May 2017
Membership #:           
Expiration Date:  
Local Councils:                         
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 .
By the Illinois Reading Council

Thanks to a very fruitful collaboration with Loyola University Chicago, ILLINOIS READS is thrilled to offer the 2017 Illinois Reads Teachers Guides.
Under the guidance of Loyola professor Jane Hunt, students from Loyola's Reading Teacher Endorsement Program created curriculum materials using Illinois Reads books for 2017.  The guides are available for download at

ILLINOIS READS bookmarks and posters are also available.  Please email your order today while supplies last!  
A Guide to Skill/Strategy Groups and Literature Circles
By Priscilla Dwyer, IRC Vice President
Last month I wrote about traditional guided reading groups, their form and structure and how to create a routine using them.  This month I will focus on diverse types of small groups that you might want to consider in your literacy-based classroom:  skill/strategy groups and literature circles.

In Jennifer Serravallo's book Teaching Reading in Small Groups, she states "When children are part of a group with a common goal, it is more likely that they will reach out to peers when they encounter difficulty. Small groups give children the chance to hear other students' thinking about their reading process and response to texts." (2010) Skill/Strategy groups and Literature Circles are different than guided reading in that they give ownership of the activities over to the students with teacher as an observer or facilitator.

First step for skill/strategy groups, just like guided reading, is visiting the data: running records, one-one conferences, benchmark assessments, learning strands, and observations. Skill/strategy groups can be homogenous or heterogeneous. Choose a skill/strategy for the lesson. Choose materials; there does not have to be a book or the reading materials can be items such as a science lab report, a timeline, a map key, etc. The key elements of a skill/strategy group are that students practice with instructional level materials, materials can be student or teacher selected, and the structure is the same as guided reading: connection -- why are we here, explicit teaching - either by students or teacher, active engagement - students practice and then a link to whole group classroom work. This can be for any content area, as well. Literacy is everywhere!

Some ideas for skill/strategy groups:  Sign up Seminars where students sign up to work on a specific skill or strategy based on their ideas (check out Jennifer Serravallo's book mentioned above for more on this), how to choose a just right book, book reviews, science labs, social studies in-depth discussions, text features, or writing skills. These are just a few. Skill/strategy groups give students practice with skills and strategies across content areas that all tie into literacy.

Literature Circles and Inquiry Groups are two types of small groups that can be used with students grades 3 and up. New job requirements in our world require workers to work collaboratively, to listen to other ideas and opinions, to question, solve, reorganize and invent. These groups of student-led discussions where each student has a specific role and is driven by a purpose are a meaningful way to focus on speaking and listening standards, as well as college and career readiness.

As with guided reading and skill/strategy groups, Literature Circle/Inquiry Group planning begins with looking at your student data and planning ahead. Books, novels, excerpts, articles, nonfiction, political cartoons, are just some of the materials you can use. Group roles must be planned ahead of time as well. You can Google group roles and get many ideas. This video is helpful Next you must explicitly teach the process of group discussion with your students. I would suggest beginning at the start of the year and practicing whole group. As the weeks go on and you practice, you can begin to remove yourself and become an observer/facilitator.

The principles of Literature Circles/Inquiry Groups are:
  • the choice of topics is driven by learning in the classroom, but can be chosen by students.
  • The discussion goes deep so text must be complex.
  • Grouping is flexible, each team member has a role, and each group is carefully differentiated.
  • Groups focus on student leadership and responsibility (have a plan for that student who doesn't participate).
  • Draw upon multiple sources, not just printed text.
  • Have a goal or performance task in mind as a culmination. How long will the group work together?
  • The goal is students learning to respectfully work together and to discuss and participate with an end goal in mind.
I hope you begin to think about small groups in your literacy-based classrooms through various lenses.  Small group work, when well-planned and executed, can be student engagement and growth.
A Letter to Literacy Coaches
By Tinaya York

Dear Literacy Coach,
It's May and I am sure you have begun reflecting on the year.  You've been wondering if you were successful, if the reading scores will go up and if the students you service will show growth.  You probably sat at your desk just the other day, and pulled out that list of goals you had at the beginning of the year and either grinned or grimaced.
I am writing this letter to you because I know that the fear of results, guilt for not doing enough, blame for teachers not teaching enough or children not doing their best, happens around this time every school year for literacy coaches.  Whether misplaced or not, the anxiety about success bubbles up. This is a note of encouragement, a reminder of how important you are and a tip for how to keep pressing on.
Value yourself.  Value the knowledge that you bring around literacy instruction and research, struggling readers, and great books for students to read.  Revel in the fact that leadership chose you to be in the role you are in; a role with grand responsibility.  Don't allow anyone to disrespect or devalue what you bring to the table.  The person who always has a sly joke or that person who refuses to show up for a follow up coaching session, doesn't value you.  Seek other ways to make yourself valuable or cut the cord with these folks and find other means to ensure students in those classrooms have high quality literacy instruction.  Whatever your approach, value yourself.
Stay lit!  I am borrowing a phrase from the young people to encourage you to stay hyped up about literacy.  Stay fresh on the topic, seek out information, conduct action research, or join a literacy organization.  If you are no longer in the classroom, borrow a classroom from time to time and teach a lesson you design.  Find ways to stay excited about literacy so you continue to bring your best.
Continue to be honest/reflective.  Keep reflecting on your work and be honest with yourself about the outcomes. Make the necessary adjustments. If something doesn't turn out quite right, own it!  If something turns out more than all right, own it!  Being honest/reflective is healing, revitalizes mental energy, and keeps you moving forward.
Stay encouraged, mighty literacy coaches.  Accept the praise you deserve and learn from the critiques.  Value yourself and all that you do for your learning community.  You are amazing and it's high time you heard it!
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.
Assessment Resources
This is an assessment tool that lets teachers know how every student is doing at any moment, using multiple choice and short answer questions.

Reading Passages
This website has newspaper articles about current events at different reading levels, organized by grade level and topics, and students have the option of commenting and reading other students' comments to the different articles.
The Teaching Channel provides many resources for Common Core, such as teacher videos, strategies and lesson plans