March 2017
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In This Issue
Website Links
Dates to Remember

2017 IRC Conference
October 5-7, 2017
Peoria, Illinois

Future Dates of the Annual IRC Conference
October 4-6, 2018
October 3-5, 2019
October 1-3, 2020
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 .
A Guide to Guided Reading and Small Groups for Targeting Skills and Ex tended Reading  
By Priscilla Dwyer, IRC Vice President
Typing that title wore me out! It is the title of a workshop that I give regularly throughout the State of Illinois to help educators plan and implement, with fidelity, small groups that engage students, differentiate to meet student needs and that are a meaningful use of time. That last part is key ... "a meaningful use of time."  Let's be honest, sometimes, because of the half day or the assembly or the meeting you are being pulled out of your classroom for, small groups are not carried out with fidelity. We have all been there! The problem is that this can become habit and pretty soon a quarter or semester has gone by and small groups have not become part of the structure and routine in your classroom. Your students are missing out on Tier 2 instruction that is focused on their individual needs. This series of articles will hopefully help you plan for small groups in a meaningful way and ... here is the big part ... fit them in with fidelity!

A little bit about my background with small groups. I like to start with my experience as a child. When I was in elementary school, all the other students went to their small groups, the redbirds, the Cubs, etc. But, because I was an advanced reader/writer, my teachers decided I would be best served doing independent work. And so I did, day after day I read on my own, wrote the answers in the workbook on my own, wrote my own stores and illustrated them, but never had the experience of getting together in a group to read, write, discuss and share books and writings. I do remember being paired up with another advanced girl in 6th grade, but she simply sat next to me in the library. We never spoke.

It wasn't until I was in high school that I began to experience discussions about literature and writing and it was in a large group, not small groups. My skills were never challenged, the teacher never discussed my individual needs with me or goals with me. I missed that experience completely.

Fast forward to my classroom years teaching elementary school in Kankakee, Illinois. I wanted my students to have that small group experience that I never had, so I began reading and studying everything about working in small groups that I could possibly get my hands on. Using data to inform instruction, I developed a system of working with students in small groups that allowed students to feel confident while working on fluency, comprehension, accuracy and vocabulary extension.

In the next couple of months, I will share my systems for guided groups, skill groups, literature/inquiry circles and conferencing with students. Before my next article ponder the following questions: What were my own school experiences with reading groups? What are the small group structures I rely on most in my classroom? What are my fundamental beliefs regarding teaching reading? Do I teach small groups with fidelity? I look forward to sharing with you! In April, I will focus on the traditional guided reading group. Happy Reading!
A Celebration of Literacy in Black America
By Tinaya York

I write this in remembrance of Black people who fought to be literate
In remembrance of those who decided against the law, to become literate
In memory of a 90% illiteracy rate among Blacks in the 1800s
Of secret schools, independently run schools and freedom schools
Of Deveauz, Miss L, DuBois, Alice Howard, Fredrick Douglas, Garland Penn and the names unknown
Who saw the beauty and intelligence in Black people, who fought for the right to read and write who defied the odds for freedom
Of the one room schoolhouse and the old, discarded books from the white school down the road that my grandma learned from
in Alabama
That literacy meant freedom
That being Black prohibited one from learning how to read and write
That just because you are Black
slave laws
racial segregation
poorly implemented desegregation policy
inequity in school funding and the lack of access to public schooling has worked against your right to read
I write this for the descendants of those who fought for the right to be literate
For those who become literate in substandard schools and the thousands of teachers who understand how important it is for the systemically disenfranchised to have access
And go the extra mile
I write this to help people understand that the manifestation of what has been termed as 'low achievement' in reading for many Black children runs counter to the rich literacy history of Black people in the United States
That literacy is freedom and just because you are Black, it means so much more

Anderson, J. (1988). The education of Blacks in the south 1860-1935. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Anderson, J. (2004-2005). [Lecture]. Lecture presented at Achievement Seminar Series. Retrieved May 15, 2009 from

Belt-Beyan, P. (2004).
The emergence of African American literacy traditions: Family and community efforts in the nineteenth century. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Harris, V. J (1992). African American conceptions of literacy: A historical perspective. Theory into Practice, 30(4), 276-286.

Harris, V. J. (1994). Historic readers for African American children (1868-1944): Uncovering and reclaiming a tradition of opposition. In M.M. Shujaa (Ed.), Too much schooling too little education: A paradox of black life in white societies (pp. 143-178). Trenton, NJ: African World Press, Inc.

Holt, T. (1990). "Knowledge is power": The black struggle for literacy. In A. A. Lunsford, H. Molgen, & J. Slevin (Eds.). The right to literacy (pp. 91-102). New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Johnson, C. S. (1936). The education of the Negro child. American Sociological Review,1(2), 264-272.

Perry, T. (2003). Freedom for literacy and literacy for freedom: The African-American philosophy of education. In T. Perry, C. Steele & A. Hilliard III (Eds.), Young, gifted and Black: Promoting high achievement among African-American students (pp. 11-51). Boston: Beacon Press.
Advocate Ad (Bring) Voc (Voice)
By Julie Hoffman

"It's the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees." ~ Wangari Maathai
The word advocacy comes from Latin, advocatus, which includes the prefix ad- (towards) and vocare (to call). Vocare, is similar to vocal, or voice. Ultimately, then, advocacy is a call to move towards voice. Advocacy might look like you helping another find his/her voice. Advocacy might look like you being a voice for an individual or a group that goes unheard. Advocacy might look like you moving toward your own voice, or calling. In any case, advocacy looks like you. Advocacy begins with you.
What and whom do you LOVE?  What do you read?  What do you write? To whom, and about what, do you listen?  About what do you speak?
These are the questions you must ask, as you become an advocate for yourself and for others. Is there an issue about which you need to speak up?   Is there a group of learners for whom you must be the voice? Is there a topic that needs to be addressed or awareness to be raised? Is there a change that needs to be made, and if so what is your role? How can you make the difference?

As you brace yourself to put on the hat of advocate, it is important to remember that you are not required to tend to the theoretical forest. You are not responsible for every tree. Advocacy is not a big declaration or statement; instead advocacy is small action. To advocate is a verb. Advocacy begins with the little things--merely the planting of a tree is enough. What does planting a tree look like in the world of literacy? Plant a great book into a student's hand. Plant a good book into the hands of another staff member in your building. Plant a Little Free Library in your yard, or in your community. Plant an idea before a colleague, and team up to raise funds for an international literacy project. Plant the idea of a school wide reading initiative with your administrator, your school librarian, or your local public library. Plant yourself into a book that makes you think, or feel, something that moves you toward voice. Start advocating by finding your literacy calling.  Advocate, advocate!
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.
Comprehensive Resources
This amazing resource provides reading passages on curricular topics at a variety of reading levels, as well as skill-based lesson plans, novel study units, paired texts, and many more resources that are searchable by grade level and Common Core Standard.

Interactive Resources
This online resource allows the user to take a Google Spreadsheet of information and turn it into flashcards, a quiz show, a bingo card, a hangman game, mix and match and more. This is a great tool for creating activities that can be used on any device.
Web 2.0 Resources
Comic Master allows you to create your own short graphic novel! With Comic Master you can decide how you want the page or your graphic novel to look, add backgrounds, choose characters and props to appear in your scenes, add dialogue and captions, and much more