Literally Speaking

Winter 2019

Free Professional Development Webinars

Webinars are a great way to gain professional development without the need for a substitute or a purchase order! The district offers teachers the opportunity to view webinars on choice PD days, so if you are not already committed to attending or presenting at a session, a webinar could be just what you are looking for.

New Book by Jennifer Serravallo

Understanding Texts & Readers: Responsive Comprehension Instruction with Leveled Texts is Jennifer Serravallo’s latest book. In this book, she helps teachers make sense of comprehension.


Serravallo discusses the many threads of comprehension such as levels, engagement, stamina, and the relevance of texts. Then level by level she explains how plot, setting, character, vocabulary, and themes change in fiction across the levels in fiction. In nonfiction, she specifies how the complexity of main idea, key details, vocabulary, and text features increase in nonfiction. There are even sample student responses to texts.


Developing an understanding of text characteristics offers a crucial context for understanding what to expect of readers. To determine whether students “get it,” we have to know what “it” is. Also, understanding subtle shifts and increases in demands from level to level is helpful for a teacher to know what readers are encountering in texts.

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The Power of Turn and Talk

Turn and Talk is an instructional strategy that permits all students to participate in discussion, rather than only a few students participating in a class-wide discussion. All students are able to process new learning while engaged in meaningful conversation with a classmate.


Research has confirmed the value of dialogue as a key to understanding content. The capacity to engage in a conversation is directly linked to academic success. During Turn and Talk, students learn to talk as well as listen to each other. It allows discussion that involves all students rather than just a few. Students are more willing to share with the class if they have ‘practiced’ with their partner during a Turn and Talk.


Here’s how to get the most from this strategy:

  • Explain why this activity is important to them for more buy-in and better participation

  • Set up the pairs ahead of time and assign a title such as Partner A and Partner B to ensure equal participation

  • Ask specific questions to give direction to the conversations and ensure quality conversations

  • Circulate and listen to conversations as a formative assessment and to keep conversations on track

  • Debrief after pairs discuss by asking a few to share with the class


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