Remote Workshop: Gradual Release of Responsibility

Recently I have been collaborating with an incredible group of ELA supervisors and coordinators from across the county regarding the professional development needs as a result of school closures and the subsequent shift to online instruction. Even though curriculum throughout the county may be different, while discussing best practice, we could all agree that a gradual release model was essential in any classroom, but especially in a virtual setting.

No one knows what school will look like come fall, but for the rest of this year and being proactive for next year, this is the best place to start to reflect on the instruction we have been releasing to students and focus our efforts on strengthening best practice.

The Model

Step One: Learning Objective

Learning objectives can come straight from the anchor charts we are using to guide instruction. In this example, I am focusing on examining character speech to determine themes.

In this writing example, however, the focus is on the ways to generate story ideas starting with thinking about moments of trouble.

Step Two: I Do – Modeling

Once the learning objective is determined and communicated, the second step is to model the strategy or content. This is where the students watch you do this work with a mentor text. I chose to use a video. I created a mini unit recently that maps out all the ways readers can determine theme by examining character. I then went on a hunt looking for video clips and short films, and as I watched each one, I made notes about the possible lenses (from the anchor chart) that could be modeled and practiced using them. This is a nice way to use a nontraditional text in order to focus on the strategy and help level the playing field for student access. Not to mention, a nontraditional text is also often shorter and keeps the modeling down to a small chunk of time.

In this video, I share the learning objective and model using the strategy with a mentor text.

Step Three: We Do – Guided Practice

Something that may be missing from our instruction is the guided practice, and this is such a critical piece! In the classroom we have students turn and talk and practice the strategy together step by step. This is when we eavesdrop and coach in. This is the real teaching and students need that time to collaborate and construct meaning together while receiving support and feedback.

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Guided Practice


In an asynchronous environment guided practice could extend over the course of a couple days. It is slow! It could be a guided practice video like the one below followed by a discussion question on the learning platform (Schoology or Google Classroom)

Guided Practice with a Common Text

Students are also invited to read the responses of others and comment on at least three ideas using the following prompts:

  1. What confirmed your thinking?
  2. What challenged your thinking?
  3. What changed your thinking?

These discussions in the learning platform are a great way to formatively assess and provide feedback. You might even pull some and share “Shout Outs” for high quality thinking! Similar to the the eavesdropping and sharing we do in face to face instruction.


While we want to be sure that all students have access, it is possible to have some live opportunities using a tool such as Zoom. This may be ideal for the kids who are struggling with navigating the materials independently or who need additional support.

I’ve been working with some middle school students in an after school program using synchronous instruction. I invite them to the Zoom and do the same kind of work but live. I share my screen so they can see the slides and the video and I walk them through the strategy. I switch the chat settings so they can only send chat messages to me, the host. At different points, I ask them guiding questions and they type their ideas in the chat. I take the best ideas, along with some of my own and add them live to the slide. For example, I may ask what pattern they noticed and will label buckets in my slide using their ideas. Then continue to guide them with questions and sharing in this way.

This method is great for providing instructional feedback in the moment. If I ask what can readers learn, for example, and I get something about what the characters learn, I can guide them to restate it in a way that is bigger than the character.

The students I work with are getting very used to this model, and I am now starting to give them some more space by putting them in and out of breakout rooms to “turn and talk” and come up with combined thinking to share with everyone else.

While synchronous instruction like this cannot be the only mode of instruction, it is a great idea for conferring, small groups, and WIN time.

Step Four: You Do – Independent Practice (Formative Assessment)

Students are using their independent reading to practice using the strategy by adding post-its to their reader’s notebook or are completing an assignment using the practice from their independent reading on the learning platform. This is formatively assessed to see who needs more support or more maybe more guided practice in a Zoom session. This is the work that lets us know when they are ready for the last step and demonstrate learning.

Step Five: Demonstration of Learning (Summative Assessment)

This is when students use the strategies to show what they have learned. Many teachers are worried about cheating, but the summative assessments should be much higher on Webb’s Depth of Knowledge and require students to produce.

One of the reasons I love reading along side kids is because it provides me with so many ideas and connections. This week we saw videos with Will Smith’s speech shifting from negative to positive patterns. While reading my book, I too was seeing a lot of shifting. This is showing how characters are complicated! I also read in my book, right around the same time, an essay my character wrote in class about how Nicki Minaj is misunderstood just like I noticed Will Smith is misunderstood. I then had students look back at the patterns they were noticing in their independent reading when examining character speech and think about how their character is complicated and also misunderstood and what the reader can learn (theme) when examining the character this way. I even wrote my own based off the character Xiomara in my book, The Poet X. This serves as a model, but it also can act as a way to sell this book as a future choice for students.

Let’s Reflect

Take some time to look back at your ELA Reading and Writing lessons. Are you following the model for best practice? Which steps are you a shining star, and which steps do you need to rethink?

One more think to keep in mind. All 5 steps are not expected in one day. Since online class times in our district are shorter than the 50-60+ minutes allotted to a face to face setting, the I Do, We Do, You Do may take place over the course of a week. How you roll out the week may look different from class to class; however, the model should still follow the same steps.

Remote Workshop: Staying True to the Model

While learning a whole new way to deliver instruction during the quarantine, it is possible to accidentally take a wrong turn and shift the focus away from the fundamentals of the workshop model. So now that we’ve had some time to make the shift to remote learning, let’s take some time to reflect and evaluate our instructional practice.

Fundamental #1 – Modeling

We need to remember that we must model and do the work in front of students. The tool you choose to capture that modeling is the vehicle. Now you can get the fanciest vehicle in the showroom using all kinds of fancy tools and add ons, but without modeling, we can easily lose our way. So with every lesson ask yourself, “Am I using a mentor text and doing the thinking and writing work myself?”

Fundamental #2 – A Clear Focus

Just like in the brick and mortar classroom, the online classroom needs a focus. What is the skill you are teaching, and what strategies are you modeling to develop that skill?

Recently with a group of seventh and eighth graders I have been focusing on the basic yet very challenging skill of active reading. I determined in advance each strategy I would model.

Here is a video of one such lesson. Today I am teaching active readers to examine how characters react. The strategy follows the basic model for analysis. What do I notice? What patterns am I seeing? What do these patterns show? You will see today’s focus and you will watch me model using a mentor text.

Fundamental #3 – Active and Authentic

It is so easy with the introduction of all of these flashy online tools and resources to start assigning. But ASSIGNING is not one of the A words we should be holding dear.

We want kids to be active in their reading and writing. And we want the work to be authentic. Just as the modeling is authentic, we want to send them off to do the thinking work in their actual book or writer’s notebook. It’s easy to be attracted to cool looking assignments, but are they anything more than glorified worksheets and packets?

Ask yourself, “Am I sending my kids off to think in the book or text they chose? Am I sending them off to create? Am I sending them off to do real things in the real world?” If not, what can you do to move closer to supporting ACTIVE and AUTHENTIC readers and writers?

Fundamental #4 – Choice

Notice when I send students off to read, I am sending them off to their independent book. And even though I modeled being an active reader who examines character reactions today, when I send them off, they can choose to practice any of the four strategies I’ve modeled so far.

Fundamental #5 – Growth

When we are focusing on the fundamentals of the workshop, we are keeping in mind that every product is a formative assessment that shows us where kids are and what kids need. This information is used to drive our instruction. While I already have a focus of the skill and strategies I plan to teach, model, and expect students to practice within their own reading and writing, I want to use their products to gauge what other strategies they may need.

At the very end of my minilesson, I tucked in something I was noticing from recent responses. Sometimes those lessons, like reminders to use specific evidence, can be tucked into a planned minilesson, and sometimes we need to pause and present an additional strategy lesson because we don’t have the conferring and small group time that we do in the brick and mortar school. But this work comes from what we notice within their authentic work.

So I encourage you to reflect on and evaluate your online ELA instruction. Are you staying true to the workshop model and the fundamentals of the workshop? Are you using the online tools and add ons as a vehicle to drive your workshop instruction, or are you accidentally veering off onto the wrong road of assigning?

I am here to help with whatever your needs are in this new remote learning while holding onto best practice.

The Adventures of TDA: The Final Chapter

This adventure began with concerns from one sixth grade cohort at the elementary level. An unplanned extended leave of absence with a rotation of guest teachers created a challenge. While I firmly believe in embedding this work into what we already do with the Units of Study, the extenuating circumstances led us to create a short mini unit that wrapped up in time for the return of the teacher who is now continuing the work within the units.

After minilessons with modeling and time for independent practice with embedded conferring and small group lessons based on need, we wrapped up our writing pieces. What made this mini unit so successful was student engagement. Based on my observations, I would attribute the high engagement to the following:

  1. Choice – Students read and did the thinking work for several stories, but they chose the one that they wanted to take through the writing process.
  2. Partnerships – Students had very strong partnerships throughout the entire process which provided support and investment.
  3. High Interest Text – It’s so much easier to do something really hard with something that is intriguing.
  4. Gradual Release of Responsibility – They watched a teacher do some heavy lifting, then they practiced with their partner with support, and when they felt confident, they were able to do the heavy lifting too.

The independent writing wasn’t perfect, but students grew and developed as they learned and applied their learning to their writing and it was worlds better than the preassessment. Below is a slide show of a selection from the independent writing.

Since we began with a preassessment, we ended with a post assessment as well. Students were actually excited to show how much they could now do. The confidence they felt was incredible to experience. We looked at the evidence of their close reading, their planning before writing, and their writing and compared the data from the preassessment to the post assessment. We also were able to determine who still needed guided practice in small group as well as other needs. Overall, the post assessment showed that 61% of the sixth graders in the morning class and 70% of the sixth graders in the afternoon class wrote analytically using at least two lenses and looking for patterns in order to come to new understandings. That is compared to 4 students overall who attempted but did not use at least two lenses in the preassessment. The exact data can be found at the very end of the post.

Below are some samples from the preassessment compared to the post assessment. The first example shows a student who understands the idea of examining the author’s craft; however, she only uses one lens in the prassessment and focuses more on the beginning, middle, and end of the story than on determining patterns. In the post assessment she was a super star! She was very grateful for all of the feedback she received throughout the entire process.

This student wrote a summary of the story in the preassessment which was very typical of the group as a whole. In the post assessment, you can see she made huge strides!

This student was one of my favorites. He struggled a great deal. He needed a lot of support and was one of a few who I conferred with every day and pulled into small group regularly. He was not nearly as confident, but he was persistent. He even chose to spend the time for independent writing at the small group table even when he wasn’t in small group so support was nearby. I was most curious about his post assessment because he relied so heavily on me that I worried I had done him a disservice. He asked to sit completely away from everyone during the post assessment because he knows he can get easily distracted. He received zero guidance and support on the on-demand post assessment. For the preassessment his writing was very neat and even in cursive, but he only wrote a summary of the story. He killed it on the post assessment. Clearly his concern was not on his handwriting because he put all of his time, energy, and focus into his thinking. I. Was. Blown. Away! Is it written perfectly? No, but the thinking has to come before the writing every time! Who cares if it’s beautifully written if there is no thinking…no content…no analysis!

Below is another student who struggles, and he is an English language learner as well. He wrote a summary on the preassessment. He was unable to finish in the time given as the post assessment was an on-demand timed assessment, but if you look at his annotations and his graphic organizer, you can clearly see he is on the right track. Fortunately, in state testing he will have the extra time he needs. Again I was so proud.

Something I have always believed that was proven to me time and time again is our kids CAN! Don’t discount any one of your students as kids who can’t because with the right support, they certainly can and will be successful!

One thing I see often in my travels are graphic organizers and worksheets created for kids by teachers. All I ever did was give kids blank paper. Kids need to learn and have the experience to create their own graphic organizers that make sense for them. Below are some samples of the graphic organizers students created for their post-assessment. They chose the lenses to determine how the author revealed a theme, and they chose how to organize their thinking before writing. They need to be in the driver seat more because they will not always have those crutches that when used too often can actually hold them back.

