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    ILA Presents Updated Literacy Professional Preparation Standards to State ELA Consultants

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Oct 19, 2018
    SCASS Presentation

    Representatives of ILA addressed education agency consultants Wednesday at the State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS) Fall Meeting in Boston about improving and increasing the effectiveness of state literacy programs.

    Rita M. Bean, University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, and Diane E. Kern, University of Rhode Island, were invited by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to brief Collaborative members from across the country about ILA’s Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 (Standards 2017). Their message? The standards, although written for educator preparation programs, can—and should—be used to navigate decisions about curriculum and instruction.

    Kern, who along with Bean served as co-chair of the committee charged with updating ILA’s standards, says the presentation offered a platform for this broader application. They also shared how ILA can support states in the ongoing development and assessment of existing literacy programs.

    As Kern and Bean shared with attendees, Standards 2017 provides “a framework for thinking about their own initiatives and challenges, including the development of their state comprehensive literacy plans.”

    The presentation included an activity during which attendees divided into seven groups to analyze the content of and research behind a standard. The groups then shared their findings across the English Language Arts collaborative, a subgroup of the SCASS.

    Participants demonstrated interest in how ILA’s standards could inform schools’ disciplinary literacy and digital literacy practices and their professional learning initiatives.

    “We asked them to think about how [the standards] could offer solutions to their challenges,” says Bean. “[Attendees] were saying the standards would be a powerful and valuable tool for evaluating where they are and where they’re going.”

    Learn more about ILA’s Standards 2017 here.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    How Our Teaching Can, and Must, Honor Our Students' Rights to Read

    By Jennifer Serravallo
     | Oct 17, 2018
    Honoring Students' Rights to Read

    Upon reading ILA’s Children’s Rights to Read, I got teacher goosebumps. And this is why.

    Children walk into our classrooms with all of themselves. They are the sum total of their experiences and their expectations. We cannot ask them to leave any part of themselves at the door when the bell rings, rather, we must embrace their entirety.

    So, how can we do this as reading teachers?

    We can carve out time every day for them to read (Right no. 1). And not just time, but a high volume of uninterrupted time (Right no. 7). We can curate a classroom library from which they are free to browse and select titles (Right no. 2).

    We can reveal to them what to watch for in the books they choose so they can deepen their comprehension, better understand the content, and have their own thoughts and interpretations about what they read. Comprehension helps make the reading experience enjoyable and fully realized (Right no. 5).

    As reading teachers, we know how important it is to do more than focus on the book; we have to focus on our readers. We talk to our students, we seek to understand them and their interests, passions, and reading histories. We make sure our classroom and school libraries are not only a mirror of their lives and identities, but also a window into parts of the world they have not yet ventured (Rights no. 3 and no. 4).

    Reading is social and thus we must give students the chance to recommend titles, react to their reading by talking with friends, and talk about how they’re living differently because of the things they have read (Right no. 8).

    And when students talk to us, they should know that we are helping them read any book better, not just the one book they have in their hands in the moment we confer with them (Right no. 6). Speaking of conferring, we must give students our individual time and attention as we guide them toward stronger reading habits and skills.

    And what is the point of reading anyway, unless it’s enjoyable? Reading helps us learn about our world so we can cultivate new thinking and share our ideas and opinions with others (Right no. 9). When we invest in developing our own knowledge around texts and engage as regular readers of children’s literature, we are better able to teach in a way that is generalizable book to book (Right no. 10).

    When our teaching is specific, clear, and transferrable, we can ensure that we are supporting our students’ reading lives well beyond the precious days we work with them in our classrooms. When we honor our students’ reading lives and tailor our instruction to meet them where they are, we are preserving not only their rights to read but also their right to lay claim to the world around them.

    Jennifer Serravallo is a literacy consultant, speaker, and the author of several popular titles including The New York Times bestselling The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers (Heinemann) and The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers (Heinemann). Her latest publication, Understanding Texts & Readers: Responsive Comprehension Instruction with Leveled Texts (Heinemann), connects comprehension goals to text levels and readers responses. Upcoming publications include A Teacher's Guide to Reading Conferences(early 2019) and Complete Comprehension, which is a revised and reimagined whole book assessment and teaching resource based on the award-winning Independent Reading Assessment (due in spring 2019). She was a senior staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and taught in Title I schools in New York City. Tweet her @jserravallo.

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    ILA Advocates for Student-Centered Model of Data Collection and Interpretation

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Oct 16, 2018
    Beyond the Numbers

    Rather than being shaped by accountability policies and requirements, student learning goals and needs should be the driving force behind what data are collected and how they are used.

    When centered on students’ unique needs, data can serve as a portrait, a highlighter, and a springboard to enhance student learning and inform instructional decision making, according to ILA’s latest brief, Beyond the Numbers: Using Data for Instructional Decision Making.

