Friday, December 20, 2013

Here is one school's solution for focusing on the CCSS "subjects" and shifting towards integration. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

Texas middle school nearly doubles instruction time for core subjects
A Texas middle school has adopted a schedule that nearly doubles class time for core subjects -- math, science, English and social studies -- to 85 minutes from 45 minutes. Officials said the change is intended to help students better grasp core subjects and allow more time for remediation. The schedule limits students to one elective course daily to allow for the additional instructional time. Commerce Journal (Texas) (12/17)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

As we have studied the Common Core this year, we have learned about the importance of the 3rd grade. Following are some ways other states have chosen to address preparing students for 3rd grade. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

3rd-grade reading proficiency a focus in many states
Nationwide, about 30 states have taken steps to improve students' reading proficiency by the third grade -- considered a threshold after which it is difficult for students to catch up. Among the strategies states are taking are to improve prekindergarten enrollment, retain students in the third grade if they do not meet certain standards, and alter reading curricula to include oral language and preliteracy proficiency. Stateline (11/15)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

As I visit classrooms this week, I am observing writers and readers who are empowered. Following are some references from the Maine based Choice Literacy that supports this approach. BRAVO!Here are two articles from the Choice Literacy archives to help students build collaborative skills. Amanda Adrian describes the "try it on" phase of helping students learn to confer with each other, and uses fishbowl modeling to help children develop conferring skills: Paul Hankins writes about the many benefits of pairing older and younger readers in the essay One Book/Four Hands: Christine McCartney provides suggestions for peer activities to boost interest and enjoyment of reading in Towards a Better Independent Reading Program from the Nerdy Book Club: Pernille Ripp hears that dreaded comment from a student -- "reading sucks." She uses the comment as a catalyst for a provocative class discussion in Why Reading Sucks and It's Okay to Talk About It:

"If we force books upon children and insist they follow the same path their peers are taking, or worse, the same path we took as learners, we strip the joy and refreshment out of reading. Instead, we can let our students create their own path. We can ask them to choose their exploration. "What direction do you want to take today?  What are you thinking about and caring about these days?  Are there people you'd like to share with?  Where do you want your imagination to carry you?" 

Allowing choice and trusting students to make the right reading and writing decisions for themselves will inspire them to love their literacy path.  We can't force them up and back, east and west, on a boring, unsafe highway; we must give them cobbled streets, coffee shops, friends and strangers, and roads headed in all possible directions.

This week, we're focusing on student learning partnerships.  Plus more as always -- enjoy!"

Jennifer Schwanke
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio. She also blogs about her personal pursuits at

Here are two articles from the Choice Literacy archives to help students build collaborative skills.
Amanda Adrian describes the "try it on" phase of helping students learn to confer with each other, and uses fishbowl modeling to help children develop conferring skills:
Paul Hankins writes about the many benefits of pairing older and younger readers in the essay One Book/Four Hands:
Christine McCartney provides suggestions for peer activities to boost interest and enjoyment of reading in Towards a Better Independent Reading Program from the Nerdy Book Club:
Pernille Ripp hears that dreaded comment from a student -- "reading sucks." She uses the comment as a catalyst for a provocative class discussion in Why Reading Sucks and It's Okay to Talk About It:

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 21, 2013 - Middle School Planning Meeting

On October 21, 2013, the middle school team met to plan how to integrate guided reading into the literacy program.

After reviewing student data, teachers studied the guided reading format and strategies appropriate for the developmental stages of their students.

The day was very successful.

Thanks to:

Robb  Warren, Principal

Emily Cohen, Middle School Teacher

Stormy Dyer, Middle School Teacher

Gloria Delsandro, Curriculum Coordinator

A special thank you goes to Cherie Doughty, literacy coach, and Pat Pacquet, fifth grade teacher and coach.

October 22, 2013 - Visits to Classrooms on Vinalhaven

Following are the classrooms I visited during the day.  The teachers were engaging students and moving them steadily towards success in literacy.

Kudos to all for so much dedication and hard work!

Mrs. Dempster works with her pre-K students to learn to match letters.  Quick visual discrimination is key learning to read fluently.

Pre-K is about learning the connections between text and meaning.  Here is a great example - student created collages.

Mrs. Kayla meets with her small group to learn how to use sources of information when reading a poem.  Students are moving forward quickly.   

First grade students work with Mrs. Sam on a poem - practicing and naming the reading strategies they use while they read.  Students are using all three sources of information to determine meaning.  


Second grade students work with Ms. Mason in a guided reading group as they explore a non-fiction text on bees and then reproduce a text structure replicated from their book. 

