Podcast and Blog

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The Value of a Longer Text-Based Unit

If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know that I LOVE a good text-based unit. Using quality picture books, novels or informational text to teach English is enjoyable for both students and teachers alike. This idea has been embraced by many teachers, which is wonderful. However, I’d like to talk today about the value of a unit of work that goes for a little longer than a week.

Using a different book each week feels neat and tidy. We can write the title of the text in our planners and keep …

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How Not to Overcomplicate Your Text Based Units

Using mentor texts to teach writing and the ‘top of the rope’ concepts of reading can be a highly effective method of instruction. Mentor texts provide context and modelling for vocabulary, syntax, parts of speech, text structure and language features. The challenge with using mentor texts is that it’s really easy to overcomplicate our units. Even if we create targeted units that walk our students step by step through the skills and knowledge we want to teach, it’s not always easy to align the c…

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Engaging Reluctant Writers

Every classroom has students who hate writing and will avoid it at all costs. They might groan and moan when you say the word ‘writing’ or ask to go to the toilet the minute you need them to sit at their desk. When they do sit down, they take 500 years to write the date and then poke the person next to them or engage in some other off-task behaviour. Their antics mean that you can’t spend time supporting those who WILL engage but need some support or conference with those who are quite capable…

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Teaching the ‘Top of the Rope’ with Mentor Texts

There is so much information available about phonics and PA (bottom of the rope concepts) that you might be forgiven for thinking that that’s all there is to reading instruction.
However, it is important to remember that the ‘top of the rope’ concepts also need to be taught explicitly. One of the best ways to teach this is through mentor texts. Mentor texts provide a wonderful stimulus for reading comprehension and writing instruction. You can teach many concepts through mentor texts including...…

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Why Explicit Teaching is Student Centred

Ever hear someone say that they prefer a ‘student centred’ approach over explicit instruction? I have and I have to say that it left me shaking my head. You see, I think that structured, explicit reading instruction IS student centred. Here’s why.

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Teaching Success Framework

Knowledge is Critical, but Don’t Forget Skills

We all know that teacher knowledge is way more important than just having a program in our classrooms. Knowing why you are doing what you are doing can be the difference between highly effective practice and random acts of improvement that don’t lead to great results.
In considering how to create sustained, effective practice, I have developed the Teaching Success Framework. There are 8 parts of the framework…

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The Best Advice I’ve Ever Been Given

As a teacher and school leader, I’ve had loads of advice from others throughout the years. Some of it has been helpful. Some of it has been downright diabolical and some of it invaluable. In today’s post, I’d like to share five of the best pieces of advice I’ve received in working towards school level change.

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How Shared Vision Contributes to Collective Impact

Shared vision can be the difference between strategic, effective practice that results in growth for all students and a series of random acts of improvement that keep people busy but don’t really go anywhere. Without shared vision, each person is doing their own thing and running their own race. They are left alone to struggle through their problems of practice, deal with their own worries and recreate the wheel each and every time they want to teach something. This is a lonely and, very often, …

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Making the Switch from Guided Reading to a Structured Approach

So many teachers have guided reading as the foundation of their reading instruction approach. With a growing understanding of structured literacy, many of us have seen that it’s time for a change. When making the switch from traditional guided reading, there are two components to consider. 

The first thing to think about is the ‘what’.
Traditional Guided reading involved: 

  • Assessing students using benchmark assessment
  • Grouping them based on this assessment 
  • Teaching lessons using levelled t…

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Keeping Planning Simple

Keeping Planning Simple

Planning is one of the necessary, time sucking things that we do as teachers.  I’m actually one of those nerdy people who like planning and curriculum design.  It really floats my boat!  BUT, what I don’t like is spending more hours planning and preparing than I spend teaching.  I would much rather have easy ways to plan and prepare that leave me free to spend time on the fun stuff (like writing text based units using mentor texts) or watching Netflix.  As a Teaching Pri…

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