Day 3 of ELA Adoption Workshops


November 12th ELA Adoption Team

Our team started with day with energy and excitement around digging into our last two curriculum adoptions.  To ground ourselves back in our values and beliefs we took a moment to reflect on that thinking.  We then used the Padlet Website (free tool that provides a platform for capturing response and can be used as a quick formative assessment) to capture teacher ideas around what questions they would ask of districts that are piloting or using these curriculum adoptions.

Moving into the work we took a moment to remind ourselves of the norms, including a commitment to being collaborative in discovery but independent in our evaluation.  This helps ensure that each voice in the room is being heard. We reconnected with the rating tool as our lens for looking at the curriculum.  Additionally, we reinforced the idea of noting sufficient evidence to support the rating we were giving each curriculum.  

ReadyGEN Launches the Day

Pearson with ReadyGEN presented first.  Janis Wurgler, a literacy specialist who worked with Salem-Keizer for many years as teacher and curriculum specialist, launched the presentation.  She stated, “we are in an inquiry-based profession.”  She continued to highlight that the ReadyGEN program is built with the end in mind, authentic trade books at the core of instruction and digital access to everything.  The trade books are those that you would find in the real world.  She emphasized that ReadyGEN is a program that trusts the professional and is about attending to the six shifts in the common core. She mentioned the authors of the program: David Pearson, Feddy Hiebert, Pam Allyn and Sharon Vaughn. Speaking to the design of ReadyGEN, she noted the value placed on the reciprocity between reading and writing, each one supporting the other. Then, she launched into key design elements: built on themes, built with the end in mind, focused on standards based instruction, authentic trade books that are at the core, and fully digital teacher and student resources.

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Trade books, authentic literature, are a big component of the program.  Twelve anchor texts for every student at every grade level was a key element.  ReadyGEN provided text complexity (Qualitative Measures and Quantitative Measures) rubrics for each of their trade book. In addition to the trade books, there is a text collection which includes additional literature and leveled readers for differentiation. The text set approach is prominent in the ReadyGEN curriculum and the presenter shared a video from Pam Allyn, one of  the ReadyGEN authors, about text sets. The organization of the curriculum is based on the idea of gradual release of responsibility: We model, we guide practice, we let them try it on their own. photo 5.JPG

There was mention of academic vocabulary (Camas School District Academic Vocabulary Page) and generative vocabulary.  Generative vocabulary is founded on the idea that we can anchor understanding of new words by looking at words in context of other words.  

As ReadyGEN’s presentation came to a close teachers were ready to dig in.  For the next two hours IMET criteria, tools and trade books were discussed.  Teams were honing in on criteria within the rating tool and digging deeply into the curriculum to determine what was available. photo 4.JPG

As our team wrapped up their initial exploration of ReadyGEN we enjoyed a much needed lunch and then dove right back into the world of curriculum.  


Taking a Journey

The second curriculum of the day was Journeys, presented by Louise Matlasz, a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Content Specialist. She started by sharing a bit about the structure of the program. Kindergarten has 33 lessons, with the duration of a lesson as approximately one week. Grades 1 through 5 have 36 weeks of instruction. Throughout the curriculum are paired selections including different genres often used for application.  Trade books were mentioned as a component of the curriculum with every grade level including access to trade books.

The presenter then took us on a journey of the curriculum discussing the different tiers available.  She mentioned the personal Journey which includes leveled readers. She noted here that Irene Fountas, author of the leveled readers, wrote and leveled the sets.  Additionally she wrote an eight page lesson plan for each and every leveled reader.  The set includes a texts for below level, on level, above level, and ELL. One of the texts is marked vocabulary reader and supports the words you taught within that unit. The leveled readers have different titles – as students move through the levels they have different stories to experience.  The presentation continued with information around how the program supports students at a variety of levels.

As the presentation neared completion, the presenter shared that Journeys offers two different paths for teachers in terms of approaching the curriculum. The Core Teacher Edition is a more traditional “balanced literacy” approach while the Literacy and Language Guide offers a workshop-like approach.  

With the presentation finished teachers were able to jump back into the second curriculum with their rating tools ready.

After the review of Journeys concluded, Group Members completed a Google form summarizing strengths and weakness of the two programs (ReadyGEN and Journeys) reviewed today. This is the same activity that we used in the previous week to bring to closure our review of Reading Wonders and Core Knowledge.

