Akhavan, Nancy. (2004). How to Align Literacy Instruction, Assessment, and Standards and Achieve Results You NEVER Dreamed Possible. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Grade Level Range: K – 5
When her school was named “underperforming,” Akhavan made a commitment with her staff to: increase student achievement through precise instruction, collaborate to learn how to improve our practice, and implement new teaching practices and share risk collectively. Their wise and bold actions became their students’ success story. Akhavan offers brilliant blueprints for all teachers and administrators interested in developing learning and instruction which will serve all of their students. For readers wanting to develop edifying and motivating standards-based units of study for students built from standards-based assessments, the unit of study models, mini lesson ideas, and student work included in this text which help to illustrate responsive and differentiated teaching frameworks. Whether your students are struggling or successful, young or mature in their development, native English speakers or blessed with second languages and new to English, Akhavan thoughtfully details how to create learning experiences and environments where all students can thrive and meet the standards.
Allington, Richard. (2009). What Really Matters in Fluency: Research-Based Practices across the Curriculum. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Grade Levels: K-2/3
As he does so beautifully, Richard Allington once again translates research into meaningful classroom practice in What Really Matters in Fluency. Dr. Allington outlines why fluency is critical to students’ reading development and how teachers can nurture fluency without compromising their comprehension or confidence. One of the most unique and needed messages of this professional text is the research-base for wide, free voluntary reading as an essential support in expanding students’ fluency. Richard provides a thoughtful curriculum framework to engage students in wide reading, assess their fluency growth, and provide “as needed” interventions. Primary grade teachers and teachers of struggling readers appreciate Richard’s review of fluency development, descriptions of fluency inhibitors, and practical lessons for fostering students’ fluency.
Allington, Richard L & Walmsley, Sean A. (Ed.). (2007). (The RTI Edition). No Quick Fix: Rethinking Literacy Programs in America’s Elementary Schools. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Grades: K – 5
Richard Allington and Seam Walmsley summarize effective intervention
models in this scholarly book of research sound literacy instruction and
through a collection of successful case studies. The basic premise of this
book, creating schools where all students learn to read, builds on the
brilliant ideas outlined in No Quick Fix and offering research updates while
addressing current Response To Intervention/RTI mandates. “Expert
teachers use their knowledge of literacy development and literacy
processes to decide where to go next, independently of the commercial
materials they use; when to intervene and when not to; when to draw
children’s attention to which features of text; and how to model and explain
strategies in ways that children can make their own. Expert teachers use
their wealth of knowledge about content and about children’s books and
magazines to entice engage, and extend children’s literacy development (p.
33).” Richard and Seam define instructional support programs with the
All staff members are responsible for the education of all students.
All children are entitled to the same literacy experiences, material, and expectations.
Children should be educated with their peers.
We need to define what counts as the literacy curriculum.
We need to offer high-quality instruction.
We need an organizational infrastructure that supports the teaching of literacy.
This is an absolute must read for all those in leadership positions and the practical portraits of what works should be studied by all K – 5 teachers.
Allington, Richard. (2009). What Really Matters in Response to Intervention: Research-Based Designs. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon/Pearson.
Grade Levels: K - 5
Good teaching, effective teaching is adaptive teaching (p. 115). This quote captures a key intention of Richard Allington’s What Really Matters in Response to Intervention. The best way to reach and respond to our struggling students – and all students, in fact – is to provide them with expert teachers. With numerous research references and classroom connections in each chapter of this text, Allington outlines the power of good teaching to support each child’s literacy growth. For example:
- One of the key features of the best teachers we studied was the size of their instructional toolbox (p. 115).
- One of the key findings of our work studying some of the nation’s best first- and fourth-grade teachers was their regular use of what we dubbed the “multi-text, multi-level” curriculum design (Allington and Johnston, 2002; Pressley et al, 2001). In these classrooms teachers selected a variety of texts to teacher whatever they were required to teach. They selected some texts that even the struggling reader could read (p. 3).
- Diversity-responsive teachers are sensitive to all students (p. 121).
Especially illuminating (and inspiring), Allington echoes the research of Douglas Reeves and so many others: Effective teachers, not programs, make a difference in student achievement. So often, problem solving answers for struggling students equals a rush to buy commercial “in a box” resources or expensive external programs. Allington advocates “Teaching teachers about literacy learning and teaching is more powerful than training teachers to use products (p. 120).” Further, he outlines Gerald Duffy’s (2004) research: “What makes scripts less effective than good teachers is that good teachers do what scripts cannot do – they take charge or professional knowledge, manipulate it, and adapt it to changing instructional situations (p. 115).
Allington identified eight research-based principles that must be considered in designing effective reading interventions:
1) Begin an intervention plan.
2) Match reader and text level.
3) Dramatically expand reading activity.
4) Use very small groups or tutoring.
5) Coordinate interventions with core classroom.
6) Deliver intervention by expert teacher.
7) Focus instruction on meta-cognition and meaning.
8) Use texts that are interesting to students.
For schools and K-5 teachers working to develop edifying and responsive instructional models for struggling students in a formal RtI/Response to Intervention plan, this book is a must. For all educators wanting to better serve vulnerable students, this text is an excellent professional book study and one made richer by living Allington’s messages to collaborate (i.e. Process each chapter by sharing connected student data, evaluating the data together, and design instructional plans in response to what you learn about the student’s/s’ strengths and needs .).
Anderson, Carl. (2000). How’s It Going? A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Grade Level Range: Primary through Middle School; K – 8
Carl Anderson’s opening chapter title – conferences are conversations –
captures the spirit of this radiant and grounded guide. The simple truth is
conferences really are talk; talk with the intention of getting to know our
students more, talk with the hope of deepening understanding. The hard truth is that creating meaningful and practical one on one fellowship with students can feel like herding cats!
As teachers, it is easy to become so worried about “doing conferences
right” that we pull away from them or over structure them. Our minds throb
with questions such as “What should I do during conferences with my
students?” and “How can I create time for conferences?” and “What are the
other kids doing while I meet one on one with a student?” In Carl’s book,
you will find a kindred spirit and a colleague of integrity. Through
numerous classroom examples as you listen in on conferences, you
see that there are an infinite number of whys and ways to develop and
engage in responsive and rigorous conversation with students. His
numerous suggestions can help you better establish predictable structures
and greater purpose to focus your own one on one collaborations with
Carl’s teaching tips to strengthen students’ writing strategies, suggestions for further professional reading, examples of student writing, diverse role definitions, and advice of bridging minilessons and conferences are especially intriguing to classroom teachers. Additionally, Carl shares mentor texts organized by various genres for primary grade students and for students in grades 3 – 8 in the appendix. For coaches, administrators, and staff developers interested in studying the multiple ways conferences can be utilized to deepen students’ learning and efficacy and expand your colleagues’ use of conferring as key assessment ritual, this is an essential book to share, study, and discuss.
Anderson, Carl. (2009). Strategic Writing Conferences: Smart Conversations That Move Young Writers Forward. Portsmouth, NH: Firsthand/Heinemann. (Four books and two DVD’s)
Grade Levels: 3-8
This collection of DVD’s and teacher guides authored by Carl Anderson could be titled “Everything you wanted to know about conferences for your grade 3 – 6 students!” And, fortunately for us, Carl tackles some of our greatest challenges as writing teachers by focusing on topic generation, drafting ideas, revision, editing, and using writer’s notebooks effectively. Over 100 conferences are “modeled” in the teacher guides. Each conference includes specific model texts (aligned to the focus of the conference), ideas for sharing our own writing with students and definitions to “explain the strategy to students and coaching students.” Especially helpful are the diagnostic guides woven throughout this series and Carl’s classic conferences, critical first or anchor conferences to engage in with students as they develop new or deeper understandings of the writing process.
The conference demonstrations of the guides come alive in Carl’s second DVD as we listen on eleven of his conferences with students. In various stages of their writing process, we observe Carl listening to each writer and, then, witness how he skillfully nudges each child to consider why and how to make their writing stronger. All of his conferences interactions are clearly centered on teaching the writer, not the writing. For example, when one student was stuck and unsure of what to write, Carl asks the boy to revisit his writing to identify his writing territories – topics that he continuously returns to in his writing/patterns of topics evidenced in his writing - so that this growing writers comes to understand he does not have to start a new topic every day.
The first DVD is equally compelling as we hear the thinking behind Carl’s conferences. He extends the pedagogy he articulated in How’s It Going? defining conferences as conversations. He advocates being mindful about the tone of our conferences by approaching students as fellow writers and listening intently and with compassion. Through listening and by paying attention to our own writing, we can better develop meaningful goals for each and all of our students.
One of the best inclusions in the teacher guides is Carl’s writing, the authentic pieces he shares with students to illustrate his writing process and brainstorm possibilities to nudge writers in conferences. These are glorious invitations to us to be brave and be real with students; to share the authentic pieces harvested from our own writing lives.
While Carl generously shares a multitude of ideas in these texts, it is not meant to be a script or to be rigidly implemented. Inherent in living Carl’s message is being a responsive teacher. Even with the wealth of riches of great professional resources, we can never forget that we are in the best position to make the best instructional decisions for our own students.
Grade 3 - 6/8 teachers and coaches comfortable with and confident in creating a writers' workshop with students will find these rich resources immensely helpful. If conferences are part of your teaching routine, you will appreciate the depth of possibilities Carl profiles throughout this six piece set. By studying this series, you can also gain great insights about how writer’s notebooks support students’ topic generations as they collect budding ideas and drawn from these wells of thinking to craft their writing, nurture their reflections and processing, and often become mentor texts as they share entries with their peers and anchor texts for themselves.
Anderson, Jeff. (2008). Editing Invitations. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. (DVD).
Grade Levels: 3 - 5
You’re invited! Aren’t those two of the greatest words? Feeling invited is always exciting and makes us feel included. Jeff Anderson understands the energy of invitation and builds his teaching with invitations to his middle school students. Now, in this DVD, he’s inviting us into his classroom to be part of a lesson and witness how he brilliantly entices students to learn and grow as writers and editors.
To prime our observing, the DVD begins with (what feels like) a one-on-one conversation with Jeff as shares his passion and purpose for editing and grammar instruction. He explains the importance of inviting students in to notice and analyze why and how the mechanics of an author’s text serve the piece as a whole. He believes in “starting with the positive.” Rather than having students notice errors in text and asking them to fix mistakes, Jeff asks student to notice correctness. And, to marinate students in exemplars of accurate editing, he invites students to notice correctness in authentic pieces of literature (fiction and nonfiction) rather than the often poorly written texts of so many traditional or commercial editing/grammar lessons. An added bonus of using correct and beautifully written texts is that the lesson can become a “richer craft connection lesson” so that students never see editing and grammar as separate from the rest of a writer’s work; to more fully explore and discuss what makes a piece of writing great by examining a few or several craft considerations.
