Learning, Leading, and Loving Literacy

NSES recently celebrated one of our favorite days of the year – World Read Aloud Day!  Organized by LitWorld, this day is a day to celebrate the magic of reading aloud to children.

We already know that reading aloud to children every day puts them almost a year ahead of children who do not receive daily read alouds regardless of parental income, education level or cultural background (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research). In addition to that, as Burkins and Yaris state, read aloud is simply a commercial for reading.  It invites children to enjoy the simple act of reading and to expose them to a variety of books and genres that they may not have read or heard yet.

We invited several families, community members, administrators, and friends to join us and read their favorite selections. Our honored guests included our principal, Jennifer Daigneault, vice-principal of Halliwell, Rachel Salvatore, Jean Meo (school committee member), Diane Jolin and Carolyn Frayne (former NSES principals),  our school resource officers, Officer Cabral and Officer Avila, Miss Renee, (town librarian), and several staff members and parents.

Please click here to view our Google slideshow of the event.

Welcome back to the 2018-2019 school year!  One of the best things about our time away from our students is the ability to reflect and make goals for the new year. In the Literacy Department of NSES this year, we are excited to start with plans for more family engagement, coordination with the school librarian, and generally sharing and expanding the joy of reading and writing with our students.

This summer, candidates in the graduate Literacy Program at Providence College offered free teaching in a four week Summer Literacy Camp at NSES. One of the required assignments was to teach a literacy strategy to the entire multi-aged group.  The candidates had to plan a lesson that could apply to all students and differentiate support for three varied grade levels.  One candidate, Lauren Berolini, taught a lesson on inferencing. Although this skill is not expected to be mastered until Grade 4, we still need to find ways to introduce and model the strategy before that grade. Below you will find her guest post about the lesson, the strategy, and ways to support inferencing at home.


Summer Literacy Lessons: Making Inferences

This past week, the students began learning how to make inferences when they read. When readers make inferences, they combine clues from the text with their prior knowledge to uncover insights about the text that are not explicitly stated. To help students develop an understanding of this skill, teachers compared the process of making an inference to the process of completing a puzzle. Like different pieces come together to form a puzzle, readers put different clues together from the text to form an inference.

It is important that students realize that they make inferences all the time. Whether they are inferring that a dog wants to play because he/she has a tennis ball or inferring that a storm is coming because of dark clouds in the sky, students make inferences daily. Therefore, it is vital that they learn to make inferences while they are reading as well. In addition to leading students to be active readers, making inferences while reading helps strengthen students’ understanding texts and makes reading more interesting and fun! However, as inferencing involves abstract thinking, it is still challenging for many primary students, and many students would benefit from practicing this skill at home.

Opportunities for practicing this skill at home:

  • When reading with your child, prompt him/her to look at the clues on the page (pictures, text, etc.) and ask:
    • “What do you think will happen next?”
    • “Is the character really doing what the author says?”
    • “Why might the author have said_______?” “
    • Why might the illustrator have drawn a _________?”
    • Essentially, any open-ended question provides students with an opportunity to practice their inference skills.
  • Share your own inferences about a story with your child as you read.
  • Try to choose books to read with your child that provide many clear opportunities for making inferences. Recommendations include:  
    • The Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer
    • The Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel
    • The Gerald and Piggy series by Mo Willems

I know, it has been far too long since I have posted!  Exciting things have been happening this year and although they are all wonderful, they have been taking up much of my “extra” time.  Fortunately, my New Year’s resolution involves more blog posts!

Until then, please join us for our “Reading in a Winter Wonderland” event this Wednesday, December 20th from 6-7pm at NSES.  It will be a wonderful way to recharge, relax, and read!



It’s hard to believe, but our four week Summer Literacy Camp has come to an end. One of the aspects of the program that I am most proud of is the way the students are now responding to reading and writing. At the start of the program, many of the students approached reading and writing with some caution and reluctance – after all, we tend to shy away from activities that we believe are difficult or that we feel we are not very good at.  And yet, as I walked around the room today, I found that the students were exceptionally happy and excited to read and write.  This is not by accident. Through read alouds, real conversations about writing, and personalized teaching we have created an environment that values what real readers and real writers do.  We talk about texts and authors we love, we re-read stories that make us laugh, we practice adding feeling and expression to our reading because we know it makes it more fun, and we talk about writing that is close to our hearts. I want to thank the Providence College Graduate Literacy students for sharing your love for reading and writing with our students – it has most definitely made an impact.

Just as I did in my last post, I am going to recap some of the lessons the kids have learned and then offer some suggestions for how to support that learning at home.

Lessons in Reading:  We have learned

  • How to visualize as we read
  • How to make and check predictions
  • How to retell a story

How you can help at home:  Looking at the lessons above, there are many ways to support the work we have done. We ask students to visualize because it is often what allows students to comprehend as they read. Students who have difficulty visualizing often have difficulty engaging with the text or remembering what they read.  Read aloud from a book without illustrations (such as a chapter book) and stop every few sentences to ask your child “what do you picture?”. If your child has difficulty, give him or her some examples of what you picture and model how you make pictures using the author’s words.

In the same way, you can model how to make and check predictions as you read. The important part of a prediction is to use the author’s words plus what you know to make a “smart guess” about what might happen next.  It’s the thinking that’s important, not whether or not your prediction came true.  Before you turn the page, stop and ask “what do you think will happen?” and then read on to check or adjust your prediciton.

