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Retelling and English Language Learners

Retelling is an essential skill many English language learners struggle with. Stella Villalba finds tackling vocabulary in context is the key for many.

Teaching Tone: Deal Me In

Gretchen Schroeder’s high school students are surprised to see a deck of cards on their supply list. The cards are a tool for teaching the vocabulary of tone in creative ways.

Word Walls in Preschool? Yes, You Can!

A word wall in preschool?! Shari Frost helps a teacher meet this impossible edict, and has a lot of fun in the process thinking about how our youngest learners acquire word knowledge.

Fear of Reading

Gretchen Schroeder reflects on why some of her students have developed a fear of reading by the time they reach high school.

High Standards and Struggling Learners

Mark Levine explains why high standards can be helpful even for students who are struggling in his middle school classroom.

Conferences Between Middle School Parents and Teachers

Parents of middle school students are often bewildered at how best to deal with their child’s unresponsiveness. Jennifer Schwanke explains how teachers can construct conferences with middle school parents that foster reflection, action, and shared goals.

Four-Step Reading Conferences

Christy Rush-Levine emphasizes “reflaction” in her reading conference protocol — reflection that leads to action for her students.

Student-Led Minilessons in Fifth Grade

Franki Sibberson initiates student-led minilessons, and finds the process takes her literacy workshops to a new level of independence and energy.

Student-Led Minilessons in Middle School

One student’s request to lead a minilesson is a catalyst for Mark Levine to see the value of student-led minilessons as an assignment for all in his middle school classroom.

Russell Freedman Book Clubs

Mark Levine finds Russell Freedman book clubs are a great way for his middle school students to deepen understanding of history and empathize with young people who lived through previous eras.

Expanding Black History Month Reading

A heavy sigh from a student is a cue to Shari Frost that he has heard the same Martin Luther King picture book biography one too many times in February. She shares her top picture book picks for expanding children’s awareness of black history all year long.

Picture Book Biographies

Stella Villalba shares some of her favorite new picture book bIographies for bringing history to life for young learners, with a focus on perseverance.

Ohana Means “Family”

Suzy Kaback is startled to see a picture of her deceased father on the wall when she visits her daughter’s seventh-grade classroom. It’s the start of learning about the power of ohana in schools.

Does the Pencil Still Have Power?

Ruth Ayres wonders if the pencil still has power, taking readers through a whirlwind history of the writing tool in her life, schools, and the world.

Message from the Moon

Shirl McPhillips crafts a message from the moon about tone in poetry and school in her latest poem and companion essay.

Avoiding Flat Tires

Jen Schwanke gets berated by a tire shop repair guy for ignoring routine maintenance needs on her bike. That gets her thinking about what needs routine maintenance in elementary classrooms.

Building Routines

Bitsy Parks teaches the foundations of first-grade classroom life through minilessons early in the year.

Confusing Children

Ruth Ayres explains why we can’t assume children who have experienced trauma understand the foundations and routines of how school works

Reader Response as an Entry to Conferring

Christy Rush-Levine integrates reading responses into her preparation for reading conferences, and then uses the responses as a tool to build goals and insights within the conference.

What Does It Mean to Read?

“I read 35 pages!” An elated student deflates Bitsy Parks in her first-grade classroom. By mid-fall she is alarmed at the responses of students to their reading in the whole-group share — they are all about quantity, with no thinking or reflection. She uses modeling and careful questioning to foster more thoughtful reader response.

Annotating While Reading

Franki Sibberson finds teaching students to annotate while reading is one of the best ways to promote ongoing reflective response in her fifth-grade classroom. She shares how she starts teaching annotation skills early in the year.

Three Challenges for the 40 Book Challenge

Matt Renwick encourages you to ask a few critical questions before you adopt the 40-Book Challenge or any other activity with a number for a goal you’re going to be tied to all year long in your classroom.

Guided Reading Run Amok

Shari Frost helps a teacher who has guided reading groups that have run amok, and discovers the real culprit is a lack of time for reading and writing in the literacy block.

Levels and What’s Appropriate

“How do you know what level they have selected?” a visitor asks Bitsy Parks as she observes during a first-grade independent reading period. “I don’t,” Bitsy responds, and explains why it is a beautiful thing.

Getting to Know Each Other Through the Work

Mark Levine explains why he dives right into work in his middle school classroom, rather than getting-to-know-you activities. And through the work, a community is born.

Read Alouds to Start the Year in First Grade

Bitsy Parks selects read alouds for the first weeks of school for many different purposes, from building community to helping her first graders navigate the classroom library.

Organizing for Middle School

Tara Smith covers all the basics of how to get organized in middle school for the first days of literacy workshops.

Doing the Writing in a Unit

One way to keep your instruction fresh in a required writing unit is to take on the tasks and topics yourself. Dana Murphy finds completing the assignments herself is well worth her time, and gives her a treasure trove of notebook entries to use in her conferring.

Writing on Someone Else’s Topic

Shari Frost finds she has to do required, on-demand writing for a new job, and in the process develops a new appreciation for how teachers struggle with rigid reading and writing programs.

Fall Fluster

Bitsy Parks is stressed from trying to "cover" all the lessons in the first required reading unit of the year with her first graders. She takes a deep breath, and decides to integrate more of her own lessons into her instruction.

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