Iowa Reading Association 2013 Winter Newsletter

Seeking Vice President Nominations
By Megan Benson

The Iowa Reading Association is seeking a fun, energetic, literacy-loving individual to serve as Vice President.  Iowa Reading is made up of teachers, like you, who desire to organize opportunities for teaching professionals.  Each year, new leaders for the Board are recruited to replace those whose terms expire.  This year the following offices are open: Vice-President, Zone Director G, Zone Director H, and Zone Director I.  If you have a desire to work and play with other teaching peers from around the state, please apply.  Nomination forms can be found on the Iowa Reading website under “Forms/Grants”.  Information about the officers’ duties can also be found on the site under “About Us” in the handbook.  Clark Goltz, Executive Director, and Wendy Hammrich, Iowa Reading President, are also excellent sources for information.  This is a winning team with exceptional professional goals for teachers and students! 
Megan Benson, Nominations Chair

President's Column
Greetings from your 2013-2014 Iowa Reading President
By Wendy Hammrich

One of my favorite times of the year has to be autumn in the great state of Iowa.  The fields are ready for harvest and the trees are glowing with rich vibrant colors.  It is a time that I truly stop and just take in my surroundings and the beauty of our earth.
This is also a time that I step back and think about all the wonderful opportunities that Iowa Reading has to offer educators.   Most school districts are deep into obtaining a true understanding of the Iowa Core’s content.  We want to know not only what to teach but also how to teach by using meaningful methods that will positively affect student learning.  Iowa Reading is putting together a book study based on Brenda Overturf and Maureen McLaughlin’s The Common Core:  Teaching Students Grades 6-12 to Meet the Reading Standards as well as The Common Core:  Teaching Students Grades K-5 to Meet the Reading Standards.  Brenda Overturf is also one of our keynote speakers at the Iowa Reading 2014 summer conference, June 24th and 25th.  What a great way to use your school district’s Iowa Core money to support the quest for deeper understanding.
Iowa Reading can also support districts putting together SINA action plans.  Teachers attending our conference and participating in one of our book studies have found useful and research based information to use in their classrooms as well as great networking connections.  I encourage all teachers to join the Iowa Reading Association, which actively supports professional growth by showcasing tested ideas and successful implementation methods.
So add a little “fall color” to your life and get involved with Iowa Reading and the opportunities it has to offer.

Local Council Presidents attend 2013 Summer Leadership Conference

Strategy Corner
By Lori Vicker, Zone A Director and member of Northwest Iowa Reading Council
"Fluency Idol"

This strategy was recently described in a recent issue of The Reading Teacher.  The students select a passage, poem, speech, or song lyrics early in the week, or can be assigned on Friday so students have the weekend for extra practice.  The student then practices his/her piece which will be performed for the class on Friday.  The author suggests having the student use a fake microphone to mimic the popular TV program, American Idol.  Dividing your class into four groups, would allow all your students to “perform” at least once each month. 
The class, (audience), votes for their favorite performer, based on “voice”, accuracy and appeal.  You could also choose a panel of students to critique the performances.  However, it was suggested that only “positive” feedback would be allowed for comments.  
 “Fluency Idol” would appeal to many students.  Caution should be taken regarding the “voting” process.  Fluency Idol supports performance as a highly motivating reason for the repeated reading instructional strategy.

Book Review - Neville
By Norton Juster
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Have you ever been “the new kid” or stuck in a situation you didn’t want to be in with no say so about being there in the first place?  If so, you will be able to relate to this heartwarming story of how “the new kid” helped himself to fit in.  Neville by Norton Juster is the story of a young boy who has moved into a new neighborhood. As many would feel in this situation, he’s sad, and a little resentful about being somewhere he doesn’t want to be.  His mother encourages him to venture out on a walk, which he begrudgingly agrees to do.  It’s on that walk that the boy decides to take charge of his own fate, surprising even himself.  The boy’s view changes as the story unfolds, and he learns that this new place isn’t going to be so bad after all. This story is sure to touch everyone as you root for the boy and share in his sense of accomplishment at solving his own problem. Neville is an Iowa Goldfinch Award Nominee for the school year 2013-2014. 
Reviewed by Laura Oberfoell, Reading Educator’s Association of Dubuque Council

