Chasing Joy in the Time of COVID-19

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Embracing my fear, sadness and sense of loss during these isolating times does not negate my work to actively chase joy. Or, at least that’s what I keep telling myself. If I just keep doing the next best thing I know (thank you, Glennon Doyle), the small moments of laughter and joy will keep coming, and that’s something, right?

This week amid a few tears, some sharp words thrown at my kids and husband and a handful of sleepless nights (not all to be blamed on the pandemic, mind you, I was full of flaws before this) I chased joy.

We played games as a family. Yep, even my 16 year old played Heads Up “Finish the Lyric” and Unstable Unicorns. Today, Yahtzee is on the agenda.

I ran. I power walked. I got outside. (This was particularly joyful because we are in Florida and the weather is lovely here. Sorry not sorry.)  My Peleton app is happy to report I am making *some*  healthier choices since being forced to distance myself from others. My kids ran, walked and rode bikes, too. However, my wine intake far surpassed theirs.

We went on family golf cart rides and pretended to hunt for gators. No, we didn’t really hunt them. But we did go looking for them and “gator hunting” quickly became our code for needing to get the heck out of the house, listen to music and tool around together. Unfortunately, golf cart rides won’t be a part of our normal lives back in STL, so we also went on scenic drives and admired houses and towns we didn’t know. This was slightly less successful for the younger two, but a couple of bags of chips and some sodas on a car ride made it feel special. This pic is of Fletch pretending to eat a gator. Love that kid!

I used FaceTime, Marco Polo & Zoom (all in one day!) not to show off my technological prowess—although feel free to admire it if you must—but to share a laugh, a drink, and to do some planning to keep joy as a daily part of this new routine.

How are you and your family chasing joy in this crazy time?

Middle School Readers & Intervention

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This past weekend, I ran the Kirkwood Rotary Ramble 5K, and I set a personal record for my new running life in my 40s.  However, the race was still hard.  There were hills that proved my training route perhaps needed more challenge; the women I ran with seemed faster and stronger; the last half mile had me considering walking, which is something I have not done in years at a race.  Then, I crossed the finish line, and I felt that sense of accomplishment that only comes from pushing through some kind of challenge and making it out on the other side.  I signed up for my next race.  My running partner and I agreed to tack on another 1/2 mile to our route to continue to build our stamina.

To get better at running, like any skill, I need to do it lots.  I need to keep stats, get feedback, reflect, and make plans to continue to get better.  Most of all, I need to run more.

Last week, I met with our middle school literacy specialists, a group of people who have one of the most challenging jobs I know: to help struggling readers push through their challenges and make it out on the other side.  Reading, like running, is a skill, and to get better at it, readers need to read lots.  They also need to keep stats, get feedback, reflect, and make plans to read more to get better.

But, how do we get even better at helping students grow?

Design Thinking Starts with Empathy & Play

W hen we began talking about designing our professional learning together this year, we held students at the center of the conversation.  Referring to @laurasgt’s Periodic Table of Play and Play Deck, we talked about seeing the world of school through students’ eyes and understanding how they feel frightened, lack confidence, and often see themselves through the lens of a fixed mindset as poor readers.  Part of our learning together, then, must address new ways to build a sense of determination and confidence in our readers so each one of them leaves us ready to tackle the new challenges ahead.


Even after overcoming all of these obstacles, a reader can still feel like he is trapped in a game of Chutes & Ladders, so one of our goals is to show him ways to climb back up the ladder after stumbling.

When we cheer on readers, we can get them to reach new heights and we can model for them how to keep moving, beyond their mistakes.

Next, we built models of our current multi-tiered systems of support for students and considered how it feels to be students moving through these systems as a struggling readers.  Our choices of representations (Chutes and Ladders and a rollercoaster) speak volumes about the hurdles our struggling students face on a daily basis.


