Please help me present…


I’ve submitted a proposal to the 2018 National Charter Schools Conference, and I need your vote to help me secure a slot to present! IT ONLY TAKES 30 SECONDS AND WILL MEAN A LOT TO ME.

To vote, visit the official NCSC18 Session Selector here:

You can search for my session, “17 Ways to Combat Learned Helplessness in Classrooms,” or find me by name. You can only vote for me once. Voting is open now through February 28.

Please let me know if you have any questions and thanks for your support!



Posted in Combatting learned helplessness, Professional Development | Tagged , | 4 Comments

ANNOUNCING: New TLC “Argument vs Evidence” page!

I’ve just launched a new page on the TLC Website: Argument vs Evidence“!

This page curates my online resources for teaching students how to use “Argument vs. Evidence, Steps 1-6” to write more clearly. The TLC Blog posts explain the steps, and you can find the needed materials in the Download Zone.

PS: For additional information, please check out my books:

Posted in Argument, ELA Common Core Standards, Evidence, Explanation, Literacy and the Common Core BOOK, Literary Analysis Writing, Paragraph writing, Research Writing, The Literacy Cookbook BOOK, TLC Website Resources, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shared Reading Needs to Have a Clear Purpose


[This post originally appeared in slightly different form on MiddleWeb on January 8, 2018.]

Recently while conducting an observation, I saw a teacher direct students to sit in pairs and read an article together. I kept waiting for further directions, but none came. Students scattered happily to various corners of the room to sit side by side. Some of them read. Some of them took turns reading. Some of them chatted. And there was no telling how long this would go on because the teacher wasn’t using a timer.

I have no doubt that this teacher was not intentionally trying to waste time. But I was struck by what a missed opportunity this was. What did this teacher expect students to glean from the text? As I’ve explained in a previous blog, it’s vital to set our purpose when reading (and train students to set their own). In this case, I saw no evidence of purpose. Among 13 pairs of students, I observed 13 different approaches to shared reading.

Our primary job as teachers is to maximize student learning. Shared reading has the potential to be a useful vehicle for learning if implemented effectively. Let’s talk about how to make that happen.

Why Shared?

Before you decide to use a shared reading approach, consider the pros and cons.

Shared reading has several benefits: 1) Stronger readers can support strugglers; strugglers who might stare into space during silent reading time cannot opt out during partner reading time. 2) Students working in pairs have more frequent opportunities to build fluency, question the text, and explain their ideas than they typically would in a whole-class discussion. 3) Students can move at their own pace. 4) Unlike when individuals read silently, teachers can monitor progress by circulating and listening; they can stop and support any students who need help. 5) With partners engaged in this focused work, teachers can simultaneously run reading groups or writing conferences.

On the flip side, there are some drawbacks: 1) Shared reading can become an exercise in listening comprehension if both partners are not looking at the text; listening alone does not strengthen reading comprehension (Incidentally, for the same reason, those “reading” tests some teachers give after they’ve read aloud and discussed a story all week are actually listening comprehension tests). 2) You cannot assess independent reading comprehension if students are not reading independently. 3) Students who are paired with struggling readers may become frustrated.

How to Get the Most Out of Shared Reading

If you’ve decided that the pros outweigh the cons, here are some strategies to maximize the opportunities inherent in this approach:

Model the behavior you expect. As with any academic work, we cannot assume students popped out of the womb knowing how to read effectively with a partner. In a quick role-play, you can clarify your expectations and defuse any anxiety students may have about how to “perform” in this activity.

  • After modeling, it’s also helpful to give students a few minutes to try out the approach, then pause the class to give some feedback on what you’ve observed. Offer praise and suggest tweaks, then set the timer again and let them get back to work.
  • There is not one “right” way to run partner reading, but make sure that your approach engages both partners constantly. While the designated reader is reading, what is the other student doing (besides also reading along silently)? Is he/she preparing to ask a question (ideally, a “Why” or “How” question)? Preparing to answer a question they came up with together? Analyzing the text for a particular purpose (e.g., because “today we’re trying to figure out what kind of person Ponyboy is” or “we’re looking for things that surprise us in this article” or any number of other possible purposes)? How often are they supposed to switch roles? (PS, it’s best if they have targets such as a paragraph or two rather than something that requires you to be involved with the timer.)
  • Clarify how partners should capture their ideas (e.g. on an organizer of some sort) and how the class will follow through on this partner reading. For example, “After we finish this chapter, we’ll run several Socratic seminars to hear what people figured out about Ponyboy.” Or, “After this, we’re going to use our notes to write a quick character analysis of Ponyboy.”

The other really cool thing about partner reading is that it can also be used for students to give one another feedback on their writing. Instead of “peer editing,” which is often a recipe for the blind leading the blind (“I think you need a comma there, but I’m not really sure”), students can take turns reading aloud their essays or narratives while their partner reads along and pauses to tap any time he/she has a question.

