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Putting the “Gradual” Back into Gradual Release of Responsibility

You know you have heard a great keynote speech when a few lines stay with you months after the conference has ended. This happened for us recently. Doug Fisher was...

New Teachers: The Power of Inexperience

Recently, some teachers in my school were discussing books our elementary students have loved over the years. Someone brought up Harry Potter. “Oh I remember that,” said a first-year teacher....

Word Nerds

Write down a synonym for the following words or use them in a sentence if you can: 1.  girn 2.  fug 3.  hircine 4.  yerd 5. sesamoid Did you try...

Literacy in the Music Room: A Sequence of Lessons

Many people speak of the connection that can be made between music and mathematics, and music is sometimes used to reinforce math concepts.  As a longtime music lover, I’ve found...

Family Literacy Night

The pursuit of home-school connections never ends for educators. As a principal, I make mention of literacy in virtually every monthly newsletter I send home.  In fact, this is a...

Hindsight: What I Wish I’d Known Before My School Burned Down

As trite as it sounds, you never think it is going to happen to you, until it does and then hindsight is just that — a lot of “wish I...

Thank You For Arguing

Often when I consider a fun, fresh way to connect students to a new strategy or subject matter, my own children are a great frame of reference because they love...

Bully Literacy

Ahna came running up from her sand castle to where I was soaking up the sun. “Mom, there’s a kid with a weird arm who wants to play with me....

Two Teachers and One Kindergartner

Little Joey was a bit young when his parents enrolled him in kindergarten.  Despite the teacher’s best efforts, he struggled to master basic concepts.  The teacher developed a wonderful relationship...

I Love a Good Argument

It’s been interesting to watch the genesis of teachers’ relationships with opinion and argumentative writing this year. For many of the intermediate teachers I work with, it began with distinguishing...

Evaluating the Literacy Classroom

In my career as an educator, the way teachers are evaluated has changed dramatically.  I have a clear memory of my first evaluation.  My stomach was clenched in first-year teacher...

Staying Child-Centered When You Work with Adults

A hesitation can be a teachable moment. Occasionally my daughter asks me if I miss teaching kindergarten students. My answer is always the same: I pause, gaze off in the...

Peer Conferring: The Modeling Phase

Lucy Calkins makes no bones about it: “Research is really clear that even just five minutes of conversation about books ramps up comprehension.” It’s those three words ramps up comprehension...

Conferring for Conventions (Conventions Series Part 5)

Take your age and subtract five. That’s approximately the number of years you’ve been working with conventions in your writing. For me that number is 35. For 35 years I’ve...

Aligning the Common Core and Conventions Instruction (Conventions Series Part 4)

Our group of three intermediate teachers was making clear progress in our plans for convention instruction. Meg, a first-year teacher, was growing in her confidence to notice what was “working...

Reading as Reward

Many years ago, a wise friend advised me, “You should always reward children with what you want them to value.” When we reward a child with candy or toys, it...

Between Inquiry and Instruction (Conventions Series Part 3)

I’ve been working with a team of intermediate teachers to develop a plan for teaching conventions. It’s a small but diverse group, and we’ve already worked together to find time...

Make a Really BIG List

When I look through my writer’s notebooks, I notice lists. Some are jotted in the margins; others are written on sticky notes and placed in the notebook. Some are lists...

Concise, Conversational, and Consistent: Explaining the Work of Literacy Coaches

I get asked questions about my job in a variety of ways: “So you’re a teacher?” “I heard you’re a coach. What sport?” And my recent favorite: “Then you get...

Trust

As soon as you trust yourself you will know how to live.                                               Johann Wolfgang von Goethe When the basket of meditation stones was passed to me at the writing...

Notes from the Mad Teachers Liberation Front: Create Your Manifesto

Summer can be a fine time to renew, refresh, and recommit to our passions and ideals.  When a group of teachers here in Oregon, who work with children and young...