Examples of Practice: Goodreads and the Common Core

Literature and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the very first standard is titled “Reading: Literature”. I say this because some educators have expressed concerns about fiction being pushed out of literacy instruction. A deliberate review of the CCSS should clear up this misconception.

Another component I appreciate about our new national standards is a focus on the reading-writing connection. My building has participated in professional development on this topic for three years now. We believe that when we develop better readers, students’ writing also improves and vice versa. Last year we collected data that supports this belief.


An example of the reading-writing connection is in Standard 4 – Writing, under “Texts Types of Purposes” for Grade 3. The first element expects students to write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view or reason. An important component to this type of writing is using specific information from the text to support an assertion.

Because we simply don’t have enough initiatives to take on this year (notice the sarcasm?), we are also exploring different ways to leverage technology to enhance student engagement and learning while addressing the CCSS. One Web 2.0 tool that has lots of potential is Goodreads. You can connect with other readers and their personal libraries to discover your next book. I have described it to others as Facebook for bookworms.

Recently, I read aloud The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco to a group of third graders. After the book was finished, we did a shared writing activity by forming an opinion about the book in my reading journal.


You’ll notice the quotes above the rating and paragraph. While I wrote, I stressed with the students how important it is to document text from the story to support our opinion.

This book review served as a first draft for posting our review on Goodreads. Using an iPad with the screen mirrored on the whiteboard, we wrote our final draft together.


Posting our opinion on my Goodreads account provided an authentic purpose. Our audience was anyone online looking for a reliable review of this book. We then compared our rating with some other readers, including Goodreads friends Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) and Laura Komos (@laurakomos).


Seeing experts share the same opinion as ours about The Junkyard Wonders was both exciting and affirming for us. As well, the students had the opportunity to read friends’ exemplary writing as a model for future opinion pieces. I believe this is a strong example of integrating a Web 2.0 tool to facilitate an authentic literacy activity that addresses the Common Core for students.

Feedback After an Evernote and iPad Workshop

I recently hosted a one hour technology session for district staff. The topic: Using Evernote on the iPad to Confer With and Assess Readers.

Afterward, I emailed each participant a survey via Google Forms to gather feedback. The last question I posed was, “What is one way you see using Evernote with the iPad in your current teaching position?” Here are their responses:

“I plan to have students read and record them, then play back. I am working on fluency with a lot of kids and I would like them to hear themselves. I’m not sure on the conferencing part/note taking yet, but we’ll see as I mess with it. With things like this I don’t make plans, I just jump in and see where it takes me.”

“I plan on recording students’ one minute reading fluency assessments and then embedding a picture of the actual passage they read with miscues and self-corrections marked. I am also going to take a pic of a page in their independent reading book and record them reading as part of my ‘running records on the fly'”

“I plan to record running records and allow students to hear themselves read, both immediately after reading and later on in the year (to show growth).”

“Photograph and save student work samples using hash tags so that I can easily access them later.”

“During running records: record students’ reading of the selection in order to score/check the record at a later time. This allows for me to focus on fluency during the assessment as well as have documentation of the students’ reading at that point in time.”

“I plan to use this when I conference with my students. It is my hope to try this today!”

“I could see myself taking a picture of what a student is working on and sharing it with the classroom teacher.”

“In Reading Intervention, I could record a students’ reading of a passage and replay it for them to hear. Together we could discuss strengths and weaknesses and set goals for improvement.”

“I plan to use Evernote by making notes as I meet with students during guided reading groups. Each group is reading a different book that they were able to choose. I will use it to create a notebook for each group. – Jot down their predictions and record audio of students reading and/or our group discussions at the end of each chapter.”

“I don’t have my own iPad, so I don’t see myself continuing with this. Maybe having your own iPad should be a requirement for this course.”

“I find this to be effective for my guided reading. I can keep all of my notes together instead of having a post-it here and a post-it there. I can view my notes from home too without having to bring my notes home with me.”

“I started using Evernote the next day. I took pictures of student tradition writing and them recorded their voice reading it. Next I am going to use volunteers to display on reflection and go through the process of editing on the SMARTboard.”

I am scheduled to run this workshop again for Central Wisconsin reading teachers in January. This information is invaluable to me as I think about how I will change my instruction to better meet the needs of the participants.

Replacement Practices

“Is most of students’ time spent practicing and applying what you have been teaching, or is a disproportionate amount of time spent following your directions? Is most of your time spent putting up bulletin pard displays, planning elaborate projects, and marking papers, or is most of your time spent thinking and reflecting about teaching and learning to move students forward?” – Regie Routman, Teaching Essentials

A few years ago, my wife and I were looking for a new house. One place we visited had lots of updates one would expect of a slightly older home. When the realtor told us the price, I thought it was a bit high. His response: “They put in $30,000. The asking price reflects this.”

I don’t believe this is necessarily how realty works. Homeowners are expected to keep up their property with periodic maintenance. What updates were made? Did they make the home a better place to live? Or was it merely cosmetic and necessary, replacing the same with the same?

This metaphor could be applied to teaching.

Some of us continue to favor a few older practices, even when new ones are being introduced that are a better alternative. This may be one of the reasons for feeling overworked and subsequently stressed out. What do we give up? What do we add? Focused conversations with colleagues, deep reflection on the part of the individual, and a willingness to forgive oneself for past actions could help this process, referred to as “replacement practices” (Stephanie Harvey?).

I know a teacher who gets to school every day around eight. She leaves shortly after students are dismissed. In between these times, the students are doing the work. The teacher provides quick, explicit instruction using authentic text. She spends the majority of her day conferring with readers and writers. Her purpose is to ask them questions, notice what they are doing well, and guide them toward the learning target. The assessment occurs during the day by both the student and the teacher, and less often at night in the form of papers to grade. Technology is used to support and augment her instruction. She gains time back with efficient use of these tools. Very little of her time is spent on _____ that do little to impact student learning (fill in the blank).

I don’t know if the metaphor works, but this is my vision of a 21st century educator.