Thursday, July 30, 2015

ILA recap: Sunday of the conference (but posting on Thursday)

Hopefully you have seen my first two posts on the ILA conference here and here.  If not, check those out!  I will make references to information in them so if you read this and want to learn more, refer to those two posts. 

Sunday was a very busy day. Just like Saturday, I got to see some big names and soon-to-be big names in literacy.  The conference just kept getting better and better!

The first session with Tim Rasinski and Lori Oczkus was about how we can pair literacy instruction.  While they talked about several different pairings, I will just focus on one since that's what most of the session was about.  

Close Reading with Reciprocal Teaching and Fluency

Lori spoke about reciprocal teaching.  Remember that hinge point from yesterday?  Remember how feedback with goal setting was the highest rated strategy?  The second most effective reading strategy is reciprocal teaching.  Don't know about it?  Click on my Amazon Affiliate link to buy a book about it.

Seriously, it is basically pairing 4 strategies and practicing them until the kids are the ones teaching the lesson with them.  The 4 strategies are:  Predicting, Questioning, Clarifying, and Summarizing.  If your school is looking for an intervention series that uses this strategy, you may want to look at Soar to Success.  (That is the resource I learned this strategy).     

According to Lori, there is no one right way to do close reading.  Here is one approach she recommends using Reciprocal Teaching:  

*Let the small group choose what one page/ paragraph to do a close reading on.  Have them pick the paragraph/page that maybe is the most difficult. 

*First- Predict:  Lori had a lot of cute strategies for predicting such as spinning around and then pointing at a projected text.  Talk about what you point to.

*Second- Kids read silently and try to find tricky words.  These could be words that are hard for them or that might be hard for the class down the hall.  This is the clarify step. 

*Third- Question.  Read to ask/ answer questions.  This is where the teacher can do some scaffolded discussion.

*Fourth- Summarize.  One strategy would be to put 4 hands together and try to summarize in 20 words or less (one word per finger).

*After these "Fab 4" strategies, we read again to practice and improve our fluency. (Honestly, this step was skimmed over and I was disappointed.  I wanted to hear more!)

One thing I want to note: Lori Oczkus, while an intelligent, respected researcher, seems to be a fan of the cute strategies. (Such as the summarizing strategy listed above) I also like these strategies since I think they can be very engaging for students.  However, I had finished Saturday's sessions listening to Jennifer Serravallo and Stephanie Harvey kinda talk against these cutesy strategies, pushing for authentic reading strategies that kids will take with them through life.  While my stock answer is that there should be a balance, what kind of techniques should we use to teach?

I didn't have time to think about this on Sunday as I was off to a workshop about hands-on activities for teaching about informational texts. 

This session had a very different feel.  Mary-Jo is so down-to-earth.  She's not a lecturer or a presenter but a let's break this down teacher at heart.  She works mainly with pre-service teachers and she reminded me of my student teaching supervisor.

I got lots of great ideas about teaching informational texts and teaching in general. It was very practical and all the strategies could be implemented in your class tomorrow.  I will just leave the informational text activities in the visual above and give some teaching hints here.

*After each activity, ask the class what worked and what didn't work.  Doing this on a regular basis teaches kids that even teachers can learn.  It also leads to kids having more metacognition.

*When trying to use cards to find partners or groups, assign a part of the room to be the Zone of No Judgement.  If you don't know where to go, you can go there for help or discussion.

*When there is disagreement over an answer, don't dwell on the negative.  Instead, give a general statement and then explanation.  This may sound like "Next is a sequence signal word.  Kiss your brain if you said sequence."  Kids may cheat and kiss their brain even if they didn't say sequence but that's okay.

*When using cards to sort students in group, use additional symbol or number to designate a speaker.


*Don't forget about the passages on  These are free, standards-aligned passages.

The BEST presenter and most energizing session came from Christopher Lehman.  Just like Jennifer Serravallo, I had never heard of him but now am somewhat obsessed.

He had a different style of writing from sources.  Have you ever seen writing from sources prompts that said something like "Is Little Johnny a good friend?  Use details from the text to prove your answer.".  I am 100% guilty of this!  I think I have written prompts like that maybe once or twice. . .

It's possible that was created by me to provide practice writing from sources-- I was trying to model how to break apart the too wordy prompt they would see on the state assessments. 

*Moving On*  Christopher says that this isn't a BAD style to teach but more of writing from sources should be like a friend saying to another friend, "Hey!  I wanted to tell you about. . ."

This style of writing has genuine interest in a subject. . . or a fake it until you make it attitude.  (which is okay to teach kids about).

