Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

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?



Text Selections that Promote Deeper Understanding

By Amy Brennan


This past week as I attempted to find some balance in my professional and personal life, I spent time on vacation with my family and for the most part disconnected the part of me who is a connected educator and an admitted workaholic.  I am proud to say I was present with my family, which was long overdue and I even missed our #G2Great chat this week.  This was a challenge for me especially since it was my turn to write for the blog following our chat.  Thanks to my partners in literacy, @DrMaryHoward and @hayhurst3 I was able to spend this much needed time with my family, then return home to read the Storify and dive right into the chat and write the blog.  

This week we asked questions about Text Selections that Promote Deeper Understandings as part of our 4-Part series Teaching with Intention: Maximizing Our Instructional Power Potential.  As happens each week, educators joined in at #G2Great to answer the questions and think collectively as we shared and learned about ways to choose texts that promote deeper understanding for our students.  It is always the community of educators that comes together to share ideas that grows my thinking and pushes me towards continued growth and deeper understanding.  As I read through the Storify archive there were certain words that came to my mind as I considered the responses to each of our questions.  

Final Word Cloud


When choosing texts thoughtful educators are intentional.  Texts are chosen with a purpose and audience in mind, similar to when we write. The purpose of the text may be for a read-aloud, a shared reading experience, a close reading, a mentor text for writing, or a touchstone text for reading.  The purpose for text selection could be to teach a particular strategy to the class or a small group strategy lesson. We are even intentional in the way we expect our students to choose their independent reading books, as our intention comes through as a model for their own practice in text selection.  There is real beauty in that.  

The audience (students) I would argue is even more important than the purpose, because without the audience we would not be able to choose a particular purpose.  “It’s about them, not us!” was the clear message that came through the Twittersphere as Christina Nosek (@ChristinaNosek) said it so clearly.  This charge should be shouted from the mountaintop.  We need to consider our students strengths and weaknesses, their interests and experiences in order to select the books. The relevance of a text to the student greatly impacts the learning that follows.  The relevance comes through a text and speaks to our students, it shows them how we know them and that we have established a relationship with them.  Selecting texts must be based on the students in you are choosing it for, those students right there in front of you.  If we want results in reading instruction we must be intentional in our text selection.  

Dylan A1Christina A1nicole a1Tara a1Christine A1


    In selecting texts we always aim for a healthy balance, much like in life. As dedicated connected educators, we are always trying to balance our professional and family life. This is the same balance we need for choosing texts for enjoyment and texts for instructional purposes.  The balance can come in different ways.  For example, I know every text I read teaches me, changes me and makes me grow.  This includes books that I read for pleasure or books I read professionally.  In that sense there is balance.  Keith Garvert (@KeithEGarvert) pointed this out so well in his tweet captured below as he clarifies that reading is thinking.  Hattie Maguire (@TeacherHattie) brought a great metaphor to the #G2Great table and shared that she reminds her students that they need potato chips and steaks as both serve an important role in a readerly life.  

Keith A3

Hattie A3




We are well aware that the research shows that thoughtless questions, worksheets and agendas can derail our efforts to deepen understanding.  Following this statement we asked the question, “How do we spread that message and offer alternatives?”  We received so many great responses related to opening doors and sharing alternatives with colleagues.  We know that all learners need to see a model, to watch that demonstration in action.  Our colleagues need to see this possibility too in order to try out some of the alternatives to old ways that we know now are not enough.  This is especially important for our colleagues who may not be connected yet and do not have immediate access to the great progressive minds who push our thinking every day.  For those educators, we must open our classroom doors and invite them in so they can see the engagement, the thinking and what our students can do through dialogue, meaningful responses and self-questioning.  

