Foster Student Self-Evaluation



A few of my 2015-2016 Strategic Readers


I haven’t posted in a while, because like many of you, I’ve been plodding through the second busiest time of the school year.  After the first weeks of school, the next busiest time for me is finals week.  

Even high school reading intervention classes engage in a version of finals. The final in my class has multiple purposes, the least of which is a larger-than-normal notation in the grade book. My focus is on helping my students understand their own growth.  The freshman year is the last opportunity for this type of intervention in this district. The intervention process I proposed for secondary was implemented district-wide in grades 6-9. Since I teach students in the last year of the intervention, I want students to move forward with a grasp of what they have gained through this experience, where they still need to improve, and what they can do to continue to grow.

Throughout each semester, every piece of data produced by the students is kept in their individual files.  This includes strategy lessons, annotated texts, reading reflections, morphology practice and weekly quizzes, reciprocal teaching documentation, exit slips, etc.  All of it is used to help the students develop and apply skills to become better readers, writers, and thinkers and help me make instructional choices for the students.  Intervention instructional decisions are not always clear-cut, but they are made with attention to formative data. Each piece of data contributes to a picture and feeds daily instructional choices.

At the end of a semester, or for some students the end of the school year,  they are asked to analyze the details of this picture to help them develop their own image of their growth.  The end product of the analysis is an essay. The requirements of this essay are consistent with our intervention focus to improve each student’s literacy skills, motivation, and self-perception as reader.  Often the process to construct this final essay is the moment the students finally realize their gains, the impact of their effort, and the changes in how they see themselves and the purpose of the class. 

Below are the  elements students use to prep the essay.   I also linked a couple of essays.  The first sample is from a student (Monica) who doubled typical yearly growth in a semester to earn a grade level score (220) on the MAP. Our goal as a district intervention is to at least double the typical yearly growth in an effort to close the gap. Additionally, Monica’s QRI (Quantitative Reading Inventory) instructional reading level moved to an upper middle school level from the 4th grade level at which she started the quarter.   Monica is also an ESL student who intentionally seeks to expand her use of English vocabulary.  I think her essay shows some of her growth in this area as well. 

In the second sample, the student (Destiny) did double typical growth in the first semester, but dropped in her second semester, and did not meet her overall personal goal or attain a grade level MAP score.  She had a larger gap to bridge and computerized standardized tests produced obvious physical anxiety for her.  So even though the MAP did not show her obvious growth, her QRI scores did.  Destiny also grew from an instructional reading level of 4th grade to an instructional level of upper middle school.  I also found her thoughtfulness about her process to be one of the greatest indicators of development. 

How do you assess student literacy development?  What formative data do you collect to make decisions or assess short-term growth?  What summative or standardized assessments does your district require to determine that students are making adequate progress?

Engaged Reading in Content Classes

One way a reading or intervention specialist can support a content teacher is to make the process of reading-to-learn more manageable.  I enjoy helping teachers use instructional strategies (or techniques) that engage all students and require all students be accountable for their own reading and learning.  Sometimes the best text to address a difficult concept is lengthy and requires considerable concentration from students. Teachers want ways to help students read AND learn the content.

This semester, I had the privilege of co-teaching in Biology classes. Access teachers (special education, ESL, reading specialists) sometimes feel intimidated by content for which we are definitely not experts. I certainly feel this way in Biology.   However, access teachers have the expertise to accommodate students in processing lengthy texts to learn important new information.  Because Biology is a difficult topic for me, my modeling of meaning-making strategies are genuine and authentic.  I am a reader trying to make meaning of content that doesn’t come naturally to me as a learner. This is just part of the power of the access teacher – content teacher collaboration.

Below is a process I collaboratively implemented in Biology classes in my building.  I realize I am very fortunate to work with content teachers so willing to help students read to access new knowledge.

