Latest Content
5 Strategies for Engaging Boy Writers

Jennifer Allen has been fascinated with helping boys write for years, ever since her own son insisted on writing on the same topic over and over again. She shares her five favorite strategies for boosting interest in writing among boys.

Story Maps for Reflection in the Midst of Drafting

Jennifer Allen finds the use of a story map opens up revision possibilities for a young writer stuck in a drafting rut.

Working Hard and Reading Carefully: On Theme and Rereading

Jennifer Allen uses commercials to promote the importance of rereading to students while teaching theme.

Discussing Observations with New Teachers

Jennifer Allen’s new teacher group discusses what they learn from classroom observations in this video taped early in the fall.

On Their Own (Almost): Coaching and Classroom Demonstrations Mid-Year

In this video filmed in mid-January, Jennifer Allen observes new teacher Jessica, and explains how she struggles to redefine her role in the classroom.

Simplexity: Finding Your Focus

Jennifer Allen visits a thriving cupcake store in Boston that doesn’t sell any cupcakes.  It turns out to be the perfect example of “simplexity” – Michael Fullan’s term for maintaining focus on goals and a larger purpose.  Jennifer writes about how simplexity applies to professional development planning for literacy leaders.

Keeping Students Front and Center

Jennifer Allen realizes that her biggest fear as a literacy coach is forgetting to keep students at the heart of our coaching conversations. With this in mind, she shares what keeps student learning as her primary focus.

Portable Anchor Charts for Literacy Coaches

Jennifer Allen explains the many uses of portable lightweight anchor charts in her work as a literacy coach.

Book Matchmaker: Characters Across the Grades

In this installment of Book Matchmaker, Franki Sibberson provides a range of books for teaching character development in fiction for grades 3-5 students.

Book Matchmaker: Teaching Point of View

In this installment of Book Matchmaker, Franki Sibberson provides a range of books for teaching point of view for grades 3-5 students.

Jennifer Allen on Working with Veteran Teachers (PODCAST)

Jennifer Allen has developed some innovative support systems for veteran teachers. She shares her insights in this podcast.

Building the Reading Community Among Teachers

Jennifer Allen shares a few strategies for building the reading community beyond individual classrooms in your school. Book swaps, a shared staff novel, and family literacy breakfasts all reinforce the most important aspect of reading – it should be pleasurable and engrossing, no matter the age of the learner.

Still Revising After 10 Years: Sorting Through Pitfalls of Study Groups

Jennifer Allen considers how her study groups have changed over the past decade as she continues to balance district demands with teacher choice.

Relevant Support for New Teachers

Jennifer Allen finds she only learns what new teachers really need when she builds a relationship and rapport with them.

Assessing Professional Development: Focus on Feedback

Jennifer Allen details her professional development formats, and the crucial role feedback plays in their success.

Returning to Our Creation Chambers: Supporting Experienced Teachers

Jennifer Allen reflects on her experiences as a teacher, and develops ways to help the veteran teachers she works with return to their “creation chambers.”

Creating Shared Learning Experiences for New and Veteran Teachers

Laughter or struggles – the experiences we share are the ones that bind us together. Jennifer Allen mulls over how to foster more of those shared experiences for the colleagues she coaches.

Using Mentor Texts in Study Groups: Play and Practice

Jennifer Allen considers ways to be more practical and playful in introducing mentor texts during study groups with colleagues.

Implementing RTI: Keeping Students at the Heart of Our Conversations

Jennifer Allen provides some prompts for staff discussions about Response to Intervention to  help you connect long-term goals and beliefs with short-term strategies.

Read Our Walls: Bridging Professional Development and Student Achievement

Jennifer Allen and her colleagues knew test scores weren’t the only way of defining their students’ achievements and the value of their professional development program. “Read Our Walls” is an easy but powerful way to celebrate writing from the entire school community.

Reflecting on Student Work in Staff Meetings (TEMPLATE)

Jennifer Allen describes a protocol for analyzing student work in teacher study groups and staff meetings, and includes a template for discussing classroom artifacts.

A Reason to Learn

Jennifer Allen reflects on why and how literacy leaders need to make their professional development offerings more relevant and rigorous for teachers.

