January 2016
Membership #:           
Expiration Date:  
Local Councils:                         
In This Issue
Website Links
Dates to Remember

Wired Wednesday Webinar
February 10, 2016

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 icommunicate@illinoisreadingcouncil.org.   
Applications for the Barack Obama Library Award  Due March 15, 2016
By the Illinois Reading Council
Do you know a teacher of 5th-8th grade kids who could make good use of a classroom library?
This award is a classroom library, valued at $1000, which was created in 2006 through a generous gift to the IRC from (then) Senator Obama. This collection comprises carefully selected literature that is "culturally relevant" for African-American readers and targets students in the middle-school (5th-8th) grade range.
The Nomination Guidelines and Form are available online. Nominations are due by March 15, 2016.
The Revised Illinois Social Studies Standards Have Arrived!
By Roberta Sejnost, ILA State Coordinator
In June 2015, the Illinois State Board of Education approved the revised Social Studies Standards for Illinois, and in December 2015 the board announced that school districts will be required to align their social science curricula to the new standards by the 2017-18 school year. However, the effective date of school year 2017-18 does not prevent school districts from implementing the social science standards immediately.
The revised Social Studies Standards are based on the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards developed by the National Council for the Social Studies. To develop the standards for Illinois, a Task Force was named. The Task Force then created a flexible framework of standards to be used because, in Illinois, curriculum is determined locally with districts offering different social science courses. This framework reflects the state mandated content of civics, economics, geography, and history with an appendix that includes psychology, sociology, and anthropology and is designed to be embedded within a variety of social science courses.
The vision embedded in these new standards is that "Illinois graduates will be civically engaged, socially responsible, culturally aware, financially literate."  And, as a result, will:
  • Demonstrate self, local, national, global awareness.
  • Critically analyze and evaluate information.
  • Be civically responsible, environmentally, geographically, historically literate.
The New Illinois Social Studies Standards are inquiry focused, stress the deep, enduring understandings, concepts, and skills needed to prepare students for democratic decision-making and have a direct, explicit connection to the New Illinois Learning Standards for ELA and its component of Literacy in History/Social Studies.
The standards are developed using two complementary categories which work together simultaneously: Inquiry Skills and Disciplinary Concepts. The Inquiry Skills Standards focus on the skills of questioning, investigating, reasoning, and taking responsible action, where students are asked to:
  • Gather and evaluate sources
  • Use evidence to develop claims and support them with evidence
  • Critique and communicate their conclusions and take informed action
The Disciplinary Concept Standards include the following:
  • Civic and Political Institutions
  • Participation and Deliberation: Applying Civic Virtues and Democratic Principles
  • Processes, Rules, and Laws
Economics and Financial Literacy
  • Economic Decision Making
  • Exchange and Markets
  • The National and Global Economy
  • Geographic Representations: Spatial Views of the World
  • Human-Environment Interaction: Place, Regions, and Culture
  • Human Population: Spatial Patterns and Movements
  • Global Interconnections: Changing Spatial Patterns
  • Change, Continuity, and Context
  • Perspectives
  • Historical Sources and Evidence
  • Causation and Argumentation
As we begin to transition to these revised Social Studies Standards, we can look to EngageNY, which was created with New York's Race to the Top funds and is now maintained by the New York State Education Department for resources.  EngageNY has developed a toolkit for creating lessons based on the new C3 Framework which can be accessed at http://www.engageny.org .  And a lesson/unit template I found helpful in incorporating the elements of the revised Social Studies Standards can be accessed at http://www.debbiewaggoner.com.
Effective Literacy Resources for IRC Members
By the IRC Educational Initiatives and Professional Development Committee

The Illinois Reading Council's Educational Initiatives and Professional Development Committee is tasked with promoting the understanding of and advocating for effective literacy practices.  In an effort to centralize educational electronic resources for IRC members,  the committee has created the following resources. 


