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)?


Nov. ’17 Elementary Literacy Show – Backward Planning & PBAs

Panel: Lisa Petersen (G2), Stephen King (G4), Dr. Shirley Jirik (Principal)

Taped Segment: Cathy Digsby (K)

Reflection Questions:

  • What did you learn?
  • How did the content of the episode shift or support your understanding of backward planning?
  • How will you know the students are learning? What are your desired results for reading or writing in the upcoming module?
  • What materials and resources would be best suited to accomplish these desired results?


Ep 010 – Inquiry in Increments

Executive Director of Inquiry Schools Diana Laufenberg talks about how teachers can engage students in inquiry and make learning more student-centered without completely overhauling all that’s already working in their classrooms.

Ep 009 – Libraries at the Heart of the School

Sunset Middle School Instructional Librarian CeCe Balman talks about the road to transforming her school’s library and her continuing efforts to make the space the heart of the school.

Considering Text Complexity Across the Curriculum

Happily, I’ve been having more conversations this school year about text complexity and considering the mix of extended texts and shorter pieces we ask students to consider as readers. Below are a few key considerations of “text complexity”.
Text Complexity Triangle

Three aspects to consider when thinking about text complexity.

1. The recommended extended texts in the curriculum resources are meant as one component of what students experience as readers over the course of a quarter. Think of this as a balanced reading diet. These extended texts are selected for students to be able to read them independently outside of class and then complete more complex tasks and conversations, ideally thematically-related to the other shorter pieces they are reading as a class. The expectation would be that students are reading at least 4 extended texts over the course of the year and 3-5 shorter texts each quarter. Again, at least.

Those shorter texts (coming from Collections or CommonLit) are where students would be asked to repeatedly tackle reading that is increasingly complex from a quantitative measure. What can they do with a short story, an article from The Economist, a primary source speech? These are the pieces they should be encountering in all classes with teacher scaffolds and supports, moving toward gradual release. They are also texts that give students exposure to the type of reading they will encounter in PSAT and SAT settings.
2. Lexile is a measure of text complexity based on vocabulary and sentence variety. It should be taken as a consideration of text complexity along with other factors – oftentimes as the final consideration. As an example, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close would fall in the fourth-grade lexile range, based on recommendations in the Colorado Academic Standards, but the subject matter, text structure, and theme are all components that are more appropriate for older students. This rubric from CCSSO is helpful in thinking about multiple factors when considering about text complexity. Hopefully, a class where (some or all) students are studying this text might also be reading articles on Asperger’s Syndrome, understanding the biological effects of trauma on body systems, and other readings that cross domains.
3. My last piece would be a question as to what kinds of trans-disciplinary approaches a school is taking to ensuring students are working independently and scaffolded with cognitively-demanding texts. While helping English teachers select complex informational texts will give students a wider breadth of experiences in class, keeping that conversation in English misses a tremendous opportunity. Science, history, math, and world languages are all subjects that offer opportunities for students working through grade-level texts and requiring students to deal with domain-specific vocabulary and concepts. Having a student in U.S. history deeply examine the effect of writer’s craft on historical context when looking at The Gettysburg Address requires students to activate deep reading skills across their day, rather than one block.
Want more about text complexity? This thinking from Achieve the Core offers a thoughtful approach to considering qualitative and quantitative measures in concert with reader & task. Additionally, this piece from Fisher and Frey helps unpack this new understanding of complexity of texts. Finally, this article from Psychology Today pokes some important holes in how we might think about “reading levels.”
As always, I hope this is the beginning of the conversation, and I’m happy to continue it with you and your teams.

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.

Sept ’17 – Elementary Literacy Show: Small Groups

Jessica Evans Video:

  •  ReadyGen
  • i-Ready lessons for reading and math- Ceran, Educators
  • W.I.N Time (What I Need time) – Grade level intervention/extension time
  • Sounds and Letters by Jane Fell Greene (out of print)
  • Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI)
  • WIDA Resources by Ruth Hanna
    • General resources here
    • WIDA Can Do Descriptors page
    • WIDA ACCESS Scores and Instruction here
    • WIDA Literacy resources here

Resources Mentioned by Sharon, Kathi and Travis: