continue to grow and learn once they leave our school halls?

If we value Independent Reading and make it a professional imperative, it will be a priority every day in every classroom. If we value Independent Reading and make it a professional imperative, time and money will be allocated to support it. If we value Independent Reading and make it a professional imperative, resources from discontinuing old antiquated bribes like AR can be re-purposed to support it (Thanks, Brent for that idea!). If we value Independent Reading and make it a professional imperative, students will love to read, will be able to read and will choose to be readers all their lives.

Just a quick reprise for “Children’s Rights to Read.”  Those 10 Rights above are huge.  Note that Value, Access, Ubiquitous, Equity and Sustenance connected to all 10. ALL 10! And there were a total of 55 connections out of a possible 60! 92%  means Independent Reading as a way to support Children’s Rights to Read is a Professional Imperative!

Curated Tweets:



































































































Additional Resources:

Wakelet – Link

Donalyn Miller – “I’ve Got Research, Yes, I do.  I’ve Got Research. How About You?”

ILA – “Making Independent Reading Work”

Scholastic – “The Joy and Power of Reading”

Kari Yates – Heinemann – “Five Ways to Reclaim Time for Independent Reading”

Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell  – “On Why We Need Libraries and Librarians”

What matters most?  Reverence or Relevance?

By Fran McVeigh

In the week leading up to this chat on July 19, 2018, I wondered about the title and where it would take the chat. I consulted the dictionary and the thesaurus. I even discussed the topic with a co-moderator. I wanted an idea or a theme in mind to “jump start” my thinking. A spark.  An angle. A beginning point. After all . . . I was going to be at #ILA18 and my goal was to not spend all weekend writing a blog post. So here’s a small snapshot of what I discovered.

Synonyms for Reverence (Source link)

Synonyms for Relevance  (Source link)

Reverence:  High opinion.

Relevance:  Pertinence.  

The “or” in the title suggests one or the other.

Flip a coin. It’s a high opinion.  

Flip again. It’s pertinent.  

But . . .

I have this queasy feeling in my stomach.

When is high opinion enough?

When the teacher says, “I like it.” ???

When the teacher says, “It has research to support it.” ???

When the administrator says, “This is what I bought.” ???

When is pertinence enough?

When the teacher says, “This is what my kids need.” ???

When the teacher says, “It worked this way for my students last year but I think if I try this one little change, it may work even better.” ???

When the administrator says, “Have you checked with others about this idea? And with whom?” ???

Before you make a decision about what you want (those things you revere) or what is needed (or relevant), let’s review this curated sample of #G2Great community tweets. The link for the entire Wakelet (archive) is at the bottom of this page.

What are our beliefs?

Meaningful, purposeful work:  What are we in awe of?

Goals:  What are we in awe of?  What do we believe is best for students?

Collaboration and Goal-Setting:  How do we keep students at the center?

Time:  How do we allocate and use time to reflect what we revere and what is relevant?

Talk:  How do we ensure that students talk more in the service of learning than the teacher?

Eureka . . .

What if, instead of trying to decide whether we need to start, continue, or stop doing something because of its reverence or relevance, we decided that both factors would be part of the same lens or filter? What if reverence AND relevance became a double simultaneous filter for reviewing and reflecting on our teaching needs and desires?

And as I participated in the chat in the midst of a group of #G2Great dear friends,





Giggling occasionally

Greeting passer-bys

Reverence and relevance both merged together in Brent’s Canva of a quote from Dr. Mary Howard here.

. . . amazing child . . . notice and nurture . . . incredible potential . . . that resides in each child . . . without exception!

If that’s our vision and our goal how can we not use our understanding of reverence and relevance together?

And now that you have read through a curated set of tweets, just think about what learning in our classrooms could be if we asked students to “curate their learning daily.”  What possibilities do you envision?

Copy of Wakelet here


#BowTieBoys: Exploring Instruction Through Students’ Eyes – Group Work and Collaboration

By Fran McVeigh

My post for the #BowTieBoys guest host stint at #G2Great in March seemed easy. I reread the questions, reviewed the tweets, considered formats and began writing. In fact it was so easy that I began worrying about this second post. What would be different or unique?  What would be the bookends for the learning?