This question can be either a request for clarification (“What do you mean in that sentence?”) or a request for elaboration (“Why do you think Ponyboy said that?”). Questions along these two lines—as opposed to statements such as “That’s confusing,” which can raise defensive hackles—show that the reader is genuinely interested. More importantly, they also invite the writer to explain.

Which is what good writers do. Relentlessly.

Posted in Close Reading, Comprehension, Questioning, Reading, Shared Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Designing ELA PARCC Prep Materials That Fit in Your Curriculum”– SIGN UP NOW!

I’ll be presenting at NJPSA/FEA in Monroe Twp., NJ, all day on January 25!

Here’s the blurb:

Designing ELA PARCC Prep Materials That Fit in Your Curriculum
Date: Jan 25, 2018 Time: 9am – 3pm
Location: FEA Conference Center
Presenter: Sarah Tantillo, Ed.D.
Fee: $149.00Instead of cramming for PARCC, you can incorporate PARCC-aligned materials into your existing curriculum. This PARCC-prep intensive session, recommended for ELA and SS teachers (as well as school leaders), will coach participants in how to create PARCC-prep materials aligned with their curriculum. Participants will use a comprehensive set of tools and field-tested lesson cycles to design a PARCC ELA preparation plan and PARCC-aligned writing tasks that set students up for success.

For details and to register, click here.

Posted in Assessment(s), Lesson-planning, Literary Analysis Writing, PARCC, Presentations, Professional Development, Research Writing, Resources, Unit-planning, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RECOMMENDED READING: The Writing Revolution by Judith Hochman and Natalie Wexler

In 2012, if you read “The Writing Revolution,” Peg Tyre’s article in The Atlantic about Judith Hochman’s effective method for teaching writing, you may have wondered, Where can I learn more about this?

You were not alone.

In fact, so many people asked for more information that Judith Hochman started a nonprofit, and she and the Board Chair, Natalie Wexler, wrote a book to explain how the method works.

The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades (recently published by Jossey-Bass with a thoughtful foreword by Doug Lemov) tackles one of the most common teaching problems in the field: assigning writing but not teaching it. Hochman and Wexler share strategies for how to get students to use the writing process to expand their thinking, and their approach should help teachers of ALL subjects, even math!

A few highlights: they rightly point to the importance of questioning the text—how it informs writing as well as reading—and the need to teach students how to write SENTENCES before we ask them to write paragraphs. I particularly love their “because-but-so” activity, in which students complete sentence stems with these words, as in:

Washington crossed the Delaware because ___________.

Washington crossed the Delaware, but ___________.

Washington crossed the Delaware, so ___________.

Writing is one way we show understanding of content. This excellent book will help K-12 teachers strengthen their students’ ability to do that.


Posted in Curriculum, Differentiation, Lesson-planning, Paragraph writing, Questioning, Recommended Reading, Resources, Summarizing, Topic Sentences, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RECOMMENDED READING: Engaging Students in U.S. History and Science

If you are a U.S. history teacher looking for a textbook series that provides engaging narratives about key historical figures and events, check out A HISTORY OF US, a 10-book series by Joy Hakim. There are also accompanying resources and teacher guides.

David McCullough, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, offers high praise:

I hear strong praise for your books in lots of places all over the country–all exactly right!… Best of all is Joy Hakim’s way with the story. Never dull, never the least plodding, she brings refreshing spirit and common sense to the telling of every episode. The historic personages, great and small, are all alive, real people, and the idea that history might ever be thought of as a chore has clearly never crossed her mind.”

Hakim is also developing a series on science called THE STORY OF SCIENCE, with three books already completed. I lent one to a middle school science teacher a few weeks ago, and when I saw her again, she gushed so much that I told her to keep the book.


See what you think….

Posted in Curriculum, Nonfiction, Resources, Text Selection | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Online Curriculum Resources: UPDATE

In case you missed it, Stig Leschly, CEO of Match Education, posted a thoughtful, informative blog the other day about FREE online curriculum. Match Education is among a growing number of organizations sharing their PreK-12 curriculum units and lessons. Stig provides a handy overview and links to these helpful resources.

Here’s the link:

***PS: In case you haven’t seen it yet, my book Literacy and the Common Core: Recipes for Action delves into strategies for building effective Common Core-aligned curriculum units and lesson plans.

Posted in Curriculum, Literacy and the Common Core BOOK | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How to Navigate THE LITERACY COOKBOOK Website

As many readers know, in addition to this blog and my two books (The Literacy Cookbook and Literacy and the Common Core), you can find more support for effective literacy instruction on The Literacy Cookbook Website, which features hundreds and hundreds of files—all practical tools that have been tested in the field.

