Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Special Note About Calkins' Assessments

In preparation for the November visit, teachers were asked to administer the post writing assessment to their students at the end of the narrative unit.  We observed a pattern we would like to share.  

Across great levels, students' work in class appeared better than the work on their assessment piece of writing.  While we recognized the element of time prevented students from going back and revisiting pieces, we came to several conclusions.  Blake Reidy, 3rd grade teacher, was instrumental in helping us with the discussion around assessment.

  1.  How the writing assessment is presented to students is key.  While teachers want to make students aware they are being assessed, they should be cautious about putting too much emphasis on the assessment, so it is not viewed as a test. 
  2. Students' work should be considered when grading them for proficiency - not the assessment alone.  Student journals are a great source for checking to see if the student is carrying over what they have learned and applying it to their every day writing.
  3. Some of the instruction presented during the units of study, may not be "learned" to the level of proficiency during the unit.  Students' level of owning and generalizing what they learn to different writing tasks takes time.  To stop and focus all instruction on forms of punctuation would be to derail the writing process.  Students will acquire writing strategies as you guide them through the different genres.
There is a parallel between students' reading and writing acquisition.  In reading, students build a self -extending system, early on.  This is like a skeletal framework of the basic process.  As the teacher guides them through different types and levels of reading, students learn how to apply their understandings to the changing texts.  Writing is similar, in that students build the framework and then are guided by teachers through the types and levels of writing.  In both instances, basic strategies and understanding must be revisited and revised in order to meet the challenges presented by each new text - written or read.  The cursive nature of both processes means we will often revisit - for example - the use of a period, the choice of a word, the amount of type of details.  Consequently, we will need to follow the student, based on teacher observation.  This is not a linear process and challenges to reflect often on each learner. 

Thank you one and all for your hard work.  Your students are lucky to have such a dedicated staff.   

November Visit - 14-16 ! Following is a photo journal of classroom visits! Serious learning is already happening in all of the classrooms.

This was my fourth visit to Vinalhaven this year.  The focus this time was on Calkins' writing workshop.   The quality of teaching I have observed was excellent.  Classroom routines have been created and students are developing longer attention spans, which leads to longer time on task. During this visit the staff and coaches were able to focus on problem solving.  Their open door policy allows for a high level of collaboration that impacts individual student learning.  Kudos to all.

Mrs. Conway's K

Kindergarten students are beginning Calkins' Writers' Workshop.  Mrs. Conway introduced a format for informational writing by modeling the process with class participation.  Two of the key elements for her students were: 1.  modeling the actual composition/thinking process and 2.  encouraging students to share their ideas with one another.  Students are beginning to make the connection that print is thinking written down - a key concept many kindergarteners do not develop early on...leading to confusion later.  Great job, Mrs. Conway's class.   

  Ms.  Block's First Grade 

Ms. Block is working with her first graders on sustained writing.  This is the first year Vinalhaven has had the Calkins Writing Workshop and an extended block of time for writing.  This presents challenges to students and teachers alike.  A crucial first step for all writers is the ability to write for an extended time. In writing fluency must be established before craft can be applied.  Students must be able to compose and write automatically, developing stamina in both thought and action. Ms. Block realizes the importance of this and has employed several steps in the classroom to assure students develop in this area.  These steps are posted in the photo above.  Kudos to Ms. Block for recognizing this need and addressing it in a pro-active manner.   What lucky first graders to have a responsive teacher.   

Ms. Block's first graders being observed by Literacy Coach, Cherie Doughty, incorporates writing during a guided reading lesson.  Bravo!  Writing across the curriculum!

 Mrs. Andrews' Second Grade 

Mrs. Andrews' second grade has developed a level of fluency.  She continues to give students opportunities to practice fluency, with the understanding they are ready for working on their craft.  An important element of craft, is audience.  Mrs. Andrews has instructed and modeled conferencing extensively.  From students' writing as well as Mrs. Andrews' classroom observations, students are applying conferencing strategies to others' work as well as to their own!  Teacher and peer conferencing is frequent and on task! 

Mrs.  Andrews embeds ELA standards during a Social Studies lesson.  Student practice close reading, engage in rich conversations, develop vocabulary, and synthesize this process in their writing!   Kudos to all of the second graders!  Great nonfiction strategies!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November Visit 14-16

Good Morning, Everyone,
I hope you are enjoying this lovely fall winter.
I am writing to remind you I will be coming out for my next visit on November 14-16.

I will arrive on November 14 on the first boat.

November 14: 

Cherie, Meagan, and have planned on meeting individually with ELA teachers K-5.  Cherie is arranging a roving sub for the day so teachers can meet with us and go over their spread sheets based on their first Calkins unit.  This was sent to you early and you were asked to have the data entered by this visit.  Teachers should come to the meeting prepared to discuss this with the coaches.

November 15-16:  

Cherie, Meagan and I will make classroom visits to observe writing being taught.  De-briefing sessions will be arranged, so the coaches and consultant can provide feedback to  classroom teachers to guide instruction.
The coaches and the consultant will also continue to review the course of the implementation and pertinent strands of the implementation.  

I am planning on leaving on Wednesday - the 2:45 if possible.  

Teachers - please feel free to contact me and arrange special time to see me while I am on site.  I will be available after school or before school if that works for you.

See you soon,


Friday, October 28, 2016

October Visit - 24-26 ! Following is a photo journal of classroom visits! Serious learning is already happening in all of the classrooms.

This was my third visit to Vinalhaven this year.  The focus this time was on guided reading.  DRA testing is complete and teachers have profiles on each student.  They have matched the profile with the guided reading level and have begun teaching.  The quality of teaching I have observed was excellent.  Classroom routines have been created and students are developing longer attention spans.  Kudos to the entire staff.  A photo journal follows.

Special Recognition for Vinalhaven's Literacy Coaches

Cherie Doughty and  Megan Miller are the two literacy coaches that make classroom visits, compile data, assess students, work with students and coach classroom teachers.  They are excellent and we are lucky to have them.  

During my visit, Mrs. Doughty and Mrs. Miller teamed with me as we coached teachers - observing them with a guided reading group and then providing feedback.  They are very perceptive coaches and it is a pleasure to work with them.

Mrs. Conway's K

  Mrs. Conway has been using guided reading for several years.  The group we observed her with were Pre-Emergent Readers, working on the concepts of print.  The pace and format of the lesson were excellent.  Students both formed letters correctly and were beginning to internalize left to right directionality as well as 1 to 1.  Excellent!

                                                                Ms.  Block's First Grade

Ms. Block was working with a group of Emergent Readers.  The students had a corpus of site words and some concepts of print.  Ms. Block coached students - teaching them the reading process as well as learning individual items.  She followed their lead and supported them as they built self-extending systems - the purpose of first grade reading instruction.  Bravo!

 Mrs. Andrews' Second Grade

Mrs. Andrews' group was for Early Readers. Her students had begun to develop an automatic self extending system.  They were also showing signs of self monitoring.  Their book was longer and they had many of the concepts of print in place.  Chunking words into known parts was one of the strands of their lesson.  These are all important strategies to their development as readers.  Teaching exactly where the learner is...assures success.  Excellent!

Ms. Reidy's Third Grade
  Ms. Reidy's group consisted of Early Readers.  They had a corpus of known words, concepts of print, and self monitoring strategies.  They were able to predict using pictures and had begun to confirm their predictions based on letter and sound information found in the text.  This level of cross checking is vital for their growth.  Bravo, Ms. Reidy!       


Mr. Warren's Fourth and Fifth Grades

Mr. Warren met with Mrs. Doughty and Mrs. Miller to finalize his plan for his ELA block.  Exciting things are also happening in Mr. Warren's room.  The connections students are making between reading and writing are incredible!  Like all of the teachers, this takes a huge amount of planning and hard work.  Thank you, Mr. Warren!