We then moved to making some claims about all four programs presented to the team. Work group members were given an opportunity to reflect and begin to rate and rank each curriculum using a Google Form. They were asked to provide an overall ranking and which had the most potential for our district.  From there, for the two most highly rated programs, group members were asked to describe how that program would benefit students as well as teachers, and then discuss potential drawbacks.

After a very full two days of evaluation and four curriculums later our team was tired but excited to think about the next steps.  Our next blog post will provide a data summary of our review. Stay tuned!


Melissa Levison

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Day 2 of ELA Adoption Team Workshops

The sun was shining on November 5, as we gathered to begin reviewing two of the four identified ELA curriculums.  We started our day in conference Room F where we revisited our visions and beliefs about literacy instruction.  We wanted to make sure that, throughout the process, we continued to value our own beliefs and be aware of potential biases towards materials and methods.  We also re-grounded ourselves in the adapted IMET tool to prepare  for our first publisher presentation. The adapted IMET Tool provides a rubric to evaluate the alignment of program materials with ELA standards. Each publisher was provided a copy of our adapted IMET Tool and asked to use this to prepare and share evidence of specific criteria in their program.  This aided us in our own discovery of specific items referenced in the IMET Tool. Our day’s agenda was very full but intentional as two of the publishers presented their materials and helped us to walk through the curriculums. 
Our morning presentation focused on Reading Wonders (McGraw Hill), led by Camille Kirkham and Gail Eskew, representatives sent to guide us in our discovery of the curriculum.  Gail spent time initially going over the philosophy and research used in the development of Reading Wonders.  She walked  us through the structure and layout of the curriculum.  Then it was time for us to get our hands dirty and dig into the curriculums ourselves. We worked in grade level teams and collaboratively explored the materials during the next two hours and fifteen minutes.  Each participant independently scored the curriculums, ensuring that all voices had equal input. Specialists, librarians, and special education staff were assigned a grade level to work with as indicated in the chart below.









Jacob Wright

Amy Wing

Jennifer Scott

Tara Obermiller


Gillian Buchanan


Tom Crone

Natasha Cadonau


Kelly Greene


Christy Cline


Lara Blair


Pam Gospe


Tiffiny Thomas


Jennifer Woodson


Becky Hansel


Kristin Neumann


Wendy Wick


Jo Candelore


Sherri Loniewski


Lyn Garcia


Jeanine Cowan


Carmen Beuhl


Kari Wiest


Meghan Johnson


Julie Mueller







Some deep thinking was at play as the teams worked together in their discovery.  Each team approached the process with thoughtful discussion and thorough examination of the curriculum materials.  Our Reading Wonders representatives were available to answer specific questions and support team’s discovery of IMET criteria.  We also made available the Publishers Criteria and CCSS in both printed and digital format.  We had budgeted two hours for the teams to work through the IMET tool and fill out their evaluations and we found the time flew by!  We broke for a lovely lunch and a brain break. Many thanks to Maria and Sharon for once again provided us with a wonderful and filling Caesar Salad lunch. It was just what we needed!

Our afternoon had us moving to Conference Room B where our representatives from Amplify were set up and ready for us. Patrick Momsen and his team of three spent the next 35 minutes introducing us to Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA). CKLA’s structure includes two instructional strands for PreK-3 that instills both background knowledge and foundational skills, and then integrate into a single strand in Grades 4-5. When it was our turn to explore we recognized that because the structure of CKLA was so different than programs we’ve seen or used in the past, there were more questions to be answered. The hard work of digging deep to find evidence made our afternoon move quickly.  Again our representatives were available to support our discovery and evaluation of the curriculum.

As we brought our afternoon to a close we reflected on our work and shared our answers to these two questions:
How has today’s workshop pushed your thinking about vision/beliefs? 
How has today’s workshop validated your thinking about vision/beliefs?
We gathered the reflections of the team in a document to show how thinking shifted and changed as the process for examination was undertaken.  
This was day 2!  Busy, tiring yet very productive.  Our work continues on November 12 with a similar format for our last two curriculums currently under evaluation, Journeys (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and Ready Gen (Pearson). 
Diane Loghry


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Beliefs & Values

The ELA Adoption process is underway! We held the first workshop on Thursday, October 8 and what follows are highlights of our day. You can also access the presentation here.

We began the day with the “basics.” The questions that guided us included:

  • IMG_6756 (1)Why are we here?
  • What’s the timeline?
  • What programs will we review and how were they identified?
  • What’s my role?
  • What’s the wild horse corral?

