Saturday, December 27, 2014

Here's a great article on setting goals - similar to those teachers set at the team meetings. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
December 27, 2014 - Issue #413

Happiness of Pursuit
When a great adventure is offered, you don't refuse it.
                                                 Amelia Earhart
I've been enjoying the book Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life by Chris Guillebeau, about the joy that comes in life from quests. Guillebeau set out to visit every country in the world, and he accomplished his goal while he was still in his mid-30s. He isn't a wealthy guy, and the book chronicles nights spent sleeping on airport floors in third-world countries and the deep anxiety of visiting unsafe countries where westerners weren't welcome. He also shares other stories of ordinary people with extraordinary quests.
The quests can often involve travel. My two sisters are on a quest to bike in each of the 50 states together. Guillebeau writes movingly of a woman with a terminal cancer diagnosis who set out to view more species of birds across the world than anyone had ever seen. But a quest doesn't have to take you far from home -- one of the questers in Guillebeau's book set out to cook an authentic meal from every cuisine in the world, all within the confines of her suburban Colorado home.
The book reminded me that kids aren't only natural-born questioners -- they also love quests. Childhood reading provides a kind of scaffold for the bigger quests children might face down the road. All around us there are children who are right now memorizing dozens of stats for their favorite baseball or hockey team. When I was nine, I fulfilled my quest of reading a whole wall of children's books about the presidents at the town library (just because it was there, I guess).
Maybe we shouldn't be too concerned when a child is on a quest to read every book in a series (even when there are 47 of them), or a book that is far over their reading level because it is a favorite of friends. A quest isn't just an item on a bucket list -- it's something that requires planning, sacrifice, and often a bit of risk.  And aren't those all elements of reading beyond your comfort zone, with goals or texts that are a little bit daunting?
I am not on a quest at the moment, but I want to find one. I'm using the questions Guillebeau provides as a starting point for finding one:
What excites you?
What bothers you?
If you could do anything at all without regard to time or money, what would it be?
I am taking my time finding a quest -- or maybe I'm letting one find me.
This week we look at goals. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy


Free for All

[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Here are two features from the archives on goals for teachers and students: 
Katie Doherty considers goals for book clubs in Assessing Learning During Student-Led Book Clubs:
Ruth Ayres writes about being kind to yourself and realistic in On Perfection and Goals:
Make goals in your classroom SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) by using this advice from Maurice Elias at Edutopia

Lead Literacy is our subscription site designed especially for literacy coaches and school leaders. You can sample content at this link:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Here is a great article on how to use video when supporting teachers in learning and applying new resesarch. Enjoy courtesy of Tch.

Director's Cut — Recorded Webinar: Research-Based Practices for Using Video
Watch the video
Teaching Channel Teams
Using Video for Professional Learning: Research-Based Strategies

Dear Darlene,

We recently held a webinar featuring Miriam Sherin, Professor of Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, and Jamie Lomax, Director of Title I for Tulsa Public Schools.

You can now view a beautifully edited version of the webinar recording on our website. In this version, you won't have to sit through unnecessary explanations of how to use a webinar platform. We take you right into the content you’re interested in seeing.

Click here to watch the video and download the presentation slides.

Jim Knight
Miriam’s presentation details research-based strategies for using video that have been shown to create lasting results in improving teacher practice. Our video-enabled platform, Teaching Channel Teams, provides interactive tools to support these strategies including a mobile app for easily capturing and sharing classroom video.

Michelle Rooks
Jamie’s presentation describes how Tulsa Public Schools is using Teams to put these strategies into action to provide equitable instruction for all students and scale the effectiveness of coaching and PLC programs.

And, while you are visiting our website, check out the other valuable content resources!

Teaching Channel Teams
testimonials Hear more stories like Michelle's
Watch videos of educators describing how they are using Teams to bring the power of video to their professional learning programs.
Experts Hear from the experts
Watch videos of experts discussing the research on the use of video for professional learning.
classroom And learn about:
Effectiveness studies
Structuring the use of video for success
Protocols for effective collaboration around video
Tips and tools
And much more!
Teaching Channel Teams
Professional Development for Common Core State Standards
Watch Teams in Action!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Here is another great post from Choice Literacy. I highly recommend the Literacy Shed link. It has some great resources. Enjoy!

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
November 29, 2014 - Issue #410

Cheerfully Indifferent
Not my circus, not my monkeys.
                           Polish proverb
This summer I participated in a qigong class, which is sort of a mix of tai chi and martial arts (and that makes the class sound much more strenuous than it was). The group met on a gently sloping lawn at a retreat center in western Massachusetts.  The instructor was in his sixties, calm and funny, with an Irish lilt to his voice. He put us through our paces, all of us beginners looking earnest and silly as we mimicked the moves of a tiger, crane, and dragon. Midway through the class as we all tried to balance on one leg, he said, "The key to focus is to be cheerfully indifferent - to happily ignore most of what bothers you."
I looked out at the view - a stunning vista of a large pristine lake, with mist rising from it in the morning sun. Beyond it was a vast range of mountains, dwarfing the lake. This was in one tiny corner of the world, tucked in the Berkshires. It all made me feel small, in a good way. We have so little time and energy when it comes to all we want to accomplish. We know this, and yet we still think the biggest crime we can commit is to not care enough. But if you try to care about everything, you're just spending your entire life living inside your head. And it's so small compared to all that is out there. The arrogance is in thinking we have more hours or more to give than anyone else.
Ever since that class, I've tried to approach more messes (especially those created by other people) with cheerful indifference. What good does it do to feel your blood pressure rising or your jaw clench at the colleague who is always late to the meeting and needs to be brought up to speed, at the parents who seem to care about their child less than you do? The weight of the world starts to lift when you stay positive and don't invest any energy in things you can't change. A happy countenance is a blessing to anyone who experiences it, and our indifference is a gift to those tasks that need our focus, and the people who can most benefit from our concern. As George Lichtenberg writes, "Nothing can contribute more to peace of soul than the lack of any opinion whatever."
This week we consider some strategies for making minilessons more visual. Plus more as always - enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy


Free for All

[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Here are two features from the archives highlighting ways to make minilessons more visual.
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan explain to students how previewing is like watching a movie in Previewing and Picture Walks with Fiction Texts:
Shari Frost and her colleagues have many creative strategies for teaching with wordless picture books in Worth a Thousand Words:
The Literacy Shed is a treasure trove of films and images for use in minilessons:

Last chance to register for the online course Designing Primary Writing Units with the Common Core in Mind instructed by Katie DiCesare, which runs December 3-14. The course includes three on-demand webinars, a DVD, print resources, and personal response from Katie. Click on the link below for more details:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Here is a great survey for parents to give their children. It measures their readiness for learning. Courtesy of America Achieves.

Do you ever wonder what makes your kids ready to learn?

Developing learning habits like perseverance, hard work, and curiosity helps children achieve more in school - and later in college, work, and life.

So I'm writing to share a resource with you and the parents in your school. Raise the Bar designed this free 5-minute Learning Habits survey to help parents understand their children's strengths and weaknesses so they are better equipped to help them improve.

If you like what you see, we hope you will share our Learning Habits survey and the other resources on our site with parents in your school!  


Matt and the Raise the Bar Team

The questions in the survey have been developed by Raise the Bar in conjunction with the Character Lab to provide parents with formative feedback on skills that researchers and teachers alike have linked with success.

