Secondary Reading League

Leaders for Literacy in Grades 6-12

January 2017

Who's your literacy hero?

In 1993 I was a first year teacher trying to figuring out how to teach my sixth grade students. There were two sixth grade teachers in my building and we divided up the teaching duties: I taught the reading, writing, and social studies and the other teacher taught math and science. Like many brand new teachers I relied on what I remembered from high school and junior high, and tried to mesh that with what I had learned in my methods classes. But I just never felt like what I was doing was right.

Somehow, a copy of In the Middle by Nancie Atwell landed in my hands. I have no idea how I learned about it or where I bought it, but I remember reading it for the first time. Nancie's stories of how giving her students choices and honoring their voices changed her teaching opened my eyes to a whole new way of approaching my classes. I became intrigued by this idea of a writing workshop... could I do that in my classes? Could I stop assigning writing and begin teaching the writers sitting in front of me? Could I give up certain elements of control and turn the classroom over to my students? I wish I could say that I jumped right in with both feet and went full on writing workshop for the rest of that year, but I can't. What I did do, though, was start slowly... figuring out where I could build choice in to my writing curriculum.

It took a good 12 years or so and a change of schools, but eventually I got there. I figured out how to make the reading/writing workshop work for my students. I made several stops and starts, and I had to figure out that I could not BE Nancie. I had to make the workshop work for my students and me. I learned the importance of teaching the writers, not the writing, to honor student voices, and allow them choices in as many ways as I can. The growth I see in my students each year blows me away. I know I'm sending them on, not only with a firm foundation as readers and writers, but as people who have found purpose and joy in reading and writing.

Mindi Rench, SRL President

Twitter is not a Technology

"Twitter is not a technology. It's a conversation. And it's happening with or without you."

- @charleneli

At our 40th Day of Reading on November 11th and 12th, the air in the Tinley Park Convention Center was filled with learning and excitement, as it always is at this wonderful event. But this year there was something else in the air! It was the wonderful world of Twitter and the hundreds of Tweets about incredible presenters.

As a council, the Secondary Reading League has been a little slow in getting into the world of technology. Those days are over! With more than 300 new Twitter followers and even more followers on Facebook, SRL is now fully immersed in the technologies of the day.

Below is a taste of the Tweets from the conference using the hashtag #DOR16.

Carolyn Tomecek ‏‪@carolyntomecek Nov 15

Carolyn Tomecek Retweeted Secondary Reading

Had a great time connecting with amazing educators at ‪#DOR16 this year! Thanks, ‪@SecondaryRead!

Alex McMurray ‏‪@fepacommish Nov 12

"It doesn't matter what you grade, or how you grade, if your kids are not writing a lot." ‪#dor16 ‪@KellyGToGo

Mike Melie ‏‪@MrMelieTeach Nov 12

‪@CRushLevine@TrojanPoetryDGN Thanks Christy for live tweets during poetry session this AM! I appreciate you being there to listen‪! #DOR16

Beth Stephens ‏‪@Flamesbooklady Nov 12

AMAZING break-out session ‪@SecondaryRead ‪#DOR16 with ‪@LitologyD155 can't wait to share with the FLAMES

Katie Marie Winstead ‏‪@MrsKWinstead Nov 12

What characters have you connected with? ‪#DOR16 ‪#engchat ‪@jenlynnbarnes

Megan Zylka ‏‪@MsZylka Nov 12

Grading does not make students better. Volume (of writing) makes students better. ‪#DOR16

Jessica Walsh ‏‪@storiestoldinsf Nov 12

Assigning writing is really easy, but teaching writing is really hard. -‪@kellygtogo ‪#DOR16 ‪@SecondaryRead

Miss Appell ‏‪@MissAppellEng Nov 11

Tinley Park, IL

I have learned so much today! My wheels are spinning! I can't wait to share ideas with my colleagues! Thank you! ‪@KellyGToGo ‪#DOR16

Keisha Rembert ‏‪@klrembert Nov 11

Stop looking at punctuation through the lens of correctness, but think how you want it to read aloud. LOVE ‪@kellygtogo ‪@SecondaryRead ‪#DOR16

Let’s keep the conversation about literacy alive! Please follow us on Twitter @SecondaryRead and LIKE our Facebook page at Secondary Reading League.

Mark Levine, President Elect

Book Review: The Big Book Of Details: 46 Moves for Teaching Writers To Elaborate by Rozlyn Linder

As a literacy coach, one of the most frequent questions I received from teachers was how to teach students to elaborate in their writing. We used mentor texts, we used color coding the levels of support, we tried everything we could think of. And we were successful... mostly. Then I discovered The Big Book of Details by Rozlyn Linder (Heinemann, 2016). It was like a dream come true.

This book breaks details down into five different categories, explains the reasons writers use this kind of support, gives mentor text examples from young adult literature, and offers lesson suggestions. As I paged through, I realized that we had been trying to teach elaboration in a general way. We hadn't looked at the specific purpose of the writing in order to match the specific kind of details to the writing our students were doing. It was one of those "duh!" moments for me as a teacher and coach.

The Big Book of Details is an amazing resource for anyone who teaches writing; I used the lessons with my sixth grade striving writers, but it could also be used with high school writers as well. The strength of this book is its simplicity: you can find specific lessons to meet the needs of your unique students and get practical, tested strategies that you can use as is or adjust as needed.

Want to know more? You can see a sample chapter and a video of Rozlyn Linder talking about the book by visiting the Heinemann website here.

Want to win a copy of The Big Book of Details?

The Secondary Reading League is looking for newsletter submissions! Simply submit a newsletter article to and be entered to win a FREE copy of The Big Book of Details. Deadline for entry is February 15, 2017.

Need ideas? Consider writing:

  • a short article about your literacy hero
  • a review of a young adult book
  • a review of a professional book
  • a description of something that's worked in your classroom

We'd love to hear from you!