Problem-Finding & Questioning

We started wondering, if moving through the system can feel like a rollercoaster or a game of Chutes and Ladders, how do we best help students regain solid footing in their learning?  What are the best practices in holistic approaches to intervention?  We began defining our “problem” and started to pursue various lines of questioning and research, using RTI for Reading at the Secondary Level as a touchstone for our conversation:

  • How do we best grow joyful and confident readers?
  • How are we making every moment count in classrooms with our readers?  What is our model for Tier 1 instruction?  Tiers 2 and 3?  How do these align with best practices?
  • How do literacy specialists find time to meet with each other to research, to share thinking and successful practices, and to problem-solve?
  • How can connecting literacy specialists to grade level team meetings help grow all students as readers across content areas?
  • How does the timing of our class (90 minute block vs. 45 minute period) affect the structures and routines readers experience as part of their learning?  How does that look when we try to balance fidelity to an online program with best practices in literacy instruction through small group work and conferring?

Your Questions

What are you wondering about literacy interventions at the secondary level?  Join our conversation!



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Sometimes I have to write.  The kids are in bed.  I’m trying to sleep.  My mind won’t shut off.

Two days ago,  I came face to face with a man who overdosed on heroin.  I felt so powerless.  I felt the urge to bubble wrap my kids, all our kids.  Now that the shock is starting to wear off, I feel the need to do something different.

It starts by sharing this experience with you and hoping the next step reveals itself to me after that.



Cradled safely in the crease of his cargo shorts,

the ash on his cigarette


fading from pale orange

to silver

to white


We’re at the corner of South Maple and Lockwood.


His red Powerade

balanced on the emergency brake

with only the first few sips



Yes, I took the keys out of his ignition.

Yes, he is breathing.


In the driver’s seat

his head on his chest


impervious to the lights and sirens



But for me and Cathy

two strangers

hoping to save his life


That’s what you get for trying heroin.


He spat the words

at the sleeping man

their poison not staining

his own crisp white shirt

or badge


His callousness

his armor

against another call

to another place

for another person

he can’t save



Joy & Connection

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This past week I saw a video on Facebook that gave me pause.  It wasn’t a political rant from either side of the aisle.  It wasn’t a celebration of my friendship of 8 years.  It was this video of a child’s school day, and it felt intricately connected to our work together this Friday, reflecting on the messages we send.

Joy & Connection

We have the power to make school a safe, connected, and joyful experience for students.

I see it in the hugs and high-fives you get on the playground after helping students navigate conflict, the shy smile revealed after connecting with a new student who is struggling to fit in, the way students walk with more confidence when you call them by name as they enter your schools, your hallways, your classrooms.

I see it when you pull a chair up next to a student and ask, “How’s it going?”

listening to students, their thinking, their emotions > listening for right answers

How else would a student be able to share his love of puzzle-solving and connect it to a new love of reading pattern books in kindergarten?

How else would a little girl be able to share that what is holding her back from writing is not word knowledge or mechanics but more the pain of her experiences and thoughts?  How else could she talk through strategies to get her emotions and thoughts on paper to make sense of them?

Listening is an act of love, and that message is one of the most important ones we can send to our students.

When do you make time to listen to students?  What have you learned from listening?  (Use the comments below to share!)

Small Groups & Conferring with FastBridge Data

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to work alongside some amazing teachers as we make meaning of FastBridge data and how to use the data to guide instruction .  If you’re interested, below is a streamlined version of our process and some of the thinking that came from it to help those of you who are also trying to make meaning.  Use the comments below to add your a-has and questions to keep our thinking growing!

Step 1: Start with Evidence of Student Learning

What do the data tell us? (Examples below are for aReading data.)

Red-Green Color Coding on eduClimber:

  • Who is on target to score well on high-stakes assessments at the end of the year (color-coded green)?
  • Who is not predicted to score proficient or advanced on high-stakes assessments (red)?
  • Research suggests students who score below the 40th percentile on these assessments will not earn a score of proficient or advanced on high-stakes assessments.


