Monthly Archives: October 2020

Part One of the Educational Practices Series: A Look at EBLI, a Science of Reading Approach by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Part one of the Educational Practices Series: A Look at EBLI, a Science of Reading Approach to Reading by Dr. Sam Bommarito

As my regular readers know, in this blog I try to take a centrist point of view, looking at all the evidence and all the practices coming from that evidence. Today I am talking to Nora Chahbzi, founder of EBLI (Evidence Based Literacy Instruction). She tells a fascinating story and includes many free resources. I hope my readers find useful ideas and information as she talks about her literacy project which is based on using what she’s learned from the Science of Reading to empower teachers so they can help their kids.  

1. Give a brief history of EBLI, how it evolved, the successes it has had and its current scope and size.

            EBLI: Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction is a system of research-backed reading, spelling, and writing instruction intended to help students of all ages and ability levels effectively and efficiently reach their highest literacy potential.

            EBLI was born out of the reading struggles of founder Nora Chahbazi’s middle daughter. Nora had been a Neonatal ICU nurse for a decade before her daughter’s experience changed the course of her life.            Nora researched whole language and phonics approaches extensively; her daughter had been taught both but was still a year below grade level in reading in 2nd grade on the Iowa test, though she was in the 98th%ile in math. A former professor of education from Michigan State University recommended the book Why Our Children Can’t Read and What You Can Do About It. This book, focused on research-based, systematic instruction of speech to print instruction for both reading and spelling then immediately applying it in text – instead of the print to speech or whole language approach- was the key to the instruction she needed.

            After teaching her daughter to read in 3 hours, Nora opened Ounce of Prevention Reading Center in 1999 and began teaching learners of all ages and ability levels and training teachers. She continuously searched and researched how to be even more effective and efficient with delivery of instruction. Remediation instruction, one hour once a week for an average of 12 total hours, is provided for everyone from complete non-readers to students wanting to improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as doctors, lawyers, and successful  business owners.

Thousands of K-12 classroom and remediation teachers, as well as adult educators, tutors, and volunteers from around the world have been trained in EBLI and teach it to their students. Some schools train remediation teachers, others train a certain grade level of classroom teachers, and some train their entire staff of classroom and remediation teachers. We also have ‘lone wolf’ teachers who have paid for their own training because their school is committed to a different program or instructional practice but the teacher isn’t satisfied with their students’ literacy progress.

Learners from around the country flock to Ounce of Prevention Reading Center to receive in-person instruction and others get online from the EBLI team. Tens of thousands of students are taught in-person or online by educators and others trained in EBLI.

To date, the vast majority of EBLI educators we train as well as students we teach have come from word of mouth advertising. EBLI has no sales team and does minimal marketing. The results speak for themselves and drive people to EBLI when they are ready. The instruction is significantly different from how educators have taught previously, and is a paradigm shift, whether the instructor has a background in a balanced literacy approach or a traditional phonics approach.  

Gains with EBLI are astounding, whether on ACT tests, state assessments, running records, DIBELS assessments, or any other assessments that measure reading or the components of reading. For students (or whole classes) who receive our 2 hours ACT prep instruction, composite scores increase an average of 2-4 points and double digit gains on the reading sub-test are common. State proficiency scores have increased up to 30 points in a year and running record scores for K and 1st graders are typically a year or more above grade level goals for most of the students. 

In this video from 2018, Nora shares her story and her wishes for EBLI and literacy in a very authentic and vulnerable manner.

2. Free resources from EBLI and paid resources from EBLI. What are the possibilities/procedures for family signing up

Free resources from EBLI:

  • EBLI (Level 1) free lessons (live lessons now available as recording)
    • 16 EBLI lessons, each 45 minutes long, for K, 1st, and 2nd and older
    • For parents to use for their children or for teachers to assign to their students
    • Lessons to be done sequentially, 1-3 per week
    • Created when children were sent home for Covid so intended for learners mid/late year,
      • Would be too rigorous for most beginning Kindergarteners
      • For older students, can back down to the younger grade level
  • EBLI Webinars for parents and teachers (include video examples with students and strategies plus how to do the process, if applicable)
    • Roadmap to 95-100% Reading Proficiency: Webinar panel with educators from the classroom to state level, sharing how they got to or are on their way to 95-100% reading proficiency on state tests in their classroom, school, district, or state. It was one of the most profound literacy events I’ve ever experienced!
    • Blending: Accelerate blending for new readers and those who struggle
    • Sight Words by Sound: the do’s and don’t of sight word instruction so students accurately read them in context and spell them in writing, plus a parent’s perspective and experience
  • Read Alouds – 7 (1) hour sessions, include Vocabulary instruction, discussion, and a small amount of code instruction – these were a BIG hit

Paid Resources from EBLI

EBLI Teacher Trainings (all online, includes student lessons, done over time)

  • ETSL: EBLI Teacher Training and Student Lessons for K-3 classroom teachers (yearly subscription)
    • For K-3rd classroom teachers
    • Training videos, example videos of instruction in classroom by EBLI founder, Student lessons, Materials, Student Lesson Videos (shown to students as teacher facilitates), gradually release to teacher teaching
    • Training price for 1st year, deeply discounted for renewal
    • Transferable if teacher leaves
  • ETSL: EBLI Teacher Training and Student Lessons for K-12 Remediation Teachers
    • Pilot fall 2020
    • For those who teach small group or 1:1 remediation (any age)
    • Training videos, example videos of instruction in classroom by EBLI founder, Student lessons, Materials, Student Lesson Videos (shown to students as teacher facilitates), gradually release to teacher teaching
    • Training price for 1st year, deeply discounted for renewal
    • Transferable if teacher leaves
  • EBLI 8 week online training
    • For remediation teachers (students 2nd grade and older)
    • For classroom teachers 4th-8th grade

Student Instruction

  • EBLI Apps
    • Description of each app
      • EBLI Island Lite (free)
      • EBLI Island ($4.99)
      • EBLI Space ($4.99)
      • EBLI Sight Words Made Easy ($4.99)
  • EBLI Online Lessons Level 2
    • K, 1st, and 2nd and up
    • June 17th – Aug 26th  (Live lessons or recordings)
      • (10) 45 min lessons for each lesson
    • Around the World theme
      • Articles on animals and other interesting information students choose
      • Showing locations on the globe
        • Where what we are studying is located
        • Where students participating in the class live in the country/world
      • EBLI instruction including vocabulary, spelling, and summarizing instruction based on the theme covered
  • High Level Vocabulary Instruction
    • 100 minute high level lesson
      • Not intended for remediation
    • 4th – adult
    • Improve fluency (up to 150 wpm) and comprehension
    • Increase ACT composite score an average of 2-4 points
    • Cost $20
      • 14 day access

3. Is EBLI phonics, whole language, or balanced literacy? What does and doesn’t EBLI teach and why?  What advice or resources do you have for teachers to teach in a holistic manner?

EBLI would not be categorized as phonics, balanced literacy, or whole language (though there are some research-backed elements from each of the 3 included in the EBLI framework).

What EBLI does: teaches by sound, teaches all components of literacy systematically and explicitly, asks student to apply what they have learned immediately through supported reading and writing, teaches basic and advanced phonemic awareness skills explicitly and also embedded in EBLI activities starting at the sound level, teaches vocabulary within all activities as well as in explicit vocabulary lessons, trains fluency from the beginning of instruction, teaches and reinforces proper handwriting, focuses first on sound as opposed to letter names, quickly moves students (in K) from decodable to authentic text but avoids predictable text that requires looking at the picture, moves to multi-syllable word level instruction at all grade/ability levels, teaches and reinforces correct conventions and accurate spelling in writing, provides significant support with error correction of misread and misspelled words, differentiates instruction, gradually releases responsibility to the student in all areas of literacy, and promotes read a louds of higher level text at all grade levels.   

What EBLI does not teach: to memorize sight words (or any words), to learn and memorize spelling or syllable rules, to look at pictures to figure out the text, to learn sounds in isolation, to visually memorize spelling words, to guess words, that reading and spelling need to be learned with different processes, to use drill, or to have them insert a word they think makes sense instead of accurately reading the words on the page. 

EBLI is a system of literacy skills, concepts, strategies, and activities to effectively and efficiently assist all students in reaching their highest literacy potential. Explicit, systematic instruction with scaffolding is provided in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, spelling, handwriting, and writing.

The speed of student progress with EBLI is a result of having many components of literacy taught simultaneously in each activity, immediate error correction, multi-sensory instruction, focus on speech to print for reading and spelling words, and quickly and constantly building on what was learned previously. The same system of logic is utilized throughout instruction and what was learned is immediately applied through supported then gradually released reading and writing.

With EBLI the process of learning to read words, reading accurately and understanding text, learning to spell accurately, and applying that to writing is effective and streamlined. It is not complicated with rules, drill, excessive information or cognitive overload nor with asking students to learn to read and write by chance or by teaching themselves or classmates. EBLI instruction is purposeful. Every step of every activity has the purpose of efficiently leading students – through instruction, support, and scaffolding – to the end goal of reading and writing accurately, understanding what they are reading, and communicating to others through great writing.  

EBLI utilizes the best of what is backed by research along with what is easily and efficiently replicated through application with student instruction and leaves the rest out. EBLI is a system. The foundational components remain the same but the application with students is constantly refined as new information on effective teaching of literacy is learned and instructional practices are honed.

Instruction that is explicit and systematic while at the same time holistic is not only possible, it is realized with EBLI. EBLI’s main focus is on instruction that is engaging, efficient, and effective. It is proficient at moving students to their highest literacy potential as quickly as possible. Teachers are provided with the tools they need to accomplish this goal while also increasing the joy of teaching and decreasing the amount of time, energy, and effort it takes to get all their students reading, writing, and spelling at or above grade level. 

Teachers are the experts! My advice to them is what I practice myself: if any students they teach are not proficient readers, writers, and spellers, then search the world over to find out what they might need to do differently to move students to their highest potential. I have found that student weaknesses are, without exception, able to be strengthened. However, I may not yet know how to strengthen that particular weakness (yet). I ask questions, search the internet, pay attention to those whose students or children have made measurable and obvious improvement in the area, stay open minded, and realize that I do and always will have more to learn! Keeping the perspective that the student can learn regardless of their circumstances, and that we can teach them, is imperative.  Accepting and acknowledging that I was wrong or was on a path that wasn’t the most beneficial for the student in some situations is challenging and humbling but it is always rewarding in the end.  

4. EVERYONE is having to learn about distance learning on the job so to speak. Any insights, advice, or tricks of the trade for classroom teachers?

We have been doing online teacher trainings for years but just since schools closed in March have done online instruction for groups of children.  There has been much trial and error but it has been wildly successful with groups of over 125 students. My greatest advice: stay flexible and open minded, be open to creative, unique solutions, and allow the students to be active participants in the planning and learning process.

For example, in our summer lessons the students share what animals they want to study or what parts of the world they’d like to learn about and this guides my lesson planning. I utilize words and vocabulary from the articles we read to drive the EBLI word work we do. When there are any challenges, I ask for input from the children on how to solve them. It is amazing how creative they are! Using the student’s names often and providing more-than-typical positive feedback (catching those often off-task when they are on-task and pointing it out, quick compliments on their work, behavior, and answers to questions, etc) is very beneficial. I use a t-chart point game and give student points liberally!   

Another common issue has been the desire of the parents to answer the questions and do the work for the children. I have found it is helpful to be clear from the outset that I will give the child feedback and guidance and will let the parent know, if they’re sitting with the child, if and when we need any assistance from them. I also let the child know to look at and listen to me, not their parent, during the lessons. I do let the parents know how they can best be supportive.

5. What are parents and teachers saying about EBLI?

Parent feedback about EBLI lessons

Teacher feedback about EBLI training

6. Is their flexibility with implementation of EBLI?

EBLI is a system of skills, concepts, strategies, and activities as opposed to a program. Because of this, it is flexible and adaptable to any situation requiring reading, writing, and spelling. If you ask EBLI trained teachers when they teach EBLI, they will tell you, “All day long, wherever students read, write, and spell”.

EBLI has explicit, systematic, supported, and accelerated instruction of the English code so students are able to effectively, efficiently, and accurately read words in text and spell correctly in writing. The purpose of EBLI is to ensure that students can immediately APPLY what they have learned so they are able to accurately read with understanding and write adeptly.

Thanks so much to Nora for sharing this wonderful information. In the coming weeks I will be continuing this series on educational practices, interviewing two educators from Australia about their literacy programs. This will include exploring the practices of the THRASS institute literacy program.  I will also be talking to two of the upcoming speakers at the Write to Learn conference. I also hope to interview Matt Glover about writing.  It’s going to be an interesting and informational packed month or two for the blog!

In the meantime- be safe, be well and Happy Reading and Writing

Here’s a link to the Write to Learn speakers:

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka the guy in the middle taking flak from all 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.

A New Look at Brain Research- The impact of music on reading fluency/prosody: A Video Interview by Dr. Sam Bommarito

A new look at Brain Research- The impact of music on reading fluency/prosody: A Video Interview by Dr. Sam Bommarito

In this interview Ann C. Kay, co-founder and Educational Coordinator of the Rock ‘n’ Read Project gives us an engaging and informative look at the topic of the impact of music on reading fluency and prosody. This was my very first blog interview done as a video, though I posted a video blog interview last week that was done after this one. That interview was time sensitive- it was about an upcoming Write to Learn speaker. Thanks to Ann for letting me post that first.

How Rock ‘n’ Read Came to Be

Ann begins by telling us she is a long-time music teacher. The saga began with a serendipitous discovery that a software product designed by Carlo Franzblau in Tampa Florida to help users improve singing accuracy, rhythm, and pitch had some amazing effects on reading. It turned out that one of the folks trying out the product, discovered that after a number of weeks of use that her daughter, who had been in special classes in reading, had shown marked improvement in reading fluency. This discovery began Ann’s journey of exploring how and why the product had the tremendous impact that it did.

Carlo Franzblau, the creator of the software program used by Ann, went to the University of South Florida, and engaged Dr. Susan Homan to study the effects of singing on reading achievement. The research by Dr. Homan indicated a year’s gain on average in reading after 13.5 hours of use of Franzblau’s software over 9 weeks. You can read about this research in the handouts that can be downloaded at this LINK.   Ann and her partner Bill Jones were the co-founders of the Rock ‘n’ Read project. Bill decided to literally take the use of the software on the road. He turned a converted Metro Bus into a computer lab with 32 computers. Bill and Ann brought this into neighborhoods during the summer and thus was born the Rock ‘n’ Read Project. After the summer project she began using it in Minneapolis public schools- first with a $100,000 state grant and next with a $500,000 state grant for a pilot.  She is currently nearing the end of that grant.


Ann then talked about the research that backs up the use of singing (and other things like repeated readings) to improve reading fluency/prosody. She is especially passionate about this topic.  She is interested in spreading the word about this research, especially current research in neuroscience which indicates the importance of keeping a beat. She has advocated keeping the beat as an additional foundational skill in state ELA Standards. She notes that children who are unable to keep a beat are much more likely to have problems in reading.

She talked about the 50 plus studies in brain research that explored how the brain processes sound. Researchers have found that children who have trouble keeping a beat often have trouble with reading. One researcher, Dr. Kraus, found that playing music improves auditory processing, which in turn leads to improvement in reading performance. That is why Ann is lobbying that keeping a steady beat, which the researchers are saying is a foundational skill, should be included in the foundational skills in her state. See the handouts in the LINK for details.

Advice for Teaching

Ann indicates that she is a big fan of Rasinski’s work. His work includes not only singing, but also repeated readings, reading poetry, choral reading, nursery rhymes et. al. I have written before in this blog about Dr. Rasinski’s work and ideas. LINK1, LINK2, LINK3. She thinks his activities include the common characteristic of keeping a steady beat.   

It turns out Ann teaches a course about using singing to develop other skills. She has been teaching that course since 2005. Included is not just singing but also singing games. Singing games go beyond singing and include the social/emotional development of students.

Ann singing & reading “Hush Little Baby” to her granddaughter

Dr. Sam’s Takeaways

I have spent most of the last 2 years blogging around the topic of the Reading Wars, the limits and limitations of various approaches and the need to find common ground and common practices. A constant theme has been to look at all the research. That includes the research around the brain.  I view the research that Ann is calling to our attention as supporting the work of Tim Rasinski and as explaining, in part, why practices like repeated reading are successful. There is brain research to support them.  I am a lover of music and do play guitar and sing as a personal hobby. But the kind of activities this research supports goes beyond just singing. The key is having repeated performances that include keeping a steady beat

Here is Ann’s contact information

Ann C. Kay, Minnetonka, MN

The Rock ‘n’ Read Project

Ann Kay’s website—Center for Lifelong Music Making

Singing-based software program
Tune into Reading

Blog entry 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.

Willy Wood Gives an In-Depth Look at the Upcoming Speakers for the Write to Learn Conference

Willy Wood Gives an in Depth Look at the Upcoming Speakers for The Write to Learn Conference

By Dr. Sam Bommarito

Here is a link to a video interview of Willy Wood, organizer of this year’s Write to Learn Conference.

In the video Willy talks about how the conference, which has been a fixture on the Missouri Literacy Scene for the past four decades, has adapted to the new normal.  The folks who were to be the keynotes/major presenters for the face to face conference are instead each going to present a three-part series on their chosen topics. Here is are the speakers, and the dates they will be speaking:

In addition to giving many insights about each of the speakers, Willy also talked of some things that are still in the works. Included are the addition of a set of Book Club sessions and a possible free open mike session which will bring this extremely popular feature of the face to face conference into the current cyber conference.

To find out more be sure to follow Write to Learn on twitter, @WritetoLearnMO, #WTLMO and visit the conference website which will allow you to register for the various speakers. The website includes a blog where you can get the latest on how the book club and open mike events are coming along.

Here is the link to the Write to Learn page.


See you there!

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka- Write to Learn Conference groupie!)

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 will not miss it.  Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

It’s been a good week for Dr. Sam’s professional development: Here are some key takeaways

It’s been a good week for Dr. Sam’s professional development: Here are some key takeaways

By Dr. Sam Bommarito

This week has been an exceptional week for me in terms of P.D. and my growth in professional learning. Even after over 50 years as a teacher, staff developer and college professor, I am still learning new things. Let’s start with an unexpected but wonderful turn of events that happened because of one of my posts.

I usually start the day checking for good things out there in Cyberland.  I look at the Missouri Literacy Association Facebook page, which always has inspiring comments and great information.  I came across a great  post this week.

When I find a good post like this, I usually repost it on Twitter and my professional Facebook page.  The response was overwhelming. People have been responding all week. Even my non-teacher friends are chiming in. And the responding isn’t over yet- as I did my final revision/edit of this post this morning, I checked, and there was yet another new post.  Of all the responses to this post, the one by Melissa Thurlwell, a 9th grade English teacher and dept. chair, caught my attention. I want to thank Mellissa for permitting me to use a screen capture of her tweet in this blog. And I’d also like to thank her for reminding me that sometimes students can learn more than the teacher teaches. They can take the learning to the next level. Melissa and her class certainly did. Kudos to them. Have a look.

Amid the tremendous negativity that seems to characterize things today, it’s nice to see that there is still room for positive thoughts. It’s also nice to see my belief that writing can be a powerful teaching tool reaffirmed. Again- Kudos to Melissa Thurlwell and her class.

Speaking of writing, the Missouri Literacy Association (full disclosure, I am the president) has many great P.D. events going on. Visit their website to see them all: One of them is a series of workshops by Matt Glover, part of several threads for the Missouri Write To Learn Cyber Conference fd/summary. I am attending the series being carried out by Matt Glover, and once again, the old dog is learning some very new tricks. Here is a little something about Matt and what he’s had to say so far.

Matt knows how to teach about the nuts and bolts of implementing a writing workshop (see my previous post about him, LINK). I first learned about writing workshop over 20 years ago when my district brought in folks like Katie Wood Ray and Isoke Nia to help us learn about workshop teaching. Over the four years they came, they managed to transform this skill and drill empiricist into a workshop teacher. (I am still an empiricist, though). Matt covered many of the things that Katie and Isoke taught me all those years ago and gave me two new and important takeaways.  First, teachers should create AND USE, a conferencing toolkit. He introduced that thought in the last session and promised to show us more about how it is done in the next session. The other is the thought of what teaching should look like in a conference or a class.  Explaining, critiquing and evaluating are not teaching (my take, they are precursors to teaching). To really teach, you must help the student do. This tracks perfectly with Nell Duke’s findings that teaching strategies through gradual release is the best way to teach strategies.  From now on, as I do conferences, I will be much more careful about making sure the student is talking about, using and applying the strategy I am modeling in my teaching point. Thanks, Matt!

MLA is also sponsoring a series of webinars by Dr. Tim Rasinski, a long-time friend of literacy in our state. I’ve written about Tim and his ideas before LINK1, LINK2.  He makes a compelling case for treating the teaching of reading as both art and science.  My regular readers know that I am a centrist, one who says we can and should use ideas from all sides. Tim’s work shows us how there is more to research than just carrying out random assignment-based research. He does do such random assignment research, often called quantitative studies, but he is also a master of qualitative research. For details, check out the two links I just gave you.

So…, it’s been an exceptionally good week professionally.  And I predict next week is going to be equally as good. I just did my first video interview for the blog. So, I am expanding into a whole new genre, a hybrid genre. I’ve taped an interview with Ann Kay, founder of the Rock and Read project. She’ll talk about her project and explain how brain research inspired her to use music in order to help teach reading. This one’s a must-read, and now it’s also must-see.  Next week, tune in to find out about what this new form of blogging looks like. You’ll also find out about a different point of view about what brain research says about how we could/should teach reading.

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, an old dog who is still learning some very new tricks).

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.

Planning My Distance Learning Lessons- Who’s Doing the Work? by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Planning my Distance Learning Lessons- Who’s Doing the Work?

By Dr. Sam Bommarito

The building I am working in has both in-person and distance learning for its students. Last week I described what I am now doing for classroom teachers to carry out my distance learning. I push into large groups once a week via Zoom.  I also carry out virtual guided reading groups for selected distance learning children, helping to reduce the classroom teachers’ workload. I continue to provide individual tutoring to selected children using Zoom. Now that I have the first month’s experience under my belt, I’d like to share key takeaways about the resources and ideas I’m using to support my distance learning implementation.

The three books I’m making the most use of are these:

I found module 6 of The Distance Learning Playbook especially useful. That module deals with engaging tasks. It includes a planning sheet that helps you think about how you can draw on your own expertise to find tasks that include behavioral engagement, cognitive engagement, and emotional engagement. The sheet is available for download at the resources site, which is accessible to all book owners. So is the sheet designed to help you find tools to use in both distance learning and face to face learning.  You can find tools to be used to help students find information, use information, create information, and share information.  Read the World has a similar set of online planning tools, including a lesson planning page, a digital feature think sheet and a learn-wonder think sheet. As one example of how these planning tools helped me think about using online programs, let’s talk about the distance learning program that is the granddaddy of them all- Zoom.

One way to use Zoom is to have the teacher mainly be a talking head.  The teacher creates a PowerPoint or Slide Deck and then spends most of the time presenting that. Let’s look at using this resource this way through my go-to book’s lens for implementing guided reading instruction. My go-to book is Who’s Doing the Work? How to Say Less so Readers Can Do More. It is clear that this way of teaching results in mostly teacher talk with very little student engagement. Not exactly what we’re after.

Let’s look at a different way to use Zoom, a way that follows the fundamental advice from Who’s Doing the Work. To do this we have to ask how we can implement the lesson so that the teacher says less, and the reader can do more. The Zoom feature that lends itself to this kind of implementation is the breakout room. In this case, I begin my small group by doing a BRIEF review of the reading strategy we are currently focusing on. We try to stay on the same strategy for at least three weeks. The main part of the strategy’s teaching is done in large group, in advance of the small group. That teaching is done using a gradual release model:  I do, we do, you do.  Teaching reading strategies through gradual release is a research-based method- see Nell Dukes extensive research in that area. In this example, the small group is mainly used for the “you do” part of the gradual release process.

After I do a brief (2-3 slides, 1-2 minutes) reminder of what the current strategy involves, I ask the students to think about how they used it with their current book. I then send the students into the breakout rooms in groups of 2 or 3 to talk about this.  I tell them that each student will get a chance to report on what was said in the room. However, they are not to report on what they said. They are to report on what their partner or what other group members said. This encourages active listening during the breakout groups. As the session’s moderator, I can (and do) drop in on each of the breakout groups. My function is mainly to observe and listen, though I sometimes help clarify things or gently nudge them into carrying out the assigned task.

When everyone returns from the breakout room, they each talk about what the others said. My role in that part of the lesson is to facilitate. If I notice that one or more students are unsure or reluctant, I note it and then spend a little extra time in their breakout group the next week.  Over the past month, all the students have become active participants in this process.

So, that is one example of how I use the ideas found in various professional books to inform my distance learning. When I talk to the classroom teachers about their teaching, I remind them of the importance of designing all their lessons, including their distance learning lessons, to maximize student participation.

I would love to hear how some of my readers are implementing distance learning lessons in ways where students do most of the work. Back when I did my reading workshop training (and my trainers included folks like Katie Ray Wood and Isoke Nia), my most important take away from that training was that you should know what work you are leaving for your students and why. The book Who’s Doing the Work reinforced that idea for me. It is a powerful lesson planning idea that can be used on all your lessons, including your distance learning lessons. So, until next week, this is Dr. Sam signing off.

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka- a teacher who tries to talk less so the kids can do more)

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.