Too often, we “put students in the writer’s electric chair as we jump on them for every error they make.” Watching Jeff’s lesson, we see how he invites student inquiry and creates a conversation with students about a correct text (posted on the board) by asking the kids “What do you notice about this sentence?” and, later (following the students’ noticings such as the author’s list and use of commas and their discussion of the “drum roll” of the colon in the text), “What can you figure out about this person/character from this sentence or passage?” [Again, this is a sentence from an authentic text. Thus, this lesson becomes an invitation to students to read this text (if they have not already read it or to reread it).]
With the foundation of the editing-crafting skills surfaced in their lesson, Jeff models an imitation writing for his students thinking aloud and making clear connections to the model sentence: “In our writing, we can reveal what we know about the characters with our words and punctuation…Let me try imitating the pattern of our model sentence by using a colon or commas…” Then, he guides students in their own imitation writing by, first, brainstorming and recording students’ thinking, giving them time draft a sentence in their writer’s notebooks by brainstorming first, and by having volunteer share their sentence aloud.
While this DVD includes just one lesson, middle school teachers, coaches, and administrators interested in developing more effective editing and grammar instruction will find Jeff’s teaching an excellent example of the rituals and tone needed to truly invite students into living the writerly life.
Anderson, Jeff. (2007). Everyday Editing: Inviting Students to Develop Skill and Craft in Writing Workshop. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Grade Levels: 4-5
If editing is ever a challenge for you to teach, if editing is ever a writing task your students avoid (even more than going to the dentist!), if editing every feels like a bone dry task for you as a writer, Jeff Anderson’s book is for you! Just reading the title of his first chapter, Why Do My Students Hate Grammar and Editing?, I knew that I found a wonderful lesson planning teammate in Jeff. And hearing how Jeff thoughtfully crafts his teaching with invitations and by asking students to pay attention to correct models of editing confirmed my feelings.
Teaching editing as a process of invitations, Jeff shares ten lesson sets of the most commonly needed learning journeys for growing middle school writers. He invites students to notice, imitate, celebrate, collect, write, combine, edit, and extend their thinking as writers by studying model/mentor texts and by looking closely at their own writing. As students reflect on their writing with the lens of mentor text, Jeff guides them in considering the editing their writing may need and naming the ways editing can make “this” piece of writing stronger. Thankfully for us, Jeff includes numerous examples of model sentences and passages in Everyday Editing making it easy to find companion pieces to our students’ writing and, thus, invite them to consider editing possibilities to clarify and strengthen their own texts.
Throughout this book, Jeff thoughtfully makes the case for why we must teach students editing in the context of their writing, never in isolation or as a drill. His practical yet rigorous lesson ideas and teaching tips are helping me develop richer collaboratives with students to expand and chisel their lenses as writers. For you, too, Jeff’s teaching portraits offer vivid possibilities in supporting the growth of your students’ eyes and ears as editors.
Anderson, Jeff. (2005). Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer’s Workshop. Stenhouse: Portland, ME.
Grade Level Range: Grades 4-8
Anderson takes one of the toughest subjects we face teachers – how to make learning and using grammar and mechanics compelling and meaningful to students – in this research rich and lesson-filled text. Rather than seeing the teaching of grammar and mechanics as “an either or” to writers’ workshop/ process teaching, Anderson masterfully integrates process, product, and skill/conventions lessons so that students’ write with vitality and clarity. Wisely advocating teaching grammar and mechanics IN CONTEXT, Anderson models and encourages students with short daily instructional practice. Lesson portraits include ideas such as having students try on mechanic lessons in their writer’s notebooks, analyzing mentor texts to determine how authors use conventions to convey their messages, and through “express-lane edits” (which all help take the pressure off students to be “right” while still providing meaningful laboratories for exploring their grammar-mechanics learning). Additionally, Anderson shares inviting activities such as Sentence Smack Downs!, Register Swap, Absolute Zoom Lens, and “” to give students short yet rigorous study in utilizing conventions. Understanding the vast curricula on grade teachers’ shoulders, Anderson supportively weaves in definitions to clarify all those English teacher terms which can sometimes cause “an up all night grading” teacher a bit of confusion. The appendix is also a gold mine of resources full of forms and tools grade 4 – 8 teachers crave.
Angelillo, Janet. (2005). Making Revision Matter: Strategies for guiding students to focus, organize, and strengthen their writing independence. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Janet Angelillo is one of my “go to” writers. She consistently offers rich yet practical ideas. And I love how she bravely tackles some of toughest challenges of our teaching work.
In this book, she focuses on revision. Janet brilliantly illustrates “revision’s place in the writing process.” This makes it clear that studying revision with students is not about an isolated writing skill or a step in a process. Rather, Janet’s revision lessons are about writers and the thoughtful, reflective decision all writers must consider. Intent on deepening students’ writing lens, she maps out essential revision learning and clearly explains how to help each and all students care about developing their writing.
Janet’s teaching work stands on the shoulders of giants, the authors she loves and the writers she learns from. She weaves insights and quotes from authors throughout the book. Mentor texts are highlighted to further define revision not as a school task for students “to do” (like a checklist) but, in fact, as the discerning work all writers must engage in to grow their texts. And, as Janet advocates in her opening chapter, “teaching children to revise their writing is a model for teaching them to live: it teaches them to take a revisionist stance in everything they do, to expect and embrace change, and to position themselves to assess and solve problems in their world” (p. 9).
Grades 3-5 teachers will love Janet’s classroom-anchored “I can use this tomorrow!” tools such as her units of study, minilessons, conference records, connections to editing, and rubrics for assessing students. Coaches and administrators will appreciate Janet’s advice about leadership and professional study.
Beaver, Joetta. Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA K-2 and 3-8). (2006). Lebanon, IN: Celebration Press/Pearson Learning.
Knowing students intimately as individual readers is a cornerstone of responsive teachers. If you want to know more about your students’ levels of reading and ability to comprehend, you can gain important insights by utilizing the DRA. You ask students to choose a book; make predictions about the book; read the book; and, then, respond orally and in writing. You take a running record as the child reads (the first 50-100 words only). Depending on the developmental level of the students, most of the student’s reading will be silent reading to better approximate student independent reading performance. You listen (and later analyze) the student’s retelling and asking questions and harvest specific knowledge about a student’s reading. The DRA also provides instructional strategies based on what you learn about each student. The DRA kit includes a DVD to support your administration, analysis, and scoring.
Beck, Isabel, McKeown, Margaret, & Kucan, Linda. (2002). Bringing Words to Life. New York, NY: Guildford Press.
Grade Levels: K – 5
As a child, the sleepiest time of a school day was during vocabulary. When we were growing up, vocabulary lessons were so dry and so dull, weren’t they? Too often, learning new vocabulary words meant copying sentences from the board or looking up and recording definitions from the dictionary. And the words we studied felt so foreign and odd like they were dug up from some burrow in a cave. Ugh! I never heard any writer talk about falling in love with words from vocabulary lessons.
Thank goodness, our students do not have to repeat our history! Isabel Beck, Margaret McKeown, and Linda Kucan offer richer and highly relevant ways of crafting vocabulary learning for and with students. In their innovative and interactive lessons, they invite students into word study with stories to make the most of natural context (p. 102) and text talk to revisit a word(s) and create a book club style conversation about the text as a whole. By marinating students in literature of all genres, Isabel, Margaret, and Linda help students connect their word learning and fuel it with wonder: “People who have large vocabularies tend to be intrigued with words (p. 13).” Falling in love with words and being curious about language are vital dispositions to cultivate in every growing reader and writer. Bringing Words to Life shows us why and tells us how to do this with our own students.
K – 5 classroom teachers interested in infusing students’ vocabulary learning with this rigor appreciate the authors’ research-based framework: selecting words for instruction; developing student-friendly explanations of new words; creating meaningful learning activities; and getting students involved in thinking about, using, and noticing new words in their literate lives and as they harvest words from their lives outside of school. Coaches and curriculum leaders will appreciate Isabel, Margaret, and Linda’s first and last chapters which detail the research and pedagogy of robust vocabulary instruction. Every professional library should include multiple copies of this text…and no one should be too surprised if the copies never get returned.
Beers, Kylene. (2003). When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
This book is filled with hope and thoughtfully explains what we can do to help our most vulnerable students grow their skills, attitude, and confidence as readers. Addressing how to best support struggling readers’ growth, Beers outlines numerous ways to develop students’ comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, word recognition, and motivation. Beers’ extensive booklists, reproducible material and tools, and her transcripts of collaborations between teachers and students are deeply inspiring. Her practical models will help you transfer these research-based teaching practices to strengthen your own instruction. This is a comprehensive handbook for all intermediate grade teachers and literacy coaches, a text you will turn to time and time again in planning edifying literacy journeys for those students who declare “I hate reading!” and to help all your students find their voice as readers.
Block, Cathy Collins & Mangieri, John N. (2006). The Vocabulary
Enriched Classroom: Practices for Improving the Reading Performance of All Students in Grades 3 and up. New York: Scholastic.In this practical text, Cathy Collins Block and John Mangieri offer literacy coaches and grade 3 – 5 classroom teachers the dual assets of research-based best practices for developing students vocabulary and keen insights to illuminate why vocabulary learning is so difficult for some children. Synthesizing seminal research, Cathy and John articulate five “word-learning beliefs” we must consider in supporting students’ vocabulary acquisition and applications.
- Belief 1: All words are not of equal importance.
- Belief 2: Students retain words they truly understand and can use when they speak, listen, read, and write.
- Belief 3: Students increase their vocabulary more rapidly when they learn how to use one word-meaning clue with one vocabulary-building strategy each week .
- Belief 4: When students understand words frequently used in texts, they develop a positive attitude toward reading.
- Belief 5: Expert readers know a large number of important words that encompass all parts of speech.
Fellow researchers contribute their thinking in the subsequent classroom-centered chapters of this book. Focusing on specific instructional strategies of exemplary literacy teachers, educators such as Linda Gambrell, Jerry Johns, and Timothy Rasinski translate research into cutting-edge vocabulary instruction. Each chapter is infused with student work and supportive resources such as Discussion Questions, Teaching Activities, and the “You Try It” ideas.
Brand, Max & Brand, Gayle. (2006). Practical Fluency: Classroom Perspectives, Grades K-6. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Grade Levels: K – 5
This book is gem, one I have turned to a great deal in the last year to sharpen my ability to respond to each child’s flow and passion for literacy. Not only is it highly practical and grounded in numerous classroom examples but this book offers a unique perspective on fluency. Authors Max and Gayle Brand define fluency as “accomplishing a task effortlessly” (p. 2) and expand this definition - “Fluency is not one skill, but the orchestration of many skills" (p. 87) in both reading and writing. Fluent readers and writers complete literacy tasks automatically, fluidly, quickly, and accurately. They have “control of sight words” (p. 3). They lift words from the page (as readers) and put words to the page (as writers) always concentrating and integrating their efforts toward communication. Fluency is a life force in both one’s reading and writing. And yet, some students become tangled or halted in their fluency development because it feels like such an abstract and unnecessary skill. Other students flounder in fluency because they have not yet gained enough models of fluency. As classroom teachers themselves, Max and Gayle know these realities and outline four key considerations in maturing and energizing students’ fluency:
v Read alouds to model, name, and explore fluency with students;
v Rereading texts with students in whole and small group settings and as a vital experience when students read independently;
v Building students’ stamina as readers and writers with short texts; and
v Ongoing assessment for targeted instruction including teacher monitoring and feedback to students and by engaging students in “Why?” discussions along with frequent self evaluations (Another example of Max and Gayle’s exceptional ideas for infusing fluency learning into students’ lives with vitality and ownership.).K – 5 classroom teachers with a sophisticated knowledge of creating authentic and relevant fluency practice for students and those seeking to learn more about how to integrate students’ literacy learning will find this book to be rich read. Literacy coaches who are helping classroom teachers to develop responsive and differentiated intervention for students will also find Max and Gayle’s ideas very compelling and clarifying.
Buckner, Aimee. (2006). Inside Notebooks: Bringing Out Writers, Grades 3-6. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. (VHS or DVD).
Grades: 3 – 5
Entering Aimee Buckner’s fourth grade classroom, this DVD give us the
wonderful opportunity to see Aimee engage her students in a variety of
learning contexts as they utilize writers’ notebooks to “collect ideas from
their lives.” Her “behind the scenes” commentary presents keen ideas
about why and how to infuse writers’ notebooks into students’ learning
lives, teaching tips especially meaningful to grade 3- 5 classroom teachers
and literacy coaches or principals leading a professional study. Aimee
demonstrates and reflect on using writer’s notebooks in minilessons and
genre studies and to strengthen students’ voice, topic generation, analysis
different points of views, and self evaluations. She views writing
notebooks “as a support to the whole writer’s workshop…as we go into
drafting, it becomes a resources for students…and helps students pay
attention to the world and ask questions…just as (published/mentor) writers
do.” Classroom teachers and coaches will find this DVD to be an excellent
compliment to studies of writers’ notebooks, persuasive writing, and
utilizing writing in support of students’ content area learning.
Calkins, Lucy. (1987). The Writing Workshop Video. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. (VHS).
Grade Level: K – 5
It is always beneficial to see master teachers at work in actual classrooms. Calkins and Harwayne walk viewers through writing workshop in various classrooms offering demonstrations of teachers and students at work and debriefing each observation with their comments. While the video tape is over twenty years old, it continues to explore the teacher and student behaviors essential to developing a community of supportive writers. For teachers or principals completely new to writing workshop and process writing, videos such as this one give viewers a critical opportunity to witness the power of encouraging students to take control of their own writing.
Calkins, Lucy, Montgomery, Kate & Santman, Donna. (1998). A Teacher’s Guide to Standardized Reading Tests: Knowledge is Power. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
In this climate of high-stakes testing, the authors have written a book about the need for teachers and administrators to be knowledgeable about the science and various forms of testing and their limitations. Responding to the tough questions so many of us face about assessment, evaluation, and accountability, the authors offer practical solutions with great honesty and vision. Their ideas represent getting to know students as individual learners, nurturing student growth, and keeping student motivation in the discussion, too – a concept which is too often left out of reform and accountability
discussions and planning. Based on research in classrooms, they present minilessons for teaching test-taking strategies so that students will be successful as they approach tests. This book is helpful for both classroom teachers as well as for literacy coaches and administrators.
Cole, Ardith. (2009). Better Answers: Written performance that looks good and sounds smart, 2nd Edition. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Grades: 3 – 8
As I read Ardith Cole’s Better Answers, I thought to myself, “Finally, a voice of reason.” Ardith understands that the answer to our toughest challenges is a mirror – it’s us. It’s great teaching which leads to great learning. Not commercial programs. Not formulas. Not “silver bullets.” From a gradual release of responsibility instruction model, Ardith shares how to teach students develop constructed responses in service of not just their test-taking skills but as life skills. If you have questions about how to best teach students to respond to their reading, write to a prompt, and/or wisely engage students in test prep studies, this book is a “must read.” Written for intermediate grade teachers, this is an easy read because it is so practical and so full of “ready to use” activities (Also, about a third of the book is an Appendix which includes numerous resources to help you build relevant and responsive lessons for your own students.). An added benefit, this book comes with a CD-Rom which includes many of the Ardith’s key Best Answer tools such as lesson plans, sandwich charts to guide students’ written response, rubrics, monitoring/assessment forms, text samples, and resource links.
Collins, Kathy. (2004). Growing Readers: Units of Study in the Primary Classroom. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Words matter. I was struck by Kathy Collins language in her opening pages of Growing Readers and throughout her book. Calling her teaching Independent Reading Workshop says a lot. By naming her reading program with these words, she reveals the intention of all her efforts – helping each child become an independent, choosing reader. If you want to fuel your workshop with student independence and joy as your goals, Kathy’s words are an absolutely brilliant and essential road map. Presented as possibilities (not as “shoulds” or absolutes), teachers and coaches will especially enjoy studying Kathy’s units of study to further understand why and how she builds a yearlong reading curriculum for and with her students. Unit of study topics include: print and comprehension strategies; genre studies; connecting in-school and out-of-school reading; and developing the strategies and habits of lifelong readers. Principally helpful, Kathy details “getting ready” foundations which outline her unit of study preparations including helping students to feel safe and heard. Kathy explains, “In safe learning environments, learners are invited to take risks…we need to make it comfortable for our students to try out and strengthen their new skills (p. 5)…Workshop teaching offers consistency… When we follow these routines day after day, our students use their energy to grow as readers and learners…And we, in turn, can focus our energy on teaching, not managing , our independent readers (p.7).”
Cruz, M. Colleen. (2004). Independent Writing: One Teacher – Thirty-Two Needs, Topics, and Plans. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
We need more brave and brilliant writing teachers like Colleen Cruz! In a time when writing instruction is vulnerable to formulas and spoon feeding students assigned topics, Cruz champions independent writing by nurturing independent writers. She cultivates independence within her students through modeling, using mentor texts and writers’ notebooks, incorporating frequent self evaluations, and by engaging students in deeper learning with units of writing study. She is passionate and thoughtful about building community with students and illustrates edifying grouping practices. Cruz practically and authentically assesses her students’ writing growth: “When our students publish their writing independently, away from a whole-class study, the work they produce is the best means of assessing what they know about writing.” Her chapter “Trouble” brilliantly anticipates and addresses questions many readers will bring to this text. Educators who have a strong background and passion for process writing will find a true teammate in Colleen Cruz.
Cunningham, Patricia. (2009). What Really Matters in Vocabulary: Research-based Practices across the Curriculum (What Really Matters Series). Allyn and Bacon.
Grades: K - 5
In the opening chapter, Patricia profiles why vocabulary learning is vital for student achievement and its role as a predictor of students’ comprehension. For K-5 classroom teachers and literacy coaches, she profiles excellent instruction models in the next three chapters: Vocabulary Growth from Reading, Maximizing Vocabulary Development by Teaching Word Parts, and Maximizing Vocabulary Growth During Reading Lessons. The remaining chapters specifically focus on developing students’ vocabulary in the arts, social studies, science, and math. Throughout this practical text written in a delightfully conversational style, Patricia profiles how to address students’ vocabulary needs and grow their passion for words. As always, Dr. Cunningham tackles a difficult teaching subject and high student need by offering research-based strategies to invite children into the deeper understanding of spoken and written language.
Daniels, Harvey. (2002). Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Daniels, drawing on his own classroom implementations and professional his partnerships with teachers from around the world, updated and deepened his recommendations about why and how to develop text-centered fellowships with this edition. His style of writing is engaging and grounded in the real life of classrooms. Especially illuminating are Daniels’ ideas for launching, managing, and assessing peer-led book discussion groups; thoughtful structures which make it possible and probable for students to lead their own book discussion groups. Classroom teachers and literacy coaches seeking to launch or enrich literature circles within your own school communities will appreciate the wealth of tools offered in this book.
Daniels, Harvey. (2008). Looking into Literature Circles. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. (DVD).
Building on his earlier texts, this DVD gives viewers eye witness observations of teachers and students engage in building and strengthening their book discussions. For teachers new to literature circles or for those a bit tangled in helping their own students achieve successful peer-led book clubs, seeing Daniels’ recommendations for forming, managing, and monitoring students’ participation and growth “live” would be immensely clarifying. Another audience for this DVD is students. Sharing vignettes of other students engaged in focused and effective literature circles can provide your students with additional layers of book club demonstrations to the modeling you offer them.
Diller, Debbie. (2007). Making the Most of Small Groups: Differentiation for All. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Grade Levels: K-2/3
Debbie Diller’s books are so often “If you had to pick just one professional
book to read, this would be it!” treasures. She writes with the classroom-
based integrity of her thirty years of teaching and consistently offers such
innovative and sound advice (that wonderful mixture of “Oh, I wish I had
thought of that!”). The courage and clarity of her messages in Making the
Most of Small Groups make this an absolute must read for every primary
grade teacher and all literacy coaches. For example, she explains her
thinking about small-group instruction: “…what I write about in this book is
not just guided reading. It is more than guided reading – it is focused small
group instruction …In my mind, there is not really a right or wrong way…
Focus is key in small-group instruction…Make every minute count…The
ideas in this book should be used flexibly, not in an orthodox fashion. Pay
attention to your students, be open, and have fun. Small-group reading is a
delight. It enables you to get to know your students better than you’ve ever
known them before. They’ll beg to meet with you…(p. 10 – 11)…Once
students are working solidly on grade level, instead of trying to move kids
to higher and higher reading levels, I prefer to go deeper and expand their
reading of a variety of genres at that level (p. 33)…”
With research-grounded sample lessons, lesson planning templates, and
curriculum charts, Debbie brilliantly illustrates how to connect students’
whole group learning to their small-group learning all in the service of
strengthening students’ independent reading. She details responsive
problem solving in using student data to make effective teaching decisions
(including in depth chapters focused on phonemic awareness, phonics,
fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension as well as an informative matrix –
“Reading Levels and What To Focus on in Lessons”). Each of the eight
chapters and the seven companion appendices offer easy to implement
ideas for differentiating instruction. From a variety of contexts, all of
Debbie’s teaching suggestions richly model why and how to explicitly teach
students to become reflective and metacognitive.
Denton, Paula. (2007). The Power of Our Words. Stenhouse: Portland, ME.
Grade Level Range: All/Pre-K - 12
“Language is one of the most powerful tools available to teachers.” So begins this compelling and idea filled text. Denton powerfully illustrates the impact our words have on our students with numerous classroom vignettes and concrete examples. She offers a much needed lens on why and how we must choose our language thoughtfully to help students construct understanding, developed respectful and connected relationships, and practice self care. A portrait of educator language models is offered in topics such as: using language to help children envision success; open-ended questions that stretch children's thinking; listening and using silence skillfully; the 3 Rs of teacher language: reinforcing, reminding, and redirecting; saying what you mean and meaning what you say; giving brief, concrete instructions; offering meaningful, specific encouragement. This book gives beginning teachers tips to implement immediately and provides veteran teachers with sage guidance in self evaluating and strengthening their teaching language.
Dorn, Linda. (1999, 2006). Organizing for Literacy. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. (VHS or DVD).In this video/DVD series, Linda Dorn invites you into primary grade classrooms to see her apprentice model in action. Each of the four thirty-minute video tapes/DVD’s focuses on a key component of balanced literacy teaching: organizing the classroom; learning about reading; learning about writing; and learning about words. Observing Linda and her colleagues, you can see students in a variety of learning-teaching partnerships such as guided reading groups, shared reading, writing workshop, and read alouds (to name just a few here) and gain access to the teachers’ thinking as they debrief and explain their practices. A unique feature of these videos/DVD’s is seeing the thoughtful ways the children are encouraged to use strategies flexibly and skillfully as they learn to read.
Dorn’s media series also comes with a viewing guide designed to support viewers’ analysis of the teaching and learning interactions. The viewing guide, which can be downloaded for free on the publisher’s website, is an excellent vehicle to guide a professional study group. Much like a behind the glass analysis led by a literacy expert, the guide prompts thinking with questions and suggested readings while nudging viewers’ thinking by naming key applications to implement in our own classroom.
Being able to observe master teachers like Linda and her colleagues with their students will be especially meaningful and helpful to new teachers (One demonstrating teacher is Linda’s frequent co-author, Carla Soffos.). Scaffolding is vividly profiled through the tapes/DVD’s. Understanding why and how to sensitively develop an apprentice with and for students will be less of mystery for new teachers. By being in Linda’s classrooms, new teachers (and teachers who want to strengthen their balanced literacy teaching) can witness and hear the subtle moves teachers have to make to help students move forward. An additional bonus for new teachers, Linda and her fellow demonstrating teachers even take care to voice practical issues of teaching such as scheduling, organizing center materials for students’ independent use, and setting up classrooms with literacy corners intended to foster student independence. Even though this set is about ten years old now, the messages of being a mentor are timeless.
Linda Dorn, Linda and Soffos, Carla. (2006.) Developing Independent Learners. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Grade Levels: 1- 4/5
For so many of us, there is just nothing equal to watching master teachers at work! Linda Dorn and Carla Soffos once again invite us into the classrooms of powerhouse teachers to observe how to set students up for success by apprenticing them in reading and writing workshops. Through the demonstrations and debriefing of this DVD, Linda and Carla champion modeling and collaborative practice as essential stepping stones in students’ growth toward independence. Strengthening students’ independence by helping them cross fertilize/connect their reading and writing learning is another big message of this sixty minute DVD “text.”
Observing a first grade teacher, Vicki, and her students in a study of research, you will see the teacher engaging students in nonfiction texts via a guided practice minilesson, conferences, and group sharing with teacher assessment. Vicki’s interactions with students paint a rich picture of encouraging student independence by scaffolding the children’s research studies with a ten-step process, including topic generation, searching for and collecting relevant resources, organizing information, and publishing research results.
In the third grade classroom, you have the opportunity to witness the teacher, Donnie, as she works to deepen her students’ comprehension and composing by thinking critically as the children read and write literature. It is especially powerful to see the layers of learning the teacher gives her students by taking this focus into minilessons, reading conference, literature circle discussions groups, independent practice, and peer conferences (to name just a few here) all with the goal of giving each child the tools he/she needs to read and write stories independently. Grade 1-3/4 classroom teachers will find the language modeling and interactions between the teacher and students especially intriguing and helpful (including hearing how students talk with one another). Additionally exciting and clarifying are the examples and discussions of the teacher’s artful ways of integrating reading and writing processes with and for her students.
Linda and Carla’s DVD comes with a viewing guide to help us pay attention to key teaching behaviors which nurture students’ independence as readers and writers. Too often, we move students into independent literacy tasks too quickly. Linda and Carla help us see why slowing down, staying focused, and offering students massive mentoring support are essential ingredients in growing children’s capacity and motivation as independent writers and readers. When viewing this DVD with colleagues, the questions of the viewing guide can deepen discussions and prompt brainstorming for your own applications of Linda and Carla’s pedagogy. By having the opportunity to watch great teachers making great differences in children’s literate lives, this DVD would be an excellent professional growth experience for teacher already well versed in workshop teaching.
Fisher, Bobbi. (1991). Joyful Learning: A Whole Language Kindergarten. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. [Second edition: 1998]
This is one of the most thorough and compelling texts about learning, teaching, and life in the kindergarten classroom. From detailed advice about teaching and assessing budding readers and writers to outlines of the essential materials and resources, parent conference recommendations, rich bibliographies, and the beliefs and research which engine her work, Fisher offers vivid portraits of how teachers can responsively and joyfully mentor their pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. Readers will find Fisher’s thoughts about the power of shared literacy especially clarifying (Her ideas for demonstrating literacy and developing flexible groups, for example, are remarkable and offer teachers key insights about how to develop these critical learning experiences for their own students.) This is a “must have” for all pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classroom teachers.
Fisher, Douglas and Frey, Nancy. (2008). Better Learning through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility . Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
There is an old Mexican proverb, “To see once is better than to listen many times.” In learning, being shown how to do something is always more effective (and more inviting) than being told “just do it.” All learners (of every age) need mentors who demonstrate, guide, and offer insightful feedback. Going public with the invisible - the brain work of proficient readers and writers - is essential for literacy learners. And yet, knowing what our students need and being able to craft our teaching to match and uplift our students’ development often creates a knowing-doing gap. What does effective scaffolding look like and sound like? How can we make these ritual and routines meet the diverse needs of our students?
This book is an essential 411 of answers! Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey brilliantly and succinctly detail how engaging students in focus lessons, guided instruction, collaborative learning, and independent tasks create an edifying gradual release of responsibility for and within students. Doug and Nancy’s numerous classroom examples and non-examples illustrate why and how utilizing this responsive structure makes it possible for teachers to pass the baton of learning to their students in ways which not only build children’s competence but which also expand their confidence and sense of ownership.
Nancy and Doug leave no stone uncovered. From think alouds to literacy centers to diverse guided groups to book club/literature circles and with tools for teachers’ self evaluation as well as “look for” indicators for coaches and administrators, educators of every grade level will find this book compelling and clarifying. It is one of those gem books where you find yourself saying, “Oh, my gosh! Why did I never think of that! That just makes so much sense.” and “Wow, where has this book been all my life?”
For the faculty searching for a clearer vision of “putting all the pieces together” and for individual teachers who want to strengthen their ability to apprentice students differentiate their learning (and still have a life), this is a must read.
Fountas, Irene and Pinnell, Gay Su. (1996). Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
“All children possess the fundamental attributes they need to become literate…but most children need teaching (p. 1).” These opening words from Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell represent the foundation of Guided Reading, a text many considered to be the “mother book” of defining the what, why’s, and how’s of engage students in small group instruction. Irene and Gay Su believe in children and they believe in teachers. By sharing their decades of teaching and research, they explicitly detail how to thoughtfully use small reading groups to guide students’ reading learning.
Even in my thirtieth year of teaching, the comprehensiveness of this book continues to awe me. Gay Su and Irene address every question and every need we have as teachers in nurturing students’ grow with flexible grouping practices. The first half of this book offers practical aids to support your guided reading teaching such as:
· transcripts of guided reading lessons;
· situating guided reading in a balanced literacy program;
· designing and organizing the learning environment;
· assessment tools, grouping options, and sample rotations systems to create, launch, maintain, and reorganize guided reading groups responsively throughout the year;
· selecting texts for guided reading;
· supportive strategies and prompts to prime and deepen students’ reading; and
· providing ideas for what “the other children do” as you meet with a small group.
The second section of the book is a treasure trove of appendixes with supports such as ready to use manipulatives, record keeping forms, and a bibliography of over 2,500 leveled books.
This is an absolute must read for new primary grade teachers and a text veterans teachers will find worthy of revisiting often.
Fountas, Irene and Pinnell, Gay Su. (2001). Guiding Readers and Writers Grades 3 – 5: Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Opening the cover of Guided Readers and Writers, I was so excited to study Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell offer us “A Comprehensive Language and Literacy Framework.” Pulling the first pages back, I was even more thrilled to find a photo essay to illustrate their comprehensive framework. These informative graphics foreshadow the authors’ expanded thinking about what guided can mean for growing readers and writers in grades 3 – 6. Detailing the interconnectedness of reading and writing, Gay Su and Irene explain “We couldn’t address reading without discussing writing as well, because literacy doesn’t unfold that way in the classroom – or shouldn’t. Fragmenting these complex literacy processes interferes with the greatest goal of literacy education – the construction of meaning from and through text (p. vi).”
This book is structure around six tenants of effective literacy programs:
· Breakthrough to Literacy
· Independent Reading
· Guided Reading
· Literature Study
· Teaching for Comprehension and Word Analysis
· The Reading and Writing Connection
Each section is infused with voluminous practical resources and information to aid you in developing the most meaningful small group instruction for all your students. Irene and Gay Su additionally offer easy to implement ideas for differentiating small group learning, supporting struggling readers and writers, and dealing with the heavy weight of time with innovative solutions. Intermediate grade teachers will appreciate the author’s clear yet diverse guidelines for engaging students in reading and writing collaboratives.
The second part of the book includes over sixty appendices with support resources such as graphic organizers and note taking templates; assessment and record keeping tools; word study aids; charts to nudge students’ writing and reading independent practice; and an extensive bibliography of leveled books.
All intermediate grade teachers, coaches, and principals should read this book, discuss it with one another, and keep it within an arm’s reach to support and deepen their work in creating small group instruction with and for their students.
Frey, Nancy & Fisher, Douglas. (2009). Learning Words Inside and Out: Vocabulary Instruction That Boosts Achievement in All Subject Areas. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Veteran educators Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher delightfully illustrate how to immerse students in subject/content area vocabulary to grow their understanding and motivation. Their ideas for helping students fall in love with words and their instructional tenants are best described with their chapter titles: what teaching subject area words can make or break achievement ; make it intentional; make it transparent; make it useable; make it personal; make it a priority; and make it your own. Important to all of us, Nancy and Doug’s teaching-learning practices are not “just a hunch.” Demonstrating their integrity and scholarship, the authors anchor their advice from a diverse research base.
Doug and Nancy have filled this text with bushels of instructional ideas such as vocabulary journals, think alouds, word games, graphic organizers, self awareness charts, children’s literature suggestions, and even sound models of scheduling vocabulary learning. Grade 1 – 6 teachers will additionally appreciate the authors’ thoughtful advice about how to make vocabulary learning relevant and strengthening for all students with their “Focus on English language learners” and “Focus on Struggling Readers” notes woven throughout this text.
Nancy and Doug include a provocative study guide at the end of the book which only makes the invitation to read this book in a professional study group or book club even more compelling. And, for faculties interested in developing a stronger school wide focus on vocabulary earning, a deep reading and discussion of the chapter titled “Make It a Priority” will be especially meaningful.
Gallagher, Kelly. (2004). Deeper Reading: Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4 – 12. Stenhouse: Portland, Maine.
Grade Level Range: 4 - 12
Integrity. Practical. Outside of the box. These phrases begin to capture the remarkable spirit of Kelly Gallagher’s Deeper Reading. Knowing that 4th – 12th grade students encounter challenging texts regularly, Gallagher, a high school English teacher, makes content area learning more compelling and less daunting for students by utilizing strategies such as questioning, metaphor, and collaboration. He has unique wisdom about why and how to help older readers develop their metacognition and gain the habit of reflection, which is the key to deeper understanding. Because Gallagher is a deep thinker and offers “outside of the box” teaching ideas, this book would be an edifying edition to the professional library of teachers who already employ a workshop model of learning with students and have a strong background in comprehension research. Fourth and fifth grade classroom teachers will find his thoughts about developing students’ inferential thinking via metaphor and reflection especially helpful. Literacy coaches could demonstrate Gallagher’s teaching ideas for and with newer teachers to help them understand the pedagogy behind Deeper Reading.
Hale, Elizabeth. (2008). Crafting Writers, K – 6. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Grades K – 6
I love books about teaching writing which are models of great writing. Not only does this make my professional reading compelling but it tells me that the writer has integrity and unique insights to guide my teaching and my own writing. Elizabeth Hale is one of these rare authors.
Elizabeth sculpts her advice about craft by delightfully sculpting her writing with stories and metaphor. She implores us to be thoughtful in helping students see craft elements as tools or options for their writing, not as lock steps or reduced to a checklist. Powerfully, she illustrates craft at the word, sentence, and passage levels.
Classroom teachers will embrace Elizabeth’s ideas about how to identify specific elements of craft when assessing student work to plan relevant instruction. Her vivid portraits of conferring are clarifying and demonstrate how to continuously monitor students’ growth and progress. Equally helpful are her lessons plans suggestions and (anchor) charts, ideas K-5 teachers can easily and immediately employ with their students. Her process for engaging students in noticing craft in writing can become a foundation to build your own lessons on.
Harvey, Stephanie & Goudvis, Anne. (2005, 2006). Read, Write, and Talk: A Practice to Enhance Comprehension. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. (VHS or DVD).
To see comprehension strategy teaching and learning in action, Harvey and Goudvis take viewers into an intermediate grade classroom. Modeling Read, Write, Talk, an activity which approximates what so many of us do as adult/ proficient readers, Harvey demonstrates and thoughtfully explains why and how to interact with text and with others to deeply understand texts. Seeing and hearing the children’s implementations of their comprehension leaning and their responses profiles the power of talking and writing as critical experiences in deepening not only students’ comprehension but their confidence to make meaning, too.
Harvey, Stephanie & Goudvis, Anne. (2004, 2006). Strategic Thinking:
Reading and Responding, Grades 4-8. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. (VHS or
One of the best ways to learn is watch a great mentor and to hear that mentor think aloud. Viewers can be “a fly on the wall” as they witness master teachers at work in this four-part DVD/video series. Working alongside teacher Jessica Lawrence and her students, Harvey and Goudvis offer viewers rich observations of apprenticing students in the study of thinking as they focus on two key comprehension strategies – inferring in fiction and determining importance in nonfiction. Classroom teachers, staff developers, and literacy coaches studying comprehension-centered reading instruction in a readers’ workshop will find the opportunity to listen in on the teaching and learning of this series especially meaningful.
Harvey, Stephanie & Goudvis, Anne. (2007). (2nd Edition). Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Grade Levels: 2 – 8
Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis did it again! With classroom-based wisdom, easy to implement teaching tips, and a delightful touch of humor Stephanie and Anne brilliantly illustrate how to explicitly apprentice students in comprehension studies in this second edition of Strategies That Work! So many of us have anchored our comprehension instruction in Anne and Stephanie’s ideas. Now, with their new research about the importance of activating students’ background knowledge and strengthening children’s metacognition as well as over twenty new lessons and assessment tools, we can again turn to Stephanie and Anne to invigorate and deepen our teaching. Classroom teachers will especially appreciate the author’s inspiring and practical ideas for promoting students’ active literacy with think alouds, read alouds, guided discussions, and authentic written responses. As some of our best brain tour guides, Anne and Stephanie additionally advocate modeling and collaboratively practicing comprehension with students in short and inviting texts and offer us a library of titles, sources, and contexts. In fact, their ways of integrating comprehension strategies into students’ content area learning help us see “how to fit it all in.” All teachers and literacy coaches seeking to build responsive comprehension studies for and with students by teaching them how to use strategies as tools for creating, maintaining, and deepening understanding will embrace this book as essential professional reading. All of Stephanie and Anne’s strategy suggestions are further illuminated and validated by the inclusion of student work throughout the book and, as we all know, the children are our best and forever teachers.
Harwayne, Shelley. (2001). Writing Through Childhood: Rethinking Process and Product. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Grades: K – 5
How do you hold a moon beam in your hand? I think of this line from the Sound of Music as I reflect on the infinite gifts given to us by Shelley Harwayne. And, capturing even some of the wisdom in Shelley’s Writing Through Childhood here, I offer you a few key words as an invitation to this most radiant book: integrity, innovation, and heart.
Integrity. My copy of Writing Through Childhood is tattered and looks like sticky notes are sneezing out the sides. Each page and every word echoes the authenticity and honesty of Shelley’s work and her hawk eye vision of children’s literacy development. I turn to this book when I plan fortifying units of study for growing writers and always when I need inspiration and clarity. Shelley includes multiple reflections about her own writing and infuses each chapter with illuminating student authored writing. Her instructional ideas strengthening for every classroom teacher. Having walked in administrators’ shoes, principals will appreciate Shelley’s sound advice throughout this book.
Innovation. In Shelley’s Technicolor language, I find myself saying, “Oh, my gosh. That is such a clever yet practical way of doing that!” and “How creative! Why haven’t I ever thought of that before! Wow!” Like a rich painting, I always find new gifts in Writing Through Childhood; practices which expand my teaching and help me reach all students. From her extensive bibliographies (Shelley is a superb book guide!) to “Key Writing Lessons” to treasure chest of appendices, Shelley provides us with unique and essential tools as writing mentors.
Heart. As a professional book, rereading Writing Through Childhood continues to build my confidence and grow my hope. Shelley has high and noble expectations for children. She loves them unconditionally while knowing how to “nudge them out of the nest.” Even if I was not a teacher, I would see and hear Shelley’s passion for what it really important in life by listening to her passionate wisdom about children and writing.
Heard, Georgia. (2002). The Revision Toolbox: Teaching Techniques That Work. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Grade Levels: 2/3 – 8
Being a poet has trained Georgia Heard to listen. To really listen. Working in classrooms with teachers and students, Georgia heard how hard and mysterious revision is to teach and learn. With this book, she offers her gracious and graceful answers to the most common dilemmas we face as teachers of growing writers and the most enriching aspects of revisions all young writers (especially) need to consider in lifting the quality of their writing.
To help strengthen students’ eyes for writing, Georgia advocates building a toolbox of revision for and with children, key skills which mentor students in words, structure, and voice considerations as they are guided to see their writing with new/Georgia’s wise lenses. From playful lessons such as “rearranging the furniture” and “a room full of company” and “leaving the house,” Georgia makes learning about revision compelling and successful for students. Classroom teachers will love and appreciate the numerous lessons, teaching tools, and examples of student writing devoted to developing three specific revision toolboxes - words, structure, and voice included in this text.
Whether profiling how to read deeply and learn from fellow writers, collecting words, or getting more out of peer conferences, Georgia keeps one compass in mind – all revision studies are anchored in “encouraging children to how to match their writing more accurately to what is in their hearts (p. X).” During a study(ies) of revision with your own students, you will want Georgia’s book to sit right next to your lesson plan book as a well, a bible, a help mate.
Heard, Georgia and Laminack, Lester. (2008). Lessons for Climb Inside a Poem: Grades K-2. Portsmouth, NH: First Hand Heinemann.
Grades: K – 2
This three-part text set is an invitation and a validation. Georgia Heard and Lester Laminack invite children into the world of poetry because they know children have an innate disposition to think and talk in poetry. By marinating students in poetry through read alouds, repeated readings, and minilessons, Georgia and Lester profile how to engage growing writers in crafting their own poetry.
Climb Inside a Poem is a rich anthology of poems by some of our most beloved poets. It’s bigger book format, alluring illustrations, and kid-centered topics are, again, an invitation for students to fall in love with poetry and add their own voices to the poetry club.
The other two texts of the set, Lessons for Climb Inside a Poem and Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year, highlight a five day lesson plan for each poem of the anthology and explicit ideas for developing deep units of study poetry investigations with students. Primary grade classroom teachers will love Georgia and Lester’s diverse teaching tips honoring the practical (such as organizing classrooms) and the creative (infusing music into poetry studies and teaching students key reading strategies, for example). Their fresh thinking calls all of us, tall and small, to climb inside poetry and hear the poetic longing to be heard.
Hoyt, Linda & Therriault, Teresa. (2008). Mastering the Mechanics, Grades K-1: Ready-to-Use Lessons for Modeled, Guided, and Independent Editing. New York: Scholastic.
Hoyt, Linda & Therriault, Teresa. (2008). Mastering the Mechanics, Grades 2-3: Ready-to-Use Lessons for Modeled, Guided, and Independent Editing. New York: Scholastic.
Hoyt, Linda & Therriault, Teresa (2008). Mastering the Mechanics, Grades 4-5: Ready-to-Use Lessons for Modeled, Guided, and Independent Editing. New York: Scholastic.
Grades: K-1; 2-3; 4-5Do you ever struggle to help your students grow as editors? Do your students sometimes resist editing? Do you find developing a relevant and meaningful study of editing challenging? Thankfully, Linda Hoyt and Therriault come to our rescue! Their grade aligned texts are essential resources in crafting edifying editing studies for our students.
Linda and Teresa’s pedagogy reflects a sound and much needed perspective – teaching students why and how to edit within the context of students’ authentic writing while cultivating each child’s desire to write. Their research-based and experience-informed advice champions teachers as instructional leaders and chief decision makers: Checklists and prepackage programs do not teach students. Teachers do.
Teresa and Linda’s model lessons articulate a developmentally responsive framework. With over 48 lessons in each book, you can easily identify lessons which are a good match for your students. Each lesson is built with a three day framework including modeling the focus point, guided practice, independent practice, assess the learning, and link the learning. Classroom teachers, literacy coaches, and curriculum developers will find Linda and suggested “Yearlong Planners” especially helpful.
Additional benefits included in Linda and Teresa’s book are their numerous monitoring/assessment tools, powerful quotes, and vast “ready to use” record keeping instruments. The photos essays at the beginning of each book strengthen their messages and help to make our implementations easier to visualize and achieve. These are “must have” books for your professional library.
