What's the Word?

Literacy Team Newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 4 June 2016

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Have a wonderful summer!

You've worked hard all year and soon school will be out. But we know teachers don't really take the summer off. You might be pursuing professional learning, reading books related to your teaching, or re-designing units of study. Still, we hope you take some time for yourself to relax and recharge. And we look forward to working with you next year!

The Oakland Schools Literacy Team

Pre-K & K-3 Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy

If you haven't seen the Essential Instructional Practices in Literacy for Pre-K and K-3, please take time to review the these documents. They identify ten research supported practices recommended for use every day in every classroom.

The purpose of the essential practices documents is to increase Michigan’s capacity to improve children’s literacy by identifying a small set of research-supported literacy instructional practices that could be a focus of professional development throughout the state. The focus of the documents is on classroom practices, rather than on school- or systems-level practices. The practices can be used within a variety of overall approaches to literacy instruction and within many different structures of the school day; the documents do not specify one particular program or approach to literacy instruction.

SAT Statewide Task Force

In June of 2015, a statewide collaborative was formed consisting of ISD consultants, the MAISA General Education Leadership Network, Math and Science Center consultants, and the College Board. Across this year, the group has been worked to curate and develop useful resources for educators as they prepare students for the SAT. Many resources are currently available on the GELN website. Additional resources will be available in the coming months, so we encourage you to re-visit the website often. Questions can also be directed to Literacy Consultant Susan Golab

M-STEP & SAT in or out for 2017?

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), making it federal law. As the regulatory agency for ESSA, the U.S. Department of Education is currently in the rule making process that will lead to the adoption of federal regulations. State and local agencies also make their own “rules” regarding how the law will be implemented at the state and local levels. Much is still evolving around how the law will be interpreted in our state and local contexts. For a deeper dig on what ESSA could mean to statewide assessments, visit the Literacy Consortium page of our website and explore the ESSA resources from the May meeting.

4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing Announces Presenters & Graduate Credit

The 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing just announced a stellar line up of keynotes and special invited guests from universities across the country. Visit the conference website to learn about the sessions being offered. Registration is free!

And now you can earn graduate credit from the University of Michigan School of Education for attending 10 or more sessions. SCECHs are available too.

When: October 2, 9, 16 & 23 from 1:30-10 pm

Partners: Oakland Schools, UM School of Education & the National Writing Project

Contact: Delia DeCourcy


Writing Essentials: Grades 3-5 & K-2

This series introduces teachers to the classroom cultures and instructional practices that research suggests are critical to nurturing and developing thoughtful, motivated, and proficient writers. This in-depth study designed increases pedagogical content knowledge of teaching writing to K-5th grade students and helps teachers better incorporate the Common Core Standards into Language Arts instruction.

Dates: Grades 3-5 (August 16-18, 2016); Grades K-2 (June 20-23, 2017)

Presenter: Dr. Sandy Biondo

Contact: Michele Farah, PhD

Register Now!

Grades 3-5

Grades K-2 - Registration coming soon.

Writing Pathways: K-5

This two-day series introduces teachers to Lucy Calkins’ book, Writing Pathways, Grades K-8 Performance Assessments and Learning Progressions. Designed as an instructional tool, Writing Pathways will help teachers provide students with continuous assessment, timely feedback, and clear goals. Organized around a K-8 continuum of learning progressions for opinion/argument, information, and narrative writing, this practical guide includes performance assessments, student checklists, rubrics, and leveled writing exemplars that help teachers and students evaluate work and establish where they are in their writing development.

The book Writing Pathways, Grades K-8 Performance Assessments and Learning Progressions is required for this course.

Audience: K-5 teachers

Date & Time: 2 Sessions, Grades K-2 and Grades 3-5: August and November 2016

Presenters: Michele Farah, PhD, and Sandra Biondo, PhD,

Contact: Michele Farah

Register Now!

Grades K-2 or Grades 3-5

Literacy Summer Academy- Emergent Literacy for Significant Disabilities

This week-long course focuses on emergent literacy development for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Participants will learn how students, including those with significant disabilities, become emergent readers and writers. The scope of the week will include early symbolic communication, core vocabulary, as well as emergent reading and writing strategies. One and a half days will be devoted to conventional literacy content. A one-day follow up for all those that have attended any summer literacy academy will be offered in October 2016.