justin A4

Jenn A4 in response to Justin
dylan A4Christina A4

Catherine A4


In order to deepen understanding we need to use text selection as a flexible instructional tool.  Flexibility is intertwined into the other words I have highlighted in this post. Without flexibility we cannot reach all students.  Offering students multiple texts from different genres and layering these texts in order to build knowledge and increase the depth of comprehension can have a powerful impact.  Robin Diedrichs (@blueegg3r) calls on educators to “attack the Matthew Effect!”  The Matthew Effect essentially says, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer” and in the sense of reading, students who come to school better prepared with richer literacy experiences then find themselves with what sociologists refer to as “accumulative advantage.”  This idea has been discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book, Outliers and also coined in education by Walberg and Tsai in 1983 to describe how some students quickly develop literacy skills and others who enter school already behind do not catch up and the gap widens. Being flexible in text selections can help to close the gap for students, especially when it supports building knowledge and vocabulary and increasing deeper comprehension.




Susie A2robin A2






terri A2 in resp to susie a2

shelfie talk A2


Student Talk

    Last but certainly not least, student talk at the center of our classrooms shows us the evidence of transfer as their understanding deepens.  We ensure this by creating structures to foster student talk and then by leaning back and just listening.  Listening to our students as they share their ideas and thinking around books. Teacher talk should decrease and student talk should increase.  Tara Smith (@tara_smith5) says it well in her tweet “From the first day of school, we need to make space for student led talk & questions.  Simply, we need to talk less.

Kathlenn A6

Lisa A6

Jill A6

Tara A6


Our collective thinking each week at #G2Great always leave me with a mind that is full of ideas and I have that feeling of excitement that comes just after learning something new.  This four-part series offers an opportunity to grow with us as we explore teaching with intention in order to maximize our instructional power potential.  Join us in the coming weeks to help us grow ideas and learn together.

4 part series

Teachers Doing the Work: Thoughtful Planning For Intentional Read-Aloud

Jenn Hayhurst

Burkins & Yaris Quote for blog post

How can we use read-aloud as a springboard to reading, writing and thinking? This was the question that sparked the first of a #G2Great four part series: Teaching With Intention Maximizing Our Instructional Power Potential. Our chat on April 21, 2016 has come and gone but I am left feeling refreshed and renewed as I begin this post. Even though educators came to this conversation from different points in their careers, everyone learns from each other. What does this plurality of thinking offer us? Clarity.  It is that clarity and our ability to respond to our own questions about read-aloud that help us to maximize our professional potential.  

Q1 How can we more intentionally frame read-aloud to increase student engagement in ways that maximize our instructional POWER POTENTIAL?

Takeaways: Real engagement is not show and tell, it is experience and learn:

  1. Read-aloud energizes engagement through student interests
  2. We elevate our students’ status and create relevant experiences
  3. We move away from compliance towards ownership
  4. We create readers who love to read

Q2 What do you look for when using read-aloud as a flexible instructional springboard?

Takeaways: Stories and ideas flood students thinking through read aloud:

  1. This creates an intellectual and social context for learners
  2. Reading aloud opens pathways for communication, to promote deeper understanding
  3. Making room for students to talk, draw, or write is a scaffold to express abstract thinking in tangible ways

Q3 Read-aloud is a powerful framework to build language & vocabulary. What can we do to intentionally enhance those goals?

Takeaways: It is our own questions that help us to grow:  

  1. Begin by starting with texts that you love, then find out what your students love. How do we use this fertile ground to grow relationships?
  2. Instructional planning is organized around meaning making. How do my students learn best so they can access this text?  
  3. Whenever we stop the flow of the story be mindful of the enjoyment factor. How do I use the structure of different genres to select my stopping points and demystify the author’s craft?
  4. Build vocabulary lessons from context to allow students to practice and transfer. How can I use the classroom environment to promote transfer for all students?   

Q4 Peer collaboration and sharing is a crucial aspect of read-aloud. What is your favorite approach to bring readers and books together?

Takeaways: Read-aloud is an experience that we can use to structure meaningful collaboration:  

  1. See students for who they are and let their interests drive them
  2. Plan in options for collaborative learning
  3. Use  kidwatching to gather formative data

Q5 How can we integrate writing so the writing will elevate the academic AND emotional experience of the read-aloud?

