What's the Word?

Literacy Team Newsletter, Volume I, Issue 3 April 2015

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Spring Has Sprung!

Greetings from the Oakland Schools Literacy Team. We hope you had a relaxing spring break that allowed you to recharge! The newsletter for this quarter is packed with information about upcoming literacy events and useful resources that will support your teaching this spring. We hope you find these helpful and encourage you to get in touch if you have any questions.


4T Virtual Conference: May 16-18 (free registration & SCECHs)

The 4T Virtual Conference (teachers teaching teachers about technology) is an online opportunity for educators to learn from other educators about effective tech integration. Sessions are 60 minutes in length, and you can pick and choose which webinars you attend. Registration is required but free; SCECHs are available and are free as well. Visit the conference website to register. Sponsored by University of Michigan Schools of Education and Information, Oakland Schools, Livingston Educational Service Agency, and Washtenaw ISD. For more information, contact Delia DeCourcy.

Word Study Work Group

Oakland Schools and about 25 district representatives met last month to begin work on creating recommendations for best practices in word study. The group analyzed information from a recent survey sent out to all Oakland County districts regarding current practices in word study. The next steps are:

  • to create a working definition of word study,
  • to identify effective instructional practices, and
  • to create a scope and sequence for word study instruction.
For more information regarding this work, contact Literacy Consultant Michele Farah.



Integrating Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Secondary Literacy Learning
Facilitator: Professor Liz Kolb, University of Michigan School of Education

Date: Thursday, May 7, 2015 7-8pm (one hour optional follow up discussion)

Format: Webinar

Come learn some easy ways to integrate students’ cell phones, iPods and iPads into literacy learning. Focus will be on tools for collaboration and writing. There are numerous free and freemium resources that teachers can use to connect learning to students' own devices. We’ll explore several tools and the reasons to use or not use them based on curricular context.

MDE’s Low Incidence Outreach office is presenting a session on May 14, 2015 at Oakland Schools on the Unified English Braille (UEB) code. This new braille code will be implemented in the United States on January 4, 2016. The content is appropriate for teachers of students with visual impairments that use braille. More information is available on the MDE Website. For more information and to register, follow this link


Writing Essentials, Grades 3-5
Facilitators: Michele Farah, Ph.D. and Sandy Biondo, Ph.D
Date: June 22-24, 2015
Format: 3 day workshop

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.

The series will be an in-depth study designed to increase teachers' pedagogical content knowledge of teaching writing to 3rd – 5th grade students. This offering will help you be prepared to incorporate the new Common Core Standards into your Language Arts program.



Many of you are already administering the M-STEP test. However, if you would like more resources about M-STEP, they are available on our website. We've included sample test items and a technology readiness checklist, as well as an explanation of student growth percentiles (the method by which students’ results will be compared to one another). The Oakland Schools Literacy Team will offer webinars in the fall on preparing your ELA students for taking the M-STEP test.


Are you a high school teacher or administrator who wants to learn more about the new SAT? The links below will take you to an abundance of information about the test’s structure and items, as well as free SAT prep offered by Khan Academy.


Suggested by Michele Farah, Literacy Consultant

Kylene Beers recently tweeted a must-read research article on student choice and volume of reading. Independent Reading and School Achievement by Bernice E. Cullinan of New York University was published in 2000 in the School Library Media Research Journal and is a great read!

Suggested by Susan Golab, Literacy Consultant

Interested in deepening your understanding and instruction around teaching argument? A great, recently published text is Jennifer Fletcher’s Teaching Arguments: Rhetorical Comprehension, Critique, and Response. Although Fletcher focuses heavily on high school and higher education learners, middle school teachers could find the book useful. Fletcher places audience and purpose front and center in the work of argument and reasoning. Her book helps bring together both the important reading and writing work learners need scaffolded. The book provides key threshold concept understandings for the teaching of argument along with model activities and student artifacts.

Suggested by Colleen Meszler, Special Education Consultant

What Really Matters for Struggling Readers by Richard L. Allington is recommended by two of our highly respected experts in the field of literacy for students with significant disabilities: Dr. David Koppenhaver and Dr. Karen Erickson. Using non-technical summaries, nationally recognized scholar and author Dick Allington delivers a concise and balanced introduction to reading remediation and intervention programs that shows teachers how to use a variety of best practices with children who are struggling readers in order to transform them into proficient readers. This new edition includes new findings on reading achievement and instruction, reading volume as it relates to reading proficiency, reader-text match, fluency development, comprehension strategies, and instruction for struggling readers.


CONSULTANTS' BLOG: Podcast Power by Delia DeCourcy

Interested in using more audio texts in your classroom? Check out these two posts for a plethora of resources on how to teach podcasts and which ones to consider to boost students' speaking, listening and writing skills.

Podcast Power, part 1: Boosting Listening Skills

Podcast Power, part 2: Listening Skills & Curiculum


Adolescent Accelerated Reading Initiative (AARI)

AARI is an accelerated expository reading initiative focused on academic literacy and critical thinking. It is designed as a short term intervention to drastically improve academic outcomes in students in grades 3-12. Please join us for the Summer Institute, which will begin on August 10.

Facilitator: Dalyce Beegle, Special Education Consultant

Format: 7 full days in the summer and 4 after school sessions during the year.


Need a refresher?

If you are an educator that attended AARI training prior to 2013, please join us for the AARI Booster. This is more than a refresher. It's an opportunity to continue your learning and understanding of the initiative to push students' thinking for success.

Facilitator: Dalyce Beegle, Special Education Consultant

Format: Two 2 day sessions, one in the fall and one in the winter

Want more information?:

AARI Booster Summer Session

AARI Booster Fall Session

Archived Webinars: Reading & Writing in Digital Spaces

Oakland Schools Literacy and the Oakland Writing Project have sponsored a new webinar series this year. If you weren't able to attend, you can access archived webinar recordings and materials at the links below.

Small Bites: Research in the K-5 Classroom

Facilitator: Professor Kristin Fontichiaro, University of Michigan School of Information

Small Bites: Research in the 6-12 Classroom

Facilitator: Delia DeCourcy, Secondary Literacy Consultant, Oakland Schools

Digital Technologies and Expectations for Writing in College
Facilitator: Professor Jeff Grabill, Michigan State University

Crafting Writing in an Information Age

Facilitator: Troy Hicks, Central Michigan University

How Student Blogs Support Literacy Learning

Facilitator: Stephanie Dulmage, West Bloomfield School District

Reinventing Classroom Reading: What Digital Media Offer Us

Facilitator: Sara Kajder, University of Georgia

REGISTER for the last webinar in the series: Integrating Bring Your Own Device in Secondary Literacy Learning. This session is FREE. SCECHs are available for Michigan educators who have attended two or more of the two-hour sessions.

The Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM®) Alternate Assessment System Consortium

The Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM®) Alternate Assessment System Consortium offers professional development modules and a virtual community of practice to support educators who teach and assess students participating in the DLM system. Although Michigan has not adopted the DLM as our Alternate Assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities, the modules are a phenomenal resource for educators looking to improve literacy instruction for their students. The modules are available for free on the DLM website.

Michigan State University Young Authors’ Conference (YAC)

Early bird applications are now open for the 2015 June Young Authors’ Conference held on the campus of Michigan State University. YAC is an excellent educational opportunity for ALL students, especially those interested in English, reading, and writing. Participants come from all over Michigan and the Midwest to join the YAC community. Interested in learning more? Visit the YAC website for more details and application process.


Oakland Writing Project Teacher Consultants Involved in National Initiatives

The National Writing Project is completing a second year of study and innovation in its development of The College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP): Teacher Professional Development in Writing and Critical Analysis to Improve Academic Student Writing in Middle and High School, funded through an Investing in Innovation Validation Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This program, focused on argument and informational writing, offers strategically designed, intensive, and sustained professional development, tools, and resources that improve classroom practices for writing instruction and, through enhanced instruction, students’ writing achievement. Ten states and twelve writing projects across the United States are engaged in studying and creating resources that will soon be available for use by other writing projects and schools. OWP teacher consultant Linda Denstaedt is on the CRWP Leadership Team and is working with teachers nationally and in Oakland County as they pilot some of the materials.


Featured Tech Tools

NewsELA has a broad, searchable database of articles, assigns anchor CCSS standards to articles, and allows you to change the Lexile level of articles depending on your students' reading levels. There's also a teacher tool that allows you to select and assign articles to your classes/students. Some articles include reading quizzes. NewsELA has recently added text sets. Free to register and assign articles.

Epic Digital Books is an online resource for free digital books for students in grades K-12. It’s especially useful for elementary readers. With a wide selection of popular titles, Epic can be used on a laptop or iPad.

Flipgrid - With this online tool, teachers create grids of short questions (using text or video) that students respond to through recorded videos. Flipgrid boosts community and social presence in face-to-face, hybrid, and online classrooms. You can also invite people outside your classroom to answer questions relevant to the text that you’re reading or unit you’re studying to bring the real world into your classroom.


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

Colleen Meszler, Special Education Consultant

Deb O'Neill, Special Education Supervisor

Darin Stockdill, Content Literacy Consultant

Oakland Schools

Kimberly Adragna

2111 Pontiac Lake Road

Waterford, MI 48328

(248) 209.2195