Red-Yellow-Bright Green-Kelly Green-Army Green-Blue:

  • These percentiles are tied to our multi-tiered system of supports, which we typically have indicated with red, yellow, green, and blue in previous years.
  • This level of data alerts us to two new groups as well: students who are “on the bubble” of proficiency in the bright green band, and students “on the bubble” of scoring advanced in the army green band.



Step 2: Look for Patterns of Needs

  • Click on any of the rainbow colored sections of the graphs above, and you will see a list of student names and their score ranges for aReading in that color group/percentile band.
  • If you are a classroom teacher who is interested in growing your students into proficiency, you might begin by looking at your students who are in the color bands bright green (26-39th percentile) and yellow (11-25th percentile), and determining their score ranges.  The example to the left shows a cluster of students whose scores range from 481-488.
  • Next, use the aReading Score Interpretation Report to find “developing” skills for students in that range and form groups around those skills.
  • In the list of skills marked as developing, you might choose to home in on one or two high leverage skills (think about skills that apply across content areas or are key skills for your grade level).  In this third grade data set, you might focus on locating literal information or inferring a character’s motives or comparing characters.

Step 3: Teach in Small Groups or One-on-One

Your new Units of Study can provide you with small group lessons and conferring ideas that connect directly to your students’ needs who are below, on, or above benchmark. No need to reinvent the wheel–the lesson ideas are right there for you!

  • Check out the Small Group and Conferring lesson ideas and plans in your current Unit of Study and see how they stack up against the needs you have identified for your students.  Small group and conferring information for each session can be found directly after the minilesson.  In Character Studies (Grade 3, Unit 3), for example, you can find ideas for supporting many of the skills mentioned above, like literal comprehension, inferring about a character’s wants, inferring about a character’s internal and external motivation, comparing two characters, and much, much more!
  • If you are thinking about focusing on your conferring with students, these lesson ideas can be applied one-on-one as well.  However, together with some very hard working teachers and reading specialists, we have culled high impact questions for conferring from Jim Burke’s Common Core Companion as well as Calkins’ Learning Progressions for Narrative & Informational Texts.   We’ve organized them around the strands of your reporting criteria for reading.  These conferring (& small group) guides can be found in eBackpack.  Follow the path cohort folder>Reading>4-Prompting Guides by CCSS.

Step 4: Celebrate

Celebrate your students’ incremental growth, and don’t forget to celebrate your own growth as well.  Maybe you shifted the language you use to confer to echo the language students hear in their minilessons.  Maybe you found some small group ideas that seem just right for a group of your kids right now.  Maybe you looked at your students’ data again and something clicked about how you can make great instructional use of it.   Maybe you reached out to a colleague for support in taking a next step together.  Whatever your step, celebrate it!


Your Turn

What does your process look like for planning with data?  What a-has and questions have you or your team uncovered so far?





Balancing Old & New & Joy

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Time, choice, feedback.  They are key elements around which we are growing our understanding of readers and reading instruction.  They are also the same elements Calkins and Ehrenworth name as the enduring elements of good writing instruction in “Growing Extraordinary Writers: Leadership Decisions to Raise the Level of Writing Across a School and a District” (The Reading Teacher, July/August 2016).  Writers, they argue, need protected time to write, choice in topics, books, and strategies they want to explore, and feedback that includes compliments and next steps for them to tackle.  Readers do, too.  Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 5.53.08 PM

Balancing New & Old in Writing & Reading Research

While these enduring elements are the cornerstones of reading and writing workshop, Calkins and Ehrenworth add that the newest research calls for the addition of two elements for powerful instruction: explicit expert strategy instruction and goal-setting.

The intended structure of reading workshop aims to fulfill all of these promises we make to our students: protected time, choice, feedback on where they are going, expert instruction in skills and strategies, and support in goal-setting through a crystal clear understanding of what learning looks like within and across grade levels as skills progress.