Takeaways: When I put these tweets together it’s pure instructional magic:

  1. Reading multiple versions of a story reveals the author’s craft so students can attempt to transfer learning to their own writing
  2. Considering what a student decides to write about reveals their perspective to us while promoting engagement

Q6 Varied flexible reflection options after read-aloud allow us to create a more personalized experience. What options do you offer?

Takeaways: Read-aloud and reflection work hand-in-hand:

  1. Give students options to make a choice for how to reflect: written, partners, groups
  2. Don’t let this dynamic learning end in elementary school.  Middle schoolers need instructional techniques like turn and talk to engage their reflections too

Q7 Based on #G2Great chat tonight, what is one instructional shift you will make so that your read-aloud is more intentional?

Takeaways: Teachers are willing to modify their practices based on their own learning. Professional collaboration allows us to fine tune our practices:

As I reflect on our #G2Great chat on read-aloud I am reminded how important it is to collect students’ thinking through: anecdotal note taking, reader’s notebooks, post-its, and exit slips. I use each of these things to look for patterns in their thinking. This is live data that can help me to differentiate and drive comprehension instruction with even greater intention. My collaboration with Jill DeRosa  a third grade teacher in my building, elevates my thinking around keeping the child at the center of all we do, by asking the question: “Where is the child in all of this?” We responded to this questions in two recent posts, Unlocking Each Other’s Potential and You Can’t Do This Work By Yourself

Each Thursday night #G2Great teachers from all over the world come together to do the work that we need to do to become more skilled at our craft.  To think about ways that will help our students thrive and grow.  Thank you for helping me to think deeper and longer so that I can continue to grow my practice. As each of us grow together, it is our students who reap the benefits of our collective learning.  

Igniting Deep & Joyful Learning through Purposeful Play

by Mary HowardAd

On April 14, 2016 #G2Great welcomed guest hosts Kristi Mraz, Alison Porcelli and Cheryl Tyler, authors of an amazing new book, Purposeful Play: A Teacher’s Guide to Igniting Deep & Joyful Learning Across the Day. Their personal commitment to the topic is evident from the first page with the words that implore us to take action: ”Play isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity.” This message quickly reverberated across Twitter in a celebratory ripple effect of newfound appreciation for purposeful play as #G2Great moved into trending overdrive.

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As it turns out, research supports our collective enthusiasm. Dr. Stuart Brown, the world’s leading researcher in the science of play, states that “what play does better than anything else is unite what is in your head and your heart.” Celebrating play as one of the best exercises for the brain, he lists an impressive array of by-products including lightheartedness, empathy, hope for the future, optimism, flexibility, and adaptability, making a strong case for purposeful play in our classrooms.

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In a nod of enthusiastic support, our #G2Great chatters added a myriad of benefits including opportunities to discover, explore, negotiate, imagine, create, rehearse, problem-solve, revise, collaborate, engage, innovate, elaborate, persevere, cooperate, compromise and plan. Add social and emotional intelligence, growth mindset, motivation, choice, curiosity and flexibility to that lofty collection and the ‘necessity’ in purposeful play is elevated to a new sense of urgency.

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What makes Purposeful Play such a powerful book is that it is brimming with research support that inspires us to embrace purposeful play and affords ample evidence to convince naysayers while their treasure chest of tips and suggestions in a step-by-step illustrated guide transports us to a visual playground of pure joy. They don’t just tell us how to make purposeful play a reality – they show us. Purposeful Play is a magical mix of compelling research evidence and practical application that is sure to bring the play movement back into glorious view.

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This message comes at a time when far too many schools view recess and other forms of play as expendable in favor of an ever-increasing emphasis on academic rigor. In response, Kristi, Allison and Cheryl highlight the rigorous nature of play as ‘play in work and work in play.’ In or out of our classrooms, purposeful play engages children in enthusiastic ‘rigorous’ learning that can fuel our instruction to a new level. Our favorite new play friends remind us that although we may not have a choice in what we teach, how we teach is always in our hands. In others words, purposeful play as a personal and professional priority is a choice.