Encourage kids to have a real engagement with reading, even reading the bibliography can be exciting.  Teaching idea- make bibliographies less like a list and more like an invitation for readers to explore other sources about the topic.

As a teacher, approach new texts with a sense of excitement or curiousity (Again, don't be afraid to fake it until you make it)
Don't approach reading text with reading to answer a list of questions but instead
"Read assuming you’ll be surprised, moved,  or curious" or "Read with someone with mind that you could share this information with" or "Read to have lots to say, even if you have to go back to check facts."
Christopher has such a good method of teaching about writing—state the lesson, look at mentor texts (published pieces), look at his sample and/or kid samples, try it.This is the method he advocates for teaching too.

*Whew* Remember how Saturday, I was exhausted and thrilled and excited after talking to Stephanie Harvey?  I think I may have been even more of all those things after hearing Christopher Lehman.  But again, I had one session left to attend.  I feel bad for the last session of the day presenters!

It was Jan Richardson (of Next Step in Guided Reading) to talk about Guiding Fragile Writers.  At this point, I was a bit of a Fragile Listener!

This session was really about guided writing-- a time that may happen sometimes in guided reading groups. (I also thought this could happen during intervention times) It's not part of writing workshop and should not be treated as such.  It is not independent writing either.  It is a time for the teacher to scaffold and focus the instruction. 

This is also not a time to address conceptual misunderstandings-- be gentle with these writers.  Bring in mentor texts instead and explain the misunderstanding gently.  Remember you are working with fragile writers. 

4 Steps to this Guided Writing
*First, pick a skinny goal and write it on a sticky note for them.  Jan Richardson talked about how there is not just one right skinny goal.  It's more important that you are picking one and working on it rather than worrying about how to order them.  This is what they are working on for a NEW piece of writing.  They are not going back and fixing an old piece.  They are applying this to a new piece so they don't have to go back later.  

*Next choose the response framework.  This could be writing to respond to a guided reading group text.  They might do a simple retelling or focus on one element like characters.  For emergent writers, it should be an assignment they can finish in 8-10 minutes.  For transitional writers and above, they should be able to finish in less than 20 minutes.

*Third plan with the students.  This plan should be very simple, such as one word for beginning, middle, and end.  They will use this plan and check off all the words they used. 

*Fourth, they write with support.  Support may look like reminders of their strategy (remember they have it in front of them on a sticky note).  It also may be having a student rehearse what they are going to write.  For ELLs, this is a great strategy.  First, they rehearse and then you repeat correcting any grammatical structures.

*That last step is where I got really confused.  Jan said to focus on one skinny goal but when she showed examples, it seems like they focused on lots of different things.  Also, while she said to focus on meaning, it seemed a lot of the focus was on the mechanics.  I will have to read and clarify this. 

You can see lots of her resources on her website.  Scroll down until you get to "Guided Writing".  There are two pages with hints and possible skinny goals.  They are based on reading levels.  One is for Levels A-I and the other is for level J and above.

By this time at the conference, I was ready for a nap.   Now that I've typed this all up, I'm ready for another!  Good night! 


  1. Thanks for sharing all of these great ideas that you learned at the conference!! I agree with you... there has to be a balance between authentic and "cutesy" strategies. Sometimes students just really need an engaging "hook", or whatever we say to them simply won't be retained anyway!

    1. Yes, it is helpful as a "hook". I sometimes feel like half of my job is entertainer. :)

  2. Great recaps!

    You can learn more from Chris Lehman from either of his books - paraphrasing here - Energize Research Reading and Writing and Falling in Love with Close Reading. He's such an inspiring teacher/facilitator and author. I see the influence from Teachers College!

    1. Yes, I have a stack of books to check out after ILA. I'm going to see what our district library has before buying.

  3. Hi It is Lori Oczkus responding to your question about engaging vs authentic.
    I believe that we need to HOOK children first engage them. So a technique such as the 10 finger summary grabs their attention. Then after using the technique for awhile the KEY is to take it further and incorporate discussions about the WHY the metacognition. Tens of thousands of teachers use my teaching ideas many of which are engaging! Tim Rasinski, one of the many lead researchers who support and endorse my work says, "Lori has done a masterful job of bridging the gap between research and practice, of making visible to students strategies that are often invisible or unclear to them." P. David Pearson ( wrote foreword to my reciprocal teaching book) and many other researchers value and cite my work. The day we are no longer engaging students.. we are in trouble!!!
    Engagement is the HOOK that makes your teaching an ART... is part of scaffolding then you can go deeper! You can certainly do both engage and be authentic in your teaching for the best chances of reaching all learners!