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

Wired Wednesday Webinar
June 8, 2016

2016 IRC Conference
Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2016
Peoria, Illinois

Future Dates of the Annual IRC Conference
October 5-7, 2017
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
Writing to Read:  Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading
By Roberta Sejnost, ILA State Coordinator

In the last iCommunicate, I summarized Recommendation #2: from the 2010 Carnegie report, Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading, a meta-analysis report spear-headed by Steve Graham and Michael Hebert from Vanderbilt University.  This report was conducted to investigate the effectiveness of: (a) writing about text, (b) the teaching of writing, and (c) having students write more.  The meta-analysis was performed to answer three basic questions about the impacts of writing on reading:
  1. Does writing about material read enhance students' comprehension of the text?
  2. Does teaching writing strengthen students' reading skills?
  3. Does increasing how much students write improve how well they read?
This issue will focus on Recommendation #3: Students' reading comprehension is improved by having them increase how often they produce their own texts.

According to Nelson and Calfee (1998), if we increase how much students produce their own texts, it improves how well they read. This occurs because reading and writing are communication activities, and writers can gain insights about reading when they actually create a text for someone to read. Amazingly, this occurs even when students write for their own classmates, friends and families. Furthermore, when students create text, the process fosters their ability to be more thoughtful and engaged when reading text produced by others. Applebee (1984) notes that when students write, they learn to make their assumptions and premises explicit and also are better at observing the rules of logic as the compose their text. This, in turn, makes them acutely aware of those issues as they read material written by others.
Activities to Foster Writing

The Report provides several ideas for activities teachers can use to increase the amount of writing. These include (a) writing about self-selected topics or topics chosen in collaboration with peers; (b) setting aside fifteen extra minutes a day for sustained writing; (c) using the Internet to write to pen pals; (d) writing journal entries about daily experiences; (e) interacting with others using a dialogue journal; and (f) writing short passages using inference words.

In addition, Jill Brown and Kathi Rhodus, ISBE's ELA content area specialists, remind us that we can and should infuse technology with our writing because it provides a more engaging venue for students. But, they stress that any technology used must have a purpose and be properly modeled before allowing students to use it independently.

In the Writing-to-Read PowerPoint, listed in the references below, Brown and Rodus suggested the following:
  • iDiary: (ages 5-13) iDiary for kids has a daily journal at its heart where kids can express themselves periodically writing, drawing, pasting photos.
  • MaxJournal: (13 and up) Maxjournal is a simple and elegant way to make a daily diary or journal, with extensive photo scrapbooking features.
  • Lifecard Postcards: With Lifecards you can use up to 4 of your photos to design your own imaginative postcard directly on your phone.
  • Notability: Notability helps students take notes they'll want to review, revisit, and actively use.
  • Tools for Students: App features 25 graphic organizers for students to use to organize their thinking while reading or preparing to write.
  • Corkulous: (6-12) Free and Paid versions. Corkulous is an app that turns your mobile device into a virtual corkboard that you can use to brainstorm, list, and present ideas, projects, and presentations.
  • Teach Me Sentences: (PK-2) Teach me sentences is an exciting interactive game that helps your child rapidly learn to make and complete their own sentences all with just a touch of their finger.
  • Make Sentences: This app teaches sentence construction from a collection of words.
  • Vocabulary Spelling City: Spelling City is a word game app designed to help kids learn spelling and improve vocabulary and grammar skills.
  • Padlet: (6-12) Great for EXIT SLIPS! Padlet (formerly Wallwisher) is a website that allows kids to collect info from the Internet and pin it onto virtual bulletin boards using a simple drag-and-drop system.
Applebee, A. (1984).  Writing and reasoning. Review of Educational Research, 54, 577-596
Brown, J. & Rhodus, K (2015). Writing-to-Read. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from
Nelson, N., and Calfee, R. (1998).  The reading-writing connection. In N. Nelson and R. Calfee (Eds.), Ninety-seventh yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (Part II, pp. 1-52).  Chicago, IL: National Society for the Study of Education.

Teaching About the Holocaust:  A Summer Institute for Educators
By the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center is hosting the 2016 Summer Institute on July 26-28, 2016.

Through this introductory institute, teachers will begin an investigation into the history of the Nazi Holocaust (1933-1945). During this intensive, three-day seminar, participants will become familiar with teaching techniques, methods, and resources that include multimedia presentations, guest speakers, and interdisciplinary connections that align with state and national standards. Educators will be equipped to return to their classrooms with deeper knowledge of the Holocaust and rich pedagogical resources. The program will enable them to investigate with their students the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and indifference. Educators will examine encouraging acceptance of diversity in a pluralistic society and nurturing and protecting democratic values and human rights.     

