February 27, 2015

Hot off the Press: Downloadable READING WELLNESS Study Guide

Print Friendly

Reading Wellness Study Guide

After many requests for a Reading Wellness study guide, we are very excited to share with you the results of our efforts. We really wanted the finished product to support your close reading of the text, so we didn’t simply do a paint-by-numbers routine, but rather tried to make the study guide a complement to the book. In addition to the usual elements of a study guide, such as discussion questions and quotes from the book, this guide includes a number of non-traditional options, such as an anticipation guide, magnetic poetry, a Mad Lib, and more. In an effort to stay true to the philosophy of Reading Wellness, the study guide also includes opportunities to practice wellness, such as reminders to breathe, stretch, and appreciate.

Because we wanted to get this study guide into your hands as quickly as possible, we have it available now in draft form (download below). Over the next few weeks, it will go through the editing and publishing process with Stenhouse. In the meantime, please bear with us if you encounter formatting or other editorial issues. We will let you know when the more polished version is available from Stenhouse.


Download a copy of the study guide for Reading Wellness.

Mindset’s Hold Over Achievement

Print Friendly


(Image credit Pixabay.com)


After listening to several subtle (and many not-so-subtle) hints from her twelve-year-old son, Nathan,  about being interested in playing soccer, Kim signed him up for a team.  A month separated soccer sign-ups and the beginning of the season and during this time,  Nathan worried–a lot. He worried that he’d be on a team with kids who have been playing since age three.  He worried that his lack of skills would be really obvious to the coach and that he’d spend the season on the bench.  He worried it wouldn’t be as fun as it looked.  He worried so much that by the time his first practice rolled around, he had himself convinced that soccer was a dumb sport, he had never really wanted to play it, and what was Kim thinking signing him up for a team, anyway!? He wasn’t going to go.

Kim and her husband took a solid, unified stance: “You’re going.”  They told him that he had to play for the eleven weeks for which he was registered.  They explained that, after he tried it (for eleven weeks), if he decided that he never wanted to kick a ball again, so be it. But for now, he had committed to playing, so he had to put on his cleats and report to the field.

Needless to say, Nathan was not happy!  After some angry words and several passive aggressive tactics aimed at delaying the inevitable, he acquiesced.  He got in the car and headed to the field. The mood was heavy and Kim and her husband wondered if they had made the right choice. After all, they try to listen to their children and pay attention to their interests.

When they arrived, Nathan stepped out of the car and looked at the field. Seeing the empty nets and the wide open space shifted his posture.  He turned and said, “I’m just going to keep telling myself that I really like soccer.” (Incidentally, “Tell yourself a different story” has become common language in our households, as we have worked to help our children develop growth mindsets.)

He put on a brave face and introduced himself to the coach and listened intently to what he had to say.  He dribbled and kicked and threw the ball back in bounds. He came home sweaty and energized.

Interestingly, since Nathan began telling himself a different story about soccer, getting ready for soccer practice feels like celebration.  Now, he’s enthusiastic, and this enthusiasm shows in his body and his language.  What’s more, he’s really learning how to play soccer. And, not surprisingly, his growth mindset is helping him get better at it, too.

As parents, and as teachers, helping children negotiate their reluctance about things that are hard is a substantial part of our work. Given the many things that we must teach children, this mindset work may seem rather small, however, to us, we feel like helping children embrace things that are difficult is among one of the most important life skills we can teach.  Like Nathan who is getting better at soccer because he shifted from “I’m not going” to “I’m just going to keep telling myself I really like soccer,” children stand to make huge gains when they understand that mindset can have a powerful impact on achievement.

Reading Wellness by Jan Miller Burkins and Kim Yaris

In Reading Wellness, we dedicate a whole chapter to explicitly teaching children about the habits and language of growth mindsets. In a lesson called “Leaning In/Leaning Out” we help students explore mindset by looking at a series of images that  make them say either “Oh yea” or “Oh no!” From there, we help students closely and carefully read images that depict people leaning into or away from various activities, such as cleaning a toilet or reading a book.  We  teach children to look carefully for evidence that supports their thinking.  From there, we read aloud an anchor text, such as Ish by Peter Reynolds or Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully, which describes characters who lean in and out.  As we read, we discuss how the characters’ posture influences the outcomes they are working toward. (For other titles that work well for teaching mindset, see pages 49-50 in Reading Wellness).

