Answering Your Questions: How do I help students with the Signpost Anchor Questions?

As Bob and I looked through the Notice and Note Book Club page, we saw some questions that we thought we would answer via video.

This first question is from Jasmine Meade who wondered how she could better help her sixth graders who were doing a good job of noticing signposts but then were struggling some with the anchor questions.

We understand that struggle and in our short video here below, we offer what we hope will be a helpful solution. Embedding the video here might not have been smart as it seems to need a lot of buffering. So, you can also pop over to my Facebook page and see it there, easily.

PS: Cancer treatment still going well and I’m loving all the hats and scarves teachers from across the nation are sending. Many thanks. I feel  your support each and every day. #IveGotCancerAndImOk


I’ve Got Cancer and I’m OK.

Some of you know that seven years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer – two different types, one in each breast. One bilateral mastectomy later, I was headed toward recovery. For five years I stayed on the current drug of choice to keep that cancer under control. After five years, current thought was not to stay on that drug any longer, so I didn’t. Fast forward two years and all is fine until exactly one month ago from today I noticed a lump. In my breast.

I gave it day to be scar tissue and then got myself a mammogram which led to a biopsy that same day which led to a phone call the next morning telling me my cancer had returned.

Within 48 hours I had every scan, MRI, X-ray, pee-in-the-cup, draw the blood test one can have and the next day was at a table surrounded by 7 doctors, all men.

Two were from my first go around, five were new. All were saying “What the hell?”
“This is truly rare,” one declared. “We’ve been on the phone with other specialists and they agree, this is rare,” another chimed in.

OK. I got it. This is rare. What’s not rare is my type of cancer. What is rare is the reoccurrence.

I joined the conversation: “Let’s move on. What’s the cure?”

Well, they had that answer. The cure is aggressive chemotherapy followed by aggressive radiation/chemotherapy followed by more chemotherapy. You see, I’m one of the lucky ones – this is not metastatic, is still localized, and is still that cancer called “curable.” So, you attack hard.

Then they mentioned that this cancer is very slow growing, not aggressive. Brad – dear husband – groaned and said, “You shouldn’t have mentioned that.”

I perked up: “Well, if it’s slow growing and not aggressive, next week I have four keynotes in four different states. Don’t you think I could do those first before we start this?”

Seven men each shook his head no. I nodded yes. “Slow growing. Not aggressive,” I repeated. Finally, one asked Brad, “Are we winning this one?” Brad said, “Probably not.”

And so that next week, off I went to Denver, NYC, Pittsburg, and Minneapolis. On Monday, October 23, at the end of my time with the 300 teachers at the Minnesota Council Teachers of English Fall Conference, I told them that the next day I would be receiving a port and starting chemo for a reoccurrence of breast cancer and I wanted them to know that spending that day with them was the best shot of get-well-soon I could ever receive. I told this huge group I wasn’t yet ready to post this online and asked them to please not have any social media chatter. And there wasn’t. Not one tweet. I LOVE teachers.

The next day off I went to have a port inserted and that afternoon, Tuesday, October 24, I started day 1 of chemo.

My oncologist does things a bit differently than most. He gives slightly smaller doses of chemo for longer periods of time (over several days at a time) to be more humane on the body. He draws blood more often to watch carefully how white blood cells and red blood cells and platelets are doing and reacts immediately as they start to fall. And he or one of his associates sees me every day. Every day. Weekends included.

And as he sees me, he always starts by asking the most direct question, “How are you feeling today?” With that he’s wondering how I’m feeling physically, but also mentally and emotionally. “How are you feeling today?” From there, we chat. Are there questions I have? Is there something bothering me we should figure out? What am I doing for fun when I get home? Yes, a glass of wine will be ok, a small one. No, a martini is not ok.

We talk. Doctor to patient, person to person. We get to what sometimes causes tears; we linger over what’s most concerning; we push on to what makes us laugh. We end, always, with “You have got this. You’ll be just fine.”

