Posts tagged ‘best practice’

Five Must Have Literacy Books to Add to Your Shelf

“A child who can read will be an adult who thinks.” By Sasha Salmina

The goal of literacy instruction is to build students confidence, ability and skills in reading and writing. There are numerous engaging, effective strategies to get students to think about, write about, read about, and talk about content. Below are five of my favorite books (in no particular order) to help improve literacy instruction.


  1. Mindsets and Moves: Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge, Grades 1-8 by Gravity Goldberg
  2. Who’s Doing the Work?: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris 
  3. Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration by Pernille Ripp
  4. The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers by Jennifer Serravallo – She also recently came out with

    The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers and I have heard great reviews but have not personally read it yet.

  5. From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools for Tansforming K-6 Literacy Practices- A Teachers Guide for Embedding Technology Into Curriculum by Katie Stover Kelly and Lindsey Yearta

If there is a literacy book you think that should be added to this list, please add it in the comments section, as I am always wanting to build my toolkit and book list.

Engaging Instructional Strategies

“Instruction does not prevent wasted time or mistakes; and mistakes themselves are often the best teachers of all.” By James Anthony Froude

Instructional strategies are one of the most important elements for an engaging and effective learning environment. When instructional strategies are linked to the needs and interests of students along with being tied to the curriculum, outcomes, and assessment; learning is enhanced. Below are some of my favorite engaging instructional strategies:

All Areas:

  1. Playlist and/or Pathways
  2. Effective Questioning
  3. Sketch Notes
  4. Think Pair Share
  5. Turn and Talk
  6. Jigsaw
  7. Student Led-Conference
  8. Accountable Talk
  9. R.A.F.T (Role, Audience, Format and Topic)
  10. Socratic seminar


  1. Close Reading
  2. QAR (Question Answer Response)
  3. Story Boards


  1. Number Talks
  2. Visual representation (pictures, manipulatives etc)
  3. Teach Me/Show what you know (videos, books etc)

Content Areas (SS, Science etc)

  1. Discovery/Inquire Based Learning
  2. Science Notebooking
  3. Debates/Role Playing

Progress Monitoring:

  1. Alternative/Authentic Assessments
  2. Entrance/Exit Tickets
  3. Goal setting and reflection

Digital Instructional Strategies: Using technology as a tool to increase effectiveness and efficiency for the student, teacher, and parent.

  1. Collaboration with Google Drive apps such as docs
  2. Read&Write for Google Chrome and Drive
  3. Blogging, Vodcasting or Podcasting

Books and Sites for more engaging strategies:

The Reading Strategies Book and The Writing Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo

Students Taking Charge: Inside the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom by Nancy Sulla

Glossary of Instructional Strategies




Dyslexia Awareness Month

Guest blog post by the fabulous Megan Mehta!

“[Dyslexia] is more common than you can imagine. You are not alone. And while you will have this the rest of your life, you can dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go and it will not hold you back.”  – Steven Spielberg, Director


It’s October, and along with relief from the hot temps of summer and beautiful foliage, there are opportunities to learn and grow about a variety of causes. One that affects us as educators because it can so profoundly affect our students is dyslexia. October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and it’s important that we are armed with information about this relatively common learning issue, because our good intentions can be for nothing because of misconceptions, misinformation and a general lack of knowledge on the subject.

What Dyslexia is NOT:

  • Reversal of letters and numbers: this is a fairly common characteristic of developing readers and writers. Though some dyslexic students may do this, it is not a definitive indicator of dyslexia.
  • Something that primarily affects boys: Both boys and girls can be affected– it’s not a picky issue!
  • Laziness or lack of intellect: People with dyslexia are quite the opposite! I look at my own daughter who is not reading on grade level because of her dyslexia, yet has an astounding processing speed and such a unique way of looking at problems that she often has to walk me through her way of thinking to help me understand.
  • Something that will be outgrown: Dyslexics are that way for life.

What Dyslexia IS:

Dyslexia is a specific reading disability and it causes the brain to process graphic symbols differently. It is characterized by difficulties in word recognition, spelling, and decoding; as well as reading comprehension. The National Center for Learning Disabilities says that dyslexia is a neurological and often genetic condition, and not the result of poor teaching, instruction, or upbringing; nor is it linked to intelligence.

