Monthly Archives: August 2020

The Reading Evolution: Finding a Path to End the Reading Wars By Dr. Sam Bommarito (re-post of an important blog)

As my regular readers know my wife underwent surgery last week. She came home from the hospital and is doing well. I need to focus my attention on her this week. Next week I will resume my regular blogging. For today I am re-posting my most important blog to date. It gives my current views on the reading war. It takes a centrist perspective and suggested ways we can use ideas from all sides to finally resolve this decades old debate. It contains numerous links to previous blogs. It builds the case for having a Reading Evolution. 

The Reading Evolution:

Finding a Path to End the Reading Wars

By Dr. Sam Bommarito

It’s been almost two years since I first wrote about the reading evolution. This post gives links to the many blogs I’ve written about the reading evolution/the reading wars over the past two years. It provides a summary of those things, and lets you know where I stand right now.  In my very first post about this topic, I suggested that the pendulum continues to eternally swing between two (or more) positions on the question of how to best teach children to read. The swinging pendulum has become the defining feature about what has become known as the reading wars. The problem is that after each and every swing, the folks who call for replacing the old way of doing things are quite confident, they have finally found THE WAY to solve things.  They insist that all old practices be dropped and replaced by the newest soup de jour. Invariably what happens is that the new way helps many, but not all. Eventually, this new way becomes the old way and is replaced yet again. The pendulum continues to swing. My proposed solution to this conundrum is simple.  Instead of insisting on throwing away everything that’s come before and starting over, we should instead tweak what we have. This would require both sides (all sides) to admit that their particular way of doing things is not THE SOLUTION. It also means that their particular way has limits and limitations. It would follow that all sides might have things to learn from what folks in different positions are saying. Effectively it means trying something that we’ve never before tried in the history of teaching reading. That is leaving the pendulum in the middle, talking to one another, learning from one another, and putting together a system that helps as many children as possible by using the best ideas of all the approaches. P.D. Pearson expressed this kind of sentiment in the last round of the reading wars. Have a look: Life in the Radical Middle: A Personal Apology for a Balanced View of Reading.

Why do I predict that the current rush to judgment supporting the so-called science of reading is eventually doomed to the same fate as all its predecessors and that it is simply a matter of time before the pendulum swings back to something else? Let’s explore my reasons for saying this.

  1. Science of reading advocates have never shown their methods to help all or almost all children. Instead, they have shown their methods help some children some of the time, especially those that fit the definition of Dyslexic.

Some of the science of reading advocates seem to have created an incredibly successful public relations campaign that is convincing a lot of folks that they truly have found THE WAY.  However, several important indicators show otherwise. Over the last couple of years, I’ve asked the science of reading advocates for evidence that their proposed methods will work with nearly every child nearly all the time.  Advocates are unable to produce such data and say that such data is impossible, Jun 2019 (Show Me the Beef); March 2019; March 2019 (Summary of 3 posts about limits of SoR position).  I have to agree with them on that point. Their conceding that point means there are some children for whom these methods are not working and are likely not to work. What do we do for them? What do we do for them, especially when the zealots of the movement want to end access to some of the techniques that can help some of these children?  Techniques including things like using analytic or analogical phonics in addition to the synthetic phonics that seems the staple of many of the zealots’ programs. Their contention that analytic phonics is a weaker form that was only begrudgingly used by advocates of balanced literacy is simply not supported by a look at the research. I have blogged on this point many times Aug 2019 cutting-through-the-gordian-knot-of-phonics-instruction; April 2019 cutting-through-the-gordian-knot-of-beginning-phonics-instruction-my-advice-to-beginning-teacher; July 2019 phonics-the-endless-debate-another-case-of-please-fit-the-program-to-the-child-not-the-other-way-round

  1. Some science of reading advocates are attempting to skip an important part of the verification process normally used by researchers. That part comes when the promising new theories are put to the test in large-scale studies under actual working conditions. What would be needed are districtwide adoptions of the science reading program, testing using the state test, and analysis of the results. These results should span several years. The upshot- they don’t have anything close to that. They are jumping from promising initial results to mandated statewide adoptions without doing the necessary large-scale district-wide tests of their methods. I have blogged multiple times about how they have jumped far ahead of what the research actually demonstrates. Jun 2019 (Show Me the Beef); March 2019; March 2019 (Summary of 3 posts about limits of SoR position).

