Heather Brown’s Literacy Blog

Welcome to my blog! I hope you find it enjoyable and engaging. We are all life long learners!




Mindsets of a Leader

As I continue to learn more about literacy and becoming a literacy leader I find that my learning will be never ending. I also realize that I need to start looking inside myself as a person and a leader as well. As much as I enjoy endlessly reading books about teaching literacy and becoming a coach I also realize that I need a brain break from it at times. In order to satisfy my current brain break, I recently started reading The 7 Mindsets To Live Your Ultimate Life: An unexpected blueprint for an extraordinary life by Scott Shickler & Jeff Waller. I’m only a few chapters in but I’m enjoying it so far. The first thing I like about it is that it’s a quick read. It’s not a 500 page self help book. It’s a focused 100 some page book that doesn’t waste time on the fuzzy stuff.

I know there are probably some critics out there but keep in mind that I have no false visions that this is the book that will turn my life around forever. I’m going about it with the attitude that if I can take one or two good things from it that will help change how I think and make me a better person/leader, I would be satisfied with the 100 page read. It would be even better if I can use some of it to help the students in my classroom as well. The authors claim that what they talk about can be used in any setting, including students in a classroom. I can say that they did their research. They had live interviews from many different successful people which ultimately led them to the seven commonalities that each of them had.

The 7 Mindsets are as follows:

-Everything is possible

-Passion first

-We are connected

-100% Accountable

-Attitude of gratitude

-Live to give

-The time is now

The authors warn that each mindset goes much deeper than what is on the surface, but this gives you an idea of what you will read about. With that said, I’ll be getting back to my much needed brain break.


What is your best brain break read?


Writer’s Workshop

I’ve started exploring a writer’s workshop model in my classroom. I find that Lucy Calkins has been a pioneer in writer’s workshop. In this 7 part series you hear right from the mouth of Lucy Calkins about reading and writing and why it’s important to give students a choice in their reading, teacher education, curriculum, implementation, and more. I like that we hear her voice and words that back up her work. I think her ideas are great if they can be properly supported by administration and professional development. Check it out for yourself.


Website Resources for Literacy Leaders

I have included a previous post that has other websites as well. Please scroll down further to see those.

Jan Richardson Guided Reading


Jan Richardson is most famous for her knowledge of guided reading in classrooms. Her website gives resources, PD opportunities, literacy tips, videos, among other things. Jan Richardson, Ph.D., a leading expert in guided reading, is a former K-12 teacher, reading specialist, Reading Recovery teacher leader, and staff developer. She currently is an educational consultant, providing presentations and classroom demonstrations across the U.S. and Canada.


The Daily 5


This has information related to the Daily 5 and CAFE books by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (the 2 sisters). Even if you don’t follow the Daily 5 or CAFE, you will find great resources on this site. For a small fee you can print their templates and letters. There is current research, blogs, workshops, and even a section on math.


Fountas and Pinnell Website


These are two of the leading ladies in the literacy world. You can join onto their site for free and receive updates on the latest in literacy. It gives you resources for assessments, resources, interventions, PD, and many other things.  


Fountas and Pinnell Leveled books


If your school goes by the F & P leveling, this is the place for you! This site is the only official source for books leveled by Fountas and Pinnell using their F&P Text Level Gradient™. This frequently updated, subscription-based, online list contains 57,380 books submitted by over 300 publishers. Every book is meticulously reviewed and leveled by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell in conjunction with their team of hand-selected levelers using the F&P Text Level Gradient™.

ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)


ASCD is a global community of educators dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading. Our innovative solutions empower educators to promote the success of each child. It has an endless list of books and publications that have up to date research on everything related to teaching and learning. It has numerous resources and workshops for teachers as well.

ERIC Files


You are able to search all types of articles relating to education. It gives you the latest research on whatever you are looking for.



This seems like an obvious one, but I have to put it in here. You can find some nicely discounted books for your classroom and personal use. They will even have teacher specials from time to time. If you pay a yearly fee you also get free shipping (which is sometimes also discounted). If you are looking for books, this site is worth a shot to get the best bang for your buck.

