Making Connections

Building Bridges to Literacy
April 13, 2010, 7:03 pm
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Building Bridges to Literacy

I did cross lots of bridges to attend the three-day 20th West International Reading Association Conference the end of February.  It was worth it and therefore, I want to share some of the thoughts I gleaned there with you.  Full notes are in my documents widget.  Feel free to ask me for help integrating some of these ideas into your daily lessons.   Not surprisingly, we all came to one final conclusion at the close of the conference:


Here are the highlights of the sessions I attended:

RTI May Be Our Last, Best Hope gave five principles:  Match the text to the reader, dramatically increase reading activity, use small groups, coordinate intervention with classroom curriculum and use the experts – the teachers- to provide instruction.  Go to for RtI strategies.

The Daily Five included 10 steps for incorporating the Daily Five which are five activities done daily in the elementary classroom:)  Read to yourself from books you have chosen, read to someone else to improve fluency, work on writing, listen to the reading of good literature, practice spelling and use new vocabulary in authentic ways.  Go to

Keeping the Reader in Mind dealt with creating the right assessments to determine the needs of our students, keeping their many facets, including cultural, linguistic and social, in mind. 

Dare to Differentiate – Danny Brassell shared 50 tricks for differentiating.  They are all things teachers hear about but it was nice to have the list all in one place.  Great websites offered include:      and

Successfully Implementing a Student-Centered Classroom for Struggling Readers was presented by a teacher from Aloha who teaches a class for struggling freshmen, all regular attenders.  She used action research and came up with a plan that led to great gains for her students. The students chose their own theme and then lit groups were established with different books based on that theme.  Students took charge of their learning and presented their books to each other at the end of the term in creative, in-depth ways. 

Songs as Metaphors – Lyrics are filled with metaphors.  Unraveling a metaphor is the key to understanding a selection of writing in good literature.  Songs help teach students about feelings, imagery, and figurative language in their own terms.  Let students choose the songs but teacher has the final say in which ones will be used.  They must have appropriate lyrics and meaning for the school setting.  Some good songs to analyze include Elinor Rigby, If I Were a Hammer, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Long Ride Home and Pride in the name of Love.  +++

Word Sorts – All Sorts

Go online and google “word sorts” and you will be amazed how many you can find.  There are two types of word sorts: open sorts where the students decide how to sort the words and closed sorts where instructions for sorting the words are given, such as “group these plurals according to their endings.”  Other ways to work with words include “guess my category” or “in your reading, find all the words that denote a belief or philosophy.”  Try

Another keynote speaker, Ann Marineau challenged teachers to ask themselves, “How much of the day are my students writing?”  She emphasized that worksheets and questions at the end of the text don’t count.  She stated that 50% of the class period should be allotted for reading and writing.

Engaging Students by Donna Santman engaged me.  She taught the students how to communicate ideas to each other about what they were reading and studying without counting on the teacher to keep the “volley” going.  She used prompt cards to get the conversation going.  Then she stepped out of the conversation and wrote a transcript of their dialogue to share and discuss with them later. 

More Websites include: (official IRA website)                    (NCTE website)

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of the past centuries.” 
– Descartes

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