Tag Archives: literacy resources

Happy International Literacy Day!

Followers, first-timers and those in between, welcome back to school! It’s a new year full of new possibilities, including our hope to bring you interesting, informed literacy and math news, ideas, and musings here at Coaches Corner!

I really need to start writing my blog ideas down, so I don’t do what I did coming into school this week: panic! Once I talked myself off the ledge, an idea sparked, then smoldered, and finally caught flame: September 8th, International Literacy Day! In its honor, we’re sharing some of our favorite literacy sites and ideas from around the web.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-1-07-32-pmFirst up is The International Literacy Association or ILA (formerly the International Reading Association), the lead sponsor of International Literacy Day, which focuses on global literacy needs with project ideas and a profile on a spotlight country. Additionally, they are a leading source for professional learning, publications, and of course literacy advocacy. These are the folks who co-produce ReadWriteThink with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), where teachers can find peer-reviewed lesson plans and literacy ideas galore.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-1-06-00-pmTeachers College at Columbia University is home to the Reading & Writing Project. Lucy Caulkins, Mary Ehrenworth and other literacy giants anchor this site where teachers can download running record reading assessments, view videos of classroom laboratories and find a host of professional learning opportunities and publications. BTW, Lucy Caulkins is presenting in Portland next week!

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-12-55-52-pmLast Spring I got hooked on A Mighty Girl. It was one of those pop-up “we think you’d like” sites that showed up in my Facebook feed. A Mighty Girl celebrates all things mighty about girls and women. Since we’re talking about literacy, we’re linking you to A Mighty Girl Book Club and from there, you can explore. Like (as in the verb) their Facebook page, and you too, can be the recipient of mighty information like Today in Mighty Girl History.

02dias-blog480Here’s an updated article about young literacy superstar, Marley Dias, creator of #1000BlackGirlBooks. You probably remember her story: 11-year old Marley got tired of not seeing main characters that looked like her in any of the books being read at school. So, she went about collecting donations of 1000 books for young readers that feature black girls as the main character. As you might expect, she far exceeded her initial goal and partner GrassROOTS Community Foundation has cataloged books appealing to readers of all ages, races, cultures and more.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-12-56-34-pmMy consistent favorite site for “all things bookish” is BookRiot! Its edgy posts are probably most appropriate for older teens (high school) and up. But, that doesn’t mean that the recommended books are inappropriate. Take Kelly Jensen, for example. She authors a recurring BookRiot newsletter called “What’s Up in YA” where I get information about a wide variety of Young Adult book news from “25 YA Paperbacks to Read This Fall” to “3 on a YA Theme: Conjoined Twins or Siblings You Never Leave;” there’s truly something for everyone. There are several other newsletters to choose from; sign up and they’ll faithfully fill your Inbox.

Locally, Literary Artsscreen-shot-2016-09-08-at-1-19-28-pm is a cornucopia of literacy bounty in the Portland-Metro area. They sponsor Portland Arts & Lectures, Writers In The Schools (WITS), and the recently revived Wordstock! Our schools in Gresham-Barlow have been recipients of professional Writers-in-Residence partnering with classroom teachers on instruction. In addition, I’ve personally been involved in their College Essay Mentoring Project where high school juniors have an opportunity to get face-to-face feedback on the development of their college essay from professional writers and community members. And, last but not least, don’t forget to check out Wordstock’s 2016 line-up of authors The one-day event is Saturday, November 5th.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-1-07-57-pmOf course, we couldn’t end this piece without giving a shout-out to our local libraries! Multnomah County Library’s many branches have a wealth of resources to support your literacy needs in the classroom. School Corps is a great starting place to learn how the library can support your teaching and your students.

Obviously, these are just a few of the myriad sites out there that support literacy teaching and learning. Please share one or more of your faves in the Leave a Reply box below to help us grow our list of go-to’s. In the meantime, Happy International Literacy Day today and every day!


Read On! Literacy Resources

In the immortal words of Jimmy Fallon, aka “Joey Mack,” DJ extraordinaire on the fictional Z105 Morning Madhouse: “And, we’re back!” Call it a Jan-Term or what you will, it’s been a crazy month for these two Instructional Coaches planning an delivering PD around the Smarter Balanced Assessment. As we are in the first year of the SBA, it seems like a good time to explore some resources again:

In our district, we’re hearing the clamor for more student samples of ELA writing tasks to gauge success levels. As many are already aware, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium released Scoring Guides to the on-line practice tests at all grade levels, which include some exemplars (though seemingly written by adults) for the Constructed Response items included on both the Computer Adaptive Test as well as the Performance Task. In addition, in November 2014, SBAC released the first Baseline Anchor Responses from the Performance Task Full Writes, based on actual student work on the 2013 SBA Pilot Test. These are organized by grade level, writing purpose (mode) and score point : Purpose/Organization exemplars 4, 3, 2, 1; Evidence/Elaboration exemplars 4, 3, 2, 1 and Conventions exemplars 2, 1, 0, rather than as full essay exemplars. There are no full essays that have been scored across the board in all three traits.

Yet another resource to peruse comes from EngageNY. Although the work contained here is not from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium itself, it does include pioneering, thoughtfully developed and vetted tasks from the New York State Tests, Grades 3-8 ELA & Mathematics 2013 and 2014. You’ll see many similarities between these and the SBA sample tests. Unfortunately, it’s a little cumbersome to navigate. Annotated State Test Questions include passages, questions, success criteria (Characteristics of Responses Receiving Full Credit), and student work. Sample Student Work from the 2013 NYS ELA Common Core Test provides a smaller sample of mini-performance tasks and student work (rather than wading through the pages of the full test the previous link takes you to).

Finally (at least as far as SBA talk is considered), if you scroll to the bottom of the Annotated State Test Questions page, you’ll find PDF documents of Sample Annotated Passages you can download by grade level. The benefit of this resource is that EngageNY has gone through the arduous task of analyzing Quantitative (including Word Count and Lexile Level) and Qualitative (Text Structure, Language Features, Knowledge Demands, etc.) measures for the passages included on their exams. What does this mean for you? It means you have access to readily available grade-level appropriate passages to practice with in your classroom.

And now for something  completely different (kinda)! We’re still on the subject of reading, but off the SBA Train for the moment. This week (February 2nd to be exact), The American Library Association posted the 2015 Winners of the Youth Media Awards including both fiction and non-fiction titles! It’s a long and impressive list describing the awards, their winners, and honor books. To make it a bit more manageable for the MS/HS audience, I’ve created a Goodreads Bookshelf of the print winners that you may want to make available for your readers. With a quick skimming of the summaries, you should be able to guide readers to appropriate levels of books.

We know it isn’t practical nor good teaching for students to take the next four to six weeks of class time to test prep, so use these resources to amplify what you’re already doing in the classroom that is best practice.

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Upcoming Events and Updated Resources

In an effort to respond to feedback from GBSD’s April 25th S&A Day, we’ve made some updates to the Events and Resources pages; we invite you to explore!

If you click on the Events tab at the top of the page, you’ll find a listing of several opportunities coming your way: the Teen Author Lecture on May 14th, STEM and math course offerings, Lanny Ball’s two upcoming writing workshops, and several other summer PD opportunities for educators of all stripes!

After sharing district data about student results on 7th and 10th grade Performance Assessments, we were asked about resources for replicating such tasks in the classroom. In Science and Social Sciences we’ve included a few text sets (different articles/perspectives on a certain topic) from which you may build constructed response or performance task questions. The ones included were vetted by Columbia Teachers College staff. Although aimed for use w/middle and high school students, you may want to consider adapting the articles to bring their Lexile Level down to meet the intended grade level band for which you are aiming. For help with this or finding texts for specific topics, creating constructed response or performance task questions, check in with your trusty Instructional Coaches!

For ELA folks, we’ve added a Mini-Performance Task courtesy of Canby High School.

Additional resources for ready-made teaching modules with embedded Common Core tasks can be found at Literacy Design Collaborative Core Tools.  Access to the modules does require you to create a FREE account, and I can attest I have not been inundated by emails or other SPAM because of my “membership.”

Still another site worth checking out for both Math and ELA folks is Engage New York, the website designed and maintained by the State Education Department of NY to support the implementation of Common Core. Again, full-blown teaching modules are available for public download and experimentation in your classroom.


Finally, Teacher’s College Reading Writing Project has files of text sets (from which I gathered the ones profiled in this post), on several ELA, Social Science, and Science topics. Additionally, staff have developed some Common Core aligned performance assessments available for free download, too.

We’ll keep adding to these. If you want 1:1 or team assistance in creating SBA-type assessments, please invite us in; we’re more than happy to help!

Nonfiction Text Sets

Last month, Beth had the opportunity to attend the Teachers College Reading Writing Project (TCRWP) Winter Coaching Institute, and was overwhelmed by the myriad resources available for teachers. A virtual gold mine can be found in the form of Digital Nonfiction Text Sets compiled by TCRWP staff. Text sets range from Pop-Culture, to Social Studies, and Health and Science. Within those broad categories, topics such as Green Energies, Japanese Internment Camps, Child Labor, and Competitive Sports in School are covered.

Every title included has been screened for appropriateness and authenticity, a time saver for sure! In about 30 minutes, we were able to run portions of about eight articles through the Lexile Analyzer, which identified a range between 900L-1400L or roughly upper middle-high school levels. Still, with appropriate levels of scaffolding, vocabulary support, and some reading aloud, students can achieve success.

Embedded in these sets are several video clips, political cartoons, and other “texts” for which students will need to develop skills to read and analyze. In a blog post a few weeks ago on this very site, we provided an activity from Carol Jago on close reading with non-traditional texts such as photographs and YouTube videos. Often times a simple provocative question can get the get the gears turning.

At the institute, the Middle School Cohort Beth was a part of discussed the difference between providing opportunities for students to read vs. teaching them reading strategies. Providing an opportunity means selecting text, assigning students to read and perhaps answer some questions about it. There’s definitely a place for that in independent work, but as we’re charged with helping students become college and career ready (which in part means students are able to read at more sophisticated levels) we need to fill their toolboxes with strategies for accessing challenging texts. Teaching such reading strategies can be done across content areas. We found this cool resource: Charts to Support Nonfiction Reading, also from TCRWP, which provides some ideas for actually digging into this kind of reading.

Featuring one chart today, here’s a way to break down summarizing or retelling information, providing frames for student thinking, speaking, and writing:

Nonfiction Retell

Depending on your audience, you can recreate this chart for whatever level you’re teaching. You may also choose to provide an exemplar, (an example of a proficient response, which could be past student work) for your reading/writing purpose, so students understand what reaches the standard.

We’ll take a closer look at some of the other charts in future posts. If you want support in your classroom as you move forward, you can leave a comment, or email us for assistance. Keep Calm and Read On!

Online Literacy Resource Treasures

We collect resources all the time but sometimes have difficulty getting them out to folks in a timely manner, so we’re adding this venue to our repertoire.

We were introduced to a couple of new (to us) literacy resources, appropriate for ELA, SS, & SCI folks. Read on and try them out!

1. Readworks.org – So get this, a reading passages depository with Lexile leveled fiction and non-fiction AND evidence-based questions to go with them! And, that’s not all…it’s FREE, and that’s a very good price! I did the online tour of the site, and learned that you can search passages by grade level, Lexile level (minimum and/or maximum), domain (subject area and not just science, but physical science or life science, for example), and skill/strategy, like Cause & Effect, Main Idea, or Point of View). Sounds like a panacea, right?  Here’s the fine print: This is a K-8 resource (but if you have struggling readers in HS, no reason not to try them out). I tried a search with the following criteria: 6th grade, Lexile Level Min 400, Max 800, Domain: Life Sciences, Skill/Strategy: Any. It came back with about six options, but the Min Lexile was 730 and the Max was 780, so some limitations. Still, we take what we can get, especially for FREE. There are also Lesson Plans/Units (choose from Comprehension, Novels, or Skill & Strategy) available through Grade 6.

2. Booklamp.org – A book match data base that allows the user to plug in a book title (I tried The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a non-fiction title) and hit Return on your keyboard; the site looks for what they call “similar book DNA” and pops up with suggestions. For Henrietta, I received 35 non-fiction titles and 14 fiction titles. I also tried out The Hunger Games and got back 41 fiction and 8 non-fiction titles. So, is that it, you may ask? Nope. Here’s what Booklamp itself describes, “Enjoyment is our goal. We want you to glimpse the same world of possibility when you arrive at our site as you would walking in the front door of the largest, oldest, most mystical library you’ve ever seen. We want you to feel that wonder of worlds to be uncovered. If we could hire an old man that looks like a wizard to sit at the front desk, hand you a lit candle and a treasure map when you came in the door, we would.” The ELA half of us thinks this is a kinda cool philosophy.

3. Newsela.com – Many of you already have been experimenting with this, but if you haven’t tried it out, it’s worth a look! This site also provides Lexile leveled (from 4th grade to College-Ready) articles in a variety of subject areas (science, law, arts, war & peace) for FREE. In addition, teachers can register (also for FREE), and create class lists providing access for students and a monitoring tool for teachers. Several articles have CCSS “anchors” where the aligned standard(s) pops up when the user rolls the cursor over a grey number in the corner. These anchored articles also have short CCSS-aligned Selected Response (multiple choice) quizzes, that might be appropriate as a formative assessment for or a student progress tracker for others.

4. ODE – We know, we know.Searching the Oregon Department of Education’s website acan be frustrating. But there’s some cool stuff here to support CCSS across content areas: ELA, Social Studies, and Science. Once you get to the Content Area Resources page with the link above, click on your subject.  In the content areas, there’s a link to Instructional Strategies for Literacy, videos and primers on literacy integration, and more. For ELA, there are helpful links including instructional strategies, rubrics, and even a searchable database for tasks, units and student work from New York.

We hope you find these helpful resources. Of course, this list is incomplete; we didn’t want to overwhelm you. We promise more in the future. By the way, the Comments section below is a great place to share literacy resources you may have stumbled across, too!