Scholastic Teacher Store


This is also a great resource for books, but also includes other resources, programs, classroom materials, blogs, lesson ideas etc.

Lucy Calkins


At this site you will find units of study created by Lucy Calkins. If you search her by name you will find numerous resources and information about her and her work.
U.S. Department of Education


This site is important in order to keep up to date on the regulations and changes that go on within education. To see what is updated regarding ESSA you can go to https://www.ed.gov/essa?src=rn.


10 Books for Literacy Leaders

Reading With Meaning

By: Debbie S. Miller


In the second edition of Reading with Meaning, Debbie Miller shares her new thinking about comprehension strategy instruction, the gradual release of responsibility instructional model, and planning for student engagement and independence. She does a great job of describing exactly how her classroom works as well as having a great progression through the year that builds on each other.


The Reading Strategies Book

By: Jennifer Serravallo


Jen collects 300 strategies in support of thirteen reading goals with each strategy cross-linked to skills, genres, and reading levels. Ideal for use with reading workshop, Daily 5/CAFE, guided reading, balanced reading, a core reading program,  or any other approach. This is a great go-to book for lessons on specific skills that you are wanting to teach. I enjoy the simplicity of it and the layout makes sense.


The Writing Strategies Book

By: Jennifer Serravallo


Whether you use Writing Workshop, 6+1 Traits, Daily 5’s “Work on Writing,” a scripted writing program, the writing exercises in your basal, or any other approach, you’ll discover a treasure chest of ways to work with whole classes, small groups, or individual writers.


The Daily Five

By: Gail Boushey & Joan Moser


The Daily 5™ is a framework for structuring literacy time so students develop lifelong habits of reading, writing, and working independently. Students select from five authentic reading and writing choices, working independently toward personalized goals, while the teacher meets individual needs through whole-group and small-group instruction, as well as one-on-one conferring. These choices include: Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, and Word Work.


The First Six Weeks Of School

By: Center For Responsive Schools


Watch children’s learning blossom all year long when you lay the groundwork with the help of this classic, comprehensive guidebook for K–6 teachers. Day by day and week by week, The First Six Weeks of School shows you how to set students up for a year of engaged and productive learning by: Using positive teacher language to establish high academic and behavioral expectations, Getting students excited about schoolwork by offering engaging academics, and Teaching the classroom and academic routines that enable a collaborative learning community to thrive. This is an important one for literacy leaders to be able to establish a community of learners in a classroom and school.



By: Chip Wood


This is a great book for understanding the development of children. We need to understand how they develop in order to help them learn the best way that we can. Written with warmth and humor, Yardsticks offers clear descriptions of children’s development. This comprehensive, user-friendly reference helps teachers and administrators use knowledge of child development to shape classrooms and schools where all children can succeed.


The Book Whisperer

By: Donalyn Miller


“Donalyn Miller says she has yet to meet a child she couldn’t turn into a reader. No matter how far behind Miller’s students might be when they reach her 6th grade classroom, they end up reading an average of 40 to 50 books a year. Miller’s unconventional approach dispenses with drills and worksheets that make reading a chore. Instead, she helps students navigate the world of literature and gives them time to read books they pick out themselves. Her love of books and teaching is both infectious and inspiring. The book includes a dynamite list of recommended “kid lit” that helps parents and teachers find the books that students really like to read.”


Reading In The Wild

By: Donalyn Miller


“A companion to the bestselling The Book Whisperer, Reading in the Wild explores whether or not we are truly instilling lifelong reading habits in our students and provides practical strategies for teaching “wild” reading. Based on survey responses from over 900 adult readers and classroom feedback, Reading in the Wild offers solid advice and strategies on how to develop, encourage and assess key lifelong reading habits, including dedicating time for reading, planning for future reading, and defining oneself as a reader.
Word Matters

By:  Gay Su Pinnell & Irene C. Fountas


Word Matters presents essential information on designing and implementing a high-quality, systematic literacy program to help children learn about letters, sounds, and words. The central goal is to teach children to become “word solvers”: readers who can take words apart while reading for meaning, and writers who can construct words while writing to communicate.