By and large, what is happening is that the studies they use to call for the adoption of their methods do not use the kind of statewide tests of reading described by Duke and others. Instead, they use tests like Dibels. Why is that a problem? Let’s look briefly at Duke’s work around this issue:

When Duke talks about reading being measured as reading from a list of words and testing whether students can decode words, she is accurately describing what tests like the Dibels do. Is that enough? NO!

Look at what readers are actually required to do on statewide tests of reading: See her Box 1 above.  You can find a full rendition of this information at Reading by Third Grade: How Policymakers Can Foster Early Literacy


This would be a good time to talk about comprehension strategies- the 16th item on her list in Box 1. Duke has cited decades of research showing that when students are taught comprehension strategies using a gradual release model, reading scores rise significantly.  This research is being ignored or discounted by some science of reading advocates.  Again, many of the zealots from the science of reading call for little or no teaching of reading strategies, focusing mainly on building background and vocabulary. I strongly suggest that before any district adopts any major district-wide program, they demand proof that the program has shown significant gains, over a significant period of time using tests that closely resemble the statewide reading tests described by Duke.

  1. Some science of reading advocates are jumping ahead of what research shows about the Dyslexic child. Tim Shanahan, a strong proponent of using science to guide reading instruction, has said screening instruments for dyslexia are not yet fully developed Yet some science of reading advocates insist on giving estimates of how many dyslexic children exist even though they are based on unproven instruments
  2. Some science of reading advocates attempt to discredit or disregard research that is contrary to their core beliefs.

The most blatant example of this is the research around Reading Recovery. Reading Recovery has years of “gold standard data” indicating it outperforms rival methods. I’ve blogged many times over this and the overwhelming evidence from the What Works Clearinghouse and others shows that recovery works. I also talk about the flaws around claims that the effects of Reading Recovery interventions are not maintained. August 10, 2018; August 16, 2018.; August 24, 2018

A more recent example is their scathing reviews of Lucy Calkins’s programs. What the reviewers fail to mention is that many of them work for publishers with competing programs. One of my colleagues expressed these concerns best by saying he loved reading Lucy Calkins’ response to the SAP critique of her Units of Study. “She is so right to point out that a study of the curriculum without talking/surveying teachers and visiting the classrooms of experienced TCRWP teachers is woefully inadequate.  They did not even address the very positive data on the TCRWP website..” The lack of anything resembling peer review is a fatal flaw. It takes all credibility away from the critics’ position.

This list goes on to include ignoring research from the early childhood community on why the kind of direct instruction in reading that the SoR advocates call for is developmentally inappropriate. Dec 2018- Things-I’ve-learned-from-our-very-youngest-readers-thoughts-on-my-recent-talk-with-parent-educators-   They then laud over the gains in reading scores made in many states but they fail to mention that many of these “gains” are made in part by retaining students so that their scores don’t count in the next year’s testing.  P.L. Thomas Feb 2020. Such retention policies fly in the face of a large body of research indicating that retention in the early grades greatly increases the likelihood students will drop out during their high school year

  1. Some of the Science of Reading advocates seem to discount the importance of fostering a love of reading and creating lifelong readers. By contrast, balanced literacy proponents work actively to get books into the homes of children in the book deserts. As Molly Ness explains, book deserts are zip codes where most children have no books at home. Her Podcasts about Book Deserts contain interviews of people who are doing the very necessary work of getting books into the homes of the children who need them the most. Here is one example: Book Desert Podcast. This work is important because wide reading is one of the key ways students build their vocabulary and background knowledge. Balanced reading advocates are proactive in trying to help with this problem. May 2018 Getting-books-into-the-hands-of-children /; The Believe Project
  2. There are viable alternatives to the Science of Learning position. Tim Rasinski views the teaching of reading as both science and art. April 18, 2018, the-teaching-of-reading-as-both-science-and-art/ He is a proponent of teaching prosody, reading like a storyteller. I’ve found using his ideas helps readers of all ages. It pays to teach readers to read like storytellers. P.L. Thomas has written extensively about the reading wars and the limits and limitations of the Science of Reading position. P.L. Thomas selected blog entries.  I found his analysis of the media’s current misreading of the reading crisis especially compelling. P.L. Thomas- Media Misreads the Reading Crisis  .  Eric Litwin has written about how to use songs to bring joy into the process of teaching reading and my kids love to read his books and sing his songs. Singing-our-way-into-fluency-exploring-the-work-of-eric-litwin-and-how-he-brings-together-the-art-and-science-of-reading/  P.D. Pearson had many insights as he talked about in the historic session on reading research done at last year’s ILA convention. I did a series of blogs giving highlights of the content of those sessions. Oct 18th 2019 ; Oct 25 2019; Nov 2019.

