In Touch, In Tune

ELA/Reading Reminders, Opportunities, and Inspiration

Thanks for Tuning In!

December 2015

Nearly 800 million people worldwide cannot read or write, and of those, 126 million are children. The International Literacy Association believes we can reduce that 800 million to zero, but they need your help to do it.

Meet four people from different walks of life who had the determination to overcome illiteracy. Their stories remind us that though the challenges of illiteracy are many, so too are the solutions.

  • Lorenzo Vitti, a 12-year-old boy from Florida with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia uses technology to read and serves as an advocate for other students struggling with literacy.
  • Belen Lozano, a woman from Texas who wasn't allowed to go to school as a child, is gaining literacy skills as a grandmother.
  • Nchimunya, a young girl in Zambia, went from being terrified to read in class to starting her own book club.
  • Jesse Cradduck, a man from Oklahoma who learned to read in his 30s, went on to earn a doctorate and write a book.

Read these remarkable stories on the International Literacy Association webpage. Then, share their stories with your students and on your social networks using #800Mil2Nil, and inspire others with the courage of these remarkable individuals.

In the Spotlight

Secondary ELA on Twitter #FCPSELA

Featured Instructional Activity

Think Tank

When you need to reengage students and encourage deeper processing during a lesson, try a Think Tank. Often, as we get deeper into a lesson, our students' energy plummets (Sousa 2011a), and we may see the need to get students out of their seats or move them into small groups to reengage.

Depending on the size of your class, you might divide it into small groups of four to five students and send them to different areas of the room. At each location, group members brainstorm and record what they know about the same topic (or answer the same question) on chart paper or a dry erase board.

This collaborative processing routine gets students out of their seats and engages them in very content-focused tasks as they speak, write, and illustrate together. Students make meaning from your lesson as they speak together. Serving as a great prewriting activity, the Think Tank gives students confidence for their upcoming task. Think Tanks show students what they know and what they don't know. Three advantages of using the Think Tank are:

  • It is easy to implement.
  • It takes only five minutes.
  • It serves as excellent daily formative assessment.

From Core Instructional Routines: Go-To Structures for the 6-12 Classroom by Andrea Honigsfeld and Jody Dodge (page 47)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (But Mostly Good!)

PARCC Resources and Updates

Understand the Score

PARCC has launched a new website, Understand the Score. It's purpose is to assist parents in understanding the PARCC home reports. This could be a valuable resource for teachers to share at a parent meeting. It may also help teachers answer parent questions and address concerns.

New Resources from PARCC

MSDE Resources

MSDE hosted a PARCC for Teachers webinar series. For links to all PARCC resources including the recording of the first Webinar on the PARCC home score reports, please visit the Maryland Public Schools website.

Testing Windows

Middle School ELA CRES
  • Narrative Writing Task: 10/12/15-10/23/15
  • Literary Analysis Task: 1/4/16-1/15/16
  • Research Simulation Task: 4/3/16-4/15/16

High School Fall Semester ELA CRES

  • Narrative Writing Task: 9/28/15-10/2/15
  • Literary Analysis Task: 11/2/15-11/6/15
  • Research Simulation Task: 11/16/15-12/4/15

Scantron Performance Series (optional*)

  • Fall Norming Administration: 8/24/15-11/20/15
  • Winter Norming Administration: 1/4/16-2/22/16
  • Spring Norming Administration: 4/5/16-6/15/16

*Scantron PS Winter Administration is required for 8th grade articulation; other administrations may be given as determined by school and/or central office staff for identified populations.

Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) & Scholastic Phonics Inventory (SPI)**

  • Window 1: 8/24/15-9/9/15 (SRI & SPI)
  • Window 2: 11/4/15-11/18/15 (SRI only)
  • Window 3: 1/25/16-2/5/16 (SRI & SPI)
  • Window 4: 5/2/16-5/13/16 (SRI & SPI)

**Window 2: All students with the SRI assigned to them in SAM, with the exception of students in System 44, will take the SRI in Window 2. Students in System 44 do not take the SRI in Window 2.

2015-2016 ELA/Reading Leadership Meetings

Middle School Department Chairs & Literacy Specialists

High School Department Chairs & Literacy Specialists

Middle School Reading Intervention Representatives

  • October 5, 2015 from 12:15-3:15 @SDC
  • December 16, 2015 from 12:15-3:15 @SDC
  • February 18, 2016 from 4:00-7:00 @ SDC
  • April 4, 2016 from 12:15-3:15 @ SDC
  • May 18, 2016 from 4:00-7:00 @ SDC

High School Reading Intervention Representatives

News from Intervention

Reading Intervention Updates - Spotlight on Feedback

"According to Hattie and Timperley (2007), feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this impact can be either positive or negative... The feedback that students receive from their teachers is also vital. It enables students to progress towards challenging learning intentions and goals."


How well do our students understand the feedback provided based on their progress in the Read 180 and System 44 software? See the following post for 5 steps to maximizing the use of the ePortfolio for providing feedback.

(You may need to log in to the Read 180 Community for access.)

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Planning Guides for Read 180

Need help with pacing? Planning Guides for Grades 6-8 and Grade 9 are available on Curriculum Now. Please send any feedback that you may have after teaching each workshop to Susan Verdi.
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Instructional Technology Tips

Leadership and Professional Learning Opportunities

Help Us Help You!

Complete this form to let us know your immediate and long-term ELA and Reading Intervention needs. (The link to this form is also located on the ELA website.)

Don't Be Shy!

Is there something you'd like to share in next month's In Touch, In Tune publication? Email (English/Language Arts) or (Reading Intervention) with the details!