The season is upon us of hustle and bustle, laughing memories and sometimes–STRESS!  I know that I am blessed to work with each of you everyday and have the opportunity to lift students up academically, socially and emotionally each day.


Today, a dear friend of mine and amazing educator had a heavy heart and was questioning her value. She reminded me that we are surrounded by LOTS of noise and “distractions” that keep us from seeing the most important events and people in our lives.


She, like all great educators, puts in 110% effort each day, long hours and juggling a never ending job with raising a family and because she is AMAZING–never feels she meets the mark.


So, today, for my friend and all other amazing teachers out there–remember YOU are amazing.  I am THANKFUL that you are here and the value you bring to my life AND the children in our school.


T is for THOUSANDS OF THINGS YOU JUGGLE.  You take on the world to ensure that everyone is taken care of and their needs met. Whether it is ensuring everyone has snack, planners have been signed and concepts learned–you take care of all of us and often forget to think of yourself. Each and every task and “thing” you juggle may seem to go unnoticed but each and every one of them is making the lives of others better and stronger. So, give yourself a break if you forget one small thing–it might be that someone needs to learn independence.  


H is for the HUGE HEART you share.  The extreme compassion you show to others and how you are always reaching out to help. Whether it is a student in your class, a person at church or simply a stranger–you reach out to meet their needs when you rarely take time for your own. When others think of tasks to complete–you see how others do without. When others engage in fun–you are ensuring others are having fun. Your huge heart is who you are and we are thankful you share it.


A is for ACADEMIC PLANS that are always made with care. Only and educator can appreciate this one. The hours and hours that are spent with care to create plans, generate ideas and prepare. Thank you for the time you put in because these carefully made plans that meet all needs are truly the reason our students succeed.


N is for NEVER Giving up on anyone. When something is not working or a student is not learning, a new plan is always generated. Try after try to ensure all students are learning is only achieved when you believe all students CAN and WILL learn. Thank you for this attitude because sometimes YOU are the only one telling the student–they CAN.


K is for the KINDNESS you show. Giving up your lunch on a field trip for those who forgot to pack one. Sharing your coat with a student on the playground because their coat is too thin. Whether it is providing lunch money, a snack, an extra hug–kindness is always found when you are around.


F is for FIGHTING and Advocating for children.  Standing up and speaking for students is what you do. When no one else seems to hear or see the need–you are there to make sure the voice is heard. Passion for children and what is best helps motivate you.


U is for remembering the UNDERDOG!  Educators see potential where others do not. Taking time to nurture and build up students both academically and in character.


L is for LIFE LONG LEARNING.  The public has no idea the life long learning you do. The time you spend researching new ways and ideas for that student who does not seem to understand. The time you invest in planning and seeking the perfect lesson for math.  The PLC time you spend ensuring each student is learning and problem solving new ideas when they are not making growth.


So, educator friends, I am so THANKFUL for you and so are your students. You may not receive a daily fanfare and parade BUT know that each and every day you are impacting lives. You are making a difference. You may be weary and not see the difference BUT it is there and I see it. I am thankful.  My wish for you this holiday season is to remember that YOU ARE A GIFT.  Treat yourself kindly because you take on SO much each day and when you feel like faltering–remember YOU ARE AMAZING and make a difference every day!


Thank you!



T- housands of things you juggle

H-uge heart

A-cademic Plans

N-ever giving up


F-ighting and advocating for children


L-ife long learner



Remove the Scaffolding!

Scaffold by definition is a temporary structure put in place to repair a “building or other construction.” Applying this definition to education we know that scaffolding is when we put instructional strategies in place to temporarily repair or support learning.

We, as educators, put scaffolds automatically in place to ensure our students are successful. It is important to support our learners while they are shaky and beginning to learn, practice and apply new tasks or strategies.   All students can benefit from this support. We provide to them in various ways. We use guided instruction where a teacher levels instruction to a child’s level and gradually increases the level of complexity over time. This simplified lesson helps students see and understand the concept in a smaller group and allows the teacher to check and monitor progress. Teachers employ strategies such as “I do, we do, you do” to help transfer responsibility gradually to the student. Other popular ways to offer scaffolding to students are:

  • Frontloading vocabulary
  • Visuals and graphics
  • Modeling and think aloud
  • Sentence starters or word boxes
  • Partner work or collaborative teams
  • Graphic Organizers together as a class to organize ideas

But what happens when we do not remove this “temporary” support?


Teaching is an art and knowing when to apply and remove instructional support is crucial.  We must constantly think:  

  • Who is the reader or student?
  • What is their ability?
  • What can they do?  
  • Are we applying tasks that are stretching this student?  
  • Am I providing activities and materials to help them grow and think a bit more than yesterday?  
  • Is the text or material we are providing continuing to challenge?
  • Is the proper scaffold in place?

Constantly evaluating “Task–Text—Student” is the key to ensuring a balanced and rigorous classroom. There must be a balance between these variables to ensure continued learning. If you are providing rigorous material and tasks that stretch thinking but give too much support–you are keeping the student from learning. Rigor and learning is obtained by instilling conceptual understanding through the domains of literacy, having students matched to text and task appropriately to ensure they are stretching. Each element must work together in accordance with the instructional strategies and scaffolding the teacher is providing.

