Master’s in Literacy Cohort Starting in SVVSD Fall ’18

We are happy to announce SVVSD and the University of Northern Colorado are teaming up to host a UNC cohort of their Master’s of Literacy program here in SVVSD. The five-semester program will be starting Fall 2018. To provide more information, UNC Program and Enrollment Manager Jon Shaw sat down to interview Program Coordinator Dr. Jim Erekson. Their interview is below. Space for this cohort, so sign up not. More information can be found on the program page here.

Interview with Jon Shaw and Dr. Jim Erekson

Shaw: What is UNC’s MA in Literacy?

Erekson: It is an education master’s program designed primarily for teachers who are looking for additional expertise in classroom literacy. Most of our graduates continue to be classroom teachers and use their knowledge in the classroom. However, this degree also qualifies teachers for the Reading Teacher endorsement that means graduates are also qualified to teach literacy intervention at the building level.

Shaw: Who enrolls for the program?

Erekson: It is a K-12 endorsement, so although elementary teachers we do have some middle and high school teachers enroll in the program. Special education teachers, Culturally & Linguistically Diverse teachers, and school librarians all have benefitted from this program—even people who already have a master’s degree enroll to earn this specialization!

The people who usually enroll want to know how to help more kids at their school succeed with literacy—they want to be part of the solution. Even teachers who have only been teaching for a year or two understand the importance of literacy and how it contributes to a child’s overall success in school.

Shaw: What kinds of courses are in the program?

Erekson: One of the main bonuses is that our program does not require a generalist core you have to take before the literacy classes’ start. It is 30 solid credits in literacy taught by faculty members with doctoral degrees specializing in Literacy. We have courses in elementary literacy, content literacy, literacy assessment, and writing. We focus on best practice, which means that when we dig into research and theory, it is always to discover and practice what to do in the K-12 classroom. We have a great mix of the practical how-to, and the theoretical to help teachers know why so they can make their own decisions.

Shaw: The faculty recently updated the program. What kinds of changes did you make?

Erekson: The program is now 30 credit hours instead of 33. This means not only is the program less expensive overall, but because the program now takes only five semesters instead of six—fall spring summer fall spring.

Shaw: What kinds of updates did you make to the courses?

Erekson: We added a couple of key courses. Our course on family & community literacy focuses on what teachers need to know about home and family literacy, and what kinds of programs exist in the community to support both families and schools. That course is also largely about oral language, and what teachers can do to even out the differences students bring to school from a variety of backgrounds. The second course we added is one on New Literacies. Teachers may feel behind as the literacy landscape becomes increasingly entwined with the audio and visual literacies we all experience digitally. Nevertheless, there is already a great body of practical research on teaching and learning with multi-modal literacies. This keeps us current with the field nationally, and offers key knowledge teachers need right now.

Shaw: Why offer a cohort at St Vrain?

Erekson: We did this a few years ago in the district and it was such a benefit to have a whole group of people sharing similar experiences, similar professional development agendas, and similar district vision and goals. We have been lucky to partner with Zac Chase in district literacy curriculum to find ways to make this program something the district values as well as helping teachers with their own goals. There is unity in a group when teachers from the same district decide to pursue a master’s degree in the same specialization. People develop a vision for the career and broaden their sense for who their colleagues are locally.

Shaw: So does the district partnership mean the classes will be in Longmont?

Erekson: Yes, absolutely. Zac Chase is working with us and we will teach at sites in St Vrain district. However, most of our courses are hybrid-online delivery.  This means we save those face-to-face meetings in Longmont for content we really want to have people in the same room for demonstration & practice, discussions & other group projects. For most of the courses, this means two weekends (Friday night and then Saturday) of face-to-face, with the rest online. This is another reason we are partnering with St Vrain—as the national market for masters programs shifts toward online only, with a local partnership like this we can afford to preserve some of the great value of face-to-face interactions while making the best use of online course tools. Our past program completers have often said they prefer learning face to face, but they are also okay with learning the ins and outs of an online course system. We think we have a great balance and the added benefit of partnership with Zac and the curriculum office. They see this as a valuable academic and professional development opportunity.

Program Page Hyperlink:

Program & Enrollment Manager:

Jon Shaw


Program Coordinator:

Dr. Jim Erekson


March ’18 Elementary Literacy Show: Technology and Literacy Learning

Classroom Recommendation: Using iPads to Build Fluency

In the Classroom: Using Nearpod in the G4 classroom with Courtney Groskin of Mountain View Elementary

Interview: Making the most of Nearpod in elementary classrooms with Instructional Technology Coordinator Jennifer Peyrot.

In Practice: Capturing learning with Seesaw in Lisa Mercier’s literacy class at Thunder Valley Pk-8

Teacher Panel: Allison Marshall (G3), Erin Cynkar (G2), & Rachel Dickens (G3) from Sanborn Elementary School.

Reflection Questions:

  1. If someone was to ask you what “good” technology use to support literacy looks like, what qualities would you recommend?
  2. What are some problems you’re trying to solve in your classroom?
  3. How might you use technology to solve that problem?
  4. To whom do you turn when you need help with technology in support of learning?

Feb. ’18 Elementary Literacy Show – Vocabulary

Interview: Dr. James Erekson, University of Northern Colorado Professor of Literacy

In Practice: Ellen Mackey, G2 Teacher, Red Hawk Elementary School

Teacher Panel: Courtney Groskin (G4), Kris DeBuse (K), and Jennifer Merideth (G2) from Mountain View Elementary School

Reflection Questions:

  • What is the importance of teaching vocabulary and why do we teach vocabulary?
  • How do we intentionally plan for vocabulary?
  • How do you integrate vocabulary into other contents of the curriculum.
  • How might you integrate technology with vocabulary?


The resources mentioned and shared by Dr. Erekson can be found here.

Jan. ’18 Elementary Literacy Show – Foundational Skills and Mid-Year Diagnostics

Interview: Kim Wiggins (District Assessment Coordinator)

Segment: Julie Butrick (K – Fall River Elementary School)

Panel: (Lyons Elementary School) Sara Pike (Literacy), Andrew Moore (Principal), Sara Barone (G2), Darcey Pierce (G3)

Reflection Questions:

  • What data sources do you use?
  • How do you prioritize the data?
  • What resources do you use to work with students? How do you collaborate with your colleagues on analyzing the data, a goal, and creating an action plan?
  • How do you differentiate in your classroom based on the student mid year diagnostic data (technology, platforms)?


Oct. ’17 Elementary Literacy Show – Whole Group

Keri Campbell, Brittany McKinsey, Amanda Ladoux

Reflection Questions:

  • What did you learn?
  • How did the content of the episode shift or support your understanding of whole group?
  • If we think of engagement as students doing the bulk of the work, talking, & learning; what might this mean how might this shift your thinking around whole group time?
  • How can whole group instruction and small group instruction feed into one another?
  • What curricular resources do you want to investigate further to help your instructional practice?


  • Goal setting for lessons-what do you want your kids to learn and be able to do at the end of the lesson.
  • Teachers are using Thinking Maps-bridge map used for making connections, cause and effect map-teachers using as well as GT teachers – Thinking Maps and Text Structure
  • Mixed ability groups-primarily during whole group cooperative learning time.
  • Routines – going back into the text and finding information – Scaffolded Strategies Handbook, write-turn-talk, turn-talk-write, “What did you hear your partner say?”
  • Socratic Seminar approach during whole group.
  • Nearpod-Interactive lessons/whole group/formative assessment/student engagement (District Nearpod Library access)
  • Best practices for engagement – Marzano’s Best Practice Instructional Strategies

Technology Integration Resources:

  • Padlet – (student engagement tool for responses, sharing ideas, etc)
  • Clips – (can be used to video, voice record, take photos, create/choose filters, text bubbles-similar to iMovie.  Clips is very user friendly for students. Is a great resource for adding creativity in learning vocabulary.

Ready Gen:

Ready Gen routines-think/pair/share, read aloud routine

  • Scaffolded Strategies Handbook
  • Leveled Readers

Flexible Seating Approach during whole group:

Episode 006 – Aug Elementary Literacy Show

In August, the Elementary Literacy Show sat down with a tremendous panel of teachers from Timberline PK-8 to talk small group learning and purposeful collaboration. We also met with Jessica Evans at Thunder Valley k-8 to hear how she approaches her small groups.

Getting ReadyGen Access to Support/Intervention Teachers

Elementary schools, if you have support and intervention teachers who could benefit from access to the teaching materials from ReadyGen, we’ve made the process a bit easier.

To get a teacher access, they will need to fill out this work ticket.

In the description box, they should copy, paste, and complete the following:

First Name:

Last Name:

IC Number:

Within a few days of submission, these teachers will be able to log in to ReadyGen through Ceran, the same way as their general classroom peers.

If you have any questions, please email Shannon Stimack.

Aug ’17 – Elementary Literacy Show: Structures & Routines

Mentioned Resources

Panelist Questions

  • How do you give students ownership in your classroom?
  • How do you help students think about the culture of the space?
  • How do you structure working with the needs of multiple learners in the space?
  • What role does language play in how you think about structures and routines?
  • How can we better facilitate conversation and collaboration about these concepts in our school communities?

Reflection Questions

  • What did you learn? – What routines and procedures have you found most useful for literacy learning?
  • What curricular resources do you want to investigate further to help your instructional practice?