Fourth grade students work with Mrs. Osgood in a guided reading group exploring a non-fiction text on bees.  Along with discussion, they make entries in their reader's notebooks.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Here is a reference for the new reading levels for the CCSS. We need to keep in mind lexiles are not the only measures used to determine rigor and reading level.

"It isn't often that a society gets a chance to start afresh,
and I think that moment is here."
—Chester E. Finn, Jr.*
The Common Core State Standards Initiative offers the following overlapping Lexile bands (or Lexile ranges**, as defined by Common Core) to place texts in the following text complexity grade bands. According to the Common Core Standards, qualitative scales of text complexity should be anchored at one end by descriptions of texts representative of those required in typical first-year credit-bearing college courses and in workforce training programs. Similarly, quantitative measures should identify the college- and career-ready reading level as one endpoint of the scale.
We have realigned our Lexile ranges to match the Common Core Standards' text complexity grade bands and adjusted upward its trajectory of reading comprehension development through the grades to indicate that all students should be reading at the college and career readiness level by no later than the end of high school.
New research was released on August 15, 2012 concerning text complexity. The updates refer to the three-part model defined in Appendix A of the the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, which combines the quantitative and qualitative measures of text complexity with reader and task considerations. The goal of the quantitative study was to provide information regarding the variety of ways text complexity can be measured quantitatively and to examine text complexity tools that are valid, transparent, user friendly, and reliable. We continue to update our tools to be aligned to the CCSS. Most recently, we updated the Lexile Map to include CCSS text exemplars and the new CCSS ranges.
Lexile Band
Lexile Band*
 K–1  N/A N/A
 2–3  450L–725L 420L–820L
 4–5  645L–845L 740L–1010L
 6–8 860L–1010L 925L–1185L
9-10 960L–1115L 1050L–1335L
11–CCR  1070L–1220L 1185L–1385L
The Common Core Standards advocate a "staircase" of increasing text complexity, beginning in grade 2, so that students can develop their reading skills and apply them to more difficult texts. At the lowest grade in each band, students focus on reading texts within that text complexity band. In the subsequent grade or grades within a band, students must "stretch" to read a certain proportion of texts from the next higher text complexity band. This pattern repeats itself throughout the grades so that students can both build on earlier literacy gains and challenge themselves with texts at a higher complexity level. Lexile measures and the Lexile ranges above help to determine what text is appropriate for each grade band and what should be considered "stretch" text.
The Common Core Standards devote as much attention to the text complexity of what students are reading as it does to how students read. As students advance through the grades, they must both develop their comprehension skills and apply them to increasingly complex texts. The proportion of texts that students read each year should come from a particular text complexity grade band. Students must also show a steadily increasing ability to discern more from and make fuller use of text.
Please contact us at or 1-888-LEXILES with questions.

**Please note that MetaMetrics defines a "Lexile range" as text that falls within 100L below to 50L above a reader's Lexile measure.
*Chester E. Finn, Jr. is a former Assistant Secretary of Education in the George Bush administration, current President of the Fordham Foundation and a well-known critic of educational reform efforts.

Lexile Link:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Communicating with Families! Bravo!! Courtesy of Choice Literacy

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy 
It's parent conference season in many schools. Here are two resources from the Choice Literacy archives to help foster better communication with families.
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan have suggestions for Communicating with Parents About Text Difficulty:
Andrea Smith and her fourth-grade students are Refining the Weekly Class Newsletter to build writing skills, collaboration, and the home/school connection:
Our new month-long series What About Homework? just launched on Facebook. We'll be posting suggestions from Choice Literacy contributors through early November:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Off to a Great Start at Vinalhaven School!

On September 23-27, I conducted an on site visit.  The focus was literacy.  The classrooms I visited were k-5 plus the members of the EDU 590 course we began in August.

Everyone was off to a great start.  Classrooms were buzzing with students reading, writing, and focusing on learning.  Following is a photo-tour I hope you enjoy!!

Great job team!!!  

Your students thank you for all of your hard work!!

Pre-K students are immersed in rich language - listening to stories...

learning the basic "academic" vocabulary used in school ...

learning how to spell and read their names.

Kindergarten students are off to a great start learning the concepts of print by writing and reading!  Their enthusiasm is obvious.  Mrs. Kayla and her students have already completed the first month of the Fountas and Pinnell curriculum!  Bravo!!

First grade students are using their literacy skills by writing  (composing stories, spelling words, editing and revising)...

 sharpening their reading skills based on individual needs with the ed tech...
 working in a center....

listening to books to build vocabulary, story structures, and book language...

beginning their journey to life long literacy!

Second grade  students continue with writing, poems, and reading! 

The level of independence is obvious as you visit the classroom.  

A special welcome to new staff member, Sarah Mason.

Third grade students are transitioning to becoming serious students.  

 Nonfiction texts and strategies are being taught explicitly throughout the day. They learn to monitor their own reading...identifying what they know and don't know...reading to find the information they don't have...finding text features and previewing them for meaning...finding evidence in the text to support answers...all common core strategies.

  Students have learned to select books and read independently.  Focusing on longer texts.


 Fourth grade students are developing writing strategies focusing on the common core...

developing reading strategies using poetry...


continuing to develop the ability to monitor their own learning and work independently.

Fifth grade students are being immersed in an integrated curriculum based on the common core state standards.  

As fifth grade students become more independent, time is found to focus on literacy and accelerate student progress.  Here students learn to read nonfiction texts for meaning...based on the text, "The Core 6."

Embedded in the integrated curriculum is technology ... another 20th century strategy ... allowing students the opportunity to learn how to use this medium and access information.

Extra time has been given to many students as Ms. White pitches in to assist the literacy implementation.  Bravo!!

High school science students learn how to use maps - a nonfiction text - and articles about maps - another form of nonfiction texts.

Science students make real world connections based on the nonfiction text selected for study in class...another common core connection.  Bravo!!

High school theater students research recognized artists during class.  They use a porta-portal to locate the information they need as the teacher models.  Information literacy is one of the key components of the 21st century.

Individual student conferences are held to assist students in planning their research and constructing their projects...writing included.  Bravo!!

High school students studying web page design reviewed the process of reading a technical manual...a skill that will be needed in the real world.

Students will use these reading strategies throughout their life.  Bravo

High school history students studying American History are taught how to access text books as well as articles.  The instructional strategies used include common core standards: speaking, listening, writing, and reading...all leading to increased comprehension.  Excellent!!!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Here is a great opportunity for students to connect with others in different parts of the country - as well as globally. This type of learning opportunity addresses the CCSS ELA standards of listening and speaking. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief. Enjoy!

How Google Hangouts can be used for teaching, learning
Google Hangouts offer students "out of classroom" experiences without leaving the building, writes Andrew Marcinek, director of technology for Groton-Dunstable Regional School District in Groton, Mass. Marchinek shares six ways teachers can use Google Hangouts, including broadcasting and archiving live sessions, sharing screens and creating collaborative demonstrations, and making two-way digital conversations. T.H.E. Journal (9/17)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

EDU 590 - Has begun at Vinalhaven. August 26-28 ,9 teachers - Pre-K - 12 - began the course. The principal, Robb Warren, also joined the class!! Rich instructional conversations and exploration of literacy within the context of the CCSS took place for the 3 days and will continue throughout the year.

What a great group!!  Student oriented and eager to provide success for students!!!
Back row from left to right: Randy Pitts, Emma Baker, Meagan Davidson, Judd Raven, Robb Warren (principal), Darlene Bassett (instructor), and Bruce Mailloux (superintendent).

Front row from left to right: Hilary Martin, Cherie Doughty, Sue Dempster, Pat Paquet.

Throughout the course, technology will be  embedded in order to allow teachers to experience the new CCSS standards as a student.  Randy Pitts, also lead us in the process of saving files as PDFs and then annotating them during reading, providing students with opportunities for close reading.

Bravo team!!  

Your students are lucky to have you as their teachers!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Here's some great resources for close reading courtesy of Choice Literacy. Please notice the information is grade specific. Enjoy!


Free for All

[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
In a new podcast, Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts look at close reading from many different angles:

Close reading is the darling new phrase in literacy education, used to describe everything from end-of-chapter textbook questions to sticky note extravaganzas when reading novels. Chris Lehman explains why Close Reading Isn't Just Anything in the start of a new blog series:


Close reading and rereading are linked in many classrooms. In this article from the Choice Literacy archives, Max Brand shares how he threads rereading throughout his fifth-grade literacy block:

Nancy Boyles highlights three strategies for bringing close reading to the elementary grades in this essay from Educational Leadership:

Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris have compiled over a dozen posts on close reading at their blog:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Common Core and RTI have mandated "in class" models for more special needs students. Here is a list building on strengths. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

7 ways to bring out the best in special-needs students
"What we need to do is change the situation around so that right from the start, students with special needs are told about all the things they're good at, and are engaged in activities that are based on those strengths," writes ASCD author Thomas Armstrong. In his recent ASCD EDge post, Armstrong offers educators seven ways to activate the strengths of their special needs students. Read on.