Finally, there are attempts to meld aspects of some of the current ideas about the science of reading together into a new set of practices designed to teaching decoding. See this article about the ideas of Jeffrey S. Bowers, a professor at the University of Bristol’s School of Psychological Science, and Peter N. Bowers, a semantic scholar at the WordWorks Literacy Center in Ontario. Although they have an incomplete view of whole language and ignore balanced literacy altogether,  they do have an interesting point of view about how to put together some of the Science of Reading ideas into a more viable way of teaching decoding.

I do not want to leave the impression that there aren’t areas of agreement developing. There are.

  1. Both the science of reading and balanced literacy advocates agree that phonics is necessary. Although there are still a few educators who say phonic isn’t necessary- their numbers are small. Most of the current talk about phonics is not about whether rather it is about how much and what kind(s).
  2. Both science of reading and balanced literacy advocates agree that the system of teaching teachers about decoding needs repair. Balanced literacy folks insist we include all forms of phonics when we carry out this repair. We must assure that enough time is spent on phonics and that the time spent results in students actually learning how to use phonics.
  3. Both science of reading and balanced literacy advocates agree on the importance of background information and vocabulary. Even P.D. Pearson says that the balanced literacy folks took too much time away from the content areas in order to teach reading. The key issue here is that some are doing this in a way that ignores the importance of also teaching reading strategies. I wrote a blog about how we could tweak the implementation of guided reading to both teach the reading strategies and provide the needed work in the content areas. Aug 2018 Musings-of-a-workshop-teacher-advice-i-just-gave-to-some-1st-grade-teachers-in-houston/
  4. Both science of reading and balanced reading advocates see the importance of including decodable text in reading programs. In a recent personal conversation with Lucy Calkins, she indicated that she could see a role for some decodable books within a literacy program. Patrick Shanahan blogged, saying it was ok to use both decodable and predictable books, with reservations about the how and why this should be done. Overall, I think a consensus is developing that there is a place for decodable, predictable, and trade books in every literacy program. (update- in July of 2020 I posted a video showing how I use all three kinds of books in my tutoring work LINK.)

Can we talk? /Should we talk?

On the one hand, there are some science of reading folks that take a “my way or the highway stance.”  I label them the zealots. They seem to think the best defense is an offense. This has led to many individuals in the balanced literacy movement feeling bullied or worse. I’ve been at the receiving end of spurious attacks of my credibility with claims that I wasn’t worth following or talking to since my number of followers was shrinking. In fact, at that point, they had more than doubled from the previous year, and they numbered in the thousands.

I don’t think that tactics of the zealots should result in folks from the various positions not talking. For instance, Tim Rasinski and I had some very productive conversations with the head of EBLI (Evidence Based Literacy Instruction), Nora Chahbazi She has some groundbreaking work going on in the area of getting phonics taught quickly and efficiently.  There is also some interesting work being carried out by the Thrass Institute in Australia ( They are advocates for the Science of Reading who are willing to talk rather than bicker.  My views around the point that eventually, a mutually acceptable position might be hammered out are colored by my research about the reading wars. In my doctoral thesis, done in 2004, I studied the practices of whole language teachers vs. other teachers. What I found was that there were more areas of agreement than disagreement in terms of the practices they used.  The chasm separating the positions was not as large or permanent as it might seem at first glance. So long as all sides are willing to forgo “my way or the highway positions,” there is hope for a resolution.

