, 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
ILA's Exemplary Reading Program Award
By the Illinois Reading Council
The Exemplary Reading Program Award is sponsored by the International Literacy Association (ILA) to recognize outstanding reading and language arts programs at all grade levels (elementary, middle, and high school).
Its purpose is to call the public's attention to outstanding programs in schools throughout North America. The Illinois Reading Council is a participating state council that will be choosing one winning school from Illinois.
All public, private, charter, and parochial schools in the United States and Canada are eligible for the award provided
- The state or province in which the school is located has an Exemplary Reading Program Award Committee currently in place to judge program applications from that state or province
- At least one faculty or staff member of that school is a current ILA member
Illinois Family Reading Night
By the Illinois Reading Council
Family Reading Night is an annual statewide event held the third Thursday in November to encourage families to spend quality time reading together. It is sponsored by the Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian, Jesse White and Illinois Center for the Book. The next Family Reading Night will be
November 17, 2016.
Family Reading Night bookmarks and posters can be downloaded from the
Center for the Book
If you would like to plan an
ILLINOIS READS Family Reading Night
, you can also order bookmarks and posters from the
Illinois Reading Council
office. Supplies are limited so order today!
For more information, visit the ILLINOIS READS website at
Getting Parents Involved in your Literacy -Based Classroom
By Priscilla Dwyer, IRC Vice President
As a teacher for over 15 years, I heard a lot of grumbling about parents who never help or get involved in their children's education. I also heard a lot of grumbling from parents about teachers who did not welcome them into the classroom or did not give the opportunity to get involved. As a parent and an educator, about 4 years into my teaching career, I decided that I wanted to lead by example and get parents volunteering in my classroom, on a regular basis, and involved in their children's education. I took many of my cues from Dr. Patricia Edwards, Distinguished Professor of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. She has many years of practice, study and involvement regarding parents and their role in education. I have read her books, listened to her speak and reached out to her for help in getting parent involvement started. She will be a featured speaker at the Illinois Reading Council's 2017 Conference and is a Wired Wednesday Webinar Speaker.
In a series of articles, I plan to use my study of Dr. Edward's parent involvement research to lay out a simple plan for getting parents involved, lightening your work load and creating a streamlined volunteer system in your literacy-based classroom. In this first article, I will give an outline of my program, and in subsequent articles, I will go in to detail to help you execute each step/strategy.
As with any successful program, you have to have a plan. Here is an outline of my plan:
- Plan before the school year gets started: How will I ask parents to volunteer? How will I get them interested in volunteering? How will I make parents feel welcome at school? How will I train parents to work with students? What school and district red tape (background checks, trainings, etc.) do I need to make volunteer parents aware of? What time of day do I need parent volunteers? How long will they stay? Who will they work with and with what activities?
- Organize a time to speak with parents regarding your volunteer program: Open house? Special meeting? Social gathering at school (ice cream social, tailgate party, etc.)? Email, phone calls, special invite?
- Prepare to meet with parents: Have a sign up/schedule ready to go, is there a background check packet? Do I have examples of activities I may ask them to do with the students? Will I train parents now or have a separate training session?
- Train parent volunteers: Have a time to meet with parents, go over activities, check the schedule to be sure volunteers are scheduled for the time they can work and go over classroom rules and procedures. Be sure to think about all the little things, including space where parent volunteers will work with students. Also remember to "show" parent volunteers, don't "tell" them. This is about building relationships!
- Release and Let Go: Once you have successfully trained, scheduled and prepped parent volunteers, it is time to let go and let them be independent. In order to create a positive community environment, it is important to let parents know they are ready and you trust them to work with students, while you attend to the rest of the class.
- Reflect and Adjust: Do you see a parent with a certain gift or talent? I had a parent who was fantastic with editing and giving writing tips to students. I found out because one day, a student brought his writing journal up to read to this parent, rather than a book. The student came to me later and said what a great time he had with the parent, talking about his writing and what he could enhance and revise. Taking time to tap into the potential of parents can be game-changing in your classroom.