Collaborative Guided Summary & Jigsaw Groups 


  1. In “expert” groups students all receive the same text.  This can be fourths of a larger text or different texts that address a topic from multiple perspectives, etc. In Biology, we divided a long text about Charles Darwin’s development of the Theory of Evolution into 5 pieces.  Each piece was independently comprehensible. The first section is used to model the entire process (in parts or all at once) and introduce students to the topic.  The four other sections are copied and divided among “expert” groups, meaning all members in the group have the same piece of text about which they will become “experts.” 

2.  The co-teacher and access teacher model all of the steps:

A.  Access teacher reads and highlights important vocabulary. (Model
first couple paragraphs, guide students with the next couple.)
B. Content teacher “retells” using the highlighted vocabulary
(words & phrases)  to relay 
the main idea(s) of the section.
C. Access teacher asks any clarifying questions about the content.  This would include questions about concepts, language, & vocabulary that block understanding of the text.
D. One of the teachers models merging these ideas on the guided summary sheet.  Again, break this process down as works best for your class.

  1. Before reading:  The students begin the process of completing the “Guided Summary” form.  This, too, is modeled by the content teacher.  Before reading, students will identify title, subtitle, and use the text features to identify the topic of the text.  This form is completed by each student so that they will have the accurate information when they switch into a jigsaw groups.
  1. Students complete the reading process adhering to the following ROLES:
    1. Reader reads aloud 1-2 paragraphs at a time. The stop points can be designated on the text by the teachers in advance. 
    2. Reteller (who, like all of the students, has been annotating for essential ideas and vocabulary) retells (summarizes) the section aloud.  Other students offer any adjustments.
    3. Recorder identifies important words and phraseunspecified-33d, especially those repeated frequently, to the vocabulary section of the Guided Summary
    4. Clarifier asks clarifying questions. These should be identified by the students as the reader reads each section.  Additional confusions may arise as the reteller verbalizes the main ideas from the section.  If the retelling is too difficult, confusion is probably present.


  1. The content and access teachers are checking for adherence to process  and understanding of content.  When confusion can’t be clarified within the group, the content teacher can support students by answering questions or guiding students through a process to repair the confusion.  Teachers may also “Catch and Release” by stopping students to address common confusions with completing the process. 
  1. Students repeat the process until the entire passage is read, verbally summarized, and all the essential vocabulary is recorded on the “Guided Summary.”  
  1. Students work together as an expert group to use the  title/subtitle, topic, and vocabulary to develop an overall main idea for the text.  (This is modeled with the initial piece of text prior to the students’ efforts.)  Students then go section-by-section and use their annotation and vocabulary to develop a structured summary that supports the main idea.   This may be the last step in a class period. 
  1.  Potentially in a second class period (we function in 80-minute blocks),         students then shuffle to jigsaw groups.  This is a group that, once  gathered, has one student representing each of all four sections of the text (in this case about Charles Darwin). They share their summaries and ask each other clarifying questions.
  1. Then, as a group, Students read and  answer a few targeted implicit and
    explicit questions prepared by the  content teacher about the article  These questions are developed to  intentionally need the collaboration of all members and use multiple sections  of the text. The students are required to work together to think through  application of the new knowledge.   

Recently, I completed a similar process in an ESL class reading Romeo and Juliet. The content teacher chose four pieces of text about arranged marriages (both pro and con). We co-taught (team teaching model) using this same process, but with four different different texts, different perspectives.  The final questions still required students to pull evidence from more than one of the texts to answer focused questions about the cumulative learning.

This process is a lot more challenging to write about than to demonstrate in person.  If visualizing this process through my writing is challenging, please ask questions.  On the other hand, if it seems to makes sense, consider using it on your own or in a co-teaching setting, and let me know how it goes.

Progress Monitoring: A Student Perspective

Our district is currently progressing through Marzano Instructional Design training during our weekly/monthly professional learning opportunities. I am supporting that process through content professional learning for the district’s literacy instructors.  An element of Marzano’s process that is most useful for intervention is helping students think through their own proficiency with a specific skill or strategy.  Part of the instructional design process requires that students internalize how they are developing with the standards (skills).  Students must understand what the specific learning goal (target) is for the day.  Teachers must be intentionally transparent about what proficiency with the skill or strategy looks like.  