I am in awe of these middle school and high school students: their focus, drive, poise and incredibly articulate positions on so many issues in education. As I worried about appropriately expressing my respect for their work, I remembered that April is synonymous with poetry. So I created this acrostic “fan poem” about the #BowTieBoys before we even had the chat and had my first 19 words.










After the chat, I was still in search of my goal for this blog post – stuck with my 19 words and the title.  I dreamed of a post worthy of clearly and succinctly articulating the depth of their participation as guest hosts for #G2Great on April 26, 2018. But I felt like the center fielder who had missed a line drive straight up the middle.

So I researched, reading previous Literacy Lenses posts as well as posts from the #BowTieBoys. I even DM’d Jason  Augustowski about a post outlining the origin of this group. You can find those details in his biography here. I read through the Wakelet artifact, collected tweets and reread the archive again. Ideas swirled in my head.  And then I reread the title:  Exploring Instruction through Students’ Eyes:  Group Work and Collaboration and the theme coalesced around that title. No surprise. The title became my North Star, my purpose.

This group of students, ranging from 8th graders to juniors, wrote the questions, responded to the questions, and had multiple conversations with educational folks during the #G2Great twitter chat. In essence, they collaborated with each other in the question development and then participated collaboratively in group work during the chat. They executed group work and collaboration in an online format while sitting together in the same physical space. Middle school and high school students!

Were the students doing this for participation points?

Were the students doing this for a class requirement?

Was there a rubric where the teacher was making tally marks for participating comments?

Would a student be “marked down” for “not speaking up”?

The answer to each of those questions is a resounding “NO!” And therein lies the purpose. These students are learners who understand that they learn in different ways, like to respond in different ways, have different interests, but yet they are united in their passion to provide input in order to improve their educational lives. They read professional texts by Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Laura Robb, Linda Rief, etc. and strive to improve their own knowledge on their own time and in their own ways. (Does that sound familiar, dear readers, who have found your own personalized learning on Twitter, Voxer, or in books by similar authors?)

Student perspectives on learning are necessary in order to improve educational practices AND learning. Teachers need student feedback, beyond assessment numbers, that range from classroom environment to routines/procedures to the content and instructional delivery systems.


Dr. Mary Howard is fond of telling us that our “WHY?” is our most important question to answer for any instruction, assessment or even planning. And she is so correct.  Beyond teachers and administrators knowing the WHY, so must the students. The WHY cannot be left for students to infer. It should be obvious. It should be stated often. And it should be the driving force behind every decision made in the classroom, of the classroom and for the classroom.

Why Group Work?

These tweets really helped me collect a wide range of thoughts about Group Work.

Why these tweets? Because of the key words that popped out in this word cloud.

Several priorities for Group Work had surfaced:  Allowing all students to have a voice, providing opportunities to add ideas, affording time to discuss and/or gather information, new viewpoints and ideas, and encouraging others to interact.  Aren’t those all habits and behaviors that employers want? Why would we ever be surprised that students want these? The surprise might be that students have not previously felt comfortable with sharing these needs. The surprise might be that some teachers don’t collect feedback from students.  The surprise might be that the feedback is perfunctory and never acted upon.


Why not have a combination of interactions daily in the classroom that allow students to learn together?  Why not provide choice in interactions? Why not ask the students (voice) when learning is working as well as when it is not working?

WHY Collaboration?

For this second big topic, I again returned to the tweets for the benefits of collaboration.

Merriam Webster defines collaborate as “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor” so it does overlap with the previous Group Work conversation. The heart of collaboration is that new thinking or product emerges as a result of collaboration.  As you can see in the tweets, the students recognize that combinations of individual and group work are needed and that there needs to be a real purpose, not “just” a principal or teacher evaluation for the collaboration. The process of collaboration should include frequent checkpoints so that both the students and the teacher have frequent feedback on the effectiveness of the collaboration.  Student ratings or rubrics designed collaboratively with the teacher and negotiated with group members are often effective. Will all groups be 100% effective every day? Probably not without some specially designed instruction, tasks and productive work that builds respect, trust and a community of learners commited to deep learning.


As shared in the tweets, collaboration is not necessary for all tasks. Students recognize fake collaboration to impress an observer or to mark it off a checklist. And perhaps the beginning of a class period is not the best time for collaboration if students have not yet settled into the learning mode. Are there some tasks that are better suited to individual work? Having real world, meaningful tasks tends to make collaboration more successful.

