Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Independent Reading: Learning to Love to Read

by Guest Blogger Fran McVeigh

The final #G2Great chat with Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris in a four part series about their book, Who’s Doing the Work?  How to Say Less so Readers Can Do More (Stenhouse, 2016) was July 7th. This chat was also the opening prelude to #ILA16 for many conference attendees as well as an all day institute about Who’s Doing the Work.  I invite you to peruse the storify here and like or retweet specific comments from the chat.


What’s so special about independent reading?

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Hmmm . . .  so a pot of gold? But what’s that power of books?

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If we begin with the end in mind, then independent reading is where, as this chapter title suggests, our students will learn to love to read and actually find that pot of gold.


What are three conditions that will help students learn to love to read?


  1. Time in school to read.


Independent reading provides students with an opportunity to use and practice everything they know about reading.  In sports, it’s similar to the basketball scrimmage where the coach takes notes of drills to work on later.  He/she doesn’t interrupt the scrimmage to coach now but carefully collects data to inform his conversations with his players and to consider specific plays to offer during the next timeout.  Similarly during class, it’s an opportunity for the reading teacher to take notes on students’ successes and areas for more observation, instruction, or practice.


Sam’s tweet says it clearly and Sam, as a student, would know!

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While reading at home alone is essential, it is not enough. If it’s important, some class time must be allocated so the teacher can observe the readers in action and support them accordingly! Jan and Kim explain in their book that each instructional context is equally important and warrants as much instructional time as the others (p. 143). We know there are huge benefits for our students who read at home, but let’s face it – our student lives are busy. We can control the time in our classrooms. Let’s use it wisely! Let’s provide time “in class” for students to read.


There may be naysayers who suggest that “research” doesn’t support independent reading during school time.  But the formative data alone that can be gathered from students’ next generation independent reading is well worth its time in terms of cultivating a love of reading and ensuring that students have transferred their reading skills and strategies.


  1.      Books
    A second condition for quality independent reading involves books.  What books are present in the classroom?  How are they organized?  Who makes the decisions about the books that are read in a classroom?  Who should make those decisions?  How does a teacher determine a “quality book”?  What’s the role of a classroom library?  Each of these questions could be its own blog post but we do need to explore some major concepts.


What books do students want to read?

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Sam’s views support those who talk about finding books that are mirrors that allow us to see the lives of others or windows into their own lives. . . books where they can connect and see themselves.  The field of literacy is discussing #weneeddiversebooks and teachers are much more aware of this even if classroom libraries are not as diverse as they would wish.


How do teachers make choices about books?

Jan and Kim discuss books in this chapter and tell us that book choice is less about the “just right” books than the specific “levels” that are often considered during instruction.

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Teacher knowledge is a critical factor as Jan and Kim further explain in this quote.

“As you select texts, keep in mind that texts, students, and tasks are idiosyncratic.  Your knowledge of your students trumps any guidelines. . . When selecting a text, ask yourself:  Is this text engaging enough, difficult enough and manageable enough for students to experience optimum productive effort?”  (p. 138-139)


How are books organized in the classroom library?

Student input on organization is extremely valuable.  Students can help organize and define labels on groups of books by topic or authors.  This may mean that  book tubs on a shelf  in the classroom library will be labeled “Blood and Guts” instead of Level U.  Or a tub label might say “If you loved Hatchet, you may love these” so that the labeling resembles GoodReads or Amazon recommendations.  Any label that will encourage or tempt a reader beats a label that just lists a level!


  1. Choice

Choice is an overlapping condition because students need choice in so many aspects of reading including: what they read, where they read, and how they respond to independent reading texts.  It’s NOT independent reading if the students are assigned pages or chapters to read as a class assignment.  It’s NOT independent reading if students can only read “after work is completed”. It’s NOT independent reading if there is a PACKET to be completed.  That need for accountability has to be given up in favor of trusting the students to read and to learn to love to read.  


Next generation independent reading allows student to choose their own text – not lexiles or leveled text.  Next generation independent reading allows students to deeply engage in texts and content of their own choice.  Next generation independent reading allows students to correct their own choices if or when they get off track.  Isn’t that a characteristic of life-long learners?


So we have the three conditions in place.  Are we done?


How do you, the teacher, sharpen the focus on what students need in order to fully implement the “Next Generation of Independent Reading”?


As you’ve read the last three posts and participated in the chats, you have probably realized that you don’t have to make radical changes.  In fact, huge shifts from one end of the reading continuum to another make both students and teachers crazy. Balance is always the key! It’s wonderful if the next generation of independent reading looks like your current class reading.  But is there some room for growth to ensure that students are doing the work?  Are there some minor tweaks that you need to consider to give students more ownership, engagement and empowerment? Reflect on your learning from this chat (or the whole series) and consider the following questions as you plan for next year.

