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Posts from the ‘Literacy’ Category

From the virtual classroom – practicing socially distant teaching

If you are anything like me you went from an in-person educator to an online educator overnight. And if you are anything like me, your biggest concern as you transition into this new and unfamiliar role is how you can engage your students in meaningful literacy activities that will move them forward as readers, writers, and learners. Throughout the upcoming weeks or possibly months, I want to avoid miring my students in pointless busy work. So, for these first few days I’ve embraced the “keep it simple” approach by inviting students to spend time each day reading, writing, and participating in learning extension activities. Below are some of the resources I’ve found most helpful as I’ve started to develop our new online approach to learning.

Kelly Gallagher’s Instructional Materials:

As Kelly explains, “The last thing I want to do with my home-bound students is to load them down with brain-numbing packet work. So this lesson plan was designed to honor student choice, student agency, student voice.” One of my favorite things about Kelly’s plan is it invites students to spend time journaling about this developing situation everyday. He not only acknowledges that we are living through history in the making, but he creates space for students to spend time reflecting on and cataloging their histories as they unfold. I am now on day three of engaging in this journal writing approach with my students and have been astounded by some of the observations they are making and sharing (note: my students are invited to share their thoughts with each other and/or me, but not required). One student reflected:

Another wrote about how she’s been coping and shared her song suggestions with the class:

While I’ve invited students to write about whatever is on their mind in any format that feels right for the moment, I’ve also been sharing daily seeds/prompts to help them with their thinking if needed. For example, tomorrow, I plan to share this poem with students and encourage them to write their own poems in response if they feel inspired to do so:

My School Librarian:

If your librarian is anything like mine, first you are very lucky, and second he/she is eager to help you and your students access books throughout the school and library shutdown. Above I linked a document my librarian created and shared with our staff. It provides a wealth of resources for students to access free ebooks and audiobooks, as well as a plethora of suggestions for them to engage in additional literacy activities. If you have not done so yet, contact your school librarian as soon as possible for school-specific resources you can pass along to your students.

While my students all went home with independent reading books, many will finish them in a manner of days. These resources will prove vital in enabling them to continue reading what interests them as we move further into social isolation.

School Library Journal:

Not only is this journal a great way for educators to stay up to date on the latest books to recommend to their students or add to their classroom libraries, but they have been working hard to keep us up on the latest industry news in relation to the shutdown. For instance, one of their recent posts details ways various children’s and YA authors are offering their services as we transition to online learning across the nation.

Common Sense Media:

This linked article from Common Sense Media offers ways we can take our current circumstances and turn them into teachable moments. They also suggest ways we can help our students reduce and manage their stress.


I addition to moving our instruction to an online platform, my district is also asking us to spend time engaged in professional development throughout the week. For this, I turned to NCTE and the collection of resources they curated for virtual learning and online teaching. I have only just begun to skim the surface of the 9 pages of linked materials they suggest. However, I highly recommend checking out the blog post titled “Audiobooks in the Classroom.” This post presents a podcast that discusses the production of and merits for audiobooks. They also play samples from an array of high-interest audiobooks. I plan to share this podcast with my students in the coming weeks in an effort to encourage them to find new books to read and new ways to read them.

How have you been transitioning to online teaching? What are some of your go-to resources?

180 Days Book Review

by: Bruning, Cardillo, Clarke, Coladonato, Patton, & Peltier

180 days

Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle’s new book, 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents, published by Heinemann, is a stimulating read during a time of educational dismay. Gallagher and Kittle disrupt the mold of state-mandated testing as well as tightly bound curriculums and bring educators back to their original teaching philosophies. While many education texts provide quick-fix teaching strategies for a specific skill set, this book, as the title suggests, opens up a discussion on what 180 days in the classroom looks like with engaged and motivated students. Gallagher and Kittle work together on lesson plans and teaching approaches in two very different environments—Gallagher in an urban, California school with a diverse student population and Kittle in a rural, New Hampshire school with a homogenous student population. They base their year of collaboration on research and core beliefs, all in hopes of sharing what they believe is most important: creating student readers and writers that are engaged, inspired, and curious about the world around them. Read more

Book Review: Sparks in the Dark by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney

by: Anne Busciacco, Marissa Caldwell, Lauren Foley, Erika Hunsicker, Tom Lang & Dan Lonsdale

sparks in darkNavigating through a maze of students absorbed in their independent reading books, I pause before Ryan. Our second-day-of-school conversation echoes in my mind . . .
“I don’t like to read,” he declared, doubtful seventh grade would change anything.
His friend, Charlie, smirked at him, “That’s because you only read teacher-assigned books.”
Now, four weeks later—after interviewing many texts and abandoning two—Ryan sits nestled in a bean-bag chair, engrossed in Booked by Kwame Alexander. During our last conference, he claimed it as one of the best novels he had ever read.
“ # What child have you seen impacted by a different kind of teaching style?” (79).
In Sparks in the Dark, by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney, you will meet a plethora of  students like Ryan whose lives were forever impacted by the power of choice. Read more

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in an Undergraduate General Education Literature Course: Diving into the Educational Theory Behind “Next” Practices*

 by Mary Buckelew

Student Voices
“Before choosing
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney for my self-selected book, I figured that I’d be reading aesthetically as I wanted to read for entertainment.  After reading, I can say I read mostly with an aesthetic lens, but I did read efferently at times to soak in new information regarding my major.” (Ethan, undergraduate criminal justice major)

“I wish I’d known about the different stances of reading long before this, and I wish my high school teachers hadn’t focused solely on the efferent aspects of reading and books. I only read books in high school to pass tests, write required papers, and other test oriented stuff . . . I don’t think my teachers knew that the aesthetic stance existed. Even summer reading was always selected for us and then we were tested – efferent all the way.” (Sarah, undergraduate biology pre-med major)

“I now like to think about how I am reading, why I am reading, and I even apply efferent and aesthetic to other classes and life in general.” (“Honest Anonymous Feedback” from the end of the semester evaluations, Lit. 165 2:00)

Sarah, Ethan, and the anonymous student were enrolled in my Literature 165 classes this past spring semester. They shared these ideas in their final reflections and in final evaluations. 

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Guest Post: Is reabhloideach mise.

by Meg Clementi

b4ce9c74625bfa28595da719e6f32686.jpg-2.gifIs reabhloideach mise.  I am a revolutionary.

As a math teacher, I am questioned by peers as to why I have my students write.  What is
my purpose in asking students to explain their thinking?  Why have I attended conferences, courses and programs whose attendees are comprised of 99% English teachers and Elementary reading and writing teachers?  I stand at the edges, accepting the shaken heads and wonderings of my peers.

Is reabhloideach mise
.  I am a revolutionary.

I have my students write because their ability to explain their thinking is important to me.   Their ability to justify their processes and answers is critical.  Their depth of knowledge is essential.  My students write because as their teacher, I demand this level of participation, performance and comprehension from them.  I am not satisfied with them simply renting knowledge and discarding what they have learned as they place their hands on the doorknob and walk out of my classroom for the last time.  I want them to own knowledge.

Is reabhloideach mise.  I am a revolutionary. Read more

Books on the Blog: Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille

by Lynne Dorfman

Fabulous! Inspirational! Captivating! Award-winning author Jen Bryant has created SixDotsCoveranother masterpiece with Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille. In this touching story, Bryant gives us the fictionalized voice of young Louis Braille, capturing the full range of emotions as he confronts his blindness and becomes a teenage inventor who makes his mark on the world.

From an early age Louis Braille loved to spend time with his father. An accident in his father’s workshop led to an eye infection that eventually caused his blindness.  Luckily, he had a family who loved him and tried in every way to help him. A big decision that probably changed his life – Louis was sent to a school for the blind in Paris.

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