Friday, October 21, 2016

October Visit - 11-13 ! Following is a photo journal of classroom visits! Serious learning is already happening in all of the classrooms.

Mrs. Dempster's Pre-K  ELA 

Language - both written and spoken - play a key role in Pre-K.

Students are introduced to book language - their introduction to academic language - during their year in Pre-K.  Mrs.  Dempster also models concepts of print for the students as she reads.   

Beginning with their name, each student learns that their words can be written down and read back!

Combinations of writing and images are  used consistently throughout the year to build on stages of literacy acquisition*, as students begin to understand that meaning is embedded in spoken and written language.  These experiences build the oral and written language pool students use to learn and think.

* See stages of writing at this link:;pageID=351254691699134733;onPublishedMenu=pages;onClosedMenu=pages;postNum=0;src=link 


Mrs. Conway's Kindergarten ELA 

Mrs. Conway's room is arranged to demonstrate the uses of written language to her students.  Real life experiences are crucial for young learners to be engaged with the writing/reading process.  

Labeling mailboxes,... 

a rich variety of real life writing utensils to choose from, ...

 a variety of opportunities to use to write, ...

directions for tasks expected of individuals belonging to the school community, ...

applying directions to their task, ...


and practicing what they learn, where they are in the stage of literacy acquisition. *

 Ms. Block's 1st Grade ELA

Language is integrated into the classroom by CCSS that are posted in student language and shared with students, providing a clear learning target... 

morning message is a daily activity, providing students with the opportunity to use their knowledge of conventions...

and examples of writing formats taught are posted around the room for students to refer to and use as a guide for their own writing.


  Mrs. Bennard's 2nd Grade ELA

Evidence of a language rich curriculum was embedded around the room.

A anchor chart on the steps for writing a story..

a science project rich in writing - labeling, sentences, etc., 

dioramas,depicting an important part of the story, and...

reminders of conventions taught posted at eye level on the shelves!


Ms. Reidy's 3rd Grade ELA

Ms. Reidy has CCSS posted throughout her room - clearly displayed - written in student friendly language.  She refers to it as she teaches, so students always have a clear goal in their mind.

Students work with Ms. Reidy as they read their Scholastic News with the help of the video provided.  Ms. Reidy chunks the text, stopping students at regular points to practice close reading.

This writing is aligned with the standards - in student language - posted around the room.  Here is a bulletin board displaying writing that meets the standards students are utilizing!



Mr. Warren's 4th Grade ELA

  • Students continue to work on a story, revising their narratives ... using the following cues:  

    1.  a schedule with a good chunk of time to spend on their revisions,

     2.  a mini-lesson with Mr. Warren, making connections, referring  students to 
          mentor  texts, ...

          the key elements of personal narrative writing...

           and providing students with Calkins' checklist regarding the key elements.
  3.   And then  - of course - coaching individuals as they experience this 
       process and move towards the CCSS posted on the wall. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Second Visit - October 24-26, 2016

Good Morning, Teachers, 
I hope you are having a great week.
I would like to start off by thanking all of you for the hard work you are doing in your classrooms.  Although it is early in the year, you have begun instruction and I observed student behavior demonstrating more time on task and independence.  Bravo! 
Our meeting for scoring  student papers was very productive.  The feedback many teachers gave regarding the impact of their teaching using the Calkins' framework was impressive.  I would like to add that without good teachers, the framework is not successful.  Thank you for doing such a good job.  Your students are lucky to have you as teachers.
During my visit, Cherie, Megan, and I are planning on making one coaching visit to each of you to observe your guided reading.  We will be doing this Monday-Wednesday.  I am assuming, most of the observations will be in the morning time slot, so we are requesting you contact Cherie this week with a day and a specific time so she can create a schedule.  Also, please have copies of your guided reading lesson plan available for us prior to our visit.
See you soon,


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Here are some grreat articles on building stamina - a topic we discussed earlier this week. Enjoy! Courtesy of Choice Literacy!

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
October 15, 2016 - Issue #523
If you are having trouble reading this newsletter, click here for a Web-based version.
Family Run
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, "I’m Possible"!

                                                                                   Audrey Hepburn
My four kids and I are preparing to run a 5K. They’re almost always grouchy when we head out the door, and it all comes down to one thing: Running is hard.
Hannah is in the best condition of all of us. She runs fall cross country, winter running club, and summer running club. She doesn’t like to push herself, though, so I made this rule: If I pass Hannah, then she is on laundry duty for the day.
Stephanie is built like a power forward for the basketball court. She is not built like a runner. Running hurts her toes, ankles, knees . . . and all the other 2,000 parts of her. She had a hard time breathing, too. I took her to the doctor, and they said she has asthma. An inhaler has made the running go better. Breathing makes a big difference in the enjoyment of a run.
Jay is a tank. He’s running to be better on the football field. He’s mentally tough and just keeps going. The problem is he doesn’t run a straight line. He weaves. When he weaves, he cuts people off, and it is likely the person behind him will trip. Usually it’s Stephanie behind him. Usually she falls flat. Then lies there for too long, yelling at Jay’s back that he should run straight.
Sam is built like a runner, but is still developing the mental toughness to be a runner. When he’s feeling strong, he flies like a bullet train. (That’s his analogy, not mine.) When the running is hard, it is likely he’ll sit down on the edge of the road and wait for the return trip.
I hope I never quit running because, man, it’s not fun becoming a runner. I keep telling myself it’s going to get easier, but I’m gasping for air and I’m wondering if maybe it's so hard because I’m not in my twenties anymore.
Meanwhile, I remember I’m a fellow runner and a mom. It wouldn’t be a very good example to collapse, so I encourage instead.
Stephanie says, “I’m going to fall over.”
I say, “I know.”
Sam says, “My legs are going to fall off.”
I say, “I know.”
Hannah says, “I have to slow down.”
I say, “I know” and, “Have fun doing the laundry.”
Jay doesn’t say anything because tanks don’t talk. They just keep going.
Sometimes the best encouragement is affirmation that this thing we’re doing is really hard. I call out the remaining time, and we keep plodding alongside the endless cornfields. At the end of the run, we are all still upright. No one has quit breathing. No legs have fallen off. The kids aren’t arguing any more. They smile and laugh. They encourage one another and say thanks for the help. They go again the next time, because the feeling of impossible becoming possible always sticks with a person.
It reminds me of facing hard tasks in the classroom. Kids face many challenges that seem impossible. There’s stress when we face tasks that we may fail at doing. It’s not fun to keep going in the midst of hard. Sometimes all that’s needed is affirmation that things feel impossible, but when we keep trying, impossible turns to possible.

This week we look at building stamina in young learners. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Ruth Ayres
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: or Pinterest:]    

"Why do you always say 'Happy reading!' to us?" This question from a first grader leads Katrina Edwards to develop visual support tools for building stamina during reading workshops in her first-grade classroom:

Stamina is a term we use often in literacy instruction, but it can be tricky for students and teachers to define in classroom contexts.  Heather Rader looks at the specific attributes of writing stamina, as well as how to model it for students:

Kate Umstatter has tips for helping students stay focused:

Join us in November for two online courses focused on leadership skills. Jennifer Allen leads Better Meetings (November 2 - 13) and Jennifer Schwanke is the instructor for The Principal's Role in Evaluating and Supporting Literacy Instruction (November 28 - December 2). You'll get personal responses to all your questions, view webcasts, and receive books, DVDs, and online resources to enhance the learning. Click on the link for details:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Agenda for Calkins Writing teachers, K-5 on October 13, 2016

 Agenda October 13, 2016

  • 8:00-8:10  Getting Organized.  

  • 8:10-9:10  SCORE by grade, high medium and low.  

                            Ten minutes for each grade level.

  •  9:10-9:30  Review the spread sheets.  These will be sent by e-mail.

  • 9:30-10:00  Mini-Lesson Format  


    See you soon. 


    Vinalhaven Writing Workshop
    Mini-lesson Format
    Topic : _____________________   Session:  #____           Date:_______ 
    Getting Ready:
    *Name the Teaching Point:
    Active Engagement:
    Conferring and Small Group: 
    Conferring - Students:
    Small Groups – Students:
    Mid-Workshop Teaching:

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Upcoming October 11-13 Visit

Good Morning, Everyone,
I hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend. As I write, it is raining hard here on the mainland...just the kind of a day for a good read. 
I am writing to confirm my October 11-13 visit.  Following is my tentative schedule.

On Tuesday, I plan to spend the day with Cherie and Megan - continuing to work on the data and scheduling.  If we have any time, I would like to get some classroom visits in as well.*

On Wednesday, I would like to continue to make classroom visits - looking at guided reading.  This will require a schedule accompanied by lesson plans given to Cherie prior to my arrival.*

On Thursday, I will be working with the K-5 teachers during the time Bruce has given us.  It looks like we will have a few hours in the afternoon.  

We will be reviewing writing data and using it to plan mini lessons.
Please remember to bring:
  •  the high, medium, and low narrative writing papers from your class,
  • 8 copies of each paper to be distributed to the teachers, (Do not scores these copies.  We will do that when we are together.)
  • your copy of Calkins' Writing Pathways,
  • your laptop.
This is a tentative outline.   As always, I will be flexible based on teacher and student needs.
I am looking forward to visiting all of you and sharing all of the exciting teaching/learning that is happening in your classrooms.
See you soon,

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

September 19-21, 2016 Visit. Following is a photographic journal of my first visit at Vinalhaven School. While there, I observed many of the responsive classroom practices in place as well as powerful literacy instruction. Bravo!

  • Mr. Warren's 4/5 ELA
  • Mr. Warren reviews the plot line graphic organizer students and teacher have used to analyze stories they are reading together as well as a story they have written as a class. 

    • The terms they learned are used interchangeably in reading and writing.  The literary terms are academic language.
    •  Each student has a copy of the graphic organizer on their desk.

    • After reviewing the terms and modeling the writing process, students begin to work on writing craft - learning the difference between telling and showing.  Mr. Warren allows students to discuss their thoughts and then begin writing, circulating among the students and coaching them as needed. 

    •  Teaching and modeling a writing strategy and then individualizing instruction based on one to one needs incorporates the best instructional strategies.

    Mrs. Paquet's 4/5 Science
    • Mrs. Paquet teaches close reading, according to CCSS guidelines, to a heterogeneously grouped 4/5 class.  Students read the same article.  Mrs. Paquet had students read the first part of the article on the computer as the computer read the article to the students. 

    • Next Ms. Paquet, read the article to the class as they followed along.  She stopped at strategic points, allowing students to go back into the text in order to reread and infer the meaning of the two vocabulary words they were investigation.  Directions were given in order to instruct students in strategic thinking.

    • Strategic teaching with appropriate scaffolding is key to students success.
     Ms. Reidy's 3rd Grade ELA
    • Ms. Reidy's classroom is populated with anchor charts in many content areas.  These charts support students as they learn and implement new learning strategies.

    • Ms. Reidy introduces a writing anchor chart.  She introduces the new chart as she scaffolds children applying new strategies to examples from their writing this afternoon.   
    • Modeling, scaffolding, and applying strategies to their individual work, insures student success.
    Mrs. Andrews' 2nd Grade ELA
    •  During the literacy acquisition stage, many students need time to practice strategies teachers have modeled.  This period of literacy development is about learning the strategies and taking them to the level of automaticity.  Establishing this process at the beginning of the year is crucial.  Here, students work to practice new strategies learned based on their individual needs.

    • Schedules and Anchor Charts are posted around the room to guide students' practice.

    • Individualized instruction followed by practice assures student success!