Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Literacy Instruction at Hoover High School

Today's post is Part II of yesterday's blog post. Yesterday I shared with you my notes from Dick Allington's presentation on literacy. Since I heard his presentation, I have been on fire for improving literacy instruction at the high school level. In my 20 years in education, I've never heard of Dick Allington. I took one class in my undergrad education called "Reading in the Content Area." I've attended an incredible reading workshop by Kylene Beers, but sadly those two things are the extent of my training in teaching literacy to high school students. To use the words of Maya Angelou, I'm going to learn more so that I'll know better, so I can do better.

Today I want to share my plan of action around the information I learned from Dick Allington. I welcome all comments, especially from secondary administrators and teachers who have a successful literacy plan in place. I would also love to hear from reading coaches and elementary teachers. I don't know what I don't know, so please give your suggestions on how we can help our students.

Phase I - Share Information

  • I emailed my notes to our district Chief Academic Officer, Cindy Adams. She is a former English teacher and is very knowledgeable about reading. I told her I want to meet with her to talk more about moving forward.
  • I emailed my notes to our department chair for our Special Education department, our teachers who teach Read 180, and our chair of the English department. I've told all of them that I want to get their input on my ideas for implementing a literacy plan for HHS.
  • I posted the information to my blog, asking for input from readers.
  • I send out a weekly curriculum newsletter to our staff on each Wednesday. I've included a link to my blog post about the presentation.
  • I will have conversations with our principal and key teachers about putting a literacy improvement plan in place.
Phase II - Short-term and long-term
  • I will talk with other members of our RtI team as well as our reading intervention teachers on ways to use time for student intervention.
  • We will start professional development meetings with staff on literacy strategies that can be used in the classroom
  • I want to brainstorm with the chair of the special education department (and eventually the teachers in the department and co-teachers) on ways to have our special education teachers to use literacy intervention strategies with students
  • During the summer of 2014, teachers will be invited to join a summer book study (book yet to be determined. Probably one by Dick Allington or Kelly Gallagher, author of Readicide.)
  • I will ask for volunteers to join a literacy leadership team. 
  • This team would agree to read and learn about literacy strategies throughout the school year.
  • They would also commit to meet once per month to share "what's working" and discuss professional learning. Additionally, the team would review data and use it to guide instruction.
  • This group would provide professional development sessions to the rest of the staff.
  • This team would also attend the Alabama Reading Association State Conference in November.
The Florida Center for Reading Research says the following:

Literacy initiatives in middle and high school should focus on three goals.

1. Improve overall levels of reading proficiency. To succeed in the world
after school, adolescents must leave high school with higher levels of
reading proficiency than they are currently attaining.
2. Ensure that all students make at least expected yearly growth in 
reading ability each school year. Students who enter middle school 
reading at grade level need to learn many new skills and acquire 
extensive knowledge in order to meet grade-level standards at the 
end of high school.
3. Accelerate struggling readers’ development. Instruction for struggling
readers must produce substantially more than one year’s growth in reading
ability for each year of instruction. Unless struggling readers receive
instruction this powerful for as long as they need it, their ability to learn
from grade-level text will remain impaired.                    (read full article HERE)

The team would use these three goals as guideposts for our actions throughout the year.

Thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you. 

What are we missing? What else do we need to do? What's working at your school? 


  1. I applaud your efforts as an administrator to gain insight and improve literacy instruction, especially at the high school level. It is refreshing. I think you have a great start on improving the instruction at the high school. I would recommend investing your money in a literacy coach/interventionist. Teachers have so little time to prepare, plan and teach. Having a literacy coach available to gather resources, model best practice and collaborate with has proven to improve core instruction.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Rachel. I believe we need one at the HS level to hep train teachers. We just don't know enough about teaching literacy at the HS level.

  2. 1. I love that "Share information" is your first step. Too often we try and do something on our own without giving others a chance to see what is happening and give advice/help.
    2. I also love the connections you are making and how you are actively seeking to incorporate the knowledge of those around you.

    Can't wait to see what specific steps and interventions work well. Don't forget to get your librarians involved. Our library has about 150+ students in it before and after school. Your library should be your literacy hub.

    1. Thanks, David, for your input. We have an awesome library staff - they know I will include them! :-) I appreciate your stopping by and commenting.

  3. Hi Jennifer,
    Hallejulah! You are a secondary instructional leader who is determined to expand teacher and student learning and your efforts are admirable.
    May I suggest that you also focus on teachers developing comprehensive pre-during-post lessons that focus on content AND critical thinking ( I can give you ideas for strategies to use at each phase), utilizing essential questions, teaching content & academic vocabulary for a few minutes per day and also engaging students in a learning task every 4-8 minutes such as turn and talk with your partner and retell (first, then, finally) what you just read, etc.
    Providing instructional/literacy and peer coaching are also very effective so implementation of literacy strategies actually occurs.
    I am a secondary instructional/literacy coach and I am guessing that is why you asked for my feedback-let's set up a phone call and I can share some specific strategies that will benefit your secondary staff.
    Blessings! Julie Adams @adamsteaching

    1. Hi, Julie. Thanks for reading and commenting. Love your suggestions. I used turn and talk in the classroom as much as possible. Let's talk with this week - I will shoot you and email. Thank you for your willingness to give input to this effort!

  4. Lots of good ideas and energy here. A few thoughts: 1) Dr Adams is an incredible resource in this area, and she is in house! Getting her involved early and often is a great first step. 2) When selling this to the faculty, I'd avoid the word 'literacy.' Many of the misconceptions from your other post (literacy=decoding, it's the support teacher's problem, etc) are firmly held by many teachers. 3) This aligns nicely with CC/college readiness standards for reading, so the timing is perfect. 4) I agree with everything said about critical thinking and meta-reading/cognitive strategies, and think most teachers will buy into this.

    1. Thanks for your input, Brad. Great reminders about making sure we use a common language. Cindy Adams is a terrific resource - I will be leaning heavily on her. I'm so glad she's part of HCS. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Hi! It is great to see purposeful literacy instruction being implemented at HS level! I'm wondering what diagnostic you will use to determine your students have indeed improved their lit skills by one grade level? Will you administer a school wide assessment in September and June to measure the growth? Thanks!!