How Parents Can Help Children Succeed In School

image of adult reading to child

Reading Aloud + Talking with Children = Off to a Great Start! (photo from Natalie Maynor on Flickr)

Below is my response to a great question posed by Amy (aka @teachmama) on the “We Teach Reading” group in the We Teach Ning. You can find that question here: “Learning During Read Alouds.”

Hi Amy,

If there was one thing I wanted parents to know, it is that the amount of talk that happens in the home is correlated to the size of their children’s vocabulary as they enter school and that the size of their children’s vocabulary is strongly correlated to reading comprehension and overall academic success.

Letting parents know that they need to talk with their children is especially important for those parents who come from a culture where they think it is strange to talk to children and for those parents who grew up in homes without a lot of talk. I would also let them know that reading aloud to children (or discussing pictures for parents who struggle with reading) offers reasons to talk about many things with their children and that it will feel natural once a routine is set in place.

Reading aloud to children also builds knowledge of the world and knowledge of the word (vocabulary) which are necessary to make inferences (or read between the lines) while reading or listening. Not being able to make inferences (or connect-the dots) between what is written (or said) and what is implied (or left unsaid) means that comprehension cannot happen. Authors and speakers imply; therefore good readers and listeners must infer to make sense of the message. The more we know, the more quality inferences we can make.

To say this in another way, if parents do not read and talk a lot with their children before they enter school, their children will be at risk for school failure. It would be difficult for even the best teachers who use the best intervention programs to help these students ever catch up with peers who have had many stories read to them and who have heard a lot of talk in the home.

One thing I would always start with is a picture/text walk and making predictions. As I read, I would discuss whether the predictions should be modified, rejected, confirmed, or if it was still too soon to say. Of course these decisions should be based on evidence in the text and from our background knowledge, or personal experiences. That evidence should be discussed to help promote good thinking skills.

Making predictions may have led to a reason, or purpose, for reading the text. If it didn’t, I would be sure to set one and share it with the child. In other words, “Let’s read to find out _____.” Having a purpose for reading leads to more engaged reading. More engagement with the text leads to better comprehension.

Although it is not necessarily the most difficult “strategy” to tackle, I think one of the most important things we can do is to encourage children to wonder as they read and for us to share our own wonders, too. It is important to teach children that not all wonders can be answered, but that good wonders lead to great (and exciting) thinking. Discussing answers to the wonders in terms of what is possible and plausible helps build critical thinking skills. Discussing where the answers (if any) might be found helps develop research skills which are needed for academic success.

One Sentence Summary: Read to your child often and talk about what you read.

I’ve blogged about the importance of talk before. If you are interested, see What Happens in the Home Before Kids Start School Affects Their Vocabulary & Overall Academic Success for the research behind my thoughts.

If you could only share one thing with parents that you think would really have an impact on their child’s academic success, what would it be?

Posted in Early Literacy, Help for Parents, Reading Aloud to Children, Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

There’s Been a Whole Lot of Learning Going On

Teaching in the Reading/Language Arts Masters Program

photo of Julie Niles Petersen & Dr. Erica Bowers

My first semester as a professor is quickly coming to a close. The only thing I have left to do is grade my students’ final papers (due by midnight this Saturday). After that, I should be able to invest more time on the TWRCtank until the next semester begins on January 20, 2011.

Teaching next semester is not a guarantee. However, if all goes well, I will continue teaching READ 508 – Teaching Reading in the Elementary Classroom in the spring. I’ve been co-teaching it this semester with Dr. Erica Bowers (pictured above right) and there is a possibility of co-teaching another course with her next semester. (Yes, I’m keeping my fingers crossed–she has been a phenomenal mentor to me over the years and I would love to co-teach with her again.)

Since these are online courses, I really needed to learn some new technology. Thankfully, members in my Twitter PLN have kept me current on the many different technology tools they use in their classrooms. Had it not been for them, I would have been completely overwhelmed. Google Docs is one tool I had heard about for a long time, but never took the time to learn. Finally, I jumped on the Google Docs bandwagon and I am in awe. The collaborative nature of this tool is perfect for online teaching! We only used it for a few projects this semester, but I have already dreamed up more uses for it for next semester. (This was the first semester that courses in this program were offered online.)

I also had to familiarize myself with how to use Blackboard as a teacher. Unfortunately, the university will upgrade to the newest version (or switch over to Moodle) meaning I’ll have some more learning to do. In Blackboard, we had weekly forums to discuss such things as videos we watched, required readings, and teaching reading in general. Students were required to start a thread by Tuesday and respond to two of their peers by Saturday. I stayed out of the conversation (for the most part) until Sunday. Then, I wrote up my TWRCs about the learning unit. Much of what I wrote will eventually show up in future blog posts. :)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I also learned how to make screen cast videos. They are so much fun to make and are a real asset in the online environment. One assignment also required students to make a Wiki. I hope to incorporate that more in the future, too.

If you have recently taken an online class or you teach online, I would love to hear your thoughts–pros, cons, and suggestions on how to make it more interactive.

The Orange County Reading Association

photo of Erica, Julie, Freddy & Megan at OCRA's 47th Annual Fall Conference

My presidency for the Orange County Reading Association will also be coming to a close soon (May, 2011). Our fall conference is our largest event and it was a great success. Our keynote speaker was Dr. Elfrieda (aka Freddy) H. Hiebert. I have heard her speak many times and I honestly believe her session at our conference was the best I’ve ever heard. She never fails to push my thinking while making me laugh at the same time. Thanks a million for everything, Freddy!

photo of @teachingwthsoul @TWRCtankcom & @flourishingkids

@teachingwthsoul @TWRCtankcom & @flourishingkids

Not only was I honored to introduce Freddy, but I also had the opportunity to meet two very passionate educators from my Twitter PLN in person–Joan Young and Lisa Dabbs. I was delighted they also presented for us. I just wish I was able to attend their entire sessions and spend time with them after the conference. Being the president, I had to make sure everything ran smoothly which it did thanks to so many of our wonderful OCRA volunteers.

Other people who so graciously volunteered to speak at our fall conference included: Amy Adams, Ron Boren (the inspiration behind my blog title), Dr. Linda Clinard, Kim Hanley, and Karin Foster. Although I did not get to hear their entire sessions either, I heard great things. A big thank you to all of you! Click here to find all available presenter handouts from OCRA’s 47th Annual Fall Conference.

Our second big OCRA event will be held on March 24, 2010. Our keynote speaker will be Kelly Gallagher. I have heard him speak once before and he was amazing. I can’t wait!

After learning all about Google Docs for my online course, I also created an account for OCRA. I spent numerous hours converting and organizing all the Microsoft documents I have compiled for OCRA over the years to Google Docs. Other volunteer members are doing the same. Although this project is nowhere near completion, it has already proved advantageous and I am so excited for the future. It should save us so much work and let us collaborate much more effectively. Thank you, Google Docs!

Attending Dr. P. David Pearson’s Inaugural Webinar

photo of Sharon, P. David Pearson & Julie Niles Petersen

On October 5, 2010, I attended P. David Pearson’s inaugural webinar, “Reading Comprehension: The role of talk, text, task.”* I have learned so much about reading comprehension from Dr. Pearson and have been one of his fans for many years. This webinar didn’t disappoint me, but it disappointed him that his videos wouldn’t play. He informed us that if we wanted to watch the videos, we could watch them in a video of a live presentation he recently gave at the University of Wyoming, “Rich Talk about Text,” because it was basically the same presentation. Although it is over an hour, I highly encourage you to watch one of them because they are fantastic!

You can find more resources from Dr. Pearson on his website at

*Thank you International Reading Association for making so many great resources available to us! Another thank you to Dr. Pearson for sharing his wealth of knowledge with us!

The California Reading Association’s Professional Development Institute

photo of Dr. Donald R. Bear at CRA 2010

Dr. Donald R. Bear at CRA 2010

On October 15-16, 2010, I attended the California Reading Association’s Professional Development Institute. I went to Regie Routman’s keynote speech, “Accelerating Achievement for All Learners: What Does It Take?” I also attended sessions by Lori Oczkus, Dana Grisham, Donald Bear, Shane Templeton, and Elfrieda Hiebert and loved each of them. I may write more about the sessions at a later date.

Wouldn’t you know, I ran into another person from my Twitter PLN, @Cathy_Blackler. What a treat! Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time at CRA. You can click here to access all available presenter handouts from the California Reading Association’s Professional Development Institute.

CRA: Thank you for putting together such an intellectually stimulating PDI and for compiling these great resources!

The TWRCtank and Future Endeavors

First, let me just say that if you emailed me through the TWRCtank or Twitter and I did not get back to you, I apologize. Not only was I overwhelmed with OCRA and learning how to teach online, but I was also going through a cancer scare. I realized I could not do it all and I had to let some things go. I’ve saved your emails and will get back to you once I finish grading my grad students’ final papers. I hope you understand.

Next semester isn’t that far away and I’m guessing I’ll be less active on the TWRCtank during that time, but I hope my absence won’t be as great. However, if I end up co-teaching the second course, I know there will be a lot of learning going on with that one, too.

Overall, I think I really like teaching online–especially since READ 508 was my favorite course when I was in the masters program. On the other hand, I have to admit… I really miss working with struggling readers–especially in one-to-one or small group situations.

I have continued looking for a full-time reading specialist position to no avail. Our nest egg is shrinking rapidly and my health insurance through COBRA is running out so I’ve had to do some serious thinking about my plans for the future. Here are some things I have been considering:

  • Tutoring via Skype. I really love tutoring and had considered tutoring full-time in the past, but I didn’t like that the hours coincided with the time I normally spend with my husband. If I figured out how to tutor online, that would no longer be a problem because I could tutor English speaking students all over the world during daytime hours. If you have ever tutored online, I would love to hear about it.

  • Consultations via Skype. This would probably be with people who are concerned with a struggling reader. I know I’ve helped parents by giving them suggestions in parent-teacher meetings, so imagine I could do the same thing via Skype.

  • Products. I’ve considered selling things like pencils, stickers, and mugs with the TWRC acronym, but I’m not really sure how to go about doing this. If I did this, would you consider buying them?

  • Sponsors. I’m not sure how I would go about finding people who are willing to sponsor this blog, but it could be a viable option. Are you interested?

  • Monetizing this blog. I will probably add an Amazon store and Google AdSense ads in the near future.

  • Donations. I will probably also add a donation button just in case someone is feeling nice. :)

Any thoughts on my ideas or suggestions for things I haven’t considered would be greatly appreciated. I really love teaching reading and hate to think that due to the economy and education budget crisis, I might end up having to give it all up to go back to the world of business.

Finally, one thing I plan to change on this blog is to add a new page for my resources. I recently attended a webinar on easy technology tools and learned about I think it will be a really nice addition. Have you ever used it?

Posted in California Reading Association, My Background, Orange County Reading Association, Reading Comprehension, Reading Conferences & Conventions, Teaching Online, Technology, Webinars | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Versatile Blogger Award

image for the Versatile Blogger award

The Versatile Blogger Award

Back on July 16, 2010, I was overjoyed to find out that my blog was nominated for another award, “The Versatile Blogger.” What made it even more special was that this award was first given to Susan Dee (aka @literacydocent), who then passed it along to me. Why was that special? Well, Susan and I started blogging around the same time and I am glad her blog received this recognition. I am grateful to her for the support she has given me ever since I began following her on Twitter. I consider her a valuable member of my Personal Learning Network (PLN). I believe it is from her that I found one of my new favorite phrases, “pushes/expands my thinking.” (Thanks, Susan!)

Susan blogs about children’s literature and teaching at The Book Maven’s Haven. I have subscribed to her blog feed in Google Reader and I always look forward to reading her posts. Just yesterday, I discovered that she also has a Facebook page and I became a fan.

Here is how this award works:

  1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order…)
  4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

Part One

Thank you so much for passing the award along to me, Susan. I am honored and it really made my day! I really enjoyed reading the seven things you shared about yourself in your post about the Versatile Blogger award.

Part Two

Deciding on seven things to share about me was challenging. I thought creating a list might help–I am famous for my lists… and spreadsheets, too. On the list, I included things I thought would give you a laugh like my orange chicken fiasco. I also included things about my personality, like that I am a perfectionist procrastinator who after some reflection will answer you honestly if you ask, “So what do you think?” (Trust me, this is not always a good thing!) After looking over the lengthy list, I decided to follow Susan’s lead and share things that led me to where I am today in my career and why I blog. Here they are:

  1. The first time I can remember wanting to be a teacher was in the third grade. My third grade teacher, David Borke, made learning so much fun and I am delighted that he is now one of my Facebook friends. Thank you for the inspiration all those years ago, Mr. Borke. I’ve had many teachers over the years and you remain one of my all-time favorites!

  2. In high school, I enrolled in the secretarial/clerical program at our local vocational school and loved it. I was a great typist and loved learning all the latest technology–including how to use a standalone word processor which was basically a typewriter that displayed your typed words on an LCD screen. It also had a backspace key which eliminated the need for correction tape and allowed you to save your work. It was very high tech at the time! I also learned some computer programming skills and created my very own programs in DOS. My, how times have changed. While enrolled in the secretarial/clerical program, I also took French in high school and loved it. I thought I should combine the two loves and become a secretary in France. Then, I realized that to do so, my grammar would have to be impeccable and since that isn’t even true in English, I realized it was probably not a viable pursuit.

    photo of an early stand alone word processor

    Note: Check out the programs currently offered at this vocational school. If teaching had been an option while I was attending, I wonder how my life would have changed. I am such a fan of this school and wish every high school student had the opportunity to take classes of this caliber for free. I know I benefited greatly from attending. Thank you, Mr. Chris Korbel and so many others at TBA Career Tech-Center! By the way, Mr. Korbel… I rarely say “ain’t” anymore. But, when I do, I think of you! :)

  3. In high school, I also took some sort of community service class where I volunteered at a local elementary school and my passion for being involved in the schools was reignited. At the same time in another high school class, I had to pretend to have a disability for a day. I chose to be mute. Wouldn’t you know that very same night, I ended up running into two people who used sign language to communicate. Because I had not forgotten the sign language alphabet that either Mr. Bourke or Mrs. Craker (my wonderful 5th grade teacher) taught me, I was able to communicate with them through finger spelling and a great friendship developed. Spending time with Harold and Kari led me to want to become a sign language interpreter in the schools. I researched colleges that specialized in this and found Golden West College in California. I moved to Orange County two weeks after graduating from high school, but had to wait one year to enroll to avoid paying out-of-state resident fees.

  4. While waiting to enroll in college, I worked as a clerk typist, putting my secretarial/clerical skills to work. During break times at the “roach coach,” I began speaking with people from the neighboring company who also came out for a mid-morning snack. This included the vice president of the company. He found out I grew up in Michigan and recruited me by saying their company sent trainers all around the United States–including Michigan! I was intrigued and became a medical billing software trainer a short time later. Yes, I went to Michigan and many other places around the United States for this company and loved it. But, all the traveling made going to college difficult, so I dropped out. However, after years of training people how to use our computer software, I realized that teaching was indeed the path meant for me. I left the company and went to school full-time to work on earning my teaching credential.

  5. Knowing I needed to make money to pay for school, but needing a position that was flexible and not too taxing on the old noggin, I took a short bartender’s course and became a bartender at a very friendly neighborhood bar that had its very own Norm. I am so grateful for the owners’ flexibility with my schedule and for all the customers who cheered me on while going to school. After completing the work for my teaching credential, I taught first grade and loved that, too–especially the teaching reading part… and teaching 40 first graders how to do The Riverdance for International Day! After five years, I realized I needed to learn a lot more about teaching reading to really help my students, so I enrolled in a master’s program for teaching reading.

  6. While completing the work for my reading specialist credential, I tutored students in reading. Obviously, part of the reason I did this was to make money to pay for my education. Surprisingly, I think it was one of the best things I could have done. Tutoring students of different ages with different strengths and weaknesses in a one-to-one setting while completing the masters program allowed me time to delve deep into the intricacies of teaching reading. When enrollment at the tutoring center declined, I put my secretarial/clerical skills back to work and worked as an office temp because it gave me the flexibility I needed. This also proved to be another great career move because I learned all about spreadsheets. Keeping track of data and being able to analyze it is very important for a reading specialist. After completing the work for my master’s degree and my reading specialist credential, I worked with struggling readers (K-6) for four years in the public school system. You can read all about how I lost that position here.

  7. And that brings us to the present time… For the past fourteen months, I have been looking for a reading specialist position. The severe budget cuts and teacher layoffs in California have made finding a position difficult, to say the least. When open positions are advertised, they are usually restricted to applicants who were laid off from the hiring district, making applying for positions nearly impossible. Trying to stave of boredom while looking for a full-time position, I began blogging about teaching reading and learned how to use Twitter and Facebook to push my thinking. I had no idea that this would be another surprising career move. It still amazes me how invaluable Twitter is to educators!

    Finally, in August, I was offered a teaching position. Yay! I am now teaching teachers online in the very same masters program from which I graduated. Guess what? I love it–especially learning how to use all the technology I’ve been reading about on Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, it is only part-time and does not include health benefits. With my Cobra running out at the end of November and the job market the way it is, I am very concerned. My husband is a Mercedes mechanic and health benefits do not come with the job. Although I may be offered to teach more courses next semester which could lead to health benefits, there are no guarantees. My husband and I are now considering a move to his homeland, Denmark, because having health insurance would not be an issue–all Danish residents are entitled to free health insurance.

So there you have it… seven things about me you may not have known and may wish you did not know. (I bet you have also figured out by now that I am a bit wordy.) If you want to learn even more about me and this blog, please visit my “About” page.

Part Three:

Although the directions state that the blogs are listed in no particular order, everything in my being cringes at such a lack of organization. Therefore, I am listing them in alphabetical order. I am also purposefully not repeating any of the literacy related blogs I listed here, or any that were on Susan’s list even though I really wanted to include, Look At My Happy Rainbow: My Journey as a Male Kindergarten Teacher.

  1. Beginning Reading Help
  2. Blogging through the Fourth Dimension: Education musings, technology, and lessons; my life as a teacher
  3. Chocolate for Teachers: Sweet stuff from funny kinds
  4. Dr. Goodreader: Teaching readers how to diagnose and cure reading “clunks”
  5. First Grader…at Last!: Inspired by Junie B, but created for the real first graders…
  6. Ginger Snaps: Tidbits and treats for teachers
  7. How to Teach a Novel
  8. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…: For Teaching ELL, ESL & EFL
  9. Literacy Builders: for the love of learning”
  10. Lori’s Lessons
  11. NancyTeaches: A Teacher Who Loves to Learn
  12. Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud
  13. Teach with Picture Books
  14. Teach Mama: learning in the every day
  15. Vocabulogic: Bridging the Verbal Divide

  16. I hope you check out these blogs. I also hope you will share your favorites in the comment section below. Finally, I hope you did not find the “seven” things I shared completely boring. It was really difficult to decide. Although it is clear that I love learning and doing new things, I want you to know that talking about teaching reading is my number one passion and I do not think that will ever change. (Well, talking about blogging is kind of fun, too!)

Posted in Blog Awards, Literacy Blogs, My Background | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Comprehension Strategy Instruction… What Do You Think?

Dear TWRCrs,

Some of you may know that I have just begun teaching an online course in the master’s program in teaching reading/language arts. Familiarizing myself with the university’s website and all the new tools has kept me extremely busy this week.

I even made my first screencast video using Jing. (That was really exciting!) If you are interested in learning more about it, take a look at these great video tutorials from Russell Stannard.
The other instructor of the course uses Screencast-O-Matic and we have been trying to figure out which one is better. If you use any screencast video software, I would love to hear your thoughts about pros and cons.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, because I don’t have the energy to write a new post this week. Fortunately, I ran across a comment I wrote way back on November 1, 2009 in response to reading comprehension strategy instruction. It was probably one of the first comments I posted on the Internet. Although my reply is a bit off topic, I put a lot of effort into it and think it is worthy of reposting to this blog. It was originally posted in the “All About Teaching Reading” group on “The Educator’s PLN” Ning.

I would love to dialogue with you about the TWRCs I shared in this comment. They definitely deserve further exploration. Here is my comment in its entirety:

Hi Melanie,

It’s so nice to hear about successes and excitement in the classrooms from both you and Dodie. I must admit that teaching comprehension is the area in reading where I am the least confident. I have heard and read about strategy instruction misuse and it shaped my thinking. I will admit that when I first began teaching strategies, I was on strategy overload. Here is an article from Choice Literacy that talks about this point: By no means am I trying to deter anyone from using strategy instruction, but I think it is an important read.

P. David Pearson, a leader in the comprehension field, said at our local reading association conference that clarifying is the most important strategy. I agree and I think kids who struggle have the most difficulty with this because they are not used to reading making sense to begin with. In addition, I’ve found they don’t even understand the word “clarify.” To get them to understand that, I always taught them that “clarify” means “to make clear”. To exemplify, I would say a sentence such as, “Go get it.” Then I would ask my students, “Is that clear?” They would say, “No,” and I would ask, “Why not?” They should reply, “It’s not clear because we don’t know what ‘it’ is.” Obviously, this is clarifying at the sentence level, but I think it is best to start small.

I have read a lot about how students struggle with anaphoric references (like in my previous example with “it”) and I really trained students to look out for when writing did not make sense. Strugglers need to know that sometimes writing does not make sense because the writing itself is unclear. In other words, it’s not them; it’s the author. My students delighted in sharing how they could make the writing clearer than the author could in some cases. Making things clearer also transferred over to their writing (to some degree) which was a treat to see. I would so love to see more research on anaphoric references. Maybe I spent too much time with it, but watching the changes in their comprehension makes me think it was time well spent.

Another thing I did which I think was successful was teaching my students that good readers “TWRC” (think, wonder, reflect, and connect). For the most part, kids understand these words–reflection being the hardest. The “wonder” is really the questioning in strategy instruction and I think it is also another important part of comprehension because when we wonder, we think deeper and those wonders lead to better learning. After reading a passage with the group, I would make them all share a wonder. In the beginning, their wonders were things like, “I wonder if he has a brother,” “I wonder when is his birthday.” In other words, their wonders were very superficial. I would model deeper wonders and let them know that good wonders do not usually have answers. When sharing mine, I would have to remind them in the beginning that I was not looking for an answer, but that I was just wondering. After much modeling, it was such a delight to hear their well-thought out wonders. It was also a delight when their peers would say, “Oooooh! That’s a great wonder!”

In regards to activating background knowledge, I also found it necessary to remind students that we all have knowledge in our head that is accurate and inaccurate and that when we read about new things, we must decide if what we read confirms our existing knowledge, or if we need to refine our existing knowledge. Struggling kids seem to believe that everything they “know” is true. We also discuss considering the source when altering existing knowledge.

Making inferences is another thing strugglers have a lot of difficulty with and I wish there was more research on this. One thing that stands out in my learning path was when I heard that, “Authors imply, therefore readers have to infer.” It is a continuous thing we do in everything we read. Anaphoric referents require it. Young kids do it with body language. It is everywhere! Taffy Raphael’s work really influenced me here. She said that a discovery she made was that many struggling readers either thought that answers to questions about what they read came from the book, or from their head. They did not seem to realize that they could come from both (inferential thinking). I love her Question-Answer-Relationships (QAR) and I often used this with them. I think this positively affected their comprehension in a big way. It took me a while to get the hang of how to teach it, but boy once I did; I saw a huge difference in their ability to answer questions correctly. I will upload the chart I used.

Lastly, I plan to attend the International Reading Association convention this year and I plan to take the comprehension strand, because as I’ve said, I do feel this is my weakest area in teaching reading, which is sad since comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading! Oh, and to get them to understand what “comprehension” meant, I would refer to the Spanish equivalent, “Comprende?” They loved it and it seemed to sink in. It amazed me that 4th, 5th, and 6th graders did not understand the word “comprehension” before this.

Note: I hope you read the Choice Literacy article. I think it is a very important read.

My questions for you: How do you feel about comprehension strategy instruction? Have you noticed that teachers are spending too much/too little time teaching comprehension strategies? If you had to pick four words to remind students of the most import things they need to do in order to comprehend what they read, what would they be?

As always, I would appreciate it if you could take a second to rate this article on a scale of one to ten using the stars below.

TWRC on! :)

Posted in Comprehension Strategies, Reading Comprehension | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Presenter Handouts from the United States Department of Education’s Reading Institute in Anaheim, 2010

photo of Anaheim Convention Center, 2010

I attended the United States Department of Education’s Reading Institute in Anaheim, California July 19-21, 2010. It was the first institute I attended from the United States Department of Education and it was phenomenal! I wrote a little bit about it in a previous post.

The presenter handouts from this institute are now available online at At this link, you will find close to ninety presenter handouts and a handful of webinars on topics such as:

  • The big five areas of reading instruction (i.e. phonemic awareness, phonics/decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.)
  • Early learning and literacy
  • Engaging and empowering parents
  • Title I
  • Literacy coaching and literacy coaches
  • Reading in the content areas
  • Professional development
  • The common core standards
  • Response to intervention (RtI)
  • Informational text
  • Enhancing oral language
  • Differentiating instruction
  • Working with English language learners (ELLs)

I originally thought writing a post about the link to the presentation handouts would be easy, but then I began perusing the handouts from the sessions I did not attend because I wanted to highlight a few for you. Well, let’s just say I ended up spending hours reading them. They have to be some of the best handouts I have ever seen from a reading convention. Not only are they from top notch presenters, but most of them can be easily understood without having attended the session.

I am breaking the highlighted handouts into two sections–sessions attended and sessions not attended. In the section on sessions I attended, I am including a few notes, pictures, and a favorite quote or two from each session. I hope to do a more thorough write-up of the sessions at a later time.


#509 – Questioning Skills for Coaches by Stephen Barkley. Stephen is on Twitter as stevebarkley. Favorite quote? “If you read without asking questions while you read, you don’t get insights.” Here is a photo I took of this very funny and energetic presenter:

photo of Stephen Barkley

Stephen Barkley

#538 – “There’s More than One Research-Based Approach to Teaching Decoding.” by Irene W. Gaskins I have been a fan of Gaskins’ work for a long time. This is the second time I heard her speak in person, and she did not disappoint. I particularly enjoyed being able to speak with her one on one before the session began. We spoke about why she created the Benchmark School and decoding by analogy–including important research and researchers in this area. My favorite quote from my notes? “You will never hear Benchmark teachers say, ‘Sound it out.’ We say, ‘What have you already tried?’” Here is a photo I took of her before the session:

photo of Irene Gaskins

Irene Gaskins

#571 – Keynote Speech – Common Core Standards: Implications for Instruction by Michael Kamil. Lately, I have been reading bits and pieces about the common core standards. I felt this was a nice overview. Instead of a favorite quote, I like that he pointed out an unfamiliar website to me: Doing What Works: Research-based Education Practices Online (not to be confused with “What Works Clearing House.”) At, there are three sections: 1) Learning what to do, 2) Seeing what to do, and 3) Doing what to do.

photo of Michael Kamil

Michael Kamil

#645 – Keynote Speech – Implications of Reading Next for Primary Reading Instruction by Catherine Snow. I have heard her speak several times and she always makes me TWRC. I think she is the one who originally led me to the Hart & Risley study which I wrote about at length in this post. I was pleased that she talked about it once again and that so many other presenters did, too. Favorite quote? “Increase the kinds of books that encourage deep reflection.”

photo of Catherine Snow

Catherine Snow

#649 – Generative Vocabulary Instruction: Teaching Core Academic and Content-Specific Academic Vocabulary to Native-Speaking and English Learners by Shane Templeton. I really enjoyed speaking with Dr. Templeton one on one before the session began. You can find him on Twitter as WordsTheirWay and on Facebook as Words Their Way. Favorite quote? This is not word for word, but he said we need to let kids know that we learn how to spell by meaning, rather than by sound. (ex. sign/signature) His handout is probably my favorite out of all of them. It is fabulous! Here is a photo I took of him:

photo of Shane Templeton

Shane Templeton

#651 – Increasing Reading Comprehension with Higher Order Thinking Skills by Alice Thomas. I do not recall ever reading Thomas’ work before, but the title of her session and a little bit of Internet research made me think that the TWRCr in me would love her. I was right. She was phenomenal and I will now seek her out at reading conferences. She pointed out that the amount of information in the handout could be used for a two-day session, but that the slides on the end should stand alone. Favorite quote? “You’re teaching them there’s more than one acceptable answer. That’s how you get thinkers. If you tell them, ‘You’re wrong,’ you kill the thinker.” A favorite quote from the handout? “The important thing is not to stop questioning.” ~ Albert Einstein. Here is a photo I took:

photo of Alice Thomas

Alice Thomas

#670 – Implications of the Evolving Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf. I loved that when I was taking her photo, she said, “Someone is taking my picture!” Then she looked at my name tag and teasingly said, “Oh, Julie!” In general, her session was a bit over my head, but her humor was very much appreciated! Favorite quote? “The heart of expert reading is time to think new thoughts.” Here is the picture I took:

photo of Maryanne Wolf

Maryanne Wolf


#504 – Dynamic Vocabulary Instruction by Anita Archer. If you click on her name, you will find six literacy related videos. I have heard teachers rave about her, but have not yet heard her in person. People at the institute raved about her sessions, too.

#521 – Verbalized Vocabulary (Grades K-4) by Susan Ebbers. I mentioned that Susan has an outstanding blog about vocabulary in another post, but I will mention it again here. Be sure to check out her blog, Vocabulogic.

#522 – Outside-In Strategy: Morphemic Analysis in Context (Grades 2-12) by Susan Ebbers.

#578 – Collaborative Strategic Reading by Janette Klingner. The wonderful website, Reading Rockets, has a great post on the Collaborative Strategic Reading strategy by Janette Klingner and Sharon Vaughn. Click here to read it.

#614 – Effective Teaching of Fluency: The Neglected Reading Goal by Timothy Rasinski. You might want to click on his name and then “Presentation Material” to see some more great handouts.

#652 – Neuroscience Approach to Differentiating Instruction by Alice Thomas.

I hope you looked at the entire list of handouts, not just the ones I highlighted. To make it easier, think about a topic you have a lot of interest in and hit the “Control” button while also hitting the “F” button. Then, type your topic in the “Find” box. Since I did not look through them all, I would love to hear about any handouts you found particularly interesting.

Note: I love shared knowledge and shared reflection. If you have something to share or something that pushes thinking in any way, I would love to hear about it. If you do not have time to do that, can you spare a second to click on the stars below to rate this post on a scale of 1 to 10? Thanks a bunch and happy TWRCing! :)

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