Our chats make me think of how he has taken this huge impersonal world of medicine and made it intensely personal. Intimate. As he leaves, I often wonder how we do that in education. I wonder how we give this time that he gives me to each kid we see each day. I think of the power of the reading conference, the writing conference, the stand-in-the-hallway-and-say-hi moment. I think about asking a kid “How’s that book going? What are you thinking about today? What questions do you have? Is there something bothering you with this essay/this book/this assignment/this moment that we should figure out?” I think about promising a kid “You have got this. You’ll be just fine.” I think he’s teaching me a lot about teaching.

And so, folks, I wanted you to know I’m on a side trip right now. I’m sporting a new do that will last for a while. I feel great – again a more humane way of doing chemo. Bob and I are using this time to get a lot of writing done. Bob’s being Bob – helping me get through this with his ready wit. We’ll be doing more FB Live events during this time, and I’ll be blogging about this journey on my blog site – as soon as I remember the password to my blog site.

MeredithBaker, and Brad are, as always, my lighthouses, keeping things bright and showing me the way. And you, dear teachers, are my inspiration. I know so many of you walk into a classroom each day carrying the burden of this disease and you stand there and teach. You teach. Your dedication is carrying me forward. Thank you.

So, I’ve got cancer, and I’m ok. I promise.

P.S. Here I am, with a buzz cut so I don’t have to keep watching hair fall out. And with the last batch of the thousands of backpacks that arrived – these from kids in Florida. And the other photo with Stephen who has done my hair forever and best friend Suzanne who has stood by me for everything!


A Letter to Teachers as Summer Begins

June 2, 2017

Dear Teachers –

It’s summer. Some of you have already taught that last class; others of you will do that very soon. I’m thinking of you as I begin my summer of workshops with many of you, and I wanted to wish you each a summer that leaves you renewed for the fall.

I hope you each find time this summer to walk some, nap some, and read some. Actually, I hope you read a lot. Read something – lots of somethings – for pure escape, and read lots of things to learn a lot. Read way, way below your Lexile level (if you even know your Lexile level) and occasionally read above it.

I hope you watch a favorite movie one more time, make popcorn the old-fashioned way, don’t give a damn about how you look in a swimsuit and jump into the pool with a splash. I hope you’ll find a group with which to discuss hard issues. I hope you’ll find a group with which to enjoy a bottle of wine, or two. I hope you’ll fall in love with something. And if you haven’t fallen in love with someone, if that happens, I hope you fall head over heels and enjoy the giddiness of the time. And if anyone stares at who it is you care to love, hold her hand or his hand tighter and look the other way. That person staring at you, well that person isn’t worth your time.

I hope you’ll try something really hard and fail at it. Yes. Fail at it. Failing helps us all remember what it’s like to be that kid who fails, no matter the effort put forth. So find something you can’t do and try. Try and fail. And remember how that feels. And then imagine failing every day. Imagine how that feels. You’ll go back to school a different teacher.

I hope you’ll bake a cake from scratch. I hope you’ll laugh until you cry. And I hope when something hits you hard, you give yourself permission to cry, to sob, to feel in that moment all you truly should feel. I hope you sleep past an alarm; I hope some mornings you won’t set an alarm. I hope you learn a lot. Love a lot. I hope on rainy days you stay in PJs and I hope on sunny days you play outdoors.

And for those of you this summer who face hard days and nights as loved ones face illnesses or you battle your own; as hearts break and lives move apart; as parents die or friends part or children face problems none should face, I hope you always find those around you to offer solace, to offer help, to offer a steady hand.

For those of you taking a child to college, breathe. You’ve done your job. Breathe. Be proud. Don’t cry until you get in the car. And don’t text; well don’t text a lot. And don’t get a dog. Seriously. Don’t fill that empty nest too quickly. You’ll love that dog, but give yourself some space to enjoy this next phase of life. Then get a dog.

I hope you have wonderful dinners with great friends; get closets organized; rooms rearranged; garages cleaned; flowers planted – or that you give yourself permission to do none of the cleaning and just have more dinners. I hope you find the time to help someone who wasn’t expecting it; encourage someone who needs it; provide a warm embrace for someone who feels alone or lost.

I deeply hope you have a summer that when you look back you see that you embraced every moment of it. Felt every day of it. I hope that eventually, you look back and remember this summer with clarity, this summer that gave you the time to become so much.

My best to you all —


A Brief (Not Really), Critically Important (Absolutely) History Lesson

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Be clear about this -the ESEA was a Civil Rights law with President Johnson saying that “full educational opportunity” should be “our first national goal.” It offered more than $1 billion dollars a year under its Title I section to help with the cost of educating disadvantaged youth. This new act provided:

1. Grants to districts serving low-income students
2. Federal grants for textbooks
3. Federal grants for school library books
4. Federal funding for special education
5. Scholarships for low-income college students
6. Grants to improve elementary and secondary education. (see information at Dept of Ed)

Enter NCLB

This education act has been reauthorized repeatedly since then, with one reauthorization probably best known: in 2002, it was revised and reauthorized under the name No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This law, authorized under President George W. Bush, expanded the Federal role and focused specifically on holding schools accountable for student progress. If states did not comply with the new assessment measures, they risked losing their Title I dollars. (see No Child Left Behind: An Overview)

Under NCLB, states were to test all students in grades 3 – 8 and one time in high school and were to show how groups such as ELLs, children with special needs, children of poverty, and racial minorities were progressing. By 2013-2014, all students in all states were to have reached “proficiency” though each state could decide what that meant.

Another Reauthorization: ESSA

In 2015, President Obama signed into law the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB and it was known at the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This bill was a strong bi-partisan effort with both sides claiming victory. Republicans liked that it returned a lot of power to local/state control. Democrats liked that equity was still a critical issue. The best side-by-side comparison of NCLB and ESSA I’ve found can be accessed here.

A few things to note about ESSA – our current law:

1. Codifies that districts must allow students in underperforming schools the opportunity to transfer to another school – if permitted by the state. So, this level of school choice is ALREADY LAW.

2. Requires that DISTRICTS (not federal government or state) develop their own evidenced- based strategies for school improvement. This is LOCAL CONTROL.

3. Requires that STATES implement their own actions for schools in need of improvement. Again, this is a return to STATE CONTROL.

4. Prohibits the Secretary of Education for prescribing any specific school supports or improvement strategies. (RETURN TO LOCAL/STATE CONTROL)

5. Requires that the annual state report card include a description of the state assessment; a list of schools identified (by the states) as needing improvement; graduation rates; NAEP results; per-pupil expenditures.

6. Eliminates AYP and the 100% proficiency requirement.

7. Prohibits the Secretary of Education from prescribing any part of an accountability system.

8. Allows STATES to decide how much weight to give to tests and what consequences if any should be attached to poor performance. (STATE CONTROL)

Understanding Regulations

Now, laws don’t provide all the details needed for people to be able to follow them. Congress writes a law. The President signs it. And then agencies fill in details. For those of us in education, that agency is the Department of Education (if looking at the Federal level). These details or rules are called regulations.

On May 31, 2016, the DOE published a draft of the regulations that would guide accountability under ESSA. (Don’t you feel smart using all these acronyms!) The DOE invited comments on proposed regulations and 21,000+ were received. Push backs on several areas resulted on the DOE being responsive and revising several areas of regulations. Eventually, Chris Minnich, who is the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (so think the 50 state superintendents) praised the regulations saying, “It is clear the U.S. Department of Education listened to the feedback from state education chiefs across the country and made several important changes to ensure the accountability provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act can be implemented in all states” (See this report.) So, the STATES were happy with what the regulations told them they needed to do.