During class a teacher must engage in continuous checks for understanding to monitor student progress during small group, paired or independent learning. At the end of a class, especially when the day’s learning is new, the teacher needs to know how students perceive their success with the new skill/strategy and where they believe they still need help.  We use an exit slip that asks students to gauge their proficiency for the day.  We also ask them to validate their beliefs with evidence from the work we’ve done in class.  We provide them with a guided exit process (shown below) in order to gather good data to make decisions for continued instruction.

Note:  I am privileged to work with a graphic designer turned literacy educator who transforms our work into visuals.  Any full-color posters or visuals in this blog (in this case the target exit slip) are more than likely his design.   His collaboration is invaluable. 

Below are suggestions for using the linked resources:

Step 1: Engage students in the critical content (Marzano vocabulary) to begin the lesson. Activate prior learning connected to the concepts being taught.  Clarify new vocabulary that will be used repeatedly from direct instruction through independent processing. One way to get students thinking is have them write the “target” or goal for the day on the “exit slip” prior to beginning the activating process.

Step 2:  Teach your lesson toward the target. The Workshop Model is effective when teaching strategy lessons in intervention reading.  The “work time” is a blend of guided small group and pairs work leading to individual processing.


Step 3: Ask students to choose the perceived level of proficiency (on a scale 0-4) after the day’s learning process is complete.  They will document the rating on the back of the target exit slip next to “Target Number Achieved.”   It is understood that choosing a number does not result in a specific grade.


Step 4:  Ask students to explain their rating.  We tried this a few ways before deciding the students needed very specific guided support for their responses.  This is still action research from my perspective, but the student responses are now deeper and more useful for adjusting instruction.   (The visual below is linked to a Google Document.)


Step 5:  Use the the responses and the students’ work for the day as data for the next lesson.  If all or a vast majority of your students feel they are at a two and their work reflects that as well,  use that knowledge to take a step back in the lesson and support the student needs.  If only a few students are at a 1 or a 2, use the exit slips and the students’ work to conference with the specific students and repair gaps or misconceptions.  If you have a mix of responses, this data can fuel flexible grouping or station work based on students’ level of development with this skill/target.

Professional Standards in the Intervention Classroom

“Standards for Reading Professionals—Revised 2010 (Standards 2010) sets forth the criteria for developing and evaluating preparation programs for reading professionals. The Standards describe what candidates for the reading profession should know and be able to do in professional settings. The Standards are performance based, focusing on the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for effective educational practice in a specific role. Also, the Standards are the result of a deliberative process that drew from professional expertise and research in the reading field.”

Below is an abbreviated and adapted version of the ILA standards.  That adaptions are an attempt to apply these standards specifically to reading intervention efforts.

Standard 1 – Foundational Knowledge:  [Literacy educators] understand the theoretical and evidence-based foundations of reading and writing processes and instruction.   

Extensive knowledge is the foundation of being an effective literacy educator.  The knowledge is built on an understanding of the developmental reading processes of students PreK-12 blended with a working knowledge of how to diagnose and remediate effectively for students who fall behind.  This knowledge is intended to ensure “ competent performance for the betterment of society.”  In the intervention setting, educators facilitate processes that close gaps so students may have every possibility of productive, fulfilling lives.

Standard 2 – Instructional Approaches: [Literacy educators] use instructional approaches, materials, and an integrated, comprehensive, balanced curriculum to support student learning in reading and writing.

The application of Standard 1 happens through data-driven instruction provided by professionals who apply their knowledge of evidence-based strategy instruction through an effective curriculum. Literacy educators understand the conceptual framework of developing effective reading programs or applying the elements of an effective curriculum.  In intervention, that implementation requires authentic differentiation based on student needs.

