From the Desk of Kelly Harmon

January 2017 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! We hope 2017 is off to a great start. This month we are providing you with ideas and resources on language and literacy in the early childhood classroom, teaching comprehension strategies, quick parenting tips for literacy at home, and much more! Also, be sure to browse through our Spring/Summer 2017 Workshop schedule.

We would love to help you in any way this new year. Please let us know if there is a topic you would like resources or ideas on in our future newsletters.

We are praying for you to have the best year ever and we hope to help you make that happen!

Happy Teaching,

-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

Genre Knowledge

One of the most frequently asked questions that I get from educators is 'What is the best way to teach my students to read critically?' The answer is complex and deserves a full day, week, or year discussion. The best place to start with your students is to make sure your students use genre knowledge to process texts. Yes, genre knowledge is the foundation of comprehension!

What is Genre?

A genre is a category or subcategory in literature characterized by elements and similarities. Every text can be grouped into a genre, i.e. fiction, nonfiction, traditional literature, poetry, biography, etc.) Some texts are multi-genre texts.

Why Genre First?

Genres are a great starting point because every genre has concrete elements that sets it apart from others. Students must understand the elements of the genre to be able to comprehend, question, analyze, and synthesize while reading.

Our ultimate goal is that students will go beyond surface level understanding and be able to dig deeper by making inferences, asking questions, revising their own thinking. When the student understands the genre fully, they are able to uncover author's craft, compare and contrast, take a position on a topic and support it with facts and details, and much more.

How Do we Teach Genre?

As educators, we must explicitly teach the elements of genre to our students. This means we are exposing them to all genres throughout the school year and teaching each one to mastery. We must:

  • Define the Genre (i.e. Fiction)
  • List the Elements (i.e. Setting, Plot, Characters)
  • List the Text Structures (i.e. Problem Solution, Cause & Effect)

For more ideas and resources for teaching genre and other comprehension strategies (Figure 19), attend our Teaching Comprehension Strategies Workshop in Arlington, TX or San Antonio, TX or bring this training to your campus! Visit our website for more information,

Early Childhood: Questions and Answers

Language comes before literacy. Young learners need to listen, look, talk and question. Try our Questions and Answers activity during your morning circle time to get students producing language with increasing ease and accuracy.

Question and Answers, Please! (5 minutes)

  • Begin by demonstrating how to look at a picture and start noticing and wondering. Use the sentence stems 'I notice' and 'I wonder'.
  • Match students up to be talking partners.
  • Show students pictures of people, animals, or things.
  • Announce: 'Noticing's, please!' Then 'Wonderings, please!'
  • Students begin telling what they notice and then asking a partner questions about the person or animal.
  • Announce: Answers Please!
  • Students begin answering questions and giving details about the person or animal.
  • After 1 minute, ask students for questions that they do not know the answer. Record questions on chart paper under the picture.
  • Encourage students and parents to continue to notice and wonder about things they see as they move about the world.

For more activities and resources for the promoting language and literacy in the early childhood classroom, attend our Fostering Language & Literacy in the Early Childhood Classroom: A Make-and-Take Seminar in April 2017! For more information, visit our website!

A Season of Practice

With the spring semester beginning, we are all thinking about those end-of-year expectations and assessments. It's easy to dread this time of year if it seems we are spending all our time preparing for a test, rather than teaching and helping students developing skills, strategies and processes they need for life. Instead of loathing this time of year, we can embrace it and look to providing our students with engaging and authentic practice. It's time to "show off" what they have learned and become proficient in! It's a great time to have fun with all the skills they have learned so far.

Time For Practice

The weeks and days leading up to assessments should include authentic and purposeful practice. Think of it as a time for coaching to refine and develop fluency of critical skills and processes!

You may have been privileged to work with coaches as they modeled certain strokes and then carefully monitored your moves, providing immediate correction of any errors you made while they moved or positioned your body to set you up for the correct stance or stroke. You were thrilled when you reached the point of independent practice and hopeful that you might achieve fluency in executing all of the discrete skills as a complete package. Practice to proficiency for your students is similar. This rings so true for our instruction in the spring semester.

Coaching to Proficiency

Think of yourself as a coach who models and explains, guides students as they work to replicate your model, monitors and provides feedback immediately, then provides practice for the student to increase their proficiency. The practice will gradually increase fluency as the level of complexity increases as well.

For more information and resources on maximizing your instruction in the days leading up to assessments, join us in February for our Countdown to ELAR STAAR workshop happening in San Antonio and Arlington, TX! Click here for more information!

If you can't attend and want more information effective practice techniques, check out my book Practicing Skills, Strategies, and Processes.

Habits of the Mind: Striving For Accuracy

Striving for accuracy is the seeking or desiring exactness or something to be even better than before. When I think about accuracy I think about perfection. While it is impossible to be perfect, it's not impossible to strive to be better than you were before. I love this quote from William J.H. Boetcker, “Never mind what others do; do better than yourself, beat your own record from day to day, and you are a success.” Teach your students that striving to be better each day is more important than simply being perfect. This can be a great tie-in when you are goal setting and tracking student progress in the new year!

I have used Art Costa's "Habits of Mind" as a springboard for discussion.

Using children's literature or novel studies, we can help students identify with characters who demonstrate examples and non-examples of positive academic behaviors. Below are a few books you can read and discuss during the next few weeks of school.

Spring/Summer 2017

Fostering Language & Literacy in the Early Childhood Classroom: A Make-and-Tale Seminar

April 26, 2017 / San Antonio, TX

April 27, 2017 / Arlington, TX

Strengthening Your RTI Reading: Powerful Strategies to Increase the Success of Your RTI Program

May 18-19, 2017 /San Antonio, TX

Strengthening Your Title I Program: Powerful Intervention Strategies to Accelerate Achievement

June 7-8, 2017 / Arlington, TX

The First 25 Days for ELAR: Establishing Relationships & Routines

June 19, 2017 / Dallas, TX

June 27, 2017 / San Antonio, TX

The First 25 Days of Math Instruction: Establishing a Framework & Routines

June 20, 2017 / Dallas, TX

June 28, 2017 / San Antonio, TX

Parenting Tip of the Month

Starting in 2017, we want to provide our colleagues with tips for parents that they can add (copy & paste) to their own classroom newsletter. Building a strong partnership with parents is critical to the success of each child. We want to help you to help parents engage with their children to build language and literacy learning at home in unique, simple, and meaningful ways! This month our tip is focused on promoting reading and fluency.

Closed Caption on Your TV

One of the best ways to get your young children reading is to turn on the closed caption setting on your TV's. Brain research tells us that the brain will automatically look at the words on the screen. It's nearly impossible for the brain not to notice and want to read the words moving across the screen.

Even if your child cannot read any or all of the words yet, they are being exposed to important reading skills that include connecting what is being said to what is written. Ask your child what they think the words are. Model reading the closed caption as you watch the TV. Give it a try for a few weeks and see how your child responds.

Kelly Harmon & Associates, LLC

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning. Our services are professional development, curriculum development, instructional coaching, grant writing, project management, and technology integration.