Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Saying “No” To Teacher-Centered Practice So That We Can Say “Yes” to Student-Centered Practices

By Jenn Hayhurst

Kathleen Tolan Memorial Fund

Dear Readers,

On a personal note, this blog post is dedicated to the memory of Kathleen Tolan, who devoted her life to student-centered practices. She would have been the first to, unapologetically, say “no” to whatever was not in the best interests of students. For this, and so many other reasons, she was a teacher to admire.

On December 8, 2016 #G2Great continued a conversation in our Five Part Series: Saying “No” So We can Say: “Yes” as we examined the topic – Saying “No” to Teacher-Centered Instruction So We Can Say “Yes” to Student-Centered Practices. These conversations are essential to the health and well-being of our profession because as we examine our beliefs, we clarify the work the work that needs to happen in our classrooms. Our professional growth is both an individual and collective process. If we keep the conversation going, we can begin to uncover the power of our impact. Ours is a community that is devoted to discovering professional empowerment.

Get Set:

Saying yes or no to any practice begins with reconciling what we believe. Now more than ever we need to make decisions around best practices that link to an authentic philosophy for educational practices. Our stances must be informed by formative and summative data and  it is imperative that we read and write professionally,  This is how we have the good judgement to say yes or no to a mandate that does not keep students at the center of decision-making:


Get  Ready:

Part of keeping students at the center of instructional decision-making means that we value independence. We say yes to independence when we flex guided practice. Setting explicit goals, modeling and reflection are some practices that we need to incorporate into our instructional day. These are practices that every teacher can say yes to despite any mandate that comes our way:


Letting Go:

During the chat our conversation took a turn toward agency. For me, agency is a topic I return to again and again. It is the ultimate intention for every teacher – to have students who work with as Peter Johnston put it “a sense of agency”. Working in classrooms We know there are many paths to independence as we work to create our maps for empowered learning. No matter where we work or what curriculum we follow there is always room for the gradual release through guided practice and collaborative learning. When we can finally let go and have and give students room to teach and learn from each other we know we have achieved a classroom built on a foundation of high expectations that students can grow into:

A teacher’s life is immersed in growth  We are always evolving as if we are waking up to new understandings for how students learn best. Coming together each week for #G2Great is a way to uncover these best practices and that is amazing. However, I think what I love the most about our brilliant PLN  is that no matter where anyone is in the journey, we are always coming back to kids at the center and to learn with a sense of joy and wonder.

Unwrapping the Joy of Read Aloud

By, Jenn Hayhurst

Beautiful Quote






 On February 4, 2016, #G2Great initiated our five-part series: Holding Tight to Practices that Matter and turned the spotlight on read-aloud

Teachers are living in a high tech, data driven, standards based world.  Rigor and grit are expected from students and there is no time to waste.  Should teachers squander precious minutes of the school day merely reading aloud to students?  After all, what would students actually be doing while a teacher reads aloud?   Besides, we have computer based programs that read to students, so teachers can use that time in more productive ways. Right? No that’s just scary!  There are those who believe the best way to support standards, rigor, and grit is to devote time that might be spent on read aloud to other pursuits.

Teachers who understand best practices in literacy instruction know that nothing could be further from the truth. I do believe that students need to develop grit and that we  are the gatekeepers of rigor. I also believe that reading aloud is a way to achieve both goals. Our brains are hard wired for story.  Just do a quick search on Google and the neuroscience evidence is overwhelming to support this claim.  But really, the only proof anyone needs is to to look out into a classroom full of students who are listening with rapt attention to their teachers. Children of all ages are drawn into complex narratives through a dramatic reading, or ushered into a world of wonder fueled by new ideas to understand the value of read aloud:  

I couldn’t help but feel elated as I read the Storify  from the February 4th #G2Great Chat, Holding Tight to Practices That Matter: Read Aloud.  Educators from all walks of life were extolling the value of reading aloud. Teachers shared links, books, and ways to support the work with gusto. Why would they do that? The only reason I can think of is that teachers are remarkable, unselfish professionals who are motivated by improving the lives of students.  

We are working to safeguard the practices that matter most because they have the greatest impact for student achievement.  Building a community around literature is one way to ensure that we build both community and critical thinking skills.  It seems simple but it’s true that everything begins with a great book.  To that end, there were so many great books that were shared and will, with a little faith, find great homes in classrooms everywhere.  Mary compiled a list of your recommendations and created a fabulous resource  to share ( just click here ) with everyone.  

I am not immune to buying more books than I can scarcely afford. I just bought Lester Laminack’s Snow Day!  It’s a wonderful book and I can’t wait to share it with students.   I wonder what books will be bought or borrowed because of last Thursday’s chat? How will this chat impact the work that happens with students? We constantly inspire each other to be the best teachers we can be because each day we spend with students is precious and we don’t have time to waste.  

There is no question in my mind that the precious minutes we invest in read-aloud is time well spent.

Click here to watch Lester…

Snow Day!
Lester Laminack video detailing how text structures influence read aloud