Standard 3 – Assessment and Evaluation: [Literacy educators] use a variety of assessment tools and practices to plan and evaluate effective reading and writing instruction.

Professional literacy educators have a comprehensive knowledge of literacy assessment options and the purposes for each.  They demonstrate the skilled use of assessment, the ability to analyze data, and the capacity to communicate findings to stakeholders.  Primarily, the literacy educator uses data to inform instruction for the ultimate benefit of students.  In intervention, this is how specific needs are determined for striving readers.  Limited instructional time must be planned for with intentional focus on a student’s specific assessment data to help a student close the gap as quickly as possible.

Standard 4 – Diversity: [Literacy educators] create and engage their students in literacy practices that develop awareness, understanding, respect, and a valuing of differences in our society.

The interest of an effective literacy educator is to provide students with opportunities to access information and literary experiences that broaden their understanding of the diverse culture in which they contribute and engage. Intervention teachers know that this “broadening of horizons”  builds students’ background knowledge, increases their vocabulary, and encourages a curiosity for a world full of opportunity.  The hope is that increased exposure and awareness also builds better citizens that appreciate the value of all humans in a global society.

Standard 5 – Literate Environment: [Literacy educators] create a literate environment that fosters reading and writing by integrating foundational knowledge, instructional practices, approaches and methods, curriculum materials, and the appropriate use of assessments.

A strong literacy-rich environment can make good instruction even more effective.  In any class, but especially in an intervention classroom with students who have experienced feelings of failure, a safe, low-risk environment with high expectations and highly effective instruction can motivate students to engage and connect to literacy strategies that encourage authentic application of skills. Intervention should allow time and accessibility to resources and more of the opportunities striving readers need. Providing choices for reading and writing based on interest and providing a variety of methods to demonstrate their skills can increase student motivation and self-efficacy while building a more positive self-perception as students enjoy these chances to experience success.

Standard 6 – Professional Learning and Leadership: [Literacy educators] recognize the importance of, demonstrate, and facilitate professional learning and leadership as a career-long effort and responsibility.

Given that literacy is the foundational skill of all learning experiences, literacy professionals are often called upon to share knowledge and support others in the application of effective integration of literacy strategies across disciplines.  When done in an effort to build a culture of literacy, it benefits striving readers by supporting needed skills in authentic ways outside a reading intervention setting.

ILA Standards for Reading Professionals (2010)

Data-Driven Literacy Intervention: the Assessment Process

Using Data to make differentiated data decisions
In my district, our intervention program (more a of an anti-program) for secondary is available for grades 6-9.  That includes all the middle school grades and the first year of high school.  There are reasons for not extending past 9th grade, but that is a whole other post.  Our goals are NOT to keep students eternally in intervention classes, but to identify their needs and reinforce strategies to support complex reading across content areas, so they can continue growth beyond the intervention classroom.  Literacy teachers also work (co-teaching, coaching) with content teachers to support them in using effective strategies for their content. Again, this co-teaching is a topic for a whole other post.  My focus today is on the importance of collecting authentic data.  We can’t begin true intervention without effective data.  We use limited district testing data for entrance and exit requirements, but I deepen that assessment process throughout my limited time with students so that their experience will be a life changing one.  I don’t want students to enter my class with a one-size-fits-all curriculum that doesn’t meet every student’s needs in some significant way.  I want them to enter my class feeling right from the start that I really SEE them.  I want them to exit knowing their ability has been enhanced.  With all that in mind, I focus on three levels of assessment, with an intention that students don’t feel ASSESSED all that time.

A typical student data file.

A typical student data file.

We are three years into the implementation of this intervention process proposed for secondary students.  Through the practice in the classrooms of 24 targeted literacy instructors, including my own lab classroom, we adapt and deepen elements as we grow and learn.  The pre-and post-assessment requirements we ask our literacy instructors to use has stayed fairly stable.  I recognize that different teachers have managed the process in different ways, but the purpose, to provide data-driven, timely, differentiated instruction that meets student needs, has remained the same.