As Dr. Patricia A. Edwards states in her book
Tapping the Potential of Parents
(Edwards, 2009) "Many parents at your school may not become involved if they do not feel that the climate is one that makes them feel welcomed, respected, trusted, heard and needed." Let's work together to develop relationships that help parents feel needed, trusted, welcomed and respected, and that work toward developing community in our classroom. And, bonus...having parent volunteers will help you, as a teacher, meet the needs of all learners, giving more time for small groups and differentiation! I look forward to hearing Dr. Patricia Edwards speak at IRC's next Wired Wednesday Webinar, November 9, 2016. She will be discussing family literacy and new ways to engage parents through activities, discussions and more. Register for this free webinar (with your membership to IRC) at the following link:
Next time, I will be back with the continuation of this article, Getting Parents Involved in your Literacy Classroom: Plan Before the School Year Gets Started.
Edwards, P. A. (2009). Tapping The Potential of Parents. New York: Scholastic.
IRC's Statewide Special Interest Councils: What is the Secondary Reading League?
By Mark Levine, SRL President-Elect
The Secondary Reading League (SRL) is a statewide council of the Illinois Reading Council. SRL's purpose is to provide opportunities for the formal and informal exchange of ideas related to literacy issues and lifelong learning, with an emphasis on reading and the literacy concerns of secondary educators. This is accomplished through networking at conferences, social media, and various other events that SRL offers throughout the year.
The premier event that the Secondary Reading League offers to our members is the Day of Reading, which is held in November each year in Tinley Park, Illinois. There is a Pre-Conference on the Friday of the event, which allows participants the opportunity to spend a day with a leader in literacy, one of the most current thinkers in our field. On the Saturday of the event, participants spend the day with the speaker from Friday as well as a very popular and current YA literature author and several talented local educators for breakout sessions. There are many vendors to enjoy and of course, this is the perfect place and time for networking.
Other events include the SRL strand room at the Illinois Reading Council Conference, the IRC conference SRL meet and greet, SRL's YA Book Talk, and various meetings throughout the year. We are always growing!
How does one join Secondary Reading League?
When joining the Illinois Reading Council and filling out your membership form, simply choose Secondary Reading League as your Special Council. If you are already a member, you can always add a special council like Secondary Reading League for an additional $15. Joining SRL is well worth the money and offers added benefits to those IRC members that teach grades 6-12.
How can I get involved in Secondary Reading League beyond membership?
Secondary Reading League is always looking for motivated educators to become involved in the various events that we offer. We are always in need of friendly people wanting to help make our Day of Reading event one of the best Conferences in Illinois. We are also looking for outgoing and motivated leaders in education to join our Executive Board.
You can learn more by finding us at
. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Need more information? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why Writing Should be Evident in Every Classroom, EVERY DAY
By Tinaya York
If you remember back in July, I was preparing to write about including more writing into daily instruction. Instead, I thought it more important to address how we are thinking, reading, writing and talking about race in our schools. I always want readers to consider race as a lens to unpack equity, access and opportunity for all children. With that said, this article will discuss the importance of writing and why it should be evident in every classroom across Illinois every day.
Writing: I hear teachers, principals and parents wonder why children are not writing well especially by the time they get to high school. I have had college professors ask why students cannot write well when they enter their freshman courses. I hear students complain that writing is hard. Well, it is hard. Consider the following quotes that appear in chapters 1 and 2 of the Handbook of Writing Research, 2nd edition:
Writing is a complex social participatory performance in which the writer asserts meaning, goals, actions, affiliations, and identities within a constantly changing, contingently organized social world, relying on shared texts and knowledge (Bazerman, 2016)."
"From a cognitive perspective, proficient
writing is a complex goal-directed problem-solving process that makes substantial demands on writers' knowledge, strategies, language, skills, and motivational resources (MacArthur & Graham, 2016)."
Writing is demanding on the writer and on the teacher. It takes time to develop, time to teach, time to go through the problem-solving process and time to grade. Because of the demands and the complexity of writing, when we talk about writing, it cannot just be a discussion about the writing needed for PARCC or the SAT. We must put writing in a more appropriate, developmental context to help us think about how we can approach writing in our schools.
First, there is some relationship between writing and the development of other modes of communication, both oral (listening, speaking) and productive (reading, writing), and that these systems develop together not necessarily one before the other (Shanahan, 2006). But writing is generally the last form of communication to develop completely. Second, "language and cognition develop together and progressively. As ideas and relationships become more complex, so does language" (Walqui & Heritage, 2012).
Because writing is cognitively demanding and builds from social engagement and socially constructed knowledge, it is critical that schools make the effort to engage students in reading, talking, and writing across the school day, every day. Schools must discuss the connection between language development, reading and writing and engaging students in word play, talk, texts, and powerful ideas. Writing must also serve as an identity we nurture in students by engaging in writing as adults. Fletcher (1993) and Langer (2000) remind us that to teach writing we must not only know our students but we (THE ADULTS, THE TEACHERS, THE LEADERS) must know how to teach writing and WE MUST WRITE!
Given some of the things pointed out about writing, the following If-Then statements help summarize what students and teachers/leaders must enact in schools:
- IF language is the foundation for writing and language develops in social context,
- IF writing is improved with reading (more knowledge and vocabulary to draw from) and learning is improved with writing (memory, locking in learning, expressing thinking),
- IF we believe writing is a process,
- THEN writing, talking and reading must be working together in classrooms to improve writing.
- THEREFORE students should be:
- Talking about writing and talking to prepare to write
- Enhancing vocabulary through word games, extensive reading and talking with peers
- Learning how language works by using language in a variety of ways
- Writing about what they are reading
- Given ample time to write
- Reading to build on their schema so they can write for a variety of purposes
And adults must:
- Engage in the writing process with students and outside of students
Below are some practical suggestions for schools and teachers to consider:
- DECIDE that writing is important
- DO spend time developing knowledge of writing, writing instruction and making it part of what all adults in the school building engage in as well (during faculty meetings, school-wide PD, etc.)
- DETERMINE the types of writing that will go through the complete writing process every quarter and the types of activities students will engage in on a consistent manner (Free writing, journal writing, environmental writing, response writing, etc.). For example, Q1: Memoir writing and free verse poem about one's self, Q2: Speech and research paper. This will help teachers focus on the types of text they want students to read, the academic conversations students will engage in, and narrow down critical elements of a particular type of writing to teach. Remember, everything written does not have to be graded.
- DEDICATE time EVERYDAY to writing, either teaching of writing OR writing in response to learning (and here, I am not talking about answering comprehension questions, more about students writing their thoughts, interpretations in response to texts, creating personal learning goals, etc.)
And just in case you are not yet convinced about the importance of writing, when schools focus on writing (writing to improve comprehension and learning how to write), it raises student achievement and improves the quality of instruction (Szachowicz, 2010; Langer, 2000).
I urge you to consider how we might include more writing in classrooms every day. I leave you with these amazing facts about writing and its impact on the brain for you to ponder. They are from an infographic titled,
"How Does the Act of Writing Affect Your Brain?"
- "The physical act of writing brings the information to the forefront and triggers your brain to pay close attention."
- "Scientists have also found that telling a story can plant emotions, thoughts and ideas in to the brain of the listener...This means that writers have the ultimate power to influence others."
Bazerman, C. (2016). "What do sociocultural studies of writing tell us about learning to write?" In, C. MacArthur. S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.),
Handbook of writing research (2nd Ed.) (11-23). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Fletcher, R. (1993).
What a writer needs. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
"How Does the Act of Writing Affect Your Brain?" Retrieved from
Langer, J.A. (2000). "Beating the odds: Teaching middle and high school students to read and write well." Retrieved from
MacArthur, C. & Graham, S. (2016). "Writing Research from a Cognitive Perspective." In, C. MacArthur. S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.),
Handbook of writing research (2nd Ed.) (24-40). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
National Council of Teachers of English (2011). "Reading and writing across the curriculum." Retrieved from
Shanahan, T. (2006) "Relations among oral language, reading and writing
development." In C. MacArthur. S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.),
Handbook of writing research (1st Ed.)(171-186). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Walqi, A & Heritage, M. (2012). "Instruction for Diverse Groups of English
Understanding Language: Stanford University.
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.
This digital canvas allows users to create interactive walls with digital post-its for text, images and videos. This collaborative tool can be used for a variety of purposes, including building background, formative and summative assessment, sorts, brainstorming and many more. This tool works with any device; all that is needed is a web browser.
This online reading comprehension tool provides a relevant news article everyday that is in kid-friendly language and is appropriate for students in grades 2-8. The articles provide discussion and written prompts, as well as curriculum and grammar questions. The articles are archived and organized by topics for easy selection.
This online tool makes teaching more interactive by letting the students actively participate in lectures by using Mentimeter as a formative assessment tool. The results from the questions are live and anonymous so students and teachers can see the results to questions right away for immediate feedback.