January 2014
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In This Issue
October 2014 Conference
Value of Acquaintance
Reading Glue
Website Links

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.   
Program Proposals for the October 2014 IRC Conference due April 15, 2014      
By the Illinois Reading Council 
Mark your calendars for the October 2014 IRC Conference, Harvesting the Fruits of Literacy, from October 2-4, 2014 in Springfield, Illinois. The Conference Preview will be available in March.   The conference will include the award-winning authors, prominent literacy leaders, and dynamic speakers that will help you "fall" into literacy, including Rafe Esquith, Lucy Calkins, Jerry Pinkney, P. David Pearson, Chris Crutcher, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Wendelin Van Draanen, and so many more! In May, watch your mailbox for the Preliminary Program that will be mailed to you.


At this time, we would like to share with you the Call for Program Proposals for the October 2014 IRC Conference. Teachers, researchers, librarians, administrators, and others interested in promoting reading and related literacy areas are encouraged to submit program proposals. Please take a moment to review the 2014 Program Proposal format, general information, and criteria for selection. Program proposals are being accepted online at www.illinoisreadingcouncil.org. The Program Proposals must be submitted online or postmarked no later than April 15, 2014.  

The Value of Acquaintance    
By Nancy Steineke, Victor J. Andrew High School


The start of a new school year or semester usually begins with a regimen of ice-breaking activities.  Yet after the initial "get to know you" push, we usually put our shoulder to the curriculum and leave those first week memories far behind.  However, the truth of the matter is that your students probably don't know each other as well as you think.  Therefore, I'm going to make a suggestion.  Instead of devoting several hours to ice breaking at the beginning of the year or semester, spend five minutes on it every day.


What exactly do I mean by ice-breaking?  They are opportunities for classmates to move acquaintance beyond their immediate friendship circles.  My favorite activity for this is the Partner Interview.  Start by developing a routine for forming student partners, finding ways to change pairs frequently.  Mixing kids up with new partners gives them permission to talk with classmates who are different than they are, which in turn helps them realize that those classmates aren't really as different as they thought they were.  Then, at the beginning of class while you are taking attendance and returning papers, instruct students to move with their partners in order to discuss the interview topic of the day.  The interviews will go more smoothly if you model one with a student partner prior to the pairs working on their own.  Here are the steps. 

  1. Present a low-risk topic:  pizza, favorite movie, pets, or shopping. Once students understand the interview procedure, your class will enjoy developing a list of their own topics.
  2. One partner acts as the interviewer while the other is the interviewee. The interviewee starts by sharing a personal connection or story related to the topic while the interviewer listens carefully.
  3. Now the interviewer asks her partner an open-ended question based on something the partner said.  While the interviewer jots down the question, it's very important for the partner to silently think about her answer.
  4. Once the interviewer has the question jotted, the partner answers. Be sure to encourage the interviewees to elaborate on their answers so that they give the interviewer enough material on which to base another question.
  5. After the first answer, the interviewer asks another question based on her partner's previous response.  As before, the partner should think about her answer while the interviewer jots the question.
  6. Partners repeat this question and answer format for about two to three minutes.  Then they switch roles and start a new interview.
  7. As the interview time concludes, call time.  Before partners move on to the next task, have them turn to one another and say, "Thanks for the interesting interview; it's great working with you!"  

Partner interviews build several skills:  good listening, note taking, asking follow-up questions, and elaborating on one's answer.  Students find these interviews fun and interesting.  Even better, starting an academic task with interviews is a great warm-up for a small group content area discussion because students who know each other are much more interested in each other's ideas and also more willing to share their own.


Finally, it never hurts to prompt students to thank each other.  Though some might criticize this for being prescriptive and artificial, kids don't often thank people for their efforts.  I'm certain students appreciate the work of their classmates--and their teachers--but it never occurs to them to voice it.  That's something we want to change.  Thanking people for their efforts builds a positive community.  People who feel appreciated want to return to a group and work together again.


A recent article on gratefulness appeared in the Wall Street Journal.  Titled "Raising Children With an Attitude of Gratitude:  Research Finds Real Benefits for Kids Who Say Thank You," the article pointed out that children who thank others and feel grateful have a more positive attitude towards school and higher GPA's.  The article also pointed out that kids need to be taught thankfulness through modeling and practice.  According to the article, "Gratitude works like a muscle."  The more you flex it, the more grateful you feel, and so I guess that makes us our students' personal trainers!


Nancy Steineke is the author/co-author of several books including Assessment Live! (Heinemann, 2009) and Texts and Lessons for Teaching Literature (Heinemann, 2013).

Reading Glue Inc.
By James Stubblefield, Founder


Educators understand the importance of reinforcing skills taught in the classroom. They also spend a lot of time and energy encouraging parents to practice reading with their child through the use of homework, reading challenges, and reading logs. Unfortunately, there are many parents who ignore the importance of reading practice until they hear from a teacher that their child is struggling. What if there was a way that parents could see that their child is struggling without waiting for parent-teacher conferences to come around? What if there was a way to communicate a student's performance to parents without digging through reading assessments, anecdotal notes, and reading logs?  Reading Glue aims to do just this. We simplify the process of managing student reading data, in school and at home, with an online solution that saves teachers time and provides meaningful data to all stakeholders.


Access to Student Data When You Need It

Schools rely more than ever on performance data when making key decisions about a student. Reading Glue makes it simple to track a student's reading performance over time. We have designed a comprehensive dashboard for teachers and parents to easily track reading level changes, reading group performance, and key metrics about how much a student has been reading. Use your computer, tablet, or phone to quickly access this data, and use it to make important decisions about a student's learning.


Make Reading Logs an Interactive Experience

Paper reading logs can be tedious to keep up with, easy to lose, and a pain to search through. Teachers, parents, or students can easily create online reading log entries in the classroom or at home. Reading Glue helps everyone visualize what, how much and where a student is reading. Make the reading log experience interactive by utilizing our comment system to praise, encourage, or question your students' log entries.


Track and Assess Your Reading Groups

Quickly take anecdotal notes, track, assess, and set goals for individuals or reading groups. Parents have real time access to their child's notes, and will always be aware of the areas in which their child struggles or succeeds.


Simple Resources for Parents to Use at Home

We also provide parents with a set of resources that reinforce what is being taught in the classroom. Parents utilize our virtual library to find book titles that meet their child's current reading level. They never have to worry about selecting books that are too difficult or easy. We have also created activities that are quick and easy exercises to introduce or practice specific strategies and skills related to reading comprehension. Our activities are designed so that they can be completed without Internet access.


Free for Teachers and Parents

Reading Glue is completely free for both teachers and parents to use. Learn more about how you can save time, reduce paperwork, and give parents a glimpse of what you see in the classroom by visiting readingglue.com.