Reading@UVA News

October 2019

Connecting Teachers and Literacy Leaders to Reading Education at UVA through Professional Development Outreach and Online Courses.

Newsletter Contents:

  • Upcoming Dates of Note
  • From the Reading Coach's Toolbox
  • Professional Learning Opportunities
  • News From the Field
  • Books We Love
  • We Want to Hear From You!

Upcoming Dates of Note

  • February 10 - March 13, 2020: Spring 2020 Dyslexia Course (1 credit, Online)
  • February 27, 2020: Graham Lecture with Dr. Nicole Patton Terry
  • January 13 - February 28, 2020: EDNC 4501 Literacy Academy ONLINE open-enrollment course

From the Reading Coach's Toolbox: Super Sentences

To really understand the meaning of a new word, students need to have opportunities to participate in interactive word-learning activities that allow them to try out the meanings of new words in different contexts. It’s not enough to assume that if a student can match a word to its definition, the student has acquired the word’s meaning. To really understand the meaning of a word, an assortment of contexts is needed, plus multiple exposures over time.

WHAT are Super Sentences?

Super Sentences is a strategy to help students construct a new sentence-level context when writing about their vocabulary words and deepen understanding of new words after reading.

WHY write Super Sentences?

Writing a super sentence demonstrates a student’s ability to use new academic words in different contexts. Super sentences require students to be selective, determining which are the most important details about the target word. This strategy is an alternative to the ubiquitous practice of looking up definitions and writing them down, rather, it ensures that students know the meanings of words.

WHO will benefit from Super Sentences?

Students in grades 4-12 working with Tier 3 content area vocabulary.

HOW do I teach Super Sentences?

Students create a semantic web or graphic organizer to plan a sentence. The target word is in the center, and the spokes are the journalistic questions that can be used to put the word into a meaningful context: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Students consider all of the possibilities and then use at least three to write a sentence using the target word that contains more than one clause. The target word can be used in any part of speech, and the sentence can be written in any syntactic structure. A good super sentence nearly always has more than one clause.

See the example below of a semantic web used to plan a super sentence about the word influenza. The students are reading a book about the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Big picture

Here’s an example: “The influenza pandemic that occurred from fall 1918 to early 1920 was unusually deadly, due to the severe symptoms that affected both the strong and the weak.” Students can select different details from the same semantic web to write more than one super sentence, increasing variety in meaning and sentence structure. Here’s another example, derived from the same web: “Because influenza is an airborne virus, people who displayed symptoms had to remain in quarantine.”

WHERE Can I Learn More?

Check out Differentiated Literacy Instruction in Grades 4 & 5 by Walpole, McKenna, Philippakos and Strong for more strategies and resources.

Professional Learning Opportunities

Literacy Academy for Teachers of Struggling Readers

These four-day non-credit academies are designed for teachers of all grade levels who teach reading. Topics include an overview of literacy development, characteristics of each developmental stage, using assessment to guide instruction, phonemic awareness and phonics, word study instruction, strategies to build vocabulary and comprehension, and connecting writing to the literacy curriculum. The academy was first offered through Reading First in Virginia. Now it is available through school district contracts.

Noncredit: 30 hours for successful completion on your UVA transcript

If you are interested in learning more or arranging for an Academy in your district/school, contact Susan Thacker-Gwaltney at

Literacy Academy ONLINE (EDNC 4501): If you are interested in signing up for an online open-enrollment section of the Literacy Academy, visit our website and click HOW TO REGISTER.

EDIS 5235: Dyslexia and the Classroom (One-Credit, Web-Based Course)

This one-hour course is designed to acquaint classroom teachers with the current research on reading development and dyslexia, the occurrence of dyslexia in classrooms, and the type of instruction needed to support reading development. Students in this course will examine the causes and consequences of reading disabilities as well as explore effective interventions. Participants will complete the VDOE Dyslexia Awareness module as part of the course and earn thirty points toward recertification.

Participants will complete five online modules with instructor feedback and support and should expect to spend approximately six hours per module to complete readings, exercises and activities, and online discussion forums.

One participant wrote: “Based on our readings, it seems that there is no program that works for everyone. I guess the trick is identifying a student's weaknesses, providing systematic instruction, and ensuring that the student is making progress.

Dates: 2/10/20 - 3/13/20

Cost: $400

To register for a course, click here.

Questions? Contact Ottilie Austin at

Spring 2020 Course Offerings

Registration opens on October 30th (returning students) and November 30th (new students). All are three credits unless otherwise noted. Visit UVA's website to enroll HERE.

  • EDIS 7700 Foundations of Reading Instruction
  • EDIS 7710 Reading in the Content Areas
  • EDIS 7720 Word Study
  • EDIS 7310 Children's Literature
  • EDIS 5410 Young Adult Literature
  • EDIS 5435 Writing Across the Curriculum
  • EDIS 5235 (one credit) Dyslexia and the Classroom
  • EDIS 5270 Teaching Reading & Writing to ELLs
  • EDIS 5740 Diagnosis and Remediation, Part II

News From the Field

Henrico County Public Schools - M.Ed. Reading Cohort

The summer clinical practicum in Richmond is a unique partnership model between St. Christopher’s School, The Peter Paul Development Center, and UVA’s graduate education program that supports struggling readers while training future reading specialists. The three partners join together every summer in July to share resources including time, talent, space, and materials to support the literacy development of our youth in our community. The young students continue to learn during the summer with individual intervention and remediation in a fun, nurturing environment. The graduate students are supported in a supervised clinical setting, building expertise, confidence, and competence as reading specialists in a collaborative setting. This unique partnership between a university, a school, and an urban community center not only promotes literacy, it also fosters collegiality, builds relationships, and nurtures understanding among the stakeholders — everyone benefits!

Books We're Reading

Ready for some back to school learning! What books are you using for professional study at your school? Contact us if you'd like to make recommendations for a future newsletter!

We Want to Hear From YOU!

In upcoming issues of our newsletter you will see a new feature: Say what you mean, Mean what you say. This piece will address topics and reading terms that are widely used (and sometimes misused) by educators and policymakers. Reading@UVA invites our readers to submit their suggestions for commonly used terms, practices, and approaches that you would like to see defined or clarified. Are you interested in learning more about the difference between balanced literacy vs. structured literacy? Want to know more about diversity and equity? Wondering about rapid naming speed or dyslexia?

Click HERE to send us your comments and ideas or make suggestions for our future issues.


We love to hear news from our alums and training participants. Let us know how you are doing!

Interested in PD options for teachers at your school?

Want to bring a reading or writing course to your school/district?

Want to discuss effective literacy coaching for your school/district?

Visit our website HERE.

Contact us today!