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Planning for Social-Emotional Learning in Literacy Instruction
Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA Next
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    New From ILA: “Workinar” on Planning for SEL in Literacy Instruction

    By Wesley Ford
     | Aug 11, 2020

    CASELWorkinar_680x357I think it’s safe to say that 2020 has been a strange year for everyone. Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been widespread and ongoing, especially in the educator field. Back in March, as schools shut their doors for extended spring breaks and shifted over to distance learning, we at ILA immediately started looking for ways to support educators.

    We leveraged digital platforms like Zoom and Facebook Live to provide new professional learning experiences. We canceled our annual in-person conference, ILA 2020, and created ILA Next, an entirely new program built from the ground up for the digital space. Much like educators who very suddenly shifted to teaching remotely, we’re learning as we go, and we’re continuing to design new profession development models to provide the best learning experience for educators.

    ILA Workinar

    Which brings me to our next professional development event, our webinar/workshop hybrid, the ILA Workinar (see what we did there?). For our inaugural workinar, Planning for Social-Emotional Learning in Literacy Instruction (August 16, 5:00 p.m.–6:30 p.m. ET), we teamed up with CASEL to create a robust learning experience that focuses on helping educators understand the social-emotional needs of their students.

    During the first half of this 90-minute event, participants will learn how to apply the four SEL Critical Practices outlined in CASEL’s Roadmap for Reopening School to literacy teaching and learning from our keynote speakers, Justina Schlund from CASEL and Christine M.T. Pitts from NWEA.

    The workshops

    But this event goes beyond listening to a presentation. Following the keynote, attendees will be asked to select one of four smaller discussion groups, three of which are organized around the age of the learner, with the fourth focusing on the needs of principals, literacy coaches, and administrators. Each workshop will be guided by literacy educators immersed in social-emotional learning (SEL) work.

    We’ve broken these workshops into four categories:

    • Primary/elementary students (grades K–3), led by Rhonda M. Sutton and Tamera Slaughter
    • Intermediate/middle school students (grades 4–8), led by Sara K. Ahmed and Chad Everett
    • Secondary/high school students (grades 9–12), led by Gerald Dessus and Kimberly Eckert
    • Principals and staff developers, led by Arlène Elizabeth Casimir

    These facilitators will prompt discussion and reflection as well as providing additional resources to workshop participants. Participants will also have the chance to connect with colleagues and deepen their understanding of their students’ SEL needs.

    Video archives

    We understand how busy educators are. Professional development needs to flexible and accessible to fit educators’ schedules. That’s why our digital events are recorded. The main keynote and all four workshops will be recorded and available to all registrants. That’s right: You get access not only to the workshop you attended but also the other three. That’s a total of 135 additional minutes of professional to watch and learn from at your leisure.

    Confirm your membership or join ILA before you register

    Registration for this ILA Workinar is just $25 for members ($75 for nonmembers). You can become a member of ILA for just $44. Plus, membership gives you access to a suite of resources free for members.

    That includes our ILA at Home webinars, such as “Making a Case for Reading Joy” (featuring Donalyn Miller) on August 30, as well as archives of previous webinars featuring educators such as Timothy Shanahan, Marjorie Y. Lipson, Jeanne R. Paratore, and Victoria J. Risko.

    Be sure to join us for this new professional development event!

    Wesley Ford is the senior social media strategist for ILA.
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    International Literacy Association Cancels 2020 Conference Amid COVID-19 and Its Impact on Education

    By ILA Staff
     | May 13, 2020

    ILA2020LitDaily_680x350The International Literacy Association (ILA) announced today the cancellation of the ILA 2020 Conference, scheduled to take place Oct. 15–18 in Columbus, OH.

    “Although this is a difficult announcement, it was not a hard decision to make because we knew it was the right decision,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “The safety and health of our attendees, as well as everyone who helps shape the event, from speakers and sponsors to exhibitors and staff, is of the utmost importance.”

    Before the detrimental effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the ILA 2020 Conference was expected to draw some 4,000 literacy professionals and educators from around the world. However, with schools and universities closed and travel restrictions in place, continuing to plan for an education conference “was not the right move for a professional development organization at this time,” Post said.

    Post cited continuing challenges around budgets as another factor in the decision, as well as the critical task of students’ academic recovery following what’s been dubbed “the COVID slide.”

    “Our members and all those who traditionally attend our conference need our support but not in the form of an in-person conference they likely wouldn’t be able to attend,” Post said.

    Instead, ILA is focused on expanding its virtual learning options. Last month, ILA offered a free replay of six top sessions from the ILA 2019 Conference and held its first ILA Edcamp Online, becoming one of the first organizations to bring the popular, participant-driven “unconference” into a digital space.

    The organization also launched on May 3 ILA at Home, a new series of webinars, beginning with Timothy Shanahan. The event attracted more than 1,400 registrants in 10 days. The second in the series, featuring Donalyn Miller, takes place May 31.

    At the center of this slate of digital events is a new, progressive model of professional development ILA will announce next month.

    “Nothing can compare to the experience of actually being at a face-to-face ILA conference,” Post said. “So rather than try to replicate it in a virtual space, we felt it made more sense to design something meant to be virtual from the start—something that maximizes the benefits of delivering PD on a digital platform.”

    For more information, visit the Digital Events page of the ILA website.

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    Proven Strategies for Fostering a Classroom of Enthusiastic Writers

     | Oct 29, 2019

    Writing is a crucial skill to develop in our young learners. Regardless of the discipline they’ll eventually grow into, writing will inevitably be involved.

    Nowadays, even writing proper emails is considered an important skill to learn. Therefore, helping young writers develop a strong foundation that will support a continual growth of their writing skills throughout their educational career is more important now than ever. The problem is, many students are averse to writing. Some struggle to come up with ideas to write about, whereas others just outright dislike it. 


    Steve Graham, ILA member and the Warner Professor in the Division of Leadership and Innovation in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State  University, delivered the Research Address at ILA’s 2019 Conference in New Orleans titled, “The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Instruction.” Graham’s address covered the importance of encouraging students to write for multiple purposes, teaching them the necessary writing and process skills, and providing a stimulating writing space for free expression. A summary of Graham’s Research Address will be available in ILA’s November/December issue of Literacy Today

    Below are effective resources for achieving Graham’s “Dos” of writing instruction and encouraging students to love writing in your classroom:

    Writing and reading skills have been scientifically proven to go hand in hand; therefore, developing skilled writers also creates strong readers. With these skills, young learners will be able to tackle any writing and reading assignments that come their way as they advance as students.

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    ILA 2020: Submissions for Proposals Now Open

    By ILA Staff
     | Oct 22, 2019

    With ILA 2019 in the rearview mirror, the International Literacy Association invites educators and researchers to keep the critical conversations going by submitting proposals for ILA 2020 in Columbus, OH, October 15–18, 2020.

    ILA 2020 is an ideal forum for literacy professionals to share their knowledge, research, and best practices. The selected educational programming is integral to the event’s success.

    “We’re very excited to open submissions for ILA 2020, especially after the conversations and ideas that came to life at ILA 2019,” says Becky Fetterolf, director of program content and engagement. “This is a fantastic opportunity to share ideas among the literacy community and we look forward to building the program.”

    Thinking about submitting your proposal? Here are some tips to consider:

    • As you begin writing your proposal, read carefully the Proposal Submission Guidelines and the scoring rubric. Reviewers use this rubric for scoring, so be aware of expectations before you submit.
    • Ground your proposal in research and connect it to practice with clear takeaways. Research is the core of ILA’s work, and attendees expect evidence-based information that they can apply in their work.
    • Give your proposals a creative—but concise—title. If accepted, your title will be what attendees see first; give them something that catches their attention.
    • If you’re new to presenting, consider submitting a poster session. Poster sessions give you a chance to share the work you’re doing through a poster display. Your poster display will give you the opportunity to connect with attendees through more intimate conversations.
    • Consider a nontraditional presentation option: Open space sessions will be held in salons along the main hallway that can accommodate innovative content and presentation formats. These sessions are organized around six categories that embody the theme for ILA 2020—Shaping the Future of Literacy: 2020 Vision.
    • Ask a peer or colleague to review your proposal before you finalize your submission to answer these questions: Is your proposed title engaging and attractive to your prospective audience? Does your cited research have substantial connection to your presentation? Is it clear what an attendee will learn from your session? Is your proposal free of typos and grammatical errors?
    • Be on time. Plan to complete and finalize your proposal at least a week early (you can still go back and edit up to the deadline date). If your proposal is not finalized by the deadline, it will not be reviewed.

    Submissions for reviewed proposals are open through Monday, December 9, 2019. All reviewed proposals must be submitted electronically via the ILA 2020 proposal submission site. For questions about submitting a proposal, please email

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    What Research Really Says About Teaching Reading (Even Beyond ILA 2019)

    By ILA Staff
     | Oct 22, 2019

    The sound of chatter filled the room as teachers, educators, and researchers made their way into the theater on the second day of ILA 2019. With coffee in hand, the crowd eagerly awaited the beginning of the newly added panel, What Research Really Says About Teaching Reading—and Why That Still Matters.

    Abiding the Rules of the Road

    David Pearson took the stage shortly after the clock struck 7:00 a.m. From the start of his presentation, Pearson gave the packed room a reminder: He’s all for research-based practice, but if we’re going to go down that road, let’s make sure we have a road map and follow the rules of the road.

    Delving into research-based practice, Pearson went on to share his version of the rules of the road:

    Rule #1: Policymakers have to read beyond the headline (or have a reader on staff).

    Pearson stressed that readers looking at the headline but not taking it a step further by reading all the content is problematic. Headlines can leave out a lot of the details, nuances, and truth.

    Rule #2: When research is applied, it ought to be applied in an even-handed way.

    No cherry picking. You must look at all research, not just the bits that fit your biases. This also includes equity among students and teachers, said Pearson.

