Literacy Links – Volume 58

Harry Potter, literacy links, poetry, professional resources, reading

Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 2.47.47 PMPotterheads getting inspiration from The Important Book to craft stanzas
about Harry Potter people, places, and things.

This year was the third iteration of the Harry Potter Club, and it was my favorite yet. For the first time, I ran it like a workshop, which is my teaching model of choice (Why it took me three years to make this move perplexes me!). Even more amazing than the change in model is how much more I focused on writing activities. Each session introduced a new writing activity, and I’m so pleased to report that students opted to do each with enthusiasm and passion. Each of the writing projects are being bound into books now and will soon be permanent additions to my faux Hogwarts Library. Next year’s goal: Get Potterheads reading Harry Potter books while they’re during Harry Potter Club season.

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


Literacy Links – Volume 57

book list, literacy links, poetry, professional resources, reading, writing

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On Monday, I hosted my fourth Writing Clinic. This one focused on revision, and while the attendance was the lowest yet, I still enjoyed the opportunity to present, discuss, and support. Plus, teachers got a chance to make a revision microprogression for each of the big three genres (narrative, information, and opinion) and start a revision toolkit, complete with revision shades. 🙂

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

Literacy Links – Volume 56

Harry Potter, professional resources, reading, writing

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If I could find a way to make the Harry Potter Club my full-time job, Center would need a new literacy coach. We’ve met three times so far, and this year, I’ve structured it like a workshop. We have a soft start in which wizards have options for activities while everyone arrives and gets settled: reading Harry Potter books, doing a coloring page, working on a puzzle, reading the latest issue of our newsletter, the Daily Prophet, etc. Once everyone is present, I review or preview the classes for the day: the craft in Transfiguration, the materials for Potions, their Divination quiz online, and the reading/writing activity for Library. I usually station myself at Library so that I can do a reading or writing minilesson as wizards rotate through, but sometimes I’ll lead Potions. I’ve loved this structure so much, and students enjoy the independence of prioritizing the order of their station work. These afternoons are magical.

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

  • Is THIS my chance to become a published author?! Or YOURS?!
  • A conference at which to present or attend in October. I always love getting my learn on.
  • Audiobook Listening Copy – Sign up for an account and submit an application. Once approved, you can download free audiobooks each month as supplied by publishers. They are DRM-free and yours to keep.
  • Pioneer Valley Zine Fest – I’m fascinated by zines, the ultimate DIY publishing. This event is on my calendar.
  • Mental health break – Kids should name all the things.

Literacy Links – Volume 55

book list, reading

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Last week, the Reading Ambassadors decided who would like to be Community Readers for World Read Aloud Day on February 5th. They then decided what book they’d read aloud and prepared thoughtful questions to ask. Teachers are signing up for read aloud times as I type this! World Read Aloud Day is the perfect opportunity to share information about the importance of reading aloud with families, so check out Literacy Links – Volume 53 and my links below.

Special roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment in honor of World Read Aloud Day:

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!

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:

Literacy Links – Volume 43

book list, literacy links, reading, technology

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Last weekend, I took the train to Manhattan to go to Teachers College’s biannual Saturday Reunion with one other teacher from Center. This is a day of FREE PD for teachers and well worth the crack of dawn wake-up and travel. At one of the sessions, a staff developer shared that the anchor chart sticky notes are NOW AVAILABLE as a single page. Since teachers have been taking screen shots or adjusting printer settings to print four-six to a page, this news received an enthusiastic response from the teachers in the audience. I can’t wait to share it with Center teachers!

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

HQTS: Making Literacy Toolkits

announcements, creating, literacy, professional resources, reading, writing


At the last PD day a couple weeks ago, the literacy coaches organized a variety of stations focusing on writing about reading. Teachers spent the majority of the morning exploring resources like the Literacy Continuum and Learning Progressions, analyzing student work, and calibrating assessment. They collected tons of ideas about what students need to be able to do as writers about reading and data about what their students were showing them. So what next? Here is where a toolkit will be a lifesaver.

If you’re a member of the Units of Study Facebook groups (if you haven’t joined them yet, DO IT!), I’m sure you’ve noticed people sharing ideas, asking questions about, and creating meetups for these toolkits. It’s a notebook, binder, or any kind of collection of tools you can use to support students’ literacy skills and strategies.

Based on your students’ demonstrations and understandings and your knowledge of what gets tricky for your unit/topic, you create a set of tools to support small group or one-on-one instruction. These tools are your teaching focuses, often a skill or strategy from a whole group minilesson with more scaffolds in place. The tools might get used during a small group lesson for which you’ve planned or you might pull one specific tool out to support an individual student that you noticed needing additional support during a conference. They are flexible and adaptable, which makes them incredibly useful.

Our HQTS Work



During our HQTS, we’ll explore resources, materials, and ideas to inspire us before getting into toolkit creation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the options, so I’ll be sharing the best of the best so you don’t have to weed through a bunch of Teachers Pay Teachers nonsense.

There will be so many things to consider: the focus of your toolkit (Reading fiction? Writing nonfiction? Theme? So many options.), the best tool for the job (Mini anchor chart? Microprogression? Leave-behind for students? Demonstration text?)  A toolkit that covered all of reading would be an inefficient beast. Instead, consider making a toolkit for nonfiction and fiction or even each unit. Whatever focus you choose, I’ll have sample toolkit pages for you to adapt, and as you create more, we’ll add to our Padlet to continue inspiring us.

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The thing I love most about starting a literacy toolkit is that it inspires you in so many new ways. When our HQTS is over, you’ll have at least one toolkit ready to use with students. However, I know it will also change and grow over time, and you may even leave with ideas for so many more toolkits.

Interested? Sign up here.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with. 🙂