LearnZillion ELA Webinar Archive

This page is regularly updated with our webinars focused on implementing the Common Core ELA standards — be sure to create a free account on LearnZillion to receive invitations to future events.


Thumbnail.OfficeHoursJoeyHawkins.Webinar.2014Writing Office Hours with Joey Hawkins of the Vermont Writing Collaborative

Recorded 03/13/14 8:00pm EST Get tips on instruction and resources from a nationally acclaimed writing educator and expert. (All grades)




An Introduction to the EQuIP Rubric

Recorded 03/13/14 5:00pm EST Learn how to identify high quality materials aligned to the Common Core (All grades)



thumbnail.ELAEssentials.Webinar.2014 ELA Essentials: Understanding the structure and transitions of the ELA standards

Recorded 3/4/14, 4:30 PM EST focus your lessons and write meaningful teaching objectives aligned to the ELA standards. (All grades)


thumbnail.SkipJoanPrincipalAnxiety.Webinar.2014 How Principals Can Relieve Anxiety Around Common Core Implementation

Recorded 3/5/14 3:00pm EST A discussion with Dr. Skip Fennell and Joan Tellish about how principals can help teachers implement the Common Core. (All grades; Administrators)



Save time, reduce stress. Streamline planning and supercharge your professional growth with LearnZillion.

Recorded 2/30/14 3:30pm EST Learn how to integrate LearnZillion into your lesson planning process. (All grades)


thumbnail.OfficeHoursDavidLiben.Webinar.2014Literacy Office Hours with David Liben of Student Achievement Partners pt 2.

Recorded 2/26/14 8:00pm EST Get tips and resources from David Liben, a nationally acclaimed ELA/literacy specialist. (All grades)


thumbnail.writingaligningsequencingtextdependentq.Webinar.2014Writing, aligning, and sequencing text dependent questions

Recorded 2/19/14 4:00pm EST Learn proven strategies for crafting text-dependent questions. (All grades)



thumbnail.TextTalk.Webinar.2013Text Talks: A First Step in Planning for Close Reading

Recorded 1/30/14 4:00pm EST Get tips, ideas and an actionable format for launching successful text talks. (All grades)



Literacy Office Hours wiScreen Shot 2014-03-27 at 1.37.55 PMth David Liben of Student Achievement Partners pt 1.

Recorded 1/8/14 4:00pm EST Get tips and resources from David Liben,a nationally acclaimed ELA/literacy specialist (All grades)



Ready for more? Click the button below to view our math webinars:

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My First Year Teaching: A Reading Revelation

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Beyond the serial illnesses and perpetual lack of sleep, my first year teaching was a set-up for the rest of my professional life as an educator.

With an undergraduate degree in economics and an early career in real estate development where I analyzed the merits of new deals, I came to teaching with a practiced analytical lens.

Recognizing the Problem

My first year AH HAH moment. . .

  1. Not every student in my 4th grade class was on grade level in regard to their literacy or numeracy.
  2. The curriculum and materials did not in any way account for this reality.

This was 15 years ago.  Instruction was primarily delivered via whole class instruction and student activities.  I quickly realized my students that read below grade level struggled in all academic disciplines.  I marinated uncomfortably in this ‘knowing’ for a while-frustrated by the disconnect between the curriculum/my instruction and my students’ needs. Some of my students were soaring, learning every day, while others just slogged through the day learning little.  I was missing the mark.  It drove me nuts.

Understanding the Problem

The essential question that drove my insanity was how do I get all my students to love learning like those who are already successful in my classroom?  How can I shape my teaching and the curriculum, so ALL my students engage enthusiastically to learn?  What is my responsibility in this dynamic?  Some teachers told me to chill out-that it was not my responsibility to worry about those that don’t learn what is taught well.  That perspective did not work for me.

Addressing the Problem

The first realization was I needed to break from my current approach. It just wasn’t working.  So, after relentless research through reading and discussion with respected veteran colleagues, I took a risk.  I decided a love of reading might address many of my worries for my students.  Towards that end, I begged, borrowed and stole (like any effective teacher) any trade books across a continuum of reading levels for my classroom.  Research by Dr. Richard Allington indicated that the volume of reading was the best pathway to growing reading achievement, so applying the human axiom that we prefer to do what we are successful at, I started an independent reading program in my classroom by putting three components in place:

  • An assessment of each reader in my class in order to appropriately match readers with texts, so a high success rate would be ensured.
  • A diverse collection of books that met the distribution of reading levels in my classroom and offered choice to students.
  • A system of accountability on daily reading volume and reading growth over time, especially around comprehension.