The LiveBinder site serves as a "virtual file cabinet" of current sites which support instruction, initiative implementation, and educator best-practice. There are websites, professional books suggestions, and even links to additional LiveBinders on specific topics created by the committee members. 
The committee continually updates and adds new resources to the binder, so visit it regularly. They also invite IRC membership to contribute resource suggestions found to be of value. Send suggestions to the EI/PD Committee at Rti-commoncore@illinoisreadingcouncil.org   
The committee has added another layer of support by creating a blog as a repository for resources, book reviews, and timely topics.  The blog shares a variety of articles, links, videos, and websites to help IRC members integrate effective literacy instruction and assessment into the classrooms, districts, and communities.  Check out the "cool tools" for the teachers or ways to incorporate technology skills with literacy activities.

The Illinois Reading Council also has a cadre of educators available for on-site training and technical assistance, tools, and resources.  IRCPD utilizes the latest educational research and is informed by years of experience and subject matter expertise. IRCPD offers custom programs, exceptional speakers, timely topics, and engaging programs to assist you and your facility in reaching all your educational goals.

For more information about bringing IRCPD to your school or to make contributions to the LiveBinder and blog, contact the committee via email at pd@illinoisreadingouncil.org.     
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

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2016      
7:00 p.m.  
Teaching for Social Equity in the Literacy Classroom
with Althier Lazar

  • DescriptionSocial equity literacy teaching is a model that fuses literacy teaching with concepts of social equity. The webinar will explore each dimension of social equity literacy teaching and will profile teachers whose work reflects this model.
  • BioAlthier M. Lazar is professor of Teacher Education at Saint Joseph's University.  Her research focuses on the ways teachers and teacher candidates evolve in their understandings of culture, literacy, and language, and how these understandings translate to social equity literacy teaching.  Her books include: Reconceptualizing Literacy in the New Age of Multiculturalism and Pluralism, 2nd Edition with Patricia Ruggiano Schmidt (2015), Getting to know ourselves and others through the ABCs: A journey toward intercultural understanding, co-edited with Claudia Finkbeiner (2015), Bridging Literacy and Equity: The Guide to Social Equity Teaching (2012), with co-authors Patricia Edwards and Gwendolyn Thompson McMillon, Practicing What We Teach: How Culturally Responsive Literacy Classrooms Make a Difference (2011), with co-editor Patricia Ruggiano Schmidt and Learning to Be Literacy Teachers in Urban Schools: Stories of Growth and Change (2004). She has published numerous articles and book chapters on the topics of teacher growth and urban literacy teaching. Dr. Lazar received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Register today for the upcoming webinar!

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.
Reading Passages
Common Lit provides a collection of high quality, free instructional materials to support literacy development for students in grades five through twelve.  You will find this site filled with leveled fiction and nonfiction articles that are flexible, research based, and aligned to standards.  The resources are created for teachers, by teachers.

Storyline Online features accomplished actors and actresses reading some of their favorite children's books.  Each story comes with a free Activity Guide and can be viewed on YouTube or SchoolTube.  Rainbow Fish, Wilfrid Gordon Macdonald Partridge, and To Be a Drum are just a few of the books available.  This resource was developed by The Screen Actors Guild Foundation.
Web 2.0
Storynory features a collection of original, fairytale, and classic children's audio stories.  Students can follow along with the story as it is read to them, as the text is also included on the site.  There are also some great features available that give you the option of downloading the audio to your computer, listening to "catch phrase" explanations, translating text into different languages (especially helpful for your ELL students!), and more.

Literacy Leaders:  Profiles of School Leaders Moving Literacy Achievement
By Tinaya York
Moving literacy achievement in schools is HARD WORK.  There are no silver bullets, no quick schemes, no single curriculum that can make students own their learning, help teachers make the best choice or just make kids "better readers and writers."

With changes in state standards, assessments and high accountability, how do school leaders of today ensure strong literacy instructional practices are happening throughout their buildings?  You will hear from two school leaders with different schools working hard at work worth doing.
Elizabeth Meyers, Principal
A. Phillip Randolph Elementary School, Chicago
39 years old
Years as an administrator:  7 (principal and asst. principal)
Years as a teacher and coach:  7
School Demographics
  • 524 Students
  • 99% Free and Reduced Lunch
  • 2.8% English Learners
  • 11% Diverse Learners
  • 93% African American
  • 7% Latino
  • .2% Multi-racial
  • .2% White
Vision for literacy:  Building a culture of responsiveness.  Giving kids what they need culturally, emotionally, socially and academically.

School Year 2016 Goal:  50% of students reading at grade level (currently 20% of students are at grade level)
How are you ensuring strong literacy instructional practices are happening throughout the building?

First, it was important to increase teachers' capacity not just the tools, the mental tools to do what needs to be done through professional development.  We are systematically implementing the workshop model by providing support through grade level meetings.  Teachers study a component of our instructional model and we look for strong implementation before moving forward to a new component.

Our literacy coach leads the grade level meetings and executes the school's literacy vision.
Second, the assistant principal and myself conduct regular pop-ins and provide feedback to teachers. We use the feedback data to determine if professional development should move to the next component.

What is your instructional model?

There are five aspects to our literacy instructional model.  After launching with a mini-lesson we expect teachers and students to engage in 5 critical components (not necessarily in this order)
  1. Independent or Skill Practice
  2. Technology-Assisted Learning
  3. Guided Reading
  4. Response to Literature
  5. Interactive Read Alouds
What is important to the success of implementing high quality literacy instruction?

Teachers feel supported.  I have teachers say, this is a lot but I feel supported.
Is it working and how do you know? 

Yes, it is working! Based on our MOY (Middle of the Year) NWEA MAP data, all grade levels (except 7th) have progressed in their average RIT scores. For example, the average RIT for second grade was 160. Based on middle of the year testing, the average for second graders is now 169. We are happy with our students' movement and teachers see the impact of the work they are putting in.
Concrete advice for school leaders:  You have to make time and set incremental goals; time to build capacity and time for successful implementation.

Lissette Rua, Principal
Robert Fulton Elementary School, Chicago
41 years old
Years as an administrator:  2 ½ years (principal and asst. principal)
Years as a teacher and coach:  12 ½ years
School Demographics
  • 415 students
  • 99% Free and Reduced Lunch
  • 31% English Learners
  • 14% Diverse Learners
  • 53% Latino
  • 45% African American
  • 1% White
  • .4% American Indian
  • .2% Multi-racial
Vision for literacy: For teachers to appreciate where children are and not see them as deficits but rather as opportunities and to move from basals to balanced literacy framework. Part of the vision is to help teachers realize they are on the cusp of something great if they just embrace it. They need to approach reading as a workshop and understand there's a philosophy around how and when to teach and when you move students to more independent practice.
School Year 2016 Goal: Implement two components of balanced literacy framework for grades K-3: read alouds and guided reading. There are two parts to the read aloud:  one, we want kids to enjoy reading and, second, to spark accountable talk.
How are you ensuring strong literacy instructional practices are happening?

We started with a data wall that correlated Fountas and Pinnell to grade level and did a gap analysis. We invested in professional development, created a book room with texts to get started (in Spanish and English). Ongoing professional development happens through grade level meetings along with peer visits. Our ongoing professional development is focused on two components--read alouds and guided reading. Professional development is mapped out week by week and everyone knows what is going on. We read articles, study, allow for safe practice, and use the data from our peer visits to inform what we need to do next. Our peer visits are reflective in nature. Teachers answer two questions when they observe a peer: What did I see? How can it inform my practice? In addition to these efforts, I found teachers who wanted to support this work to assist with implementation.
For our English learners, we do not want to transition students until they are reading in Spanish at grade level. Our planning is the same and teachers instruct in English and Spanish.
What is important to the success of implementing high quality literacy instruction?

I feel strongly that sharing with teachers that it is okay to teach kids at their instructional level while providing access to grade level material and that I truly believe in balanced literacy allowed my teachers to feel safe in their practice. I repeated the same message during grade level meetings. In addition, I think having a literacy background helped but anyone can lead this work. In short, the leader has to believe in the work they are doing.
Is it working and how do you know?

Yes it is. There are several things we have seen. During instructional rounds we see for example, implementation of accountable talk. Our TRC (Text Reading and Comprehension) growth--many of our students are moving reading levels. When my assistant principal and I conduct pop-ins we see strong literacy instruction. Also, teachers talk more confidently about literacy instruction during pre-conferences and planning sessions.
What advice do you have for school leaders?

Be sincere about your baseline--this is where you are, no excuses. Commit to moving your students.