Additional Videos

Guest Post: What we learned prepping for the Literacy Show

The following is a guest post from August ’17 Elementary Literacy Show panelists Sherie Dike-Wilhelm, Tanisha Lucero, and Jessica Schrader from Columbine Elementary.

When Zac invited us to be part of the Lit Show for routines and procedures, we weren’t sure where to start. Of course, we teach students daily routines – how to manage bathroom needs and such.

But so much of what we do is on “auto-pilot.”

We had to reflect on how we teach students to manage space, materials, devices, and time. Transitions from one activity, place, or content area are important, too. But the real “meat and potatoes” is how we teach students to work together and cultivate ownership of the work that they need to do.

Kids don’t automatically sit down to discuss how they solved a problem or how they know a character changed in a story. Sometimes, even partner flashcards are hard! As teachers, we model expected behavior, practice, practice, practice, and then fine-tune our practice as we ratchet up our expectations. Thinking purposefully about teaching students systems and procedures helps us get to the good stuff–the learning and the creating that makes learning real.

As you think about this episode, consider your routines and systems. Think about the ones that work for you, and which ones you might want to adjust, either to increase efficacy,  independence, or learning goals. It has been engaging to think about some of our practices that have become commonplace and to intentionally seek ways to change and improve.  Come on in and join us!!

Here are links to a few of the resources we talked about today:


5 Suggested Steps for Elementary Teachers Moving Grade Levels

What to how with arrow pointing from what to how.

As I said many times last year, this second year of implementation of our new elementary literacy resources will have the benefit of being the “How?” year, after the ups and downs of last year’s “What?” year (as in, “What are all these things and what do I do with them?”)

For some teachers, though, this year might feel as though it is starting out as a smaller version of a “What?” year. I’m talking about teachers teaching a new grade level of students this year. The good news is the overall structure of the ReadyGen resources and sequence is largely the same from one year to the next. This provides students with common experiences and expectations and does a bit of the same for teachers as well. Still, the content of each year is certainly a shift.

This post is meant to highlight a suggested path and resources to consider in preparing to help a new grade level of students improve their reading and writing this year.

Getting to Know Your New Grade

  1. Talk to others. This might seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget when we’re starting to fill overwhelmed with content. Seek out your new grade-level team members and ask if they will share their planning documents from the beginning of the previous year. Yes, you’ll make them your own, and they’ll also give you a firm place to start understanding the sequence of learning for this new grade.
  2. Understand the scope and sequence. Taking a look at this document will help you understand not only the scope and sequence of content and big ideas within your new grade level, but put it into the context of all elementary grades as well. The outline will also familiarize you with the flow of your year and give you an at-a-glance look at what kinds of writing your students will focusing on throughout the year and when.
  3. Consider unit plans and standards. With a general overview of your year of learning and teaching you’re ready to take a look at your new grade’s unit plans and standards. The unit plans can be accessed via the Curriculum Resources page. For an understanding of the where and when of standards, take a look at the resources starting on page 62 of your grade’s ReadyGen Implementation Guide. These resources include a Scope and Sequence, Unit Overviews, and Common Core Standards Correlations.
  4. Investigate your modules. Now that you’ve got a broad understanding of the unit plans, take a look at the module planners in your ReadyGen Teacher’s Guide. These can be found on pgs 6 (Module A) and 156 (Module B) in the K-2 manuals and pgs 6 (Module A) and 206 (Module B) in the 3-5 manuals. They will provide an overview of where your students’ learning will be headed regarding each module’s performance-based assessment and a suggested, editable path of focus for each module’s lessons.
  5. Plan your performance-based assessments. Within each grade level’s Scaffolded Strategies Handbook in “Part 2: Unlocking the Writing” is a wealth of resources for planning your students performance-based assessments. You’ll find help there from everything from understanding the prompt, to checklists for self-assessment. Remember, these resources are suggestions for those looking for a place to start. Only you know the choices and resources your specific classroom of students need to be successful.

Other Resources

  • The What’s in ReadyGen? document includes a listing of the materials received by each classroom and a brief overview of the basic use of each.
  • The Expectations of Practice document is meant to help teachers consider how they might structure individual, small, and whole group time to meet students’ needs.
  • This collection of templates is meant to help interested teachers plan their performance-based assessment and lessons to make sure students are prepared for success.
  • This document includes links to presentations with images of the covers of each title across all grade levels and suggested prompts for getting students talking about what they’re about to read.
  • This document lists all titles included as anchor texts and within Text Collections across all k-5 classrooms.
  • Here, you can find the levels of all titles included in the ReadyGen Leveled Text Library across all k-5 grade levels.
  • Following the Fall assessment, this i-Ready Instructional Grouping Template can serve as a tool to organize and shift students across small group instruction based on diagnosed areas of need.