Deepening Our Understanding and Creating Rigorous Opportunities

Recently, we’ve discovered that our data shows an ENORMOUS strength in reading ability, which is fantastic! Additionally, we noticed that students were not showing comparable abilities when asked to write about their understanding of what they read.  Why would that be, you may be wondering?  Our belief, after scouring through results and talking with students, boils down to equipping students with an organized way in which to write and answer questions, as well as, unifying our efforts to bring a consistent message throughout the building. We have recognized that this work is not isolated to intermediate grades and starts at the foundation, when students enter our building.  Therefore, Kincaid is working towards consistency in the following areas (K-5):

  • Collaborating and discussing rigorous text that will provoke conversations amongst students through “close reading.”
  • Challenging teams to plug in opportunities for discussions and modeled strategies for students.
  • Implementing strategy groups, when needed, to address specific needs of students and their goals.
  • Creating moments to model and discuss constructed responses with rubrics that clearly define expectations.
  • Finally…
  • Encouraging students to use school-wide strategies, such as the R.A.C.E. strategy, to support structure of thinking and writing about reading.
    • R-Restate the question by crossing off the question word and writing it as a statement.
    • A-Answer the question based upon what you know
    • C-Cite evidence from the text to support your answer/thinking, referring back to “What makes you think that?” (5th graders are required to directly quote from the text)
    • E-Explain how your evidence supports your thinking and ELABORATE by making the answer clear.

When students are asked to answer a question that goes beyond a “yes/no” response, we are sharing the R.A.C.E. strategy to help them along, as well as, the format “Think It Show It” for students to show and explain their thinking within mathematics.  How can you support your child at home with this?

  • Read things together and talk about your thinking, beyond the basics.
  • Share inferences made in daily situations that children may overlook.
  • Model writing for your child and how you might answer a question using the structure above.
  • Elaborate with details when you explain anything, pointing out that your details help them to understand.  This type of modeling is essential for students to understand the importance of adding details to their own writing.

Make it a Protocol!

Across the county, teachers are working in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), working on next steps for collaboration and sharing of ideas.  These groups create norms/rules to aide in a smoothly running meeting, as well as, read articles, look at data, and share lessons.  Occasionally, these types of conversations can be bogged down with emotions and hard to muddle through; therefore, you and your team may want to consider using a protocol.

Protocols keep us from saying things we may regret and keep the group focused on the task at hand.  Typically, a protocol is led by a facilitator who spends his/her time making sure the conversation stays within the realm of the protocol and on task.  The job of the facilitator can be a tricky one as it requires a “poker face” and an ability to defuse, when applicable.

Protocols can also be used within the classroom to keep the class focused on learning targets while having friendly conversations. There are many options to connect with others, analyze work together, and even dissect a reading as a group.  Protocols are usually allotted time frames to keep you and your group focused on a task while still being efficient with time.

Has this post sparked an interest for you to check out some possibilities?  If so, here are a few spots to find a few protocols to put into action!

PLN: Professional Learning Networks within Twitter

In education, there are few opportunities to get outside of your classroom and see the great instructioinal practices out there.  Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers have been forums for gleaning ideas; however, many teachers don’t really discover how these practices are actually implemented and if they really worked.  Beyond being creative, teachers typically miss out on opportunities to learn and grow from colleagues.  This makes today’s topic, Twitter, an ideal social networking location!

Would Twitter benefit you? Yes, of course! (Courtesy of Syliva Duckworth

This format of social networking can enhance your professional learning in unimaginable ways! Here are just a few:

  • “Follow” research-based authors to keep up with fantastic instructional practices
  • Keep track of professional publishers such as “NCTE,” “Heinemann PD,” etc. to keep up with articles that impact student learning.
  • Challenge yourself to be part of Twitter chats that allow you interact with a larger community and share ideas.  Cobb has one on the 2nd Sunday of every month.  Look for #CobbChat amongst others!
  • Show off all the great instruction and learning happening within your classroom! We all want to learn and grow and glean new ideas!
  • Be on the lookout for great opportunities to chat with real authors of children’s literature.

Your PLN (Professional Learning Network) can even be tailored to your TKES/LKES goals to guide and challenge yourself beyond your four walls.  For example, I’ve set a goal to work with #FLIPGRID this year and I’ve taken to Twitter to follow resources, tips, tricks and tools!  Again, the sky is the limit on what I can follow within Twitter to enhance my professional growth.

Not sure how to maneuver through the Twitter world?  Teacher Challenge Edublog ( courtesy of: shares an “Anatomy of a Tweet” to help a first time user navigate through the world of Twitter.  Check out the blog for more information about PLNs and Twitter use.



Don’t Have Enough Time for Professional Development?

This post is dedicated to the teachers who just don’t have time in their day to squeeze one more professional development book or meeting into their schedule! Is that you?  If the answer is, “YES!” Here’s a great option to note.

Podcasts! I have a 20-30 minute commute each way and I’ve recently discovered the world of podcasts.  My podcast “fever” started with the basics and popular; however, I found that there are some really fantastic podcasts out there to support teachers, share fresh ideas, and confirm what I’ve been doing in the classroom. 

My personal favorite is with Jen Serravallo, author of The Reading Strategies BookThe Literacy Playbook, and several others.  She has one where she answers questions from fellow educators about balanced literacy practices.  This is especially exciting as we are moving in this direction, here at Kincaid. Additionally, she has a podcast with Heinemann to showcase her new text, Understanding Texts and Readers, that is fantastic.

Here are a few other options to check out! Happy listening AND learning! -Marnia Letendre


Kincaid’s Journey to Balanced Literacy

Cobb is excited to share a common thread of balanced literacy, math, and content areas.   Kincaid is moving in this direction with a focus group for beginning Reading Workshop at each grade level.

Are you interested in what this looks like?  Check out this presentation to find out more:

Reading Workshop Overview Presentation Link:

Happy Reading!

Marnia Letendre

Gettin’ Nerdy With Some Great Titles!

Often times, I’m asked about great titles, book suggestions for primary and intermediate grades, and general read alouds.  Here is a “go to” source that keeps a running list of great titles that are perfect for both home and school! Every year, they put titles into categories that make searching easy and fun.  If you’re interested in reading reviews, finding a few new and exciting titles, or just curious about a book to purchase for a loved one, this will helpful for you! Enjoy!


Why Should Your Child be Reading Each Day?

Although I’m not always a big fan of the homework that is given to children, I am a HUGE supporter of the importance of reading at home.  This study shows the impact of only 20 minutes of reading per day.  It all adds up! (click image to see at a larger scale)


Also, courtesy of Kelly Gallagher’s work in the text Deeper Reading (2004), check out additional reasons by clicking the link below.  Reading is ESSENTIAL!

Kelly Gallagher’s Reasons to Read-2lg4jj0

“The Kids Should See This!”

Interacting with your child can pose some difficulties at times.  As a parent, I will ask my child, “How was your day?” or “What have you been learning in school?” and will often get a mediocre response and, dare do I say, sometimes just a grunt.  Is it that I’ve become that uninteresting that we don’t have valuable and worthwhile conversations?  I’m not really sure, but I do know that I’ve got to come up with something to build memories of exploring our world and sparking interests for possible careers and empathy.  So, I bring you my newest solution and one that was recently shared with me through a professional development session:  “The Kids Should See This!” website.

This website is about building curiosity and conversation through the reading of articles that are both interesting and informative.  The website offers a constant feed of engaging titles on it’s main page; however, it also provides more focused topics to help align to your interests.  For example, your child might be interested in technology, animals, art, or food; the website has organized these at the top of the page for easy access.  As you click on the topics, you’ll notice that there are short video clips to support learning, as well as, additional links for continued curiosity.   This is how genuine research and the journey of learning takes place within a child.  What better way for you to do this together?! Check it out!

Mentor Sentences Are Awesome!

We are on a roll with mentor sentences! If you haven’t seen this in action, you’re missing out! Check out this podcast, with Jeff Anderson, describing the rationale of mentor sentences and the book that started it all. Jeff explains that mentor sentences are meant for students to notice how an author uses grammar and mechanics in a way that helps the reader understand the text.

J anderson

Let me know if you’d like to have this modeled within your classroom or if you’d like to take a look at your current mentor text and plan out how to text lift a sentence that meets your grade-level requirements.

Mrs. Letendre

Smithsonian’s “Tween Tribune”

Who wants to read boring articles about topics that mean nothing to the reader?  No one.  Many adults have the privilege of having access to websites that provide interesting articles that even sifts into categories that you’ve plugged in as “interesting.”  So, why don’t we have this same capability for students?  Are there sites similar to “Reddit,” “Newsvine,” and “Flipboard” that provide opportunities like this for kids?  YES! Check out this site, Smithsonian’s “Tween Tribune.”  (


This website includes Lexile levels to assist in making sure that students are reading “just right” text.  At the top of the page, it allows the reader to sort by grade levels and lists topics that are both engaging and informational.  Each article provides tiered passages that address the same topic, but can help with differentiating by level.

Although there is some access for parents, the site will ask for teachers to login for additional articles and resources.  This might be just what you were looking for to include that close reading lesson! 🙂 Enjoy!

Mrs. Letendre