Monday, October 27, 2014

We viewed a lesson from "Guided Reading in Action" by Jan Richardson.  We watched the transitional lesson, at Level M, Henry's Freedom Box . Please post your comments-  I know that we had a lot during our viewing!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Possibilities of PLC's. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Superintendent shares PLC success story
City of Fairfax Schools Superintendent Peter Noonan rolled out professional learning communities in his district and credits the collaboration between administrators and educators with his district's academic gains. In this Q&A, he describes his district's PLC journey and offers tips for implementation. District Administration magazine online (9/24)
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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Finding Writing Topics is one of the biggest challenges in the classroom. Here are some great articles on the topic. Enjoy! Courtesy of Choice Literacy

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
September 13, 2014 - Issue #399

Extra or Unexpected?
Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.    
                                     Boris Pasternak                                       
My colleague Jeff was worried. We were both professors at a large state university, working with juniors and seniors in literacy methods courses. One of his students, Amanda, had recently lost her mother to cancer, and now she'd missed the last two classes in his secondary English methods class. He'd called her repeatedly and talked with her roommate but couldn't reach Amanda. Finally the roommate told him Amanda was at soccer practice and would be there for another hour.  Jeff hung up the phone (because this was back in the days when phones had cords and you actually hung them up), put on his jacket, and walked 10 minutes across campus to the sports fields, where he found Amanda and told her he was worried about her. She cried a little, promised to come to the next class, and didn't skip class again for the rest of the semester.
When Jeff told me this story, I was astonished. I rarely called students when they missed class, and certainly never visited them personally at a sports practice. We talk a lot about doing "extra" as educators, but Jeff made me realize that the unexpected is what has the biggest impact.
Og Mandino once wrote, "The only certain means of success is to render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be."
Joe Clark explains the way "more and better" works for administrators: "People expect school administrators to be at the Friday night football game. They don't expect them to bring Popsicles to band camp. Or go to the bowling team's match or the Mock Trial team's performance."
We do a lot of the "extra," but maybe we need more of the unexpected. Most of us don't have more to give. Maybe it's a matter of surprising people with the unexpected in a way that truly makes them rethink their relationship with us, and our commitment to their work.
This week we look at finding writing topics. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy


Free for All

[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Here are two different takes from the archives on helping students write. 
Gifted students can struggle to write, if only because their skills can get in the way. Michelle Kelly has advice for working with writers who are perfectionists and verbally skilled:
In The Pause That Refreshes, Suzy Kaback advises teachers to stop and encourage students to write when the conversation gets hot:
What is the value in taking a break from writing? In On Not Writing, Bill Hayes shares what he learned as a professional writer who abandoned the craft for years before finally returning to it:
Join Franki Sibberson for The Tech-Savvy Literacy Teacher online course October 1-12.  The class includes three on-demand webinars, the Right Book at the Right Time DVD, Franki's book The Joy of Planning, and personal response from Franki tailored to your needs on the class discussion board. Click on the link below for more details:
Inspiring learning, fabulous presenters, unique materials, and delicious food, all on the ocean at the beautiful Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine. What's not to like? Join us October 18-19 for Coaching the Common Core. Details and a brochure with a full description are available at this link:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Here are some great ideas on writing for the new school year. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
July 26, 2014 - Issue #392

Beautiful Questions
always the more beautiful answer,
who asks a more beautiful question . . .
                                                            e. e. cummings
I picked the theme of "renewal" for a series of writing retreats this year. What I quickly discovered is that it wasn't easy to find readings connected to the topic. As I searched with the usual tools in the usual places, most of what came up was religious -- which makes sense, because people who are soul weary are often looking for spiritual renewal. But I didn't think starting out our revision and response sessions with "Let us pray" would go over well at these secular writing retreats. The books that weren't religious often focused on time management or had gimmicky leadership tips. 
I was close to giving up when I stumbled on A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger. The book includes the sobering finding of researchers that children are taught to squelch their natural tendency to ask profound and creative questions at an early age (and schools are a big part of that). A More Beautiful Question looks at case studies from many fields of visionaries who broke through with ideas that upended the status quo by asking better questions. These questions are sometimes jolting, sometimes elegant, but always at their heart renewing, because they push the questioner to look harder and deeper at an issue vexing everyone in their field.
As I read the book, I realized stress is nothing more than the questions we pester ourselves with continually. These "stress" questions may vary, but just contemplating the answers is a dull scrape to the spirit we give ourselves again and again:
How can I quit this job I hate and still pay the mortgage?
How much worse is my mom's Alzheimer's going to get?
What can I do to get the kids' test scores up?
You're going to ask yourself questions all day long - it's what humans do. So why not make them beautiful? If you're looking for renewal, stress reduction, balance, or a peaceful heart this summer (whatever you want to call it), maybe it begins with a bold, specific, and joyful question. A more beautiful question is one you can ask yourself about work every day that makes you want to jump out of bed and start thinking.
What's the most joyful thing that will happen in my class this morning?
How will my students take charge of their learning today?
Who supports my learning and growth most in the school, and how can I reciprocate and support them more?
I'm working on my big beautiful question for the school year right now. What might yours be?
This week we look at student writers. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy

Free for All

[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Here are two articles from the archives to help make your writing workshops stronger than ever.
Ruth Shagoury finds even five- and six-year-olds can develop independent conferring skills in Mix It Up: Helping Young Writers Learn to Confer with Peers and Teachers:
We all experience slumps. Clare Landrigan has one in her fitness routine and uses the learning from it to develop principles for helping student writers overcome slumps:
Are you looking for some fun mentor texts for discussions with young learners about the writing process? The LitforKids blog has compiled an annotated list of Picture Books for Young Writers:
Ralph Fletcher shares his writing habits in this three-minute video. This is a good conversation starter for a professional development workshop on routines:

Have you visited Lead Literacy yet? It's our subscription membership site designed specifically for the needs of literacy coaches. You can view sample content at this link:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

As you begin the school year, here are some ideas about the lay out in your rooms. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
August 9, 2014 - Issue #394

I would really rather feel bad in Maine than feel good anywhere else.
                                                                   E.B. White
Last January I visited Keri Archer's kindergarten classroom in the teeth of flu season. Almost half the children were absent, and Keri and the weary remainder were all coughing and sniffling. It was one of those days when as a class visitor I would casually wander over to the sink and do a whole-body spritz with the hand sanitizer every five minutes.
And yet, I looked around at the bright hand-painted tables, the cozy pillows, the charmingly mismatched but oh-so-carefully selected chairs that seemed to whisper "come and sit a spell." I realized Keri had created one of those places where you'd rather be there feeling a mite poorly than almost anywhere else feeling well. The classroom felt like home, no small feat for any teacher trying to navigate draconian fire codes, lice-resistant seating, and the requirements to post sterile standards prominently.
What are you planning for your classroom this fall to make it feel more like home for your students? Favorite family photographs they bring in for you to frame and scatter among the shelves? Self-portrait craft projects or sketches of favorite fiction characters from years past? What will give a sense of welcome, warm as a hearth, when children return to school?
This week we look at classroom design. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy


Free for All

[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Here are two features from the archives to help you make classroom design changes to support literacy.
Ann Marie Corgill writes about the beginning point for classroom design in Starting with Why:
Katie Doherty finds out a lot about her middle school students as readers when she spends the first week letting them define and design her classroom library:
Katherine Sokolowski does a video blog post on how design possibilities opened up in her classroom once she got rid of her teacher desk:

The Choice Literacy Pinterest board Take a Seat highlights creative classroom seating options from our contributors:
We've posted our fall online course roster, with offerings from Jennifer Allen, Katie DiCesare, Franki Sibberson, Clare Landrigan, and Tammy Mulligan. Topics include assessment, the Common Core and writing, technology, literacy coaching basics, and coaching writing workshops. Choice Literacy members receive a $50 discount off the $295 fee for each course. For detailed descriptions and to download a color brochure, click on this link:


Have you visited Lead Literacy yet? It's our subscription membership site designed specifically for the needs of literacy coaches. You can view sample content at this link: