Debbie Miller, Cris Tovani, and Stephanie Harvey invite you to spend three days learning about comprehension theory and practice this summer in Denver.
Their Comprehension Times Three (CX3) institute, July 24-26, covers a range of topics including expanding comprehension across the curriculum, differentiating instruction, learning targets, assessment, and implementing small-group inquiry circles across the curriculum.
The early registration rate of $575 is available through May 1. Space is limited and early registration is recommended. Graduate credit is available for an additional cost. For a detailed agenda and registration info, visit the event site:
For more info about Stephanie and Cris, visit their websites at www.stephanieharvey.com and www.literacylabs.org.
April 18th, 2013
We will be in San Antonio this weekend, April 20-22, and we hope you will stop by at booth #1727. You will be able to browse and buy our books and receive a 25% show discount, meet our authors, and receive this FREE poster for your classroom or office.
This is also a great chance to find out more about our Read & Watch books. Authors Lee Ann Tysseling (Word Travelers) and Lee Ann Spillane (Reading Amplified) will be at the booth to present mini-sessions about their online books. Stop by to see what the buzz is about and receive a free trial!
Here is a list of author signings and mini-sessions:
Saturday, April 20
10 a.m.: Debbie Miller (Reading with Meaning)
11 a.m.: MINI-SESSION with Lee Ann Tysseling
1 p.m.: MINI SESSION with Lee Ann Spillane
2 p.m.: Steve Wolk (Caring Heart & Critical Minds)
2 p.m.: Jeff Anderson (10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know)
3 p.m.: Cris Tovani (Talk to Me)
3 p.m.: Brenda Overturf, Leslie Montgomery, Margot Holmes Smith (Word Nerds)
Sunday, April 21
9 a.m.: Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan (Assessment in Perspective)
11 a.m.: Carol Bedard and Charles Fuhrken (When Writing with Technology Matters)
Noon: Mary Shorey (Many Texts, Many Voices)
Noon:MINI SESSION with Lee Ann Tysseling
1 p.m. MINI SESSION with Lee Ann Spillane
1 p.m.: Debbie Diller (Moving into Math Stations)
3 p.m.: Steven Layne (Life’s Literacy Lessons)
Monday, April 22
9 a.m.: MINI SESSION with Lee Ann Spillane
10:30 a.m. Julie Ramsay (“Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing?”)
1 p.m.: MINI SESSION with Lee Ann Tysseling
April 16th, 2013
We continue our Poetry Month celebration with a poem by Lynne Dorfman. She also shares how the poem came to life. Revisit our previous National Poetry Month posts and don’t forget to download our free e-book filled with dozens of tips on teaching poetry.
Poetry is everywhere you look. Last night I started reading The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult and realized that one of her characters, Rocco, speaks in three short sentences or phrases that match the syllable count of haiku. Earlier that day I had downloaded an article, “Mastering Metaphor through Poetry” by Judith W Steinbergh, from Narrative magazine.
The rebirth of my garden and the woods behind my house speaks to me of poems waiting to be written, and I itch to open my new writer’s notebook and get it started with a poem. But today I do not write the garden or woodlands poem. Today I write about my Raggedy Ann doll and my biggest writing territory, my grandfather. He has always been the deep well I return to when I revisit my writer’s notebooks to find ideas I can explore and develop. Today, however, my notebooks do not provide the stimulus to write. As my gaze passes between Ga Ga’s photo (our name for him) and the little doll leaning against a portion of the silver frame, I know a poem is blooming in my mind’s garden. I grab the nearest pen and notebook, find an empty page, and begin to scribble furiously.
After some revision—deleting a few lines, changing the verb form, substituting for stronger nouns and verbs—I am ready to share with you.
By Lynne R. Dorfman
Raggedy Ann kept Grandpa company,
Traveling to work with him.
I stood on the curbside,
Jumping up and down . . .
Stretching to watch the old Dodge
Crawl-crawl-craaaaawl in turtle fashion
Down the friendly Emmaus street.
Grandpa waving Raggedy Ann out the window,
Grandma clutching my hand to keep me safe.
At twilight they would return,
Shining with stories about their day.
Minnie (that’s what I called her)
And Grandpa had deliciously delicious tales.
Allentown Plumbing and Heating Supply,
A bustling place filled with mostly men.
I was secretly greener-than-green with envy.
I wished I could have traded places.
I wished I could have been that doll.
I yearned for all her adventures,
The fun she had each day with Grandpa.
Now, every day, I see her nestled on my dresser,
My eyes lingering on the photo beside her.
The silvery hair and the too-much-time-in-the-sun face,
The hazel eyes that match my own and the high brow,
The strong hands that often held a rake or a saw,
The wisdom earned from being a stepfather and grandfather.
Wish I could trade that doll for Grandpa.
April 15th, 2013
We are excited to be heading to Denver next week for NCTM’s annual conference April 17-20. You can find us at booth #1717 where you will be able to purchase our books at a 25% discount, meet our authors, and receive this glorious poster for your classroom:
Here is a schedule of our author appearances at the booth:
Thursday, April 18
11 a.m. Chris Moynihan (Math Sense)
Noon: Jessica Shumway (Number Sense Routines)
Friday, April 19
Noon: Debbie Diller (Moving into Math Stations)
See you there!
April 10th, 2013
Noted literacy educator and author Steven Layne (Igniting a Passion for Reading) has received much attention over the years for his poem “Read to Them.” It inspired Life’s Literacy Lessons, a collection of poems first published over ten years ago, which has touched tens of thousands of teachers.
Now Steven has added six additional poems and five longer pieces of prose—anecdotes written in the voice and style of the stories he shares in his powerful keynote addresses—in a new edition to be published by Stenhouse next week.
Steven’s poems and stories about literacy teaching and learning are filled with honesty and wit that inspire educators at all grade levels. From grammar to handwriting, from standards to reading aloud, these short pieces highlight the tears, laughter, challenges, and rewards experienced by today’s teachers. It’s the perfect gift for a colleague, mentor, or your entire staff—anyone with a passion for creating lifelong readers and writers.
Life’s Literacy Lessons will start shipping next week, and you can pre-order and preview excerpts now.
April 9th, 2013
We continue our National Poetry Month celebration with a rap, written and performed by author Lynne Dorfman. Have you and your students written a rap, or other unconventional forms of poetry? Share it with us and win a free copy of Poetry Mentor Texts. Don’t forget to download our free e-book full of ideas for teaching poetry.
Columbus Day rap
By Lynne R. Dorfman
Last weekend I had a chance to see the movie Quartet. I was fascinated with Reggie, one of the aging musicians who lives at Beecham House. He regularly gives talks to teens about music, and my interest was piqued when one of the students explained rap and its similarities with opera. This scene is so powerful because it demonstrates the ability for different generations to bond and learn from one another.
The movie made me think about a rap I had written and performed as part of a presentation for my writing institute experience with the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project. My workshop was all about poetry, and I wanted to experiment with some forms I was not familiar or comfortable with. The result is the “Columbus Day Rap” I have included here. My own fourth-grade class performed the poem onstage the next year at my elementary school on Columbus Day. Later that same year, we created a “Dinosaur Museum” and students wrote their own raps to perform (in colorful T-shirts, shorts, and shades!) for our evening presentation to parents.
One of my colleagues at the Upper Moreland Intermediate School writes and performs his own raps on various stages in the Philadelphia area. He has shared his poetry with me and has encouraged me to join him to perform poetry live. I just might do that!
Columbus Day Rap
In fourteen hundred and ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He traveled all through Europe,
Searchin’ the land,
Lookin’ for somebody
To lend him a hand.
He’d almost given up
When he finally reached Spain
Where the rain falls mainly on the plain.
He sought out Isabella and King Ferdinand.
He said, “Come on, Isabella,
Please lend me a hand.”
He said, “Come on!”
He said, “Come on!”
“The world is round, not flat.
Let me prove it to you.
All I need is some money,
Three ships and a crew.”
And after Columbus was
Finished with his pitch,
She said, “Sail away,
Columbus. Go and
Make me rich!”
She said, “Sail on!”
She said, “Sail on!”
The Nina, the Pinta, and
The Santa Marie…
Three ships all went a sailin’
Across the sea.|
The sailors got discouraged,
They wanted to turn back—
But Columbus was determined,
Now that’s a proven fact!
A new route to the East
He was tryin’ to find,
But the sailors were convinced
He was losing his mind.
He discovered America,
The land of the free,
Where people take great stock
He became a broken man,
And he died the same . . .
But people to this day
Still remember his name.
He still sails on!
HE STILL SAILS ON!