In addition to our introductory course, our advanced seminar on August 2, 2016, will build upon foundational knowledge and teachers will participate in an intensive, one-day, focused study of the Holocaust in the former Soviet Union. The increasing availability of previously sealed materials has produced new insights and generated ground-breaking scholarship in this area. Through an in-depth investigation, participants will learn about the initial effects of the Nazi occupation on both the Soviet and Jewish communities, the centralized and local initiatives that culminated in the mass murder of occupied Jewry, how residents learned of these atrocities, and the impact of the Holocaust on postwar Soviet Union. Participants will be equipped with a toolkit of teaching strategies and approaches that include new historical perspectives, collaborative discussion, case studies promoting critical thinking, and strategies grounded in first person testimony in order to integrate this complex narrative into their classrooms.
We offer a limited number of partial tuition scholarships for the "Introductory Institute" only.  There are a limited number of travel stipends up to $750 available for both the "Introductory Institute" and "Advanced Seminar" for teachers 40 miles or more from Skokie, Illinois. 

Please contact the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center for details and application form.

Negotiating Meaning at the Airport Baggage Claim 1
By Tinaya York

I wanted to have a little fun with this post because I was quite intrigued by the many literacy events that took place during my observation of passengers trying to find their luggage. The text is written as a recording where I jotted everything that I saw and heard. Some exchanges were quite humorous. Others highlight that new technologies will never take away the need for good old fashioned reading and awareness. For some observations you might find yourself saying, "That's what (name of student) does in the classroom!"
I named some of the exchanges using the jargon of the literacy world but some I can't quite put my finger on. I want to know from iCommunicate readers how the observations below may help us further understand what cognitive and social skills to teach or continue teaching and what types of learning opportunities we need to consider that help children learn how to negotiate meaning.
Co ntext:  Airport in Columbus Ohio, Baggage Claim Area
Immediately after the escalator, there is Baggage Claim Carousel 1.  The machine is not working. There are signs posted letting travelers know to head to another carousel to pick up their luggage.

  1. Reading text aloud
  2. Collaborating:
    "What flight were you on?"
    "This is the place?"
    "Did you see that sign?"
    "Oh! Well okay." Moves toward carousels 3 or 4.
  3.  Standing and staring at the machine (that is not moving)
  4.  Automaticity - making a seamless adjustment. Reading sign as walk off escalator or walk towards carousel and moving forward to carousel 3 or 4.
  5. Needing Reassurance: "3 or 4?" "Yes. 3 or 4."
  6. Looks of confusion
  7. Corroborating: Reading back and forth between the monitor and printed sign
  8. Rereading
  9. Asking for help and never seeing sign
    Older Man Who Heads Straight to the Office: "Fort Lauderdale?"
    Southwest Employee: "Baggage from Fort Lauderdale will be on Carousel 4."
  10. Male on phone who is totally distracted - Walks past signs, reads monitor, looks around, reads monitor again, then sees printed sign and moves forward to correct carousel.
  11. Reluctant Collaboration: Witness two men not convinced of what female in the space is saying about carousel 3 or 4. Woman reads sign but man points at monitor and looks unsure. Man locates sign for himself and then moves forward. (I notice this type of exchange twice.)
  12. Woman (Confused): Where are you going?
    Man (Irritated): It says right here, 'carousel 3 or 4'
    Woman: Oh!
  13. Partner reading: Older man reads sign out loud to older woman
  14. Hear a little girl asking, "What does S-O-U-T-H..."
  15. Think Aloud (Older Lady): "I don't even know which carousel we are supposed to go to." Points to sign. "Carousels 3 or 4."
Let me know your thoughts at  I look forward to hearing from you.  
Student Engagement:  The Key to Student Achievement
By Roberta Sejnost, ILA State Coordinator

The last issue focused on the second stage of Robinson's 3 stages of learning, while the eyes meet the page, where students actively engage with the text. This issue of iCommunicate focuses on the third stage, after the eyes have the page. In this stage students are encouraged to extend their learning, transferring what they have learned in one context and applying it to new situations and tasks. To do this, they must:
  • Synthesize their knowledge about a topic
  • Become a critical thinker
  • Become personally involved in the task they are doing
  • Invoke their personal feelings as they work through a task
  • Integrate the skills of reading, writing, listening, speaking
The following strategies accomplish this.

The Discussion Web

The Discussion Web (Alvermann, 1991) helps students visualize the key elements of an issue and quickly identify opposing points of view on the matter as it engages students in meaningful conversation and sparks critical thinking. It can be successfully used with both fiction and non-fiction text. The steps to implement the Discussion Web are:
  1. Choose a selection that develops opposing viewpoints. And assign a "controversial type" question students will discuss after reading.
  2. Students read, locate, write down reasons/evidence to support both a "yes" and "no" response to the question.
  3. In pairs, students discuss opposing sides and reach consensus.
  4. The pairs join another pair and then repeat process.
  5. Finally, students choose 1 reason to support their conclusion and report it.

Problematic Perspectives

Another strategy that engages students and arouses their curiosity as they utilize a conceptual framework they already have is Problematic Perspectives. (Vacca and Vacca, 2008). This strategy asks students to solve a problem from a specific perspective that relates in the same way to the text to be read. For example, in a history class studying World War II, the student may assume the perspective of a soldier or a German citizen. The f ollowing steps clarify how to implement the Problematic Perspectives strategy:
  1. Create a problematic situation that students will solve. The situation must include key points to be studied and the context of the problem should be defined as definitively as possible so students clearly understand.
  2. Assemble students in groups and ask them to generate as many possible solutions as they can.
  3. When they have generated all the solutions they can, ask them to reach consensus as to the best or most promising solution and justify their choice.
  4. After studying the topic upon which the problem was based, ask students to modify, adapt, or revise their solution based on what they learned.
Samples of how Problematic Perspectives can be used with both fiction and non-fiction texts are shown below.

Fiction: The Plague

A mysterious disease has surfaced in your town which has proven to be deadly in some cases. One fifth of the town is presently infected with the disease and they are quarantined in different places across town. Doctors do not know how the disease is transmitted or how to treat it. The victims appear to be chosen at random. Doctors who work with patients are contracting the disease at the same rate as those who have had no contact with the sick. The death toll is rising and the prognosis for your town does not look promising. School is still being held for those who are not ill. What will you do?

Non- Fiction: Global Warming

We know that some gases produced on Earth are actually good for the environment. For examples, carbon dioxide is a gas that exists naturally in our Earth's atmosphere and is extremely beneficial since it traps the heat from the sun, thus preventing our Earth's temperature from being too cold to sustain life of any type. However, in this 21st Century, we have begun to burn great amounts of fossil fuels which, in turn, release large amounts of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. By the end of this century, scientists are predicting that the average temperature of the Earth will rise by 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius. Such a dramatic rise in temperature could give rise to such catastrophes as severe droughts, storms and even flooding. As a legislator living in the 21st Century, what will you do to prevent these catastrophic events?

Cubing (Cowan & Cowan (1980) is an instructional writing, listening and speaking strategy that asks students to consider a concept from a variety of different perspectives, all based on Bloom's Revised Taxonomy. It is an engaging strategy that encourages critical thinking and in-depth exploration of a topic. In addition, it is an effective tool for providing differentiated instruction since it allows students to process the content they are learning in multiple ways, thus meeting their individual needs and learning styles. The following steps illustrate how the Cubing strategy can be taught.
  1. Create a cube. (Use a small tissue box covered with paper.)
  2. On the sides, print the following terms, one on each side.

    • Describe
    • Compare/contrast
    • Associate
    • Apply
    • Argue for or against
  3. Students respond in writing or orally to one or more sides of the cube based on their ability or choice. Differentiate by assigning a side based on the students individual strength.  

Alvermann, D.E. (1991). The Discussion Web: A graphic aid for learning across the curriculum.
The Reading Teacher, 45, 92-99
Vacca, R. & Vacca, J. (2008). Content Area Reading: Literacy and Learning Across the Curriculum. New York: New York Pearson
Cowan, G. & Cowan, E. (1980). Writing New York: Wiley
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, JUNE 8, 2016      
7:00 p.m.  
Implementing the Culturally Responsive Instruction Observation Protocol (CRIOP) Model
with Rebecca Powell

  • DescriptionThis webinar will provide an overview of the Culturally Responsive Instruction Observation Protocol (CRIOP) model. The CRIOP was developed both as a research tool for observing in classrooms and as a framework for teacher professional development in culturally relevant pedagogy. Grounded in the work of multicultural and equity educators, literacy scholars and second language acquisition theorists, the CRIOP provides a comprehensive model for realizing culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning practices. Participants will be introduced to the six elements of the model and will be presented with many practical ways for implementing these elements in their classrooms.
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.
Interactive Resource
This interactive website allows students to create timelines and also explore a variety of timelines organized by subject, which makes searching easy.

This assessment tool allows teachers and students to collaborate to create quizzes online.  There are also many quizzes already created that can be customized. This tool works on all devices, gives the results immediately and can be used for formative assessment.
Web 2.0
Zimmer Twins is a web-based tool that allows students to create videos easily.  This is a great tool for digital storytelling for students at all grade levels. This website also has many movies created by others for students to watch as well.