The Dance of Personalization in Literacy

Written by: Chrissy Park

Changing the Way We Think 

As educators, we get used to teaching our units the same way each year. We rely on the greats to show us how to teach literacy using a balanced literacy approach. Jennifer Serevello, Lucy Calkins, Linda Reif, Lester Lamanick, and so many others have shown us systems, programs, and strategies to teach literacy concepts to children. Over and over again they have proven to be effective in teaching literacy to children and we have seen growth year after year. 

The one thing that all these greats have in common? They do not know our students. They are not in our classrooms and our students do not know them. We do not need to throw these great works out, we need to change the way we think about them. We need to include our students in their learning and allow them to understand how what they are learning connects with the world around them. The key to doing this? Personalizing children’s learning so they choose their own learning path, their learning targets, and understand how it connects to the world around them. 

Using Playlists to Personalize 

Over the last couple years I have been thinking about how to use personalization with elementary students, while also incorporating all the elements of a balanced literacy approach. Through working with the Tarrant Institute and Learning Lab I have gained the skills to create playlists in order to incorporate all these elements. These playlists are a way to restructure independent work time in your workshop block. It acts as a guide for children while the teacher is working with small groups and conferencing with students. They allow students who understand skills to move ahead and try skills that have not been taught in a mini-lesson yet. They also allow students who might need more time and practice with a skill to get that practice. They allow for true differentiation and personalization. 

What is a playlist? A playlist is a self guided path where students can choose skills and targets that they feel they need to work on. In this example of a 3rd Grade Nonfiction Playlist, students work on finding the main idea and supporting details as one of the skills in their path. They choose a learning target that fits where they feel they are at with that skill. After, they choose a resource and complete the activity that matches their learning target. Once finished with the activity, they submit their work on whichever platform the teacher is using and complete the reflection questions (For this playlist the platform used was Seesaw. Google Classroom and Google Slides also work well). Here is another example of a 5th Grade Nonfiction Playlist with different reflection questions. 

Incorporating Social Justice 

This year I realized that these playlists also lend themselves well to reflection around social justice topics. Using Learning For Justice, I adapted their Social Justice Standards into scales for my students to reflect on. The students used a playlist to explore topics like diversity, justice, and taking action. They reflected on these deep topics and conversations using book creator as a way to create their own Social Justice Reflection Journal. 

Playlists can also be used to teach mini-units or used for one week to highlight a social justice topic or event. For example, this year for Martin Luther King Jr. Day my students completed a one week playlist focused around equality. They looked at songs, past and present, and reflected on how they represented inequalities throughout history. This was a way for them to connect our classroom conversations with some self guided reflection around the topic of equality and inequality in our society. 

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance” ~ Alan Watts

Making 'Real-Time' Personalization Possible | MarTech Advisor

Over the last two years using these playlists I have seen a change in my students. They are excited for our literacy time and motivated to try out new targets after they have mastered one. They are more self-directed and they understand how their learning is connected to the world around them. Educators can feel that there is always something new to try and it can be overwhelming to do it all. I invite you to think of this as not something new, but a way to organize all the work your students have already been doing. I invite you to see the magic when your students are excited to push their thinking and work harder when given feedback. Most importantly, I invite you to join the dance called personalization. 

Chrissy Park is a classroom teacher at Burke Town School in Burke, Vermont.

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Save the Date for Linda Rief!

Ignite Curiosity and Instill Confidence in Writers

Join us for a virtual conference.

April 27 and 29, 2021

3:30-5:30

In this time of so many disruptions to their learning, we have to rethink what matters the most for our students and what is possible in these chaotic and difficult times: 

Less is More 

Choice Matters

Innovation & Creativity Foster Engagement

We must anchor our work in the lives of our children.

Carla Espana, NYC teacher

In these two two-hour keynotes we will focus on the writing process: the framework and management of a writing workshop, as well as helping students find ideas for writing while offering them a variety of choices. 

Registration Information Coming Soon!



Conference fees
Purchase Order Number
Name, Address, Email

Cost per session = $60.00

Cost for both sessions = $100.00



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Mini-grant application due date is extended! March 15

VCR logo

There is still time to get $500.00!

The Vermont Council on Reading is looking for mini grant proposals.

Purpose. These grants are to support initiatives by teachers or specialists in schools to enhance literacy instruction within the school.

Amount. The Vermont Council on Reading will award $500 annually. We will accept applications for grants up to $500.00.