WHY does it matter?

The goal is mutual learning. Students collaboratively involved in the learning processes have a deeper understanding of teaching just as teachers involved in collaborative work have a deeper understnding of student learning. When this commitment to education and learning is reciprocal, magic happens. That magic was evident in our #G2Great chat with the #BowTieBoys. Students. Teachers. Learners ALL. Understanding WHY is the essential element.

ACTION To Consider:  Take these remarkable questions and discuss them with your teachers and classmates.

And summarize with:

WHY is Group Work important?  

Is all Group Work equal?  

WHY is Collaboration important?  

How do Group Work and Collaboration support student learning?  Find your WHY and find your guiding principles for learning!

Please follow the #BowTieBoys on Twitter:

Kellen Pluntke @kellenpluntke

Spencer Hill @spencerrhill99

Joe O’Such @joe_osuch

Christian Sporre @CSporre

Ryan Beaver @rbeaver05

Connor Grady @ConnorGrady11

TQ Williamson @tq_williamson

Rishi Singh @RishiSingh08

Sam Fremin @thesammer88

Dawson Unger @dawsonunger

Jack Michael @jackmichael776

Tam Mandanis @TMandanis

Aaron Eichenlaub @AEichenlaub729

Nihar Kandarpa @NKandarps

Jason Augustowski @misteramistera

Additional Resources:

Storify from April 26, 2018 chat Wakelet Link
Storify from March 8, 2018 chat   Storify Link
#BowTieBoys Blogs
4 minute video from 3/9/18 after #G2Great chat Link
#BowTieBoys YouTube Channel Link
#BowTieBoys Biographies Link


Previously on Literacy Lenses:

#BowTieBoys Exploring Instruction through Students’ Eyes: Creating a Positive Environment

A Reflection on #NCTE17 with the BowTieBoys – Exploring Choice from Students’ Eyes

BowTieBoys -Exploring Instruction Through Our Students’ Eyes

JV BowTieBoys – Exploring Instruction Through Our Students’ Eyes

Sam Fremin:  Viewing Instruction Through a Student’s Eyes  (storify)


Read Talk Write: 35 Lessons That Teach Students to Analyze Fiction and Nonfiction by Laura Robb

by Mary Howard

I was personally elated on August 31, 2017 when we opened our #G2Great doors to welcome guest host Laura Robb. Laura has long been a professional inspiration to many educators, but her presence was an added blessing for me since she is also a treasured friend. On this night, we gathered enthusiastically around the Twitter screen to soak in Laura’s immense wisdom and celebrate her newest book, Read Talk Write: 35 Lessons That Teach Students to Analyze Fiction and Nonfiction (Corwin, 2017).

In his opening foreword, Harvey “Smokey” Daniels eloquently describes why we need Laura’s remarkable book:

For decades, we have understood in principle that kids need to talk about their reading. But in practice, we have been slower to develop a broad repertoire of classroom structures that stimulate, facilitate, guide, and assess that kind of abundant intelligent talk. Laura Robb to the rescue once more. (xiii)

Laura Robb to the rescue indeed. In 249 pages of brilliance, she offers a treasure chest of powerful practices that are sure to promote the abundant intelligent talk that will lift student voices into the learning air in celebratory harmony. Laura’s book beautifully organizes 35 powerhouse lessons into six thoughtful categories of student centered dialogue:

  1. Turn-and-Talk
  2. Whole Class Discussions
  3. Partner Talk
  4. Small-Group Discussions
  5. In-the-Head Conversations
  6. Teacher-Student Discussions

Our #G2Great conversation with Laura reflected a clear shared commitment for engaging students in meaningful reading and writing talk. But Laura lives and breathes this commitment in her own work in classrooms and through her writing. After the chat, Laura shared four key ideas with me via email that she hopes our #G2Great family will take away from this experience And so as I reflect on her email message and her #G2Great chat tweets, I’d like to depart from my traditional chat overview by merging Laura’s messages and tweets into four Conversation Inspirations. These will offer a professional guide as you generate the abundant intelligent Laura-inspired talk our children deserve:

