Jennifer Allen

Jennifer Allen is a literacy specialist in grades 3-5 for the Waterville, Maine, school district, where she works as a reading coach and leads professional development programs for teachers in a wide range of formats. She is the author of  Becoming a Literacy Leader and  A Sense of Belonging (both available through Stenhouse Publishers), as well as three video series.

All Content
Family Literacy Breakfasts

Jennifer Allen explains how family literacy breakfasts bring the whole school community together through a special event with published authors.

Making Our Writing Public

Jennifer Allen shares a project student writers complete with support from a local college to make writing public and widen the net for feedback.

Building Primary Writing Skills Through Character Study

Jennifer Allen upends the normal routines in a primary writing workshop to introduce students to a compelling character.

Hard Topics in Reading

Jennifer Allen explains how she leads conversations about hard themes in literature and how teachers might use these books that include trauma in their classrooms.

Taming the Voices in Our Heads

Jennifer Allen helps a study group of elementary teachers “tame the voices in their heads” by scheduling a day of yoga and a documentary on rock climbing into the day. Her creative plans might inspire you as you think about agendas for summer retreats with teachers and school leaders.

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.

Scheduling Study Groups for the Year

Jennifer Allen shares her selections and schedule for book study groups throughout the year.

Finding Time and Space to Recharge All Year Long

Jennifer Allen shares some simple strategies for integrating more choice and restoration time into professional development all year long.

Is There Such a Thing as Being Too Collaborative?

Jennifer Allen examines her desire to be a part of nearly every initiative in the district, and makes some decisions about when it makes sense to step back.

Being Selfish About Meeting Norms

Jennifer Allen questions the purpose of meeting norms, and begins from a new place in establishing them for a study group.

“There Are Words All Over Our Hallways!”

Jennifer Allen shares a practical strategy for building vocabulary and interest in word study throughout a school.

Planning Next Year’s Professional Development Offerings

Jennifer Allen shares her topics, schedules, and plans for study groups in 2017-2018.

The Secret to Better Meetings: It’s All in the Ending

Jennifer Allen shares her favorite ending for meetings that leaves participants hungry for more.

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.

Coaching Minute: Using Foam Boards with Students

In this quick video, Jennifer Allen explains how using foam boards with students can increase engagement and extend learning between demonstration lessons.

Observation Visits: Getting Comfortable with the Unexpected

In this brief video excerpt from a leadership meeting focused on peer observation led by Jennifer Allen, teachers talk about taking risks and being comfortable with observation when things don't go according to plan.

Talking Too Much

In this brief video excerpt from a meeting about colleague visits, teachers consider the thorny issue of why they talk so much when they want to listen more.

The Habit of Reflection

In this quick video excerpt from a teacher meeting on peer observations, the participants talk about why developing the habit of reflection after instruction (either alone or with colleagues) is crucial for professional growth.

Professional Development Offerings for the New Year

Jennifer Allen shares her annual list of study group topics, along with reflections about the role of literacy leaders in fostering creativity and innovation in classrooms.

Master Class: Mentoring New Coaches

Memories are triggered as Jennifer Allen mentors a first-year literacy coach through the anxieties and failures of the first weeks in the role.

Better Meetings Through Reflection

Jennifer Allen ponders the importance of including a reflection component in meetings, and shares a reflection protocol she finds is effective.

Expanding Study Group Communities

Jennifer Allen expands the learning of study groups beyond the small number of teachers who attend each group through an evolving bulletin board display.

Implementing New Mandated Initiatives

As Jennifer Allen helps implement a new mandated teacher evaluation model, she makes connections between the mandate and the negotiation process.

Study Groups That Nourish the Soul

Jennifer Allen shares how student work can energize a study group.

Reactions to the Book Paper Things

In this quick video excerpt from a grades 4-5 teacher study group, Jennifer Allen leads a discussion of the challenging themes in Jennifer Richard Jacobson's book Paper Things. The author is also present and responds.

