Archive for October, 2018

Literacy and Classroom Strategies

“In classrooms where writers flourish, students engage with the world around them, noticing things that not everyone else sees.”
Jeff Anderson and Whitney La Rocca, Patterns of Power

The Power of Conversation

Experimenting and Playing with Language
No more chanting rules or grammar worksheets for Jeff Anderson and Whitney La Rocca, coauthors of Patterns of Power. Join them in real classrooms as they invite elementary students to explore the essential grammar conventions. Watch here.

Race Talk in the Classroom
In this video “Let’s All Get Woke: Engaging Students in Conversations About Race,” three educators, including Shawna Coppola, author of Renew! Become a Better—and More Authentic—Writing Teacher, offer insights and dispel common misperceptions.

Nuances of Race ConversationsIn this Teach Me, Teacher podcast, Matthew R. Kay, author of Not Light, But Fire, continues his discussion of meaningful race conversations. “As a country we’re fraudulent in our conversations about race—left, right, and center,” says Kay, who urges teachers to “normalize race conversations.”

In this short Stenhouse video, Kay urges teachers to tread carefully when it comes to impromptu race conversations. Take time; don’t rush headlong into “teachable moments,” he advises “Reflection is important.”

Strategic Work of Reading

Children go through a collection of strategic processes that work together to help them comprehend text. Writing on a Lesley University blog, Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, authors of Who’s Doing the Work? Lesson Sets, share insights on the subtler aspects of teaching students to be strategic.


Authors at LFA Conference
Burkins and Yaris (above), will be speaking at the Literacy for All Conference Oct. 28-30, along with J. Richard Gentry, co-author of the forthcoming BrainWords: How the Science of Reading Informs Teaching, and Trevor Bryan, author of The Art of Comprehension: Exploring Visual Texts to Foster Comprehension, Conversation, and Confidence.

Check the schedule here.

On Monday, Oct. 29, don’t miss the chance to meet these Stenhouse authors and get your book signed:

Math Reflections

A “Dehumanizing” Assessment
Math coach and Stenhouse editor Kassia Omohundro Wedekind takes up a controversial subject in her “Why iReady is Dangerous” blog post. Calling the assessment “dehumanizing,” Wedekind critiques the way iReady reports data and makes suggestions for instruction.

Coaching that Lasts
Check out this post on the long-lasting benefits of receiving high-quality coaching and professional development from Lucy West, author of the new video-rich Adding Talk to the Equation: A Self-Study Guide for Teachers and Coaches on Improving Math Discussion.

Add comment October 25th, 2018

Art, Race, and Lifelong Learning

“Nearly all students—non-readers, striving readers, and beginning readers—can decode visual texts, such as illustrations and paintings, effectively.”
Trevor Bryan, author of The Art of Comprehension 

Looking Closely at Literacy

In the Mood for Art?
“Most artworks are crafted around moods,” says Trevor Bryan, author of forthcoming The Art of Comprehension: Exploring Visual Texts to Foster Comprehension, Conversation, and Confidence. Watch this short video on how he helps students engage with art through his original “access lenses.” Preview and order here.



Rethinking Guided Reading
“Guided reading is a temporary scaffold to assist students to become self-regulating, self-reliant readers,” writes Regie Routman, author of Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners. Read her MiddleWeb blog and explore her four “crucial considerations” for being fair and equitable to all students.

Working with Older Spellers
Mark Weakland, author of the upcoming Super Spellers Starter Sets, has lots of ideas for reaching older spellers, especially 4th through 6th graders. Check out his blog for suggestions, including “jaw drop;” “I say, we say, you say, you write;” deep and rich word lists; and more.

Math Tools for the Classroom

Stenhouse Math Author “Has Our Backs”
In a review of Number Sense Routines: Building Mathematical Understanding Every Day in Grades 3-5 by Jessica Shumway, math teacher Rebecca Crockett says Shumway has “given me all the tools… to commit to using number sense routines.”

Leading Robust Math Conversations


Watch this short video from Lucy West, author of the new, video-rich edition of Adding Talk to the Equation, about how teachers can help facilitate a discussion and increase student engagement in rich, robust conversations around math.



Lifelong Learning

On Talking About Race in Class
“It takes almost as much effort to not talk about race as it does to talk about it,” says Matthew Kay, author of Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom. Hear his reflections, dos and don’ts, and helpful hints on this teacher’s podcast.

Close Up: Mentoring a New Teacher
As a first-year teacher, having a mentor can make the difference between feeling overwhelmed or exhilarated. Shawna Coppola, author of Renew! Become a Better—and More Authentic—Writing Teacher, reflects on her six-episode podcast about mentoring a first-year kindergarten teacher.

“Insatiable Appetite” for Learning
Paula Bourque, author of the forthcoming Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms, reveals her hunger for learning and how she takes charge of her own professional development in her latest blog post “nErDs Unite!”

Teach More, Manage Less
Explore these one and two-day workshops presented by Gail Boushey and Allison Behne of The 2 Sisters: Daily 5 literacy block framework, behavior strategies for keeping all your students on-task, and the CAFE Literacy protocol for individual assessment and teaching. Learn about Detroit, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, and Orange County live workshops.