To Fart or Not to Fart? Reflections on Boy Writers

"To Fart or Not to Fart?" was the question at the first meeting of Jennifer Allen's boys' literacy study group for teachers, and what followed was a rollicking discussion of writing, taste, and books that hook boys.

Creating Structures to Sustain Our Work

Jennifer Allen explains how she enlisted teachers to lead a day-long inservice.

I Believe . . . Some Thoughts on Marathons and Sustained Professional Development in Schools

Jennifer Allen runs her first marathon, and finds the good, bad, ugly, and ultimately inspiring experience is a great metaphor for professional development design that endures.

Cartwheels, Backward Rolls, and Literacy Coaching

Jennifer Allen observes the scaffolds her daughter's gymnastics teacher uses and gradually abandons over time. These observations make her think about how she is gradually releasing new teachers from different kinds of support as they enter their second, third, and fourth years of teaching.

January New Teacher Group Update: When Life Happens

Preparing for a forced sick day with her daughter, Jennifer Allen is reminded that the culture of professional development in her school is something she can depend on.

How Study Groups Are Like Self-Cleaning Ovens

With a few key elements in place, Brenda Power and Jennifer Allen explain how study groups can almost run themselves and get everyone involved.

The Power of Layered Coaching

Jennifer Allen presents her coaching model for varied and rich support of teachers.

Learning from the Shadows

Jennifer Allen writes about the power of being shadowed by a young teacher, Jeni, for a full day.

Got Space?

Jennifer Allen gets creative with space for displays in her literacy coaching work.

From Compliments to Naming the Craft: Fifth-Grade Writing Workshop Share Session

This whole-class share session in Lesley Fowler’s fifth-grade classroom is the culmination of a nonfiction writing unit. Over the course of the year, students have moved from complimenting their classmates during these share sessions to writing down specific aspects of the piece they enjoyed or had questions about during the reading.

Assessment and Curriculum Mapping

In this video from a new teacher study group for grades 3-5 teachers, Jennifer Allen demonstrates how teachers can use assessment data to develop instructional plans for individual students and create curriculum maps for an entire class of students.

Teacher Study Group: Writing Focus

In this video of a teacher study group, Jennifer Allen leads a group of grades 3-5 teachers as they launch their monthly meeting in October.

Literacy Room for Teachers Tour

In this four-minute video tour, Jennifer Allen describes how she arranges and displays materials in the “Literacy Room,” the space that has become invaluable in supporting teachers’ professional development in literacy instruction.

Word Choice Lesson: A Collaborative Coaching Session with a New Teacher

Jennifer Allen collaborates with a new teacher, Jessica, early in the fall to teach a lesson in Jessica’s 4th grade classroom.

Planning a New Teachers’ Professional Development Program

Jennifer Allen maximizes resources as she plans for a monthly professional development group for new teachers.

Night Terrors: Let the Coaching Begin!


 Jennifer Allen realizes how much we miss if we wait till the start of the school year to begin mentoring colleagues.  When she helps new teacher Jess deal with nightmares about the first day of school, she discovers some big themes they will be mulling together all year long.

Charting the Course: A Yearlong Professional Development Plan for New Teachers (SCHEDULE)

Planning with the end in mind is essential for literacy leaders. Jennifer Allen takes us through her process for creating a focused and progressive year-long plan.

Reflective Observation: Helping Teachers Observe, Analyze, and Guide (TEMPLATE)

This template helps teachers focus their classroom observations.

Launching Teacher Study Groups: Guidelines and Resources

Jennifer Allen’s years of experience with teacher study groups has led her to best practices that make it “safe and easy” for teachers to learn from each other.

Keeping It Simple: Reflections on the December New Teachers Study Group

What is really important for our time and energy? Jennifer Allen reflects on words of wisdom that keep her centered as a literacy coach.

Idealism Fades to Reality: Thinking Back to My Days as a New Teacher

Jennifer Allen makes connections between her new professional life as a literacy coach and her beginning as a classroom teacher.

Layered Support: Meeting the Needs of Beginning Teachers

Jennifer Allen reflects on essential layers that provide a safety net for the challenges facing beginning teachers.

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