  • Did you begin with the end in mind?  
  • Is every instructional context, Read Aloud, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, and Independent Reading, designed to build students’ love of reading?
  • Is every instructional context balanced across a week?  
  • Do students see the alignment in the work (and of course the Gradual Release of Instruction) to build independence in reading as well as a joy in reading?
  • Are students learning to love reading?
  • Have your students found that pot of gold?  How do you know?


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For additional resources by Burkins and Yaris about Independent Reading see this digest post.

Links to access earlier Literacy Lenses posts about:  Read Alouds, Shared Reading, and Guided Reading


Saying Less So Student Can Do More in Guided Reading

By Amy Brennan

Quote OPEN-8

On June 30th #G2Great continued our journey with Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris in the third of a four-part series inspired by their book, Who’s Doing the Work: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More (Stenhouse 2016).  As I reflect on the series and re-read my own marked up and treasured copy of their book I feel compelled to stand once again on our #G2Great metaphorical mountain and shout out to all educators to get a copy of this book, read this book and take on the charge to lead students to independence in reading.  

Jan and Kim introduced us to next generation guided reading in chapter 4 of their book.  The quote above from Jan and Kim resonates with me because over the years as I have worked with students and teachers around guided reading this was the thing that got me stuck each time.  I did not see the transfer happening and it seemed like the adults (including myself) were doing much of the work while students took on a role that seemed more compliant than cognitive when it came to engagement and strategic work in the reading process.  In fact, if I am honest, I generally opted for strategy groups or some hybrid type of small group rather than guided reading for this very reason.

As I read the book and reflect on the chat I am making connections between the importance of teaching towards independence for our students in school and raising my teenagers to be independent in life.  In my mind I believe one thing, but when I look back and reflect over my own words and actions I realize that in literacy and in life I am guilty of providing too much support so that my students and my own teenagers are still dependent on me when what I believe is that I want them to be independent. My actions and words have not been aligned to the end result I was seeking.  I want independence for these learners, however I am so worried about the mistakes that happen along the way in the learning process that I jump in and sabotage their journey to independence.

Picture this, you are teaching your child to ride a bicycle, you hold onto the back of the seat.  You run along behind, still holding the seat.  Back probably aching, but you are not worried or scared because you are holding on.  Your child is excited, perhaps slightly scared but more excited about the potential of riding on their own like a big kid.  You want to let go of the seat, but you can’t.  You are worried about what will happen if you let go.  Then as your brother watches, he steps in because he knows you will never let go of the seat and his nephew will never learn to ride that bike if his mother continues to hold that seat.

This was me and unfortunately, I am still trying so hard to let go of that seat.  This book has helped me professionally and personally to realize that I have to let go of the seat. To do that I need to ensure that I provide an environment where there is safety while also letting students (or my teenagers) make the more specific decisions.  I can still provide support by setting up metacognitive prompts or questions to support their thinking, not mine.  I can provide prompts that are both general and reflective with lean coaching in with agentive questions such as, “What can you try?” “What do you know?” and “What else can you try?”  In other words, I can adjust my teaching to afford students the benefits that come with next generation guided reading.

Next Generation Guided Reading Encourages Problem Solving

A1 Elisa

In reflecting on the June 30th chat, Elisa’s tweet above reminds me why it is critical to support independence in our learners.  Guided reading is the step just before independent reading when we consider its relation to the gradual release of responsibility.  When we provide too much support or do all the work, students are not prepared to do that work on their own. They do not have enough practice in problem-solving in order to know when they are stuck and what to do when reading breaks down.  Students can practice using their problem-solving skills when our questions or prompts allow students to figure it out themselves.  Questions such as “What can you try?” “What do you know already?” and “How can you check?” provide just enough support that it encourages students to think and problem solve so that when they are on their own reading independently they can apply these strategies alone.  These reflective or metacognitive questions promote thinking promote thinking that will enhance awareness into their own processes as well as the flexibility to use these in other texts independently.  

A2 Kim Yaris

Next Generation Guided Reading is Student Led

Teachers use next generation guided reading as an opportunity to learn about students’ reading processes.  Rather than providing a heavy book introduction, teachers of next generation guided reading approach the book introduction as a facilitator of the work that leads to independence.  Teachers may ask “How will you figure out what this book is about? Or “What should we do first to get started in this book?” This provides an opportunity to observe and learn from students so that instruction can be more intentional and specific to support independence in reading.  Additionally, as Lisa’s tweet below points out that too often a lengthy book introduction takes away precious reading time for students.  If we want independent readers we need to provide the time for students to engage in just that, with our careful observing eyes and ears as we take note of what students are doing and only jumping in when necessary.  Teacher talk is minimal in next generation guided reading, allowing students to talk, think and process the text.  Often teachers lament on not allowing for enough wait time, but if we reframe the term wait time to processing time perhaps we can trick ourselves into waiting longer as students are processing or thinking about a text.    