Hoyt, Linda. (2005). Spotlight on Comprehension: Building a Literacy of
Thoughtfulness. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Grade Levels: K - 5
Inviting the voices of numerous comprehension scholars, Linda Hoyt translates cutting edge comprehension research into vibrant classroom portraits and practices in Spotlight on Comprehension. This book is built on the following critical understandings:
· What good readers do when they read;
· The importance of related skills and dispositions (including the links between vocabulary and comprehension);
· The importance of volume reading;
· The potential in discussion of text;
· The effectiveness of explicit instruction in comprehension strategies;
· The particulate value of multiple strategy instruction; and
· The importance of authenticity.
This is easily the kind of book every K-5 teacher will want as a reference text for lessons planning and problem solving comprehension instruction. Classroom teachers can easily implement the teaching ideas profiled in each chapter and will certainly value the multiple chapters devoted to help all students grow. Two sections of the book are devoted to what are sometimes “underserved comprehension instruction” students – emergent readers and English language learners. The authors of these chapters practically and creatively profile how to make comprehension learning accessible and meaningful regardless of children’s current reading level or language facility. There is also a wonderful section of the book called “Tackling texts (and Tests) across the curriculum” which highlights how to effectively infuse comprehension strategies as key content area learning supports for students.
Johnston, Peter. (2004). Choice Words: How Language Affects Children’s Learning. Stenhouse: Portland, ME.
This is a must read for all teachers. Language is our first and foremost teaching tool. And the good news is that the ideas advocated in this text do not cost any money or necessitate an expensive, complicated boxed program. As Johnston profiles, teachers only need intention and mindfulness to create effective language apprenticeship with and for their students.
Living wide awake to language, their own and their students, Johnston describes how teachers must listen and fully engage in responsive talk with students. Additionally, he advocates drenching students in word learning to cultivate not only a passion for words but to build a caring community with students. Johnston’s humanistic and literacy rich teaching is best described with a few of his chapter titles: The language of influence in teaching; an evolutionary, democratic learning community; and noticing and naming.
As Vygotsky said, “Children grow into the intellectual life around them.” Johnston explicitly details how the language teachers use dramatically impacts the evolution of their students’ strategic thinking, gains which are critical for every child’s success in school and in life. Shared language between teachers and students “ jointly constructs each child’s linguistic and social development and lays the foundation for interactions with others.” The word learning laboratories Johnston shares throughout Choice Words illustrate why and how teachers can increase students’ cognitive capacities to make sense of their experiences and their lives. Listening to the exchanges between teachers and students in this book makes it easy to envision implementing Johnston’s sage language pedagogy, especially because he debriefs these learning conversations.
For K-8 teachers whose students are young in their language development (regardless of their grade level) and for all teachers seeking to develop a deeper word consciousness within themselves and their students, this is the book for you. This is “good things come in small packages” text of 120 pages is also an excellent vehicle for a faculty book club/professional book study.
Kelley, Michelle. (2008). R5 In Your Classroom: A Guide to Differentiating Independent Reading and Developing Avid Readers. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Grade Level Range: 3-5/2-5
To fully engage students in independent reading, a teacher must engage in a great deal of “behind the scenes” work and planning. This book surfaces many of the invisible steps of successful teachers. Kelley’s 5 R’s - Read, Relax, Reflect, Respond, and Rap – outline a structured yet inviting independent reading framework to support grades 3 – 8 students’ comprehension, confidence, and motivation to read. From building an inviting and accessible classroom library to evaluating students’ growth to offering students just the right scaffolding support at just the right time, Kelley thoughtfully and thoroughly shares how to make independent work for teachers and students. Especially inspiring are her suggestions about connecting with students’ “outside of school learning” to make their literacy learning feel more personal and relevant. Classroom teachers struggling to find enough time for independent reading in their already too full teaching schedules will appreciate Kelley’s practical ideas for engaging students in reading both in school and at home. Grade 3-8 teachers can easily implement R5 to enhance what they already do and, by embracing Kelley’s techniques, deepen their students’ thinking and motivation for reading.
Lester Laminack. (2007). Cracking Open the Author’s Craft: Teaching the Art of Writing. New York: Scholastic.
I still love being read to. I especially treasure listening to an author read his/her own book aloud. This is just one of the gifts from Lester Laminack Cracking Open.
On the DVD included with this text, Lester reads one of his picture books; once as an uninterrupted reading and again with his commentary highlighting a few of the ways we can help students think about an author’s craft. His demonstrations profile two important kinds of craft foci – paying attention to an author’s audible craft and/or paying attention to a writers’ visual craft. In the text, he expands his ideas in detailed lessons all focused on helping students see and hear author’s craft. What is rare and what I found so provocative about Lester’s thinking about author’s craft is really just one word: Why?
Lester bravely and brilliantly makes the case for building our craft lessons with the lens of why. He encourages us to ask students “Why did the author do that?” Rather than plowing through a list or series of craft lessons, Lester implores us to think about depth, to consider slowing down and lingering in our writing studies with students so they grow from inquiry, to help the kids think more deeply and personally about how they can make their writing better. He even encourages us to share the DVD with students to champion this why compass.
To teach deeply, Lester further advocates sharing, studying, and really coming to know maybe a handful of books with students. Returning to what I call “old friend books” facilitates connections for students, often new awakenings as the focus of instruction shifts. Additionally, familiar text can make our teaching efficient; when the kids already know a book, I can get right to my point.
Shelley Harwayne once told me that great writing teachers teach with a vision of not just helping each student write “this” piece but all kinds of writing. Lester lives those words. The lessons and mentor text he shares are meant to expand children’s lenses as writers. Additionally, the lessons he includes in Cracking Open are built with a framework which we can use not just for “this” lesson but for many lessons: notice the craft; form a theory; explore other authors; and think about your own writing. Yes, great teachers fuel students thinking far beyond the immediate.
I love baking. I love receiving baked good. I love reading cook books and enjoying yummy treat vicariously. This is closing gift from Lester’s book because he also shares his Mammaw Thompson’s teacake recipe with us.
Lane, Barry. (1992). after THE END: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
Lane, Barry. (1999). Lessons in Revision with Barry Lane: The Power of Detail. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. (video)
Grade Levels: 1-5
Reading and hearing Barry Lane is a delicious combination of learning from a standup comedian-mentor. I always have so much fun learning from Barry and, at the same time, he chisels my thinking to new vistas. Every time I study revision with students, I turn to after THE END. And each time I return to this book, I find something new, a little pearl of Barry’s wisdom unearthed and ready for sharing with a nest of growing writers.
Barry encourages us to bring the best energy to our teaching of revision - being playful. Mentoring students to consider changes and reflect on how they can make their writing better, creativity blossoms (and the brain chemically opens up) when the fear of being “right” is taken away and replaced with gift of infinite possibilities. Barry’s passion for playfulness includes bringing more music into writer’s workshop. The video includes Barry singing two of his recycled fairytales, a fabulous invitation for students to think playfully and know that we are serious about being goofy as a chief way to grow as writers.
But, seriously folks, this is a classic and scholarly book. Barry addresses the questions we all face when guiding students to become more skillful and motivated revisers. His chapter titles illustrate the depth and diversity of his thinking and offerings for us: Good Writing Is Good Questions; Snapshots and Thoughtshots; Don’t Make a Scene! Build One; Explode a Moment and Shrink a Century; Friction Or Nonfriction: Don’t Fix My Story, Just Listen To Me; See Dick Revise; and I Probably Shouldn’t Have Said This To An English Teacher. Barry profiles how important seeing is in developing students’ understanding as writers, especially as they work to revise their pieces. His lessons about “using binoculars” might be corny to some adults but kids really get Barry. And that’s an important point we can and should draw from Barry. While there is tremendous rigor in his lessons, he never loses sight of the fact that these lessons are for child authors. Each of his ideas is an invitation and, by walking through his door, we all grow as writers.
Langer, Georgia, Colton, Amy & Goff, Loretta. (2003). Collaborative Analysis of Student Work: Improving Teaching and Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
One of the most powerful professional development experiences we can engage in with our colleagues is examining and evaluating student work collaboratively. Langer, Colton, and Goff offer important advice about how to establish teacher teams for collaborative evaluations of student work and how to decide which student work to “bring to the table.” The case studies included in this text offer vivid insights about how to determine students’ performance levels, make critical connections between standards and students’ progress, identify edifying instructional strategies, and develop ongoing assessments of student learning.
For school leaders interested in creating collaborative assessment cadres or for principals, coaches, and team leaders who want to strengthen your professional learning communities, this book is rich in painting possibilities for building understanding about student proficiency and responsive teaching decisions with your colleagues.
McMackin, Mary & Siegel, Barbara. (2002). Knowing How: Researching and Writing Nonfiction 3-8. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
While many children are drawn to nonfiction, some students find creating their own nonfiction texts daunting. Especially challenging for many students and many teachers is research writing. By sharing their teaching and students’ work, McMackin and Siegel build a bridge to make research writing a compelling and smoother learning journey for both students and teachers of grades 3-8. By helping students develop a research question, the authors explain how research writing can become more authentic and more relevant to students. McMackin and Siegel’s stages of instructional strategies further support students as they take the seeds of their research harvest and sculpt them into well crafted texts for their own reading and to share with others. Intermediate and middle school teachers who want to learn more about nurturing students’ research fueled writing and/or desire more insightful writing assessment tools are sure to find scores of answers in this idea rich text. Literacy coaches will find this text very useful in answering the needs of veteran writing workshop teachers. All teachers will appreciate the numerous lists of children’s literature, technology tips, and teaching strategies embedded into McMackin and Siegel’s book and explicitly detailed in their appendix.
McMackin, Mary & Siegel, Barbara. (2002). Knowing How: Researching and Writing Nonfiction 3-8. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Mary McMackin and Barbara Siegel’s instructional strategies for reading and writing nonfiction sharpen students’ eyes to harvest more as independent researchers. Demonstrating the cross fertilization of thinking proficient readers and writers use, Mary and Barbara each chose a research topic and worked alongside Barbara's fifth graders. As they go public with their brain work, they demystify the research process and provide students with diverse tools to construct their own understanding. Experienced grade 3 – 5 teachers can draw excellent ideas for strengthening students’ comprehension such as defining and modeling nonfiction with students, develop craft focus lessons, time lining nonfiction studies, deepening students’ learning with technology and home support, and monitoring children’s growth and progress from this practical text.
Mere, Cathy. (2005). More Than Guided Reading: Finding the Right Instructional Mix, K-3. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Questions are a compass. They guide our thinking and steer our understanding. Cathy Mere’s questions set her on a journey: What is the role of guided reading within a balanced literacy program? Do reading groups force us to teach to the middle group, or is there a way to tailor them to individual students’ need? How do we teach readers as well as reading? (p. ix)
In More Than Guided Reading, Cathy shares answers, insights which reflect her shift from seeing guided reading as the center of her reading program to teaching with students’ independence as the center piece of her efforts. As the title suggests, Cathy asks us to consider guided reading as responsive learning and not to engage it just because we are told to “do it.” She wisely contextualizes guided reading within her balanced literacy program by:
· Creating a predictable structure for students with the workshop
· Finding extended periods of time for students to read independently each day
· Holding students accountable for their reading
· Organizing and reorganizing the classroom library to support readers and working to include books of various genres to suit all readers
· Helping students learn to choose appropriate books
· Organizing the classroom environment to create zones for quite reading, small group work, and collaborative work (pairs, groups, and as a whole group)
· Finding ways to assess student understanding, manage record keeping, and use evidence in student work to make teaching decisions (p. 13-15).
