Category Archives: Conferring

What Does Research Say Adolescent Readers Need?

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A Preview from A Guide to the Reading Workshop: Middle Grades

by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth

Over decades of research (1977, 2002), Richard Allington has returned often to the three key conditions readers need to thrive:

  1. time to read,
  2. access to books they find fascinating, and
  3. expert instruction.

The first condition, time to read, means examining middle school schedules to make sure students get time to practice. Allington argued, and many other researchers have argued, that above all, students need time to engage in reading in order to get better at reading. Arguing for time for independent reading in schools, Donalyn Miller (2015) likens the situation of students needing to read in order to get better at reading to learning a sport or an instrument. No one ever asks the coach why his players are practicing on the field, and no one asks the music teacher why students are playing instruments during practice times. The only way to get better at doing something is to practice doing it. 

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How Can The Writing Strategies Book Help With Your Own Writing Goals This Summer?

brad-neathery-258926 (1)photo: Brad Neathery

Jennifer Serravallo's The Writing Strategies Book offers help for all steps in the writing process, and while it is intended for grades K–8, we find ourselves turning to it regularly to find new ways of thinking, refining, and sharpening our own writing.  Have you made a goal of writing more over the summer? Is it somewhat daunting? overwhelming? terrifying?

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When is Feedback Most Useful?

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In Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading: Shifting to a Problem-Based Approach, the new book by Vicki Vinton, she writes: 

"Feedback has long been seen as a powerful form of teaching, though increasingly researchers are recognizing that certain types of feedback are more effective than others. It turns out, for instance, that grades and written comments on student assignments, which are the most common type of feedback, are the least effective. That's because, as Dylan Wiliam writes in Embedded Formative Assessment, " in such situations, feedback is rather like the scene in the rearview mirror rather than through the windshield. Or as Douglad Reeves once memorably observed, it's like the difference between having a medical [checkup] and a postmortem.""

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The Arc of Motivation

NNTBT_NoMoreReading4Junk_1There will always be students who struggle with motivation to read. In No More Reading for Junk, Barbara Marinak and Linda Gambrell show that motivation is central to reading development. If students are not motivated to read, then they will not reach their full literacy potential. The authors provide research-based context for fostering reading motivation in children, and share strategies and techniques that are proven to transform students into passionate, lifelong readers.

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Fostering Independence and the Progression Of Literacy Development

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As authors Lindsey Moses and Meridith Ogden point out in their book What are the Rest of my Kids Doing?” Fostering Independence in the K—2 Reading Workshop, there are a variety of ways to discuss the stages of literacy development. Fountas and Pinnell (2011) developed a continuum of literacy learning with corresponding leveled text. Others use Lexile levels, Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) levels, Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) scores, grade-level expectations, or various norm-referenced assessments. Although Moses and Ogden assess reading performance of young learners using these tools, they note that a more general understanding of literacy progression helps to inform decisions made about developmentally appropriate practice. The National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and International Reading Association (IRA) identify phases in a continuum of early reading and writing (1998).

Moses and Ogden note that, IRA and NAEYC recommend effective reading instruction for kindergarten and primary grades that includes but is not limited to the following:

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How To Listen Better in Your Classroom

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Excerpted from Teaching Talk: A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking and Conversation by Kara Pranikoff


If you are interested in working on the talk in your room, the first step is to listen. All listening involves some level of bravery (it’s never easy to listen to yourself) and routine. It’s the only way to really know what is being shared and how the moves you make as a teacher are affecting student thought in your classroom. You need to find a way to save conversations and collect artifacts of your talk for assessment and reflection.

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