A1 Lisa

A1 Kitty

A1 Christina

A1 Mindi


I have come to the realization that indeed it is scary to let go of the seat of the bicycle and let them ride off into the sunset.  Perhaps that is why my brother and sister in law had to teach my children how to ride a bike.  However if I watch this “video” play through in my mind again I can see different ways I could have improved my teaching by letting go of the bicycle.  
Picture this new scenario, you are teaching your child to ride a bicycle, you hold onto the back of the seat.  You run along behind, still holding the seat.  Back probably aching, but you are not worried or scared because you are holding on.  Your child is excited, perhaps slightly scared but more excited about the potential of riding on their own like a big kid.  You want to let go of the seat, but before you do you watch your child’s pedaling, you watch your child’s balance and you watch your child keep their eyes on the road and their hands steady on the handlebars.  You observe and assess when they are ready for you to let go of the seat.  You prompt your child with lean coaching as you are still holding on, but lighter than before.  You are not worried about what will happen if you let go because you have worked through possibilities with your child and planned for get up again and try it strategies.  You know that when you let go they might lose balance that first time and fall, but you will problem solve and talk through how to fall and how to get up again.  Then as your brother watches, you let go, your child loses balance and falls.  Your child gets up, shrugs off the fall and says, “Next time I will go longer without you holding on!”  Your brother runs over and gives your child a high five and flashes a knowing smile in your direction.  Before you know it…your child is off and riding.  That’s what doing the work looks like in next generation guided reading — our students are off and reading.


A2: Mindi

A5 Melanie

A5: Kym


A5 Kim Yaris


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#G2Great Who’s Doing The Work Series: Sharing A Love for Reading: We Can Do This Together

By, Jenn Hayhurst

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On Thursday June 23, 2016 Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris joined #G2Great to chat about shared reading. In their book, Who’s Doing The Work How to Say Less so Readers Can Do More, Jan and Kim offer a fresh take on this tried and true practice.  We are always growing, and in the search to understand more, we continue to evolve in our understanding for what works in the classroom. Refining our practice for shared reading enables us to do more to tap into its power.  Jan and Kim refer to this new slant of shared reading as“Next Generation Shared Reading” (p 57) that offers exponential growth for readers of all ages and abilities.  

Each week my #G2Great community pushes me to sharpen my instructional lens. As I look back on the chat some key points and ideas really stood out as we move closer toward Next Generation Shared Reading.

A natural context for shared professional learning…

A5 LauraLearning begins with authenticity and an open mind. Before we can fully appreciate a new take on this practice let’s zoom in on a little history. Shared reading was introduced by Don Holdaway in 1979 with primary children in New Zealand and Australia.  Holdaway’s Natural Learning Model is predicated on the belief that all learning is social, that children learn best through: demonstration, participation, role play and performance. Next Generation Shared Reading challenges us to think strategically while encouraging greater participation through collaborative work. We began our chat by taking an honest look at where shared reading breaks down:

hared reading is meant to be inclusive, to promote problem solving through the use of authentic literature that reflects the interests of your readers so they will want to do the work. This ought to be a joyful invitation for learning how to read. This is what it looks like when students are doing the work.

Shared reading builds a community….

Shared reading nurtures self-esteem and a feeling of belonging. It engenders consistency by linking instruction: literature, history, math, science, and writing all have potential for amazing shared reading experiences. It is a powerhouse for collecting formative data. When  students are allowed to do their work we can focus on ours. Our important work is to observing, recording, and recommending while students practice, and implement learning for themselves. Strategic planning bridges connections and provides collaborative learning through social experiences. Students “try on” more sophisticated texts as they experience success. In many ways, it’s the first step towards independence:

Using texts as tools throughout bands of complexity…

Next Generation Shared Reading takes this practice out of the primary grades and recognizes its power and potential to elevate the thinking and reading levels of students across all grades. When teachers understand how books work they understand how to create openings for students to access them. They can delve into complex genres while promoting the idea that all reading should be impactful and that understanding will be deeply personal. We uncover what reading means to students when we allow them to learn within a community that values many voices.  This is what it looks like when students are doing the work:

Parting words on shared reading…

Thank you Jan and Kim for writing a book that has inspired all of us to think deeply about shared reading. You remind us to take shared reading practices out of the box through a more flexible implementation. We have a repertoire of instructional techniques at our disposal and Next Generation Shared Reading offers a more limber cohesive way to utilize Holdaway’s dynamic work for our students:








Who’s Doing the Work: Saying Less So Readers Can Do More in Read Aloud

by Mary Howard


On June 16, 2016, #G2Great launched a four-part series with guest hosts Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, co-authors of a remarkable book, Who’s Doing the Work: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More (Stenhouse 2016). We began our journey with read-aloud, a topic we’ve spotlighted at #G2Great on three other occasions (see 2/14/16; 3/17/16; 4/21/16

This week, Jan & Kim helped us make a shift to Next Generation Read-Aloud as reflected on page 30: “Read-aloud is a commercial for learning to read. It entices children to lean into the tricky parts of a text for the reward of enjoying its meaning, and this understanding of the relationship between productive effort and its joyful benefits can motivate students during shared reading, guided reading and independent reading.”