On this last point, we’ve noticed that at some workshops a posted parking lot becomes the place where ideas are lost or forgotten – more like an auto graveyard! So, instead of a parking lot, we’ve got a wild horse corral where participants post questions or concerns that can’t be answered yet because we’re not far enough in the process. Yet, those questions or concerns will buck and run and kick if we don’t address them as a group once we’re in a place to do so. So, those ideas will be well-looked after in the corral til we can collaboratively “gentle” them out.

One example that is currently posted is “What happens to the reading curriculum you’ve been creating (for years) once there’s an adoption?” The last formal adoption connected to ELA was Scott Foresman, copyright 2000. So much has changed since then – most strikingly our new(ish) ELA standards. In the absence of strongly aligned curriculum, individual teachers, teams and schools have worked hard to find and create materials, and, in some cases, purchase programs that addressed some areas of ELA. Understandably, there has been a great deal of time and effort invested in those resources – our “file cabinets of Awesomeness.” What will happen to those materials in the event of an adoption? This connects to another “wild horse” in the corral – “Will we be expected to use the adoption to fidelity?”

The truth is that there are not answers to these questions yet – and, nor, IMHO, should there be answers yet. The world of curriculum has changed vastly in the past few years – not only with new standards that require greater depth in and more integration across reading, writing, speaking and listening, but also with the as-fast-as-you-can-blink changes in technology and digital resources. We must be mindful of coherence – the way that practices from classroom to classroom and grade to grade create a “progression of learning” that will best support growth for our students. We also believe that to exercise teaching expertise requires flexibility to make choices about resources and strategies that will meet the needs of students currently in our classrooms.

This message was loud and clear in a beliefs and values exercise from the workshop. Participants first had some individual think time to reflect on and write about a literacy lesson they love to teach. Then, they wrote about the reasons why they love teaching that lesson. After sharing with a partner, table groups worked to identify the beliefs and values underlying those stories. We categorized and connected the ideas from all tables to create a beautiful and messy “crowd-sourced mind map” of our values and beliefs. Flexibility and honoring the expertise of the teacher figured prominently. Other “big ideas” were embedded differentiation, engaging learning, intentional skill-based instruction, lifelong literacy and authenticity. [Click here to view the mind map.]

Our next step was to reflect on the Publishers’ Criteria, which participants had read prior to the workshop. Two documents, one for K-2 and the other for 3-12, were intended to guide “publishers and curriculum developers as they work to strengthen existing programs and  ensure alignment of materials with the Standards to provide a clear and consistent framework.” What these documents do well is explain the ELA shifts [insert link], why they matter, and how they would be reflected in aligned resources. It’s good reading – with definite applications for our practice!

We used a collaborative flip-chart sized Interactive Notebook (INB) activity in which participants were first asked to reflect individually on each of the criteria described in the document. This was an “In” activity designed to re-connect participants with important ideas from the reading. Then, in table groups, participants used the “Through” section of the INB to identify the implications of each of the key criteria for classroom practice and for material selection. For the “Out” section, participants created a pictorial representation of the relationship between the ELA standards, ELA shifts and Publishers’ Criteria. After a whole-group share out, we also “lifted” from our reading the values and beliefs evident in the Publishers’ Criteria, and mapped those on our Values/Beliefs Map. (Those ideas are represented on the orange stickies.) In the process, we noticed that the values and beliefs articulated in the Publishers’ Criteria were well-aligned with our values and beliefs.

At that point, we also noticed that we were VERY hungry. Deep cognition, working up the Depth of Knowledge scale, is both energizing and fatiguing! Fortunately, the lunch spread was as ready as we were. (And here, a special thank you goes out to Maria Klein, for making arrangements for lunch, and to Sharon Short, who set up a festive fall themed table and great food!)

During the afternoon session, we examined our own biases that we bring to this work and how to be aware of those in order to remain receptive during our coming review. We spent time learning about the tool we’ll use to review each program. This tool is an adaption of the IMET (Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool), designed specifically for reviewing programs for alignment with the standards and shifts. The full tool can be accessed here. The adapted tool is here. A coming column will explain more about this tool and how we practiced using it. (If you have read this far, you have really stuck with it – and I don’t want to overextend my welcome much past this point. This is just such important work and I’m so excited about it that I’ve got the “waxing” phase down and now need to work on “waning!”)


Lisa Greseth


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