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


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.

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:


Elementary Literacy Rubrics – FEEDBACK REQUESTED

One of the most consistent questions regarding the shift in our elementary literacy practices this year has been around rubrics and assessing student writing. Given the number of resources at teachers’ disposal, it is understandable to have questions. This post is designed to help delineate the materials available as well as seek your input on how we fill the gaps.

Rubrics in Grades 3-5


  • Performance-based assessment rubrics. The can be found within each unit’s Teacher’s Guide.
  • End-of-Unit Assessments. For the short- and constructed-response items, you can find task-specific rubrics in your Assessment Book Teacher’s Manual.
  • Reader Response Questions. The rubrics for the Reader Response tasks can be found here and listed in the “Rubrics” section of the unit plans.


  • PARCC ELA/Literacy Scoring Rubrics are recommended as baseline templates for teacher-created tasks. A teacher can then take that basic rubric and add details and areas of focus specific to the writing task students are completing.

Rubrics in K-2


  • Performance-based assessment rubrics. The can be found within each unit’s Teacher’s Guide.
  • End-of-Unit Assessments. For the short- and constructed-response items, you can find task-specific rubrics in your Assessment Book Teacher’s Manual.
  • Reader Response Questions. The rubrics for the Reader Response tasks can be found here and listed in the “Rubrics” section of the unit plans.


Finally, all of this work will be added to a new “Rubrics” section within the grade-level unit plans for easy access.

Family Community Literacy: Winter Break Reading

woman and child reading together

The Gist

The more students read, the better they get at it. Winter break is a chance for your children to access many district library books.

The Whole Story

One thing research has show – the amount of reading your student does over the course of their time in kindergarten through high school has an effect on how well they comprehend complex ideas, vocabulary, new concepts.  St. Vrain Valley Schools are working hard to make sure our students have access to quality books no matter where they may be.

You kids have three specific ways to access books through the District.

  1. MyOn – For elementary and middle school students, the myon library has a wide selection of digital books students can read on their own or listen and read along with. Many schools in SVVSD run challenges trying to get their students to read as many minutes in MyOn books as possible during the school year.
  2. Physical Libraries – Every SVVSD school library has a wide selection of physical books your children can check out over break. During the last week before break, consider challenging your kids to check out new books to read as a family over break.
  3. The SVVSD District Digital Library – If you have a computer, tablet, or smartphone in your home, you have a device on which you and your students can access and read books from our district digital library. Everyone from our youngest readers to adults can find a high-interest book in the library.

BONUS: Your local public library will be ready, willing, and excited to welcome you and your children to browse and check out physical and digital books over winter break.

Suggested Activity

Take on a family winter reading challenge. Visit your local public library or your children’s school library and set a reading goal for winter break. Maybe it’s a family goal for the whole house. Maybe it’s a per person goal. Maybe it’s a competition to see who can read the most pages. Either way, set a goal and track progress. The refrigerator is a great way to keep track of reading progress.

Does your family have any special reading routines? Share them in the comments below!


Family Community Literacy: Making the Most of Conferences


The Gist:

With school conferences in progress, families across the school district are getting a chance to meet their children’s teachers face-to-face. Asking questions about what you can do to help your kids prepare for the learning that will be happening between now and the next few months is a great way to find out how to build connections between home and school.

The Whole Story

It’s easy to sit down at a parent teacher conference and be drawn in by grades and progress reports. And those are certainly important pieces for understanding how your child is progressing in their classes. If you leave the room only with an understanding of grades and how they got that way, you’re leaving some important information out. To get more out of parent teacher conferences, consider shifting your thinking from that of a meeting between a service provider and a client to that of a team meeting. When you think about it, other than your child, their teachers and you – their family – are the key players in making sure learning is happening and supported across home and school.

So, other than questions about grades, missing assignments and attendance, how can you get the information you need to make the most of your parent teacher conference?

  • Ask about readingAsk your child’s teachers what is being read in class, what they’d recommend your kid reads at home, and what you might consider reading as a parent. Ask for specific titles, authors, and topic areas.
  • Ask what you should be asking. We know the trope of asking a student what they did at school only to hear, “Nothing” in response. A conference is a great place to get material for specific questions:
    • What are the names of some key characters they’re encountering in literature?
    • What are some key words I could use when asking them about school work, no matter the content area?
    • What’s something you’ve seen my student get very interested in that I should bring up to help them see school as a positive experience?
  • Ask how you can help pave the way. Parent conferences are often about the past. By asking what you can be doing, viewing, talking, and thinking about at home around the dinner table or during family time, you can make sure your child has experiences with key ideas, books, etc. so they feel on top of things when they come up in class.
  • Ask about drive time. Time in the car – heading home, to practices, to rehearsals, to dentist appointments – can be time spent making connections to what students are learning. Ask your child’s teacher if they have suggestions for conversation topics, skill practice games, podcasts to listen to or any other content you might bring up during car rides.

More Resources:

Collections Update: New Feedback Studio Interface Streamlines Your Experience

Key Things to Know

  • Turnitin is now known as Turnitin Feedback Studio.
  • Your default view has changed to the new Feedback Studio interface.
  • You may revert back to the “Turnitin Classic” view at any time.
  • Your data will remain intact when switching between interfaces.
  • Read our Feature Release Guide or watch this brief video for additional help.

Feature Release Guide ►

We are pleased to announce that Turnitin®, now known as Turnitin Feedback Studio, has a redesigned user interface within the myWriteSmart tool in Holt McDougal Online ( The new Feedback Studio provides a more streamlined user experience and allows quicker access to key features, modes, and panels.

After logging in, you will receive a brief, guided tour of the new layout. Should you wish to access the old view, now known as “Turnitin Classic”, you may revert to it at any time by clicking “Return to Turnitin Classic” at the bottom of your Feedback Studio screen. To return to Feedback Studio, simply click on “Try the new Feedback Studio” at the top of the Turnitin Classic screen. Rest assured that your comments and class data remain intact and no work will be lost when switching between views.

To better assist you, our Feature Release Guide contains visual aids to show the differences between the two interfaces and how to switch between views. In addition, this brief, helpful video explains the key differences between Turnitin Classic and Feedback Studio, as well as how to navigate the new interface.

Please note that the new Feedback Studio interface will become the standard display in the summer of 2017. As a valued Collections customer, we are providing you with advance access so you may familiarize yourself with the layout and functionality over the next year.

Our Technical Support Group will be happy to assist you with any questions you may have regarding the new Turnitin Feedback Studio. Please do not hesitate to contact them at, 800.323.9239, (+1) 973.368.0392, or through our online service request system.

Thank you for choosing Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as your partner in education.


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