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In other words, next generation read-aloud asks us open the read-aloud door wider as we invite students to engage in meaningful opportunities to do this productive and joyful work within and beyond the read-aloud experience. Over 1700 tweets and trending on Twitter within minutes and enthusiastic read-aloud suggestions reflected that our #G2Great chatters were ready to make this shift with gusto.

Throughout our chat, Jan and Kim helped us reflect on a question inspired by the cover of their book: How do teachers say less so readers can do more? As I perused enthusiastic tweets of dedicated educators, I discovered seven essential qualities that next generation read-aloud teachers choose to embrace:

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are COMMITTED

We cannot even begin to become next generation read-aloud teachers until we make a time commitment to daily read-aloud. In my Steven Layne blog post, a comment was posted by a teacher describing herself as a read-aloud ‘thief in the night:’ “We have a specific district level mandate that reading aloud to the whole class for more than a few minutes/day is strictly forbidden.” Next generation read-aloud teachers hold tight to read aloud by carving it into daily schedule stone and they let nothing stand in the way – not even ill-informed absurd district mandates.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are SELECTIVE

Within this time commitment, next generation read-aloud teachers celebrate book choice as the inspiration. They thoughtfully select texts, opting for the highest quality varied selections that will cognitively and emotionally connect students in ways that give them a reason to actively engage in deep thinking. Jan and Kim remind us, “Text selection is the first, and potentially the most important, aspect of planning a successful read-aloud experience.” Next generation read-aloud teachers take this challenge seriously, knowing that texts are the spark that can touch the minds and hearts of students and beckon them to do more of the work.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are AWE-INSPIRING

While book choice is critical, next generation read-aloud teachers also know that it is the delivery that can bring that book to life. One does not need to sit through many scripted read-alouds to recognize that JOY is the heartbeat of the read-aloud experience. Cautiously chosen and joyfully delivered texts can impact readers in substantial ways as we celebrate the beauty of the language, meaning, and pictures. When we take time to linger a bit longer in engaging texts, we merge our collective joy and collaboratively savor words, images and messages in delight.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are INTENTIONAL

Commitment, texts and joy form the foundation for next generation read-aloud teachers but they also recognize the value of well-planned instruction and refuse to leave this to chance. Planning is thoughtfully intentional so that they can make the most of every experience. They know books inside out before reading, carefully but selectively placing sticky notes at key points in the text that will afford opportunities to model, pause, reflect, and discuss. They have a clear purpose in mind and know how to breathe life into that purpose in organic and productive ways that will elevate the instructional goal without diminishing enthusiastic engagement. Of course, they have equal respect for providing opportunities to read-aloud for the sheer sake and joy of read-aloud.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are RESPONSIVE

Next generation read aloud teachers respect the planning process, but they have even more respect for students. They are mindful that instructional goals can pull students into the experience or push them out, carefully balancing those goals by keeping students at the forefront. They are willing to ignore sticky note pauses or selected teaching points so that student thinking can rise to the surface. They invite deep thinking by encouraging student voices to lift above their own, viewing turn and talk as a read-aloud staple. They celebrate the ideas readers bring to the read-aloud experience and use them to inform next steps.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are CURIOUS

Each of the essential qualities described thus far are crucial but next generation read-aloud teachers recognize that read-aloud begins and ends with our students in mind. They view kidwatching as an art and use student conversations and reactions in the course of the experience to inspire noticings and wonderings that can elevate heat of learning moments. They seek to understand and use student thinking as a stepping stone to know students at deeper levels. They take advantage of powerful learning to make adjustments on the run to quench their curiosity with actions that are continuously informed by students.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are COURAGEOUS

Finally, next generation read-aloud teachers are willing to courageously forge new paths to elevate the read-aloud experience. They offer students a steady diet of beautiful texts and strive to bring books and children together on a daily basis. They set the stage to help students understand how books work by designing a learning experience that will be both productive and pleasurable. Above all, they believe in students enough to turn over the reign of responsibility and trust them to do work they know may be messy. They embrace the mess, unfettered by the unknown while encouraging and supporting productive effort along the way. They accept this uncertainty bravely, knowing  payoff will be immeasurable in terms of benefit to students – and that knowledge takes priority over all else.

As I think back on our #G2Great chat with Jan and Kim I am personally inspired to move closer toward becoming a next generation read-aloud teacher. I am excited to embrace the exploratory spirit this shift affords as we enter uncharted territory ripe for thoughtful meanderings in a growth opportunity for students and teachers. As we work to achieve the seven essential qualities, we begin our own gradual release of responsibility toward higher levels of thinking where students do more of the work and read-aloud becomes our teacher

Thank you Jan and Kim for inspiring us to explore what next generation read-aloud has in store for us all! Now let’s get started…

Contact Jan: Contact Kim:

More inspiring #G2Great Tweets on new generation read-aloud below


Shifting our Perspective: Viewing Teaching from a Student Lens

By Amy Brennan

Intro Sam 2

People, places and perspectives.  Within our school systems there are so many different people; the students, the teachers, the parents, the administrators and other members of the community. These stakeholders each come from different places with different perspectives but the one stakeholder closest to the learning and arguably our most important is the student.  