The Art of Teaching Writing

By: Lucy Calkins


When Lucy Calkins wrote the first edition of The Art of Teaching Writing, the writing workshop was a fledgling idea, piloted by a few brave innovators. Now, as she brings us this new edition, the writing workshop is at the foundation of language arts education throughout the English-speaking world. This new edition, then, could easily have been a restatement, in grander, more confident tones, of the original classic.


Resource List for Literacy Coaches

It’s important to have some go-to resources as we move along in our careers. I have listed some of mine along with a description. In my search I found new ones as well. What do you use?

International Reading Association (IRA)www.reading.org

The focus of the IRA (now the ILA – International Literacy Association) is to assist teachers with literacy instruction. They have a strong belief that literacy is the future and it needs to be taught well. They have publications, lesson plans, and literacy projects in place that are utilized by teachers all over the world. They aim to create a community of educators working towards the goal of literacy.

National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)www.ncte.org

The NCTE is best described by their core values: writing, literature, integrated language arts, diversity, knowledgeable, caring teachers, advocacy, and and public education. They want literacy promoted as they are integrated within other content areas and in a diverse way. Their goal is to make sure that everyone is able to participate in our society with these literacy and speaking skills.

Minnesota Reading Association (MRA)www.mnreading.org

The MRA is a Minnesota based association that supports what the ILA (International Literacy Association) does. They promote networking and collaboration, provide resources and opportunities for professional growth and leadership development, and they support literacy efforts across the state. They are a diverse group of more than 500 people in different parts of education as well as teachers and students.

Minnesota Council of Teachers of English (MCTE)www.mcte.org

This organization is associated with the NCTE. It is a way for English and Language Arts teachers to collaborate and learn together. It has Minnesota based workshops available. It has what they call MEJ Online where there are articles and discussions that go on regarding education.

American Association of School Librarianshttp://www.ala.org/aasl/guidelinesandstandards/bestlist/bestwebsiteslandmark

This association supports librarians by empowering them to help students learn. Their goal is to ensure that librarians are seen as an important part of a child’s education. It provides journals, research, conferences available, among other things. It seems to focus a lot on current technologies for librarians to utilize and keep up to date with the changes in education.   

Florida Center for Reading Researchwww.fcrr.org

This provides you with research based literacy skills for teachers to use with their readers. It’s directed towards the state of Florida, but has great research that any teacher can utilize. It provides information on different projects that they are doing as well as current research in literacy. They have a large list of articles that you can refer to depending on what you are looking for. I also noticed it has a couple of assessments that you can give students in order to know which way to go with their learning. This site would be great for any teacher of literacy, but especially valuable to a literacy coach who has the job to stay current on research.

University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learninghttp://reading.uoregon.edu/

It looks like this site is no longer being updated, but is available as a resource. It’s focus is that students are able to read at grade level by third grade. It refers to the information that the National Reading Panel came up with back in 1997. It would be good for a literacy coach to use this site as well as a curriculum director. It has some great tips on how to choose a reading curriculum and assessments as well.   

Reading Rocketshttp://www.readingrockets.org/

This is a site that I’ve heard of many times but haven’t had the time to browse. It is technologically savvy with the apps and podcasts that are available to teachers and students. The target audience for this site would be teachers, parents, principals, librarians, and school counselors. It addresses teaching literacy and assisting struggling readers. It has a huge list of literature for kids and many different ways of listing them to assist anyone interested.


My school has used newsela. I know that the third and fourth grade teachers utilize it much more than we do in the younger grades. It puts news in kid friendly language so that current events are easily read and understood by students. This is a great site for parents and teachers. As a parent I would enjoy it as current events come up and I might be looking for a way for my fourth grade son to comprehend the ideas in an age appropriate way.

Jan Bretthttp://www.janbrett.com/index.html

I do a unit that is focused on Jan Brett’s books and this looks like it has some great resources that I could use during that unit. It looks like you can contact the author as well. Using it would make it interactive and real-world like.

