EBHS Wordlist Goes School Wide

What started out as a pilot project based on a first-ever book study has morphed into a key element of our high school’s 2016 literacy plan.

Today our newly formed “Literacy Team” at EBHS met for a first informal meeting to put some wheels on projects that had already been set in motion for the fall; one of these projects is the school-wide implementation of our EBHS Word List.

We’ve added some basic math and science words (horizontal, vertical, factor, hypothesis, hypothesize), and we’ve added lists of transitional phrases.  Hopefully these additions will help this simple tool to have a broader appeal across subject areas and academic levels.


Sample student word list from pilot project

Our vision is that this tool will become a valuable go-to for students in all subjects, any time there is writing to do. As we learned from our pilot project, the success of this tool largely depends on how well each teacher integrates it into their classroom processes.  To this end, part of our fall implementation will involve an “infomercial” for students and staff to explain the what, when, how, where and why of this tool. Hopefully, if every school citizen has the same starting point of understanding of this tool, it will help to make its use common place.

Here’s to implementing strategies for improved literacy!



An new experiment at EBHS: a book club

Ever since I read Kylene Beers’ book When Kids Can’t Read What Teachers Can Do, I’ve had the idea in the back of my mind that it would be intriguing for teachers of my staff to read this book together and talk about itFeatured image… like a book study idea. One problem: we don’t do that kind of thing at my school.

But we should!

Everywhere I turn, it seems I’m reading about the power of learning together with colleagues. So earlier this month I threw the idea of a “book club” out to my colleagues. Not sure what it will look like, but we are reading the first three chapters for January 8th!  Some of the teachers that have expressed interest have not read the book before; and thankfully, some who are familiar with the book also see value in revisiting it together in community.  This seems like the right place to reflect on trying something new in high school!

Thanks to Linda M. for helping to recruit enough copies of the book.

Check out the post I was compelled to write when I first encountered this book:

“So Two Colleagues go to a PD Session…”

So Two Colleagues Go To A PD Session….

So two of my colleagues whom I most admire went to a PD Workshop earlier this week on “Teaching High School Kids to Read”.  When I asked them how it was, their eyes went glisten-y and they started with, “Oh, Cammie….”, I knew I had to pull up a chair…..

I will readily admit as a high school English teacher, that my thoughts on kids’ lack of reading skills in high school has typically been something like this: “Well, I can’t teach them in their last year (or 2nd last year) of school what they haven’t learned (how to read) in the previous 10. Hopefully, I’ll teach them a few strategies to get them through the reading comprehension test worth 25% of their entire Grade 12 English mark, but what more can I do?  Featured imageNow, teaching them to improve their writing….. that I can tackle.”  

…I pull up a chair, and as one of my colleagues starts to give me the skinny on the 5 strategies they learned to help improve students’ reading, my mind instantly begins to whir.  I kind of do that! I could do that! Oh, that would work in _______ poem, or _____short story.” This brief conversation ended with: “Well, we have 2 copies of an earlier book the presenter wrote. Why don’t you take one and check it out.”  Me: “Just keep it, I won’t have time to do it justice.” My colleague: “Just take it anyway. You never know.”  (When Kids Can’t Read, What Teacher Can Do, Kylene Beers, 2003).

2 days later the other colleague pops into my room at the end of the day.  Here are my notes from the session….. And off we go, re-inventing the teaching of literature.

It’s now 9:00 on a Friday night. 3 days into the semester. The PD Presentation they attended was on Monday.  Between chauffeuring my children to their various activities this evening, I have read 100 pages of this book. I haven’t done any of my marking; I haven’t done any work on my Master’s capstone project, or the course project due next week. But, I have a dozen sticky notes of planned changes to how I approach the literature in my classes, especially for the non-academic crew whose words and comments are echoed in the author’s anecdotes about teaching struggling readers. In fact, the real reason I turned the computer on 15 minutes ago was to adapt a “Probable Passage” guideline/worksheet for some of the stories I will be teaching next week.  Funny thing….earlier this week when I was previewing my typical course of action for these two pieces of literature, I knew my students didn’t love the lessons, or really connect to the stories beyond getting the gist of the plot and some heated debate about a “killing” issue that arises from the context. Turns out, I think these will be the perfect pair of stories to try this new ‘pre-reading’ strategy with.

Colleagues: Block 4, mid-week. You should pop in for a visit to see how this unfolds…