Here is the process as it is still implemented in my classrooms:


I initially assess for three things: student literacy skill, student motivation as it relates to reading specifically and literacy generally, and student self-perception of reading skills.  I assess these elements because these are the areas of change I seek.  I don’t like to overwhelm students with measurement activities, so these are spread out between other introductory activities throughout the first two weeks of class. I chose these specific measurement tools so I can understand each student better.  Most of these resources are recommended by the Reading Specialist Licensure program at Emporia State University.

Pre-assessment we are currently using:

  • MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) –  This is our district’s apples-to-apples growth measuring test. It is how my district generally measures growth starting at 3rd grade.  This is the score on which entrance and exit is determined at this time.
  • QRI (Qualitative Reading Inventory)  – This is my own apple-to-apples growth measurement choice.  The MAP is for the district data needs, but I gain more clinical knowledge on this assessment.  I am currently using the QRI-5, but have excitedly received the QRI-6.   The QRI-5 has always been very effective for me in this setting I’ve developed.
  • Metacognitive Reading Awareness Survey OR Metacognitive Awareness of Reading Strategies Inventory – These options are intended to identify what strategies students can already apply.  It also identifies misconceptions about what “works,” which turns out to be the more valuable information.
  • Rhody Secondary Reading Attitude Assessment (Variations on this resource can found in the 5th Ed. of  Improving Reading: Interventions, Strategies, and Resources by Jerry L Johns and Susan Davis Lenski) – With a likert scale  format, this focuses on how a student feels about reading specifically.
  • Reader Self-Perception Scale  (Variations on this resources can also be found in the Johns & Lenski text.) – Again with a likert scale format, students relay their beliefs about themselves as readers.
  • Writing Samples – I ask students to produce one narrative about their thinking on their collected and sorted pre-assessment data and one response about a short piece of text at their instructional level.

At the high school level, I have my students score the surveys for their own knowledge.   I also have them write about what they think the scores on the reading attitude and self-perception scale mean about them as readers, writers and thinkers.  Prompts for writing should be adapted to the age and skill level of the students. Examples may include the following?  What do your response scores tell you about how you feel about reading? What do you think about yourself as a reader based on the scores?   What surprises you?  

There are likely other surveys, inventories, etc.  that will give similar information.  I encourage teachers to find what informs them and their students best.  I encourage teachers to remember that without motivation and a stronger self-perception, the skill development doesn’t tend to stick.  This is especially true for students who have spun through several cycles of remediation/intervention.  It’s all circular.  If you can motivate a student to do the work of skill development and success if experienced,  he gains a stronger self-perception.  This increases motivation and a creates a deepening sense of self-efficacy.  A stronger motivation to continue to grow is a consequence of believing that work is worth the effort.  Perpetuating this process is a big deal for students who have spent too much time feeling like failures.

Every lesson and practice produces data to inform the next instructional choice. Solid differentiated intervention requires constant checks for understanding.  Examples of this daily process can include annotation on text, graphic organizers around thinking/strategies, student strategy journals, workshop model conferences, independent reading conferences, or written reflections (exit slips) about perceived proficiency with a skill, to name a few.  I also regularly track growth on the QRI with an independent version differentiated based on the student’s total comprehension level on the previous QRI assessment.

ILA Blog recently posted this commentary on formative assessment.  Although it is mostly elementary focused, many of the authors’ points are universally applicable.
LINK:  Better Than CBM: Assessments That Inform Instruction

In post-assessment, we repeat everything except QRI.  As I already mentioned, I use a independent version of the QRI through continuous assessment to track QRI growth.  This data carries a lot of weight with me, and even with students, because it shows actual reading skill growth.  I would prefer to sit with students and do a post- QRI process face-to-face, but the time needed is enormous.  I do offer a post face-to-face version to provide growth data for students on IEPs.                   