How can we lessen “learning scaffolding” AND continue with rigor?


Give the Graphic Organizer for students to do while the lesson is in progress and independent work.

Do not do graphic organizers with students without having them generate their own ideas and complete them first. Graphic organizers should be strategically used within a lesson to chunk the lesson and have students show understanding along the way.  For example, when reading a story, stop periodically and have students fill in a story map. Do not tell them what or how to do it but let them share their ideas with a partner and make changes. Only after this time of independent work and partner discussion should a teacher model or intervene. By providing the time for students to work–you are allowing them to generate ideas and show their own learning. Teachers can then intervene and deepen understanding through modeling and questioning.


Plan time for students to learn in whole group move to partners and then to  independent work while learning a new concept. Let them do the work!

After teaching a concept, it is important for students to talk through their ideas and concepts with a partner to begin to make sense of the information. Student talk is crucial to help students work through the domains of literacy (listening, speaking, reading and writing) to have conceptual understanding.  More importantly, students must take time to work independently on the skill AND MAKE MISTAKES. It is not until you bring students back together to clarify and question students do they begin to make connections and to make sense of errors.  The best way to take scaffolding from a student is to make them think through and do the work themselves. Give time for students to think on their own and write their own ideas into their journal or notebook. After they have generated ideas, then let them share and work together. All students should bring ideas to the table when doing group work or it is not an equal learning experience. Instead of think-pair-share, try write-pair-share-write!  By changing this strategy students are writing or drawing their ideas, getting support from a partner when discussing (deepening understanding).  The sharing helps to clarify and deepen understanding further with the teacher modeling.  The final write allows the student to conceptualize their ideas into written drawings or thoughts. (labels on drawings is a great next step for younger students)

Removing instructional scaffolding is not easy because we want our students to be successful. However, we must remember that until they make mistakes–learning truly has no purpose or meaning. Let students have time to make errors and then help students fix them–that is truly TEACHING AND LEARNING WITH RIGOR.

Deep Comprehension = A move from Retell to Summarization

Helping your students to capture knowledge while reading is NOT easy!  We hear about modeling, think aloud, direct instruction but what do our students need?  They need to see the structure of the text so they can help make sense of it.

Without YOUR skeleton your body would have no shape and would not function. We have to help students see how an author creates the text by writing it with a structure.

Students interact with fiction at an early age but when do we begin instructing them on how all fiction stories are organized?   The basic structure of any fiction story contains the five elements:  characters, setting, problem, solution and the mood.  When I begin teaching children about fiction we will refer to the 5 basic elements as the BIG FIVE.  I use my hand because as I hold it up each time and refer to the elements–the students are “creating” a map in their mind of the structure of fictional text.

Begin reading stories with basic story structure (singular story problem or plot line) to begin modeling for students.  While reading, stop after several pages, hold your hand up and go through each element while pointing to the corresponding finger which helps students begin to create  connections.  If a student can identify each element, then they do understand the story on a basic level.

The next step, have students begin retelling the story using the BIG FIVE following this basic outline:


The story is about __________________ (Character) who is at ___________________ (Setting).  He/She wanted to _____________________________ but _____________________(problem).  So, he/she _____________________________ (Solution). When _____________________ happened he/she felt ____________________.


Retelling is the K-1 expectation for students. Retelling helps students begin to make sense of a story in a logical sequence. Understanding the “structure” or how the story was “built” helps a child retell main events.

By 2-3 grade, students should be transitioning from a simple retell to recounting a story.  A “recount” of a story requires students to synthesize information into a more concise version of a retell.  A recount begins by explaining who is in the story and where it takes place. The reader then synthesizes information into a clear beginning, middle and end. They share a recount with phrases such as:

  • In the beginning,
  • First,
  • In the middle,
  • Next,
  • At the end,
  • Finally,
  • In conclusion

These phrases encourage the reader to understand the sequential order of the events as they did in a retell but begin to combine or classify them into beginning, middle and end. This requires students to begin categorizing information and combine like ideas.

Here is a sample organizer for recount.

recount-122nm1l Graphic Organizer for Recount

Finally, 4th grade students begin to summarize text which takes the understanding of a story to the next level. Students have to have a sequential understanding of the text and still combine the ideas but take it one step further to organize and synthesize the most important events or ideas into a cohesive and SHORT paraphrase of the text.

Here is a sample organizer for a summary.

mi-1zpb14c– Summary Graphic Organizer

Understanding the structure of  fictional text is essential. Understanding the structure helps students build the ability to sequence ideas for a retell which is simply a natural conversation about a story in order. Once a student can retell a story, the next step, is to begin to synthesize ideas.  Students put these ideas into a clear beginning, middle and end which is known as a recount.  Finally, learning to paraphrase and condense relevant information in a logical manner is a summary.

A child’s ability to move from “retell to recount to summarizing” is the move from basic recall of a story to deep comprehension of the ideas, events and characters. Don’t allow students to simply retell once they have this mastered so they continue to deepen thinking.



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