It is also something that may affect up to 20% of people. However, symptoms can present as mild, moderate, severe, and everywhere in between. Some people may be able to develop enough coping skills to manage to get through school without too much support, yet their self-esteem might take a hit because they start to believe they aren’t as smart as everyone else. Students with dyslexia that is unrecognized will start to believe that they are lazy, not smart, not as good as their peers and this can profoundly affect them for life.

How Can I Help My Student or My Own Child if I Suspect Dyslexia?

Begin by educating yourself, whether you read an article or two at the bottom of this post, or take advantage of a workshop in your area. Talk to the reading specialists in your school, or the special education teacher to help you with strategies you can use. Helping kids develop a growth mindset can also have a big impact. Children who are dyslexic, or struggle with dysgraphia or dyscalculia need to be taught differently than their peers. They need a systematic approach that will teach them to process written language in the way best suited for how their brain is wired. These approaches can be found in the offerings of Orton-Gillingham, or the Barton program, among others.

Unfortunately, the public schools in North Carolina do not specifically test for or diagnose dyslexia. If it severe enough, it may show up under the umbrella of “specific learning disability” but that’s not always a guarantee. North Carolina is one of 11 states that does not yet have a law addressing the specific learning needs of students with dyslexia. Fortunately, there are groups that are working hard to change this. In the meantime, as teachers we need to be a voice for all our students and do what we can to help them reach their full potential: be compassionate, be empathetic, and know the power you have to make a big difference in the life of a child.


Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity

National Center for Learning Disabilities

The Rankin Institute offers professional development for educators and parents in Charlotte, NC

Decoding Dyslexia- NC


  • Medical News Today. MediLexicon International. Web.
  • Lapkin, Emily. “Understanding Dyslexia.” 02 Apr. 2014. Web.
  • Shaywitz, Sally E. Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2003. Print.
  • “Yale Center For Dyslexia & Creativity.” Yale Center For Dyslexia & Creativity. Web.

Transforming Literacy Practices with Digital Tools

“Technology can and should be used as a tool to open the classroom to the world, to ensure that teachers present standards in a way that fosters active engagement and participation in meaningful ways.” – from Pencils to Podcasts 

Guest blog post by Katie Stover Kelly

Who knew what started as a partnership between my education students at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina and Lindsay Yearta’s fifth graders in Rock Hill, South Carolina would become a catalyst for a larger endeavor. In 2013, both groups of students read Linda Sue Park’s novel, A Long Walk to Water  and used Kid Blog as a platform for ongoing conversation about the book. This digital book club enhanced the fifth graders’ motivation and engagement in reading while providing the preservice teachers with a hands-on experience working with elementary-aged learners. The online reader response provided the preservice teachers with authentic assessment and instructional opportunities without having to physically be present in the classroom. They used students’ written responses as a springboard for online conversation about the shared text. The preservice teachers modeled proficient reader strategies like connecting, predicting, and inferring. They then probed and engaged the fifth graders through questioning to elicit deeper comprehension and discussion of the text.

When sharing about this mutually beneficial blogging partnership at the International Literacy Conference in 2014, we were asked by Solution Tree Publishers to consider writing a book about ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning. Fast forward two years later and we are thrilled to announce our new book titled, From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools to Transform K-6 Literacy Practices will be released at the end of August. In this book, we share more about the online book club as well as over a dozen other suggestions for embedding technology into the curriculum to prepare students to meet the demands of the 21st century. We offer practical suggestions for integrating digital tools into familiar literacy practices to facilitate comprehension, evaluation, publication, and assessment. Each chapter provides a vignette, easy-to-use digital tools, step by step instructions for getting started as well as authentic classroom examples and suggestions for adapting across content areas.

We would love to hear from you as you try out and adapt any ideas from the book in your own schools!  Our Twitter handles are: Katie Stover @kstover24 and Lindsay Yearta @lyearta 

From Pencils to Podcasts

Join #21stedchat on October 2nd, 2017 @ 8:00 EST PM with @edu_thompson and @dprindle with guest host @kstover24 as we discuss the book From Pencils to Podcasts: Digital Tools to Transform K-6 Literacy Practices 

To read more about the blogging partnership and other publications by Katie Stover, visit

Also check out another great book coauthored by Katie Stover, Smuggling Writing: Strategies That Get Students to Write Every Day, in Every Content Area, Grades 3-12



Meeting the Whole Child through Cultural Responsiveness

“Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. When we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart. ” By Ed Koch

Almost a year ago I wrote a blog post about creating a culturally responsive classroom and since then it has been a topic that I have been interested in. To further my practice and understanding of the Whole Child, I have been attending culturally responsive leadership meetings my district has offered, read books and attended sessions at conferences on this topic. I find it fascinating as I love learning about different cultures and how it plays into the education world. Below are some of my take-aways from my learnings over the last year. These are high level take-aways and I encourage you to think about if you are culturally responsive educator and how are you trying to improve your craft to meet the Whole Child.

