Category Archives: Literacy

Supporting Oral Language Development in Writing Workshop, 1-4

Oral Language

By Anna Cockerille

Because of the myriad ways writing workshop and oral language development are linked, it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Put simply, during writing workshop, there is a lot of talk. It is a time in which children use language in authentic ways, seamlessly and purposefully integrating academic and social vocabulary as they work. Children rehearse for writing aloud, talking to plan what they are going to write. They brainstorm solutions to tricky parts with a partner. They discuss their writing process in metacognitive ways about during conferences with a teacher. 

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Santa Fe Multi-Day Institute 2018: Day One

Santa Fe wears the name The Land of Enchantment. This weekend, it also becomes our land of inquiry. Here, we not only embark on learning journeys to enrich our teaching lives and draw parallels to our work with students, but we invite ourselves into the tension and struggle of crucial skills: collaboration, vulnerability, advocacy, confronting fears, and so much more. 

To create change in our schools we need to ask questions about our practices. Big questions. Specific questions. Hard questions. Questions that, if not asked, will drastically change access, inclusion, and the learning experience for our children. 

As we were welcomed by our leader and host, Harvey “Smokey” Daniels, Kristin Ziemke declared that this institute is certainly a family reunion for the authors, “so consider yourselves part of the family”. 

To be vulnerable in one’s learning process requires a connection with other learners, a space where we share the human condition, share space as family. Do our students have these conditions in our schools and classrooms? Do we consider our colleagues family? Can we create change and become lifelong learners in pursuit of knowledge, creativity, equity, and social justice without these conditions?

The excitement grew through the afternoon (as evidenced by chart paper, markers, and high-energy conversation) and small groups built a plan for their investigations. But inquiry, we have already learned, is more than just an engaging way to learn content and demonstrate mastery. We should ask ourselves, as nudged by Cornelius Minor during his keynote:

Take look below through some of the tweets and links shared from our learning community on Saturday. Be sure to follow us on Twitter via @HeinemannPD and #HSantaFe18 and on Instagram @HeinemannPub to share in the thinking from this multi-day institute. 


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Lifting the Level of Your Character Work in Reading and Writing About Reading

Character work

By Anna Cockerille​

First, a brief explanation of character work. There is reading for plot, and there is reading for characters. The latter means reading in a way in which one follows the characters, lives the story alongside them, feels their emotions, gets to know them perhaps better than they know themselves. When teaching students to become deeper, more insightful, more engaged fiction readers, character work is everything. Readers who read strictly for plot nearly always remain stuck in literal interpretations of text. They can retell and summarize, and they can determine when meaning has broken down. But, they typically struggle with more complex reading skills such as inferring, predicting, determining themes, and interpreting lessons. If you’d like to teach your students to become more insightful readers, start by teaching them this one radical shift in approach: teach them to read for the characters, not just for the plot. 

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Creating Powerful Book Clubs 4-8

Teaching Middle School Reading Units of Study: Tips from the AuthorsWritten by Anna Cockerille

Walk into a classroom where students are engaged in book club conversations, and it may look as if the teacher has an easy job. She (or he) circulates, dropping in on this conversation, then that one, offering a tip, whispering encouragement to a club member, making a salient point about a book. She may even stand back, observing students while they talk. It appears as if students are doing all the work: they huddle in groups, leaned in toward each other, listening fervently, jotting notes, flipping though pages of their marked-up books. 

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Helping Kids Dig Deep & Fly High in Graphic Novels, 2-8

Graphic Novels

Written by Anna Cockerille​​

First, what are graphic novels? They are any type of novel written in a comic book style, that is, they are designed with a combination of pictures and words set in a story sequence. They come in a wide range of levels and genres, and are captivating more readers than ever. There are humorous, realistic novels, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants. There are mysteries, like The Invention of Hugo Cabret. There are historical fiction reads, like Maus. And there are fascinating hybrids, like Bayou, a historical fiction/fantasy blend. 

Often, graphic novels are more sophisticated than they first appear. Case in point: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are a guided reading level R, which puts them at around a middle-of-the-year fourth grade level. Graphic novels may not have as many words as a traditional novel, but they still have all of the complex structures (and sometimes more) characteristic of higher-level books, such as: shifts back and forth in time, many characters to follow and minor characters that matter, changes in setting, foreshadowing. At times, they require more inference work than traditional novels, because they have less narration and more of the story told through dialogue and of course, pictures. 

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Heinemann Fellow Tricia Ebarvia: “How Inclusive Is Your Literacy Classroom Really?”

In 1981, my family moved eighteen miles from northeast Philadelphia to the suburbs. Because I had just turned five, my parents decided we needed to move into a better school district. This meant moving from a predominantly black neighborhood to a predominantly white one. I didn’t know it then, but it would be my first lesson in how segregation works.

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