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This week on #G2Great, with the gracious support of Kristi, Alison and Cheryl, our chatters made a conscious choice to make purposeful play a personal and professional priority and their excitement was palpable. Teachers left with a new resolve to embed purposeful play into every learning day. Best of all, our #G2Great Twitter playdate will impact our students and make them the lucky benefactors of their enthusiastic determination.

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Kristi, Alison and Cheryl keep the promise emblazoned on the front cover of their book. Through research support and words of encouragement and guidance, they take us along on a purposeful play “joy” ride toward igniting deep and joyful learning across the day. In their words, “Play connects us to the world and to each other and offers unlimited possibilities. So come. Let’s play!”

Oh yes indeed girls. Let’s play!

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Follow Kristi at Kinderconfidential & Chart Chums with Marjorie Martinelli and Heinemann

Revisit a few of our #G2Great Purposeful Play tweets below

Thriving as Professionals with Meenoo Rami

Guest Blog Post by Susie Rolander @suzrolander


On April 7, 2016 #G2Great, we were lucky to have Meenoo Rami, author of Thrive, as a guest host on our Thursday night chat.  Just as her book helps us to thrive in the professional work that we do, Meenoo’s message on the chat was that when we make our own learning a priority, our students in turn benefit greatly.

Meenoo’s message supports Carol Dweck’s idea of growth mindset.  Since the publication in 2006 of her book, Mindset, Dweck continues to remind us that we are actually on a continuum between fixed mindset and growth mindset.  My friend @JDolci, an amazing educator, lifelong learner and questioner, illustrated this continuum when he was faced with putting together a complicated easel this week.  He reverted into the “I am so terrible at putting things together” mindset but luckily used the growth mindset to assemble it (with the encouragement of  our Voxer network).  As we work to strengthen our professional growth mindset, Meenoo’s message helps to guide us. Her words give us a roadmap for our own learning journey.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.20.39 AMMeenoo’s tweet reflects a responsibility that we all have to reach out to others in the teaching community in order to help them grow.  Thrive gives us a template to offer to teachers in our community.   This message of mentorship is more important than it has ever been before because many teachers feel isolated.  Meenoo encourages us to step outside the boundaries of our school environment to connect with a greater teaching community.  

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 8.53.33 AMA dear friend has been teaching for over 20 years.  She goes to the end of the earth for her students but she hadn’t read a professional book in years and had no current mentor to look up to.  By her own admission, she was stuck, isolated and bored.  Her years of experience and successes in the classroom make her such an invaluable asset to her school community, but she lacks the spark, the drive and the community to help her grow.  She was eager to learn but the PD her district offered never seemed to meet her personal learning needs.  I shared with her that Twitter has provided me a platform where I can grow in the company of others.   She was ready to break down those barriers.    

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.14.03 AMMeenoo suggests here that as mentors ourselves we don’t want to change others, only spark their own personal growth.  She also clearly advocates that we all hold the roles of both mentor and mentee and she encourages us to help others learn and learn from others.  Meenoo emphasizes the importance of being in a community of learners in order to thrive, but we each have to find our own path to accomplish this.  Professional inspiration can come from many sources, including our students.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.19.51 AMScreen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.09.28 AM     Herein lies the great impact of Meenoo Rami’s book, Thrive.  She gives us, the teaching community, a guide to help us all continue to grow and learn as teachers, no matter how long we’ve been in the field.  She lays down the groundwork to be able to cultivate a growth mindset around our very important work.  As guest host on this week’s #G2Great chat, Meeno shared her amazing wisdom with a group of eager learners.  Her clarity in the importance of growing as educators beyond our comfort zone resulted in changes that could be felt in the course of the chat.  

During last night’s chat and in Meenoo’s book, Thrive, she reminded us of the importance of cultivating professional growth and curiosity which, in the end, greatly impacts our students.

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(RE) Invigorate your teaching with Meenoo’s newsletter and remarkable book, Thrive.

Susie Rolander & Dani Burtfield will be leading a book study on Thrive with Meenoo every Tuesday during June. Stay tuned for time or contact Susie or Dani. #EdThrive

Thoughtful Decision Making

by Amy Brennan3

Charlotte Danielson has observed that teachers make over 3,000 decisions a day. These decisions have been categorized by Danielson as “nontrivial” meaning that they are more complex and more significant than one might at first imagine.  These decisions impact the small humans we teach each and every day.  The educational journey of each student is impacted by those 3,000 plus decisions we make each day and, therefore the call to be thoughtful weighs even greater in our minds as educators.

This practice of decision making and thinking resonates even more with me as I continue to reread and reflect on the book Quiet Leadership by David Rock.  He suggests that when we work in a field that compensates us for thinking, the way to improve performance is to improve thinking.  This is different from previous management models left over from a time when most workers were focused on processes.  Therefore in considering thoughtful decision making it seems that if we improve thinking we improve decision making and overall we improve the learning experiences for our students.  Simply stated, when we improve our thinking we improve our students’ thinking.

On March 31, 2016 #G2Great we came together to deepen our understandings around thoughtful decision making.  During our weekly chat, we often begin by sharing quotes from leading thinkers who make us think deeper.  As an extension to our Thursday night #G2Great chat, I will return to some tweets and highlight thinking around these quotes that generated collective discourse.

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The potential of our instructional power is at its greatest when we balance instinct with deliberate thinking around our decisions.  Instinct comes from the experiences that are already hard-wired into our brain as maps.  We know or can predict the outcome of certain situations and this needs to be in balance with intentional thinking when making these 3,000 decisions each day.  Thoughtful decision-making is at the heart of all great teaching and learning; great teachers put students at the center of those decisions.  Take a look at the tweets shared out and it will be easy to see how we as educators put our students at the center of our thinking and decision making.

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If we let this quote from Stephen Covey inspire our thinking it won’t take long to realize that our classrooms are the residual outcome of our decisions.  In maintaining our belief that students are at the center of our classroom then we could argue that student decision making then also results in the learning process that can be seen in our classrooms.

John Hattie has said about our students, “Give them the skills so they can be their own teacher.  We truly make a difference when we teach students to see their impact, they become more engaged in this thing we call school.”  When we join together as collective learners in our classrooms we can make a difference, involving students in classroom decisions is a powerful way to advance learning.  In fact if you look at rubrics used for teacher observations (Charlotte Danielson’s Framework or the NYSUT Teacher Practice Rubric) in the distinguished or highly effective column and multiple times across different domains or standards you will see descriptors that include actions on the part of the students.  Releasing responsibility to students is valued across these areas and has a correlation to their learning processes.  When students are involved in the teaching and learning not only are they invested in their learning, they learn that they have something to do with their own success and this will not only engage them as Hattie pointed out, but build intrinsic motivation.

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The process of reflection was the focus of our #G2Great chat while our blog is really a tribute to the words that are tweeted out into the Twitterverse each Thursday night at 8:30pm EST.  As we think about thoughtful decision making we have to consider all that we learn from the reflection piece of that process.  Especially powerful is the opportunity we have to reflect with others, while we can do this in person or with our PLN in a virtual sense, the process is the same.  David Rock has said, “Making decisions can be a difficult process, and having a sounding board can make a big difference.”  The additional benefit of this collaborative reflection as Rock points out is that “having others stretch us is a way to grow faster than we would on our own.” Each and every week at #G2Great I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with others who reflect and stretch my thinking and decision making in a way I cannot on my own.  Grateful for reflection.  Grateful to share thinking.  Grateful to grow and learn.  Grateful for all the tweets that inspire great work.

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