Conversation Inspiration 1: Create a Culture that Celebrates Student Talk

I’m hoping teachers re-evaluated the importance of talk. Talk is an oral text, and students do a great deal of thinking, considering, and refining to craft a response others can understand. I see talk as a prelude to meaningful writing. (Laura Robb’s email message)

My reflection: Our first step is to take professional responsibility for this process. We cannot create an instructional setting where student-centered talk is valued by students until we are willing to hold this process in the highest esteem. Before we can create an environment where the high quality talk we desire for students becomes a habit of mind, we must acknowledge our role in this process. When talk is viewed as a professional must then it will become the WHY that drives us each step along the way to this rich collaborative dialogue. Laura reminds us that this is not an occasional event to be scheduled at key intervals in the day, but a non-negotiable daily priority that permeates the very air that we breathe across every learning day. 

Conversation Inspiration 2: Celebrate the Talk Journey with the Gift of Time

It’s important to know that it takes time and practice for student-led discussions to run smoothly and achieve depth of thinking! The gift of time, practice, and debriefings are crucial. (Laura Robb’s email message)

My reflection: In order to create the powerful discourse we deem worthy of our students, we must first build a strong bridge between teacher supported and student engaged talk. We begin by creating a safe and supportive environment that will nurture the kind of engaging talk we want for students. Within this safe environment we can then offer the instructional models to demonstrate each step of the talk process. These scaffolded supports allow us to show our students what rich dialogue looks like, sounds like and feels like so that we can begin to relinquish responsibility to them for accountable talk. With productive and meaningful talk always in our sights, we heed Laura’s wise reminder that we cannot rush this supportive phase.
Conversation Inspiration 3: Hand over the Reins of Student Ownership

When students lead discussions, they have multiple opportunities to observe peers reasoning process as well as valuing multiple interpretations supported by the text. (Laura Robb’s email message)

My reflection: This release of responsibility allows us to create a forum that will support the kind of real life conversations we want students to have with their peers. These authentic conversations are grounded in ‘passionate and intense’ talk that we want students to continue to have with others long after they leave our classrooms – the very kind of conversations we have in our own lives. Once we have set the talk stage with support, we then begin to step back and allow students to craft the structure of these conversations so that they can assume control of the decision-making process. We trust our students to make these important decisions based on the foundation we have put into place as our role shifts from a supportive one to that of facilitator as we use these experiences to fine-tune and extend learning.
Conversation Inspiration 4: Value the Talk Process Through Your Actions

Don’t grade talk. Talk is thinking out loud and writing is thinking on paper. Talk should always precede writing. Teachers can model various journal responses that can be assessed and have students write a paragraph that explains their position or defends a point of view. I don’t grade readers’ notebooks as I view those as exploratory thinking that students can refine, adjust, and change. Out of notebook writing can come assessment projects. (Laura Robb’s email message)

My reflection: I opened this overview by emphasizing that we must begin by valuing the talk process as we make it integral to every instructional day. We maximize our framework by stretching talk across all content areas but this is only the beginning. We are cognizant that all we choose to say and do will send a message to students about how we view these experiences as we allow these conversations to grow with students. In other words, our day-to-day actions and how we treat the talk experience with the respect it deserves will impact students most. Making time and space for student-centered talk is important but we must also show in every aspect of our practices that we value an organic process for meaningful dialogue. We do this by choosing not to apply a grade to this process-based practice, by creating experiences worth talking about and by celebrating that students assume increasing control. We acknowledge that student-centered talk cannot be relegated to a list of narrow questions that revolve around trivial conversations. Above all we trust students to reach ever higher as their conversations begin to take on a life of their own and we honor this transformational student-driven process each step of the way.

Read, Talk, Write reflects Laura’s commitment to the role student talk plays in the learning process. We are grateful for her deep belief in the power of literary conversations and her support in helping us to envision this process through her very wise eyes. In the closing words of her wonderful book, Laura extends each of us an invitation to join her on this journey so that we too can breathe life into abundant intelligent talk. Laura’s vision of daily student engagement in literary conversations is sure to inspire dedicated educators everywhere to thoughtfully craft rich student-led dialogue across the learning day:

You are the key to developing highly literate students. And when you make learning meaningful for students with literary conversations and writing about reading, you keep students at the center of instruction, inspiring them to read, think, talk, and write– and continually improve their reading and writing expertise. (page 236)

We accept your invitation Laura and we will carry each of your conversation inspirations in our back pockets as we put your words into action where it matters most – in high impact talk infused classrooms across the country!

