Literally Speaking

Spring 2018

Professional Development with Kate Roberts at Rutgers University

The literacy coaches had a very engaging and productive professional development day at Rutgers with Kate Roberts, author of Falling in Love with Close Reading and DIY Literacy. Kate focused on our most important teaching tools. We need to create tools that are personal, responsive, supportive and lead to independence.

To find the right tools to use, we should first identify what obstacles are getting in the way. First, our students are being taught so much so quickly, that they struggle to remember what they should know or remember. Second is rigor. Our students are not always doing the heavy lifting in class. Third is differentiation. Teachers struggle to meet the needs of all our students. Teaching tools are powerful assistants that can help!

Tools for instruction help organize and bring clarity to the strategies you teach. It is important to create authentic, deeply known repertoires of strategies for students in order to demystify the work. Offer students clear steps and moves to try interesting, rigorous work in their reading and writing so that they understand exactly how to do the things that you want them to do.

Tools for instruction bring big ideas and goals to life. They help students embed the idea of constant self-assessment and progress into their own academic identities. A key to successful learning and growth is empowering students to self-monitor their learning.

Tools for instruction help learning stick. They are visual. It helps to see things represented, spelled out, and broken down. Visuals help students understand and remember information. Tools also make the abstract concrete. Teachers should find the exact language to describe something abstract.

Teaching tools encourage repeated practice. When turning strategies into habits and lessons into daily practice, teaching tools can remind kids to practice and practice often.

Tools for instruction should be visual, tangible, kid-friendly, accessible, used over time, taught into by teacher and reinforced. They should be personal, responsive, supportive, and lead to independence.


  • You should only keep up the charts that you are asking students to repeatedly use
  • Repertoire chart-reminds them of lessons you've taught; this is the bedrock of the unit
  • Process chart-this shows them how to do something; it provides something so they can think independently

Demonstration Notebook

  • The demonstration notebook shows students "the how"
  • It is a collection of interactive lessons the teacher can use to demonstrate repeatedly with kids, individually or in small groups
  • Step 1: Identify the teaching point and start with a sample that is similar to what they might write. Place that at the top of the page.
  • Step 2: Choose a few tips or prompts that could help students improve their work
  • Step 3: Create space for you to demonstrate by putting sticky notes underneath the strategies and this is where you create the "after" with the students.


Teachers have many tools to use to help with student learning and student growth. One tool, in particular, is the micro-progression. The micro-progression is a tool that targets all the “root issues” that a student may have--memory, rigor & the motivation to work hard, and differentiation. This is can be used in many ways to target various strategies and to hit a variety of students with different needs. This also fosters student independence.

Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts discuss the use of the micro-progression in their book DIY Literacy. One reason the micro-progression works well is because they “ the way toward higher levels of work. By providing examples of work that [are] improving, as well as listing the qualities that make up each ‘level’ of work, micro-progressions allow for both self-assessment and self-assignment” (pg 17). With this benefit of self-assessment and self-assignment, students work toward independence. The micro-progressions have samples of various levels of writing, along with the criteria of the for that writing. Students can look at the work, see where they are, and then make adjustments. Plus, they have a model for the work.

There are 3 steps to create a micro-progression (pgs 18-19)

STEP ONE: Decide what skill will be developed the micro-progression

STEP TWO: Once the skill is determined, develop the criteria for each level of that skill

STEP THREE: Work with students to create models for each level, written above or below the written criteria on your micro-progression

For more information, reference your copy of Kate Roberts’s and Maggie Beattie Roberts’s DIY Literacy.