On 6/9/16 #G2Great we flipped our perspective and brought in an expert.  The expert in this case, is a student with the perspective that should always be the first we consider in teaching and learning. To bring this perspective we were honored to have guest host, Sam Fremin, or as he is known in the Twittersphere @TheSammer88. Sam is a 9th grade student who is a two time panel presenter at NCTE and an inspiring young man who helped us to shift our perspective for a different view on our instructional practices.  

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Throughout our chat, Sam helped us re-envision eight essential instructional points that will allow us to make this shift.  


Re-envision Motivation

When we slow down and shift our perspective we can begin to view teaching from a student’s lens.  Reflection around Sam’s tweets allow for a thoughtful change in perspective and allow for the possible revision of our own thinking.  As we re-envision motivation Jessie Miller reminds us of something that seems so simple and obvious: if we ask and listen, students will tell us what motivates them.  Sam guides us to remember that as social creatures we crave the story.  We can facilitate motivation when we listen to students tell their stories.

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Re-envision Environment

Create a safe supportive learning environment where children feel safe to take the risks that are necessary in learning.  This statement is one that was the foundation of much of my learning as I prepared to become a teacher.  When students are at the center of the classroom, they experience comfort and ownership that will enhance their learning experience. Allowing for flexibility along with input from students will help to ensure that students are in a learning environment that will best support their learning.  As we begin to think about classroom design over the summer months, we need to consider the perspective of our students and plan for ways to engage them in the process of creating their learning environment.  How will you plan for ways to involve your students in co-creating the classroom environment when they begin the new school year?  You will want to think about this from the perspective of your students as you begin a new school year.  

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Re-envision Differentiation

The flexibility that comes with differentiation of instruction creates so many opportunities for educators to consider in planning.  These tweets below show us that we need to embrace reflection and change in order to best meet the needs of the learners who are the source of our planning.  Being open to feedback from your students provides the perspective of the learner and allows us to plan for true differentiation in learning.   

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Re-envision Engagement

True student engagement is not usually questioned because we know it when we see it.  There is a certain buzz about the room when we see students authentically cognitively engaged.  Engagement can be the doorway to a student’s learning as well as the constant vehicle that brings students along on the road to learning.  Monitoring engagement provides a way for teachers to collect and analyze data.  Using this data provides the rationale for changing our plans or simply put, being a responsive teacher.  

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Re-envision Collaboration

Collaboration is perhaps one of the most widely desired skills that employers are seeking for their future workforce.  Modeling for students just how collaboration works is one way that students learn how to effectively collaborate.  The partnership work that begins early in our reading and writing workshop are perfect “labsites” for students to practice skills and get feedback from peers as well as the teacher.  Expanding from partnerships to book clubs and then some larger groups offers the opportunity to build on this skill for college.  Jason, one of Sam’s teachers (@MisterAMisterA) emphasized that he was working on a 100% plan together phase.  Students create not only their assessments but their curriculum.   

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Re-envision Transfer

Transfer of learning is our goal in the learning process.  We want students who have learned in one context to be able to transfer that learning and apply it in a different setting.  When our students are able to transfer, it is only then that we know learning has stuck.  During the chat as Sam shared his perspective on transfer and reminded us that school is more than just curriculum, Justin (@jdolci) shared that we are not just teaching isolated subjects, we are teaching learning.  When we apply a student lens to transfer we can see the importance of teachers acting as facilitators to support those opportunities for transfer.  In the end, we want our students to take what they have learned in our school environment and transfer it to solving real world problems. The thinking skills we teach in literacy will serve our students well as adults, and this happens when we teach for transfer.

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Re-envision Homework

Homework is big topic for debate in recent years.  Parents, administrators and teachers have their perspectives and during our chat Sam shed light on the issue of homework from the eyes of a student.  Sam reminds us that students need to understand the rationale behind homework.  Our students know when homework assignments are not purposeful.  Sam’s choice of the word disheartened in the tweet below should call us to attention and remind us that students need to know the rationale behind homework assignments.  We have to ask ourselves if there is a rationale for the work, can we we explain it to our students. Sam’s words remind us that no student should feel disheartened ever about homework. Sam’s suggestion about using homework as a way to “broaden” our students’ horizons is a piece of advice well worth listening to and implementing.  

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Re-envision Technology

Students like Sam are in a great position to offer their perspective to educators. Looking through the lens of a student in this area shows us how important it is to stay current and use technology to enhance instruction in the same way it is used in the world.  If technology is present in every aspect of life as Sam points out, then so should it be in schools where students are being prepared to enter college and careers.  

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People, places and perspectives. Our school systems are built from people from different places all with different perspectives. If we believe in the strength of the many people within our instructional setting, the different places they’ve come from and the unique perspective each person brings to the learning experience, we will discover the immense power in our school system.  As we embrace people, places and perspectives, we build bridges that will shift our lens to varied viewpoints and catapult collective learning.  That is where there is true power  —  collective learning.  We are all grateful Sam allowed us to re-envision our teaching through his eyes as we look ahead to a new year.  

Intro Sam 1




Looking Back on 2015-2016: Reflecting on the Past To Enhance Our Future

By Jenn Hayhurst

Teachers are getting ready to close our classrooms for summer, and begin to open our minds for deep reflection, and planning for future goals. On June 2, 2016 #G2Great asked teachers everywhere to ponder their practices more closely: Looking Back on 2015 2016:Reflecting on the Past to Enhance Our Future. As I consider my personal impact during the school year, some nagging questions begin to cycle through my thoughts:  Did I do enough? What could I have done differently? If only I had a little more time, maybe I could get to that next thing – whatever that thing may be. Can you relate? If you can, I feel as though a good story might help put our hearts and minds at ease.

Dottie Hayhurst is a petite efficient woman who has a knack for making things grow. Each year she works with diligence to plant her tulip bulbs in the fall. With deft determination she nimbly digs deep holes and places each bulb with great care. She considers many things: Will the colors compliment each other? How far apart should the bulbs be? Where will they get the best light? How should they be arranged so that they enhance the flagpole, the driveway, the walkway? Then she tucks them soundly into the ground, she tends to the soil, and finally she lets time do its job.  By the spring her garden is just lovely. Joyful growth colors the world to celebrate spring. Dottie’s garden offers up tulips to the world as a beautiful tribute to her dedication over time. She makes the world better one tulip at a time.

A garden needs time and constant care. This is also true for teaching.  Honing our craft is a slow and steady process of reflection and goal setting. There are days when students’ learning seems invisible to us. Having a vision paired with professional experience helps us understand that growth is happening below the surface. No matter how committed we are to student growth, for many children that growth happens on its own clock.

Our impact can have an opposite effect too. We can set children back, not even realizing what we’ve done if we’re not reflective. We must reconcile the challenges of our own practice and the time and development of children. Our response to that truth is to be fully present and mindful, to find ways to measure growth.

Let’s celebrate the idea that students are always becoming.  Especially when they do not have the self-awareness to know this for themselves yet. Make a promise to show them all the great work they have done and will do based on all the great work they’re doing now. When we have an unwavering belief in students we are giving them what they really the most.


So as each of you look back on the 2015 -2016 school year, reflect on these questions:

  • How did I make my students feel about themselves?
  • What evidence do I have that shows I made a positive impact on their lives?
  • What do I know about this child as a learner?

Every child should know they are unique and are worthy of all our attention and high expectations. It’s as simple as saying, I believe in you. They need to hear this whether they are in elementary school, middle school, or high school. We are not here to “fix” children but to learn alongside them. We cannot be the teacher we hope to be in the coming school year if we are not open to learning. Learning about students is the only way to them grow. In the 2016-2017 school year, let’s make the world better…

One student at a time.


Influence in Education: Leaving a Lasting Imprint

by Mary Howard1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 8.10.11 AM

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

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

Will you join me friends?


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


DIY Literacy with Kate and Maggie

By Amy Brennan

Quote kate and maggie

May 19, 2016 was an especially exciting week for me at #G2Great.  Maggie Beattie Roberts and Kate Roberts were the guest hosts on the #G2Great Twitter chat.  Yes, they have a new book, DIY Literacy and yes they are amazing.  I was especially excited because I can remember the days that Maggie would come to my office as we prepared for a day of staff development at my former school where I was the literacy coach and she was the TCRWP Staff Developer.  The brilliance in Maggie’s methods comes through in this amazing book and I am honored and in awe that I was fortunate to learn from Maggie for many years as I developed as a literacy coach.  

Often I watched as Maggie took each Sharpie, and carefully chose the color and drafted what to me looked like perfection as she taught us how to create what later developed into DIY Literacy Tools.  Teachers followed her lead as she always shared the why behind the work. Teachers felt safe in the struggle and messiness of learning as she led us from meeting to labsites and debriefs.  Teachers left with tools they created, practiced in a labsite and then went back to their own classrooms to use these tools with their own students.  

As I read through the storify for the chat in preparing to write this blog, some ideas around tools emerged.  Many of these ideas came together from the collective thinking that happens weekly at #G2Great while ideas coming from all that I’ve learned over the years from Maggie and the TCRWP community.  It was then that the culmination of Maggie and Kate’s new book, DIY Literacy fit so well.  They answer the call when we bring forth common problems in our classrooms and provide us with solutions.  In our chat Maggie and Kate asked us to join with them to identify the struggles we faced but also charged us with sharing solutions.  The solutions are found in the form of the DIY Literacy tools.  Throughout the chat these three ideas emerged:

1) Tools help learners to understand the WHY behind what they are learning

2) Tools support students and help them to feel safe in the messy struggle of learning

