What I’ve Been Doing Since My Last Post (1 of 3)

a photo of some of the professional books in my To-Be-Read pile

The first set of professional books I want to make time to read.



These past months have kept me very busy. Before going to Texas for a very special high school graduation at the end of May, I began learning how to use Google Reader so I could read other blogs on a more regular basis. As I began learning, I discovered several great literacy related blogs (on my own and thanks to my Twitter PLN). I am so thankful I did because on May 26, 2010, the morning I was leaving for Texas, I awoke to this lovely tweet from LeeAnn Moore aka @mom2preteens,


I named yours as a “blog to watch” in my post today. You have taken off like wild fire with your blog!

One of the rules of the award was that you needed to nominate ten other blogs for the same award. Thus, all my time and discoveries helped me write this post, which names my blog nominations. (Click here to read LeeAnn’s other nominations.) In addition, on July 16, 2010, Susan Dee aka @literacydocent surprised (and delighted me) with this:


Hi Julie! I have nominated your blog for the Versatile Blogger Award. Here is the link! http://thebookmavenshaven.blogspot.com/2010/07/versitile-blogger-award.html Thanks for sharing your amazing thinking with all of us!

Again, a rule of this award is that the recipient nominates other blogs. Thankfully, since my last post, I have found several other great literacy blogs. I will share them soon, along with a post about what Google Reader is and why I think it is a valuable tool for educators.


While I was in Texas, I greatly enjoyed my time with family. I also really enjoyed being in an organized and clutter-free home (the opposite of mine). As a teacher, I have spent a large amount of money purchasing resources for the classroom and since I do not currently have a classroom, all those materials must be housed in my home (along with a lot of paperwork).


I have been looking for a reading specialist position on a daily basis. Unfortunately, California is going through a severe education budget crisis and reading specialist positions are extremely rare. Further, when they are available, they are only open to educators who are currently in the district with the opening. To see what I mean, check out this morning’s job search on Edjoin for Orange County (the go-to place for finding education openings in California). Why do I bring this up? Well, if I cannot find a position for the coming year, all my materials and paperwork are going to have to stay here, so I figured it was time to give our home a good decluttering and major organization overhaul. (Having friends come in from Denmark for three weeks probably had a little to do with this, too!)


Although money is tight right now, I just had a major birthday, so I chose to use my gift money to buy two filing cabinets and a hutch to help me get more organized. One filing cabinet is now full (and organized) and my wonderful husband is still building the other one. It made me laugh while I was filling the filing cabinet because as I ran across things I hadn’t seen in years, I kept thinking, “Ooooh! This would make a great post!” The same goes for organizing the garage. Once the second filing cabinet is built, I will organize all the paperwork I am hiding in the garage. I can’t wait to see what treasures are waiting for me in there!


My massive collection of professional and children’s books also lacked a bit in organization, so I spent a lot of time organizing them. I even put the unread books into the order in which I want to read them. I hope to include them in GoodReads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing eventually. (Thank you to my Twitter PLN for offering your thoughts on each system!) I also reorganized my professional journals. Journals subscriptions other than “The Reading Teacher” and “Reading Research Quarterly” went into the garage because I needed more room for these two–I have been subscribing to them for years.


Before going to Texas, I made a new daily to-do-schedule and included time for reading these books and journals. Although I have not gotten around to using this schedule yet, I know that when I do, I will relish that time.


Wait! Let me take that back. I have been reading the children’s books. Can you guess where? It is one of the three “Bs” I learned from Jim Trelease and one that I always reminded students to take advantage of–reading in the bathroom. Sure, maybe this is a bit too personal for this blog, but a lot of reading can happen in the bathroom. Since struggling readers cannot afford to miss any opportunity to read, I highly suggest reminding them to keep reading material there (and any other place where opportunities for reading can be missed). You can read about the other two “Bs” under Trelease’s heading, “Is there something I could buy that would help my child read better?”


Another organization issue for me was email because whenever I found an interesting resource, I emailed it to myself. The amount of quality resources I have found on Twitter these past 9 1/2 months is astounding! (If you want to find out how long you have been using Twitter, click here and enter your Twitter username.) I know I should be organizing my resources on Diigo or Delicious, but that is further down my to-do-list. Until I really learn how to use these tools, I will continue using my somewhat effective way of organizing them through my many email folders.


I was not only organizing these resources into categories and topics, but by things I wanted to share on the three Facebook pages I administrate. Figuring out what to share where caused me such grief because some people are fans of multiple pages and I do not want them to have to read about the same resource more than once. While writing this, I made a decision. From now on, this will be the focus of each page:



I am going to go through all my email folders of resources once again and force myself to choose one page for each resource. So, depending on your interests, you may want to join all three pages. Then, the only dilemma I will face is deciding on the order in which to post them. (This also caused me much agony.) Should I post the old ones first, the new ones first, or try to mix it up? I think I will go with the old ones first. That way, even if you saw it in the past, it might be a nice reminder. The only exception will be if there is some kind of deadline associated with the resource.


These decisions should help me tremendously and are a welcome relief! I really have been agonizing over what to post where. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. If you are already a fan of any of the pages, thank you very much! I will start posting regularly once this new reorganization is complete. I wasn’t posting regularly on any of the pages because I was simply overwhelmed by the amount of resources I collected (and by the decision of what to post where). In fact, I had so many resources saved to share that I had to restrain myself from using Twitter for quite a while in order to avoid collecting any more. Sad, but true.


How do you keep track of your resources? Diigo, Delicious, email, something else? What would you recommend for me? Do you subscribe to blogs and websites using a feed reader? Do you use Google Reader or something else? Do you have any helpful hints for me? What about GoodReads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing? I know some teachers have students use them, too. If you do, what are the benefits? What do you think about my new plan for my Facebook pages?

Click here to read part two.

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Common Causes of Comprehension Difficulties

photo of the dog by the bushes

The Culprit



While spending time with my family this Memorial Day weekend, a conversation about reading came up. My husband shared his great dislike for reading and told us how he had a very difficult time responding successfully to the teacher’s question, “So, what was this book about?” This is a synopsis of our conversation that followed:

Michael: I would read all the words, but it just didn’t make any sense.

Me: My guess is that you weren’t TWRCing while you read. You expected meaning to come just by reading the words. Many struggling readers do the same thing. I know you know how to TWRC. Why just this morning you realized that my sister’s bushes weren’t growing because the dog was eating them. You knew she wondered why they weren’t growing and you kept thinking about it until you found a reason, didn’t you? When you saw the dog eat them, you connected the two actions and came up with a reason. You are a true nature TWRCr–you see things, wonder about them and think about all you know about the situation until you come up with something that makes sense. That is exactly what good readers do while they read.

Michael: But, I am a good reader when it comes to fixing a car. If I have a problem I can’t fix, I will read and read until I find my answer.

Me: Ah! So, you do TWRC when you read, as long as you know the purpose. While reading about fixing cars, you begin with a wonder (What do I need to do to fix this car) and you read (and think) until you find something that answers your wonder. Having a purpose engages your brain and keeps you focused on what you are reading until you find your answer. Good readers set purposes for reading. In other words, good readers do the same thing you do in nature and what you do when you read about fixing cars–they wonder something and then gather facts until they can come up with a plausible explanation. A purpose in narrative reading might be to determine why characters do what they do, how they got into situations, how they can get out of them, what they will do next, etc.

Michael: Hmmmm….



This conversation reminds me of three things. The first connection is to the phrase, “the pursuit of coherence,” or in literacy layman’s terms, continuing to read until you understand. I cannot remember where I read this, but it was a real aha moment for me. Basically, it was saying that not all readers read with the same pursuit of coherence. This is so simple, but so important to keep in mind. Many struggling readers are so used to reading not making sense that they do not actively do anything to try to make it make sense. Readers who have a strong pursuit of coherence understand that writing usually makes sense, so they actively try many different things when it doesn’t. They also realize that some writing is just not clear and that unless you are able to talk with the author, making it make sense is impossible.

If you think about my conversation with Michael above, it seems clear that Michael’s pursuit of coherence changed dramatically from the first scenario to the second. This is not the first time the concept of “pursuit of coherence” came up in my personal life.

After designing some higher order thinking questions about a short story, I had my sister read the story and try to answer my questions. She quickly became frustrated and said, “Well, I did not put that much into it.”

This conversation and my new understanding of “the pursuit of coherence” was the root of the acronym “TWRC.” I wanted my struggling readers to know that good readers put a lot into it, so I had them chant this daily during my first year as a reading specialist:

The more I put into reading, the more I will get out of it. Good readers think, wonder, reflect, and make connections while they read.



My students loved this. I was surprised that “repeating this mantra” was an answer that came up several times in response to, “Out of all we have done this year, what helped you the most?” I found it very interesting, but wanted to make it even easier to remember.

Once I created the acronym, “TWRC,” I did not think the mantra was necessary anymore because I used “TWRC” so often in natural conversation. Students did the same. My favorite was that they would often enter the classroom saying, “I am here to work hard and TWRC hard!” I loved that they were using it on their own. More importantly, I think they really understood that comprehension is not a given; it requires active pursuit.

The second connection I made was to a book by Cris Tovani, I Read It, but I Don’t Get It. You can read the first chapter, “Fake Reading” by clicking on the book title above. I got a lot out of reading this chapter because I had never considered talking to struggling readers this way. Since reading this chapter, I began talking to students like this more often. I really believe students get a lot out of hearing not just what good readers do, but what struggling readers do, too. I imagine I will love the rest of the book once I get around to finishing it.

I also love the way Tovani talks to students in these videos. I have only had the opportunity to hear her speak in person once–she was phenomenal! I really look forward to hearing her again. If you click on Tovani’s name above, you can hear her part in a fantastic hour-long podcast. She shares some great insight. Cris Tovani is also on Twitter.

My final connection was to Taffy Raphael’s work. I remember reading her reflections on classroom observations with children. These reflections are what caused her to develop the Question-Answer-Relationship Approach (QAR). She said she realized either struggling students seemed to think answers came from the book, or they came from your head. Unfortunately, it was an either or situation for many of them. It is unfortunate because many comprehension questions require readers to combine textual information with their own background knowledge.

I observed the same thing with many struggling readers and found that using the QAR approach helped them tremendously. Teaching QAR took some practice and I plan to write more about it in the future. Until then, this article from FOR-PD helped me tremendously. If you Google “Question-Answer-Relationship,” you will find a plethora of resources. I purchased the book, QAR Now: Question Answer Relationship: A Powerful and Practical Framework That Develops Comprehension and Higher-Level Thinking in All Students (Raphael, Highfield & Au, 2006), and it is in my “To Be Read” pile that I look forward to reading (along with Tovani’s).

On the plane to the last IRA convention, I started reading an article from Essential Readings on Comprehension titled, QAR: Enhancing Comprehension and Test Taking Across Grades and Content Areas (Raphael & Au). I was blown away with all the TWRCing opportunities this article provided. I cannot wait to finish reading it. This book is one of many in an International Reading Association series of books that all begin with “Essential Readings.” I hope to read them all someday. Here is a list of the ones that are already published.

Struggling readers do not understand why they have difficulty comprehending. Unless we share possible reasons with them, I think it is difficult for them to figure it out on their own. By starting sentences with, “Struggling readers often….,” we are letting them hear what struggling readers do without insulting them. After hearing the rest of the sentence, I imagine many struggling readers think, “Hey! That’s what I do/don’t do!” We cannot leave it at that, though. We must make sure they can do what good readers do. They must TWRC while they read to set purposes, and they need to understand question-answer-relationships in order to answer comprehension questions successfully.

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A Blog to Watch Nomination

"A Blog to Watch" badge

A Blog to Watch



Yesterday, I awoke to this Twitter message from one of the first people I followed on Twitter (and one of my favorite tweeps), @mom2preens:

I named yours as a “blog to watch” in my post today. You have taken off like wild fire with your blog!



I cannot tell you how excited and honored I felt by this tweet. This blog is less than two months old and it has been such a roller coaster of emotions. The launch itself was probably one of the most exciting days in my life. (If you are interested, you can read about that here.)

Back to LeeAnn (@mom2preteens)… Obviously after reading that tweet, I went to her blog to read her post. This is what she said about my blog,

Another twitter friend, Julie Petersen, is a newby blogger, but she is blowing me out of the water with her blog, TWRCtank.com. Julie is a wealth of information for reading teachers. She has so much great stuff on her blog that I cannot even keep up with it all!



As a feedback junkie, these very kind words from a fellow literacy advocate had me wildly jumping up and down for joy! Thank you so much, LeeAnn! I am so glad I found you way back when. I think you are the first Michigander I found on Twitter and I really enjoy your tweets and your blog. I hope we get to meet up in person at a reading convention some day. :)

If you don’t already read LeeAnn’s blog, please take some time to check out All Things Preteen and read about the other blogs she nominated.

I think the best part about this nomination is that I have found so many other great blogs by reading about the other nominees.


The following are the rules of this award:

  • Copy and display the picture of the award given to you;
  • Link back to the blog that nominated you;
  • Nominate 10 different blogs yourself;
  • Inform the people you nominated, so they can in turn, continue the chain and spread the word about other great blogs out there.


This is quite a challenge for me because until a few weeks ago, I mostly read blog posts only whenever someone mentioned them on Twitter. Thanks to this award process and from the recent recommendations people shared with me on Twitter, I have developed quite a list of blogs that I hope to read with regularity using GoogleReader. That being said, and keeping in mind that I cannot repeat any of LeeAnn’s blogs, here are my nominations for “A Blog to Watch” in alphabetical order:

  1. Book Chook by Susan Stephenson aka @BookChook on Twitter. Her blog is amazing and includes links to a fabulous literacy related magazine for parents called, “Literacy Lava.” I have recently been chatting with her on the We Teach ning and look forward to getting to know her better. I know I can learn a lot from her.

  2. The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller aka @DonalynBooks. In this blog, Donalyn “writes about how to inspire and motivate student readers, and responds to issues facing teachers and other leaders in the literacy field.” Donalyn is such a phenomenal resource and writer. She actively shares her knowledge and book recommendations on Twitter and I think I am safe in saying that we all greatly appreciate it. She is a must follow!

  3. Frankly Freddy by Elfrieda “Freddy” Hiebert. A few days before attending my first International Reading Association convention, I finished a research paper for a course in the master’s program in teaching reading. I quoted Freddy often, so her name was fresh in my memory. At a session, I heard her name and thought to myself, “Hey! I just quoted her repeatedly!” Then I heard her speak and I have been hooked on her research ever since. (I also love her kindness and great sense of humor!) Freddy is always busy with new research and presenting all over the country, so her blog is not updated as frequently as she would like, but when it is…. it is great! I highly recommend subscribing to her posts. Her blog “features occasional thoughts, comments and observations.”

  4. Jen Robinson’s Book Page by Jen Robinson aka JensBookPage” on Twitter. If you have not visited this blog yet, you will be amazed at the wealth of information here. One of my favorite parts of this blog is called, “Children’s Literacy and Reading Roundup” which is a weekly roundup of literacy tips, research, and events.

  5. Literacy Toolbox by Dawn Little aka @linkstoliteracy. I have enjoyed reading Dawn’s blog posts and tweets for quite some time. I also really enjoyed getting the chance to meet her at the last International Reading Association convention. I can’t wait to read her new book!

  6. Page by Page by Maria Salvadore. This blog is hosted by Reading Rockets, one of my go-to websites for all things literacy. I recently discovered that in addition to their fabulous website, www.readingrockets.org, they also have two blogs. I am going to nominate both because anything by Reading Rockets is usually of very high quality. This blog “explores the best ways to use kids’ books inside – and outside – of the classroom.”

  7. Putting Learners and Learning First by Angela Maiers is one of the first blogs devoted to teaching reading that I found on Twitter and it blew me away. I love, love, love all the video lessons she includes. She has such a way of getting difficult concepts across to young learners. I really look forward to reading all the posts on this blog I missed!

  8. Reading Countess: Random Thoughts by a Reading Teacher of Tweens by Tess Alfonsin. I have been following Tess for quite awhile on Twitter and her passion for teaching reading is refreshing. I am sure that parents are delighted to have their children in her class. I know I am delighted to have her as part of my Personal Learning Network. It amazes me how much she can accomplish.

  9. Reading & Other Learning Disabilities by Howard Margolis and Gary Brannigan. I have been following Gary on Twitter for quite some time and I really enjoy our conversations. He is a very passionate literacy advocate and a very supportive person. I think this blog is a great resource for helping parents and teachers make sure students with disabilities get the services they need.

  10. Sound It Out by Joanne Meier. This is the second Reading Rockets blog. On this blog, Joanne shares her experiences and “guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.”


    1. So, there you have it. Ten great blogs to follow! Happy reading. :)

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Queen Rania of Jordan Opens the International Reading Association’s 55th Annual Convention in Chicago

photo of the Arie Crown Theater Marquee: Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan

I'm Off to Hear the Queen!




I had the amazing opportunity to listen to Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan at the opening general session of the International Reading Association’s (I.R.A.) 55th annual convention in Chicago on April 26, 2010. Before going into the session, I did not know much about Queen Rania or her goals. I actually wondered why she was presenting at the convention. Being the TWRCr that I am, I did a little Internet research on her before attending this session. One surprising thing I found out was that Queen Rania of Jordan was on Twitter! (Yes, I began following her.) :)

Before speaking at I.R.A., Queen Rania tweeted these four things:

  1. April 26, 2010 at 9:20 a.m.

  2. April 26, 2010 at 9:23 a.m.

  3. April 26, 2010 at 9:27 a.m.

  4. April 26, 2010 at 9:29 a.m.


    This was the opening general session meaning that it is the only session open at that time. The exhibits and all other sessions officially open after this one. In previous years, this session began with children carrying in flags of many nations. I remember being moved to tears the first time I saw it. For some reason, I.R.A. did not have the parade of flags this year, nor do I think they had it last year. :( I really enjoy that parade. My guess is that it has been eliminated to give more time to the keynote speaker, which makes sense.

    During the opening session (and before the keynote speaker) there are also performances put on by local talent. This year’s performances were from the Chicago’s World Renowned Seven Star Lion Dance Group and the Franklin Fine Arts Center Chorus from Chicago Public Schools.

    After these delightful performances, Patricia Edwards, the incoming president of I.R.A. (and very energetic Michigander) introduced the outgoing president of I.R.A., Kathryn Au, and person in charge of the year’s theme, “Reading in Many Languages.”

    Somewhere in the opening session, many awards are announced and people who are involved with local, state, and provincial councils are recognized by being asked to stand in the audience. I remember being moved by this at the first I.R.A. convention I attended. For the past few years, I have been one of the people being asked to stand and I do so proudly. (A few weeks ago, I was installed as the president of the Orange County Reading Association.) The evening before this session, our council received the Honors Council Award at the Council Award Ceremony for our 28th consecutive year!! Many people say this award ceremony is I.R.A.’s equivalent of the “Academy Awards.”

    Back to Kathy Au’s speech…. She spoke about four lessons for creating a staircase curriculum in a standards based change process. Her four lessons included:

    1. Build a school wide professional learning community.

    2. Construct a staircase curriculum.

    3. Prepare and empower teacher leaders.

    4. Reach for the stars.


    Then, Kathy introduced Sally Zambada (sp?) who welcomed us to the convention in Tagalog, followed by an English translation. I am so glad I captured this on video. I really enjoyed learning the meaning of Mabuhay and her overall message.



    Later, the Chief Education Officer of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Eason-Watkins, welcomed us to Chicago by saying (and I quote), “Please enjoy our great shitty!” After the laughter died down, she explained that “shopping” was the next thing she was going to talk about since Chicago is known for its shopping. She covered it so well and so did Kathryn Au. It was really an enjoyable moment.

    Next, Patrick Gaston, the president of the Verizon Foundation, awarded a one million dollar grant to ReadWriteThink.org and Thinkfinity.org. (I will write a post about this amazing website in the future.)

    photo of a million dollar check

    Million Dollar Check from the Verizon Foundation to Thinkfinity - ReadWriteThink




    After a long-standing ovation for the Verizon Foundation, Kathryn Au began introducing the Queen. I videotaped most of the introduction and all of Queen Rania’s presentation with my digital camera in two parts. I compressed and uploaded them to the TWRCtank’s Facebook page. I hope they load quickly for you and that you have time to watch. They are not the best quality and are jumpy in places (because I was taking notes), but I think you will really enjoy her speech (part 1) and her question and answer session with Kathryn Au (part 2). Around the 7:18 mark of part 1, Queen Rania shares a very touching story about “Luggage for Life.” I think you will really enjoy it. I know I did! Part two talks a lot about Queen Rania’s work with UNICEF and the fact that 72 million children around the world are not in schools, but pray they were. This leads into the 1 Goal campaign that I discuss later in this post.

    If you would rather read about Queen Rania’s keynote speech instead, here are two write-ups I found on the Internet. The first one focuses more on Queen Rania’s goals than her speech. The second one is from a website all about Jordan and it focuses more on her speech–including one of my favorite parts of the speech, “Luggage for Life.”

    1. Article from Reading Today about Queen Rania of Abdul’s speech at the International Reading Association convention.

    2. Article about Queen Rania Abdul of Jordan opening the International Reading Association Convention.


    Here are my amateur videos:





    I want to point out that before the opening general session began, some women in line next to me had purchased an autographed copy of a children’s book written by Queen Rania–published just that morning! The book is titled, Sandwich Swap. We read it while we waited in line. It is beautifully illustrated and based on a true story that happened to Queen Rania when she was five years old. You can watch a 6 1/2 minute ABC News video clip of Queen Rania Abdul telling the story behind the Sandwich Swap (and read an excerpt of the book) here. The book has a great multicultural message.

    If you are interested in learning more about Queen Rania and The Sandwich Swap, you might enjoy watching her recent appearances on The View and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

    Queen Rania of Jordan on The View




    Queen Rania of Jordan on The Oprah Winfrey Show (Part 1)



    Queen Rania of Jordan on The Oprah Winfrey Show (Part 2)





    By the way, here is Queen Rania’s humorous tweet before she appeared on The Oprah Show.

    Here is more about 1 Goal: Education for All (including a video). I joined 1 Goal and added my name to the team, became a fan of 1 Goal on Facebook and I follow 1 Goal on Twitter, too. I hope the demonstration at the World Cup is so powerful that politicians will take action and children will no longer have to pray for an education.



    Queen Rania is also in the video below, along with several people you will recognize. It is sad, eyeopening, and very inspirational.

    End Poverty: Be the Generation




    Finally, if you haven’t learned enough, you can find Queen Rania of Jordan on Wikipedia. In addition, Queen Rania of Jordan is on Facebook and you can find Queen Rania of Jordan’s YouTube Channel here.

    I hope this post has inspired you. I know putting it all together inspired me.

    Note: I love comments and feedback. If you do not have time to comment, could you at least take a second to click on the stars below to rate this post on a scale of 1 to 10? Thanks a bunch! In addition, if you take the time to read the comments, I encourage you to click on the “Like” button located next to comments you like, so that the “Sort by” drop-down menu will be useful. Thanks again and happy TWRCing! :)

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    Revisiting Silent Reading: New Directions for Teachers and Researchers (International Reading Association Institute #6, Chicago 2010): Part Six

    photo of a high school commencement program

    Nearly 7,000 U.S. Students Drop Out of High School Daily & Do Not Achieve this Accomplishment




    This is the final part of my reflections on the International Reading Association’s Institute called, “Revisiting Silent Reading: New Directions for Teachers and Researchers” that was held in Chicago on April 25, 2010. You can find part one here. In that part, I discussed the presentations from P. David Pearson and Susie Goodin; D. Ray Reutzel; and Kathleen Wilson. You can find part two here. In that part, I discussed the presentation from S. Jay Samuels titled, “Movements and Reading: Without them you cannot read.” You can find part three here. In that part, I discussed Devon Brenner’s presentation, “Increasing eyes on text in high-impact schools.” You can find part four here. In that part, I discussed Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen’s presentation, “Why so much oral reading in reading lessons & elsewhere?” You can find part five here. In that part, I discussed a breakout session presentation based on handouts I received and from some Internet research. Michelle J. Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace were the presenters and their presentation was titled, “R5: A sustained silent reading makeover.”

    The final breakout session I actually attended was presented by Katherine Bach and Elfrieda H. Hiebert. It was titled, “Supporting Struggling Adolescent Readers in Digital Contexts.”

    I don’t know that I noticed the word “adolescent” in the title when selecting this session. Most of my experience teaching reading is with elementary school students and that is where I have the most knowledge. However, I am trying to expand what I know because of this blog and because of the website I hope to create some day. I bring this up because I am thankful I attended this session. It was very good to be reminded of the issues adolescent readers face. As you will soon see, some of the statistics shared were alarming to say the least!

    Bach gave most of this presentation. She began by discussing the questions that got them started researching this area. The two questions were:

    How can you measure “readability” in a media based online learning environment?

    How can the enormous potential of online technologies be used to increase the literacy participation of adolescents?

    Then came the statistic that alarmed me the most from the entire institute….Nearly 7,000 adolescents drop out of school every day! Why? The most commonly cited reason for the high dropout numbers is inadequate literacy skills.

    Hiebert and Bach shared their source with us (The Alliance for Excellent Education), but because of copyright issues, I do not think I can quote anything from the report or provide a direct link to it without first asking for permission. However, you can find it yourself by going to the report section of The Alliance for Excellent Education’s website and looking for, “Reading Next – A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy: A Report to Carnegie Corporation of New York.” There is a lot of information in this report that should be of interest to reading teachers and other educators.

    7,000 students dropping out every day is alarming, isn’t it? Being the TWRCr that I am, I did a little Internet research to see what other people were saying about this finding. Here is a May 12, 2009 article from www.edlabor.house.gov titled, “High School Dropout Crisis Threatens U.S. Economic Growth and Competitiveness, Witnesses Tell House Panel.” It states,

    Nationwide, 7,000 students drop out every day and only about 70 percent of students graduate from high school with a regular high school diploma. Two thousand high schools in the U.S. produce more than half of all dropouts…

    I learned that the 2,000 high schools producing the most dropouts are referred to as “dropout factories.” I am sure I have heard this term in the past, but since I mainly work with elementary school students, it must have slipped my mind. Again, being the TWRCr that I am, I needed to do a little more Internet research about these dropout factories. Here are two articles I found interesting:


    • “1 in 10 U.S. high schools is a ‘dropout factory’: U.S. putting new emphasis on boosting graduation rates for high schools.” (Associated Press, Oct. 29, 2007)

    • “Locating the Dropout Crisis: Which High Schools Produce the Nation’s Dropouts? Where Are They Located? Who Attends Them?” (Balfanz & Legters, Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk (CRESPAR)/The Johns Hopkins University, September 2004)


      In this article, the following statements saddened me greatly because I grew up in Michigan and reside in California,

      More than two thirds of the high schools with the lowest promoting power (50% or less) are located in just 11 states (Georgia, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and California). If four more southern and southwestern states are included (Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arizona) nearly 80% of the nation’s high schools that produce the highest number of dropouts can be found.


    • Another alarming statistic shared by Hiebert and Bach is,

      70 & 65: As measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 70 percent of 8th graders and 65 percent of 12th graders read below proficient.

      If you are unfamiliar with NAEP, or more commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, be sure to spend some time on the NAEP website–especially in the reading section.

      After hearing about these alarming statistics, I realized that our adolescent students really need our help. I have often read adolescent reading researchers complain about the lack of funds for research in their area, but I dismissed it because I honestly believe that the earlier we can intervene, the better. However…. these statistics are abysmal. Perhaps it is time to start allocating more money for adolescent reading research. I would also really like to see more funding for educating parents on the importance of their role in their children’s success. (See my post, “What Happens in the Home before Kids Start School Affects Their Vocabulary and Overall Academic Success” for more.) In fact, that is where I think our top priority should be–improving the education of the lives of children in the 0-5 years.

      Back to the session…. Bach shared two questions and answers from their review:


      1. How does adolescents’ comprehension in online and print contexts compare?

      2. Existing research indicates that middle- and high-school students comprehend texts in online contexts significantly better than they do in printed texts. (Moran et al., 2008; Murphy et al., 2002; Slavin et al., 2008)

      3. What features of online contexts can be used to increase adolescents’ involvement in literacy and comprehension?


      • Engagement (Ensuring proficiency, interest, involvement)

      • Access (Supporting comprehension in the moment and increasing comprehension in general by using adaptive scaffolds (ex. text to speech, rollover support – definition, example, illustration, varying text levels and summaries) and strategic scaffolds (ex. active reading strategies–asking questions, drawing inferences, summarizing, making mental images, drawing on prior knowledge, monitoring understanding, using text features and visual clues)

      • Connectedness (creating visible relationships within text)



      To demonstrate how the online world can help readers become engaged, Hiebert and Bach shared the “Find a Book” feature of www.lexile.com because it helps students find reading material based on their interests.

      Hiebert and Bach then shared some slides from an article in Weekly Reader Digital Edition. I attended a presentation on the Weekly Reader Digital Edition later in the week and will discuss it in more depth in the future. Until then, you can click here to see their scaffolding features. Hiebert and Bach pointed out that after reading the article online, students can take a maze assessment* to assess their reading comprehension. They note that this type of assessment (with immediate feedback) keeps students engaged because it validates their knowledge. Hiebert and Bach also pointed out that Weekly Reader Digital Edition supports access to text because it has adaptive scaffolds such as, audio and vocabulary supports.

      To demonstrate connectedness, Hiebert and Bach talked about some screen shots of Reading Plus. Eventually this PowerPoint presentation should be available in the library section of www.textproject.org. There is so much information on the tiny slides on my handout that it is difficult to see and to summarize so I am not going to try. What I can offer you is a link to an article that discusses the key points of this presentation in depth. Online Scaffolds That Support Adolescents’ Comprehension (Hiebert, Menon, Martin & Bach, 2009. Apex Learning).

      Overall, I marvel at how technology is able to help struggling readers understand what they read. Personally, I love when I find short video clips on unfamiliar topics and links to definitions of unfamiliar words. I also love that I can usually dig deeper into a topic online than I can in print.

      The idea of strategic scaffolding is something else that amazes me. Although they are not online, I really love the audio books in the Read 180 program for that reason. If you are unfamiliar with them, you should listen to one and pay attention to the strategic scaffolding. Each audiobook has a reading coach who interrupts the narration of the audio book every now and then to discuss reading strategies good readers use. Based on this breakout session, I think that is what Reading Plus does, too. Having reading strategies modeled for students in authentic situations should benefit struggling students greatly.

      Well, that’s it for this institute. I know it made me TWRC a lot. I hope by reading my posts, you found something to TWRC about, too. I look forward to learning about more research in this area and really want to see the goggles in action–they fascinate me! Let me leave you with this: If you were in charge of the world, where would you allocate most of the money to try to improve the reading abilities for all learners?

      *In cloze assessments, several words from the text are omitted and are represented with a blank line. Students fill in the the blanks using their background and language knowledge. Maze assessments are similar to cloze assessments, but instead of filling in the blanks on their own, students are offered multiple answer choices.

      **Updated 8/19/2010: Click here to find all presentation handouts from this institute at http://www.textproject.org.**

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