Adding Joy as an Essential Element

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-5-00-47-pmI would add another key aspect of any learning and teaching: joy.  Joy can be just as contagious as its negative counterpart.  When was the last time you celebrated something you learned?  Really celebrated it?  Not beat yourself up for how it wasn’t perfect the first time, but celebrated doing it?

We are all growing and learning, and we should take time to celebrate our own growth alongside our students.  Find joy.  Every day.  We can do it.  Celebrate our kids.  Celebrate ourselves.  Celebrate our failures because we get the chance to learn from them and do it again.  Choose joy.

Finding Our Own Balance

Sounds great, right?  But let’s revisit that concept of protected time.  If we believe in our hearts that we and our students deserve all of the qualities listed above, what do we do about time?

Some teachers have asked for support in balance–work/life balance, learning/teaching balance, behavior/skill balance, small group/conferring balance.We hear you; we have been working alongside you to try to create supports to help you find time–or at least try to bend it to your will.  Our work together is not done.  It is not perfect, but it is a beginning.  Here are some beginning steps we have taken toward balance:

  • Reducing the number of units in reading and writing from 7 per year in each content to 4 per year in each content
  • Dedicating professional development days to literacy (and science and engineering) time to work and learn
  • Focusing on the minilesson as our first learning goal in our progression of implementing this new resource
  • Providing reduced versions of the units of study for all 6 grade levels to use as a learning tool during implementation of this new resource
  • Aligning Calkins’ pre and post-assessments for grades 3-5 with our reporting criteria in an assessment guide

And yet, we know there is never enough time as a teacher.  As a learner.  As a parent.  As a spouse.  A sibling.  A person who loves others and loves herself.

Balancing Talk about Reading with Actual Reading

Some of your most heartfelt feedback has been around the demands on your time in learning about Calkins, perfecting your minilessons, and learning new assessments through FASTBridge.  You value listening to your readers.  You value one-on-one and small group conversations where readers are digging in and making their own meaning in a book of their choosing.  Thank you for loving our readers and knowing they value and need this time as much as you do.

Here are two new tools that might be of help in making time for what you value:

A Two-Week Schedule for Small Groups and Conferringscreen-shot-2016-11-07-at-2-20-27-pm

The above schedule splits your 30 mins. of independent reading time into 10 minutes for conferring (meeting 3 kids/day) and 20 minutes for 2 small groups.

3-2-1 Conferring Structure

Similar to the structure above, in this structure, time is divided between conferring and small group instruction.  This structure highlights the power of conferring with partners.  It would look like this:

  • Minilesson
  • 3–Meet with 3 individual students for conferring
  • 2–Meet with 2 partnerships to confer
  • 1–Meet with one small group
  • Share

If you’re ready to take on conferring, check out the high-impact prompts below.  These weave together research-based prompts from Burke’s Common Core Companion and Calkins’ Learning Progressions, Read-Aloud Prompts, and teaching points.  In addition to being listed below, they are also available in your cohort folders in eBackpack.

Finding Joy and Celebrating Growth

Choosing joy and celebration is hard.  But, as I channel my inner Glennon Doyle Melton, we can do hard things.  Use the comments below to start a swell of celebration and joy.  Not because things are not hard.  Because we deserve joy.  All of us.d3379351b85eae10c9347ba1155a4e01

  • As you continue to work on honing your craft of delivering minilessons, what are you noticing about students’ thinking as readers?  What can they do now that they could not do at the beginning of the year?
  • What common academic language has become part of your classroom?  How have students used it with one another?
  • As you make time to confer and meet with small groups, share your thinking below.  What growth are you noticing?  Which structures work best for you?  Which questions do you use as a follow up to, “How’s it going?”




Assessment & Reading Up a Storm

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We often lament the lack of reading that happens at home over the summer for our students.  That summer slide can steal some of the gains students made in the previous year of instruction, and it leaves us feeling powerless.

text-matters-7-actions-imageHowever, in a recent article, literacy expert Freddy Hiebert argues “In the typical classroom, students read less than 20% of the reading/language arts block. Even a little more time can go a long way. An additional 7 minutes of reading per day has been found to be the difference in classrooms where students read well from those where students did less well.”

7 minutes feels powerful.  We can find 7 additional minutes hidden in our day for students to have their eyes on text, can’t we?

But, it is not just having eyes on any text that counts.  As Calkins reminds us early on in the Reading Units of Study: “The single most important method for moving kids up levels of text complexity is to be sure they read up a storm at their current level” (Reading Units of Study, Grade 4, Unit 1).


Why do we assess?

Well, if you believe the research, which I do, students need to have their eyes on text for long stretches of Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 5.53.08 PMtime.  And, they need to have their eyes on text they can read.  Text that doesn’t prove to be too challenging or too simplistic.  A just-right text.

The best way to match readers to just-right texts is to know how they currently tackle the puzzles posed in complex texts. While we are in search of matching students to texts where they are successful instructionally and independently, often times the key to seeing where students’ cueing systems and comprehension within, beyond, and about the text begin to falter is in identifying the “ceiling level” of text that exposes their areas of needed growth as a reader.

How do we assess?

One of the tools we use in Kirkwood to gather this key information is the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System in K-5.

According to Calkins, once we match students to texts where they are successful, we need to get them access to books–lots of them–to stop summer slide.  This is why she suggests completing our F &Ps in grades 1-5 in the first week or two of school.


I know what you are thinking: We have larger class sizes.  The assessments take a long time to complete.  Sometimes we don’t really know how to use the information we get from those assessments in the most efficient ways.

But, What If? 

What if we tweaked some of Calkins’ suggestions on ways to streamline running records and were able to really know our readers in the first two weeks of school?  (See her tips embedded in your first UoS or Chapter 6 of her Guide to the Reading Workshop for Primary Grades.)

What if we started assessments with our most struggling readers and got them reading in texts matched to their levels as soon as we possibly could?

What if we viewed these assessments as part of learning and teaching and not separate from it?

What comes next?

Once we match students to texts at their level, they read, read, read.  Following Calkins’ Units of Study for reading, she outlines mini-lessons that hone our instruction to key strategies and skills readers need to make sense of text, and she also highlights what struggles we might anticipate readers having so we can better prepare for small group work and conferring.  Hiebert offers additional suggestions with 7 Actions that Teachers Can Take Right Now to help tackle complex texts.



The Magic of Nonfiction

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I’ve been on the waiting list for Mary Roach’s new book for months.  So long, I actually had forgotten I preordered it until it appeared on my iBooks shelf.  I had gotten lost in summer and fiction, discovering the universe with Aristotle and Dante, gifting the sun with teenage twins, and feeling the pull and pain of home alongside Ifemelu.

The newest release by one of my favorite nonfiction authors. She aptly shares the whisperings of stories untold.

The newest release by one of my favorite nonfiction authors. She aptly shares the whisperings of stories untold.

However, when Grunt: The Curious Science of  Humans at War finally popped onto my shelf,  I couldn’t resist peeking in to the first few chapters, and Mary Roach didn’t disappoint.  With an opening detailing the chicken gun, Roach began pulling me into the world of military science.  A world where “quiet, esoteric battles with less considered adversaries: exhaustion, shock, bacteria, panic” abound, and “scientists and surgeons, running along in the wake of combat, lab coats flapping” are left to design ways to keep people alive, not kill them.  This lesser told version of military science already had me entranced, as great nonfiction is known to do.

I wasn’t always a nonfiction fan; I firmly planted my feet in the realm of fiction if the truth be told. I would push through nonfiction, but I didn’t ever enjoy it, not fully until some of my KHS colleagues helped shift my attitude.  Nonfiction texts like Covington’s Salvation on Sand Mountain  and Roach’s Stiff  began appearing on my desk.  My access to high quality nonfiction changed, and with it, my attitude.