The Literacy Cookbook Website is designed like a house with rooms upstairs (visible to everyone) and corresponding rooms in the basement (in the Download Zone).

To access ALL of the hundreds and hundreds of files in the Download Zone, you need an annual subscription to The Literacy Cookbook. Individual membership is normally $50/year, but TLC Blog followers can take advantage of a 50%-off discount code to sign up (so it’s only $25!). Click HERE and use the code “TLCBOOK50.” Note: The code is case-sensitive.

I recently designed a user-friendly overview map (PS, this is not a complete site map, just some highlights!) to help you find what you might be looking for:

If you’re looking for ideas about… Check out this TLC page:
Guided Reading
Independent Reading
Public Speaking, Skits, Debates
Critical Thinking
Test Prep

If you have any questions or suggestions, please Email me at:

Thank you so much for your support, which enables me to keep sharing these helpful materials!

Posted in ELA Common Core Standards, Literacy and the Common Core BOOK, Professional Development, The Literacy Cookbook BOOK, TLC Website Resources | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for Essential Literacy Work PD? SIGN UP NOW!

If you are looking for professional development support on Essential Literacy Work, I encourage you to attend my full-day training session at NJPSA/FEA on Oct. 2 from 9am-3pm!

Here’s the link for more information:

Here’s the blurb:

PARCC ELA Prep: Essential Literacy Work (PSEL Standard 4)
Oct. 2, 2017; 9 am – 3 pm at FEA

Presenter: Sarah Tantillo, Ed.D., Author of The Literacy Cookbook and Literacy and the Common Core

Fee: $149

This session will lay out fundamental literacy work your students need to engage in — addressing the comprehension process; how to teach paraphrasing; how to teach close reading; etc. Participants will also identify and practice six specific argument and evidence steps that effective writers use ending with how to write an effective question-driven research paper from scratch. Instead of cramming for PARCC, you can prepare your students throughout the year with methods that do not feel like test prep. Participants will also use a comprehensive set of tools and field-tested lesson cycles to design a PARCC ELA preparation plan that sets students up for success. Participants will also view resources to support literacy instruction, curriculum development, and PARCC preparation.

(PS–Here’s the address: Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA) 12 Centre Drive, Monroe Township, NJ 08831)

I also, of course, deliver training and provide coaching at schools. For more information, please contact me at

Hope to see you soon!



Posted in Argument, Close Reading, Evidence, Paraphrasing, PARCC, Professional Development, Test Prep, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aligning Lessons with the Common Core Standards: NEW TLC RESOURCE!!!

As we design lessons to meet and exceed the ELA Common Core State Standards, it would be great to have a tool that matches resources up with those standards, right?

That’s what Anibal Garcia (of Queen City Academy CS) said to me a few weeks ago, and I wholeheartedly agreed. So we sat down and put this together. For grades 2-12. Yes.

You’re welcome.

Here’s a very brief snippet of what this looks like:


Reading Standards for Literature
Key Idea and Details
1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly
supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly
as well as inferences drawn from the text.


RL.8.1 –Argument vs. Evidence: TLC Blog (“argument”)
–How to Find the Topic Sentence: TLC “Effective Topic Sentences”
–Evaluating Topic Sentences: TLC “Effective Topic Sentences”
–Selecting and Explaining Evidence: TLC Blog (“argument”)
–Paragraph Responses: TLC “Analyzing Literature”
–PARAGRAPH RESPONSE Scoring Checklist: TLC “Analyzing Literature”
–Chapter Notes organizer: TLC “Analyzing Literature” (Works best when scholars create and reference a reader’s notebook consisting of literary techniques, poetic techniques, and figurative language.)
–QIEE organizer: TLC “Analyzing Literature”
–DDAT organizer: TLC “Analyzing Literature”
–Story Detectives organizer: TLC “Analyzing Literature” (This organizer, at this grade level, can be used for scholars below grade level who are still developing reading skills. They should eventually transition into the QIEE Organizer.)

Want to see the whole thing (in a much more readable format)? Here’s a FREE DOWNLOAD of the Gr 8 ELA CCSS with RESOURCES – 8-9-17 file.

For Grades 2-12, go to the TLC “Standards” page to download the rest. I will update them periodically. If you have suggestions for revision or useful links to add, please Email me directly at

*As a reminder, followers of this TLC Blog are eligible for a 50%-off discount subscription to the TLC Website, which provides access to more than 1,200 files supporting literacy instruction. (PS: That’s less than 2 cents per file.) Click HERE and use the secret discount code, TLCBOOK50. Please note: The code is case-sensitive. If you would like to register friends at this rate, please Email me for a group registration form at


Posted in Analyzing the Common Core Standards, ELA Common Core Standards, Evidence, Lesson-planning, Reading Literature, Resources, TLC Website Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment