November 2015
Membership #:           
Expiration Date:  
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In This Issue
Website Links
Dates to Remember

Wired Wednesday Webinar
December 9, 2015

2016 IRC Conference
Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2016
Peoria, Illinois

Future Dates of the Annual IRC Conference
October 5-7, 2017
Peoria, Illinois

Welcome to iCommunicate, IRC's monthly e-newsletter!  Here you will learn, share, and enjoy information on timely topics and cutting edge projects. We'd love to hear your thoughts.  Please contact us with your comments, suggestions, and ideas at   
2016 Illinois Reads Program
By the Illinois Reads Committee

  • Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
  • Peter's Trucks by Sallie Wolf
  • Bike On, Bear! by Cynthea Liu
  • Friendshape by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • Who Said Coo? by Deborah Ruddell
  • Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker
  • My Grandfather's Coat by Jim Aylesworth
  • Yum!  Yuck! by Linda Sue Park and Julia Durango
  • The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock
  • Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward
  • Winnie:  The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker
  • A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry
  • The House That George Built by Suzanne Slade
  • Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell 
  • The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan
  • The Show Must Go On! by Kate Klise and Sarah Klise
  • Stick Dog by Tom Watson
  • Wanderville by Wendy McClure
6 - 8
  • NEED by Joelle Charbonneau
  • Hold Fast by Blue Balliett
  • Bird by Crystal Chan
  • The Keepers:  The Box and the Dragonfly by Ted Sanders
  • Blind by Rachel Dewoskin
  • Fantastic Fugitives by Brianna DuMont
  • Tempest by Julie Cross
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  • Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy
  • Oblivion by Sasha Dawn
  • The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
  • Pirate Hunters:  Treasure, Obsession and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson
  • Paris, He Said by Christine Sneed
  • Dollface:  A Novel of the Roaring Twenties by RenĂ©e Rosen
  • Made in America by Chris Chelios
  • The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey
  • Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
  • The Hidden Man by David Ellis
The complete list of the 2016 Illinois Reads Books is also available in a PDF.  Bookmarks and posters can be ordered at

To find out more information about the Illinois Reads Program and 2016 authors, visit  Ideas to incorporate the books into your classroom and summer reading activities will be available soon.   
Planning for High Quality Literacy Instruction and Improved Achievement
By Tinaya York
With bated anticipation the countdown begins for the school year and football. What do these two have in common? Lots. New football rules (for special teams, defenseless players, etc.) and new"er" Standards and assessments (CCSS, NGSS, PARCC, etc.); Scandals and cuts (Deflate Gate, misconduct, free agency) and pension crisis and cuts (did I hear someone say CPS?); New coaches/players and new school leaders/teachers.
Okay, it's a stretch. But likening literacy to football has value in terms of what it will take for teachers and school leaders to reach the literacy outcomes as defined by the Common Core State Standards. There are a few strategies that school leaders and teachers can take from football to improve literacy instruction and achievement in the new school year:

1.  Strategic moves to improve literacy instruction are best.  But flexibility is a must.
When players line up on the line of scrimmage they have a plan. The coaches have designed a play they think will be effective. They analyzed data, talked to the players and each other, and have come to a decision in a matter of seconds. But when things don't look quite right, a quarterback can audible or change the play at the line of scrimmage. Still having analyzed the situation and making a decision that will create a better outcome for the team.
Moves to improve literacy instruction should take the same approach: strategic yet flexible. Looking at data from past school years, surveying teachers, staff and students and researching and renewing understanding of literacy instruction help schools put a plan in place to block distractions and focus on intended literacy outcomes. Returning to the plan throughout the year, measuring its effectiveness, and making changes when necessary is as important as creating the initial plan. School leaders and teacher leaders must be willing to create the cycle within their buildings of analyzing, acting on and adjusting the game plan as necessary.
2.  Take time to deepen understanding of the Standards.
It is impossible to reach the highest heights of football glory without having a high football IQ. Take for instance the 2nd year cornerback for the 49ers. In a preseason game, he intercepts a ball in the end zone and throws the ball up in the air in celebration. In college he can get away with that but in the NFL, the play isn't dead until a player is down by contact. Seems like something so small but knowing the rules helps players make smarter decisions.   Knowing the Standards will help teachers plan richer and more meaningful learning and literacy experiences for children.

While watching a video of Dr. Robert Marzano and Toth discuss the Common Core, I was reminded of the cognitive processes embedded in the standards, the clear belief in socio-constructive theories of learning represented by the Standards, and the change in what it means to be "at" grade level. These things highlight the importance of having a deep understanding of not only the Standards but of how the State is asking students to show they meet the Standards--the CCSS actually call for a change in day-to-day instruction. This leads to my final point.
3.  Invest in teachers.
Football owners, general managers and coaches take particular care in selecting players. They analyze player performance to see whom they will keep or send to free agency and strategically invest in new and old players. They know that without strong players, their quest for Super Bowl glory is for naught. During the season, teams never stop practicing; they run drills, perfect a new play, and they have coaches to help with every area of the game--the Bears have 18 coaches plus the strengthening and conditioning team. Furthermore, the NFL provides a host of professional development for active players in areas outside of football such as the music industry, branding, real estate, broadcasting and a number of other careers.
There is something to be said about the level of investment put towards an ultimate outcome. Consider this, many teachers in the US do not receive the type of professional development that can change practice and raise student achievement. Additionally, teachers in the U.S generally spend 3 to 5 hours for planning. In other countries (OECD countries) teachers spend 15 to 25 hours planning, analyzing lessons, observing practice of peers and other teaching related tasks (Darling-Hammond, Wei, & Andree, 2010).   To wit, these countries outperform the U.S. on international assessments of learning such as the PISA. While other variables exist as to these countries' performance on international exams, their dedication to teacher education and teacher development is not to be ignored. The investment in people who spend the most time with children only makes sense. As much sense as calling a running play on a weak defensive line. Just as the league invests a large sum of their budgets to the players, school leaders must support the growth of their teachers to truly impact literacy learning and achievement.
When looking for ways to improve the literate lives of our children across Illinois let's be strategic, let's read and deepen our understanding of the Standards and let's invest in our teachers.
Go Literacy! (and Go Bears!)

Darling-Hammond, L. Chung Wei, R. & Andree, A. (2010). How high-achieving countries develop great teachers Retrieved from
Marzano, R. & Toth, M (2013, March 12). Common Core: Beyond the Basics [Video file]. Retrieved from
Webinars:  Culturally Responsive Instruction
By the Illinois Reading Council
The Illinois Reading Council and the Wisconsin State Reading Association are pleased to offer the FREE Webinar series for IRC and WSRA members again.  This year's topic is Culturally Responsive Instruction

7:00 p.m.  
Reaching & Teaching Students in Poverty:  An Equity Literacy Approach
with Paul Gorski
  • DescriptionThe first step toward creating equitable learning environments for students in poverty is to understand the challenges they experience in and out of schools that impact their educational outcomes. With deeper awareness comes the ability to develop more impacting strategies. In this webinar, we use the Equity Literacy framework for strengthening our understandings in preparation for exploring on-the-ground strategies meant to eliminate the opportunity gap experienced by students in poverty in our schools and classrooms.
  • BioPaul Gorski is an associate professor in New Century College and a Research Fellow in the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, George Mason University. His work and passion is social justice activism. His areas of scholarly focus include anti-poverty activism and education, economic justice, racial justice, environmental justice, and animal rights. He helped design New Century College's Social Justice and Human Rights Concentration and Minor around these topics as well as the new Masters of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a Social Justice and Human Rights concentration. He also is interested in the ways in which mindfulness practices can strengthen the resiliency of social justice activists.  Gorski is a busy consultant and speaker, working with community and educational organizations around the world--such as in Colombia, Australia, India, and Mexico--on equity and social justice concerns.  Gorski founded EdChange and is serving his second term on the board of directors of the International Association for Intercultural Education.
Register today for the upcoming webinar!

Letters About Literature
By the Illinois Reading Council
Letters About Literature is a national reading contest for students sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress in cooperation with the Illinois Center for the Book and other participating state centers for the book.

The program invites 4th-12th grade students to read a book of their choice, reflect on it, and write a letter to the author explaining how the book changed their life or view of the world.  Students can enter Letters About Literature on their own or through their schools, libraries or youth organizations.

There are three levels of participation:
  • Level I: Grades 4-6
  • Level II: Grades 7-8
  • Level III: Grades 9-12
One Illinois winner is selected for each level and receives a $200 cash award.  Teachers of the winning students also receive $100 to purchase materials for their school library.  Additionally, the state winners' letters advance to the national competition.  National winners for each of the three competition levels receive $1,000, and national honor winners for each level receive $200.

The 2016 Entry Form, contest guidelines, and additional resources are available online.  The entry deadlines are:
  • December 4, 2015 for Level III (Grades 9-12)
  • January 11, 2016 for Levels I and II (Grades 4-6 and Grades 7-8)
Literacy Links
By the IRC Educational Media Committee

Take a moment to review some of the Literacy Links provided by the IRC Educational Media Committee to help Illinois educators in today's classrooms. These links and past links will be available on the IRC Website under "Literacy Links" on the homepage.
Quizlet's flashcards, tests, and study games make learning fun and engaging for students of all ages. This tool allows you to create your own study sets, track your study progress, and compete with friends.

Interactive Resources
Scattervox is a new kind of poll.  When you create a poll, you ask users to show how they feel about different people, places, or things by plotting them on a two-dimensional graph.  It's like an interactive infographic.
Web 2.0 Tools
This online tool allows you to create and customize your own digital flashcards.  You can create flashcards with anything, and it allows you to include images as well.