The sixth grade teachers are planning to continue this work while embedding it into the units of study they already use. As promised the data from the pre and post assessment can be found below.

How Do We Find the Time to Work on TDA?

This has been the biggest question I’ve been asked recently. Here’s the thing. We don’t stop teaching our core curriculum to work on developing these skills. They should be embedded in the work you are already doing using the Units of Study. The idea is to continue to use the strategy for analysis that was recommended by the Bucks County Intermediate Unit and shared during the TDA trainings last year and be more explicit about it when teaching. The strategy can be used in almost every minilesson, small group, and even in conferring!

Strategy for Analysis

How can the work be embedded? Look at the Learning Progressions from the Units of Study. They are full of lenses that can be used to look for patterns and determine types of understandings. By using the common language all throughout the year and from year to year, students will have a better chance for success because of the consistency.

The Learning Progressions for Inferring about Character show us in each grade level how we can look closely to determine a type of understanding like character traits, for example. The lenses can continue to be used in subsequent grade levels.

Let’s look at the Learning Progressions for Theme.

In addition to the Learning Progressions that drive the teaching points for the units, we use anchor charts that also show us the lens work within the minilessons.

Even the tools we use with students within the Units of Study show us the lenses and types of understanding we can use.

The work of analysis and strengthening skills related to text dependent analysis does not require us to fit in one more thing that we don’t have time for. It’s about marrying the work we already do with the strategy for analysis and the language we learned within the TDA trainings. It’s about looking closely at how authors use their craft to develop characters, reveal themes, construct central ideas, and any other type of understanding. This is not new work. We are fortunate that the strategy the Bucks County Intermediate Unit recommended for analysis came from the work outlined in Falling in Love with Close Reading which is authored by two people who have worked for many years as staff developers with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, the birthplace of our reading and writing units and an institution that values the reading and writing workshop which our district has embraced as an instructional model.

If there is anything I can do to support you in the marriage of this work with our units, please let me know.

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter 5

Now that writers know what they need to prove, it’s time to draft. I approached this work by inviting students to notice, much like the work of Jeff Anderson.

While students turned and talked with their writing partners, I listened in for what they noticed about the structure of the introduction that I wrote for “Feathers”

These invitations to notice were very brief so over the course of a couple days, we were able to use the minilesson time as well as the midworkshop interrupt to look at the different parts of an essay that students could use as a mentor text for their own writing.

While students worked independently, they were able to confer with their writing partner when needed so that I could pull small groups. To determine small group instruction, I looked in their writing folders for patterns of needs. For example, on this particular day, I noticed four big patterns.

  1. Two students who used the introduction to retell the story
  2. Three students with unnecessary details and one with no background information in the introduction
  3. Two students who need to explain the evidence in the body paragraphs
  4. Five students who were struggling with writing a claim.

I was able to meet with all four groups and begin conferencing with individuals. For small groups I pull on the fly I like to use a giant post-it to quickly write out the strategy. If it’s one I know I’m going to do ahead of time, I might do the same thing or take the extra minute to create the strategy tool in slides so I can print it or use it electronically.

By having strong writing partnerships, students have support from their peer so that my time is free to pull groups.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the writing so far!

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter 4

Students, for the most part, wrapped up their reading, noticing, and noting for the three texts and we moved on to the next minilesson. This lesson was to help them organize their thinking and push it a bit further, in order to determine their claim, what they had to prove in their essay. Each student chose the story they wanted to use to write their TDA and even though they have strong partnerships, they did not need to choose the same story as their partner. They know enough about all three stories that they can still be a support but have the choice that keeps them engaged.

I realized after the first class that I made a huge mistake by showing them the final product of my thinking work and not modeling the work. To say they were lost and confused is an understatement and I realized I was spending way too much time conferring with kids who were off task because they did not know what to do.

So I did what I should have done the first time and did the work right in front of them and the results were much better!

Here is a selection of graphic organizers created by kids in order to prepare their claim and how they will support it. Notice that they created their own organizer in order to determine what they would use and what they needed to prove. Next we will be ready to start writing!!!

Avoiding the Panic Associated with TDA

The work of text dependent analysis is challenging. It’s challenging for me, and I’m highly qualified, trained, and experienced, so I can only imagine how overwhelming this challenge can be for kids. Like anything, I learn more and can support kids because I do the work myself. All. The. Time.

Doing the work that I expect kids to do keeps it real, and I get a lot of respect from kids as a result because I am rolling up my sleeves just like I ask them to do. I experience just how challenging and frustrating it can be, and I pay attention to the strategies I use to work through the challenges.

By doing the work myself, I can better determine what kids need because they need specific, direct instruction. They need a whole lot of modeling. They need coaching in small groups and through conferring. And what I rediscovered last night while I was writing, they need to be able to talk about it a lot. If you are not providing ongoing and continuous support in these areas, you will no doubt be met with frustration, and I highly recommend that you stop assigning the work.

I have been modeling my TDA work recently with sixth graders when it was brought to my attention how many kids were frustrated when doing an on-demand preassessment for a reading unit in the middle school.

I did what I recommend every teacher do and took the assessment myself to have a clearer picture of how I would go about it. It wasn’t easy, but I used the strategies that I teach and went through all of the steps myself.

Imagine if every teacher on a team did the work. Imagine the possibilities we would see because they should not all look and sound the same. They should not all have the same claim or number of paragraphs. This should and can be done at every level. Yes, I know our plates are full, and it would take time. I am telling you, however, the insight gained is worth every single second and will not only save you time in the long run on planning but will save your students a whole lot of frustration because you can better support them. Better yet, by doing the work, kids will have more respect for what you have to say because you are showing them that you are willing to learn right along with them and overcome the challenges of the TDA.

Fortunately, I am seeing first hand how deliberate direct instruction, modeling, partnerships, conferring, and small group work is providing the sixth graders at Faust with the tools to be successful, and it is such a blessing to see their confidence grow. While the struggle is real, frustration and panic is not an issue.

I apologize for standing on my soapbox, but I truly believe in the power of this work. I look forward to sharing more of the Adventures in TDA soon!

Listen, Learn, Trust, and Expect

While planning for an after school reading clinic I do twice a week with some middle schoolers, I stumbled across a Ted Talk given by an inspiring young girl named Adora Svitak. While I watched it and took notes so that I could use it for a mentor text to show how I would use a strategy to help determine central idea, I discovered that this young lady was speaking to me…to all of us who teach!

Some quotes that stood out to me…

Learning between grown ups and kids should be reciprocal. The reality, unfortunately, is a little different, and it has a lot to do with trust, or a lack of it.

Adora Svitak

Now, what’s even worse than restriction is that adults often underestimate kids abilities. We love challenges, but when expectations are low, trust me, we will sink to them. 

Adora Svitak

No matter your position or place in life, it is imperative to create opportunities for children so that we can grow up to blow you away.

Adora Svitak

I have definitely learned from many years in the classroom that I don’t have all the answers, and in my role as instructional coach, I have learned just how important it is to admit that I am not the expert. For me, the more I’ve embraced this thinking, the more effective I have felt as an educator.

I learn from adults and kids every single day.

But something I’ve noticed when I have been modeling for teachers is that fourth grade has some really awesome ideas, and they are not afraid to explore them. My experience is as I model for grade levels above fourth grade, the students become less and less apt to share their thinking or even to explore it. It’s like they are afraid to be wrong. That self doubt that Adora Svitak speaks about of adults seems to start creeping in and by seventh and eighth grade it becomes stifling.

As self doubt creeps in I wonder if as teachers we begin to scaffold more and more thinking they can’t think deeply. But what if the scaffolding is causing more problems because we begin to expect less and take on more responsibility than the kids?