    Rule #3: It’s our moral and ethical obligation to use the best evidence we can muster for making policy decisions of consequence.

    Pearson explained that if we applied the best available evidence standard we would not have so many phonics programs for older students, would not mandate percentages of decodable text, and would still have bilingual education programs in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts.

    Rule #4: When you invoke the mantle of science, you have to accept the full portfolio of methods scientists use.

    “When you invite the research family to the policy table, you have to invite them all, even the cousins you’d rather not talk to,” said Pearson, who received laughs from the crowd.

    Rule #5: Build your case on your evidence, not on the back of a straw person.

    To this point, Pearson said that often educators try to advance the practice they want to promote by asserting that the problem is that no one is currently doing what they advocate. In reality, there is little evidence to warrant the claim that no one is doing it.

    Last, Rule #6: You have to talk to others in the field who you don’t share basic assumptions about how to do research or what the research says.

    According to Pearson, you must stay at the table and cut through the rhetoric. While individuals tend to stay with people who are like them, this approach is bad for educational policy and a problem for society today.

    Building a Future of Strong Readers

    As the engaged crowd digested Pearson’s road map, he moved the program into the panel format featuring renowned literacy experts Nell K. Duke, Sonia Cabell, and Gwendolyn Thompson McMillon.

    The group began the panel by discussing what research tells us about teaching and facilitating in the early years. According to Cabell, children start developing the skills they need for later literacy success from birth. Preschool teachers can help facilitate this at a young age by drawing children’s attention to print while they’re reading out loud, playing phonological games, and practice writing in settings that inspire curiosity.

    “Children must develop their language skills as early as possible,” said Cabell, “By the end of kindergarten children’s language skills start to stabilize. They grow in their skills, but really they are in the same place as their peers.”

    Early on, the code-related skills predict achievement well in kindergarten and first grade. But by the time students get to third grade, it’s the early oral language where the emphasis is on meaning that has the better predicting value predicting later reading achievement, added Pearson.

    Addressing the Scripted Curriculum Conundrum

    Gwendolyn Thompson McMillon shifted the conversation to the pros and cons of scripted curriculum. In research, McMillon found that when preservice and inexperienced teachers get into the classroom, they are more comfortable when they’re given direction on what to say and do. Also, depending on how the scripted program is presented, it can increase engagement among students. However, she moved to explained how the cons of scripted curriculum can cost both educators and students. 

    “If it’s a scripted program, my concern is that students who may not get the kind of language interaction at home, and often times that’s students who are socioeconomically impoverished, may not get that in the classroom,” McMillon said. “Then when would it happen? I’m concerned that the interaction [with scripted programs] isn’t there.”

    It wouldn’t be professionally responsible for any of us to recommend using scripted programs with no responsiveness to children in front of us. It’s about how much guidance you’re putting into the program, Duke added.

    Cabell joined the discussion by adding that some of the goal for scripted programs is to teach teachers how to teach a topic, therefore they may be a benefit to many.

    Exploring Texts for Beginning Readers

    Pearson turned to Duke to move the conversation to texts for beginning readers.

    “The weight of the evidence suggests that decodability is an important factor in texts for beginning readers,” Duke says. “That degree to which the texts are decodable does matter for children and for their development. More decodable texts foster literacy development better, even though it’s not what some people want to hear.”

    There is also evidence that suggests other factors in the text that are important: The diversity of genres represented, natural language, and the degree the text is engaging the kids, Duke continued. In her opinion, the most promising work in the area is what is currently is referred to as multiple criteria texts, which focus decodability but do not stop there. She recommends educators learn more at

    Tackling Reading Comprehension

    There is a large body of research supporting the explicit teaching of comprehension strategies using a gradual release of responsibility model, said Duke. There’s no doubt about its importance.

    “It’s as though because we think content knowledge building is so important, we’re just going to ignore three decades of research on comprehensive strategy instruction,” said Duke. “This isn’t a zero-sum game saying, ‘if you can’t attend to content, then you can’t teach comprehension strategies’ or ‘if you teach comprehension strategies, you must not be paying enough attention to vocabulary or morphology.’”

    There is also concern that the literacy field is usurping content instruction in school districts. Meaning, literacy is dominating the day with some programs having curricula addressing social studies and science standards. This leaves districts feeling as if teaching both subjects are optional. This is deeply problematic, said Duke. Literacy practitioners should be advocating for science and social studies instruction.

    “For too long, literacy has been a bully and pushed science and social studies off of the stage,” Pearson said in his final comments. “Literacy should be a buddy, not a bully, for science and social studies.”

    Though the panel came to a close, the critical conversations were just beginning. Attendees could be heard exiting the crowded auditorium debriefing the panel with fellow colleagues, while Twitter (referred to as “the wires” by Pearson) was buzzing using the hashtag #ILAresearch. Although ILA 2019 has come and gone, we look forward to educators and researchers continuing the conversation about what research really says about teaching reading.

    To watch the full panel, visit the ILA website.

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