Leading a Demonstration Lesson: When It Doesn’t Go Well

In this brief video, Jennifer Allen talks in a leadership team meeting about the unsettling but valuable feedback she received from a principal and teacher on a demonstration lesson that didn't go well, and the reflection the feedback sparked.

Launching Meetings with Video

Jennifer Allen always launches study group meetings with short video clips. Here she shares some of her favorite free videos on the web.

Study Group Gifts

Jennifer Allen explains why she always budgets for small study-group gifts, and shares how they build connections between the groups and teaching practice.

What’s Not on the Study Group Agenda

Jennifer Allen describes some of the subtle variables that lead to success in study groups, and includes a video of the closing minutes of a study group. This is the final video in a four-part series.

Toolbox Activities in Study Groups

Jennifer Allen uses "toolbox" activities during study groups as a way to help teachers add to their repertoire of practical teaching strategies. This video is the third installment in our four-part series on study groups.

Predictable Structures for Study Groups

Jennifer Allen shares a typical format for study groups and a video excerpt from a recent group. This is the second installment in a four-part series.

Planning for a Year of Professional Development

If you’re planning next year’s study groups, you might find Jennifer Allen’s list and reflections helpful in thinking through your school and district needs.

The Evolution of Study Groups

Jennifer Allen explains what has changed and what remains the same in her study groups over the past decade. She includes a video example of the start of a study group. This is the first installment in a four-part video series.

Working Hard and Reading Carefully: On Theme and Rereading

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

Resourceful and Cheap: Professional Development That Sparks Learning and Change

Jennifer Allen provides a sample agenda and inexpensive resources for leading a professional development session on anchor charts.

Secrets of Coaching Revisited

Jennifer Allen revisits the three principles that form her core beliefs about coaching, and decides to add a fourth.

Teacher Evaluation: A New Role for Coaches

Jennifer Allen discovers she can play a key role as a literacy coach in helping colleagues understand a new teacher evaluation model.

Planning for a Year of Study Groups

Jennifer Allen plans for next year’s study groups and other ongoing professional development offerings each spring, to give teachers lots of time to choose which groups might meet their needs.

Coaching Boundaries: Do You Have Any?

Jennifer Allen realizes she may be provoking unreasonable requests from teachers because she doesn't have clear boundaries for her workday.

Using Meeting Minutes As a Reflective Tool

How are you using your meeting minutes? Jennifer Allen discovers they can be a surprisingly useful tool for building common language and goals across grade-level teams.

Lessons from a Multitasker

Trying to do too many tasks at once causes Jennifer Allen to make an embarrassing error and develop a plan for slowing down and focusing.

Cultivating Teacher Leadership

Jennifer Allen explains why it is essential for literacy coaches to expand their work to include mentoring teachers into leadership roles, especially involving curriculum work.

Going Public with Study Groups

A cancelled meeting is the mother of invention for Jennifer Allen, leading to a new way for teachers to share and display their learning from study groups.

Exploring Themes in the Intermediate Grades

Jennifer Allen describes a simple highlighting strategy adopted by grades 3-5 teachers to help students explore themes in literature and meet standards from the Common Core.

The Dangers of Overplanning

Jennifer Allen discovers there are limits to planning, and too much of it can hinder growth in professional development settings.

Alignment and Community: Planning a Year of Professional Development Opportunities

Jennifer Allen plans a year of study group offerings designed to help everyone align their classrooms to the Common Core, and build community at the same time. The article includes a sample calendar for the month of October.

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.

Same Old Books with New Intentions: Reflecting on Rigor and the Common Core

When Jennifer Allen first skims the Common Core, she’s confident there’s not much new in the standards. But after further reflection, she finds rigor and depth in unexpected places.

Curriculum Work: Making Meaning Together

Jennifer Allen ponders what professional development structures support authentic changes in curriculum tied to the Common Core.

Jennifer Allen on Working with New Teachers (PODCAST)

New teachers need thoughtful support — Jennifer Allen has suggestions on how to provide that assistance in this podcast.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Creating Savory Professional Development

Jennifer Allen explains how she builds in play, choice, and creativity in a study group group for veteran teachers.

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