Boothbay Literacy Retreat: Highlights w/ Kylene & Bob

Every morning after breakfast, Kylene Beers and Bob Probst made us stop and think about what we are doing in the classroom to empower our students and increase the equity for all students.  They asked us these important questions:

If I want more student silent reading, high success reading, and literate conversations, what do I need to do?  Should I be reading everything aloud? Should I be requiring students to all read the same books?  Should I be leading the class discussions?

Each activity that Kylene and Bob took us through brought us back to those above questions.

Activity #1:  Read, Rate, Reread using a poem called Letters to my Daughters #3.


  1. Read the poem from start to end.  (For adults, they asked us NOT to stop and reread when we got confused because she wanted us to struggle like our students would.)
  2. Rate your understanding of the poem on a scale of 1-10 (1 – I am so lost. 10 – I got it all.)
  3. Read the poem a 2nd time all the way through.
  4. Rate yourself a 2nd time.
  5. Turn and talk to a neighbor – What was confusing about the poem?
  6. Rate your understanding one last time.
  7. Pull students together and discuss:  How many students rating went up after reading the poem a 2nd time?  Why do you think this happened?  How about after talking with a partner?  Why? (We created a two column chart to show the differences in our reading of the text between the 1st and 2nd time.)

This strategy doesn’t need to be done often – just every now and then when students need a reminder of the importance of rereading.  It gives kids confidence that they can understand a text better when they look at it a second time.

Side Note:  

The other key piece to this activity is there are NO teacher formulated questions. The discussion is student centered.  Kids dislike “inauthentic questions” – those we already know the answer to.  The focus shouldn’t be on “answers”. It should be on their questions. Having students discuss their confusions helps them validate their own thinking and gives them confidence in their own comprehension.

“When you hear other’s thinking, it changes your thinking.” Kylene Beers

“The single best way to improve reading comprehension is to reread a text.  The second is talk.  We MUST get out of their way.” Kylene Beers

If you start with monologic questions, then that prohibits kids from deeper conversations right away. Research shows if we ask dialogic questions 75% of the time…

  • length of conversation increases
  • students speak in full sentences and have more compound/complex thoughts
  • engagement increases
  • student to student response increases
  • standardized test scores increase

The goal should be for kids to work together to make sense of texts versus relying on the teachers to do it for them.

When planning a discussion, ask yourself – What talk do you want?

  • Talk to check for understanding? (ones you know the answers to) OR
  • Talk to create understanding? (ones you don’t have the answers to)
    • What surprised you?
    • What did you wonder about?
    • What confused you as you read?

Activity #2:  Talking with Text


  1. Hand each student a booklet and place them in small groups (max 5).
  2. Each student reads the text, and briefly reflects on it.
  3. Turn to the next page in the booklet and begin. Think about the question you find there for a moment or two, jotting down brief notes about your thoughts (write in the booklet if you wish).
  4. Discuss the question with the group. When the talk begins to slow, and your group agrees that it’s time, repeat the process – turn the page, reflect on the next question in solitude for a few moments, and then discuss. Move through the booklet in this way. If time is short assign specific pages to the groups to discuss.
  5. Bring the groups back together and ask:
    1. What issues emerged from your discussions?
    2. What needs to be discussed as a whole group?



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