3) There is true power in a Sharpie

Knowing the Why

Learners in any situation fair much better when they understand the why behind what they are learning.  DIY tools such as a bookmark can give students a personal path to strategies that they can reach for easily to do the thinking and reading work that is in their Zone of Proximal Development.  Other tools you’ll find in this amazing book are examples of demonstration notebooks. Demonstration notebooks are a powerhouse teaching tool, teachers can use these in small group or conferences.  Micro progressions are a DIY tool that creates a learning opportunity where students can find where they are in the learning process and reach for the next available step in learning all while being able to see what is next and why each increment in learning is significant.  There is real beauty in the ability to see the progression of learning through these tools as it helps the learner to understand the why behind each increment of learning.  

julieanne WHY

leslie demon nb student work

Jenn conferring binder, index cards colored pen

Feeling Safe in the Messy Struggle of Learning

  Just as the Google Maps app on my phone provides me with a feeling of safety and security when I am on an unknown road and heading to never before seen sights, DIY Literacy tools can help students stay on the correct route while making them feel safe.  The stretch that takes place when we learn can be uncomfortable and feel like a struggle, but the tools we help to co-author with students can reduce that struggle, support the stretch and advance the learning.  These tools helps to organize the messiness in learning.   We should embrace the mess in learning, however if there are tools that can help to organize our learning it makes sense to welcome the mess, bid it goodbye and embrace the tools.

Kym Harjes A3

Julieanne Bit by Bit

susie run from messiness of learning

mindi what they can do

Tina goals and next steps

keith risk, messy, not perfection

The Power of a Sharpie

    During the chat Kate tweeted, “It really is all about the Sharpies.”  There is something about those brightly colored markers, once in my hand scribbling on a blank white sheet of paper that helps me to think things through.  The thinking that comes from this simple act fosters creativity for me. The process of planning out how a strategy is best demonstrated and learned becomes clear in the context of that learning in action.  Working through the process allows for revisions before the teaching and learning happens, making those later opportunities successful.  Planning for charts or demonstration notebook pages are perfect opportunities to take out those brightly colored markers. This makes me realize that for teachers and students alike engaging in this process helps students become metacognitive and own the process they are using when thinking.  Students co-creating tools like these not only leave them with a tool to refer back to, but take them through the process and the thinking.  This metacognition around process helps to make learning stick.  This is how learners are able to hold onto the process in order to hold onto the learning.  

leslie kid making own demo nb

Kate Sharpies

meredith growth talk

Mrs. Aliotta independece

Through DIY Literacy, Maggie and Kate support our efforts to identify common problems and explore solutions. The solutions are found in the pages of DIY Literacy… and teachers everywhere are answering their call.

Kate Demo Notebook image

Kate microprogression image

Maggie Tool reading a play

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 7.45.08 AM

Turnstiles and Transfer

By, Jenn Hayhurst

quote #g2great

I wonder if you can relate to this. I am walking briskly to the subway turnstile, my MetroCard is out, and I’m ready to glide through the turnstile – BAM.  The metal arm is locked and wont let me pass. I am stuck having to negotiate the right amount of pressure and speed to pass to the platform so I can continue on towards my destination. How can this be? I am able to swipe my debit card with no thought at all, much to my husband’s chagrin, so why can’t I swipe my MetroCard? It seems only natural that my ability for one would transfer to the other. This is my real life scenario that demonstrates the elusive nature of transfer.

On Thursday May 12, 2016 #G2Great concluded a four part series, Teaching With Intention Maximizing Our Instructional Power Potential. We set out to explore Teaching for Transfer Across the Instructional Day. Transfer is a complex topic for educators everywhere. Yet after an hour of good conversation I am walking away from the chat with three overarching ideas that really bring it into focus.

Demystifying Transfer: Awareness for Teachers and Students

Maximizing our instructional power potential begins by bringing clarity and intention to all that we do and transfer is no exception. Teachers who honor the importance of transfer and who actively construct understandings for themselves is the goal. When they take the next step to demystify it for their students, transfer has the power to be transformative. Generating an understanding for what transfer is and how to achieve it with our students is the work.  Our planning for instruction and our emphasis on creating classroom environments fosters student ownership:

Cultivating Transfer: Intentionality for Contextual Learning

Classrooms built for transfer are more than physical spaces. They encourage intellectual and emotional experiences that invite children to apply their learning at every turn. This message came through loud and clear: the context we create for learning should work in concert with the context we create in our own learning lives. Learning is an experience and we can explore transfer through authentic engagement that is designed to be meaningful for students:

Motivating Transfer: Attitudes About Independence

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing students apply their learning in a new situation. Skillful thoughtful planning allows us to see beyond isolative learning tasks. Our work is to promote students’ understanding that learning is a meaningful endeavor.  Whatever we ask of students their work, ought be driven by intrinsic desire. The work needs to spark curiosity for the learner. The student has to care about their progress if they are going to thrive:

Words like: grit, growth, mindset, ownership, and collaboration are omnipresent in school districts across our nation. What do these terms mean in terms of transfer? We are aspiring to create resilient students who embrace challenge and effort over time. It is not an easy road to work hard to learn something new. It’s that much more difficult to see the connectedness for what is being learned and then to apply learning in a new context. Now more than ever we have to build our students up and celebrate those efforts. They have to know that we believe in their potential to do amazing work. Every time they transfer their learning during their independent work they will believe it for themselves.  Transfer is the work of a lifetime, hopefully we never stop learning. My emerging ability to glide in and out subway turnstiles may seem small, but it renews my faith that opportunities to learn and grow reside  in the everyday.  This is a miracle that needs to be shared enthusiastically again and again with our students.  



