Literacy Links – Volume 53

literacy links, professional resources, reading

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Two of my clubs are starting soon: Reading Ambassadors and Harry Potter. Reading Ambassadors group is a service and leadership club and Harry Potter is a fan club. They’re both so special to me because they’re a combination pep rally, time for self-expression, and community building. Reading Ambassadors is full and there’s a waitlist, but there are a couple more spots in the Harry Potter Club for students in grades 3-5. Register here.

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

Four Things to Do at the Halfway Mark of the Year

professional resources, reading

With the start of the new year, resolutions abound. This time of year is perfect for trying out something new in the classroom, too. If you’re not sure what you could experiment with, consider any of the following ideas.

Reading Marathons

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If you haven’t hosted a Reading Marathon, now is the perfect time to have your first. As testing season approaches, we want to make sure our students have the stamina to attend to a lengthy task, but we need to explicitly teach them some strategies. Hosting a Reading Marathon is the perfect event. The teacher teaches students how to maintain their stamina by doing stretch breaks and power poses, creating positive self-talk, and setting goals before students are tasked with reading for as long as they can. I have students create a stamina four-square in their reader’s notebooks so they have a record of what they think will work for them.

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You can keep the Reading Marathon simple, or you can have props and costumes: racing numbers, athleisure attire, a whistle, etc. During the Reading Marathon, teachers can assess students’ stamina by tracking behaviors.

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This chart provides such great information, and if you host your first Reading Marathon soon, you’ll have time to support students who struggled with stamina before the end of the year!

Visit the Reading Lounge

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This space would be a great place to host a Reading Marathon! Reserve the space using our school’s Google Calendar (click on “other calendars” if you haven’t added it to your calendars yet).


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It’s so common to give students surveys at the beginning of the year with students. I’ve always been a fan of Jennifer Serravallo’s “What Can I Work on As a Reader?” self-reflection tool. These surveys help teachers get to know students and help students set goals. At the halfway mark of the year or the end of the first term, why not administer the same survey? If you return students’ surveys from the beginning of the year, then they can do some great reflecting about areas of growth, needs, infer some possible reasons, and make new goals with different action steps. You could even have students record a video of themselves reflecting on their growth if you use a video tool in See Saw, Class Dojo, etc.

Classroom Library Audit

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You might think your classroom library is in good shape because you have full, maybe even overflowing, shelves. Most students don’t seem to have any trouble finding books for their independent reading. But when was the last time you took a close look at what is actually occupying your precious shelf space? Scholastic’s 11 Essentials for a Highly Effective Classroom Library is eye-opening! I’m guessing there are a lot of outdated books that aren’t being read and a serious lack of multicultural, #ownvoices books. If we classified books by publishing year, I think we’d find that our collections are dated. I’d estimate that less than 20% of the books were published in the last five years. This is the perfect time of year to Marie Kondo your collection. Talk with your administrator to see if there are any funds to acquire new books. If they see pitifully bare the shelves are after a thoughtful purge, then they may be more inclined to replenish your books using a low cost book suppler like First Book. In fact, many administrators don’t think there’s a need to fund teachers’ classroom libraries because they see stocked shelves.

These activities can take place any time of year, really, but the halfway mark is a natural transition time for everyone. When students hear teachers’ thoughts about experimenting with their teaching practices, I think students are more likely to show flexible, responsive thinking as well.

Happy experimenting!

Writing Clinic #3: Exemplars

professional resources, writing

This month’s Writing Clinic focused on exemplars. Exemplars are models of student work that guide students’ performance. Providing an exemplar of the final product benefits students *and* teachers because it eliminates any doubt about what the work of the unit should look like.

During the workshop, I ran through WHY we should use exemplars, WHAT we can use for exemplars, and HOW we can use exemplars to support students.

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Screen Shot 2019-12-16 at 6.31.52 PMFinished look of the minilesson’s anchor charts

Teachers spent their tinker time of the workshop making tools to use with exemplars. Most decided to make their grade level’s version of this huge display I saw in a post on the Facebook group for the Units of Study for Writing:

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 1.49.16 PMA teacher generously shared her display in this post on the Facebook group
for the Units of Study for Writing

The language for each section comes from the writing checklists available in TCRWP’s Writing Pathways or in the online resources. After printing out their chosen genre’s checklist, teachers started making their tools.

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Other teams made small, toolkit-size versions of the same tool.

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I’ve really loved every Writing Clinic I’ve hosted so far, but this one might’ve been my favorite. Digging into the topic with teachers, especially during their tinker time, is such valuable PD for everyone. They often ask questions I hadn’t considered, and I love thinking through trouble-shooting options with them: What might that look like? What else could work? What are the possible effects of that? The best part of these Writing Clinics, though, comes in the days afterwards when I see the work being used in classrooms with students. These teachers waste now time testing out new ideas. I’m such a proud coach. ❤

The next Writing Clinic will be focus on Revising Toolkits on January 27th. Hope to see you there!

Literacy Links – Volume 48

creating, literacy links, professional resources, writing


My standard introduction at a conference is, “I’m a literacy coach looking for daily doses of creativity and joy,” so when I read Angela Stockman’s Hacking the Writing Workshop: Redesign with Making in Mind, I knew it was going to be a just-right book for me. Boy, was I right! It inspired me so much that I created a Make Writing cart just waiting for Center teachers to use with their students. Contact me if you’re interested! Happy making!

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

Literacy Links – Volume 47 – GRAPHIC NOVELS!

book list, graphic novels, literacy links, professional resources, reading

Screen Shot 2019-11-15 at 3.17.22 PMMy very first graphic one-pager.

The origin story of this volume of Literacy Links is a Facebook post. Last week, I posted “Why You Should Encourage Your Child’s Love of Graphic Novels” from Parents, and several of my parent and teacher friends commented. Since I’m submitting a conference proposal on “Fearless Reading Instruction with Graphic Novels”, I decided to deposit some of the graphic novel resources I’ve gathered over the years, lots coming from previous Literacy Links (LL), in one spot. Happy reading!

Literacy Links – Volume 46

book list, graphic novels, literacy links, nonfiction, professional resources, reading

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At last October’s Saturday Reunion at Teachers College, Janet Steinberg, TCRWP’s data queen, talked about embedding academic language in our everyday discussions, instructions, and conversations with students. Academic language is Tier 2 words that students often encounter in directions, lectures, and other places of sophisticated talk. Instead of saying, “What is the theme in our read aloud?” try “Determine the theme in this selection.” By lifting the level of discourse, students would already be familiar with these words before encountering high-stakes situations and, more significantly, be more likely to use these Tier 2 words in their own output. I changed the topic of my Alphaboxes outside the Reading Lounge to showcase some of these words; stop by to see them up close. What other academic language would you add?

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

Writing Clinic #1: Conferring and Small Groups

literacy, professional resources, test prep, writing

Once a month, LPS teachers have a “teacher-led” staff meeting. Teachers must be in the building from 3 to 4 working on anything of their choice. After going to the Saturday Reunion at Teachers College and Literacy for All, I was desperate to share all of the new ideas I’d learned. I’d been considering lots of different sharing options, and I realized I could offer it during these teacher-led Monday afternoons! So on Sunday morning, after getting permission from my principal, I started brainstorming my first Writing Clinics. The first task was to brainstorm the sessions and create an advertisement to share with staff. Thanks to Mr. Shu, I used Canva, and the graphic design was a piece of cake! 

In general, I use the Workshop Model to plan my PD, so I created my agenda on conferring/small group work using the same workshop components that I use with students: book talk, minilesson, work, and share.

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Book Talk and Minilesson

After a quick book talk on Carl Anderson’s, A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Conferences, I launched my minilesson. I decided a flow chart would be the simplest way to break down the conferring process.