Add comment October 11th, 2018

Close Up: Mentoring a New Teacher

By Shawna Coppola

Author of Renew! Become a Better—and More Authentic—Writing Teacher

As a first-year teacher, having a mentor can make the difference between feeling overwhelmed and feeling exhilarated. We invited Stenhouse author and experienced educator Shawna Coppola to document her experience with mentoring Laura during her first year as a kindergarten teacher. Please join us and follow their six-episode podcast (links below) as they experience Laura’s first year in her classroom.

When Stenhouse asked me if I wanted to mentor a new teacher through her first year and record the experience for posterity, I barely took a breath before saying yes. As someone who has taught for nearly two decades, I still feel the desire to be mentored, to surround myself with supportive individuals who understand the joyful, yet challenging, life of an educator and who can occasionally offer a sage piece of advice, a thought-provoking question, a listening ear, or a much-needed laugh.

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway, and loudly, for those sitting in the back) that teachers are engaged in some of the most complex work imaginable: making hundreds of important decisions (often on the fly), masterfully integrating a seemingly endless variety of skills, and cultivating a near-superhuman capacity for empathy and grace.

When I met Laura, an educator in her first year, I was so impressed with her thoughtful, reflective approach to teaching. A kindergarten teacher in a K-6 public school serving approximately 300 students, Laura told me during our very first conversation that she knew from early on that she wanted to work with children. That first year, she taught 22 children largely independently, with only occasional access to a classroom aide. She described her students as kind, motivated to learn, and, for the most part, happy to be in school.

As we got to know each other, investigating together some of the challenges of that first year, we covered a lot of territory. Laura and I discussed social-emotional learning, managing a large group of children, a variety of literacy practices, how to balance short- and long-term demands, and the value of using mentors to teach writing. It was such an enriching, pleasurable experience for both of us!

Like many teachers, Laura found it difficult to balance building positive, healthy relationships with her students alongside managing them as a whole group. Her biggest challenges were related to planning and making decisions both ahead of time and in the moment. She worried about how to fit in valuable instruction around skills that many perceive as “non-academic” or “soft” along with more traditionally-recognized academic skills.

The first time we met, we discussed the enormous, all-too-familiar challenge of “fitting it all in”–particularly with regard to literacy–and how to maintain a daily schedule for her students that is meaningful, engaging, and developmentally appropriate. I advised her to keep a close eye on the big picture when it came to her students’ literacy experiences and to try to identify the experiences that gave both her and her students the “best bang for [their] buck”—a difficult, yet important, task.

[Listen to Episode 1]

As Laura continued to experiment with how to incorporate literacy instruction into her students’ day in a way that felt more integrated and less piecemeal, she reported that she was beginning to feel challenged by the social/emotional demands of her kindergartners. Like many classroom teachers, Laura was forced to juggle a wide variety of student needs with very little sustained guidance. She felt as though she was “drowning in behavior charts,” which ran counter to her desire to co-construct a healthy classroom community with her students. We agreed that social-emotional learning is at the heart of all good teaching.

[Listen to Episode 2]

As we worked together, Laura reported that she was seeing marked improvements. Her students were adjusting to the routines they’d established around their classroom literacy centers. Frequent check-ins were helping students develop their ability to reflect on their work in peer partnerships. With literacy centers running more smoothly, Laura decided she wanted to broaden literacy activities. Facilitated guided reading groups could help her support her students as they read connected text within their zone of proximal development. I offered Laura some advice for how to begin the challenging work of facilitating effective guided reading groups without becoming too overwhelmed.

[Listen to Episode 3]

By mid-year, assessment results indicated that Laura needed to invest more time in helping her kindergarten students practice decoding and encoding words. We discussed how she could modify some of what she already does with her students. We brainstormed ways she could incorporate additional multisensory work with letters and sounds to help students create even more neural pathways in the brain. I shared with her the many missteps that I and other teachers have made when helping students become more independent readers and writers.

[Listen to Episode 4]

So many options exist to elicit creativity from young students. Mentors—both professional mentors and student mentors—can inspire students to write while also opening up a world of possibilities for how they might make decisions as composers of text. Laura said her students benefited greatly from two things: noticing the different and varied craft moves of such beloved authors as Kevin Henkes and Mo Willems and trying them out in their own compositions. She said their excitement over the realization that they, too, could use these moves in their writing was palpable!

[Listen to Episode 5]

As we came to the end of our mentoring sessions, we talked about how to incorporate strategies to help students learn and retain sight words. As many teachers who work with our youngest students know, it can be enormously difficult to balance phonics work and word play with opportunities to listen to and read connected text—not to mention everything else that teachers must juggle within what often seems like a few short hours! Laura and I also reflected on this unique experience we shared and the many ways in which it has impacted our work as educators.

Add comment October 5th, 2018

New From Stenhouse

Most Recent Posts

Stenhouse Author Sites



Classroom Blogs