Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How To Teach Students to Read a Literary Text; Reading Strategy

The content and inspiration for this post comes my way via Karlene Chorney, Edmonton Public Schools Consultant. She is a fabulous advocate for student reading.

The slide show below is based on Kylene Beers' work in Notice and Note, Strategies for Close Reading, which "presents a suite of new lessons for helping students read literary texts with deeper understanding" (p. 1).

I should mention there is also a companion book called Reading Nonfiction that is set up in a similar way.

What both books do, is present a framework we can teach to students to use as they analyze text. They can look for a series of 'clues' and then think about those clues and how they relate to the greater meaning of the work. I really think this framework offers a valuable and accessible way to speak about text with students. I hope you enjoy it as well. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Thanks again to Karlene for sharing her expertise and awesomeness with me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reading Tips Handouts for Parents

Source for Image
[post updated June 7, 2016]

Recently I received a request from a secondary teacher asking for a handout on reading that she could give to the parents of her students. In her case, she wanted the tips sheets to distribute on parent-teacher conference night.

We both took a look at our arsenals, asked our pals and did some web searching. This is a link to the document that said teacher ultimately created. I think it is a great handout full of useful strategies for parents to encourage reading and literacy skills.  

Below are several links to other parent info sheets that you might find useful to read and possibly mine for info...

  • Why Your Child Should Read 15 Minutes a Day
There are several pages of this document. They are print ready. Some pages are more useful/adaptable for secondary than others. Short and to the point on daily reading.

  • Every Child Every Day
I like this one A LOT. It's written by Richard Allington (I've written about him before) for the ASCD . Great, well researched, Not print ready and may be too teacher-ish. But is a great overview of what a reading program should look like and can be useful for discussing independent/student-selected reading models/assignments. Well researched.,-Every-Day.aspx

  • Every Child Every Day List
This is the same as above, but just in list form and so print ready.

  • Build Your Child's Reading Skills (elementary)
Written by the Peel District School Board. Target audience: elementary parents. Does a good job about talking about reading and strategies for parents, some of which can be leveled up for secondary.

  • Discover the Magic of Reading Aloud (elementary and secondary)
Another good one from the Peel District School Board. Target audience is primary and secondary parents.

  • Motivate the Reluctant Reader
Peel District School Board once more. Some good strategies for parents when dealing with their reluctant readers.

  • How to Encourage Your Child to Become a Critical Thinker
Last one here from the Peel District School Board. Solid handout for parents of elementary and secondary school students.

  • How Children Learn to Read
Authored by the Canadian Education Association. Brief fact sheet on reading. Good for explaining the difference between ‘comprehension’ and say, fluency.

  • Reading Fluency Handout.

This is a bit long, but does a great job of breaking down reading. Target audience is actually teachers, but could be used for parents as well. Part of the Capacity Building Series and  is produced by The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat to support leadership and instructional effectiveness in Ontario schools.

Do you have a great handout for parents? Let me know! 

p.s. Thanks to Kerry Y, Heather B and Amaya O for their help in compling resources. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

You can call any space a Learning Commons, but is it just the OLD Library?

Did you know that Alberta Education only has 9 policies? One of which is the Learning Commons Policy that was just recently passed in May 2014. The policy states that school authorities must ensure that students have access to a Learning Commons.

So, the question then is What is a Learning Commons exactly? Most people have heard the answer that it is “a philosophy, not an actual place”...but that can still be a pretty vague answer.

Here is my attempt at a short-ish, less-vague answer: A Learning Commons is the OLD library but it houses an INSTRUCTIONAL  PROGRAM  that supports students and teachers. It is more than just a book exchange place or a resource place. It is a happening-actioning-teaching place.  This is hard for most people to imagine...probably because most of us have not experienced a flourishing, supportive library program.

Simply redecorating a space or buying new furniture does not make a learning commons. Learning commons is achieved through people and programming.  What is particularly interesting about a Learning Commons is that each school’s Learning Commons can be designed to support that particular school’s student population. So there is no one-size-fits-all solution here...except to say that a Learning Commons is about the people: the people who work in the commons and the people who use the commons. It is a school-wide global support. 

What school goal do your staff and students need some support with? Integrating technology? Building literacy skills? Robotics? Design thinking or other makerspace types of things? No matter what your answer, your school’s Learning Commons could be (should be?) part of the answer.

If you're interesting in learning more about Learning Commons, you may enjoy a few of the links below, or feel free to give me a call.

