Deeper Learning

I have spent the past 3 weeks in professional learning; some would even say it was deeper learning. The journey started with coming to an understanding about the phrase, “deeper learning.” The phrase is defined by 6 competencies (mastering academic content, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, learn how to learn, and grit). The idea is that educators need to examine the way they lead learning in their classrooms to include these competencies which will better equip students to be college, career and life ready. I wonder if these qualities are new or have they always been a need with each generation?

The Hewlett Foundation states, “In classrooms where deeper learning is the focus, you find students who are motivated and challenged—who look forward to their next assignment. They apply what they have learned in one subject area to newly encountered situations in another. They can see how their classwork relates to real life. They are gaining an indispensable set of knowledge, skills, and beliefs” (  Now recall the National Education Association (2002) over a decade ago communicating the importance of the 4Cs (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication). The idea is the same but the technology and economy they are used within has evolved and advanced, but the need to employ is no different.

I propose a balance with choice. In education, we tend to swing the pendulum fully to one side, but history has revealed this is not smart (i.e., whole language versus phonics).  In fact, if you type in to Google, “education pendulum,” you will get “About 9,750,000 results.” No one likes to be volun-told what to do at any age. With students and adults, alike, choice is the key to success. In an article published online, “Liven Up Your Lessons by Giving Students Choices,” (2010) Edutopia provides educators with a list of ways to provide students with choice ( Alfie Kohn, author of “Punishment by Rewards” (1999) wrote an article about choices for children that agrees students need to have choice to have buy-in and ownership of learning (, but this is true of educators too. Even Educational Leadership (ASCD, 2010) published the need for choice in their article, “Giving Students Meaningful Work: Choice Is a Matter of Degree” (

Think about the power of choice and the connection to deeper learning and what changes (within balance) are needed to create buy-in and ownership of learning for all stakeholders?

Challenge Thinking & Deepen Understanding

If you enjoyed the Reading Closely training and want to take it to the next level, check out my book – Challenge Thinking and Deepen Understanding. You can also follow me on Twitter @lisafisher2003.

Professional Learning Opportunities

Hi, Literacy Lovers!

There are some exciting conferences coming up so save those dollars. I look forward to seeing everyone for days of listening, speaking, reading, and writing all around literacy for learning to take place.  Below are the some of the professional learning opportunities. I am doing a workshop at FRA on Thursday, October 16th from 12-3 on Challenge Thinking and Deepen Understanding (my latest book). Let’s get fired up!

Event 1 – 52nd Annual FRA Conference

Lights! Camera! Literacy!” from October 16-19, 2014 at The Florida Hotel and Conference Center, Orlando, FL 

Event 2 - International Reading Association

To Hold 2015 Annual Conference In St. Louis, MO, July 17-20, 2015

Wrap up the school year with learning at the center

This time of year, teachers start to feel tired and students start to get restless which sometimes results in behavior problems that disrupt class. However, if you (the teacher) just hang in there and give it 100% all the way to the end, then your students will see the benefit of coming to class and engaging in continuous learning. The focus must stay of teaching students grade level expectations (standards), and not watching movies, drawing pictures, sitting quietly, or playing games unrelated to expectations.

There are several ways you can keep the pace interesting and positive for students that include the use of all the standards. Divide your class in half. Ask each team to come up with a problem that in pervasive among kids their age. Then have each team read a wide range of texts on the topic they identify and build an argument to solve the problem. When they are ready, have them present their findings to a team of teachers to be the judges of which team put together the best argumentative solution.

Another idea is have students write letters to future grade level students who will enter after them. They can impart all of their lessons learned and knowledge gained.

Finally, students can participate in a literacy group challenge. Have them select novels around the same topic or theme that they will read every day in and outside of class. Then provide them with supplemental texts to add to their schema as they read their novel. At the end, have them prepare for a debate, discussion, or seminar on the topic or theme.

The ideas are limitless, but please do NOT just let them watch movies, sit around and do nothing, or do worksheets.

Challenge Two

I posted a challenge on Twitter: Challenge 2: open students’ minds to see information differently by changing their purpose for reading texts multiple times.

Now, allow me to elaborate… As we think about the need to read closely, we also must think about the reasons why we would want students to read closely. In order to know why we would ask students to read closely, we should know at what times do adults read closely and for what purposes. Right now I see trainers using the phrase “read closely” to mean read the text one time real slow and look for key ideas. I have years of experience struggling when reading and never once did reading slower help me understand the text any better.

Anyone who reads closely has a complex piece of text in front of them with a lot of layers. Each time you go into the text, there is specific reason that deepens your understanding. Through these multiple exposures with purposeful direction, you gain understandings full of connections, questions, and implications. If you are unsure of how this process works, think about the following steps that encourage multiple interactions with complex text in order to deepen understanding of content:

1. Cold Read – read the text for the very first time to become familiar (meet the ideas) and identify the topic and what the author wants you to know about that topic (main idea).

2. Expert Read (2nd interaction) – read the text to locate explicit evidence of supporting details that directly support the main idea.

3. Expert Read (3rd interaction) – read to highlight the areas the author leaves uncertain or leaves the reader to imply.

4. Expert Read (4th interaction) – read to pay attention to word choice (positive, negative, or neutral) that will allow you to analyze the text for purpose, tone, and mood.

5. Expert Read (5th interaction) – read to use the text structure to annotate in the margins the progression of ideas and how they are connected, built upon, and refined.

These are just a few ways students can interact with text multiple times to peel back the text and gain a deeper understanding. This will allow them to analyze across texts and build arguments. For more information on this type of text interaction, you can read

Challenge Thinking and Deepen Understanding: The Instructional Approach for Implementing the Common Core Standards… by Lisa A. Fisher (Jun 6, 2014).


Let the challenge begin!


Challenge 1

Often times if you were to follow a student throughout his day, you will find he spends less than one-third of his class time engaged in reading to learn. For the next week, I want to challenge you to ensure students do the talking, writing, and reading in your class for at least two-thirds of the time. Cris Tovani says whoever is doing the talking, writing or reading is also the one doing all the growing and learning. One way to accomplish this flip in ownership of the learning is to plan for short and concise lessons and then task students to work and practice independently or in small groups or with a partner. I am including a unit of instruction for 8th grade with a focus on standard 8 of common core as an example. Let your students own the learning and let me know how it’s going.  Unit RL.RI.8.9

16th Annual Literacy Symposium

16th Annual Literacy Symposium: Informational Text in the Age of New Educational Standards

Join us for a FREE day of professional development, fun, and learning that will focus on celebrating literacy and learning more about: Informational Text and Common Core State Standards and Instruction in K-12 Grades, quality literacy instruction, literacy in the disciplines, reading and writing, vocabulary and comprehension, coaching, literature, assessment, literacy leadership, and technology for students in grades K-12.

Keynote Marc Aronson, Ph.D. from Rutgers University presents Why is Nonfiction Defined by What it Isn’t? 10 Questions to Help You Rethink and Re-Imagine Informational Text.

Date: Friday, April 11, 2014
Time: 8:30 am – 3:30 pm
Location: UCF College of Education and Human Performance (Education Complex)
To register, please visit the Literacy Symposium website.


Cris Tovani Speaking in Florida!

Come listen to Cris Tovani as she shares strategies to help students make sense of technical, informational, literary, and historical text.

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

10-3pm at
Safe Schools

NW Spanish River Blvd., Boca Raton, FL 33431

To register:

Rachelle Savitz, 2575 SW 10th St., Boynton Beach, FL 33426

Registration fee includes lunch – Member $55.00 Nonmember $70.00

Please make checks payable to: Secondary Reading Council of Florida

Inspiring Teens to Read

Some teachers claim students don’t want to read or can’t read, but I believe we can encourage and inspire them to read. First find out what your students believe they will do in the future. Will they be a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a veterinarian, a solider, a mechanic, etc.? Then think about how they access information. Information is available to anyone at any time, so teachers are no longer the keepers and deliverers of information, but facilitators of exploration and interpretation of knowledge in order to result in learning (change behavior or thinking). This means teachers help students access a wide range of multiple literacies. Next, students experience multiple interactions with literacies. The first interaction is to determine the explicit meaning of the text (topic + what the author wants you to know about the topic = Main Idea). The second interaction is read from an interest perspective. For example, if a student plans on going into the army, then that student will reread the text with a solider’s perspective. What is fact versus opinion? What is the problem and solution? Who is the enemy? What is the cause and effect? Another student may read from a lawyer’s perspective. This student looks for reasons versus evidence, or rights versus privilege. The conversation that these two students can have with each other simply because they read from different perspectives should lead to analyzing the semantical choices and structural choices completely driven and inspired by the students. Try it… it’s amazing the power this simple change in how we interact with text can have on students’ perception about reading.

Secondary Reading Council of Florida

Hi, Everyone,

I am presenting on Reading Closely at the Secondary Reading Council of Florida Conference January 24th from 3:30-5:45 at Sheraton Sand Key - 1160 Gulf Blvd, Clearwater Beach, Florida 33767. This will touch on some of the strategies I discuss and share in my new book, Challenge Thinking and Deepen Understanding: The Instructional Approach for Implementing the Common Core Standards, Grades 3-12 coming out in 2014. I hope to see you there!