From the Desk of Kelly Harmon

September 2017 Newsletter

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We hope you have successfully started the school year. We know some of our colleagues are not able to start yet due to the natural disasters that seem to be plaguing our country. We are praying for them and everyone to be able to help children have the best year ever.

This month we are bringing you ideas on daily, purposeful read alouds, using concrete manipulatives to help students construct meaning and develop conceptual knowledge, and teaching executive skills. We are also launching our first ever online learning seminar in October! We are using the Zoom platform to conduct interactive professional development sessions. We hope you can join us and add digital tools and ways to use them to your teaching and learning toolbox.

Please let us know if you need any resources.

We are here to serve you.

Happy Teaching!

-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson


When I heard Jillian Heise, 7th & 8th grade teacher, on a podcast talk about the 180 pictures books she reads to her students each year, I fell in love with the idea and the outcomes for students. Each day, for five minutes, she reads a picture book aloud to her students. After a brief discussion of the text, she documents the read aloud on a grid outside her classroom. Ms. Heise hosts the closed Facebook group Educators share books to read aloud and ideas for displaying the books. You'll find lots of pictures and discussion to help you make reading aloud an essential part of your instructional day.

Every idea can be adapted to meet the needs of our students, so I want to encourage you to think about building your students' conceptual knowledge and academic vocabulary. How would reading aloud an informational picture book or text a day help your students build background and world knowledge?

Vocabulary is learned faster when words are linked together by meaning and relationships. Using the vocabulary megaclusters identified by Elfrieda H. Hiebert, select books to read aloud that will identify concepts and related words to intentionally expand your students’ schema. You can integrate science, social studies, math, art, music, physical education, and technology into the reading block. The read aloud should be short enough to read in 5-10 minutes. I've created a planning sheet and a list of the vocabulary mega-clusters to use here!

For more information and free activities for #Classroombookaday, click here!

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Building Meaning....Literally

Have you ever struggled to find the right words or explanation of something? Most of us have been there once or twice. Students struggle with this, too. So, why not build something to represent your thinking? Constructing a model of what you are picturing or thinking can help to solidify conceptual understanding. Using legos, building blocks, or play doh, students build to represent an idea or understanding of a concept. This can be a less intimidating option for students to show their understanding or thinking about ideas or topics.

Recently, my three year old son, Whitten, had been hearing the news and conversations about hurricane Harvey and the devastation in south Texas. He had asked me several questions and we talked about the flooding that was happening in Houston. He wanted to know what flooding was and how a hurricane moves. That afternoon, we went to our local Play Street Museum, and while he was playing, he constructed his interpretation of what was happening. This was his way of learning and dealing with the heavy ideas he had seen and heard. Play Street posted a wonderful message about hurricane Harvey and his building here. Be sure to check it out!

This year we challenge you to turn a written task into a building task. This is not only great for our littlest learners but, also our English language learners. This helps develop vocabulary, construct meaning, and open their minds for the outside to see in.

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Teaching Children Executive Skills

While at the International Literacy Association Conference this summer, I attended a session that focused on helping struggling readers develop executive skills for academic success. Kelly Cartwright, author of Executive Skills and Reading Comprehension, A Guide for Educators, made a research-based case that many students are not experiencing success because of underlying issues. These executive function issues are not evident of the surface, but can easily be identified and addressed. Her research has found that executive skills begin to develop early and are a good predictor of proficient reading in grades two and beyond.

Harvard University defines executive skills as "skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully."

Executive skills help us make decisions, self regulate, and prioritize tasks. These are all real world skills that successful people execute well.

Students who have executive skills are able to read strategically and apply their new knowledge to their world. Harvard University also says "children are not born with these skills- they are born with the potential to develop them." It is important to teach students the thinking processes that develop executive skills such as developing working memory, mental flexibility, and self control. Teaching this thought process goes hand and hand with the habits of the mind and teaching to have a growth mind set.

This year, we will feature one or two executive functions. We will define the skill and offer ideas for assessing and developing the skill.

To read the entire blog post on Teaching Executive Skills, click here!

Digital Literacy Online Seminar


Saturday, October 7, 2017

9:00am -12:30pm

Grades 1-8

Earn 3.5 Hours of Professional Learning Credit

Join Kelly Harmon for a half day session engaging student's in reading and writing instruction using technology to increase engagement and achievement! Learn new apps for writing and producing projects. Discover ways to integrate reading and writing instruction that will not only motivate but advance student's writing stamina. For more info, click here!

To register, call or email Randi @ (817) 583-1290 or

After your paperwork and payment is received, you will receive a video link to the training.

Strengthening Your Title I Program Conference

Learn how to better lead your school or district Title I team in this strategy-packed, two-day institute led by nationally acclaimed presenter, Kelly Harmon. You will discover how to work with teachers to identify and implement the most effective cutting-edge, research-based instructional strategies to increase school and district wide student achievement. You will learn how to develop teacher expertise in working with struggling students along with ways to continually monitor and adjust instruction based on student results.

November 6th & 7th - Chicago

November 8th & 9th - Sacramento

Guided Math Conference

Join Kelly Harmon, Ryan Doetch, and Julia Taylor for a strategy-packed conference. Choose from 21 sessions on a wide array of math topics. For more information, click here!

December 4th & 5th - Columbus, OH

December 6th & 7th - Minneapolis, MN