And so the states started writing their plans that needed to be submitted to the Secretary by April or (if an extension was given) by September of 2017. Things were going well. For a while, at least.

Enter Trump

Now, the Trump administration has decided to put its own stamp on education. And here’s where things get tricky.

In early February, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order that said that for every one new regulation issued at least two prior regulations must be eliminated and “the total incremental cost of all new regulations, including repealed regulations, to be finalized in fiscal year 2017 shall be no greater than zero.” Law experts agree that this order not only lacks details on how to accomplish this, but that it will probably result in a “de facto moratorium on issuance of many major rules” (…/). What the heck does this mean? Basically, if you get want a new regulation, you have to get rid of two. Keep that in mind. You have to get rid of two.

Getting Rid of Regulations with an Obscure Statute

Usually, it’s hard to get rid of regulations that are part of laws. There’s a public notice time and a public response time. That often brings about some legal wrangling. This is because regulations are slow to be accepted and so tossing them out ought to require public response.

While we were all focused on Secretary DeVos’s hearings (and that “we” most certainly includes me), the US House of Representatives voted to roll back regulations found in ESSA. The Senate is expected to vote to do the same this week and President Trump has already said he’ll sign this. The House decided to eliminate regulations in ESSA concerning accountability using “an obscure statute called the Congressional Review Act, used only once before in 2001 by President George. W. Bush” (see previous citation).

The CRA allows Congress to repeal regulations by a simple majority. It also requires that any new regulations (pay attention to this) cannot be “substantially similar” to the regulations that were struck down. So, removing regulations on assessments via CRA means you can’t tweak the language; the new regulation must be substantially different. And, because of the Executive Order, only one regulation can replace two that are removed and the cost of that one must be zero.

Breathe. There’s more

So, ESSA was made a law; through a series of conversations, the DOE established regulations that the CCSSO liked. Now states and local districts know what to do regarding accountability if they want to receive federal funds. Currently, states must submit their accountability plans to the Secretary by April (or with an extension) by September 2017. And yet, the regulations that let states know what rules to follow, are about to disappear.

Secretary DeVos sent out a letter to the State Chiefs her third day in office and affirmed the April and September deadlines and said that “I am writing today to assure you that I fully intend to implement and enforce the statutory requirements of the ESSA.” She went on to explain that “Congress is currently considering a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) (5 U.S.C. §§ 801- 808) to overturn these regulations. If a resolution of disapproval is enacted, these regulations ‘shall have no force or effect.'”

And Thus the Problem

So, we’ll probably find ourselves in a terrible conundrum if the Senate continues down this path. With an Executive Order that offers few details on what to do when regulations are repealed and an obscure act that allows for repealing of regulations with no discussion, and a demand that new regulations be substantially different, states are about to find themselves needing to prepare documents that help them receive needed Federal funds with no regulations to help guide them. The Secretary’s hands will be tied because of the Executive Order. State-level work that has gone into creating plans that specifically address teacher preparation and accountability are now in limbo.

The repeal of ESSA as handled by CRA repeal of regulations when seen in tandem with this Executive Order spells problems for local and state education agencies.

Call your Senators. Tell them not to repeal ESSA. Or tell them that using this obscure CRA provision will create more havoc than anyone wants. And remember, ESSA has its roots in ESEA, an act that wanted to assure that a full educational opportunity belongs to all. Education: a Civil Right.

Texas Workshops Fall 2015

I’m always happy to spend more time in my home state of Texas and that’s happening this fall as I run three workshops in Texas. These workshops will all focus on the close, attentive reading of nonfiction. They are most appropriate for teachers 4 -12, though primary teachers often attend my workshops and they tell me they easily adapt strategies to work for their students.

Here’s a list of when and where. Sure hope to see online friends at one of them!

Saturday, September 12. Keynote workshop speaker for the West Houston Area Council Teachers of English. Though sponsored by an ELA organization, all teachers are welcome. Location: Sugar Land, Texas. Registration info: (Workshop is from 8:00 – 11:00 a.m.)

Wednesday, September 30. Keynote workshop speaker for Region 13 in Austin, TX. This is part of the STAAR Distinguished Speaker Series. Registration is at Region 13’s website. (Workshop is from 8:00 – 3:00.)

Monday, October 19. Keynote workshop speaker at the Texas Association for Improvement of Reading fall conference at Baylor University, Waco, Texas. Registration is found at the TAIR/Baylor site. (Workshop is from 8:00 – 3:30.)

All of these workshops will share the information my coauthor (Bob Probst) and I present in the forthcoming Reading Nonfiction: Stances, Strategies, and Signposts (Heinemann, 2015). All content area, resource, and ESL teachers are encouraged to attend as well as literacy coaches, supervisors, and administrators. Math teachers – please know that while I include some information that will be helpful in math class, this is most appropriate for ELA, reading, social studies, and science content.

Hook-em Horns!

Reading Nonfiction correct title jpeg

Reading Changes Lives. Period

If children need to learn vocabulary, they should read.


If they need to develop fluency, they should read.

If they need to learn about a topic, they should read.

If they need to be a person they are not, they should read.

If they need to write, they should read.

If they need to grow, to stretch, to dream, to laugh, to cry, to find a friend, to vanquish a foe, they should read.

This I Believe

This I believe:

1) Smart teachers can make the world better.
2) ALL children have a right to the education we too often believe is for only gifted and talented kids.
3) The best book a kid will ever read is the one he or she has chosen to read. Damn the Lexile. If a kid reads it, loves it, returns to it, learns from it, gets lost in it, and perhaps even finds a bit of himself in it, it is the right level. It is the right book. Wantability is always more important than readability.
4) “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a stupid statement. Words can hurt. But words can also heal. Words can divide. But words can also unite. Words can belittle but words can also strengthen. Words matter. Think carefully before you speak.
5) ANY business in Indiana that recognizes the value in ALL humans has my business, my support, and my deep, deep thanks. Bob Probst and I are headed to Indianapolis in November but only after deciding we will first ask for a list of restaurants/hotels that have decided to respect the intrinsic worth of all humans. And we’ll go to those establishments and support them, as they support those who have just been hurt by new legislation.
6) I believe all people should go see the new Cinderella and take away at least two messages: “Have courage and be kind” AND “Just because it’s done, doesn’t mean it should be done.” Maybe that’s the one that hit me the hardest. Just because it’s done doesn’t mean it should be done. Right.
7) Grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup with great wine is the best dinner. dinner at The Algonquin

8) Finally, The Algonquin in NYC (where I am at this moment) is now my favorite hotel.

These things I believe.

What Teachers Say about Books They Teach

In July 2013, Bob Probst and I posted a survey on asking teachers in grades 4-8 to tell us about their teaching of novels and chapter books.  This survey was a slightly modified version of a survey we had first conducted in 2008.  We hoped that the current survey would tell us something about the novels finding their way into classrooms, about the approaches teachers were taking to the instruction, and about the influence of the Common Core State Standards.  What follows is a look at some of the data.

 How many books are we teaching?

We received 435 responses, mostly from teachers with 6 to 20 years of experience.  Of those 435 teachers, 426 responded to the question that asked how many novels or chapter books were taught during the school year.  Of that number, about 90% reported that they teach at least one novel a year.  About 20% reported teaching four a year.  We were surprised that 10% — 41 teachers – did not teach any novels or chapter books at all and just as surprised that a little over 10% reported teaching more than seven books in one year.

Who chooses the books?

 Most of the teachers responding choose the books they will teach, with 60% apparently having great autonomy and another 28% required to choose from a list established by the district or at the school level.  Only 2.2% reported that they had no choice whatsoever.

What’s the criteria for choosing books?

We were especially interested in the criteria teachers employed in choosing books for their classes.  To over 50% of respondents, the potential for student enjoyment was the single most important criterion.  Of somewhat lesser significance were the elements or standards the novel would enable them to teach, the literary quality of the books, and the theme.   Only a few—4%—choose a book for the genre it would enable them to study, and only one solitary teacher chooses the novel for author study.

How are books being taught?

We were also interested in how novels/chapter books were being taught.  We offered respondents a variety of scenarios from which to choose.  We found that about 34% of the respondents said that they introduced the book, gave some structure over how much should be read, and then had large or small group discussions about each section.   We found that the same number responded that they introduced the book and then read the book with the class either through read-alouds or listening to portions on tape.

What books are being taught?

Many of the books we inquired about in our 2008 survey are still being taught.  The Giver is still the most commonly taught of all the young adult novels we listed, and none of the other titles had vanished from the list.  Teachers still teach the titles that appeared in the list resulting from our earlier survey.  Here is that 2008 list as it appears in Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading:

What new titles have you added?

There were some new titles, however, to add to our list.  Some are new books teachers reported they are now teaching, and some are books they’d like to teach.  Among the most popular of the new books now being taught are, listed in order of frequency mentioned:

Wonder                                                                                                                            The Hunger Games                                                                                                        The One and Only Ivan                                                                                                    The Lightning Thief                                                                                                         The Westing Game

Wonder, The Hunger Games, and The One and Only Ivan were also the three most commonly mentioned books teacher would like to teach if given the opportunity.  Other titles that appeared in that list with noticeable frequency were:

Divergent                                                                                                                         Out of My Mind                                                                                                                The Book Thief

 What changes when we look at data by grade?

When we look at data by grade level, we found that “Potential Enjoyment” continued to be the decisive factor in choosing a book.  While we’re still culling data by grade level, here are some first results:

Most commonly taught books from the list provided

4th Grade:  Because of Winn Dixie                                                                                         5th Grade: Bud, Not Buddy and Number the Stars                                                                 6th Grade: The Giver and The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963                                             7th Grade: The Giver and The Outsiders                                                                                8th Grade: The Diary of Anne Frank, The Giver, and The Outsiders

Mostly commonly taught book that was not on the list provided

4th Grade:  Wonder                                                                                                                5th Grade: Wonder                                                                                                                  6th Grade: Wonder                                                                                                                   7th Grade: Wonder and Hunger Games                                                                                8th Grade: Hunger Games

Most common length of time spent teaching one book

4th Grade:  3 weeks                                                                                                                 5th Grade:  3 weeks                                                                                                                6th Grade:  4 weeks                                                                                                              7th Grade:  4 weeks                                                                                                              8th Grade:  4-6 weeks

How has or will the Common Core State Standards affect your teaching of novels/chapter books?

When we looked at information about the effects of the CCSS, as many teachers reported that it would not affect their teaching of novels/chapter books as reported that it would.  Those who reported teaching 1-3 novels a year thought they would continue teaching that number.  Those who taught more, feared that they would be unable to continue teaching as many.  An overwhelming majority of respondents reported that the focus on nonfiction, more than anything else, would change their teaching.

Final comments

Many teachers offered comments, but one resonated with us and we want to share it here: “I teach novels not because the CCSS says students need to learn to read texts closely or learn to find details or learn something about the author’s craft.  I teach novels because I teach kids and I want kids to love to read.  And if they are going to love to read, they need to read novels.  They need to read some they’ve chosen; some I’ve chosen; some that are hard; some that are easy; some that make them laugh; some that make them cry.  We’ll read some together, and they’ll read some on their own.  We read novels because novels take us places we’ve never been and let us be people we are not.  That’s why I teach novels.”

We agree.


Taking On, Not Giving Up

So today begins Lent, for those who follow a liturgical calendar. In simplest of explanations, children are often taught that during Lent, those forty days before Easter, one should “give up something” so that, when Easter arrives, and that missed item is returned, it is more valued.

I think about this time of giving up something and am reminded of a blog post I saw some time ago from a teacher in North Carolina who gave up his job, resigned. Quit. He was completely fed up with a system that — in his district — was only about teaching kids to pass a test. He gave up something he dearly loved, and was very good at, to make a point.

And I think about the teachers at a 5-12 school in New York City Bob Probst and I worked with two weeks ago who told us they had to give up teaching anything new for the next month as the school was going into “lock down” and would only be reviewing for the upcoming mandated tests. For one month, students would only do test-prep.

And I think about a teacher in Arkansas I visited with a few weeks ago who was giving up a part of her salary each week to help buy clothes for some kids in her classroom who didn’t have homes, much less winter coats, that would keep them warm.

I think about the college seniors I Skyped with yesterday at Carlton college who wondered what we were giving up in our ELA classrooms when we all agreed (and why did we do this, they asked) to set aside any sort of questions that encouraged a personal response to instead embrace only “text-dependent” questions. “What have we given up?” they asked.

Giving up can mean so many different things.

And then I think a bit more about Lent. Only for children is it really only about giving up. Actually, it’s about reflecting. It’s about searching and wondering and being still and listening, but most certainly it is not only about giving up; it’s also about taking on.

This Lent — and it doesn’t matter if you call this time Lent or simply the quiet days before spring blooms in all its brilliance — this Lent, I plan to do more taking on than giving up. I plan to take on the naysayers of education, reminding them of all the good that our nation’s teachers do each day. Dear teachers, don’t you lose sight of the opportunity you have each day to make a difference in each child’s life.

I plan to take on the assumption that text-dependent questions create the self-reliant, lifetime readers we want more than any other type of question might do. Where is the research that supports this? I plan to take on the assumed authority of the Publishers’ Criteria and ask upon what research it is based.

I want to take on reminding policy makers that a test score is simply that: a test score. I want to take on reminding them that the goal of education is bigger than making someone college or career ready. Education is about teaching children so that they can become all they can be. It’s about teaching children so that they will someday become the active successful participants this democracy desperately needs them to be; so that they might become the creative, compassionate, caring contributors this society hopes they will be.

This Lent, I want to give up pessimism and take on optimism; I want to give up fear and take on hope. I want to look at each child in each class I teach as that kid who wants to be his best but just might be too hungry or too scared or too beaten by life to know how to get there and see not a sullen face, but one that if I can teach him to take on, rather than give up, will find that spring is full of hope, indeed.

#noticeandnote Jan 31 Chat Preview

As we — Bob Probst and I — get ready for tonight’s chat (Thursday, Jan 31, 8 EST), we thought we’d take some space we have here but wouldn’t have on Twitter, to talk a little about our goals for tonight.

We’re excited to have a conversation tonight about close reading, about the role of fiction in a time when many encourage more and more NF, about what it means to foster engagement, and what rigor in a classroom is all about.  These are all things the two of us thought a lot about as we wrote our new book, Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading.

Now we want to hear from you about those topics.  And, we’re happy to answer questions you might have about any of the new strategies we present in the book.

If you’re new to Twitter chats (as is Bob.  I’ve been explaining today — see the photo — that he really doesn’t need his microphone), then give this new way to be a part of a national conversation a try.  Go to and in the search box at the top of the page, enter noticeandnote.  Normally you’d need to enter the hashtag (#) first, but at this site, it’s already there for you. If you don’t have a Twitter account, this will still let you read what others are saying.  If you want to join in (and we hope you do!) then you’ll need to sign in at with your account to participate.  And you can of course join in from your own Twitter page, just be sure and use the hashtag (#) before the name of the chat: #noticeandnote.  Everything will begin promptly at 8 pm EST.

So, thanks to Vicki Boyd at Heinemann for moderating tonight. And more importantly, thanks to you, for thinking carefully about how we help all our students become close readers and then sharing your thoughts with us this evening.