It was a mess to start: books everywhere, confused parents and a hesitant administration.  Systems had to be developed to manage the flow of books in and out of our classroom library, to level books for easy identification, to offer feedback on student accountability, for ongoing assessment to move students up the reading level continuum, and to schedule time for students to choose an ample weekly diet of independent reading books.  Pangs of doubt that I was just creating chaos and not supporting my goal for creating a love of reading to drive higher reading achievement ate into my already deficient sleeping time.

Independent reading: classroom library

Independent reading: classroom library

Perceived Success

But one bad day, when everything seemed to go awry and desperate to regain control of my classroom, I declared 10 minutes of silent reading of independent reading booksand thunderbolt, silence descended-not one complaint!  Shocked, I realized my students must like to read their independent reading books-my hypothesis was proving true. If kids can read and understand a text, they will read more! New rule: carry your independent reading book with you everywhere.  Independent reading became a go-to when lines had to be quiet or assemblies were late to start or even when students completed math tests early.  By the end of my first year, I was thinner and harried to the bone, but my students were reading a significantly greater volume of text—and although some of them may not have admitted it publicly, they actually enjoyed reading.

Growing Success with Common Core Standards

A love, or strong like, of reading may not solve all my students’ problems, but it clearly had a positive impact.  Students start to see themselves as readers, general academic confidence grows and academic performance across disciplines nudges upward.  Please, ask any teacher with an established independent reading program about student outcomes.  By 2nd grade, the CCSS Anchor Reading Standard 10 expects students to read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently (in that grade band). The roadmap to meeting this standard is at least in part dependent on a robust independent reading program that holds students and teacher accountable.

To scaffold growth in comprehension, see any LearnZillion lesson set on reading at the appropriate reading level.  These lessons not only reveal the thinking process readers employ to create meaning from any text but also offer an instructional approach to support a teacher’s practice using any fiction or non-fiction text.

What are your thoughts? In the comments below, please share any resources you find helpful for matching readers to texts.

3 Tips for Approaching Close Reading

This post was written by Posie Wood, LearnZillion’s Director of Professional Learning and Community.

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Use these tips to help you analyze texts in preparation for close reading with students.

As teachers, we know that leading effective close reading with complex texts starts long before you’re standing in front of students. In order to guide students toward a deep understanding of a text, we first need to understand that text deeply ourselves. However, text analysis is a muscle that many of us haven’t flexed since our college or high school literature classes. Use these three tips to help you get started:

1. Take off your “teacher hat”: Read as an adult

Once you’ve selected the text for your close read (see these excellent resources on text complexity and selection from Student Achievement Partners and CCSSO), your first step is to read the text multiple times. We always encourage our teachers to start by “taking off their teacher hat” and enjoying the text and its offerings as an adult reader.

As you read, ask yourself:

  • What sections or moments of the text speak to me?
  • What choices did the author make about introducing information or telling the story?
  • Are there parts where I need to slow down or reread? What caused me to do this?
  • Why did the author write this text in this way?

Annotate the text as you go, noting significant craft moves, the message of the author, the impact of characters, setting, symbols, words, key ideas, the relationships between ideas, and the way in which the author shared information.

(Check out these examples of how our Dream Team teachers annotated their texts: The Tell Tale Heart, We Grow Accustomed to the Night, Play Ball!, and My Name is Alex)

2. Put the hat back on: Read with your students in mind

Now that you’ve had a chance to process the reading on a personal level, it’s time to see the text through the lens of your students and the Common Core ELA standards.

Reread the text, this time, asking yourself:

  • What is the big takeaway you would want a student to understand after studying this text?
  • Which parts of the text are most challenging? Where will students struggle the most? Why?
  • What moments or ideas in the text are worthy of further exploration? Why?
  • What is left unsaid in the text? Are there voices that are missing?
  • Are there opportunities to teach academic vocabulary? Are there domain-specific terms critical to understanding the text?
  • How does the author’s word choice impact the tone and meaning of the text?
  • What choices did the author make about how to convey information or tell the story? What is the effect of these choices?
  • What does the text simply “scream” for you to teach?
  • What Common Core ELA standards seem particularly well suited to teach using this text?

3. Two heads (or more!) are better than one: Do a “Text Talk” with your colleagues

Understanding text is hard work and, as you’ll remember from high school and college-level English classes, discussion and exchange is a critical part of making meaning of text. “Text Talks” with colleagues are a fantastic way to kick off your close reading planning process. Reflecting on the questions above as a group will spark conversation, debate, and allow you to see new perspectives, which will set you up for leading a nuanced close reading with your students.

And there you have it: our 3 top tips for approaching close reading. Wondering what next? Now that you’ve marinated in your text, your next step is to develop a list of text-dependent questions worthy of exploring with your students – more on that in our earlier post on creating great text dependent questions.