So, I’m rather confident that if all sides would just admit they have SOME answers, not all the answers, the reading wars could finally be resolved. I think there is room for genuine dialogue. As I look to the ideas from “the other side” that have influenced my current teaching, what has been said and is being said about the use of orthographic information has proved very useful. My friends in Australia have convinced me that it is not quite as cut and dried as some of the American advocates of the science of reading make it out to be, but it’s certainly something worth learning even more about.

Let’s consider starting a reading evolution. Let’s recognize that while there might not be THE ANSWER, there are good ideas from each of the points of view about how to teach reading. We are supposed to help the students in their quest to become lifelong readers who know how to think and problem solve. I see the only hope for laying the pendulum to rest is to have serious discussions around what all sides might learn from each other, firmly in the middle, using information from all sides. I’m asking the people at my presentation this week to tweet out using #readingevolution1, #ideasfromtheotherside. Let’s dialogue, not bicker. Thanks to all for considering these remarks. Please consider joining the Reading Evolution, #readingevolution1.  (Personal note: Posting this blog from my hotel room at the Write to Learn conference in Lake of the Ozarks Mo. That’s where I started writing this blog two years ago. There’s a nice symmetry to that!)

Dr. Sam Bommarito (the one in the middle who is ok with taking flak from both sides)

Copyright 2020 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Taking this week off to take care of my wife: Posting Links to Recent Blogs Worth a Second Look by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Reading Header for the Blog

My wife underwent surgery for a blocked bowel this week. Everything went well. I am  taking the week off in order to take care of her. Will be back next week. In the meantime, here are some highlights of my blogs that might rate a second look.








Improving Guided Reading




Tim Rasinski Meets Me in St. Louis to Talk About the Art and Science of Reading by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Tim Rasinski Meets Me in St. Louis to Talk About the Art and Science of Reading

by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Yesterday was quite the adventure. My good friend Tim Rasinski was in town and asked if we could meet and talk about literacy. Of course, I said yes. And so, there we were in the Lafayette Square part of St. Louis, talking about the Art and Science of the teaching of reading. I have just got to show you a picture:


In his post about this on twitter Tim explained that the C on his cap stood for Cleveland not Chicago. He even quipped that it was also his college GPA (really? Hmm). Lots of folks commented about our little meeting including a friend of mine from London who shared a video of his 5-year-old grandson reading like a storyteller (don’t read like a robot- read with expression). Another of my friends said she wished she could have been a fly on the wall during the conversation. Decided I might grant that wish and talk a little about what we shared and most especially remind my readers about what Tim means when he says the teaching of reading is both art and science.

In the coming year I will be pushing into a local elementary school for two days a week. I will be doing that with cyber visits. I will use Zoom and my doc camera. I’ve talked about my doc camera a couple of times lately LINK1, LINK2. Here is the plan:

When I carry out my cyber-visit with each class, two first grades and two second grades, I will share a word ladder with them. When I do, I will put my doc camera to good use. The class will hear and see me live. The class and teacher can chime in as we all work the word ladder together.  The teachers and I will select short passages (including lots of poems) from the Megabook of Fluency, the book Tim co authored with Melissa Cheeseman Smith. We will also be using one of his older books Phonics Poetry- Teaching Word Families. He and Belinda S. Zimmerman wrote that book back in 2001, I found my copy on Thrift books. The kids will practice reading the passages daily for about 5-7 minutes.  Every two weeks they will “perform” their passage on Zoom. All this teaches the kids how words work and to read like storytellers.  We are picking passages that support the progression of phonics skills found in their basal. So, the kids will learn a lot about sound-symbol relations as they do their repeated readings. It also teaches them to read like a storyteller. As you well know, Tim views fluency as more than just reading fast. He also includes prosody.

To see what that means, have a look at his reading rubric in the Megabook. Also have a look at my previous post about what Tim had to say on the topic of the teaching of reading as both art and science during a session he did for our local ILA in St. Louis a couple of year ago. Here is a LINK. There will be more to my push in’s than just the prosody part. I will be taking advantage of Raz Kids Plus to help the teachers carry out a guided reading program. Thanks to the features of Raz Kids Plus, we will be able to do a concurrent face to face/and distance learning program with kids from the on-site setting and the at home learners. Both will be able to be in the same reading group and meet in real-time.  Again, this component will also reinforce the progression of skills found in their basal. I talked to Tim about how all that might work and picked his brain a bit about how to carry out this plan. It is a plan that might prove useful to any school that is carrying out face to face and distance learning currently.  I will be sharing the details of how it is done in future blogs- so stay tuned!

Tim said something during our talk that really caught my attention.  He said that the science of teaching reading can (and should) be used to inform teachers as they carry out the art of teaching reading. The science of reading informs the art of reading. WOW! Now that is worth thinking about. I found out Tim and some others have written an article about the Science and Art of Teaching Reading. It will be coming out in the next issue of the ILA’s national magazine, Literacy Today. I will be putting that article at the very top of things to read in September. (In case you missed it Tim did a very complete interview about the teaching of reading as both art and science in last December’s Robb Review. Here is the link

In the meantime-

Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka- the luckiest guy in the town of St. Lou)

Copyright 2020 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

More Useful Resources for Implementing Literacy Instruction in this Age of the New Normal by Dr. Sam Bommarito

More Useful Resources for Implementing Literacy Instruction in this Age of the New Normal

By Dr. Sam Bommarito


Judging from the response to last week’s blog entry on resources for teaching literacy using distance learning, it is evident that teachers are looking for useful, research-based resources with which to start the new year. Accordingly, this week I am going to extend the list of resources for teachers and include resources that can be used both in distance learning and in face to face classrooms.

I will begin with the material created by Dr. Tim Rasinski. Rasinski is an expert on the topics of fluency and prosody. I find that his premise, that teaching is both art and science, provides a balanced, research-based view about how literacy instruction can proceed. If you don’t already, I would highly recommend you follow him on Twitter – @TimRasinski1.  Over this summer, he has been sharing many of his materials for free on Twitter, and he has a variety of materials that can be used in elementary literacy instruction at all levels. Here are some highlights:

The flagship of the fleet is his Megabook of Fluency (Melissa Chessman Smith was the co-author). It has passages designed for performance reading. The idea is that the student practices reading a short passage or poem aloud for several days and then performs the passage/poem. In the classes I push into, that performance is often done on SeeSaw and is shared with the teacher, students’ parents and from time to time with other students. We use the writers workshop convention that no student is required to share with other students unless they want to. The Megabook’s passages include things for both the younger and older student. Rasinski also has a lot of materials designed to help build vocabulary knowledge and background. He also has word study materials built around prefixes, suffixes and roots. Such a word study is effective in building student background in the content area. A trip to his website would well be worth your while. Here is the link



Phonics and FluencyWord Ladders

Jennifer Serravallo is another writer with multiple books and resources. Here are some of the things she has written:

When doing presentations for literacy conventions or training for preservice teachers, I always promise that my sessions will be “the land of 1000 takeaways”, at least 1000 ideas teachers can take and use on Monday of the week after the training. Recommending books like these allow me to make such claims. Each of the books about strategies contains 300 different ready to use lessons.

Here are some things to keep in mind when using Jennifer’s materials:

First, be sure to employ a gradual release model when teaching the strategies from the first two books pictured. Teachers who teach their students to name or explain the strategies do not get the same results as teachers who teach the students to actually internalize and use the strategies. Nell Duke has a couple of decades of research indicating that when reading strategies are taught using a gradual release model, students reading scores rise in a statistically significant way. Nuff said.

Second- remember that leveling systems using the Fountas and Pinnell criteria tell you more than just how easy it is to decode a book.  They also give you detailed ideas on what the text structures are for each level. Jennifer’s book Understanding Texts and Readers gives you a detailed analysis of what that means for upper-level elementary texts. She explains how to use that information in order to have better conferences with your students. By the way, she also has books around conferencing and other topics that will help you help your students.

The Facebook page that focuses on how to use her materials has turned into what I call the world’s largest teacher’s lounge. In addition to the periodic professional development activities that are done on this site, there are daily interactions by teachers asking and answering questions about how to use Jennifer’s materials. Want ideas on how to do a 3rd-grade unit around inferencing, or a 5th grade writing unit about persuasive writing- just ask.  Teachers on the site offer answers in real-time. When I’m stuck about what to do for a particular student or particular class- I sometimes post a question on this site. I usually get great ideas from a variety of teachers within an hour of making the post.  Like I said, it is the world’s largest teacher’s lounge. Just remember to frame inquiries and observations in a way that protects the anonymity of your students. The name of the Facebook page is the Reading and Writing Strategies Community. It has over eighty-eight thousand followers.  Also, remember that Jennifer’s books are readily available on several websites.

Another book that provides some practical, game-changing ideas for implementing a literacy program is Burkins and Yaris’ Whose Doing the Work. Too often, teachers front-load their lessons in guided reading in a way that does all the work (all the thinking) for the student. The problem of approaching things that way is that the critical scaffolding that results in students internalizing and using the strategies never happens.  However, if you think carefully about what work you are leaving for the student and why and plan accordingly, then the scaffolding/gradual release, which results in an improvement in reading, does happen. The book is chuck full of ideas about how to do this. It is widely available on all venues where professional books are sold. As mentioned last week, Dr. Jan Burkins also has a site where she gives great ideas for getting started this fall. Here is the link.

Who Doing the Work

Word Callers are an important but often neglected group in literacy instruction. Nell Duke notes that they are a significant source of lower scores on statewide reading tests. They cannot be helped by a “Phonics Cures All” approach to literacy instruction. Teachers need a resource that will help them identify these students and carry out teaching that will help them. Such a resource exists in this research-based book, Word Callers. Kelly Cartwright is the author; Nell Duke is the series editor. A copy of this book should be on the shelf of every teacher in the nation.


.There is a growing consensus that teachers should be spending more time teaching phonics. Concurrently, there is a growing realization that teacher preparation programs have not given teachers all the tools they need to do that.  I am a centrist. I advocate for using what is most effective among all the various approaches to teaching literacy. In the case of teaching phonics, that means teachers need to know all the different ways to teach phonics. Many folks act as if the NRP (National Reading Panel) report found that synthetic phonics is the superior approach. The fact is that what the panel actually found was that using systematic phonics is the key to a successful phonics program. A great source for learning about all the different ways phonics can be taught is the International Reading Association’s Educators Guide to Phonics Instruction. Here is a link to that pdf.

Phonics PDF by ILA

Some books that have helped me build my understanding of phonics and use of orthographic information are:

Speech to Print

So, there you have it. These are all good resources to look into as you begin your literacy instruction this fall. It is going to be a beginning of the school year like none we’ve ever seen. However, teachers are an adaptable lot. We will find a way, we always do. I hope that some of these resources will help you to help students in the coming school year.

Happy Reading and Writing


Dr. Sam Bommarito aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching.

Copyright 2020 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following the blog to make sure you won’t miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog

Useful Resources for Implementing Literacy Programs in this New Era of Distance Learning by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Useful Resources for Implementing Literacy Programs in this New Era of Distance Learning

By Dr. Sam Bommarito

The past few months have been challenging for folks in the education world and, more specifically, for folks trying to implement literacy instruction in this age of the new normal.  The reality for this fall is that as schools begin to open their doors for the school year, it will be anything but business as usual. Some districts have plans to return to face to face classrooms, with many precautions being taken. Other districts are choosing hybrid models where families are offered their choice of face to face learning or distance learning. Still, others are choosing to begin the school year using only distance learning.

I live in the St. Louis region, which is currently in one of the COVID red zones. Our local news is filled with announcements by some of the area’s largest school districts that they are turning exclusively to that third option.  We are currently transitioning from what one distance learning expert called “emergency teaching” to teaching that actually uses authentic distance learning.  I thought it would be helpful to report on some resources I have found to be most useful in helping me to be prepared to teach this fall. This report contains highlights. It will have a permanent home on a new distance learning resources page I will be adding to this blog. Let’s get started.

Here is a link to a fantastic goggle site created by Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris coauthors of the recently released book Read the World: Rethinking Literacy for Empathy and Action in a Digital World.


When you go to this site you will find learning tips for distance learning, an excellent structure to use for a distance learning minilesson, advice on adapting distance learning to workshop teaching, tips for families on helping learners work independently, tips for teachers for empathetic distance learning, and a video of Jennifer Serravallo talking about distance learning. This video includes Jennifer’s thoughts about equity, safety and digital best practices. There are also sections on student’s and teacher’s hyperlinked documents and an extensive list of websites and apps for digital articles and books. When you go to each of these two sections, be sure to scroll down using the pull-down bar on the right so that you see all the things listed. These resources are updated every 5 minutes.  If you are looking for one-stop shopping for distance learning ideas and resources, this site as close to that as  I’ve been able to find. I highly recommend it.

If you like Kristin and Katie’s website, I think you will love their newest book. These two Chicago based teachers have made quite an impact on the digital world in the past few years. They still teach, but somehow, they also find time to write books and serve as advisors to scores of Chicago area schools. I listened to Kristin during a recent online appearance and I found her to have an in-depth knowledge of how to teach literacy. She then uses this knowledge to inform her distance learning practices. The book is available on the Heinemann site and other book venues online. The book contains hundreds of examples of how to teach effectively using digital resources and it also has links to many of those resources. This book has earned its place among the “go to first” books I keep on my desk. Here is a screen capture of the front cover.

Read the world Book Cover

Another book that contains excellent lessons and ideas for distance learning is the recently released- The Distance Learning Playbook: Grades K-12 by Douglas Fisher, Nancey Frey, and John Hattie. It is available on the Corwin website and other book venues online. The authors have written other playbooks. This one lives up to the high standards set by those previous endeavors.  It is spiral bound for easy access and is organized in modules that make it easy to use for teachers and administrators trying to put together a distance learning program based on best practices. There is also a kindle version of this book. Here is a screen capture of the book’s front cover:

Distance Learning Playbook

Another go-to site for me is EricLitwin’s website. He is the author of the four original Pete the Cat books and numerous other books, including a newly released book about the Joy of Reading, his first professional development book for teachers and parents. Here is the link to his website:



When you go there, be sure to check out the free mp3 and video downloads. I also found his information about creating read alouds of his book during the current crisis to be very useful. Included are the guidelines of his major publishers about creating read alouds of any of their books. This has helped me as I create online read alouds. Here is the link to that part of the website:

Speaking of Read-Alouds, Missouri’s own David Harrison (and others) have created read alouds of David’s works that are currently available via a local T.V. station in his hometown of Springfield Mo.” Look on page 9 of the latest issue of the Missouri Reader for links to read alouds of David’s books.

Missouri Reader

Another rising star here in Missouri is Linda Mitchel, whose YouTube Channel contains interviews of local literacy figures. I suggest that you start with the one about Disney and Marvel’s new Reading Superhero. The description of the video states:” In this video, you will hear from Sidney Keys III, age 14. Sidney started the Books n Bros book club for black boys in St. Louis, Missouri, when he was ten years old. Sidney shares an important message about combatting the stereotypical view that black boys don’t like to read. He also relates how he received the honor of being selected for the Disney+ Marvel’s Hero Project. “The Spectacular Sidney” has the ability to read any book about a superhero and assume that same power.”

Here is a link to Linda’s YouTube channel that contains this interview along with many more:

Linda Mitchell

There are, of course, many other excellent links that can serve as resources for planning and implementing distance learning.

Here is a link for Dr. Jan Burkins with a set of start up lessons for this unique year.

Here is a link from Dr. Nell Duke containing tons of great resources about literacy Instruction.

Here is a link to enable using Microsoft Teams to create free distance learning:,together%20in%20a%20single%20location.%20Students%20and%20educators

Here is a blog entry about using google classroom in distance learning:,use%20as%20your%20main%20platform%20for%20teaching%20remotely.

Here is a link to Heinemann on distance learning.

I just found the link from Simon and Shuster on a popular Facebook site for Literacy Coaches:

All the links given in this entry will become part of my new blog page about resources for distance learning. If you have others to suggest, please leave a comment in the blog. I want to keep the page updated with all the latest information.

Until next time, Happy Reading and Writing.

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, the distance learning guy)

Copyright 2020 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

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