Conference Update
By Deb Mortensen, President-Elect and 2014 Conference Chair

What do apples, the Earth and classrooms around the nation have in common? They all have a “core”. For the apples and Earth, the core is the “center”. For classrooms, Common “core” should be the “center” of your instruction. The mission of Common Core is that it provides a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.
In planning the 2014 conference, Common Core has been the “center” of my thoughts. What theme would help ALL educators? What topics will help those in attendance become more comfortable with Common Core? What presenters have information to share that will aid in our implementation of the Common Core? How can we provide staff development for educators interested in learning more in the summer (June 24-25, 2014)? I believe that we have an outstanding group of presenters that will bring Common Core to life for us in Iowa.

The conference theme, “Literacy is All Write”, will lend itself to many presentations on writing and motivating students to write. The Common Core standards for all the language arts will be addressed. Participants will hear from Brenda Overturf, co-author of Common Core: Teaching K-5 and Grades 6-12 to Meet the Reading Standards  and  Word Nerds. Her presentations will address both Common Core and vocabulary (CCRA. W.2). Lori Jamison-Rog, author of Marvelous Minilessons for Teaching Beginning Writing and Marvelous Minilessons for Teaching Intermediate Writers will address the production and distribution of writing (CCRA.W.4 & 5)  Krissy Venosdale, author of the website venspired learning will take us through a “technology bootcamp” (CCRA.W.6 &8). Debbie Diller, author of Literacy Work Stations , Spaces and Places and Making the Most of Small Group will share with us the need to differentiate instruction through large group, small group and independent learning stations (CCRA. W.10). Marc Tyler Nobleman, author of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman and Bill the Boy Wonder: the Creator of Batman, along with other numerous other nonfiction titles, will address writing nonfiction and motivating boys to read and write (CCRA.W.2).
Others that will be attendance include Alison McGhee, author of Someday, Snap and Shadow Baby. She will be with our young authors on Tuesday, June 24. Shari Sloane, early childhood educator and composer of several CDs including School is Cool and Oldie But Goodies will be with us to show that literacy (and Common Core) can be fun for both teachers and students. There will also be many area educators presenting that will address various areas of the language arts and Common Core.
Are you comfortable with Common Core or do you have a lot of questions as to how to implement it in your classroom or school? Ask your administrator now to attend state conference. They may have some funds to help you and a colleague learn more about Common Core and literacy. Remember that if you are a member of the Iowa Reading Association, your registration costs less. If you are interested in presenting (and there are a lot of educators in Iowa doing things worthy of showcasing!), please print out a program proposal found on the home page of the Iowa Reading Association website  We hope that you plan to attend the Iowa Reading Association state conference June 24-25, 2014, at the Scheman Center, on the Iowa State University campus. A registration form (and speakers brochure) is also found on the Iowa Reading Association website.
I like how the Common Core Mission Statement ends ( “With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.” We share an awesome responsibility as educators. I am excited to plan this conference for you and am confident that you will go home feeling refreshed and ready to be the “center” or “core” of your students’ learning. 2014—where literacy will be all “write” in Iowa!

Nancy's Nuggets -- News from the State Coordinator
By Nancy Wright, State Coordinator

What a beautiful day this is – the end of October is illustrated with rich fall colors, orange pumpkins, and shiny apples.  I’ve always enjoyed the jewel tones of autumn as I view colorful trees and bushes against a bright blue sky.  It’s a day full of promise and possibilities.

I just opened my copy of The Common Core:  Teaching K-5 Students to Meet the Reading Standards, one of the books offered in the Iowa Reading Association state-wide book study.  As I thumb through the text, I alternate between curiosity and dread.  I’m curious to know what these reading standards involve and relating them to my Title I reading curriculum.  But I also have a certain amount of uneasiness – as do many teachers I know or work with.  Will I be able to understand the intent of the standards?  And how will I make sure the students I teach can successfully achieve them all?  Browsing through the standards, I see promise and possibilities.
I am looking forward to participating in a book study on the Common Core.  This is a wonderful opportunity available to Iowa Reading Association members – the chance to share collaboratively with other educators as we learn more about the CCSS reading standards.  It is nice to know I’ll have company on this exploration.  Spending time with other council members is a great feeling!  As a professional, I benefit from spending time with my local reading council, talking about our profession and sharing laughter and encouragement.  We can speak of things we’ve tried in our classrooms, our successes, our failures, and our worries.  We support each other, and cheer each other on as we travel the CCSS road.