I make my students aware of their growth and challenges and encourage them to develop goals specific to what they most want to improve.  After each independent QRI, I conference with students (usually during Reading Workshop time) to address recurring concerns.  Students typically WANT to improve, and appreciate knowing what they can do to improve.  At the high school level, part of my goal is to help my students fully understand their strengths and struggles as a reader.   I’ve always attempted to write up a summary of the students data with commentary on the interpretation of that data.  That is a consuming task.  I work streamline it for other teachers to use. This semester, I used a document from Richard Villa called “Cooperative Teaching Student and Class Summary.”  This provides students with my reflection on their growth.  It also allows feedback from content teachers as we work together to improve authentic literacy growth.

One of the last actions my students take before they exit the class is to write an essay about their growth and where they still need to grow.  I do provide a graphic organizer to help students with structure.  The students use the information in their personal data files to develop the essay.   I include easy-to-read comparisons of all pre- and post- assessments, all scores on the QRIs as they grew (which they all do), evidence from all of their strategy work, annotated texts from reciprocal teaching groups,  morphology work, summaries and writing about strategy application, and my own conference notes.   The essay they write is one typed page about what the evidence says about their growth, where they think they still need to grow, and how they believe they will use their new skills in the future.

All of this data collection and application sounds daunting, and it can be, but I try to keep it organized and streamlined.  Management requires staying on top of daily data and making real-time decisions about that data.  Don’t let it build up.  

This is a lot of information.  What parts of this can you implement fairly easily? What other types of assessment do you use to get to know your students and their needs?


The Adolescent Literacy Rabbit Hole

Credited to @RabbitHoleKC

Credited to @RabbitHoleKC

I started teaching in 1997.   My first teaching position was American History with 8th graders at a so called “suburban” school that had the unusual feel of being both urban and rural. Our district border butted up to the second largest urban district in the state, and at this point in the district’s history, it was experiencing the reality of a forced blending of diversity of culture and socioeconomic statuses for which it was wholly unprepared.   I enjoyed teaching in general, at-risk kids especially, but the challenges I had prepared for in college, mostly management concerns, weren’t the challenges that kept me awake or caused me to spend hours planning to teach.  I was surprised to find that the concerns that most plagued my existence were all connected to literacy. A predominant number of my students, probably about 67%, if it was near the national average,  were non-readers or struggling/striving readers.  Ultimately, what that meant was that they weren’t effectively reading to learn.  When reading a piece of text to glean information and evidence about a topic within my content was the objective, that objective was rarely realized.  From a social studies teacher point of view, and a new social studies teacher at that, it felt like the time spent asking students to read to learn was wasted. I had standards to cover.  I was idealistic; I wanted them to read it, hear it, speak it, write about it, know it, use it.   I wasn’t yet using power points or prezis, flashing historical images from the internet, showing an array of video clips to build background knowledge or encouraging my students to create iMovies or engage in  PBL projects to get them to internalize content.  I could tell a good story, guide a good research project,  and lead a decent discussion or debate.  I could keep my students engaged. I was about collaborative learning before it was cool, but that wasn’t enough.  My students could take notes, have discussions, write mediocre essays without good evidence, and make posters.  Not life skills, necessarily. 

As I looked back on that first year of teaching, I felt a bit confounded about how I would ever help my students “see” and engage in the big picture of this nation’s history without their ability to truly read about it.  I felt that it was essential to be able to read, write about and discuss original documents. I understood the need to bale on the one-size-fits-none textbook and bring in my own sources.  I even wrote or rewrote passages.   No matter how many first-year-level activities I pulled out of my very small bag of tricks, my students needed to be able to read and grapple with difficult texts full of deep and original ideas intended to be grappled with.

I ended that first year of teaching with some successes, but they were mostly relational successes built on my appreciation of teens and my desire to advocate on their behalf.  I doubt one of those students remembers much else about that year.  Those students are in their mid-30’s now.  I still regret what SKILLS they really didn’t develop to help them be the citizens I hoped they would be now.