Ohio State University: Literacy Collaborative http://www.lcosu.org

Our district has committed to doing the Literacy Collaborative with Ohio State and will begin the process next year. The Literacy Collaborative is a comprehensive literacy program that was created from Dr. Irene Fountas and Dr. Gay Su Pinnell’s work. It has great resources and thoughts for all teachers along with other links and research.    

National Reading Panel https://www.nichd.nih.gov/research/supported/Pages/nrp.aspx

The National Reading Panel was put together in order to create quality research in reading instruction. It specifically states that the site is not being updated, but the information that you are able to gather from it is helpful. This is a site that I continue to go back to because of the great research that it has. I’ve used it for every one of my graduate classes and refer back to it often for my own gain.

What are your online go-to resources?



The ABCs of PD

10 things PD


The image above is something that I ran across while scrolling through Facebook one day. As I read it I could relate to all 10 points that were present. This would probably cover most of what teachers want from their professional development (PD). I would have some things to add as I continue to learn more about literacy and coaching adults.

Lyons & Pinnell (2001) mention some of the characteristics of adults as learners. Some things to consider when planning and implementing PD would be:

What do they already know?

What are their past experiences (successes, failures)?

Do you have a group of newer or veteran teachers?

Will the things you are teaching them be helpful in their classrooms NOW?

Are you meeting the expectations of the group?

Is what you are doing worth their time?

Despite having many different learning styles, teachers do have things in common when your goal is effective PD. Lyons & Pinnell discuss these Constructivist Principles of Teaching (2001, p. 4)

  1. Encourage active participation.
  2. Organize small-group discussions around common concerns.
  3. Introduce new concepts in context.
  4. Create a safe environment.
  5. Develop teachers’ conceptual knowledge through conversation around shared experiences.
  6. Provide opportunities for teachers to use what they know to construct new knowledge.
  7. Look for shifts in teachers’ understanding over time.
  8. Provide additional experiences for teachers who have not yet developed needed conceptual understanding.

I didn’t feel like any of the above were worth summarizing. They are all so important to keep in the front of our minds in order to ensure that our PD is effective for everyone involved. As the facilitator you want to accommodate the expectations of both administration, parents, and teachers while also keeping in mind that the purpose is for the success of your students.


Lyons, C. A., & Pinnell, G. S. (2001). Systems for change in literacy education: a guideto professional development. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Loop De Loop: Literacy in a looping classroom


I am in the midst of my second looping class. A few years ago a colleague and I were discussing how we would like to try a looping classroom. Looping is “when a teacher is promoted with his/her students to the next grade level and stays with the same group of children for two or three years” (Rasmussen, 1998). We both went to our principal to discuss the possibility and he was on board right away. My colleague had her first grade class and moved with them to second grade while I started with a new group of first graders. We kept in close contact and right away she noticed how different the beginning of the year was for her. Everyone was more comfortable with each other, she was able to continue where she left off both academically and socially.

When I took my first group of first graders on to second grade with me I noticed the same things that she did. It was amazing how easy the beginning of the year was. We all knew each other, we were comfortable, and expectations were clear and consistent. I assessed each one of my students at the beginning of the year but the assessments were much smoother and I had a lot of knowledge of my students as readers already. We really just picked up where we left off. It was great for all of us.

Another benefit of looping cited by teachers is the opportunity to get to know students over two years” (Rasmussen, 1998, p.1). I can say that after having my students in my class for 9 months, I feel like at about month 7 or 8 is when I really know them as a person and a learner. It’s a gift to be able to further our teacher/student relationship beyond that and dig deeper so that I can help them become even more successful in not only their reading, but every aspect of their learning.

Here are some links that I found helpful if you are looking for more information:


www.edweek.org and then search “looping”

www.ascd.org and search “looping”

https://eric.ed.gov/ and search “looping”

Rasmussen, K. (1998). Looping Discovering the Benefits of Multiyear Teaching. Education Update, 40(2). Retrieved June 28, 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/education-update/mar98/vol40/num02/Looping.aspx