Iowa Reading Association members have access to valuable Professional Development opportunities through membership in local reading councils.  State reading conference and state-wide book studies provide us with choices for our PD – and we all know the power of choice when it comes to engaging our students.  We need choice, too! 

The International Reading Association offers numerous resources to members as well.  Just this month, IRA released a special Reading Today Common Core Issue.   It will be available in a digital format at to IRA members, and will include a “Message from the President” entitled Demystifying the CCSS.

Congratulations to the 13 reading councils who will receive the second half of their “Local Council Grant” because they sent in the bulk of their memberships by October 1st!  Your grant money will be sent to your council in the near future.  The councils were eligible for the first half of this grant because they sent at least 2 officers to the June Leadership Workshop.  Local Council Grants will be awarded to:  Boone-Story Council, Burlington Council, Dallas County Council, Eastern Iowa Council, Hardy Reading Council, Jefferson-Van Buren Council, Lee County Council, Midlands of Iowa Council, Northeast Iowa Council, Northwest Iowa Council, Quint County Council, READ Council, and Three Rivers Council.
Local council leaders – reminders:  If you have not done so already, please email Sue Schutte or Luella Heilman, our Creative Writing and Poetry contest chairs to let them know who the contest chairs are in your local councils. 

Local reading councils should also be thinking of nominees for state awards, including Iowa Reading Teacher of the Year, Iowa Reading Administrator of the Year, Iowa Service Award, and Celebrate Literacy Award.  Share the information pertaining to the Iowa Reading Scholarship with any members who are taking graduate credit courses, so they can apply.  I am including some upcoming dates and contacts for Iowa Reading activities.  Have a wonderful autumn!  Write on! 


Membership Matters
By Diane Bean, Director of Membership Development

It’s been an exciting fall for me as the new state membership person to see all of the memberships coming in.  Remember that it’s still not too late to join Iowa Reading and your local council.   First year teachers can join free, students and retired members are $15.00 and all other memberships are $35.00.  A state only membership is $40.00.  If you join as a sustaining member ($10.00 more) your extra contribution goes to the President’s special project.  This year that is the Happy Hearts Fund which builds schools and is involved with literacy projects all over the world.   

Listed below are the names of our hardworking local membership directors.  If you have any questions, go to and check the map to see the council closest to you.  We also have links to most of the council’s programs.
Boone-Story-Amber Olson(treasurer) 1 *
Burlington-Ruth Wittenmyer 1
Dallas County-Carrie Foell 1 *
Eastern Iowa-Diane Bean 1 *
Hardy-Tony Pieper 1 *
Jefferson-Van Buren-Rachel Meyers 1 *
Lee County-David Wendt 1
Midlands of Iowa-Wendy Matson 1 *
Mississippi Bend-Marilyn Eberle
Northeast Iowa-Crystal Thurn 1 *
Northwest Iowa-Michelle Swanson 1
Quint County-Bev Mach 1 *
READ Council-Margaret Welter 1 *
Three Rivers-Susan Anschutz 1 *
1 Got bulk of memberships in by October 5th and will receive a free, state membership to be used next year.
*Programs are listed on website.
Thanks to all the membership directors for all of the work they do to keep things running!

Council Corner
By Megan Benson, Quint County

This fall Quint County kicked off their year of meetings at Godfather’s in Storm Lake.  The program scheduled was Michelle Kukuk, from Scholastic, to come and give ideas about the Core and fun reading and writing strategies to use in the classroom.  But due to a family emergency Michelle was not able to attend…hopefully we can get her to come at a later date.  Instead, our first meeting consisted of sharing ideas of how we use writing in the classroom, especially at the beginning of the year.  Many wonderful strategies were shared!  Our next meeting was held at Buena Vista and we had a Make-n-Take night.  A past member and friend of Quint County, Jean Bellinghausen, came and shared crafts that can be in classroom in a short amount of time.  It was a fun and relaxing evening to just talk and be stress-free!  Our last meeting for the year 2013 will be at the Storm Lake Public Library with Elizabeth Huff on November 12 at 5:30.  She will be giving a children’s book update.  All are welcome to attend, if you are in the area!  Quint will resume with a meeting in April 2014. 
Check out Quint’s website:

