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    • Conferences & Events

    Proven Strategies for Fostering a Classroom of Enthusiastic Writers

     | Oct 29, 2019

    Writing is a crucial skill to develop in our young learners. Regardless of the discipline they’ll eventually grow into, writing will inevitably be involved.

    Nowadays, even writing proper emails is considered an important skill to learn. Therefore, helping young writers develop a strong foundation that will support a continual growth of their writing skills throughout their educational career is more important now than ever. The problem is, many students are averse to writing. Some struggle to come up with ideas to write about, whereas others just outright dislike it. 


    Steve Graham, ILA member and the Warner Professor in the Division of Leadership and Innovation in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State  University, delivered the Research Address at ILA’s 2019 Conference in New Orleans titled, “The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Instruction.” Graham’s address covered the importance of encouraging students to write for multiple purposes, teaching them the necessary writing and process skills, and providing a stimulating writing space for free expression. A summary of Graham’s Research Address will be available in ILA’s November/December issue of Literacy Today

    Below are effective resources for achieving Graham’s “Dos” of writing instruction and encouraging students to love writing in your classroom:

    Writing and reading skills have been scientifically proven to go hand in hand; therefore, developing skilled writers also creates strong readers. With these skills, young learners will be able to tackle any writing and reading assignments that come their way as they advance as students.

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    • Conferences & Events
    • ILA News

    ILA 2020: Submissions for Proposals Now Open

    By ILA Staff
     | Oct 22, 2019

    With ILA 2019 in the rearview mirror, the International Literacy Association invites educators and researchers to keep the critical conversations going by submitting proposals for ILA 2020 in Columbus, OH, October 15–18, 2020.

    ILA 2020 is an ideal forum for literacy professionals to share their knowledge, research, and best practices. The selected educational programming is integral to the event’s success.

    “We’re very excited to open submissions for ILA 2020, especially after the conversations and ideas that came to life at ILA 2019,” says Becky Fetterolf, director of program content and engagement. “This is a fantastic opportunity to share ideas among the literacy community and we look forward to building the program.”

    Thinking about submitting your proposal? Here are some tips to consider:

    • As you begin writing your proposal, read carefully the Proposal Submission Guidelines and the scoring rubric. Reviewers use this rubric for scoring, so be aware of expectations before you submit.
    • Ground your proposal in research and connect it to practice with clear takeaways. Research is the core of ILA’s work, and attendees expect evidence-based information that they can apply in their work.
    • Give your proposals a creative—but concise—title. If accepted, your title will be what attendees see first; give them something that catches their attention.
    • If you’re new to presenting, consider submitting a poster session. Poster sessions give you a chance to share the work you’re doing through a poster display. Your poster display will give you the opportunity to connect with attendees through more intimate conversations.
    • Consider a nontraditional presentation option: Open space sessions will be held in salons along the main hallway that can accommodate innovative content and presentation formats. These sessions are organized around six categories that embody the theme for ILA 2020—Shaping the Future of Literacy: 2020 Vision.
    • Ask a peer or colleague to review your proposal before you finalize your submission to answer these questions: Is your proposed title engaging and attractive to your prospective audience? Does your cited research have substantial connection to your presentation? Is it clear what an attendee will learn from your session? Is your proposal free of typos and grammatical errors?
    • Be on time. Plan to complete and finalize your proposal at least a week early (you can still go back and edit up to the deadline date). If your proposal is not finalized by the deadline, it will not be reviewed.

    Submissions for reviewed proposals are open through Monday, December 9, 2019. All reviewed proposals must be submitted electronically via the ILA 2020 proposal submission site. For questions about submitting a proposal, please email

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    What Research Really Says About Teaching Reading (Even Beyond ILA 2019)

    By ILA Staff
     | Oct 22, 2019

    The sound of chatter filled the room as teachers, educators, and researchers made their way into the theater on the second day of ILA 2019. With coffee in hand, the crowd eagerly awaited the beginning of the newly added panel, What Research Really Says About Teaching Reading—and Why That Still Matters.

    Abiding the Rules of the Road

    David Pearson took the stage shortly after the clock struck 7:00 a.m. From the start of his presentation, Pearson gave the packed room a reminder: He’s all for research-based practice, but if we’re going to go down that road, let’s make sure we have a road map and follow the rules of the road.

    Delving into research-based practice, Pearson went on to share his version of the rules of the road:

    Rule #1: Policymakers have to read beyond the headline (or have a reader on staff).

    Pearson stressed that readers looking at the headline but not taking it a step further by reading all the content is problematic. Headlines can leave out a lot of the details, nuances, and truth.

    Rule #2: When research is applied, it ought to be applied in an even-handed way.

    No cherry picking. You must look at all research, not just the bits that fit your biases. This also includes equity among students and teachers, said Pearson.

    Rule #3: It’s our moral and ethical obligation to use the best evidence we can muster for making policy decisions of consequence.

    Pearson explained that if we applied the best available evidence standard we would not have so many phonics programs for older students, would not mandate percentages of decodable text, and would still have bilingual education programs in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts.

    Rule #4: When you invoke the mantle of science, you have to accept the full portfolio of methods scientists use.

    “When you invite the research family to the policy table, you have to invite them all, even the cousins you’d rather not talk to,” said Pearson, who received laughs from the crowd.

    Rule #5: Build your case on your evidence, not on the back of a straw person.

    To this point, Pearson said that often educators try to advance the practice they want to promote by asserting that the problem is that no one is currently doing what they advocate. In reality, there is little evidence to warrant the claim that no one is doing it.

    Last, Rule #6: You have to talk to others in the field who you don’t share basic assumptions about how to do research or what the research says.

    According to Pearson, you must stay at the table and cut through the rhetoric. While individuals tend to stay with people who are like them, this approach is bad for educational policy and a problem for society today.

    Building a Future of Strong Readers

    As the engaged crowd digested Pearson’s road map, he moved the program into the panel format featuring renowned literacy experts Nell K. Duke, Sonia Cabell, and Gwendolyn Thompson McMillon.

    The group began the panel by discussing what research tells us about teaching and facilitating in the early years. According to Cabell, children start developing the skills they need for later literacy success from birth. Preschool teachers can help facilitate this at a young age by drawing children’s attention to print while they’re reading out loud, playing phonological games, and practice writing in settings that inspire curiosity.

    “Children must develop their language skills as early as possible,” said Cabell, “By the end of kindergarten children’s language skills start to stabilize. They grow in their skills, but really they are in the same place as their peers.”

    Early on, the code-related skills predict achievement well in kindergarten and first grade. But by the time students get to third grade, it’s the early oral language where the emphasis is on meaning that has the better predicting value predicting later reading achievement, added Pearson.

    Addressing the Scripted Curriculum Conundrum

    Gwendolyn Thompson McMillon shifted the conversation to the pros and cons of scripted curriculum. In research, McMillon found that when preservice and inexperienced teachers get into the classroom, they are more comfortable when they’re given direction on what to say and do. Also, depending on how the scripted program is presented, it can increase engagement among students. However, she moved to explained how the cons of scripted curriculum can cost both educators and students. 

    “If it’s a scripted program, my concern is that students who may not get the kind of language interaction at home, and often times that’s students who are socioeconomically impoverished, may not get that in the classroom,” McMillon said. “Then when would it happen? I’m concerned that the interaction [with scripted programs] isn’t there.”

    It wouldn’t be professionally responsible for any of us to recommend using scripted programs with no responsiveness to children in front of us. It’s about how much guidance you’re putting into the program, Duke added.

    Cabell joined the discussion by adding that some of the goal for scripted programs is to teach teachers how to teach a topic, therefore they may be a benefit to many.

    Exploring Texts for Beginning Readers

    Pearson turned to Duke to move the conversation to texts for beginning readers.

    “The weight of the evidence suggests that decodability is an important factor in texts for beginning readers,” Duke says. “That degree to which the texts are decodable does matter for children and for their development. More decodable texts foster literacy development better, even though it’s not what some people want to hear.”

