Pure Literacy

Good Reads | Pure Literacy's 1st Book Club Chat!

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Hi teacher friends!

Wowza, I can’t believe that July has flown by, and here we are meeting up to talk about our professional good read summer challenge book DIY Literacy by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts. DIY Literacy lived up to all my expectations and more!

Good Reads August

Today I’ll share with you my take aways from this professional good read. First, I just want to say how much I appreciated that so many of you joined me in the first Pure Literacy Summer Reading Challenge. Thanks for spending some of your precious summer hours reading this amazing professional book along with me.

So here’s my first reveal, for those of you who didn’t get a chance to read the book and were waiting to hear my take aways. This professional read is designed for the seasoned workshop educator. It provides heaps of practical suggestions for differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all students. So for Pure Literacy followers who are familiar with Writing Workshop instruction and are looking to build on their skills, this is the book for you and I highly recommend it!  


As Franki Sibberson wrote in the foreward, “Changes are so much more doable with the right tools.” (p.ix) This couldn’t be a more perfect description for this resource. The book is about the art and craft of creating and designing tools with our students in mind. Kate and Maggie share practical ways to foster independence and agency with students. They show us how to use what we know about students in order to create individualized teaching tools that help them grow as readers and writers. These tools allow teachers to differentiate instruction with the aim of reaching and teaching all learners. 

The four tools featured to add to your teaching toolbox include teaching charts, demonstration notebooks, micro-progressions and bookmarks. Each tool is designed to support students in different ways and provide them practical way to move to the next step in their learning progression as a writer. And each tool is designed to make our teaching stick even with our most struggling and reluctant writers. You know them, the kids that stump us every time. 

One way to help spur the growth of these challenging learners, and all learners for that matter, is to provide clear steps, also known as strategies, and to make sure our students understand how and when to apply them. The tools outlined in the book serve as a ready-reference and helps students choose actionable steps that will work best for them. Creating a variety of teaching tools to support students as they navigate their learning creates opportunities for choice and autonomy, putting the decision making into their hands. 

Kate and Maggie remind us there are three reasons why teaching tools help aid in the stickiness of our teaching.

  1. They are visual. Visuals help all learners understand, organize and remember information.
  2. They make the abstract concrete. Choosing concise language helps make something confusing clear to learners.
  3. They encourage repeated practice. Repeated practice helps turn strategies and lessons into habits. As in all learning, the more time you engage in practice the better you become.

The first part of the book is an introduction to the four teaching tools and how to find the right tool for the right job.In the book, Kate and Maggie organize three predictable problems as obstacles to our teaching.

  1. Memory: kids are being asked to learn so much in our overcrowded curriculum that  they are struggling to remember what they should know or do.
  2. Rigor: often kids aren’t doing the “heavy lifting”,  teachers are. Kate and Maggie show us ways to put the learning back on the students’ shoulders.
  3. Differentiation: it’s challenging for teachers to meet all the needs of students. Kate and Maggie show us ways to adapt to meet the needs of all our learners.

The second part of the book details how to make each of the four teaching tools. The authors give step-by-step directions complete with illustrations that clearly guide the reader through the creation process.Easy explanations and explicit examples leave readers ready to tackle creating these helpful and effective tools as well as inspired perhaps to design their own. And the remaining part of the book is dedicated to how and when to use these tools when teaching writing. This part really speaks to responsive teaching. This section is all about tailoring our teaching moves and guides us with tips and tricks that will help us move our students to progress their individual learning path.

For example, do you have students in your writing workshop who could carry on independently if they just could have a list outlining what to do? The authors share this tool-  a repertoire chart. The repertoire chart outlines a list of possible strategies that could be used to tackle a big idea or skill. Or do you have kids that need support in getting started or keep going in their work? The authors suggest using a process chart. The process chart supports kids by taking a big idea, like a skill or strategy, and breaks it down into steps that students could use. It gives student writers a roadmap, so to speak, of actionable steps to help them work with greater independence. Or are you kids having trouble transferring a specific skill to their own writing? The authors recommend using a demonstration notebook. This is a collection of writing, including your own, that can be used as examples. A demonstration notebook can be used as a model of the work to demonstrate for students before they are asked to to try it themselves.These are just a few of the many suggestions Kate and Maggie share in this amazing resource. 

While there are so many wonderful things to shout out about this book I think the thing I really appreciate is their video series on Vimeo. I highly recommend that you check it out. Click here for  a sneak peek.

So thanks for joining me this summer exploring this excellent professional good read! I hope you are inspired to start making some of your own DIY literacy tools for Fall.  I’d love to hear some of your take aways after reading DIY Literacy. Do you have ideas for DIY literacy tools this fall? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Until Next Time,