February 2020 Vol. 23


February is Black History Month, where we pay proper attention to the members of the African American community who have impacted our American history and culture. February lends itself to really dive in beyond the common historical figures with which we are familiar. This month's Literacy Newsletter will serve as a resource on how to incorporate the voices and experiences of African Americans in our everyday classroom content and experiences!

Check out the link to see IDOE employees talk about their favorite books that highlight the African American experience in America!

IDOE Disciplinary Literacy Book Study! Sign-up Now!

It's not too late to join our book study where we are reading The Writing Revolution (TWR) by the well-respected researchers, Judith C. Hochman and Natalie Wexler. The first reading and assignment was due on Friday, January 31, but you can still catch up as all modules will be open throughout the course.

TWR introduces a revolutionary way of explicitly and systematically integrating evidenced-based writing strategies that apply to all K-12 subject areas. IDOE's Literacy Team will facilitate all participants through how to teach and use accessible strategies to train students to write a single sentence through the development of multiple paragraph essays.

Teachers who participate will have opportunities to read, create, and collaborate with fellow educators of all disciplines from across the state of Indiana with the common goal of improving writing instruction for all students! All participants will earn PGPs upon completion of the book study.

How to set up an account on Moodle.

Access Moodle here.

Enrollment code: TWR2020

Literacy Updates from IDOE

Literacy Framework

The Literacy Framework is a tool you can use to curriculum map and plan for this upcoming school year. Does your school utilize a curriculum map, scope and sequence, or pacing guide? Use the Literacy Framework to dive into each standard through "I can" statements, question stems, practical examples, and digital resources!

Have special requests for support? Feel free to reach out to us at any time. That's what we are here for!

Ideas and Insight

Black History in Literacy

Classroom Environment

Making sure that a classroom is a comfortable and inviting environment for all students is essential to student success both academically and behaviorally. Students need to feel validated in the spaces they spend their time. In order to do this, think about the books on your bookshelves, the posters in your room, and the content you present.

  • Simply choosing culturally responsive texts isn't enough, you also need to have variety on your bookshelves for students to choose from. Here is a great link that includes a bingo scorecard on diverse texts students should see around the room.
  • Consider the decor in your room. Can all students find a piece of themselves? Make sure that images you may have of authors, scientists, historians, etc. represent people from the different racial backgrounds.
  • When providing examples for students to connect to your content, make sure that the examples vary with different racial backgrounds. Evaluate the names you use in word problems, images you include in digital presentations, authors you quote, etc.

Text Choice

Deciding on a mentor text to use in the classroom can be very challenging since there are so many options! We often times fall back on using the "classics" to guide our instruction; however, those books became classics when there were obstacles in the way of accepting and promoting work by people of color.

  • You may have to change your mentor texts annually to respond to your student population.
  • Choose stories that highlight African Americans outside the common stories of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, or as an athlete.
  • Choose texts that will lend themselves to conversations with your students about issues regarding race that are still present in their lives today.
  • Reference this list of contemporary books written by Black authors to consider diversifying your curriculum map.


Here is a great resource from Tolerance.org that will help decide the best ways to incorporate Black History Month in your classroom!

African American Authors Spotlight

Elementary Author: Whitney Geathers

Whitney grew up in Florida and graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Elementary Education. She was inspired to write her first book when she was expecting her first child. Whitney wanted to ensure that there were books available to her daughter that represented her. Whitney writes with the goal of inspiring people to be their best self!

Secondary Author: Jason Reynolds

Growing up in Maryland Jason never felt connected to books. He had a passion for rap music which led him to begin writing poetry. By the age of 17, Jason had never read an entire book from cover to cover. He now says that was because there wasn't any literature with which he was able to connect. Now, twenty years later, he is a best selling author of stories that represent the modern experience for young people of color living in the United States. Jason was just awarded the title of National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress.

Book Suggestions

Educator Opportunities to Check Out!

Indiana Council of Teachers of English (ICTE)

The Indiana Council for Teachers of English is hosting their annual conference on March 21. Check out this link for more information!
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Indiana State Museum

The Indiana State Museum offers free field trips to schools! Come check out the upcoming exhibit starting February 1 that explores the opioid crisis in the United States. There are lots of interactive activities to help inform students on the brain chemistry that leads to addiction and personal stories to help end the stigma of addiction.
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Literacy and Tech: Thought of the Month!

Teaching Tolerance

Teaching Tolerance is an organization whose mission is to "help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy." They offer great online resources for incorporating diverse lessons into your classroom!

Connect on Twitter!

It's been reported that over 4 million educators use Twitter for professional conversations. As educators, there is so much we can learn from each other. We invite you to connect with us and each other!

1. Tweet about all things LITERACY using #INspirEDlit

2. Follow the hashtag and connect with other coaches and educators

3. Follow @EducateIN for the latest updates from Indiana Department of Education

4. Follow your IDOE Literacy Team: @RoseTomishima, @KellyKWaller, & @JMRisch1

Literacy's Who To Follow:

Who: Indy Reads

Handle: @indyreads

What: Promoting and improving the literacy of adults and families in Central Indiana

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