    There is also evidence that suggests other factors in the text that are important: The diversity of genres represented, natural language, and the degree the text is engaging the kids, Duke continued. In her opinion, the most promising work in the area is what is currently is referred to as multiple criteria texts, which focus decodability but do not stop there. She recommends educators learn more at

    Tackling Reading Comprehension

    There is a large body of research supporting the explicit teaching of comprehension strategies using a gradual release of responsibility model, said Duke. There’s no doubt about its importance.

    “It’s as though because we think content knowledge building is so important, we’re just going to ignore three decades of research on comprehensive strategy instruction,” said Duke. “This isn’t a zero-sum game saying, ‘if you can’t attend to content, then you can’t teach comprehension strategies’ or ‘if you teach comprehension strategies, you must not be paying enough attention to vocabulary or morphology.’”

    There is also concern that the literacy field is usurping content instruction in school districts. Meaning, literacy is dominating the day with some programs having curricula addressing social studies and science standards. This leaves districts feeling as if teaching both subjects are optional. This is deeply problematic, said Duke. Literacy practitioners should be advocating for science and social studies instruction.

    “For too long, literacy has been a bully and pushed science and social studies off of the stage,” Pearson said in his final comments. “Literacy should be a buddy, not a bully, for science and social studies.”

    Though the panel came to a close, the critical conversations were just beginning. Attendees could be heard exiting the crowded auditorium debriefing the panel with fellow colleagues, while Twitter (referred to as “the wires” by Pearson) was buzzing using the hashtag #ILAresearch. Although ILA 2019 has come and gone, we look forward to educators and researchers continuing the conversation about what research really says about teaching reading.

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    • ILA News
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    #ILA19, as Told in 40 Tweets

    BY ILA Staff
     | Oct 15, 2019

    The International Literacy Association (ILA) held the ILA 2019 Conference in New Orleans, LA, from October 10–13, 2019. Thousands of educators, teachers, and researchers descended on The Big Easy to hear from notable speakers, engage in important conversations, and mingle with their fellow colleagues from around the world.

    Throughout the three-day conference, attendees, both in person and virtually, flooded Twitter with conference quotes, photos, and discussion of literacy education using the hashtags #ILA19, #ILAequity, and #ILAresearch. Check out 40 tweets that captured the essence of this year’s conference.



    On October 10, ILA 2019 held Institute Day, which offered interactive, full-day courses that allowed educators to take a deep dive into literacy topics with leaders in the field.



    The Welcome to ILA 2019 Event on Thursday night gave attendees the opportunity to enjoy pre-Core Conference festivities with countless exhibitors, treats, activities, and even a live New Orleans band to kick off the conference.



    The excitement continued into Day 2 as Core Conference attendees arrived at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center bright and early to hear keynotes Chelsea Clinton, Hamish Brewer, Pedro A. Noguera, and Renèe Watson.






    After his post-General Session book signing, Dr. Noguera led The Intersection of Literacy, Equity, and Social-Emotional Learning, offered as part of this year’s Equity in Education Program. Joining him was Jovanni Ramos, Justina Schlund, Kathleen Theodore, and Stephanie K. Siddens, all of whom drew on data and research to illustrate the role social-emotional learning plays in the literacy classroom.



    The first day of the Core Conference also welcomed Featured Speakers Dave Stuart and David Kirkland.



    On Saturday, October 12, roughly 250 educators showed up ready to learn at 7:00 a.m. sharp. Why? To see P. David Pearson lead a critical conversation about evidence-based instruction.

    What Research Really Says About Teaching Reading—and Why That Still Matters also featured Nell K. Duke, Sonia Cabell, and Gwendolyn Thompson McMillon and attracted hundreds of additional viewers via livestream. It also generated request after request for additional programming and resources on the topic.




    Later that morning, the Equity in Education Program continued with Integrating Social-Emotional Learning in the Literacy Classroom featuring Kimberly Eckert,  Gerald Dessus, Shawna Coppola, Tiana Silvas, and Tamera Slaughter.




    Tricia Ebarvia and Donalyn Miller were Saturday’s Featured Speakers.



    Children’s Literature Day took place on Sunday, October 13. The full-day event for educators, librarians, and children's literature enthusiasts featured keynote addresses by celebrated authors, interactive break-out sessions, presentation of the ILA 2019 Children's and Young Adults' Book Awards, and the opportunity mingle with featured authors.




    While thousands of educators joined ILA in New Orleans, hundreds of people across the world attended #LA19 virtually.




    Throughout the conference, a new theme emerged that resonated with thousands of attendees: Tell and write stories so you can be heard.




    The conference even gave rise to a new hashtag, “#ILATweachers,” which grew out of a workshop that took place Saturday morning.




    While sessions and panels sparked creativity, ideas, and thought-provoking conversations among attendees, many memorable moments were captured outside of the meeting rooms.






    #ILA19 may be over, but it’s never too early to start thinking about next year! Join us for ILA 2020, October 15-18, 2020 in Columbus, OH.

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    The Transformative Trifecta: Driving Change Through Literacy, Equity, and Social-Emotional Learning

    By Alina O’Donnell
     | Sep 19, 2019

    Eckert_680wIn June 2019, the Ohio State Board of Education adopted a set of social-emotional learning (SEL) standards for K–12 students. This comes as part of the state’s new strategic plan for education, in which SEL is one of four “learning domains” outlined—a move that essentially says SEL is as important to a child’s education as literacy, numeracy, and technology.

    Ohio isn’t alone in these efforts. Between 2011 and 2018, the number of states with K–12 SEL standards jumped from 1 to 18. Outside of the U.S., the popularity of SEL has also grown significantly.

    This isn’t surprising, given today’s social climate. More and more schools around the globe are prioritizing SEL, which aims to develop interpersonal skills, self-regulation, and the ability to feel and demonstrate empathy. Educators are turning to SEL-embedded instruction to foster equitable learning environments.

    What is surprising is that despite this, and despite how SEL-informed literacy instruction paves a powerful pathway to equity, very little has been written about how the three intersect.

    This is the driving goal of the Equity in Education Program at the ILA 2019 Conference, October 10–13 in New Orleans, LA. The program, which has expanded across all four days of the conference, will draw clear connections between literacy, equity, and SEL.

    The intersection of literacy, equity, and social-emotional learning

    Over the past 15 years, the United States has increasingly emphasized assessments as an index of school performance. This emphasis on academic rigor has left many educators feeling pressured to choose between strengthening SEL skills and growing academic skills.

    Justina Schlund, one of this year’s Equity in Education Program speakers, is here to shatter that false dichotomy. Central to her work as director of field learning at The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is her steadfast belief that social-emotional competence is inextricably tied to academic achievement.

    “Foundational to how all learning happens is how students engage socially and emotionally with each other, with themselves, and with teachers in the classroom,” she says. “In order to achieve any other goals, we need to be focused on students as whole people.”

    A long body of research shows that inequities such as disabilities, poverty, and discrimination can pose barriers to children’s social and emotional development. Schools have an important role to play by helping students develop the skills, habits, and dispositions that equip them for success in school and beyond.

    Schlund sees social and emotional development as a lever not only for academic achievement but also for increasing educational equity.

    “I’m not saying SEL is the solution, but it contributes to how people understand each other, how we explore and examine our own biases, and how we make decisions that impact others,” she says.

    Supporting teachers’ social and emotional development

    Although Schlund stands by CASEL’s definition of SEL, she believes it’s often misinterpreted to apply exclusively to children. She views SEL as a lifelong process needed to navigate every context, from the classroom to friendships and first jobs.

    “We do not talk about SEL exclusively for kids, even though that is often the focus of SEL in schools,” says Schlund. “I think it’s important to remember that everyone is engaged in this process of learning and answering questions like, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘How do I relate to the world?’ and ‘How do I make decisions that benefit the community and the world at large?’”

    Just as a history teacher needs to learn history to be effective, educators wishing to teach and model SEL must first build their own competencies in self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, relationship skills, and social awareness.

    “In order to do this work, you need to take care of yourself and you need to take care of your own social-emotional needs,” says Katherine Theodore, senior technical assistance consultant at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), also a speaker during the upcoming Equity in Education Program.

    The Equity in Education Program session on Friday, Oct. 11, “The Intersection of Literacy, Equity, and Social-Emotional Learning,” will focus on preparing teachers to develop their own social-emotional skills through self-reflection on practice, curriculum, personal biases, and growth opportunities.

    After a short opening keynote, five literacy leaders will share how they build capacity and prepare educators to accomplish goals around SEL in their schools and communities. Along with Schlund and Theodore, attendees will hear from Pedro A. Noguera, distinguished professor of education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA and founder of the university’s Center for the Transformation of Schools; Jovanni Ramos, principal of Foundation Preparatory Charter School in New Orleans, LA; and Stephanie K. Siddens, senior executive director of the Ohio Department of Education’s Center for Student Supports.

    Following these TED-style presentations, Noguera will facilitate an audience-driven Q&A, allowing time for attendees to respond, exchange ideas, and ask questions.

    Identifying key challenges and outlining next steps

    Led by a panel of classroom practitioners, the Equity in Education Program session on Saturday, Oct. 12, “Integrating Social-Emotional Learning in the Literacy Classroom,” will shift the focus onto classroom implementation.

    Following the same format as Friday, presenters will demonstrate what evidence-based SEL looks like in literacy education, highlight potential pitfalls, and offer recommendations for educators seeking to implement SEL.

    Attendees will hear from Kimberly Eckert, 2018 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, high school English teacher, and reading specialist at Brusly High School; Shawna Coppola, middle school language arts teacher and literacy specialist/coach; Gerald Dessus, middle school cultural studies teacher at The Philadelphia School in Pennsylvania and an ILA 30 Under 30 honoree for 2019; Tiana Silvas, fifth-grade teacher at PS 59 in Manhattan and former Heinemann Fellow; and Tamera Slaughter, manager of educational partnerships with Center for the Collaborative Classroom.

    Eckert will deliver the opening keynote, during which she’ll share her own SEL journey and discuss the main challenges to implementation—one being recruitment.

    “Too often, teachers enter the profession because they still follow the antiquated ideal of ‘you love English, so you teach English’ instead of ‘you love humanity, so you teach,’” she says. “We need to recruit and attract people who are seriously engaged in changing the world and who have a 4.0 in people, not necessarily a 4.0 in physics.”

    In addition to the Friday and Saturday sessions, this year’s Equity in Education Program is also bookended by events on Thursday, Oct. 11, and Sunday, Oct. 13—Institute Day and Children’s Literature Day, respectively.

    These all-day events require separate registration and are not included in Core Conference.

    On Thursday, educators Kathy Collins, Shawna Coppola, Matthew Kay, and Aeriale N. Johnson will lead the Equity in Education Program institute—“Equity in Education: Roles, Tools, and Approaches for Engaging in Bias-Free Practices.” During Children’s Literature Day on Sunday, a morning session, “Equity Through Empathy,” will be led by educators, authors, and activists including Chad Everett and Tricia Ebarvia, who will examine the role children’s literature plays in social-emotional learning. Finally, an afternoon workshop, “Empathy and Identity,” led by Everett, Ebarvia, and San Diego State University’s Virginia Loh-Hagan, will unpack the latest research about representation in the classroom.


    When asked about what they hope attendees will take from this year’s program, presenters said they hope attendees will start to see SEL as an indelible landmark in today’s educational landscape rather than a fleeting fad.

    “It needs to be tightly embedded within the curriculum. You can have an SEL program, but when you are designing your lessons and your curriculum, you need to have that SEL language in there,” says Theodore. “It cannot be taught in isolation of the curriculum.”

    “SEL is the underbelly of everything that we’re doing,” adds Schlund. “If we care about our kids and we care about the world at large, we have to care about SEL.”

    Alina O’Donnell is the former editor of Literacy Daily and communications strategist for ILA.

    This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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