Lynne Dorfman rap
April 8th, 2013
When our authors are not writing books, they are probably out and about teaching kids, giving presentations, or writing articles. Here is a sampling of some of their recent work:
Erik Palmer (Well Spoken, Digitally Speaking)
In this great article published on the MiddleWeb site, Erik talks about the importance of making public speaking a part of the classroom. He lists some tips on how to make the most of online tools and how to add life to recorded presentations. Read the full article on MiddleWeb.
Julie Ramsay (“Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing?”)
“When you begin a writing project with your students, do they jump up and cheer? Or do they roll their eyes, sigh, and grumble? Ever wonder how some teachers inspire young authors to blossom while others fight off the weeds that choke their students’ desire to write? That is where our story begins… “ writes Julie Ramsay in the opening paragraph of her article on the IRA website. Read the full story of how she turned her classroom into a place where children really want to skip lunch and keep writing.
Rick Wormeli (Fair Isn’t Always Equal, Differentiation)
Rick Wormeli’s advice on classroom practice, grading, differentiation, and many other subjects can — and has — filled books. In this guest article on MiddleWeb, he shares his top five strategies for teaching tweens.
Glennon Doyle Melton (Test Talk)
Before she was a Warrior on her popular blog Momastery.com, Glennon Doyle Melton wrote a book for Stenhouse with coauthor Amy H. Greene. Glennon was recently on the Today Show to promote her new book Carry On, Warrior. You can watch the video of her interview here.
Leslie Montgomery, Margot Smith Holmes, Brenda Overturf (Word Nerds)
Two of the authors of Word Nerds were featured in an article in the Kentucky Teacher recently, where they talked about their book and how they made vocabulary learning come alive for their students. “We knew that whatever we did, a huge role had to be that we were teaching them confidence and strategies to attack anything that’s unfamiliar instead of shutting down and being afraid of it,” she said. “Not only did we want to have a plan that obviously would increase their word bank, but also that would provide them a word confidence in themselves.”
April 2nd, 2013
On the official starting day of National Poetry Month we start off our celebration with a post from Rose Cappelli, coauthor of Poetry Mentor Texts. She asks — and answers — the question: Why poetry? What is it about poetry that captures our mind, heart, and spirit? Why are you celebrating and sharing poetry this month?
After her mother died, Caroline Kennedy published The Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In the foreword she states: “One of the greatest gifts my brother and I received from my mother was her love of literature and language.” Mrs. Onassis encouraged her children to read widely, and she often shared with them the books and poems she loved best. Caroline and John Kennedy were also encouraged by their mother to choose or write a favorite poem to give as holiday or birthday gifts for family members. What a wonderful tradition!
Poetry can help us share our thoughts, feelings, wishes, and dreams. With poetry, we can make things that seem small and insignificant into big ideas that help us make sense of the world. The perfect poem can help us express our emotions in the most eloquent of ways. One of my favorite poets is E. E. Cummings. I remember reading many of his poems in college and copying them onto small scraps of paper that I would eventually find tucked into books and notebooks, or perhaps in a pocket or purse. Most recently I included a copy of e.e. Cummings’s “i carry your heart with me” in the Valentine card I gave my husband. It was the perfect sentiment expressed in the perfect way, and I certainly couldn’t have said it any better than Cummings did.
Sharing poems with others is a special gift. A poem can provide comfort in difficult times when it is often hard to find the right words, or help a friend understand what you are feeling, or perhaps just bring out a smile or a laugh. Poetry can create memories passed on and shared through generations. The rhythms and rhymes of poems can help young children appreciate and develop a love of language that will serve them well throughout their schooling and beyond.
Caroline Kennedy put together two additional poetry collections: A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children and She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems. Over the years she has kept poems given to her and passed them on to others. “To me,” she writes, “that’s the gift of poetry—it shapes an endless conversation about the most important things in life.”
What poem will you share today?
April 1st, 2013
We continue our early National Poetry Month celebration with another Your Turn Lesson from Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, the authors of Poetry Mentor Texts on using strong verbs to create an image. Leave your short poem in the comments section for a chance to get a free copy of Poetry Mentor Texts!
White Wonderful Winter
Word choice is an important part of any kind of writing. Poets, especially, need to be conscious of the words they use as they create images with only a few words. In this lesson, writers are reminded of the power of strong verbs in writing. The scaffold provides a framework that ensures the success of all writers.