  1. I was able to hear Manny Scott, an original Freedom Rider at ASCD conference in Atlanta. He was one of the best keynotes I have heard. He made me laugh, cry while also being able to push my thinking around culture responsiveness. Manny gave us a new lens to look through as educators and how one educator made a difference in his life. Here are some of my take aways/reminder from Manny:
    1. What a powerful reminder that dropping out is a process, not an event.
    2. You will not reach anyone if you vilify the things they find important. Become a student of your students. (think about their culture and background)
    3. Giving up on students is unacceptable. We might be the only chance some have in this world.
    4. Do not let labels of students determine your relationship with them.
  2. I thought The Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People was a captivating book. It really opened my eyes to how I look at things. Now I have a better understanding of myself and others. For example how often times we assume our culture is the right culture and make judgments based on our beliefs such as ‘this parent didn’t show up to a parent teacher conference, they don’t care about the students education like they should.’ Meanwhile the conferences are held during the teachers preferred time, not necessarily taking into consideration some parents work different shifts or multiple jobs so their child can have things they need.
  3. I have read a lot of articles/blogs but I highly recommend reading this great article: The Culturally Responsive Educator. It is about how culturally responsive classrooms is more than food, traditions and flags; “cultural responsiveness is a frame of mind in which we view the tasks of teaching through the lens of cultural diversity.” It offers great examples and ideas of things to think about in your classroom or school.


Moving Through The Continuum of Instructional Models

“Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students.” By Solomon Ortiz

As we continue to change out instructional practices in the classroom, I think the difference between teacher centered, student centered and student driven need to be defined better. I do not see student centered and student driven as interchangeable as they are not the same. I see these instructional models as a continuum and defined below.Slide3 copy.jpgWe need to help move teachers across the continuum so that our classrooms are becoming places where students are agents of their own learning which is what Personalized Learning is all about. Personalized Learning leads to more student motivation, independence and empowerment. How do we move teachers across this continuum? Here are few ways to start making the shift across the continuum; the most important thing is to remember to start small and at your pace.

From Teacher Driven to Student Centered:

  • Allow students to have choice through a standard based choice board
  • Implement a workshop model
  • Allow students to self assess after a project is complete (self-assessment)
  • Allow students to set goals.

From Student Centered to Student Driven:

  • Allow students to own and track their own data
  • Allow students to chose what task they want to complete off their data
  • Allow students to plan lessons of skills they have mastered

The hardest thing for teachers to do within each model is the release of control to the students. As you move across the continuum, the teacher has less control which often gets confused with not having any classroom management but this should not be the case. There always should still be rules and clear expectations in the classroom no matter what model you are utilizing.



Ideas to Steal for Your Classroom

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”  By William Pollard

One of the best parts of my job is that I’m in many different types of classrooms every day and I see amazing things going on. I also regularly checkout Twitter, blogs, Pinterest etc and see amazing ideas! Todays blog post are the top ideas that I think are worth sharing so that my readers can steal for their classrooms.

1. Gamification with BattleShip:  I first saw Periodic Table Battleship on Pinterest and thought it was creative. You can have students do this with other topics such as vocabulary words.


Learning Battleship

2. Learning Pods: I recently went into a 1st grade classroom and she has learning pods that she created out of bins. The kids love them and it redefines the learning environment for low cost.

learning pods

3. Social Cue Cards: I have seen these cards being used in K-2 classrooms to help teach students social cues when working in a group.

4. Learning Carpet is a permanently gridded, 100 square floor mat (6 feet square and bound on all sides), on which children from Kindergarten to Grade 5, are able to develop their understanding of different concepts through kinesthetic learning. For example I have seen it be used for graphing, as a hundreds board chart, for geometry or for site words. The site has lots of resources and ideas as well.

5. Ted-Ed Clubs  supports students in presenting their big ideas in the form of short TED-style talks. Some students may even end up on the TED stage! Want to learn how to start a TED-Ed Club?  Download the TED-Ed Club information packet.  I have seen amazing student Ted Ed’s on all different topics from ‘Understanding How Vitamin D Works’ from a fourth grader to ‘Redefining Feminism’ by a 10th grader.



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