Primary grade teachers will find Cathy’s literacy strategy menus, frameworks for lessons, assessment tools, classroom photographs, and reading-writing connections/alignment charts immensely helpful in creating temporary and differentiated guided reading collaboratives for their own growing readers.
Owocki, Gretchen. (2007). Literate Days: Reading and Writing with Preschool and Primary Children. Firsthand/Heinemann (*Includes: Teacher's Guide + 3 Lesson Books + DVD).
For preschool, kindergarten, and first grade teachers seeking to see literacy experts in action, this is the jackpot! Through this research-based, classroom-centered multi-media collection, Owocki vividly explains “how to explore reading and writing in ways which respect young children.” The compelling teacher’s guide, companion texts, and DVD offer teachers narrative and live demonstrations modeling how teachers can develop young children’s literacy in and beyond the “language arts block.” Especially illuminating are the debriefing sessions between Owocki and the classroom teacher included after each modeled lesson. The three books which frame this series, Grounding Children in Routines and Procedures for Meaningful Learning; Building, Energizing, and Re-envisioning the Literacy; and Deepening the Scholarship in the Classroom Community, articulate a continuum of instruction as primary grade children develop and grow as readers and writers. Beginning and seasoned primary grade teachers will appreciate the numerous practical suggestions and tools provided in these texts such as lesson plans; kidwatching forms; circle time expectations; writing workshop instruction tips; centers techniques; scheduling ideas; and helping students become increasingly independent (an important, necessary, and sometimes elusive goal when teaching Pre-K to first grade students.). Teachers who are passionate comprehension strategy scholars will find a kindred spirit in Owocki as she masterfully advocates apprenticing even our youngest students in learning how they, too, can construct understanding of their world by learning more about how to think deeply and reflectively.
Parkes, Brenda. (2000). Reading It Again! Revisiting Shared Reading. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Grades: K-3Taking the lead from Brenda Parkes’ title, I adore hearing kids say “Read that again, Mrs. B!” Their words tell me that they are connected to the book and compelled to revisit the author’s words. It feels like turning over the most beautiful gem in our hands; each time we revisit a beloved book with children, they find new colors in the books, new hues of thinking, and often discover new parts of themselves. Eureka!
Shared reading is an excellent time and vehicle for demonstrating why and how to think as experienced readers (p.9). If you feel like your well runs a bit dry in modeling thinking for students or if you are new to shared reading, you will love this book. Brenda paints a rich portrait of how to utilize shared reading to explicitly model, name, and explain the thinking of proficient readers to Kindergarten through third grade students in a variety of genres and contexts. Through numerous classroom examples, she offers practical ideas for sharing the reading of texts with students by observing their developmental control and, in response, coaching them to join in and contribute to the reading. She further outlines the powerful role repeated readings play in advancing students’ growth as readers.
Especially interesting to primary grade teachers are Brenda’s suggestions for helping students transfer their shared reading learning to their independent reading. In large part, this is because Brenda fuels her teaching work with that lovely “Read It Again!” spirit. She is masterful at helping students become stronger readers while never losing sight of developing their love for reading by making shared reading experiences enjoyable. This includes making connections between reading and writing with students as she encourages them to innovate on favorite shared reading texts as they write their own books.
Classroom teachers will also appreciate Brenda’s commentary on how to evaluate and select books to make shared reading an edifying and relevant experience for students. Her criteria helps us analyze supportive text features and align lessons so that they are an excellent developmental fit for our students. To further illustrate her thoughts about great books and thoughtful book match, Brenda shares favorite titles for shared reading throughout this text.
Coaches, principals, and teachers eager to identify shared reading as an essential ritual in your reading program/balanced literacy teaching will appreciate and respect Brenda’s exemplars and abundant research references. She gives us wonderful windows into sharing the written word with students joyfully and rigorously.
Peterson, Ralph. (1992). Life in a Crowded Place: Making a Learning Community. Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH
Grade Level Range: K - 5
This book is a classic, one every teacher should know and build his/her teaching upon because, first and foremost, teaching and learning are always about relationships. Relationships nurtured within a community of learners – this is heart of Peterson message in this timeless text. Through numerous classroom scenarios, Peterson articulates the vitality of ceremony and the importance of rituals and routines in students’ lives; details language and talk to support students’ connections to one another and lift their cognition; and heralds a too often absent topic of professional study, the power of play to heighten children’s imagination and help them make sense of experience. From his opening day and morning meeting ideas to his advice about empowering students, beginning teachers will appreciate the practical “how to build a community with students” advice woven throughout Peterson’s text. This is also a touchstone text for faculties invested in building a learning community with one another and anchoring learning work in joy.
Ray, Katie Wood and Cleaveland, Lisa B. (2004). About the Authors: Writing Workshop with Our Youngest Writers. Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH.
Grade Level Range: K – 2
This book is so beautifully written, so thoughtfully crafted that readers will feel like they lived in Lisa Cleaveland’s classroom for the year. The authors not only take you into a primary grade writer’s workshop but they insightfully reflect on the why’s and how’s of their teaching. As they explain how to build and engage students in their units of writing study, veteran workshop teachers will find kindred spirits in their words (“I do that too!” or “Oh, I wish I had thought of doing editing like that. That really makes sense!”). New teachers or those who are new to giving students opportunities to generate their own topics for writing will find the author’s modeling and student writing samples very beneficial in implementing Ray and Cleaveland’s stimulating and inviting ideas for writing learning and assessment. All teachers will come away feeling stronger having lived in their classroom.
Rog, Lori J. (2007). Marvelous Minilessons for Teaching Beginning
Writing, K – 3. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Grades: K - 3
In this practical collection of forty minilessons for primary grade writers, Lori Rog profiles key lessons to help students engage in the writing process. Lori’s explicit instruction portraits focus on nurturing students’ topic generation; style; revision; and editing. Especially compelling are Lori’s “marvelous” messages about developing relevant and compelling learning for growing writers (a kin to Shelley Harwayne’s passion for helping students write like children and write from their own unique voices). With a view toward supporting customized lessons planning for your students, Lori also includes numerous support resources such as charts, language for modeling writing, and reflection tools to guide your decisions. Lori wisely coaches us to engage students in authentic writing experiences. If you ever struggle to help students transfer their budding prewriting ideas into connected texts or just want some ideas to spice up your process lessons, you will love this book!
Serafani, Frank. (2006). Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days: A Month-by-Month Guide to Effective Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Don’t you just love a good road map? I love studying maps to orient myself to a new place and ponder new adventures. Today, we even had the benefit of hybrid maps which include satellite pictures and street names.
Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days is an incredible and essential road map to guiding our teaching and explore possibilities. In considering how to build and implement an effective reading workshop, Frank Serafini details critical considerations for your early planning and successful launch of reading workshop with your intermediate grade students. In fact, he maps out an entire school year with month-by-month plans for making reading workshop run smoothly while deepening students’ thinking and motivation for reading. Each chapter includes rich bibliographies of professional and children’s literature; key reading lessons and learning experiences aligned to students’ learning focus each month (including lessons drawn from Serafini’s Lessons in Comprehension: Explicit Instruction in the Reading Workshop); connections to the writing workshop; ideas for student reflection; assessment advice and tools including “hope to see, hear, and have established by the end of the month” goals; and a classroom vignette of reading workshop implementations and units of study co-authored with Suzette Serafini-Youngs, Frank’s sister and long time teacher.
Like any good road maps, Frank does not offer or believe that there is just one best way to teaching reading or one best model for developing a reading workshop. He invites us into his workshop teaching to help determine what will work best for our students and to consider how we can best respond to our students own unique strengths, needs, and passions. To capture some of the heart behind Frank’s thinking and the many gifts you can gain by studying this book in planning or refining your own workshop teaching, listen to Frank’s hopes for students:
I want to develop readers who…
· Find a place for reading in their lives.
· Enjoy reading and its challenges.
· Utilize a variety of strategies to make sense of texts.
· Are willing and able to generate, articulate, and negotiate interpretations.
· Become emotionally invested in what they read.
· Read a wide variety of texts.
· Understands that the images and texts may possess meanings beyond what is represented.
· Understand that texts are social artifacts. (p. 5-7)
Serafini, Frank & Giorgis, Cyndi. (2003). Reading Aloud and Beyond: Fostering the Intellectual Life with Older Readers. Heinemann
Grade Level Range: 3 – 8
For those who want to infuse more and get more out of their read alouds, this book is for you. Passionate book lovers, Serafini and Giorgis offer clear but deep ideas about how to read texts to students and how to create deep discussions with students. They thoughtfully profile their theoretical foundations and vast scientific research for maintaining read alouds as a key ritual for older students. Teachers of grades 3 – 8 will appreciate Giorgis and Serafini’s ideas about developing and evaluating students’ oral and written responses to reading. Throughout the book, the authors highlight their favorite writers of children’s literature and offer rich book lists for inviting read aloud texts in upper elementary and middle school classrooms.
Sibberson, Franki & Szymusiak, Karen. (2003). Still Learning to Read: Teaching Students in Grades 3-6. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
The authors have packed so much into this book! Clearly Sibberson and Symusiak stand in the shoes of grade 3 – 6 teachers and, thus, they leave no stone unturned in articulating the most important considerations in supporting students’ reading growth and achievement. They explore topics such as knowing ourselves as readers going slow and deep the first six weeks of school, flexible grouping practices, and helping students develop reading stamina offer keen insights and solutions to some of the toughest challenges that intermediate grade teachers face. Symusiak and Sibberson’s inclusion of student work, photographs, and “side bar” boxes are especially interesting and helpful in helping teacher-readers transfer and implement the numerous techniques profiled in this text.
Stead, Tony. (2006). Bridges to Independence: Guided Reading with Nonfiction. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. (DVD)
I just love sitting with children in the nest of a guided reading group. I get to know the kids more and it feels a lot like my best book club discussions. I can tell that Tony Stead, too, is energized by connecting with students in guided reading groups. Watching him work with students reminds me again that guide reading is relationship-based teaching focused on helping each child find his/her voice as a reader.
In this inspiring DVD, Tony tells us why and how to develop meaningful guided reading learning with early emergent, developing, and fluent readers as they read nonfiction texts. Working with third grade teacher Lisa Elias Moynihan and first-grade teacher Lauren Benjamin, Tony’s guided reading lessons give us vivid windows into supporting students’ before, during, and after reading comprehension. Tony provides commentary before and after each of the guided reading groups.