Audience: teachers of students with IEPs taking the MI Alternate Assessment

Dates: August 1-5, 2016

Presenters: Dr. Karen Erickson and Dr. David Koppenhaver

Contacts: Colleen Meszler and Diane Fekete


AARI Summer Institute

AARI is an accelerated expository reading initiative focused on academic literacy and critical thinking, designed as a short term intervention to drastically improve academic outcomes in students in grades 3-12. Educators new to AARI must attend the Summer Institute.

Audience: ELA teachers grades 3-12

Dates: August 1-5, 8, 9, 2016 9am-3pm

Contacts: Jill Jessen-Maneice, Dalyce DePauw-Beegle


Advanced AARI EdCamp

Learn what's new in the AARI professional community and continue growing your practice with Advanced AARI EdCamp.

Audience: educators who have attended the AARI Summer Institute (see above)

Dates: August 10-11, 2016 9am-3pm

Contacts: Jill Jessen-Maneice, Dalyce DePauw-Beegle


Enbrighten Series: Scaffolding Student Thinking

As featured in Ron Ritchhart’s latest book, Creating Cultures of Thinking, Enbrighten is a framework for scaffolding student thinking and dialogue in any classroom environment using narrative and informational text in grades 2-12. Learn how to develop student engagement, reading comprehension, critical thinking, listening and speaking skills in a collaborative culture of thinking. Follow #enbrighten and join the conversation!

Audience: teachers grades 2-12 in all content areas

Dates & Times: 4 part series

  • August 10, 2016 (11:00 am – 3:15 pm)
  • October 24, 2016 (4:30-7:30 pm)
  • December 1, 2016 (4:30-7:30 pm)
  • March 21, 2017 (4:30-7:30 pm)

Presenter(s): Julie Rains and Erika Lusky

Contact: Angela Emig


Writing Growth & Progress: Basics & Beyond

Dr. Janet Sturm and Dr. Gary Troia bring research on writing development and strategies across the age span (K -12th grade) to all teachers of writing. Content includes evidence-based instructional practices, specialized instruction for intervention, and specialized core instruction for students with IEPs taught to alternate standards.

Audience: teachers of grades k-12
Dates: Participants will attend both BASICS sessions and select one or both of the BEYOND sessions according to their student and learning needs.
-BASICS Sessions: August 15-16, 2016 (all day)
-BEYOND Sessions: September 22, 2016 (all day with Dr. Janet Sturm), November 3, 2016 (all day with Dr. Gary Troia)
Contact: Angela Emig


Teaching with Testimony Across the Curriculum

This professional development opportunity in partnership with the USC Shoah Foundation – the Institute for Visual History and Education. Workshop participants will learn to teach with visual history to enhance students’ learning of the past.

Audience: Secondary Teachers of History/Social Studies, ELA, Media Studies

Date and Time: August 15, 16 and 17 (8:30am – 3pm)

Location: The Holocaust Museum, Farmington Hills, MI

Contact: Amy Bloom, Social Studies Consultant


Reading Strategies for Special Educators

Learn the foundations of reading development for each of the five big ideas of beginning reading (phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension). Practice with strategies and interventions for each of the big ideas are incorporated into each session.

Dates and Times:

  • Face to Face Series: August 16 – 18, 2016 (all day), September 28, 2016 (evening), and November 9, 2016 (evening)
  • Web-Based Course: July 1, 2016 – May 1, 2017

Presenter: Lara MacQuarrie

Contact: Lara MacQuarrie and Angela Emig


Teaching AAC & Language: Foundational Training

This is a one-day foundational learning opportunity for educators supporting the language and literacy skills of students with complex communication needs who require Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC). The focus is on building shared knowledge in AAC and language. Topics include: Communication Mindset, Core Vocabulary, Aided Language Input, Vocabulary Instruction, and Communication Opportunities.

Audience: teachers of students requiring AAC

Dates: August 22, 2016

Presenters: Oakland Schools AAC Team

Contact: Angela Emig


NEW! Approaches to Content Area Literacy

If you're interested in familiarizing yourself–or maybe re-familiarizing yourself–with some of the basic ideas and elements of metacognition as it relates to literacy and learning about effective ways to help your students read more carefully and process the content in your subject area, these modules are for you. They introduce key ideas, terms, and habits of mind that are essential to understanding how metacognition works, as well as how to help your students with apprenticeship–the practice of increasing their comprehension and engaging in discourse about important readings in your discipline.

Audience: Teachers of grades 6-12 in any content area

Format: self-paced, online modules; to be used individually or with PLCs, departments or teams.
SCECHs: 10
Contact: Delia DeCourcy

Learn More & Register

Introduction to Formative Assessment

In this course you will learn about:

  • the five strategies of formative assessment,
  • clarifying and sharing learning intentions,
  • providing effective feedback to students,
  • engineering effective discussions and tasks,
  • activating students as learning resources for one another, and
  • activating students as owners of their own learning.

Audience: teachers of all grades and subject areas
Format: self-paced online modules; to be used individually or with PLCs, departments or teams.


Contact: Les Howard

Learn More & Register

Foundations of Teaching Argument

If you are interested in familiarizing yourself with the basic ideas and elements of argumentation and argument writing and learning about effective ways to introduce your students to argument-focused thinking and writing, this virtual learning experience is for you! This “Foundations” course is designed to introduce key ideas, terms, and habits of mind that are essential to understanding how arguments work, as well as how constructing and analyzing arguments can benefit your students’ learning.

Audience: teachers of ELA, science and social studies, grades 6-12

Format: self-paced online modules; to be used individually or with PLCs, departments or teams.


Contact: Delia DeCourcy

Learn More & Register

Oakland Writing Project Book Study

On May 7th, the Oakland Writing Project launched its first blended learning book study. A group will be focusing on Geneva Gays’ Culturally Responsive Teaching. For more details about the OWP and the book study, please visit our webpage.


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Short Story Collection Recommended by Delia DeCourcy, Secondary Literacy Consultant

This Is Not Your City by Caitlin Horrocks

Michigan writer Caitlin Horrocks, who teaches at Grand Valley State University, gives us a collection of exquisitely crafted stories. While the topics of the stories range from childhood bonds to Somali pirates to a Russian mail-order bride, they all put the beauty and cruelty of life under a microscope so we can't look away. At times painful and other times funny, the collection drops the reader into numerous unusual settings and follows characters we may or may not like but can't help but be intrigued by.

Read an excerpt here.

Article Recommended by Colleen Meszler, Special Education Consultant

Training by Repetition Actually Prevents Learning for Those with Autism

This article challenges literacy programs that focus on repetition and drills because they don't teach students with ASD to generalize and apply the knowledge to learn in other contexts. The findings support the practice of offering meaningful, daily, comprehensive literacy instruction that provides students with plenty of repetition but also the variety to teach generalization.

Oakland Schools' Early Childhood Guide to Summer Services

Do you know about the Oakland Schools Early Childhood Guide to Summer Services? If you have parents asking you for community resources, summer camps and recreational activities to support their young children, this is a wonderful resource. Many of the resources are appropriate for children beyond preschool and early elementary age.

Contact: Jean Jocque

Camp ALEC- AAC Literacy Education Communication

If you are a special educator working with students with significant disabilities who are struggling to read, parents of your students may be interested in a week-long sleepover camp that is geared toward children with physical disabilities who use augmentative/ alternative communication (AAC). Camp ALEC- AAC Literacy Education Communication runs August 14-20, 2016 in Grand Rapids, MI.

Contact: Colleen Meszler


Dalyce Beegle,Special Education Consultant

Delia DeCourcy, Secondary Literacy Consultant

Michele Farah, Elementary Literacy Consultant

Susan Golab, Secondary Literacy Consultant

Les Howard, Elementary Literacy Consultant

Diane Katakowski, Speech and Language Consultant

Jill Jessen-Maneice, AARI Consultant

Colleen Meszler, Special Education Consultant

Deb O'Neill, Special Education Supervisor

Suzanne Toohey, ESL Consultant