In my position where I work with so many grade levels in one day, it’s interesting how that same text can feel too hard for older grades.

Recently it feels like everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from fourth grade, and I make a huge deal out of that because it IS a huge deal and it needs to be celebrated. But every time you learn something from a student, I encourage you to make it the biggest deal.

I encourage you to not always go into every lesson having all the answers or worse all the “right” answers. I encourage you to provide opportunity after opportunity to learn from your kids and trust them to do that. I encourage you to raise the expectations and stop looking at them with a “They can’t do this” mindset because if that’s what you believe, that is what you will get from them.

I wish everyone had the opportunity to teach lower grade levels to see just how brilliant they are before the need to be right or fear of being wrong takes over. It would completely change how you approach your students.

And it was a child who reminded me of what deep down I already knew but sometimes can forget: listen, learn, trust and expect.

Notebook Status Report

Independent reading is not just about reading for pleasure. We are teaching students to read actively and push their thinking beyond being able to summarize and retell.

Recently, I tried something I have never done before. I used one of the books in the classroom library to read, stop and jot, and write in my notebook. I highly encourage everyone to try this work.

I found several benefits to doing this work as though I were a student and kids loved seeing my progress and the possibilities of writing about reading.

I used it time and time again in conferences and during minilessons to show my process for how I was writing about my thinking and not summarizing.

It also helped me to better understand what kids may need to be successful and how the notebook could be used to track thinking in order to write about deeper meanings.

As I read, I would stop and jot along the way, placing the post-its in my book. At the end of each reading, I took 5-10 minutes (no more than 10 minutes!) to look over my post-its and choose a pattern I was noticing and what new understanding I was having as a result of noticing the pattern.

When I finished reading, I found myself jotting big ideas that I could see throughout the book and in my notes.

By doing the work myself, it gave me some new insight about what I want to see students doing which is to read actively in order to think deeper about reading. I noticed how I could better support them and could model how I push myself to think beyond the events. Essentially I am using various lenses, looking for patterns, and coming to a new understanding while modeling for students how to do the same. This needs to be modeled, practiced, and discussed with reading partners regularly.

Analysis is HARD! It needs to be modeled regularly, part of the every day practice, and discussed in partnerships often. It’s not a matter of stop everything and analyze for a few days. It’s not a one and done.. It’s not a sometimes. It’s a daily practice! By doing your own notebook work, you will be able to determine just how challenging this work is and what students may need to be more successful.

One of the great benefits I’ve noticed of using a reader’s notebook instead of separate pages, packets, or worksheets is it becomes a tool and truly promotes real thinking and writing about reading. It shows teachers over time how students are progressing and what they may need to grow. It’s a basic yet mighty tool for both teachers and students.

Fourth grade teacher, Michelle, has started doing this work with her kids and writing about her thinking while reading in front of kids. She modeled the pattern she noticed by looking closely at what characters do and say to think deeper about the character and encouraged her students to do similar work during independent reading.

I’ll leave you with two more examples of tracking thinking in front of students. I recently visited Diane’s eighth grade and Bridget’s seventh grade classrooms and found that both were using chart paper to model for students their own thinking while reading their independent books Girl in Pieces and The Cellar.

The Three Legged Stool: Intentional Instruction Focuses on Growth and What Students Need

We know the minilesson is the weakest tool. It exposes students to the rigor, but so many of our students are not ready to do this kind of work themselves. This is where small group and conferring comes in. Once students are released to do their independent practice, which should be the majority of their time in workshop, the real meaningful instruction can begin. Because this time is so important, and time is something we cannot increase, we need to be very intentional with our small group and conferring so that students are getting exactly what they need in order to grow as readers and writers.

Planning to be more intentional

Seventh grade teacher, Bridget, has been looking for more ways to be intentional with this time, and so we took the time to create tiered strategy lessons based on the learning progressions.

Based on the preassessment she gave in the beginning of the school year, the majority of her students fell into second grade thinking about theme. They could name a lesson the character learned, identified theme as one word, or missed the mark completely and summarized the story instead.

Preassessment data from one class period

Bridget continued to present theme through the rigor of the minilesson, but knew that that alone was not going to be what students needed. After a couple days modeling how to determine theme using the mentor text, Bridget was ready to pull small groups.

I took the learning progressions and armed with Serravallo’s Reading Strategies Book created tiered strategy lessons beginning with the difference between plot and theme all the way to pushing for deeper more sophisticated themes related to literary devices such as symbolism.

While creating the tiered strategy lessons, I pulled any additional tools and a text we could use to practice so everything was in one spot.

We decided we needed some additional formative data to show us where students were in their thinking about theme at that moment since they had some new exposure in the minilessons and were more than a month past the original preassessment.

We gave students a long post it note with lines and told them we wanted to see where they were in their thinking about theme so we could determine what they needed to move forward. We set the timer for two minutes and had them write down one current theme they were noticing in their independent reading book along with what in the text made them say that. Some really wanted guidance, but we assured them we needed to see what they know, kind of know, or don’t know at all about determining theme.

After two minutes we sent them off to their independent reading work and very quickly sorted the post its. We saw three patterns in each of the classes and decided to sort them accordingly.

  1. Students who left their post it note blank, wrote the definition of theme, or wrote a summary of the plot.
  2. Students who wrote theme as a commonly explored issue, such as belonging or independence.
  3. Students who wrote a theme statement.

Group 1

We looked through the tiered strategy lessons to determine where to begin with each group. For the first group, we introduced a common pitfall of writing a summary about the plot but used the second strategy in the tiered lessons to present to this group.

We used the text from a recent quarterly exam because it was a text they were all familiar with and walked them through the strategy. We encouraged them to use this strategy as they are stopping and jotting while reading their independent book and sent them off to read with a copy of the tool on their menu.

As Bridget continues to meet with this group, she will check in on how they are using the strategy, coach kids within their own reading, and present the next strategy in the progression of tiered lessons. Again she will send them off, but now with two strategies to use to guide their thinking about theme.

What about the lenses?

One question Bridget had took us back to the lenses for close reading. Are students still expected to use the lenses?

The answer is ABSOLUTELY! As you present a strategy, you are guiding students to use a lens, look for patterns, and determine a new understanding. In the case of this first group, we showed them how to look closely at a character’s actions, notice patterns, and use them to determine theme. The next strategy lesson for this group will involve looking closely at conflict to do the same thing!

Group 2

The second group we noticed used one word to determine theme. They were using the tool Commonly Explored Issues in Literature, but they were not getting past that issue. This group needed a strategy that fell later in the progression, which was #6 of the tiered lessons.

Group 3

The final grouping we noticed were students able to write a theme, but the themes were pretty basic in terms of sophistication. We complimented them on their ability to determine theme, but explained that now they had to push themselves to think deeper about theme and determine more sophisticated ones.

We decided to move them to strategy #7 in the progression of tiered lessons in order to push their thinking deeper.

Using recent data

We could have gone with the original data and all but one student would have been starting with the strategy #1 or #2 in the progression of tiered lessons, but by doing a quick check in, we were able to determine six weeks after the preassessment with some on grade level instruction where students were currently sitting in need.

By creating the progression of tiered lessons in advance, teachers have a quick tool to meet any one at any time where they are in their thinking about theme and what the next step should be for each student and/or group.

Some useful tips

Tiered strategies can be clipped together for each skill (in this case determining theme) and even hung on a hook for teachers to have quick and easy access. I was also able to open the lessons in PDF and print multiple on one page using 3×3 in order to have an easy way to have something for creating a menu for students to take back to their seat which I put inside the sheet protector behind each strategy.

Directions for Printing Multiple

Next steps

As we move past our work in the structure of the workshop model, the first leg of the stool, we now need to push ourselves to be more intentional with our time and materials and meet students where they are in order to grow their reading or writing.

If you would like to work on creating tiered lessons in order to implement intentional instruction, let me know how I can help. This work can be done in both reading and writing using the learning progressions and is especially quick when teams work together.