Classroom teachers wanting to strengthen their small group instruction will appreciate Tony’s key considerations of guided reading instruction: accessing students’ prior knowledge; teaching key vocabulary; overcoming text challenges; introducing the focus of the lesson; sharing and reflecting; and monitoring students’ understanding of what they have read. Additionally illuminating are Tony’s explanations about why reading books “at a level below” and reading a variety of texts on the same subject support students’ understanding of nonfiction texts and his wise ways of connecting students guided reading learning to their independent reading with nudging, application assignments. Tony’s DVD’s are excellent vehicles for professional study and wonderfully provocative to stir essential conversations in articulating beliefs about guided practice.
Stead, Tony. (2005). Reality Checks: Teaching Reading Comprehension with Nonfiction, K-5. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Grades: K -5
“If children’s interests in their natural and physical worlds are so high, why
do so many struggle when it comes to comprehending informational texts
that explain these wonders? I believe there are many answers to this
question, but a major one lies in our lack of instruction in teaching them to
comprehend informational texts, especially in the early years of schooling
(p. 2).” So begins Tony Stead’s Reality Checks. Tony’s passion for
nonfiction is infectious and his teaching wisdom is inspiring and wonderfully
easy to implement. Explaining how to help students comprehend nonfiction
and deal with the challenges of this “life” genre (p. 1), Reality Checks
highlights key lessons for K-5 classroom teachers such as such as:
evaluating information; inferring and revising thinking; effectively dealing
with the density of information; negotiating complex vocabulary;
differentiating fact from opinion; locating author bias; identifying techniques
writers use to persuade readers' thinking; and extracting important ideas
from unique (and often new) text features like diagrams, captions, charts,
and graphs. Tony also shares excellent children’s literatures through the
book, nonfiction pieces beautifully connected to students’ interests and
passions as well as texts to deepen their content area comprehension.
Ever generous in giving us “tricks of the trade,” Tony closes Reality Checks
with an lush appendix of graphic organizers, curriculum mapping
resources, and assessment tools.
Sweeney, Diane. (2003). Learning Along the Way: Professional Development by and for Teachers. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
For those crafting site-based professional development, Sweeney’s book provides useful insights and numerous suggestions long tested by the brilliant work of the Public Education and Business Coalition. Whether you are setting up classroom modeling and observations, engaging in looking at student work collaboratively, coaching, or establishing mentoring partnerships, you will find a wealth of information to chisel your plans and thinking. Especially innovative are Sweeney’s recommendations for teacher leadership articulated throughout the text. Rather than having staff development imposed upon colleagues, this book advocates that we take care of creating our own learning with job-embedded professional development rituals such as professional book study groups, peer observations, and collaborative analysis of student work.
Szymusiak, Karen, Sibberson, Franki, and Kock, Lisa (2008). Beyond Leveled Books: Supporting Early and Transitional Readers in Grades K – 5. Portland, ME.
I love books which are bold and honest enough to explore different points of view. They invite us to think more deeply and chisel our beliefs. Beyond Leveled Books is such a text. In this second edition, Karen, Franki, and Lisa’s expand their ideas about the blessings and challenges of using leveled texts. Threaded through the book are related articles by fellow literacy experts, pieces again to trigger our reflections and clarify our practices of guiding students to books. This piece from Diane DeFord and Adria Klein, captures the depth and diversity of thinking Karen, Franki, and Lisa offer us throughout their remarkably illuminating book:
Positive Aspects of Leveling Books for Readers
Cautions for Using Leveled Books
Readers make the most progress when books are not too easy and too difficult (Allington, 2006).
Focusing solely on text difficulty limits students’ choices, which can lead to boredom and resistance (Worthy and Sailors, 2001).
Considering a just-right level helps readers read fluently and comprehend better; thus they take on the traits and skills of better readers (Allington, 2006; Rasinski, 2003).
When difficulty or reading level is the only criterion used for book selection, students may have a skewed vision of the purposes of reading (Worthy and Sailors, 2001) and of themselves as readers.
Students who meet success in reading are more likely to persist, to read more with less off-task behavior, and to achieve more (Gambrell, Wilson, and Gantt, 1981; Allington, 2006).
Leveled lists may not contain the variety of genres and topics of interests to readers, or a broad base of types of reading (including newspapers, comics, graphic novels, magazines, etc.)…as well as students cultural and linguistic diversity.
Acceleration in learning is possible for struggling readers when the text/reading level is matched (O’Connor et al, 2002).
Books within levels often vary widely (Pitcher and Fang, 2007); sometimes an “appropriate book” in terms of interest is at a higher level than students might read for guided reading. Purpose and interest need to be part of some reading selections…
Groupings of books into level can make it easier for teachers, parents, and children to select books to read.
When putting the level on books, make the numerical or alphabetical rating as inconspicuous as possible.
Books that are used for instruction can be selected with emphasis on students’ needs at a certain point, but selections should be different for independent reading.
Although leveling systems differ, the current one is still geared to students progressing normally through “grade levels.” A different system is needed for upper-grade students, adults, English language learners, and special populations so that their particular needs can be met.
With the variety of books now available with these leveling features, schools can adapt a greater number of their book collections to support their particular students.
p. 9 -11
Classroom teachers will drool over and greatly respect Franki, Lisa, and Karen’s inclusion of minilessons, strategies for small groups, student work, assessment advice and tools. Each suggested resources is shared with the intention of moving transitional readers from leveled books to independent book selection and, more specifically, address six common needs of transitional readers: learning to select appropriate books; sustaining comprehension in long and complex books; maintaining interest in long and complex books; understanding the features of different genres; increasing the sophistication of decoding and fluency skills; and making sense of structural features found in "advanced" texts. A new feature of this edition is a section devoted to unique considerations for students and teachers in grades K – 1. Every professional library needs this book.
Taberski, Sharon. (2000). On Solid Ground: Strategies for Teaching Reading K-3. Heinemann.
Grade Levels: K – 3
When I read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, I fell in love. My love was so deep that I did not want to see the movie of the book when it came out. You know how it is. A movie of your favorite book is never as good as your own version of the book, the movie you created in your head.
Reading Sharon Taberski’s On Solid Ground draws me back to movie connections. Having sat in the nest of her inspiring classroom during several visits to The Manhattan New School, I wondered how Sharon could capture all she and her students do in a book. But, being Sharon, she did it! My “movie” of her teaching from reading On Solid Ground radiantly matches my experience of observing Sharon . In fact, Sharon’s writing is so vivid and steadfast was easy to feel like I was back in her classroom.
Sharon brilliantly prioritizes her teaching work by focusing on three key teaching rituals – reading conferences, guided reading, and independent reading – while engaging her students in three key learning rituals – demonstration, practice, and response. Her compass is helping children become "proficient readers who love to read" (p. 8). Toward this goal, she devotes her planning time to researching books which will inspire and strengthen her students as readers, writers, and thinkers. She shares her book harvests throughout On Solid Ground and in bibliographies in the appendix. To further invite students into the world of proficient readers, Sharon develops (developed?) instructional strategies which integrate approaches in response to students’ needs.
Grade K-3 Classroom teachers will value Sharon’s practical yet rich ideas about organizing a classroom to elicit students’ choice, conversation, and confidence (points well illustrated in photographs); assessing students to determine their strengths and needs; and supporting (and nudging) students’ understanding with graphic organizers. Samples of student work echo the rigor and integrity of Sharon’s solid teaching (pun intended!). Sharon’s thoughts about guided reading and conferring are especially meaningful and relevant; collaboratives fueled by her desire to make personal connections with students and strengthening each child’s literacy. If you want to know how to set up and maintain Readers’ Workshop with focus, energy, and sanity, this is a must read. Returning to my movie thoughts, On Solid Ground is worth the price of admission for all primary grade teachers, coaches, and administrators!
Trelease, Jim. (2006) (Sixth Edition). The Read-Aloud Handbook. New York, NY: Penguin.
Research shows that reading to students is consistently linked to student achievement. Additionally, if we want students to fall in love with reading and books, we must put great texts into their ears and into their hands. Trelease passionately and insightfully profiles why and how we can utilize read alouds to promote children’s literacy growth and motivation. Whether considering titles for students’ listening, independent reading, or book club reading, the rich book lists included in Trelease’s text delightfully support matching books to readers and offers teachers of all ages great suggestions for texts that will light literacy fires for their own students. This book belongs on the shelf of every classroom teacher, every school library, and should be recommended to every family in our schools.
Weaver, Constance. (1996). Teaching Grammar in Context. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
In this text, Weaver offers teachers a sound rationale for teaching students grammar within the context of writing. Outlining the history of grammar instruction and, most powerfully, citing decades of research, she thoughtfully explains why teaching grammar in isolation has little, if any, effect on students’ writing. Intermediate grade classroom teachers will especially appreciate the numerous practical and engaging ideas for teaching grammar Weaver offers throughout this book.
Wilhelm, Jeffery. (2001). Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies: Modeling What Good Readers Do. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Grade Level Range: K – 12
As Wilhelm profiles is this stellar text, “the most powerful thing we can teach students is strategic knowledge, a knowledge of the procedures people use to learn, to think, to read, and to write.” Wilhelm advocates building students’ strategic knowledge by modeling the strategies expert readers use. And yet, modeling can be especially challenging for us as teachers because we have experienced such little modeling ourselves. Thankfully, this book is a model of modeling. Wilhelm unpacks, reveals, and names the meaning making strategies proficient readers use (and students need to use) and offers numerous ideas about how to help students implement strategic knowledge in their literacy work. Whether you are a middle school content area teacher, primary grade literacy teacher, or instructional coach, you will find countless ideas for making the work you do as a reader public and accessible for your own students.
Wilhelm, Jeffrey. (1997). “You Gotta BE the Book” Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Grade Level: 3 – 12
As the title of this text suggests, interacting with texts is critical to understanding. But too often students struggle with knowing why and how to construct understanding before, during, and after they read. Additionally, older students sometimes get in the habit of reading texts so quickly or without monitoring their understanding frequently enough that, in the end, they have no idea what they just read. This book offers vivid insights about why and how to help students develop the essential habit of being reflective and more engaged in their reading.
While the title suggests that this is a text for secondary teachers, upper elementary teachers, too, will find Wilhelm’s teaching ideas rich with possibilities for their students.
Yatvin, Joanne. (2004). A Room with a Differentiated View: How to Serve ALL Children as Individual Learners. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Grade Level Range: K – 8
In this text, Donna Yatvin wisely and practically outlines how teachers can manipulate time, space, grouping practices, materials, human resources, and instructional techniques to meet each child’s needs and differentiate students’ learning. Yatvin offers us vivid glimpses into differentiated classrooms with vignettes throughout her book. Seasoned teachers will harvest numerous ideas for making sound, “good fit” teaching decisions for their own students. For example, in Chapter 10, she provides exciting thoughts about using drama and poetry texts as well as the need for developing a “mental filter.” All readers will come away with a stronger clarity about the why, what, and how of differentiated learning and surely will be compelled to do so with Yatvin’s well thought out ideas for developing a collaborative learning community with students.