Harmonized Instruction

September 2015 Newsletter

From the Desk of Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

Dear Educator,

Happy September! I am sure that most educators are feeling like there is so much to do and so little time. It can be a daunting feeling. Teddy Roosevelt once said ""Believe you can & you're half way there." Teachers, believe that you and your students can accomplish all those goals you have in mind and you're halfway there. Enjoy this year's journey!


Happy Teaching,


Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

Fall 2015 Workshops

Essentials of Rigor Series Workshops

San Antonio, TX

Region 20 Service Center


In partnership with Dr. Robert J. Marzano, Learning Sciences International researchers have identified the essential classroom instructional strategies most effective
for developing higher-order thinking skills, such as analysis, reasoning, hypothesis generation and testing, and decision-making. These strategies move instruction toward
a learner-centered pedagogy, where students have increased autonomy and responsibility for their own learning.


Teaching Foundations-October 16, 2015/Region 20 Service Center

In Teaching Foundations, teachers will learn to construct and implement instructional strategies that help students build foundations when learning new grade-level specific TEKS content. Highly effective strategies, such as identifying critical content, previewing new knowledge and skills, processing content, organizing students to interact with new concepts and skills, elaborating on content and recording and representing new learning will be modeled and recommended for use when introducing new content to students. Teachers will have the opportunity to strengthen the instructional strategies they currently utilize by practicing intentional planning to monitor for evidence of the desired result. Click here to register


Monitoring for Learning- December 10, 2015 / Region 20 Service Center


In a TEKS-based classroom, teachers need to continuously check where students are in their learning. In Monitoring for Learning, participants learn how to build monitoring into their lessons to determine who is cognitively engaged and who is simply being compliant. This hands-on session gives teachers techniques, tools, and resources to observe, collect, and use formative data to assess learning during a lesson, develop and use assessment tasks in each lesson and adapt instruction based on timely student evidence. More information click here!

The Importance of Teaching Genre Knowledge

The reading and writing standards call for students to think and understand author's craft when reading texts in a given genre. Here are a few ways you can help your students develop a deep understanding of the demands of each genre.


When teaching reading and writing, start by having students explore the genre and then teach the genre characteristics. Proficient readers use genre knowledge to make predictions, ask questions, summarize, and dig deeper into the meaning.

Here are 3 ideas on how to immerse students in a particular genre.


1. Start with Immersion-Do a Book Flood

Before providing explicit instruction on the genre, gather texts within the genre of study. Allow students to browse books to answer the question "What is the genre?" Have students locate similarities, differences, and make inferences about characteristics of the genre. Make sure students can explain how the texts in this genre are different from texts in other genres. Also be sure to provide a variety of forms within each genre (i.e. newspaper, article, song, email, blog post) for students to explore.


2. Create Genre Anchor Charts

Create an anchor chart to "anchor" student's knowledge about the elements and text structures of the genre being studied. On the anchor chart, help students to generate a definition of the genre and list the elements. Ask students to provide examples and non-examples.


To read more, click here!

Three "Must Have" Anchor Charts for ELAR

1. Classroom Literacy Routines


The beginning of the year is almost always focused on classroom routines and developing positive and orderly environments. Literacy routines are no different. Give students explicit instructions, modeling, and practice time for each literacy behavior to ensure students get the practice they need. With your students, create and post an anchor chart for each literacy routine so students have explicit instructions for how to perform the desired routine.


2. Genre Anchors


Proficient readers use genre knowledge to comprehend, think about author's craft, and make connections-especially in complex texts. With your students, create anchor charts as you introduce and teach a genre. Keep the posters up through the year as reference tools for your students to use as they read and think about texts.


3. Comprehension Strategies


Setting a purpose, connecting, monitoring comprehension, asking questions, making inferences, and summarizing are all essential to developing meta-cognition as we read texts of any kind. With your students, create and post an anchor chart for each reading skill or strategy to "anchor" their learning in each strategy. Give explicit guidelines as to what the strategy is, what it looks like, and examples of how to use that strategy well.

What Message Are We Sending to Parents?

One evening last week, my next door neighbor asked if he could talk to me about his daughter's reading problem. His daughter is in first grade and two and half weeks into the year, he has determined that she has a reading problem. He sat down our table holding an "I Can Read Level 1- Fancy Nancy" book. He explained that he asked her teacher what she should be reading at night. Her teacher told him to get some "level one" books for her. He went to Half-Price Books and purchased all the "I Can Read" books they had. Unfortunately, reading time became torture time. Each night for the past week they have battled over her reading. He said "she doesn't know many of the words and hates to read." He asked how to coach his daughter to sound out words like "sometimes." With a sigh of frustration, he asked where he could get help and what kind of questions he should be asking the teacher.


Looking at the text he was holding, I assured him that most first graders could not read that book at the beginning of the year. I went to my bookshelves and pulled off the correct leveled texts and sent him home with them, as well as some activities and questions for before, during, and after reading.


We all aspire to have parents who work with their children at home on academic material. Many parents, like my neighbor, are eager to work with their children outside of school, but do not know how or what to do. It's our job as educators to give parents feedback on their child's performance and follow that up with specific ways to practice at home. Here are 5 things to establish with parents early on.


1. Make Sure Students Take Home "Just Right" Books

Make sure that students go home with books at their independent level. Taking home a difficult text causes unnecessary stress and frustration. Teach students what makes a book too hard or too easy. Children will not fall in love with reading if they are not successful. Give parents guidelines to determine whether a text is appropriate or not. Tell them that If there are more than one or two words per page that are not known, the book is too hard.


To read more, click here!


Need a beginning of year letter to send home to parents about their child's reading? Click here and us ours!