Hook: Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner is a wonderful source of verbs for this particular scaffolded poem. In the book, a young girl is cross-country skiing through the woods with her father, while under the snow is a secret world where animals eat, sleep, and hide. Students are fascinated by the activities of the animals, so it is a good idea to introduce this book as a read-aloud first before using it as a mentor text. Return to the book and ask students to listen for the verbs the author uses to describe the actions of the animals and the people. They can record them in their notebooks or on individual whiteboards.
Purpose: Writers, today I will show you how you can use strong verbs to create clear images for your reader. We will use this scaffold to create poems about winter:
White wonderful winter!
White wonderful winter!
Brainstorm: Together with the class, create a t-chart of verbs. On one side, list the verbs from the book that describe the actions of the animals and people. Students can brainstorm additional verbs for winter activities. For the other side, ask the class for verbs that could be used with snow. Your chart may look something like this:
Animals and People Snow
disappear glide scratch glistens
doze climb swoosh whispers
dodges snooze snore swirls
huddle snuggle scurry blows
cuddle listen build piles
ski leap cheer blankets
complain toboggan skate sparkles
Model: Use the scaffold to create a poem. Think aloud about the words you choose to use for the images you want to create. You can add other words, such as conjunctions or transition words, to help shape your poem. Here is an example from Rose’s notebook:
Snow blankets the earth while
Animals snooze peacefully underground
White wonderful winter!
Kids cheer joyfully and
Grown-ups cuddle by a cackling fire
White wonderful winter!
Shared/Guided Writing: Together with your students, create one or two poems. Discuss how the use of strong verbs helps create a more precise image. Students can also work in pairs or triads and share their thinking.
Independent Writing: Ask students to create their own winter poems using the scaffold. Some students may use the scaffold as a guide or adjust it slightly to meet their needs. Here is an example from a second grader:
A Winter Wonderland
Snow falls on the earth.
Of a warm spring!
White wonderful winter!
Kids ice-skate in an ice rink as
Grown-ups slurp hot cocoa.
White wonderful winter!
Reflection: Ask your students to reflect on how the writing worked for them:
Was creating the poem easy or hard? Why?
Did you revise your poem to use a stronger verb?
How did using a strong verb help you to create a clearer image in your writing?
Options: You can try this scaffold with other seasons or holidays, adjusting the phrases as needed—perhaps “Sizzling Sunny Summer” or “Thankfully Thankful Thanksgiving” or “Fabulous Festive Fall.” The book Outside, Inside by Carolyn Crimi compares and contrasts a thunderstorm brewing outside with what is happening inside a young girl’s house. It is also a good mentor text for strong verbs.
March 26th, 2013
We often hear of schools and districts that have built large-scale PD programs around Stenhouse books and videos. We wondered how they developed these initiatives and what sort of impact they were having on professional growth and student learning. So we’ve asked Stenhouse editor (and longtime education journalist) Holly Holland to interview the innovative staff developers and administrators behind these initiatives and write a series of case studies. In the first installment of the series, Holly writes about how the staff of the Owen J. Roberts Middle School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania restructured their thinking about assessment and grading through their work with Rick Wormeli’s book, Fair Isn’t Always Equal.
Be sure to leave a comment or ask a question — five lucky commenters will get a free copy of Fair Isn’t Always Equal!
Owen J. Roberts Middle School, Pottstown, PA
In his previous school administrative job, Robert Salladino led a faculty study of Fair Isn’t Always Equal (Stenhouse, 2006) and “felt this incredible connection” to author Rick Wormeli’s message about effective assessment and grading in the differentiated classroom. So in 2007, when Salladino became principal of Owen J. Roberts Middle School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, he made sure every teacher had a copy of the book.
Salladino and his leadership team also attended a two-day workshop with Wormeli and began encouraging teachers to implement recommended strategies such as letting students redo assignments and ensuring that all recorded grades were accurate, consistent, meaningful, and supportive of learning. The research supporting those practices is so strong that Salladino was surprised when many faculty members resisted the changes.
“We were hearing every argument that Rick mentions in the book,” Salladino said. “We were living it.”
Like Wormeli, he believes grades should indicate progress toward learning instead of reflecting an arbitrary and inconsistent collection of academic and nonacademic factors that might include test results, compliance with homework policies, subjective evaluations of effort, and points for class participation.
“The traditional way of thinking about grades is they reward kids or punish kids. We really have to say that grades are informational,” Salladino said. “One of the things we took away from Rick’s work is that in order for grades to be meaningful we have to focus on mastery learning. It should be about how well I learned, not how I turned in assignments. For late work and redoing work, for instance, we said to teachers: ‘The way we currently structure school, it’s set up so everybody should demonstrate mastery at the same time. If we let go of grades used to rank kids, what should it matter if you learned something after the teacher retaught it in a different way? It’s getting to the destination. It doesn’t matter if you needed a different route than the rest of the class. Ultimately, did you learn what we wanted you to learn?’”
Some teachers protested that letting students redo work would encourage them to shirk responsibility, whereas Wormeli and other assessment experts claim the opposite: If students have to keep revising their work until they meet high standards, they develop persistence and respect for excellence.
History teacher Michael Brilla and science teacher Stephen DeRafelo likened the philosophy to how they coach wrestling. Just as they don’t stop guiding kids when they perform poorly in a competition, which is a form of assessment about skill development, they also shouldn’t give up on students who need more time or instruction to understand subject content.
“If a kid bombed a test, why would I just move on?” asked DeRafelo. “If I’m structuring my class to build a knowledge base, it’s negligent of me to move on. The only way to offer the opportunity and encouragement for kids who didn’t get a lab right or a test is, ‘Let’s do this again.’”
Both teachers acknowledge they were initially skeptical about the value of shifting from traditional assessment and grading practices that expect everyone to learn at the same pace. Brilla had an “aha” moment when a colleague used the metaphor of two families traveling on the same day to Disney World. Must one family cancel the entire trip just because car trouble caused a delay in reaching the destination?
“As far as retests and redos, we talked about how as adults all the high-stakes tests we take you have the opportunity to do them over—the SAT, the LSAT, even the driver’s license test,” Brilla said. “The idea that you could learn from your mistakes from your first evaluation made sense to me then.”
Brilla and DeRafelo said they don’t offer retakes without reinforcing accountability. Working with students, they carefully analyze test results and design strategies that will help them do better the second time. Students and their parents must sign off on the plans, assuming ownership of the process. Brilla also asks students to complete a self-evaluation and reflection after every social studies project, which they then use to craft a plan to correct mistakes.
“I think kids are more willing to take risks than before because they know they will have the opportunity to fix things the next time,” Brilla said.
Salladino believes some teachers at Owen J. Roberts Middle School have resisted making similar changes because grading is one of the few areas in education they can control, and many are reluctant to open their practices to scrutiny. To persuade the skeptics, Salladino encourages teachers who’ve shifted to standards-based grading to share their successes with colleagues. Krista Venza, the school’s instructional support facilitator, said she also guides her colleagues to free resources, including explanatory videos and answers to common questions, which Wormeli has provided at a companion website.
“It’s really helpful for me to use Rick’s words to share with teachers,” Venza said. “It’s a different way of hearing it than maybe what I’ve been saying, another way for them to get it.”
While guiding the school’s veteran teachers toward fair and consistent grading practices, Salladino said he also questions job candidates to determine whether they would be supportive of the shift toward mastery learning. Additionally, new teachers receive copies of Day One and Beyond (Stenhouse, 2003), Wormeli’s guide for new middle-grades teachers, as part of the school’s induction program.
Salladino said he tries to model principles he expects teachers to use in the classroom in his own work with the faculty. For example, when new teachers turn in lesson plans, he does not offer a cursory and meaningless review. Instead, he suggests specific changes and asks them to resubmit the lesson plans after reflecting and revising their work. Before he distributes school communications, Salladino also seeks feedback from the assistant principal.
“We need to have the idea that all of our work needs polishing,” he said.
Math teacher Matthew Charleston took that message to heart last school year when he instituted a policy that students could retake any unit exam or major test. This school year he extended it to include all assignments, quizzes, and tests—with an important caveat. To take a similar but more difficult second assessment, students must correct and explain all errors in the previous version. High-performing students are easily motivated by the chance to improve their grades, he said. For struggling students, Charleston provides time during class or during breaks throughout the day to offer guided corrections.
“You see that ‘aha,’” he said. “They have more confidence.”
Charleston and other teachers who have adopted the changes recommended in Fair Isn’t Always Equal said they frequently encounter colleagues—including their own teaching spouses—who disagree with the different expectations. They believe evidence of their own successes will eventually sway the doubters. Having collegial conversations about difficult issues and giving teachers access to good professional resources is part of the plan to change the school’s culture one mind at a time.
“I want them to believe this is right for kids, not because my boss told me I had to do it,” Salladino said. “This has been no easy journey, but we continue to forge ahead. With each month and marking period I think we are bringing more people on board.”
March 21st, 2013