I spent another year at that school, before leaving to grow child 2 and child 3.  I was granted an English position, which for me meant teaching history through literature.  I was excited for the opportunity to connect literature to time and place and to make connections between the stories that fill our canon and the lives that bore those stories. (My focus quickly shifted from the canon, for those who are worried.) Year one hadn’t killed my idealism.  However, the struggle was real and prevalent no matter what I taught. Adolescents were struggling to make meaning out of all types of text, unless the text was significantly below grade level.  Frankly, many were struggling with texts well below grade level, as well. They had a severe lack of background knowledge and dangerously low vocabularies.   I was not so concerned that they couldn’t understand everything I asked them to read.  I wasn’t even concerned that some read much lower than others or that I would need to take a serious journey into differentiation land. I was concerned that they had no skills in how to GRAPPLE.  They didn’t or couldn’t “struggle with or work hard to deal with or overcome” confusion and challenges as they read.   When asked, they couldn’t tell me what specifically was the problem, why they didn’t understand a sentence, paragraph or passage. Nor did they have any practices of their own to deal with such problems.  More than that,  I was concerned I had no skills to help students, of any discipline, truly use strategies or grow as readers of content text or even as readers in general.  I had taken a “content area reading” class in college like every other education certification seeker.  I even enjoyed it.  However, by my second year of teaching, that felt like an insignificant collection of reading engagement tools that didn’t address the struggle before me.  A list of inquiries began to take hold.  How do I help struggling adolescent readers become better readers of my content, but more importantly, better readers, writers, thinkers in general?   How do I figure out what is tripping students in general and individual students specifically?  What are the processes the brain engages in to learn to read?  What then must the growing, developing brain do to make sense of complex text as it reads to learn?   I was feeling guilty for not having the knowledge or skills to answer these questions.  I once heard someone say, “guilt is the soul’s call to action.”  If that is true, I felt the call.

So that was the challenge before me when my second infant girl took over my world and my brain.   My refusal to leave her and go back to work also produced a hole in my budget.  A friend suggested I take a graduate class, so I could teach something called the Lindamood Reading Process.   By the end of the course, I was hooked.  The instructor of that class invited me to teach for her in a more clinical setting serving children with dyslexia and reading disabilities.  Just as will happen when you give a moose a muffin or a pig a pancake, or in my case, when you give a curious mind a new rabbit hole, a series of events developed before me that changed my life mission. I began an M.Ed program focused on secondary literacy.  Then I returned to teaching in the aforementioned second largest urban district in my state. That turned into a lot of action research and a return visit to a graduate school for my reading specialist. The die was cast, and I was off to change the lives of urban adolescents any way I could manage.

What is your story?  Why do you care so much about the literacy lives of teens?  What are the struggles that absorb your thinking about struggling secondary readers?   I would like to hear about the journeys of other literacy-minded educators.

Reasons We Do What We Do

images-4Welcome to Help Teens Read.   This is a bit of test post to get the ball rolling.  Here are few of the quotes that can often be found on the walls of my classroom.

Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant, interesting.
~Aldous Huxley

Reading changes everything.
~ Mike Schmoker

No subject is more important than reading….all other intellectual powers depend on it.  ~Jacques Barzun

I want my students to know that their ability to read and write is a matter of life and death.
~ Rafe Esquith

Think of literacy as a spine, it holds everything together.  The branches of learning connect to it, meaning that all core content teachers have responsibility to teach literacy.
~ Vicki Phillips & Carina Wong, Gates Foundation

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture, just get people to stop reading them.
~Ray Bradbury

The man who doesn’t read books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.   ~Mark Twain

There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.
~Frank Serafini

Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.
~Tomie dePaola

My proper education consisted of the liberty to read whatever I cared to. I read indiscriminately and all the time, with my eyes hanging out.
~ Dylan Thomas

Once you learn to read, you’ll be forever free.
~Frederick Douglass