Monthly Archives: July 2009

Chatting with Irene

InteractiveWritingI just returned from a visit to Boston where I was able to catch up with colleagues and friends. During my visit, I got to chat with Irene Fountas (of “Fountas of Pinnell”) and we talked about Interactive Writing and its profound impact on K-2 students’ literacy development.

In case you didn’t know, interactive writing was developed by educators at The Ohio State University (where Gay Su Pinnell is on faculty). Unlike shared writing in which students compose messages and the teacher acts as a scribe, interactive writing involves a “sharing of the pen” (as illustrated in the image above) between teacher and students. The interactive writing process focuses students’ attention on:

  • concepts and conventions of print
  • the sounds in words
  • how those sounds connect with letters

Unlike the traditional “morning message,” students are involved in the planning and construction of text, and, to the greatest degree possible, students control the pen for the writing of the text. Moreover, interactive writing builds students’ confidence and experience with writing because they are equipped with a variety of encoding strategies. When I shared with Irene my plans to introduce interactive writing as a component of a public school district’s kindergarten literacy intervention program, she exclaimed, “I COMPLETELY AGREE!”

I asked Irene if she knew of any recent studies on the impact of interactive writing, but all we could locate was Sharon Craig’s 2003 study published by The Reading Teacher. It’s an impressive small-scale study, but we both wish more robust research was done around it since so many students have thrived from this daily practice. If you know of any recent studies, please let me know!


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80/40: Celebrating the Birthdays of Eric Carle and The Very Hungry Caterpillar

ECMLogo_smallChildren’s book author and illustrator, Eric Carle, turns 80 this year! And his book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, turns 40! Not only does this classic text stir nostalgia of my own childhood, it stirs my excitement around author studies–the up-close study with children about writer’s and illustrator’s craft.

If you live in the New England area, I highly recommend you visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. Currently, they have three AMAZING exhibits:

If you can’t visit in person, here’s a short video of Eric Carle talking about his classic book!

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Staying Organized Around Your Coaching

literacycoachesIt’s been a while since my last post–I’ve been busy closing up the school year as well as planning events and producing online courses for the University of Washington (more on that in a future post). Having just hosted a Summer Coaching Institute in Seattle, my online coaching friends (pictured on the right) have urged me to get back on the blog-wagon (thanks Laura, Amy, and Rachel)!

With that said, last week was a powerful time of learning with and from coaches from across the country. My colleague, Katherine Casey, shared her wisdom and expertise around literacy coaching, including practical advice for day-to-day work. Here’s one of many tidbits she shared on being an effective literacy coach: staying organized!

Expert coaching stems from ongoing evaluation and strategic decision-making centered on teacher and student learning. This work is far more manageable when we know where to find the information we’re looking for. Whether you keep a coaching binder or an electronic folder on your computer, here are some things you can organize your work around:

School/classroom/student data
Teacher Roster “at a glance” sheets
Teacher schedules
Communication (emails, letters)
Observation sheets
Observation notes
Lesson plans
Student work
Photos of classroom environments, charts, work samples
Handouts from professional development sessions

After I demonstrate or side-by-side teach a lesson, I collect and save samples of student writing for the following reasons:

1) To archive, assess, and plan around student learning;

2) To gather student “mentor texts” for future teaching;

3) To collect student data for future planning around teacher professional learning.

In order to stay organized and share best practices with teachers, I keep a digital camera with me at all times so I can capture images of anchor charts and student writing samples in the event that I don’t have time to make copies.

How about you? Any tips for staying organized around your coaching?

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