Eligibility. Current members of the Vermont Council on Reading are eligible to apply for these grants.

Proposal Form. To apply submit an electronic proposal to Emily Goldman. When sending your application by email, please indicate “VCR Mini Grant Application” in the subject line.

Proposal Organization. The complete proposal should be no longer than 4 pages, and should address each of the following:

  • Cover Page with:
    • Title of project
    • Names(s) of proposal author(s)
    • Email, phone, and school address of proposal author who is to serve as contact person if more than one person is involved in the project.
  • Description of Project to include:
    • Purpose and objectives of the project. These should embody overall excellence in both the quality and the innovation of the idea.
    • Goals are realistic and attainable. They reflect improved academic performance or experiences.
    • Description of what will happen, when, with whom
    • Description of how grant funds will be used (salaries or stipends not allowable)
    • Timeline for completing the project
    • Statement of value to the Vermont Council on Reading membership
  • Budget (up to $500.00)
  • Resume (for each proposal author)
  • Letter of support from Building Principal

Proposals are due March 15, 2020. Mini grants will be awarded at the VCR Spring Conference for use during spring ’20 – spring ’21 school year.

Sharing. Recipients are asked to complete and evaluation and to consider sharing at a future VCR conference.

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VCR Spring Conference, April 12, 2019

Join us for a day of lively professional learning with authors and literacy experts Donnalyn Miller & Kate Messner!

Donnalynn Miller
Donnalyn Miller has taught upper elementary and middle school students in northeast Texas and received TCTELA’s 2018 Edmund J. Farrell Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to literacy education. She is the author of several books about engaging children with reading, including The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. Donalyn is the co-founder of the popular blog, The Nerdy Book Club, and co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat #titletalk.
Kate Messner
Kate Messner is passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder, too. Her titles include award-winning picture books like Over and Under the Pond, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Over and Under the Pond, The Brilliant Deep, and How to Read a Story; novels that tackle real-world issues like Breakout, All the Answers, and The Seventh Wish; mysteries and thrillers like Capture the Flag, Eye of the Storm, and Wake Up Missing; the Fergus and Zeke easy reader series; and the popular Ranger in Time chapter book series about a time-traveling search and rescue dog.

Vermont Council on Reading

2019 Spring Conference

Donalyn Miller & Kate Messner

Friday, April 12, 2019

Stoweflake Resort and Conference Center

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Lester Laminack: VCR Spring 2018 Conference!!

Lester reading

When Books Become Best Friends: One Book/Many Visits

Explore the potential of revisiting a small collection of carefully selected books through focused read aloud experiences across time. Imagine slowing down to explore a small set of books in layers, one layer at a time with a clear focus for each read aloud experience. Lester will take you through the potential of a few picture books to demonstrate what can be done with numerous well-loved Best Friend Books because he understands that to be a good writer you must first be able to read deeply and understand author’s intent. Lester Laminack will show you that the key to successful writing is harnessing the power of close reading. You will learn how your students can transfer what they know about reading structures and strategies into practices that will
hone their writing skills and help them become more focused writers

Join us:

Vermont Council on Reading Spring Conference
Stoweflake Inn and Conference Center, Stowe, VT with Lester Laminack
May 11, 2018

LESTER L. LAMINACK is a specialist in children’s literacy and professor emeritus at Western Carolina University. Laminack has written numerous books and articles for educators and is a familiar speaker at professional meetings and reading associations nationwide. He lives in North Carolina.

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Chris Lehman in VT! April 7, 2017!

Save the Date!  

Vermont Council on Reading Spring Conference

Chris Lehman is coming to Vermont on Friday, April 7, 2017

Sheraton Burlington Hotel and Conference Center

christopherlehman

Christopher Lehman is the Founding Director of The Educator Collaborative. He is an international speaker, education consultant, and New York Times best-selling author. His books include: Falling In Love With Close Reading with Kate Roberts; Energize Research Reading and Writing; Pathways to the Common Core with Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth; and A Quick Guide to Reviving Disengaged Writers. His articles and interviews have appeared in many publications and popular blogs including Voices in the Middle, SmartBrief, EdWeek, Choice Literacy and Talks with Teachers.

Chris has been a middle-school teacher; a high-school teacher; a literacy coach; and a Senior Staff Developer with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. Now, as Founding Director of the The Educator Collaborative, he is working to innovate the ways educators learn in-person and online, providing opportunities for teachers, coaches, and administrators to share their expertise so students can hold their brightest futures.

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