    Educators should view students as key sources of their own learning data, asserts ILA.

    “We’re moving away from the idea that data equal obligatory test scores and percentages,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “The most powerful sources of data are the unique experiences students have in the classroom.”

    Snapshot data, such as test scores, are often used incorrectly to categorize or label students by their abilities, according to ILA. Data should include a wide range of information, such as formative assessments, student engagement observations, student oral responses, and knowledge of students’ backgrounds, to provide a fuller portrait of students’ strengths and needed areas of support.

    Examining discrepancies and patterns across multiple forms of data can illuminate equity concerns and allow for a more truthful picture of student learning. When analysis leads to uncertainty about next steps or solutions, data act as a springboard, prompting further inquiry and investigation.

    The brief concludes with five actionable steps for using data to support instructional improvements.

    Access the full brief here.

    Alina O'Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily.

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    Boo! Spooky Stories

    By Carrie Thomas and Carolyn Angus
     | Oct 15, 2018

    As Halloween nears, readers of all ages enjoy listening to and reading stories about witches, ghosts, monsters, and other creepy creatures. This week’s column includes slightly spooky stories for younger readers and terrifying tales for older readers. Give students a special treat by sharing these recently published books alongside classic Halloween tales.

    Ages 4–8

    Bone Soup: A Spooky Tasty Tale. Alyssa Satin Capucilli. Ill. Tom Knight. 2018. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    Bone SoupIn this retelling of the folktale “Stone Soup,” Knight uses lush colors to illustrate the friendly monster, ghost, vampire, mummy, skeleton, and other creatures who fill the cauldron of three little witches with spooky ingredients to make a tasty soup. Capucilli fills the book with humorous descriptive language like “wrinkliest of prunes” and “slimy sludge” that make  reading this book a treat. The repeated words and phrases will appeal to beginning readers. A recipe for bone soup is included so children and their caregivers can make their own tasty Halloween treat.

    Ghoulia (Ghoulia #1). Barbara Cantini. Trans. Anna Golding. 2018. Amulet/Abrams.

    GhouliaThis first book in a series imported from Italy, with ghoulishly detailed Tim Burton-style illustrations, introduces Ghoulia, “a perfectly normal zombie girl,” and the other residents of Crumbling Manor, including Tragedy (her albino greyhound), Auntie Departed, Shadow (Auntie’s cat), Uncle Misfortune (actually, just his head), and Grandad Coffin (a ghost). When Ghoulia overhears some children talking about dressing up in scary costumes and going trick-or-treating on Halloween night, she has the brilliant idea to disguise herself “as a normal, living child.” All is going well until Ghoulia forgets and demonstrates her special scary move, which reveals her true identity. All ends well, as the children (after three pages of staring) realize how incredible it is to have a friend who is “a REAL ZOMBIE!!!”

    A Samurai Scarecrow: A Very Ninja Halloween. Rubin Pingk. 2018. Simon & Schuster.

    Samurai ScarecrowAfter telling his little sister Kashi about the Samurai Scarecrow, who wakes when the moon is full and vows to teach “the feathered fools who won’t flee” to be scared of him, Yukio, who considers himself to be a brave ninja, decides to dress up as a bird. When Kashi, who has been copying all his Halloween preparations, appears in a matching Ninja Bird costume, Yukio has had enough. His cruel words—“You’re not a real Ninja!”—make Kashi decide not to go trick-or-treating with him. Instead, she plays a clever ninjalike trick on Yukio at the end of the evening. The action-filled digital illustrations, done in black and white with orange accents against a mauve background, add to the fun of this “very ninja Halloween” tale.
    Skelly’s Halloween. David Martin. Ill. Lori Richmond. 2018. Henry Holt.

    Skelly's Halloween“Head and shoulders, knees and toes. / Trick-or-treating, here we goes!” Skelly Bones Skeleton’s Halloween plans go awry when a gust of wind catches his “BOOOO-tiful” ghost costume and tosses him up into the air, and he lands with his bones scattered. The silly appearances of Skelly, the result of asking a snake and then a colony of ants for help in reassembling his bones, is a highlight in the colorful artwork (created with pen and ink, foam stamps, and Adobe Photoshop). Finally, a trio of children put Skelly together again by following the pattern of bones on a girl’s skeleton costume and invite him to join their night of trick-or-treating fun.

    Stumpkin. Lucy Ruth Cummins. 2018. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    StumpkinStumpkin is nearly the perfect pumpkin. He is as orange as a traffic cone and as big as a basketball. But Stumpkin has no stem. Halloween is coming, and all of Stumpkin’s friends are picked to be carved into be jack-o-lanterns—even the gourd! Will he ever get chosen to be a jack-o-lantern? Lucy Ruth Cummins uses a minimal color scheme to keep the focus on the bright orange pumpkins. The striking inclusion of two completely black pages toward the end of the book helps to build suspense as the reader awaits the fate of Stumpkin. Young readers will enjoy the happy ending and the carved faces of the pumpkins in the windows.

    Ages 9–11

    The Ghostly Carousel: Delightfully Frightful Poems. Calef Brown. 2018. Carolrhoda/Lerner.

    The Ghostly Carousel Brown’s anthology of 17 humorous poems and seasonally colored illustrations are more likely to induce groans and giggles than fright, making them a delightful choice for those who like their Halloween reading to be scary, but not too scary. The verses, filled with puns, alliteration, and clever wordplay, introduce a motley crew of characters, including Joel, a zombie eager to escape the hugs of his zombified aunts at a family reunion; the Gambling Ghost, an expert at rolling haunted dice; a telekinetic warlock, who “can easily open door locks” with his magical mind; and Hank, who says that “grubs and larvae make marvelous food.” (Hank’s recipe for insect pie is included in another poem.)

    Nightbooks. J. A. White. 2018. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    NightbooksAlex loves writing scary stories in his “nightbooks.” On his way to destroy all his nightbooks, in an effort to be “less weird” and more like everyone else, Alex is drawn into an apartment by the sounds of his favorite horror movie. Alex quickly realizes that this is no ordinary apartment and that he has been lured to the apartment to tell scary stories to a witch. In the giant magical library, he learns about the Unicorn Girl, the only person to ever escape the apartment. Alex enlists the help of the hesitant Yasmin (another prisoner) and Lenore (a grumpy cat who is keeping an eye on the two children) to form an escape plan. The novel includes Alex’s stories, which are genuinely creepy without gore. Elements of spookiness and magic in this horror story will appeal to a wide range of middle-grade readers.

    Scream and Scream Again!: Spooky Stories from Mystery Writers of America. R. L. Stine (Ed.) 2018. HarperCollins.

    Scream and Scream Again!R. L. Stine and 20 other members of the Mystery Writers of America contribute to this anthology of spooky short stories, each of which begins or ends with a scream, or better yet, begins and ends with a scream. For example, Bruce Hale begins “Raw Head and Bloody Bones” with “Screams ripped the suburban October afternoon in two like a construction paper pumpkin. ‘AAAHH!’” and ends the story with “And once more, screams pierced the suburban night.” The stories are suspenseful and feature surprising twists that add to the fun of reading them aloud.

    Ages 12–14

    Pitch Dark. Courtney Alameda. 2018. Feiwel and Friends.

    Pitch DarkLaura Cruz wants to rid herself of an implanted subjugator, and Tuck Morgan just woke up from being in stasis for a few hundred years. A crash between their two ships brings their worlds together. The crew on the Conquistador, Laura’s ship, is searching for the last bits of human history and the John Muir, Tuck’s ship, has one of the last pieces of history that could be the key to saving humanity. Laura and Tuck must work together while escaping griefers, mourners, and even other humans. There is plenty of action and scientific language in this action-packed book. An unexpected twist will keep readers interested until the very end of this science fiction thriller.

    Small Spaces. Katherine Arden. 2018. Putnam/Penguin.

    Small SpacesOllie is on her way home from school when she sees a strange woman throwing a book called Small Spaces into the water. Ollie rescues the book and quickly becomes engrossed in the story. When Ollie’s class goes on a field trip to a farm, the bus driver gives Ollie strange advice: “Avoid large spaces at night. Keep to small.” On the way home, the bus breaks down. It’s nearly dark when Ollie escapes into the woods joined by Coco, a city girl who gets upset at the drop of a hat, and Brian, a hockey player who quotes Alice in Wonderland. They aren’t alone in the woods, as they encounter creepy scarecrows that seem to follow them. An unexpected source helps the three work together to solve a mystery that comes straight from the book Ollie has been reading. This fast-paced book will be enjoyed by middle-grade readers, particularly those who like spooky, but not too scary, stories.

    Ages 15+

    The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. Kiersten White. 2018. Delacorte/Random House.

    The Dark Descent of Elizabeth FrankensteinKiersten White’s imaginative retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) is told from the point of view of 17-year-old Elizabeth Lavenza, who, at the age of 5, was rescued from an abusive caregiver and taken in by the Frankensteins to be a companion for Victor in the hope that she might help socialize their brilliant eldest son. Over the years, Elizabeth becomes not just his companion but also his friend and protector; she becomes Victor’s Elizabeth. When he leaves home to pursue his studies in science, Elizabeth fears dismissal from the family. After almost two years without letters from Victor, she sets out with her friend Justine (the governess of the two young Frankenstein boys) to find him. When Elizabeth discovers the horrors of the scientific experiments he is undertaking in his lab in Germany, she realizes that she must save him from the monster he has created—and from himself. White effectively uses inserts in italics to provide details of the backstory of their relationship throughout her suspenseful, psychological horror story as she builds toward a dark Gothic conclusion.

    The Price Guide to the Occult. Leslye Walton. 2018. Candlewick.

    The Price Guide to the OccultAll Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. That all changes when an obscure book, The Price Guide to the Occult, starts to mysteriously grow in popularity. The price for the spells isn’t just money, however; something bad happens to another person whenever a spell is cast. Nor knows that she comes from the powerful Blackburn family line of witches, but she doesn’t know how powerful she is until she is forced to come face to face with the witch performing the black magic behind the book’s spells.  Walton keeps the reader’s interest through to the action-packed showdown. The end is graphic and disturbing, so this dark, horrific fantasy is definitely for more mature readers.

    Carrie Thomas is a reading specialist at First Philadelphia Charter School. Previously, she was a public school music teacher and worked with nonprofit administration and outreach. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

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    Build-Your-Own Online Magnetic Poetry Kit With Google Drawings

    By Nicole Timbrell
     | Oct 12, 2018
    Online Poetry Kit

    When I first encountered Google Drawings, I assumed it was a tool for creating diagrams, labeling maps, or annotating science experiments. Although I recognized that it could be used in the English classroom to create a character profile, plot timeline, or a concept map, as far as I could tell, an instructional tool Google Drawings most definitely was not. So I was happily surprised when, while doing a poetry writing activity with my seventh-grade English class, I discovered that Google Drawings could be fashioned into a creative writing tool.

    Some of the fun poetry writing activities I use with my middle school students include Book Spine Poetry, Found Poetry, Blackout Poetry and Magnetic Poetry. What they all have in common is the requirement to compose a poem from a preexisting set of words. The central idea of all these writing exercises is that students recognize that poetry can be inspired by—and built from—any text in any setting.

    The original version of Magnetic Poetry (launched in 1993) required the purchase of a “kit” of tiny magnets, each containing a word, that users could shuffle around the refrigerator door (or other magnetic surface) to create short poetic texts. Once I discovered an online version of magnetic poetry, I would have students create an online magnetic poem, take a screenshot of their completed poem, and then add it to a shared Google Slides for peer review. However, when my 2018 seventh-grade English class completed this activity, they were not content to be lumped with someone else’s words. They expressed a desire to build their own themed magnetic poetry kits using word banks they had created among themselves.

    So, with the help of Google Drawings, our class’s Build-Your-Own Online Magnetic Poetry Kit was born.

    In addition to the customizable frame in which the final drawing is composed, the Google Drawings template provides blank space around the edges of the frame where other items and instructions can be placed. In the case of the Build-Your-Own Online Magnetic Poetry Kit the “magnets” containing the word bank are placed around the blank space, and students simply click and drag the required words or punctuation marks onto the framed area to write their poem. Once the poem is completed, it can be downloaded into a range of file formats and shared with an audience, either digitally or in print.

    Back in my seventh-grade class, students created word banks (taking some inspiration from the Magnetic Poetry Original Kit word list), filled in their Google Drawings template, and practiced creating a poem from their own online magnetic poetry kit. It was during this stage that my students quickly realized that for their poetry kits to be effective, the word banks needed to contain all the parts of speech: nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, articles, determiners, prepositions, and even punctuation. So we modified the template to categorize the words and, in addition to our intended poetry writing exercise, we ended up with a revision lesson on the parts of speech. The final stage of the exercise involved collaboration, peer editing, and publishing. In small groups, my students shared their online magnetic poetry kit with students in other classes. Those students used my students’ templates to write poems and, in turn, shared their own poetry kits with my students to try. 

    The success of this activity has me thinking about other potential analytical, persuasive, or creative writing exercises that could be taught with Google Drawings. After sharing the poetry kit at school, one English teacher took the idea and created a Google Drawings to help students analyze the play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. She placed the play’s important themes, sentence starters, quotations, and analytical phrases in the vacant space around the drawing and invited students to write a paragraph about an important scene in the play using the Google Drawings framework.

    The lesson learned? I plan to approach all new collaborative technologies by first asking myself, How can this tool help me to improve student writing? Chances are, there’s a writing tool in there somewhere—even if I cannot see it at first.

    Click here to view the blank template for the Build-Your-Own Online Magnetic Poetry Kit. To edit this document, you will need to make a copy.

    Classroom tip: If you have Google Classroom enabled for your school’s domain, set the Build-Your-Own Magnetic Poetry document as an “Assignment” and select “Every Student Gets A Copy.”

    Nicole Timbrell is the Head of Digital Learning and Australian Curriculum Coordinator in the Secondary School at the Australian International School Singapore, where she also teaches English. Formerly, Nicole was a graduate student and a research assistant at the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education.

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