June 2015
Membership #:           
Expiration Date:  
Local Councils:                         
In This Issue
Website Links
Dates to Remember

2015 IRC Conference
October 1-3, 2015
Peoria, Illinois

Early Registration
Ends August 15, 2015

  Conference Housing
Closes August 15, 2015

Future Dates of the Annual IRC Conference
Sept. 29-Oct 1, 2016
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.   
Writing in Illinois Matters!  Writing a Narrative Paper
By Roberta Sejnost, ILA State Coordinator


The last iCommunicate issue focused on Standard #2 and featured suggestions for writing opinion/argument papers.  This issue will focus on Standard #3, narrative writing. In sum, narrative writing tells a story by conveying a real or imaginary experience or providing a narrative description of an event and focuses on using time as its key structure.  To do this, the writer must ask such questions as:
  • Which events are worth recounting, dramatizing, sharing in my story?
  • When do those events begin and end?
  • What is the order of events that a character experiences and is that the best order for my audience to experience that character's story?
  • When do I want to slow down time, and when do I want to speed it up?

To write an effective narrative it is crucial for students to understand the elements of the narrative structure.  The plot diagram shown below is an organizational tool that allows readers and writers to visualize the key features of stories.  The basic triangle-shaped plot structure represents the beginning, middle, and end of a story, wherein the characters, setting and action are intertwined.  Furthermore, exposition is the information needed to understand a story, while rising action provides the complication or the catalyst that begins the major conflict.  The climax represents the turning point in the story that occurs when characters try to resolve the complication, and, finally, the resolution is the set of events that bring the story to a close.



As noted in earlier articles, mentor texts are powerful ways to help students hone their ability to write effectively because they engage and inspire students, and provide them with a snapshot of the type of writing they are learning about.  The following list, retrieved from http://www.ilwritingmatters.org, provides some mentor texts to help students successfully traverse their path to write effective narratives.

Finally, the power of using graphic organizers is evident for they help students organize the information in their writing, ultimately leading to the ability to more easily write a draft in their own words.  For elementary students, the following graphic organizer works well. 

However, while story maps are helpful, students in grades 6 through 12, need to understand the elements of narrative writing.  To accomplish that, students need a graphic organizer such as this:

Having discussed standards 1, 2, and 3, which focus on the three types of writing students need to be able to do, the next iCommunicate will consider standards 4, 5, and 6, which highlight the phases of the writing process.  And, check out http://www.ilwritingmatters.org, a website developed by ISBE's ELA content area specialists Jill Brown and Kathy Rhodus, to provide tools and resources in our mission to realize that Writing Matters in Illinois!  



Culham, R. (2014)   The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing
Gallagher, K. (2011).   Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts

Illinois State Board of Education. "Illinois Writing Matters." www.ilwritingmatters.org. 2014


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.






This online resource provides opportunities for formative assessment without having to use devices.  The assessment results are for individualized students so instruction can be tailored to meet the needs of each student.


Comprehensive Resources


 The Learning Network 


This free online resource provides activities for teaching and learning with the New York Times.  It includes lesson plans, quizzes, visual literacy discussions, vocabulary, activity sheets, critical thinking questions, contests and much more.


Interactive Resources




This free online resource changes difficult text to an easier version with highlighted words.  Clicking on these highlighted words provides the audio for pronunciation and the definition. It also creates activities related to the highlighted vocabulary words.


Reading Passages




This online resource provides differentiated mini-lesson videos as well as standard-based reading passages that can be assigned to students for individualized  close reading, writing and critical thinking skills across subjects for grades 4-12.


Web 2.0 Tools


 Comic Creator 


This free online resource allows students to create comics with different characters, using different backgrounds for a creative way to incorporate reading and writing into lessons.


Illinois Vision 20/20 Initiative - Revisited    
By Julie Hoffman, IRC Advocacy Committee Chair

The Illinois Reading Council has the opportunity to partner with the Illinois Vision 20/20 Initiative.  At this point, organizations involved in the partnership are:  Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), the Illinois Principals Association (IPA), the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO), the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), the Superintendents' Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity (SCSDD), and the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS).


In considering this partnership, we must tread carefully, being ever mindful of:  our own mission, the possibility of power in numbers, the voice of our members, how the initiative will be implemented, and what it means for our state.  Because we will not move forward without first hearing from our members, we are asking you to fill out the online survey available at the following link by October 15, 2015.   




Please read the following and consider the pros and cons of our possible affiliation with the initiative.


The Illinois Vision 20/20 Initiative is based on the premise that Illinois public education is effective.  The initiative also recognizes that achievement gaps throughout the state are aggravated by shortcomings in the Illinois funding system. The organizations involved have isolated four priorities to focus on: shared accountability, highly effective teachers, 21st century learning, and equitable and adequate funding.


Overall, Vision 20/20 is an attempt to restructure education in Illinois, following an evidence-based process.



  • The 21st Century learning priority will focus on the "Whole Child" and early childhood education.
  • The Shared accountability priority intends to "expand the educator's role and responsibility in state governance."
  • The fund priority intends to distribute funds to areas of higher need, and provide autonomy to school districts.
  • The initiative is in its early stages, so it is difficult to read intentionality and progress.
  • The six organizations currently involved make the partnership administrator-heavy.
  • No teacher voices have been consulted/involved.
  • This could be an opportunity to add voices directly from the classroom.
  • Partnership could affect our autonomy.
  • Partnership could enable IRC to provide professional development opportunities.


  • Should IRC partner with Illinois Vision 20/20?
  • Should we let school districts partner, as they see fit, and have IRC refrain from committing?
  • Should we partner with the initiative, with limits?
  • What limits should IRC consider in exploring partnership with Vision 20/20?
  • Should we wait and revisit the option in:
    • 1 month?
    • 2 Months?
    • 6 months?
    • 1 year?
Thank you for sharing your voice!  The online survey is available at the following link:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2Z6DPWX