Archive for category Literacy

Deep Reading, Writing and Thinking

Reading and writing.  It is said that they go hand in hand, that great readers are great writers.  I love to read – ask my husband.  I have books piled next to my bed.  Amazon Prime – best thing EVER other than the Kindle White.  (Although I am old school – I like the feel of the book!)  If only we had a Barnes and Noble around the corner….

I have been doing very informal walk through’s ofnmy 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers to watch the “Independent Instructional Reading” block we incorporated in our school this year.  So you wonder, what is that?  Based on Jennifer Serravallo’s work, the Independent Instructional Reading  (IIR) block is based on a premise that if we ever want our children to be good readers, they need to build their stamina and be provided with long stretches of time to read.  Ms. Serravallo is on to something!  We have been through many initiatives in my 16 years as a principal, but I haven’t encountered the level of ownership of learning that my students are starting embrace as well as the passion for reading.  Our students, along with their teachers, are talking and writing about what they read.  They are setting goals, taking their Independent Reading Assessment extremely serious, as well as developing comprehension and writing skills.

This is not a “cookbook” method.  This is hard work for every teacher.  Teachers need to know their craft.  They need to know how to model the process of thinking by structuring questioning skills.  They need to help with the organization of student writing journals.  They need to model how to “stop and jot”, how to take notes and journal on their reading.  Very important, teachers need to know the books so they can have discussion as well as know how to help their students choose just right books.

But, like any program or “method”, it will always be about the teacher, not the program.  The teacher will always be the first line of the instruction and it will be about their craft and their pedagogy, their craft, their knowledge, and what they bring to the table.  And, they need a principal behind them to support the structure.  I have to say though, the conversations, the readings, and the professional development by Lea Mercantini Leibowitz, who is helping with professional development and coaching sure has changed the thinking of deep reading, writing and thinking and how we approach the teaching of English Language Arts to a different level in our school – all for the better!

Check out Jennifer’s website here.  She is prolific in her writing and has guest blogged on Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground here.



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Reflecting on #ILA15 – NUMBER 1 Take Away

International Literacy Association

I was blessed to be able to attend the International Literacy Association Conference in St. Louis this past weekend.  To be honest, I felt out of my league, but that was a good thing.  Being the principal or “Lead Learner” of an elementary school, I have to observe teachers who are teaching literacy.  Literacy is in EVERY subject, and for me being a music teacher, this is an area that I continually enhance my learning and knowledge to be the best coach and instructional leader for my staff who in turn will help teacher our students who will learn.

After listening to many fabulous speakers from Ruth Culham to Donalyn Miller, Kate Messner, Lester Laminack, Phyliss Hunter, my NUMBER 1 take away from this fabulous conference was to give our students VOICE and CHOICE in what they are reading and writing.  It is about being in the zone of reading and writing – the process that can take you away and create adventures within your head.

Pam Allyn put it nicely about reading and writing; “Reading is like breathing in and writing is like breathing out.”  What a profound statement.  As adults, we need to model the love and passion for reading as well as writing.  As Phyliss Hunter stated throughout the conference, “Reading is our new civil rights!”  Let’s get our kids reading and writing and into worlds they would never dream they would be in!

Thank you ILA!  Every building leader and principal should attend your conference, July, 2016 in Boston, MA!

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