As children learn new things, inevitably, some of those things will be difficult. Reminding students what happened when beloved characters leaned in, along with asking students to reflect on whether they are “leaning in or leaning out,” can have a profound impact on how students approach new challenges. While mainstream conversations want us to believe that improving student achievement boils down to addressing “this skill” or “that strategy,” we believe such deductions are far too simplistic. To us, looking at the bigger picture of how people learn is just as important and investing at least some time in teaching children about the powerful connection between mindset and achievement has the potential to pay huge dividends.


10 Things Going to the Gym Can Teach You About Teaching

Print Friendly

In a post we wrote some time ago titled Solving Education’s Greatest Challenges: Unconventional Collaborations , we told the story of Stephane Tarnier, the French obstetrician responsible for inventing baby incubators.  We love this story as it illustrates how improving our work life sometimes means leaving our work life at work and doing something else for awhile, such as going to the gym.  Today , our friend and colleague, Kara Schwarz, an educator from South Florida, shares a story of how leaving the workplace behind helped to inspire her thinking and her understanding of her work.



Sometimes it is hard to remember back when we first learned to do something, especially if you are excellent at it now.  I am a very competent reader so at times it can be difficult for me to remember those beginning stages I went through to acquire the skill.   I work with students who have diagnosed learning disabilities in reading, math and writing, which means learning the skills needed to be successful in these subject areas can be challenging. I have to do a lot of thinking when it comes to how to best present a strategy to them.  One of my guiding philosophies is to respect that each child who sits in my class is unique and different.  This includes the strengths and weaknesses that they have physically, emotionally, mentally and academically.  Realistically, however, we are all challenged in something.

I don’t know about you, but I have certain places and activities that lead me to self-reflect about my teaching practices,  For me that place is the gym.  It actually is even more than a gym, it’s called Crossfit and some of the activities include pulling tires, rowing thousands of meters, doing endless pushups, pull-ups and sit-ups for time. It may seem like a peculiar place to do any “thinking” but it is the place where I get most of my “ahas” because there, I am the most challenged.  (This might be the right time to mention, that I am not very quick to learn anything that has to do with rhythm, large body movements coordination and strength activities, such as dancing or aerobics.)

It leads me to see myself as the “learning disabled” student and to focus on what strategies work best in helping me be successful in this area of weakness. What I have found is that I need to see it modeled many times, not just once.  After the movement is modeled by the instructor both quickly and slowly in smaller increments, then I need to do it alongside the instructor.  I need time to ask questions and practice, sometimes even watching some other gym members as they complete the movement.  I also find it helpful when the instructor comes over to me individually during the actual workout, and notices what I am doing right and also gives me a suggestion for improvement. Before I have truly mastered any new movement or activity, I have to practice on my own in front of mirror or in my garage. Finally, the pinnacle of success is when I can help a new gym member learn a movement and share my technique.

This sounds familiar, right?  These are things that expert teachers do within their classrooms daily.  Finding something that was challenging for me and then thinking through the process of how I learned that skill, were extremely helpful in refining my teaching practice.  It gave me fresh eyes on the process and various motivational techniques to encourage students through their academic challenges. It also encouraged me to empathize with my students as they face struggles to acquire new learning.

The top 10 things I know about teaching, I learned at the gym:

10. Everyone is “disabled” in something.

9. The best way to overcome a challenge is to face it, head on.

8. Modeling a strategy should continue throughout the year, but be varied in length and detail of delivery.

7. Every student benefits from the modeling of a strategy, every time.

6. Allowing students to practice while I am modeling is helpful.

5. Let students see stellar examples and non-examples, and independently seek these examples when needed.

4. Welcome all questions at any stage of the lesson.

3. Come alongside students as they are working and encourage and guide them.

2. Allow and encourage a lot of practice.

1. Always provide opportunities for students to show what they know to others, as well as sharing how they arrived at that correct answer.


Where do you go to find inspiration that helps you reflect on and improve your craft?

Are We Measuring What We Think We Are Measuring?

Lose weight now
Print Friendly

Lose weight now

Benchmarking, or taking running records with a series of books along a text gradient is a common practice in elementary schools. We are concerned, however, that these, as well as other measures of literacy, which consume large chunks of instructional time, have gaps that can influence early literacy instruction and interfere with later growth. For example, a focus on reading level can divert time and attention from interactive read aloud or shared reading, whose benefits aren’t readily measured. However, time spent working in these contexts exposes children to vocabulary and models skills and strategies in meaningful, supportive contexts, both of which contribute to reading growth and development over the long-term.