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For each part of the Conferring Cycle, I asked myself, “Is there a meaningful tool that could support teachers’ work with this step?” Although I considered possibilities for each step, I decided to focus on the latter half of the Conferring Cycle because I thought they’d have the most impact on students and teachers. So I created a tool for the following steps of the Conferring Cycle: Assess, Craft a Teaching Point, and Create a Tool. By the end of the minilesson, I’d taped all of the possible tools teachers could make to the board as models of what they could create during the WORK portion of the WORKshop.

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Work Options

Here’s a close-up of all of the tools that teachers had the chance to make at the first Writing Clinic along with how to use each one:

IMG_4342 2“Assess” Tool: Formative Assessment using Checklists from the Units of Study

How the Assess Tool, Formative Assessment Using Checklists from the Units of Study, Works: Teachers cut up an illustrated checklist from the online resources for the Units of Study on Heinemann for the unit’s genre of writing and paste the criteria on the left hand side of an opened file folder. The three white blank labels at the top are for different categories: ✓+, ✓, ✓- or Meeting, Progressing, Emerging or Yes!, Starting To, Not Yet. The green sticky notes are for writing students’ names according to the level of the work they’re sharing during conferences. Tip: Laminate!

IMG_4341 2“Craft a Teaching Point” Tool: What/How/Why Planning Template

How the Craft a Teaching Point Tool, What/How/Why Planning Template Works: I’ve noticed that many of the anchor charts from the TCRWP Units of Study lay out rigorous goals of what students should do, but they don’t tell HOW to do it or WHY it should be done. The same goes for the teaching point, so I created this scaffold to get teachers in the habit of planning the what, how, and why of the lesson, whether it’s for the whole class or small group. Of course, like all good scaffolds, this tool would become obsolete once the teacher develops this frame of mind for lesson planning. Tip: Laminate!


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Create a Tool” Tool: Checklist Sorting Mat (inside)

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Create a Tool” Tool: Checklist Sorting Mat (back)

How the Create a Tool, Checklist Sorting Mat Works: This tool, again, uses the checklists. This is a tool that encourages student self-reflection. They take strips of the checklist and decide if they are showing evidence of that work or not. Anything that lands on the “Not Yet” side turn into writing goals and can even be stored in a handy pocket in the student’s writer’s notebook. Tip: Laminate!

Every teacher left with a tool to use with students or to plan with right away.

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After the Clinic, I decided to display all of the materials in the teachers’ workroom so that all teachers had access to the information and materials in case they wanted to DIY the tools.

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There’s also a Google Classroom for this work; email me if you want to join.

I can’t wait to hear how the tools work in teachers’ classrooms!

Literacy Links – Volume 44

book list, literacy links, professional resources, technology


Inspired by all the amazing PD I’ve done recently at Teachers College and Literacy for All, I’m hosting Writing Clinics on all of Center’s teacher-led staff meetings. Each session will have a different focus, and no registration required. The first session is this coming Monday, and I can’t wait!

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

Literacy Links – Volume 40

creating, Harry Potter, professional resources, writing


I have been obsessed with Dr. Rudine Bishop Sims’s quote about books as mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors ever since I first heard it. So true. So powerful. When I saw Grant Snider’s print inspired by the quote, I knew I had to get it. After the reading specialist at my school transformed a long hallway into a magical, Disney-like space, I jumped into transforming some of the new, diverse texts I’d gotten for the book room into my own hallway display. It’s hard to have a favorite metaphor from the display, but I love this last part:


I overheard some students saying that “Books are music!” I hope they submit it for the display!

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

Literacy Links – Volume 39

book list, professional resources


I love Open House! When I was a classroom teacher, I documented “A Day in the Life of a Student in Ms. Vigna’s Class” with pictures, student work, and resources. Since I don’t have a classroom anymore (sniff, sniff!), I’m preparing the Connector, the underground tunnel connecting the two wings of our school, to be a land of literacy resources. The first addition to the hallway is a “Books are mirrors, windows, and doors” display inspired by Dr. Rudine Bishop Sims and graphic artist Grant Snider. If you’re a Center School family member, PLEASE visit me in the Connector. I’d LOVE to talk with your about supporting your cardinal’s reading and writing!

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment: