In Touch, In Tune

ELA/Reading Reminders, Opportunities, and Inspiration

Thanks for Tuning In!

February 2016

Every year, World Read Aloud Day calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories. Join the countdown to February 24th, 2016. Register Now!

World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creates a community of readers taking action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day is celebrated by millions of people in more than 100 countries thanks to people who participate and spread the word across the globe!

Visit LitWorld to browse the World Read Aloud Day 2016 materials. Register your World Read Aloud Day participation for a chance to win a class set of "How to Read a Story" by Kate Messner.

In the Spotlight

Secondary ELA on Twitter #FCPSELA

Featured Instructional Activity

The Reading Minute

At the beginning of each class period, a piece of interesting reading is shared with the class. The shared reading can come from a range of sources, from poetry to nonfiction. The selections may be culled from newspapers, magazines, novels, textbooks—anywhere we, as readers, come across interesting text. All the Reading Minutes share one goal: to demonstrate to our students that there is a world of reading richness out there.

For the first month of school, the teacher may conduct the Reading Minute. After the teachers read the selection, students open their notebooks and write a one-sentence summary or thesis statement to remember the day's Reading Minute. As students become familiar with the activity, they may begin leading the Reading Minute. At the end of the school year, students should have 150-180 summary sentences of all the interesting reading that was shared. This reinforces that reading in itself is a rich and rewarding pursuit.

Read this document for more information about the Reading Minute, or listen to Kelly Gallagher explain how he facilitates the activity in his own classroom.

From In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in the ELA Classroom by Kelly Gallagher, 2015 (page 203)

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

Inspire the Love of Reading: Date a Book!

It's almost Valentine's Day. Are your students ready to make a love connection... with a book?

Speed Dating with Books

The objective of Book Speed Dating is to expose students to a variety of books so that they might find a book they would like to "get to know better." The teacher gathers the books ahead of time. Students select their first book for their first "date." A timer is set for 3 minutes. When the timer goes off, students fill out their Speed Dating form and move on to a new book. At the end of the session, students can share with the class if they have "fallen in love" with any of the books.

Blind Date a Book

Don't judge a book by its cover! To Blind Date a Book, the teacher starts by covering some books with butcher or wrapping paper and writing short, exciting blurbs about the book on the front. The teacher should not include titles or authors, and students should not peek at the books' covers. Students take a chance on a book without knowing exactly what that book is. The objective is to introduce students to books they'll love, but may not have picked up on their own.

Free Poetry Poster

Each year, the Academy of American Poets partners with award-winning designer Chip Kidd to commission a poster in celebration of National Poetry Month. They distribute more than 120,000 posters, which are displayed in classrooms, libraries, and bookstores from coast to coast. This year’s poster was designed by Debbie Millman and features lines of poetry by some of our greatest poets.

If you’re able to support the Academy of American Poets, please consider a donation to the Academy of American Poets. Contributions help them send posters to tens of thousands of teachers, librarians, booksellers, and event organizers.

To request a free poster, click here. To download a letter-sized version of the poster, click here.

Academic Word Finder

What is it?
Achieve the Core's Academic Word Finder is an online tool for identifying academic vocabulary, also known as Tier 2 vocabulary, within a text. To use it, select and enter into the tool a passage from a complex text along with the grade level being taught. The tool then identifies the academic vocabulary for the selected grades, as well as words that fall into grade levels both above and below, and provides student-friendly definitions, parts of speech, and sample sentences.

CRES Scores in TAC

As we transition from one semester to the next, ELA teachers should be sure that CRES scores are up to date in TAC and, at the end of the course, that overall CRES scores are recorded under the CRES column of the Grade Reporting > Report Card tab. (See page 3 of the Secondary ELA Assessment Handbook for clarification.)

Reminders about Entering CRES Scores

  • The ELA Rubric ranges from a 4-0. If a student attempts a task but earns a Score Point 0 on any dimension of the rubric, the percentage will be calculated as a 48%. (See the bottom of the ELA Rubric for the raw score vs. percentage score conversion chart.)

  • If a student is not enrolled in school for any portion of the CRES, the teacher should leave the CRES scores blank in TAC. Scores left blank will not impact a student’s overall CRES grade.

  • NEW: If a student is enrolled in school during a CRES window but refuses to complete the task after he or she has had several opportunities, the student should receive a 0%. In order to enter a 0% into TAC, the teacher must enter the code 999. (Remember, entering a 0 will calculate as a 48%.) Teachers will now see a 999 in the pull-down menu when entering CRES scores under the Performance Tab of TAC.

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 Spring Semester ELA CRES

  • Narrative Writing Task: 2/29/16-3/4/16
  • Literary Analysis Task: 4/11/16-4/15/16
  • Research Simulation Task: 4/25/16-5/6/16

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. The PS Winter Administration is strongly recommended for students receiving support in reading.

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: 2/1/16-2/12/16 (SRI & SPI) --- UPDATED
  • Window 4: 5/2/16-5/13/16 (SRI & SPI)

**Window 3: All students with the SRI assigned to them in SAM, with the exception of students in System 44, will take the SRI in Window 3. Students accessing System 44 should take the SPI in Window 3.


  • Window: 1/6/15-2/12/15

2015-2016 ELA/Reading Leadership Meetings

Middle School Department Chairs & Literacy Specialists

High School Department Chairs & Literacy Specialists

Middle School Reading Intervention Representatives

High School Reading Intervention Representatives

News from Intervention

Promoting a Positive Culture of Reading in Your Classroom

On January 26th, Amanda Portner and Susan Verdi co-moderated #MdEdChat. The following questions guided the online conversation:

Q1: Many students avoid reading. How can teachers create classroom cultures that promote reading as a positive experience?

Q2: It's important to model what we ask of our students. In what ways do you share your reading life with your students?

Q3: Extrinsic rewards don't create lifelong readers. How can we promote an intrinsic motivation to read?

Q4: Where do you find recommendations for read alouds or books to include in your classroom libraries?

Q5: Time for some #TitleTalk! What are some must-have books for your classroom libraries?

Q6: What professional books or blogs do you recommend for teachers interested in establishing a positive culture of reading?

If you see a question that interests you, scroll through the Storify to read responses from a diverse group of educators across Maryland!

Instructional Technology Tips

Leadership and Professional Learning Opportunities

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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!