Placing all of our proverbial eggs in the leveled benchmarking basket is kind of like opting for a crash diet instead of making a lifestyle change in order to lose weight.  If there isn’t attention dedicated specifically to lifestyle–processes for preparing food, exercising, and other elements of wellness–then weight loss is typically short-lived. Losing weight in ways that address causes for weight gain is a slower, but ultimately more rewarding process. It is hard, however, not to be blinded by magazine declarations that you, too, can lose 10 pounds in a week!

Similarly, it is hard to resist the lure of immediate results in literacy, which benchmarks and strict adherence to a text gradient seem to promise us. However, children’s reading growth and development are at least partially influenced by students’ vocabulary and listening comprehension, neither of which are measured by most benchmarking systems. This means that the data being reported by these benchmarks are, at best, incomplete. Meaningless numbers abound. Meanwhile, there are truly helpful data points schools could collect.

Here are three questions to help you evaluate your collection of formative assessment data:

1. Are your formative assessments balanced?

If the answer is “no,” then you may need to make some adjustments. Either individually or combined, they should give serious attention both to print and meaning. This is very challenging in the early grades, and few schools seem to have the insight or the commitment to pull it off.

2. Are your formative assessments formulaic?

If the answer is “yes,” then you may need to make some adjustments. We hate to say it, but computerized programs that level kids and texts and purport to match them to address their reading challenges seem to us to be causing more problems than they solve. They may feel like a magic bullet, but they are not.

3. Do your formative assessments help you teach better?

If the answer is “no,” then you may need to make some adjustments. Formative assessments should inform instruction. Too often, schools district leaders are using formative data to make summative decisions. For example, the benchmark levels we mentioned at the beginning of this blog are often tied to grades, or even teacher evaluation.

We caution you against trading early “raised scores” for long term success. While we’re not suggesting not to do these “running records,” we just think that measurements should provide a balanced picture of students’ print AND meaning systems. Being able to ascertain how well students work to integrate their knowledge about letters and sounds with what they understand about the text provides a big picture understanding of children’s growth and development and, in turn, informs instruction so that we can give them what they need to improve.


What the Writing Process Really Looks Like

Print Friendly

Writer’s workshop, a common instructional format for teaching writing, is based on the process in which “real” writers engage. A bedrock idea behind writer’s workshop is that these “real” writers take pieces of writing, usually on topics they choose to write about, through a series of stages–prewriting/brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. The cycle is generally thought of as something like this:


Over time, with pressures from roll-outs of published programs and test preparation, this cycle can become formulaic in the classroom. resulting in “writer’s workshop” structures that looks something like this:


Not only is this forced fit model far removed from the original conceptualizations of writer’s workshop, it can also lead to pretty stale writing experiences and student writing. In fact, we find that our writing process looks less like the neat circle above (and certainly not like the regimented weekly schedule) but more random and spontaneous, like this:


jmb_presentation_wake_heart of 21st century writing_1-23-14


Furthermore, our definitions of reasonable work within each stage of the writing process tend to be pretty broad. We are less and less surprised by the way play and seemingly off-task “behavior” helps us break through the places we are stuck in our writing. Prewriting, drafting, even revision, often happen in our heads as we bike, swim, dance, cook, etc. We have grown to think of all these diversions as anything but, giving them their rightful, prominent place in our writing process. Below, you will find lists of the types of work that may occur in each of the stages of our writing process. As you will notice, the lists all end with “and more…” indicating that there are many, many more ways to engage in the particular writing stage. We would love to hear about the work you and/or you students do in the different stages of the writing process? We would also love to hear about the ways that “off-task” behavior helps your writing.

Slide1 Slide2 Slide3 Slide4






The Cold (Humid?) Truth about Words

hot and humid
Print Friendly

hot and humid

As the cold grips most of the United States, we begin today by asking you to imagine “unbearably humid” weather. (Does this ease the bite of the winter chill?)  If you were describing this to someone who had never before experienced it, what words would you use to help them understand what it’s like outside?

When we did this, we imagined a 90 degree day in August in New Orleans, Louisiana.  We pictured ourselves catching our breath after stepping outdoors from the temperature controlled indoors. The air feels thick, so thick that we imagine cutting it with a knife.  And it’s heavy.  And wet. Within moments, our skin is clammy, our clothes are drenched with sweat.

In December, a Florida newspaper ran an article about the weather and described this year’s early winter as “unbearably humid.” When Kim and her husband read this, they looked at each other– the weather they had recently experienced had been in the low eighties. While there had been some humidity, perhaps they might go so far as to call it unseasonable humidity, calling it unbearable was just…funny.

This newspaper article became great fodder for teaching students about the importance of words.  Kim brought this article with her to a sixth grade class where they looked closely at it, wondering if they’d find other words that indicated the author intended to write humorously about the weather. However, they didn’t.  Analyzing in this way helped them to realize how one misplaced word can distract a reader, bringing the importance of words into focus.  They talked about how authors use words to communicate their message and how one little word can change the meaning of everything.

Marilyn Jager Adams says, “Words are not just words.  They are the nexus—the interface—between communication and thought.  When we read, it is through words that we build, refine, and modify our knowledge.  What makes vocabulary valuable and important is not the words themselves so much as the understandings they afford.” Words not only matter when we read, but they matter when we write and speak as well. If we aim to help children understand their world better, developing vocabulary is paramount to our work.  We offer the following tips as reminders of how to help expand children’s vocabularies on a day-to-day basis:

1. Read aloud!

Written text is the best source of new vocabulary for students. Hearing new words read aloud in meaningful contexts prompts inquiry about words.  When listening to engaging stories and ideas communicated through read aloud, children will often notice words that they’ve never before heard and ask, “What does that mean?”

2. Provide ample opportunity for students to talk.

Talk provides students opportunities to use the new words they are encountering.  Allowing students time to discuss their ideas about books or process their learning at other times in the day gives them a chance to try out content-specific vocabulary and try-on new words.  Using words in meaningful contexts helps students to remember and retain new vocabulary. 

3. Make sure students write–often and a lot!

Writing also allows students opportunities to use new words.  Experiencing the struggle of figuring out just the right word to complete a sentence or convey a message the way it is imagined, reinforces the importance of words and reminds children that the more words they know, the better they communicate.

For more of our thoughts on vocabulary instruction, watch this short, learning video.

The Power of Job-embedded Coaching

Print Friendly

On Monday, we posted a blog that described a couple of coaching contexts where we have worked in classrooms recently. As we work in schools, we are frequently reminded of the power of coaching in classrooms, and were pleased to see that, in its December issue, the American School Board Journal published a really thorough and thoughtful description of the job-embedded coaching model. The article is written by Alice Oakley and Hope Reagan, practicing coaches and founders of Education Resource Group. The article details a step-by-step process for supporting teachers as they work to take new strategies to expert levels of implementation.

We have a deep appreciation of coaching’s potential, considering our experiences coaching teachers and those of all our friends, including Alice and Hope, who coach in classrooms. Furthermore, job-embedded coaching is supported by a substantial body of research. Most prominently, this includes the monumental research on coaching presented in the classic text, Student Achievement Through Staff Development by Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers, in which they statistically analyze and summarize a tremendous body of research on what works in professional learning. They set out to find out, what types of professional learning lead to substantive changes in classrooms and, consequently, student learning. More specifically, they wanted to know how the context or design of professional learning is related to how well teachers implement the presented strategy towards the end of impacting student achievement outcomes.

Their landmark research has offers substantial support for the kind of classroom coaching described in the American School Board Journal article, as the table below illustrates.

Source: Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development (3rd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


In this table, the first column– “TRAINING COMPONENTS”– presents the design of the professional development. The second column, labeled “Knowledge,” indicates the percentage of participating teachers who could demonstrate knowledge, or rote explanations, of the workshop content after the workshop. The third column, labeled “Skill Demonstration,” indicates the percentage of participants who could demonstrate, beyond the context of the workshop, at least some skill in implementing the strategy. Finally, the fourth column, labeled here as “Use in the Classroom,” shows the percentage of teachers who skillfully implemented the strategy in the classroom. That is, the percentage of workshop participants who reached the level of “executive function” with the strategy.

The Joyce and Showers research makes clear the power of job-embedded coaching. Of note (circled in red in the table, above) is the incredible increase in executive level functioning–from 5% to 95%–that occurs when strategies presented in a workshop are supported with subsequent coaching in a classroom context. What makes this research so powerful is that, it doesn’t simply represent a single study. Rather, Joyce and Showers conducted a meta-analysis of all the professional development research at the time. So the results are not indicative of a one-time outcome in need of replication, but rather a consistent pattern across a body of research.

Considering the thoughtful description articulated by Alice and Hope, combined with the quantitative research summary offered by Joyce and Showers, one wonders why job-embedded coaching is not happening in every school.

What are your experiences with job-embedded coaching?


One Plus One Equals Three

Print Friendly

In this article “Personal Best”  from The New Yorker, Atul Gawande describes having some downtime while visiting Nantucket for a medical meeting. An avid tennis player, Gawande picked up his racket and headed to the court hoping to find someone willing to bat balls back and forth. The only person around happened to be a tennis coach who, for a few bucks, was happy to serve as his partner.

As they started to hit balls, the tennis coach couldn’t resist offering pointers. “You can increase the power of your serve if you pay attention to where your feet are when you serve.” At first, Gawande was taken aback by–and skeptical of–this suggestion. His serve was the best part of his game. However, he listened carefully and by the end of the session, Gawande was hitting balls at least ten miles per hour faster than when he started.

On a recent visit to a second grade classroom, Kim observed a teacher conducting a guided reading lesson.  After the lesson, Kim asked the teacher to reflect on the lesson by thinking about the distribution of work.  “How much work did you do?  How much work did the children do?” As the teacher talked through what had happened, she realized that the children had done startlingly little.  Like Gawande’s tennis coach, Kim couldn’t resist offering pointers.  “Instead of starting your sentences with, We’re going to… or I want you to try…. begin with “How can you figure out…?”

 The next day, Kim returned to watch this teacher conduct another guided reading lesson.  A simple change like asking a “how” question instead of giving a directive, shifted the entire dynamic of the group. The students were far more active participants in their learning and seemed to benefit more from this lesson than they had in the previous day’s lesson.

Similarly, Jan recently coached a teacher during a shared reading lesson. While the text was very engaging, the teacher was doing the work of deciding what was important in the text. She asked comprehension questions that made the lesson feel like a quiz. Because the teacher was so open, Jan was able to initiate a game in the middle of the lesson, which completely changed the energy of the lesson. Students sat up–literally and figuratively–and engaged is amazing work with the text. They noticed and noted the subtleties in the text because the teacher stopped telling them what to pay attention to, making room for their thinking. (See chapter 4 of Reading Wellness for a complete description of the game. Link to free access, here.)

Gawande’s tennis experience, Kim’s guided reading example, and Jan’s shared reading collaboration all illustrate something Stephen Covey refers to as “synergy,” which he describes in this excerpt from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:

If you plant two plants close together, the roots comingle and improve the quality of the soil so that both plants will grow better than if they were separated.  If you put two pieces of wood together, they will hold much more than the total of the weight held by each separately.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  One plus one equals three or more. (p. 263).

As we continue to celebrate the spirit of the new year, we’d like to wish you a year filled with unconventional math and rich partnerships with people who help you grow.  More on the benefits of working with a coach, later this week.

Be Your Higher Self in 2015

Print Friendly

Like most, we have spent some time during the first few days of this month thinking about what we resolve to do better or differently in 2015. Returning to an idea we shared with you last new year, we have batted around words that embody the identities we wish to grow into.  We have basked in the energy of these first few days of January and realized that there is something magical about the momentum of this time of year. We’ve joked about being able to bottle this spirit and vigor so that we can reclaim it long after the “New” has worn off.  Though we jest about the packaging New Year energy, we really do wish to sustain the energy that motivates and propels us to do great things and be our best selves. But, how do we do this?

It seems that Colleen Mestdagh and Barry Lane have figured out how to help us extend New Year intentions throughout the school year in their Force Field for Good lessons. Setting in place rituals that help children stay connected to their highest selves can help them (and us) remember our truest purposes.

We often say to our children, “It’s better to be kind than smart*,” but the growing body of research on the ways that attention to the social emotional growth of students impacts their academic achievement indicates that, by teaching kids to be kind, we help them grow smart.

Barry Lane, is a master at the kindness/smartness connection; his breadth of expertise–from writing instruction to social emotional learning–has influenced our work in substantial ways. In particular, one of our first encounters with Barry was at a workshop where he inspired us with his song, “Know Your Higher Self.” The language of that song has found its way into our everyday conversations with each other, with our children, and with the students we teach, as we remind each other and ourselves to stay connected to our visions of who we really want to be.

Fortunately, Barry has teamed up with Colleen Mestdagh, who has created a series of lessons around Barry’s songs. All of the songs are available as sing-a-longs, and Colleen has developed a PowerPoint to go with each lesson in their Force Field for Good collection. You can view a video of a sample lesson in an actual classroom or you can access sing-a-long texts for shared reading for all the songs.

In a time when classrooms are heavy with high-stakes accountability, it is nice to see people, such as Barry and Colleen, finding ways to take care of children and to generate positive energy. We find Barry so very inspiring! How lovely is it that such work also contributes to academic learning?

