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Little Red School House Reading Success Recipes

Posted by on in Literacy
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It seemed so simple back then. One room, a bunch of kids all learning together. Teaching each other. Pretty much the same today, don't you think? Right now, close your eyes, imagine what it would be like to teach in a no tech one room schoolhouse, with kiddos of all ages and stages. We've come a long way. The best is yet to be. 

Tonight I am positive we are turning the corner in American education. In particular, you know I am most concerned about reading and literacy. You are all the tech experts. I still have my mac tutor. But what I know, is reading, so I like to model literacy topics.

For many years I studied champions in all walks of life. I wanted to know how did they get in the flow state, stay in the zone and continually roll like smooth operators in the bigger outside world? By teaching with so many teachers it really improved my practices. And my Spanish, a little. I saw a lot of kids in the flow state. It seems learning states go like this: On task, engaged, flow. Now I see a lot of engaged and flow state kids on Twitter without having to travel. What a gift. 

   I think American educators, really all educators, worldwide are talking about some basic things.

  • Grit and mindsets (resilience and self-esteem?).
  • Importance of play and recess. 
  • Ditch texts or keep?
  • Homework, yay or nay?
  • What about all those darn tests?
  • How to group, re-group & differentiate?
  • Best ways to integrate tech & trad. pedagogy.
  • Catch "gap kids" up in basic skils.
  • Do the mandates, yet keep the creative juices flowing.
  • Keep up with minute-to-minute changes in our fast-paced world.
  • Model the joy of learning, and the love of reading.
  • How to organize a learning setting, for flexible uses.
  • Of course, more. 

I admit. The NAEP reading scores unglued me. I worry about tired teachers, kid-worthy use of instructional time, 113 tests, getting back on track exploring a world of new adventures through reading, a combination of classic and trendy literature and info-text. Balance. 

STEM needs literacy, reading needs to be a a top priority. The hands-on activities, PBL (Project Based Learning), tech projects, makerspaces. I appreciate them all and see their value. However, the basic foundational skills are at the cornerstone of any project. I think that reading is part of literacy, but now believe there can be literacy without reading, and I am so reluctant to see that.

  • Recognizing there are many kids who benefit from a mentor, all K-12 teachers must be reading interventionists. There are kids in every class needing a boost in basic skills. Everybody needs to know how to teach reading, cross content areas. There are reading skills particular to every subect, text or tech.
  • Think about this: How do you model reading & literacy?
  • What is reading, really?
  • What is literacy?
  •  Difference between reading and literacy?

I happen to have a 1936 Readers Digest, featuring an article "Americans Can't Read". Hard to imagine. All the way back then. In 1967 Jeanne Chall wrote "Learning To Read, The Great Debate." 

There so so many more outstanding reading researchers and teachers who told us stories. Time-tested, classroom perfected reading strategies are important to share. That's where Twittter teacher chats, EdCamps and school site PD come together in a seamless effort. My wish is that every teacher determines what PD is wanted and how to acquire it. 

So here's what I think we should consider to replicate the awesome programs going in America's schools right now, especially for reading improvement. All kids can read better, faster and savor reading. All levels.

Here goes:

  • Reading Recovery. Put it back as a intervention and great set of teaching strategies.
  • Increase amount of collegial conversation about best practices, K-12.
  • Give teachers autonomy re program, strategies, assessment and best use of resources.
  • Rethink school-wide reading incentive programs.
  • Do SSR (Sustained Silent reading) or DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) school-wide.
  • Read out loud to your class every day, regardless of grade level. 
  • Give kids time to read, whether graphic novels, any choice selection, at independent level.
  • Have a reading mentor. Share ideas. Co-teach your classes.
  • Invite your Principal, parents and other community members to participate in reading fun!
  • Revisit basic reading skills in phonics, vocabulary, comprehension and practice fluency.
  • Involve parents.

Filling in the gaps: Word Analysis, Vocabulary, Spelling and Fluency

Filling in the gaps: Reading Comprehension- literature and informational text

Filling in the gaps: Literary Response and Analysis

Filling in the gaps: Motivation

Teachers should act as their own informal statisticians and researchers. Nothing is more powerful than teachers posing questions, teaching, coaching one another and sharing best practices, via tech and real-time.

Back in 1960 Russell Stauffer first described directed reading activities, which suggested metacognition, explaining thinking, is vital in explicit strategy instruction. Because of the need for reading intervention for some students today, DRA's are more significant than ever.

We know that skillful readers are very strategic when they read, so we do previewing and overviewing, close reading, summarizing and rehearsing. Teachers who instruct by explaining, then modeling appropriate stragtegies engage in what researcher Pressley termed "transactional strategies instruction" because the strategies highlighted students' relationships and interactions with text.


Fostering the joy of lifelong reading is the heart and soul of every reading program. Great literature connects us with life experiences, interesting characters, places and times. By using a mixture of junior novels with high interest literature, significant literary heritage is continued by a new generation of recreational readers.

Finally, I believe teachers could easily manage that one room school house, pot belly stove and all, as long as their capes don't get too close.


Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita






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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 45 years, Mrs. Wirtz taught language arts, speech and reading at all levels preschool-adult, including penal. She served as Pre-school and K-6 Principal. Rita was also a Curriculum Consultant, ESEA, Title I Program Evaluator and literacy trainer. At the university level she taught school administration in the Bilingual Cohort at CSUS and National University, Sacto. Mrs. Wirtz also taught all reading courses for Chapman University for many years in Sacramento and Placerville, Ca., and mentored student teachers. On the national level she was a well known motivational Keynote Speaker and Seminar Leader. Most importantly, Rita walked the talk, teaching with teachers in more than 500 K-12 and special needs classrooms. Rita authored books, publications and Pre- YouTube, videos were filmed by San Diego County Office of Education. Calif. ASCD authored companion book guides, and Calif. school districts correlated her basic skills instruction with State Standards. Mrs. Wirtz' newest book is Reading Champs! Teaching Reading Made Easy, a review of the basic building blocks of English and Reading. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

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Guest Monday, 24 October 2016