The Book Fort

Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation

Welcome to The Book Fort! Vol. 1 Issue 9

In an effort to systematically study relevant research and stay connected to the teachers I greatly respect and with whom I have worked for years to successfully implement independent reading, this newsletter came about. It will offer research and practical ideas for quick implementation and may prompt further discussion or study with your colleagues. I hope you'll find it useful and thought-provoking; I also hope you will stay in touch if you implement any of the ideas with your students. They are, after all, why I do what I do!


Missed previous issues? Find them below:

Issue 1 Issue 2 Issue 3 Issue 4 Issue 5 Issue 6 Issue 7 Issue 8

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Week Nine: More Learning, Less Stress

Dave Stuart, Jr. is a recovering self-professed standards avoider. Prior to Common Core Standards Initiative, he declared standards " codified wishlists created by committees." They certainly didn't feel like living documents to most teachers and students before the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were adopted by states and deconstructed by teachers. Stuart had a change of heart, however, when he began to work with the new standards himself. He realized that there were really just a few core standards that we need to deeply teach and that the standards as a whole had enduring skills in mind, which he called a vast improvement on what was out there before.


Stuart's weekly newsletter and instructional resources are amazingly practical and free for everyone to use as they will. He decided not to freak out about the CCSS, but to get smart about how he taught them. All teachers can appreciate getting more bang for their instructional bucks. "More Learning, Less Stress" is a mantra we can all get behind.


The strategies that follow come from Dave Stuart, Jr. and originate from his blogs and newsletters. His work can be found in the following places:



Practical Applications

Reading Strategy: Read Purposefully and Often

In the e-book, These Five Things All Year Long, Stuart outlines a possible plan for ensuring that students read books they choose, districts choose, and teachers choose. Ideally, students will read in all subject-areas, but we know that starting in the ELA classroom we must provide lots of opportunities for students to read and interact purposefully with lots of different types of texts at various levels of complexity to best assist them in growing as proficient readers.


Here are two valuable tips from section II, "Read Purposefully and Often":


  • Don't over-scaffold: make sure not to spend more time preparing supports for the complex texts you are teaching than students will spend working with the texts. Tap into existing knowledge and skills first by pre-assessing informally and building on what students can already do well instead of assuming they are all going to struggle with complex text.
  • Take the shortest and most effective route to meeting an objective: Mike Schmoker's graphic (pictured below) is used to illustrate the instructional "sweetspot" that we need to hit so we don't waste valuable instructional time in teaching complex texts.

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Writing Strategy: Two Paragraph Composition

In section III, "Write Purposefully and Often", Stuart shares that he is a "big fan" of the two paragraph composition (Graff & Birkenstein) to support students in becoming more adept at argumentation and to encourage more purposeful writing more often. The template is below and there are several blog posts outlining how Stuart uses this technique with his 9th grade students. Check out this post for more information; one of the templates is provided for you below.
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Speaking Strategy: Pop-Up Debate

Pop-Up Debate is how I was introduced to Dave Stuart Jr. Knowing the importance of argument, I was always looking for new ways to encourage authentic voice and better writing. I used Socratic circles to encourage the broadening of perspectives and improved speaking skills, but Pop-Up Debate is a great way to use current events and informational text to do the same thing. He offers a downloadable guide that you can purchase for as little as $1 if that is all you have to give. Here is his overview of the strategy that he shares with students:


Pop-Up Debate is a method for managing and facilitating in-class debates; it is easily modifiable for other speaking scenarios, such as discussions or toasts.

Here's Pop-Up Debate:

  • Students use assigned text(s), logic, and/or course content to respond to a debatable prompt and their peers' arguments using the rules below.
  • Every student speaks 1+ times, depending on time constraints. These times limits are set by the teacher.
  • To speak, students simply "pop up" at their seats and talk. First person to speak has the floor. When multiple students pop up, teach them to politely yield the floor. Argument is a collaborative endeavor, and collaboration isn't a pointed finger and, "Sit down, I was up first.

More about classroom management considerations for this can be found here.

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Rhetoric Guide

Check out Richard Hoberg's graphic guide to the Analysis of Rhetoric! Star Trek themed, this tool was developed for his AP Language and Composition students in Fargo, ND, and is now listed on Teachers Pay Teachers as a free download. He is working on more instructional resources, so stay tuned!
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MindShift: How we will learn.

MindShift is an educational site that features articles, podcasts, and instructional ideas that will improve the quality of education. Following them on social media @MindShiftKQED is a great way to be regularly inspired to think deeply about your practices and methods while gaining new ideas to actively engage students in all disciplines.
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What Kids are Reading

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