Attitude and Access

Lucy Calkins, in her Guide to the Reading Workshop for Intermediate Grades, discusses the cropped-shutterstock_86389951power of attitude and access in Chapter 13 “The Special Importance of Nonfiction Reading.”  She urges us to “consider…ways to support reading nonfiction that allow students to see nonfiction reading as a magical way to pursue their own quirky personal interests, hobbies, and passions” (126).  We also need to fill our shelves with irresistible nonfiction texts (see her ideas for texts on 127) and share our own readerly lives as we explore topics of our own interests with nonfiction/informational texts.

If we want our students to be avid readers of nonfiction, Calkins reminds us of the power of choice in texts, pace, and conversation.  If students can choose the books they read (even within some constraints), proceed at a pace that allows them to make meaning, and have a chance to teach one another, talk through confusing parts, or to share notes and questions, they will like nonfiction more.  (See the anchor charts “Ways Partners Talk About Nonfiction” and “To Teach Well” on 130 and 131.)

Matching Readers to Texts

Studying text complexity in nonfiction will make us just as adept at matching readers to nonfiction texts as we are pairing readers with engaging fiction texts.  It can also help us better identify the puzzles nonfiction texts present as they become more complex.  Calkins recommends collecting a “ladder of nonfiction texts representing increasing difficulties and study[ing] for yourself what makes one more challenging than another” (128).

Strands of Challenges


Another resource for matching readers to increasingly complex texts

However, Calkins gives us a guide for our study in Chapter 5 of Reading Pathways,  when she highlights the following strands of challenges readers face as nonfiction texts increase in difficulty:

  • the explicitness and complexity of meaning/central ideas/and/or author’s purpose
  • language/vocabulary
  • structure (including text features)
  • knowledge demands

Skimming the chart describing these strands (70-72) and the visuals that explore each topic further (72-83) helps us anticipate the work readers do as they climb the ladders of complex thinking and complex texts. Coaching students to do this kind of heavy lifting in texts will be made easier with the prompts Calkins offers (in both the text and online resources for Chapter 5), which provide language for students as they work on exploring main ideas, structure, language and vocabulary in a range of texts.


Cultivating a Thriving Workshop

With all of these puzzles presented in nonfiction texts, how do we help students grow their thinking and tackle more complex texts over time? (Guide to the Reading Workshop for Intermediate Grades, 129-133)

  • help students build their background knowledge by reading “easy” texts on the topic that will teach the vocabulary and concepts needed to better understand more complex texts
  • organize your classroom libraries in ways that allow students to “read up and down” a topic (Guide to the Reading Workshop for Intermediate Grades, 129)
  • encourage students to read for longer stretches of time before pausing to take notes
  • ask students to talk about what they’re learning from nonfiction
  • expect students to preview texts to set their expectations for reading
  • use scaffolding to support what students can almost do independently, not what is far out of reach
  • listen for students embracing complexities of texts instead of oversimplifying them
  • give students reasons to read closely: gathering information for a debate, synthesizing information from a variety of sources, studying craft and structure from a writer’s view


Your Turn

How will you help students better embrace the magic of nonfiction this year?

Keeping Track of What We Value

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Early last fall, Tracy Sharp shared with me the KonMari method, a way to banish clutter from your life by focusing only on that which brings you joy and holding onto it while letting go of the rest.  Ever eager to minimize the number of piles of papers, books, and laundry decorating my home, I gave it a shot.  I filled bags for Goodwill, I folded the clothing I cherished in ways I thought the clothing would feel cherished (Yep, I did.  Really.)

I rid our bedroom of excess papers, books, folders, and more.  However, the first load of laundry that finished at 10:00 pm on a school night, I decided maybe “just this once” I would cram some clothes in drawers and not worry so much about how that shirt “wanted” to be folded.  Who would ever see inside my dresser drawers?! I wanted to sleep.

As it turns out, even though I value having a clutter-free home, I didn’t ever figure out a system that worked to support that goal.  I felt productive because I was busy folding and reorganizing drawers, but I never saw a real impact in the rest of my home or in my day-to-day decisions.  Then, I felt guilty and promised to find a system that worked this summer.  (Well, we’re well into summer and that hasn’t happened.)

As a teacher, I often found myself in KonMari-like predicaments.  I started off a school year with systems in place to support my goals: ways to track writing conferences, revisions, next steps for small groups and individuals, etc.,  but by December, some of those systems had fallen away.  I was left with guilt and the drive to “do it differently” next year.

2245563352_292011c519In reading Calkins’ One to One: the Art of Conferring with Young Writers, she believes we forget or let go of record-keeping systems because often we don’t find them useful (36).  We can become so busy with the work of filling up a records chart, that we forget to ask ourselves if we value what we are taking note of and if it will help students learn better or help us teach better.

Record keeping should matter since it has the power to “channel the mindwork that will surround the split-second, on-our-toes thinking that we do as we move among children” (37).  The forms we use have the power to focus our attention by requiring us to record whatever it is we want ourselves to notice and to think about as we listen to and watch kids (37).

Focusing Our Attention

Records of conferences, small groups, and observations can reinforce “thinking as the currency of our classroom” and can help students develop their identities as readers, thinkers, and problem solvers.  What messages do we want to send in our conferences with students: “Will we tell a single story, a story that holds out comprehension as an “it” that a student gets or doesn’t, that puts us in the position of knowing and the student in the position of not knowing?  Or will we tell stories that highlight how students know what they know, showing them the dynamic, flexible thinking and problem solving that is the essence of reading” (Barnhouse, Readers Front and Center, 41).

Your Turn

-As your teams design record keeping forms for conferring and small groups this fall, what values do you want reflected in them?


-Check out the “Orientation to the Unit” for the first unit in Calkins.  How might the section on “The Intersection of Reading Development and This Unit” (primary) or “Supporting Skill Progressions”(intermediate) help us notice and name the powerful thinking students are already doing in order to grow their thinking?




Letting Go of the Right Way: Rethinking Small Group Learning with Lucy

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There is no Right Way to support students in small groups.  There, I said it (and so does Lucy Calkins in her Guide to the

Adapted from Barnhouse’s Readers Front & Center.

Reading Workshop for Primary Grades (103) and Intermediate Grades (69)).  If the purpose of small group instruction is to design the learning to meet readers where they are in terms of their complexity of thinking and the complexity of texts they read, then how can there only be one way to design that learning?

Guided Reading

Calkins contends guided reading is not the only answer to meeting students’ needs in small groups, although it is one powerful way to support

  • English Language Learners (with work on scaffolding comprehension and vocabulary)
  • students moving up levels in text complexity
  • students who don’t use a balance of cueing systems to tackle their reading (primary mostly)
  • students who struggle to hold onto meaning across pages

One Size Does Not Fit All Readers

right-600x600-300x300However, if this is our only concept of small group work, one size does not fit all.  We need to “outgrow any feeling that every small group proceeds in the same way” (Calkins, 72, Guide to the Reading Workshop for Intermediate Grades).

At today’s chat and chew, we looked at various structures Lucy recommends for small groups, whether those groups are guided groups, strategy groups, groups self-assessing with the learning progressions, shared reading groups, interactive writing groups, or any other kind of group your mind can envision!  (See Chapter 8 in Calkins’ Guide to the Reading Workshop for Intermediate Grades or Chapter 9 in Calkins’ Guide to the Reading Workshop for Primary Grades to learn more.)

Questions We Continue Thinking About

-How can teachers use repeatable structures for small groups to reduce their time spent planning and increase their time listening to students?

-How do we balance our desire to confer with our work with small groups?

-How can we use Calkins’ tips in these chapters to shrink the time we spend with each small group and to create the time we want for conferring?

Your Turn

We’d love to hear your thoughts as you dig into this one chapter in Calkins’ Guide to the Reading Workshop for your grade level.