Reading & Writing Project #3 for 2015-16

Amelia Earhart

Today, we had the great opportunity to have the history team introduce our next “Reading and Writing Project”.  As always, they have found text that is not only grade level and complex but interesting and something the students would want to read–  since everyone loves a good mystery!

The links below note the packets that were created by the history team and given to each student/teacher today to help guide the learning over the next three days.

Reading and Writing Project #2:  

Learning Intention:

  •  I will read and respond to complex text

Success Criteria:

  • I can use close reading strategies to cite evidence
  • I can organize thoughts to write clearly and accurately
  • I can analyze multiple text to build knowledge
  • I can write a complete paragraph in one sitting
  • I can reflect on my work to identify my learning and next steps


R & W #1– Student Packet

Amelia Earhart 2

On our daily broadcasts, the history  team introduced their topic with the students watching two videos about Amelia Earhart to help them build background knowledge and also address the standards that address learning through reading multiple text, learning from media sources, holding conversations, and  learning from each other.

The videos previewed on the broadcast about Amelia Earhart are noted below:


Reading and Writing Project Reflections

Peer editing

As we have continued with our school-wide focus on reading and writing, we have learned a few things.   First, we have learned that although we are focused on reading and writing complex grade level text as an entire school, it is not going to make a difference to the students if they don’t do the majority of the work.  As teachers and administrators, we had to admit that we are addicted to scaffolding, sentence frames and modeling.  It is a sickness that is hard to kick!  But, these supports are creating generations of students that are waiting to be prompted on what to do next.  These supports are not allowing students to use those big beautiful brains that they were born to grow and expand. These supports are producing students that used our brains instead of theirs.  YIKES!

So, for the second project of this year, we have decided to do two things.  One: we decided to give the students the information, discuss it briefly on the broadcast, and then let them do the assignment on their own. Two:  as an entire school we committed to really letting the students do their own work, so we could give a true evaluation of their thinking work.  Yes, one and two sound the same but the emphasis is so important– we had to say it twice.  By approaching the second project of the year in this way,  as a school, we could truly look at the information and then decide with the raw data what to really focus on in the area of reading and writing. Then we can reflect on their reading and writing projects with open eyes and truly evaluate their skills and abilities– if they really were allowed to complete this work on their own. Additionally  in a school-wide effort, we can make a judgment regarding if we see an improvement in the area of reading and writing with our students after focusing on this focus for the past two years?  The fact remains that we can not judge the worth of this project or the true benefits of the work until we allow the students to complete it on their own without our help.  Not even one little suggestion of  a transition word or hook sentence.

This might sound simple but it was not.  No one likes to see their students struggle.  People love to model and scaffold, it is what teachers do –like breathing or eating.  But, we did it and what we noticed is that the students could do the work on their own too.  It was not the end of the world and they liked the challenge.


























Reading & Writing Project #2

Reading and Writing Project #2, hosted by the ELA team 

Learning Intention:

  •  I will read and respond to complex text

Success Criteria:

  • I can use close reading strategies to cite evidence
  • I can organize thoughts to write clearly and accurately
  • I can analyze multiple text to build knowledge
  • I can write a complete paragraph in one sitting
  • I can reflect on my work to identify my learning and next steps

Student packet and information for the “Reading and Writing Project #2”: R & W #1– Student PacketJustification Paragraph Rubric for Reading and Writing Project #2

The rubric we had the students use to monitor their writing:
Justification Paragraph Rubric for Reading and Writing Project #



Reading and Writing Project: Day 3

Today we embarked on day three of our “Reading and Writing Project”.  We began our lesson by reviewing how we are constructing learning together around the topic of  becoming a self-regulated learner and shared a few of the students examples of how they created the thinking from the chart into their own words.  See the video noted below to hear what they had to say about their interpretation of this work.

What I noticed when I was in classrooms today.

  1. Students were reviewing their notes from the past two days of reading and writing work.
  2. Students were using the given graphic organizers to create their notes for their essay paragraph.
  3. Students were creating and writing their essay paragraphs on their own (as we requested for teachers not to scaffold the writing or give whole group writing instructions).
  4. Students were eager to share their writing with me today when I went into their ACE classrooms and the students wanted to be the exemplars shared on the broadcast for the next video.
  5. Students were writing essay paragraphs that were on topic.

Reading and Writing Project: Day 2

Reading and Writing Project: Day 2 

After our first day of the “Reading and Writing Project”, we filmed our students talking about what they learned after reading the  article about self-regulation.  Click on the link below to see their responses.

What I noticed as I was in classes on day 2 observing students reading, collaboration, and writing:

  1. Students were reading and discussing the topic with their classmates with ease.
  2. Students did not struggle to read the text on the first day, even though it was above the middle school reading level, which goes to prove that attacking short length complex text provides for success in this much-needed area.
  3. Students were able to refer to our stated learning intentions and success criteria that we stated on the broadcast.
  4. Students got the gist of the topic and what it might begin to mean for them and could explain it to others.
  5. Discussion of the topic was still at the surface level but definitely started the beginning knowledge building for the next phases of this learning.

Reading and Writing Project: Day 1

Reading and Writing Project: Day 1

Learning Intention:

  •  I will read and respond to complex text

Success Criteria:

  • I can use close reading strategies to cite evidence
  • I can organize thoughts to write clearly and accurately
  • I can analyze multiple text to build knowledge
  • I can write a complete paragraph in one sitting
  • I can reflect on my work to identify my learning and next steps

Visible Learning For Teachers book







Video link of the presentation that was conducted for the first day of our Reading and Writing Project:

Today we are beginning our first “Reading and Writing Project.  I have included the student packets and teacher directions for facilitating the lessons noted below.

As a collaborative team, we decided that we wanted our learning to be visible and that we wanted our students to live and breath what we are reading and learning about too. We are studying the research of John Hattie and working to create self-regulated learners, we decided this did not have to be done in secret.  The students needed to understand this research  and take on the work of becoming a self-regulated learner themselves.

So, this year, our “Reading and Writing Project” will focus on what it takes to be a self-regulated learner and each lesson will share examples of ways to build these skills and characteristics or highlight people and/or experiences that have modeled these characteristics.

We will begin our lesson with a short movie about John Hattie’s research and what it means to be a self-regulated learner.

Reading and Writing Project: Lesson One Materials

Student Packet

Teacher Directions for R & W Project

Day 3 Student Writing Assignment (1)

Reading and Writing Project: Let the new year begin

As we begin a new year, we have reflected on what we learned from an entire year of running the “Reading and Writing Project” last year.

Here is what we discovered from our work together as an entire school:

What we learned from our teachers: 

  1. We still needed to discuss and learn about the what makes a text complex.  Some of our lessons had text that were not sophisticated enough to discuss and write about.
  2. Complexity is not the length of a text but the sophistication of the meaning of the text (layers of meaning).
  3. Some teams could use more learning and support in creating close reading lessons.
  4. Close reading is a vehicle to attacking complex text, but it is not the standard.
  5. A theme or common reading topic would be a great idea to help construct learning as an entire school over time.

What we learned from our student reading and writing samples:

  1.  Students were excellent at identifying and defining unknown words
  2. Providing the expectation for first starting at the word level on the first introduction read, opened the conversations up for our second language learners and struggling readers.  We noticed students asking questions about words that never spoke in class before because everyone students was involved in defining words and unknown phrases during the first initial read.
  3. Students could write a good topic sentence in their paragraphs.
  4. Students could write a good conclusion sentence in their paragraphs.
  5. Students were citing evidence in their writing, but they were not explaining why they cited the given evidence.
  6. Students were staying on topic but not elaborating on the topic.

From the information note above, we have now prepared for our next reading and writing project of the year with these ideas in mind.  Additionally, we received our first CAASSP scores and realized that we need to focus on a few other skills as well.

What we learned from our CAASSP scores:

  1. Student needed to be able to write informational essays along with argumentative essays.
  2. Students needed to work on citing their evidence in their writing.
  3. Students needed to work on their collaboration and listening skills.
  4. Students needed to continue to read and write from a variety of text genres.

What we learned from our study of John Hattie’s research:

  1.  Our students need to take ownership of their own learning.  So we have added a rubric from the SBAC so they can assess their own writing skills.
  2. Students need to constantly reflect on their own progress and growth.  So, we have added student reflection videos to each project this year.
  3. Students need to know the purpose of the learning.  So, we have added “Learning Intentions” and “Success Criteria” to all the “Reading and Writing Project” lesson presentations.

We believe in being data driven and evidence bases in all that we do and this information that is stated above has helped our team as we have begun to plan for this next year of lessons regarding reading and writing.

The video that shows our first day on the broadcast introducing the lesson:

How to Fix a Broken School

Love these videos! So inspiring! Linda Cliatt-Wayman is my new HERO!

Engage Their Minds

@VideoAmy, curator of Edutopia’s “5-Minute Film Festival,” always finds the best education videos.  If you don’t follow her on Twitter, you should!

The other day VideoAmy tweeted about this recent TEDWomen 2015 talk by Linda Cliatt-Wayman about how to fix a broken school.  Linda’s passion for children is so clear throughout her presentation.  It’s appalling to see the conditions she faced when first appointed as principal at low-income schools, like:

Doors that made the school look like a prison

Strawberry Mansions Door

and dumpster loads of outdated textbooks, furniture, and equipment.

Strawberry Mansions Garbage

With her leadership, Strawberry Mansions improved test scores and, more importantly, relationships with students.  Now, this is the culture of the school.

Strawberry Mansions Transformed

Check out Linda Cliatt-Wayman’s full presentation here.  For more inspirational videos for teachers, take a look at this collection of videos.

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Reading and Writing Project #6: Electives Team

The Mystery of the Stolen Artwork from the Gardner Museum? 

Artwork by Rembrandt, stolen from the Gardner Museum.
Artwork by Rembrandt, stolen from the Gardner Museum.

Today, our electives team facilitated our last “Reading and Writing Project” for the year.   As this  team created the lessons, they were thoughtful about how to help to help our students address the CCSS through being able to cite several pieces of evidence in their writing. They accomplished this task noted in anchor standard one– through providing the students with a text to read, a video to review, pictures to analyze, and online resources to consider when thinking about this mystery.  Additionally, they created note sheets for the students to write down their thinking as they read and analyzed these materials.

Lesson outlines and student handouts that were created for these lessons:

Teacher’s Copy:  
Student’s Handout:
Gardner Heist PPT:
YouTube Video (41:17- 44:30)


The website from the FBI (so official!), here’s the link:

Reading and Writing Project # 5 : MATH TEAM

Reading like a mathematician is the focus of our next Reading and Writing Project. It is essential to remember that reading complex text also involves reading and comprehending pictures, graphs, and word problems.  Additionally, we are always thinking about the focus on literacy in all contents as noted in the graphic organizer below (created by Tina Chuek, Stanford Edu).  It is every teachers job on the middle school campus to teach their students to comprehend complex text in their content area.  We are all committed to working together to make this village literate in every subject area.  We have jumped with both feet into the CCSS literacy focus!

venn diagram of crossing standards

Our math team created three days of lessons that address reading text, charts and graphs, and creating a  written response.   It can be a bit overwhelming to think about every teacher on our campus facilitating this lesson but our math team has thought of everything.  They created a “How to Video” to support their teammates in this endeavor.  GO MATH!

Outline of the lesson and materials are noted below.

Launch 3 day itinerary

Math R&W Project (1)

Math Reading and Writing Project Answer Key

How to video of how to conduct the lesson:

Instructional leadership, education, CCSS