NCTE Picture With Barry LaneUs with Barry Lane when he sang “Know Your Higher Self” at NCTE.


Meet Your Inner Teacher: The Four Intentions

Print Friendly

If you were to draw your inner teacher, what would he/she look like? How does he/she feel? Excited? Nervous? Overwhelmed? In reading the work of Martha Beck–which encourages us to pay close attention to our emotions because they are our inner compass–we’ve discovered that our inner teacher’s emotions can serve as our teaching compass. After teaching, thinking, feeling, writing, reflecting–lather, rinse, repeat–we’ve learned to trust our inner teacher, and to understand that, when she is lethargic or angry we need to adjust something in our practice or our thinking, or even both. As we have explored the connection between our energy, our effectiveness, and our teaching, we have arrived at a four big principles that help our teaching compass stay on true north. We call these four guiding tenets “The Four Intentions” and, if we are mindful of them, our inner teacher feels like this:


We use these intentions to plan lessons, purposefully considering each tenet as we design instruction. We also use them to reflect on lessons we teach. These intentions have become the framework for all our thinking about instruction, even about education in general. Here is an explanation for each intention, and questions you can ask yourself to reflect on how well a particular lesson or some other work addresses “The Four Intentions.”

Intention 1: Alignment (with our inner teacher)

In these days of aligning curricula, instruction, and language with performance standards, we offer, instead, as our primary teaching intention alignment with our highest purpose for teaching–that is, a focus on lifelong learning. This includes a reconnection with our original visions for our teaching selves and a reawakening of our loftiest visions for students as learners. Staying true to the alignment intention means keeping our sights set on our long-term outcomes and the ways in which our instructional decisions can affect who children will grow up to become. The alignment intention is all about recognizing and action on our agency as teachers, and using this agency to empower students. To evaluate your work against the alignment intention, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my inner teacher, my highest teaching self, feel safe (even happy) with this instructional choice? How do I know?
  • How does this work/decision/lesson  show students their power as learners?
  • Am I excited about this work/lesson? Why?

Intention 2: Balance

We intend to balance the aforementioned alignment to our inner teacher with our immediate instructional goals, whether state directives around the Common Core State Standards or district expectations that we must use certain curricula. We must attend to accountability demands intentionally, but we want to do so without losing sight of our best selves as educators or of who we want students to grow to become. To evaluate your work against the balance intention, ask yourself the following question:

  • How well does this work/lesson help students meet the expectations others place on them? How do I know?
  • How does this lesson/work accentuate the aspects of accountability and standardization that are most closely connected to what my inner teacher holds most important?
  • How does this lesson/work marry the goals of my inner teacher, the immediate considerations of accountability, and checks against my own biases?

Intention 3: Sustainability

Classroom time restraints demand that we teach lessons that serve purposes beyond the immediate work. Sustainable lessons are those that teach processes, strategies, or routines that support learning in other contexts. We acknowledge that, ultimately, practices that support reading wellness must be self-sustaining, even habituated. Sustainable lessons/work are not an end in themselves, but rather pathways for establishing new ways of being, knowing, and doing that can serve students within our classroom communities, and even for a lifetime. To evaluate lessons/work against the sustainability intention, consider the following questions:

  • How does the core of this lesson/work make future learning/work easier, better, and deeper?
  • How does this lesson/work make it easier for us, as a classroom community, to talk about our work?
  • How will habituating what they are practicing in this lesson make students more “well” as learners?

Intention 4: Joy

Most importantly, we intend toward joyful instruction and joyful learning in classrooms all the time! We actively search for sources of joy, and work to extend and perpetuate them. We are not referring to “fun” lessons or “cute” activities, although joyful learning is usually fun and may well lead to inspired (and even inspiring) and innovative student work. Joy in this context refers to the moments you and your students are engaged in work that matters to you, that holds the potential for propelling lifelong learning habits, and that results in growth both toward accountability standards and toward and agentive life of learning. To evaluate lessons against the joy intention, consider the following questions:

  • What makes this lesson/work memorable?
  • How does this lesson/work fill my students and/or me with energy, awe, and inspiration?
  • How does this lesson/work perpetuate a love of learning?

To learn more about the Four Intentions, you can find a thorough explanation, as well as six lessons written with these intentions, in Reading Wellness. Or, you can follow reading teacher bloggers who are practicing these intentions regularly and writing about it, such as Steve Peterson, Julianne Harmatz, Mary Lee Hahn and Franki Sibberson.

How do you stay in touch with your inner teacher?