  • Manifesto for 21st Century Librarians This was written by super (library-world) famous Joyce Valenza back in 2010!. But is still relevant and might give you a sense of what it is that a teacher-librarian/Learning Commons Facilitator does.

Just FYI, a blog post on Makerspaces (one possible part of a Learning Commons) is coming soon!

Note: Slides were mashed up from an ERLC presentation and used with permission.

Monday, March 7, 2016

March 4th Follow Up Links

Hello All,

This post is a follow-up to the March 4th SBPL Day. Below is a list of resources/ideas that we discussed or referred to in our session.

  1. ELL Resource: International Children’s Digital Library (online books in 100’s of languages for free).
  2. Online photos to use as writing prompts:
    1. The “Your Story” competition focuses on photos and first lines as prompts for creative writing. (from Carolyn)
  3. Reading levels and other info on novels: Text Complexity Tool Kit link
      1. FYI There are 2 (10 minute long)  upcoming webinars for how to use the resource: March 30th @ 8AM or March 31 @ 2:15PM. If you can’t make it, you can also sign up to get the recording of the webinar. Use this link for all.
  4. 10 resources for Book Recommendations/Lists For Students Blog post
  5. TedEd Bridge Puzzle (video) Link
  6. To This Day (bullying) Video Link and Project Link
  7. Free online Vocab site (shared by Breanna)
  8. Poetry assignment videos and exemplars (from Tara)
  9. Typography videos, examples (from Tara)
  10. Online tools and apps (you can sort by platform) for Video Creation, DIgital Storytelling, Animation  and Visualization tools
    1. more student exemplars coming...check back for links.  
  11. Upcoming: Tracking Student Writing PD session (by me) on March 10th at central from 4-5:30. If you can’t make it, let me know and I will come to you at a time that works for you. Sign up on PD Place
  12. Google
    1. Read Write Google. I mentioned at the session that I would love to be able to say that all EIPS students are using RW4G. Here is a HOW TO sheet that will walk you through using is.  You can now have kids use the RW4G features when they write on a PDF. If you need more help call me (780) 417-8147 and I can talk you through it or come out to your school.
    2. We talked about Google Research tool in Google Docs. Here is a video tutorial.
    3. Use Revision History Feature in Google Docs to check for Plagiarism

  1. Plickers - the awesome student response tool (the minecraft shapes and cell phone system Crystal and Judy spoke about)
  2. Online tools for citation and research. click here.
  3. BY TEACHERS’ REQUEST: EIPS teachers please enter what texts (novels, poetry, etc) you teach in what grades here.
  4. I will be planning 2 half day Technology camp sessions for EIPS teachers. The days will be practical HANDS ON sessions, where teachers will be asked to create 2 digital objects (movie, etc.) and then share with the group. More info on this is coming. Please complete this form if you are interested in attending. Add any info that you think would help me in planning this day to be most useful to you ( location,etc.).
  5. I will be taking a look at the suggested PD lists you have given me and will provide some follow up in the near future.
  6. Take a look at the ORC. All the stuff is great, but we spoke about the Visual Thesaurus.
  7. FYI : March 3 is International Book Day (planning for next year?)
  8. I am on the search for the ELA curriculum checklist format. [EDIT Found some!]
  9. Please take a moment and upload any resources into our JR ELA shared folder ASAP.

3 Ways to Support Student Selection w/

Hello All, 

Below is a guest post from It is a very brief overview of the resources that are available through their free (to EIPS) database. When you break it down, basically is a resources that provides support fro teachers who are teaching novels. Read below for specifics. 

You will be able to access this resource without a password from all EIPS networks. From home you will need to access through (Via the Online Reference Centre). I (strongly) suggest that you create an account. I know it's a pain, but the resources is worth it IMHO. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Take advantage of resources to assist students in making solid book choices.

Browsing award winning and content specific booklists is one way for students to explore a wide range of books. This will increase the likelihood of them finding a title they will enjoy! Share these links with students:                           Regional Award Lists 

For example, will lead students to a list of almost 4500 titles that have a high quality annotation to provide them with insight into the story.

3. BOOKTRAILERS  leads students to short booktrailers they can view to assist them in selecting a book they will enjoy.

These resources along with original Meet-the-Author Movies and Author Book Readings allow students to base their choices on insider knowledge while enriching their own reading experiences.

Want learn more? Contact: or call 800-596-0710.