Retelling is a tricky skill for many kids.  Before they can remember and retell the events of a story, they need practice in the process of retelling, which is essentially “thinking backwards”. Start by asking your child to recount the events of the day.  Use words such as “first, then, next, and last” to practice telling events in sequence. Once they seem to be able to do this easily, once in a while, ask them to retell you a story they know very well, such as “The Three Little Pigs”. Retelling is one method we use to assess if a child understood the major events of a story, yet it takes practice to be able to do this.

Lessons In Writing:  We have learned

  • How to revise to add details that make our writing more interesting

How you can help at home: Like I’ve mentioned before, good writing almost always begins with good language.  Talking with your child and using new and interesting vocabulary is a great way to prepare your child to become a better writer.

This week we focused on adding details using our senses and feelings.  We noticed that many kids have difficulty adding those details because they have not yet built up a bank of words to use when describing feelings or senses.  They often resort to terms such as “happy” or “sad” rather than using shades of feeling such as “excited”, “curious”, or “disappointed”. When you talk with your kids about anything, notice and choose a variety of words to increase their vocabulary.  Make it a challenge for them to describe things they eat, smell, taste, hear, and touch in new ways.

These four weeks have been so much fun.  The kids were challenged and they seemed to love it.  Click the link below to watch the video and see their smiling faces in action.




Each year, we are lucky enough to partner with Providence College and host their students from the Graduate Literacy Program.  The students are teachers who are working to earn their Master’s degree and become certified Reading Specialists.  In order to do that, one of their final courses requires that they work intensively with students who struggle with aspects of reading and/or writing. We invite students from our school who could benefit from extra summer instruction for a four week intensive Summer Literacy Program.  It is a win-win for our students and the Providence College students.

The children work in very small groups (1:2 teacher to students ratio) and get individualized instruction from teachers who are motivating, caring, and learning best practice.  Of course our goal is to have the students maintain or make gains in literacy learning – but it is also to foster their love for reading and writing.  We work on developing basic skills such as phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, and self-monitoring.  However, we always put the joy of reading and writing first and work on these skills by reading real texts and writing real pieces for authentic audiences.  In short, we focus on what it really means to be a reader and writer.

We are just starting week 3 of our program.  Our daily schedule consists of reader’s workshop, a whole class lesson, and writer’s workshop.  Our whole class lessons are designed to enhance the individual lessons of the reader’s and writer’s workshops. Below are some samples of what we have learned so far, and how families can encourage and support the work we have been doing at home.

Lessons in Reading:  We have learned

  • How to use punctuation to make our reading sound good and make sense
  • How to check that our reading makes sense, sounds right, and looks right
  • How to ask questions and wonder as we read
  • How to use clues within the text to figure out the meaning of new words

How you can help at home:  Looking at the lessons above, there are many ways to support the work we have done. The best way to help and support your child at home is to read with them and talk with them about what they have read.

As you share a story, model your thinking such as asking “I wonder why the character did that?” to model asking questions.

Change your voice as you read aloud and mention “I saw the exclamation point so I knew I had to make my voice sound excited”.

When you read a new or unfamiliar word, model your thinking about what the word might mean. “They say the bird was perched on the branch and from the picture I notice the bird sitting on top of it.  That must be what perched means.”

When you notice your child reading and making an error, give him or her some wait time to see if they notice the error as well.  If not, wait until the end of the page and then say something like “You said ‘The bunny hopped in the call grass (if your child read call/cool).  Does that make sense?”  Always ask your child to check if his or her reading makes sense, sounds right, and looks right;  all three are important.

Lessons In Writing:  We have learned

  • How to plan out our writing to include a beginning, middle, and end
  • How to add details to our writing to help readers visualize our story

How you can help at home: Good writing almost always begin with good language.  Talking about the events that happen in life is a great way to prepare your child to become a better writer.

As you recount something you did throughout the day, model how to retell the events in order using words such as first, then, next, and last.  A great way to do this is to ask your child to tell another adult about something that happened.  For example, when my husband comes home, I might ask my son to “tell daddy what happened when we went outside today” and then begin by modeling “First, we went outside to go on a nature walk. Then…” and I let my son fill in the blanks.  Modeling that story structure makes children become familiar with the sequencing of a story and it will become natural for them to tell stories in this way.

Additionally, expand your child’s vocabulary (and ability to add details to their storytelling and writing) through conversation. The best way to do this is by using a strategy called the PEER strategy by Grover J. Whitehurst as you read or talk:

PEER Sequence:

Prompt the child to say something about the book or topic.

Evaluate the child’s response.

Expand the child’s response by rephrasing and adding information to it.

Repeat the prompt to make sure the child has learned from the expansion.

Example:  You bring your child to the beach and on the way home you ask “What did you see at the beach today?” Your child says “I saw the waves”. (Prompt)  You answer “Yes (Evaluate), we saw the waves crashing on the shore.  They were tall and moved quickly” (Expand). Finish by saying “Did you see those tall waves today? (Repeat to see if the child picks up on and uses the new vocabulary).

This is a very simplified example and usually reserved for reading but the concept is to take every opportunity you have to expand your child’s speaking vocabulary as this will prepare them when they write.

Summary:  I have a poster hanging on the wall of my classroom and it is one of my favorites.  It says “The Top 10 ways to become a Better Reader: 1.Read 2.Read 3.Read 4.Read 5.Read 6.Read 7.Read 8.Read 9.Read 10.Read”. The best way to help and support your child is to enjoy and talk about books with them.  We are having a great time with the kids and hope that knowing what skills and strategies we are working on will help you think about how to expand this work at home.  In a future post, I will include a list of the books we have read aloud so that you can share them with your child as well.





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