More inspired tweets from our amazing #G2Great family


Links to Connect to Laura Robb

Read Talk Write by Laura Robb (Corwin)

Evan Robb & Laura Robb:

Laura Robb Website:

Laura Robb and Eva Robb Website

Podcast with Laura and Evan Robb

Kara Pranikoff Guest Host #G2Great Teaching Talk A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking and Conversation

By Jenn  Hayhurst

I think by now everyone know members of #G2Great PLN like to talk. As a matter of fact, my good friend and mentor Dr  Mary Howard just hit 50.5 K Tweets! To use Mary’s words, “What can I say, I like to talk.”

Teachers embrace talk because it is foundational for creating community. A good conversation grants us access to higher levels of understanding. On May 18, 2017 Kara Pranikoff hosted #G2Great to discuss her new book, Teaching Talk, A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking and Conversation and we explored ways to leverage talk to develop greater sophistication for how to use talk to bolster thinking and learning in the classroom.

Bridging research to classroom practice is the heart of Mary’s book, Good To Great Teaching . When we say “yes” to research, the next thing to do is to make our classrooms home to action research. We are all approaching the end of a school year, and now is the perfect time to try out some of the practices we are learning about during our #G2Great chats so we can finish strong and use what we learn in the year ahead.  

As I think about how I can strengthen my  talk practices in my own teaching. These two tweets sparked my learning into action:

Jenny and Kara inspired me to think about and adjust my own practices. First I will more intentionally offer explicit models to increase student engagement within collaborative dialogue and second I will keep a concrete reference of that dialogue use as an instructional springboard to next steps. The following is a transcript of an exchange between a partnership. The transcript is from two students discussing the benefits of using Thinking Tracks. Thinking Tracks is a tool I created, after attending a Summer Reading Institute at the Reading and Writing Project. The intention for the tool is  to help students annotate texts quickly.


London: “Well a thinking track is really like used to jot down something. Like if I say, in the book Shortcut, they’re on a train track. That’s surprising to me, so I’d like jot down a surprising mark.”

Daniela: “Yeah, like um I will use this the Thinking Track by surprising. When they were all like looking and listening to the sounds and looking they were all surprised. I was surprised too that the kids were there on the train tracks. It is dangerous because they hurried and looked at the train coming through.  On the other side they thought a train wasn’t coming, but the train passed! Someone could have maybe got hurt.”

London: “It (this book) opens up with a big twist and we just started the book!”

Daniela: “These tracks, like funny, important favorite, and surprised, connecting, I wonder, and there is one more conforce, confus, confusing.” (laughing a little) “You can all use these even the little pictures that show us how to use them.”

London: “It’s just  a quick jot.”

What did my transcriptions do for me as a professional willing to shift my stance as a learner?

It shows me that both students have a strong understanding for how to use the tool.

It shows me that Daniela is learning how to integrate academic talk into her conversational speech.

This conversation gives me some insights as to the kinds of language standards I might want to lean into.

I can see that multisyllabic words, even familiar ones, might be still challenging to read flexibility.

I can use this conversation as mentor text to teach other students how to use the tool in a number of ways!

I can read it aloud to the rest of the class, or even next year’s class to demonstrate the value of the tool by pairing that with a copy of Donal Crew’s Shortcuts.

I can leave a copy of the transcript for students to read and annotate in a write around.

Just the act of transcribing their conversation sends a strong message to my students, we value talk here. It elevates their conversations to a new level of importance. They begin to see each other as a source of information to learn from. Wow!

I am grateful that Kara has elevated my own thinking about talk and I am going to use these points and her phenomenal book to fine tune my thinking this summer.  Yes, this just the beginning of my learning and  I invite you to join me so we can all delve deeper into her remarkable thinking. If you are reading this blog, you are the kind of teacher who is on a constant journey to bring your good classroom practices to great ones. It is every author’s hope that their work will inspire ours. When we read a professional book we are entering into a partnership that aspires to empower learning and benefit the intellectual world that we create for our students. We are co-creating a better opportunities for ourselves and our students. Happy reading.


Teaching Talk: A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking & Conversation

Breathing New Life Into the Talk in Your Classroom