Strategy Instruction with Students at the Center

by Mary Howard


On May 5, 2016, #G2Great continued a four-part series, Teaching with Intention: Maximizing Our Instructional POWER POTENTIAL. This week we put a spotlight on strategy instruction and set out to explore how to approach this work in ways that keep ‘students at the center’ of our efforts. Question 1 set the stage for our exploration: How can we more intentionally frame strategy instruction to increase student engagement in ways that maximize our instructional POWER POTENTIAL?

It’s not often that a single tweet to one question can capture the very essence of a chat, but Eric Davis managed to do exactly that with three words that still linger days later. His message is what strategy work with a heart is all about.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 2.00.58 PM

In Teaching Reading in Small Groups, Jennifer Serravallo describes strategies as “deliberate, effortful, intentional and purposeful actions a reader takes to accomplish a specific task or skill” (2010, 11-12). As I viewed this definition in light of Eric’s three words, I was struck by the idea that we will never make our students more deliberate, effortful, intentional, and purposeful if strategies are simply doled out dutifully like a thoughtless ‘to do list.’  Strategy work from the heart is about respecting the students.

As I pondered these words more deeply, thinking about how we can give our strategy work more heart in ways that focus on respecting the students, four interrelated R’s began to emerge:

Be Resolute

Respectful strategy work with a heart allows us to approach students with a sense of awe, secure in the belief that each child can and will become a strategic reader. We view students through a success lens, refusing to allow labels and misconceptions to cloud our view of the immense possibilities that reside within each of them. We recognize and honor their strengths and use them as a stepping-stone from where they are to where they could be. We recognize that there is no substitute for books that give them reasons to use strategies. As we teach strategies, we avoid jumping to the ‘rescue’ when they falter to make room for productive struggle as confidence and competence merge. We trust them to take the strategy reigns and then offer just right instructional support while noticing when to fade that support as we step away.

Be Responsive

Respectful strategy work with a heart reminds us that we cannot do this work unless we know the child in front of us and thoughtfully ponder how to best meet that child’s needs at that moment. We teach strategies based on day-to-day assessment rather than numerical data that leads to strategy groups more akin to instructional cattle calls. We make kidwatching a high priority practice, opting to trust our noticings and wonderings captured on anecdotal references rather than nameless spreadsheets that lose the child in the translation. We rely on strategies that rise from authentic learning with a focus on  process over product as we build strategic knowledge and promote independent problem solving in the context of meaningful literacy. We acknowledge that respectful strategy work with a heart only occurs when a book, a reader and a knowledgeable teacher cross paths.

Be Responsible

Respectful strategy work with a heart draws from this knowledge as it affords us opportunities to select just right strategies at just right moments. We honor what the child brings to the learning table at that point and time and fine-tune our strategy work in ways that will accommodate those needs. We avoid instructional quick fixes and one-size-fits-all strategies as we recognize that we must choose strategies purposefully based on each child. We know that hyper-fidelity to scripts can cloud our view and lead to lock step teaching far removed from child. We steadfastly insist on maintaining control for professional decision-making and make choices based on our knowledge of students and refuse to make any excuses why we can’t.

Be Relentless

Respectful strategy work with a heart requires unwavering commitment to what may well be most critical in a time in education where distractions and questionable suggestions abound. We keep our WHY in mind as we pursue a reader-centered classroom with a vengeance by making a commitment to actively engage students in joyful daily self-selected reading regardless of the other demands in our day. We use strategies within and beyond those experiences, making sure to put books in their hands that give our strategy instruction wings. We do this because we know that strategy work is not the end goal but a means to an end as described by Jennifer Serravallo:

You could be the most eloquent teacher, the best strategy group facilitator, the most insightful conferrer. But if you send your kids back for independent reading and they don’t read, then they won’t make the progress you are hoping and working for. Jennifer Serravallo

When we are committed to respectful strategy work with a heart we teach within a spirit of Resolute, Responsive, Responsible and Relentless teaching. In short, we are “respecting the students.” Through all of this work, we hold tight to our deep belief that we must celebrate the children in front of us and do all we can to set them down a path to becoming lifelong readers within and beyond the school day.

Sharon Murphy makes this point stating, When pleasure and reading are companions…children become engaged readers and are likely to continue to read throughout their lives.”

If our goal is respectful strategy work with a heart, pleasure and reading will be companions for every child. After all, isn’t that why we do this wonderful work?