Just For Me
By Gail Clark, Lee County Reading Council

In “The Passion-Driven Classroom”, the author, Angela Maiers, spoke about how passion is a choice. She also spoke about change and how change is hard. It is our instinct to resist change and to keep things comfortable and dependable. However, if we are really passionate we do not let this fear of the unknown stop what we are passionate about. In fact, we use it to both motivate and encourage us to continue in times when we are vulnerable and sometimes even wrong.
“As teachers, our role is challenging. We operate in a standards-based data-driven education era” (Hargreaves, 1994), (Maiers, (2011). We grade students on their performance and mastery of the content being taught. Students are disengaged when they do not have passion for what they are learning. This can cause a “passion gap.” Even good students are not showing the passion they should for their learning. The way most teachers teach today is the way they have been teaching for years. But 21st Century teaching skills look much different. Students lead the discussions, collaborate with each other, and learn problem-solving skills.
The learning strategy Maiers used was called the Clubhouse Learning. The book goes on to explain how to set this up, add parts to it, and make the students have ownership in it. The classroom is set up like a business with the teacher as the Chief Learning Officer. There is a daily board meeting, where plans are made and the day’s work in their Learning Clubs is discussed. Clubs are created based on the interests of students. They consist of both independent and interdependent opportunities for the members. Then workshops were added to the classroom, where students are able to experience a more dynamic learning environment.  “We want to teach our students how to learn about what they want to learn about” (Maiers, 2011, p.29). This helps to create an environment of a community.  Maiers went on to talk about how we are a global society and that our students need to learn to work in a global way. Some of this includes being able to use global resources, technology, and being able to compete with other young people across the world for future jobs.
I thought this was a great idea and tried it in my high school classroom. I was able to use parts of it to help create ownership and engagement in the class. The part about student engagement, which was part of my research project, caught my eye. We already were doing parts of this before I read this book, but I had never called them learning clubs. Students were split up according to their interest in what type of employment they would like to have in the future. My students were already collaborating, using teamwork, working on projects, and leading discussions. After reading this book, I was able to make an even greater connection with my class. We were able to explore what the book said compared to what we were doing in class. It was great to see how the students were more engaged and brought more passion to their discussion time.

Reference: Maiers, Angela (2011). The Passion Driven Classroom: A framework for teaching and learning.
ISBN: 978-1-5966-7159-1

Happy Hearts Fund
By Carol Duehr, International Project Chair

In the Fall newsletter, I described how the Happy Hearts project was started by Petra Nemcova in 2005 after the Indian Ocean Tsunami struck on December 26, 2004.   Fortunately, both governments and agencies agree that the most effective humanitarian aid to children after a natural disaster involves the reconstruction of schools.   However, these schools need to be enriched by basic services, such as, food, health consultation, and some type of provision for clothing and other essential supplies.   Services provided in a quality educational experience helps children develop resiliency.  This collaboration aids children in a return to a partial state of normality.   In addition, the Happy Hearts organization advises local agencies as they monitor the situation of their children to ensure that they are protected from exploitation.   When the necessary pieces are in place, children rediscover the joy of learning and playing as they begin to replace the emotional crises the disaster has created. Connections and relationships are being built between children and teachers which in turn supplies not only productivity but also hope.  The Happy Hearts site ( ) tells us, “Hopeful, happy children are an immeasurable resource!”

Explore Reading Night
By Gail Clark, Lee County Reading Council

The Lee County Chapter of the Iowa Reading Association held the Explore Reading Night at the Keokuk Public Library November 7th for K-3 students and families.  Activities included crafts, read-alouds, and parent tips for reading with children.  Snacks were provided and each child got to pick out two books to take home.  Students were also encouraged to get their own public library card.  About 40 children participated in this free event.

We received a grant to do a community event and began planning in September.  Several locations were discussed and the public library seemed like a good fit.  We set up a google doc for members to sign up for different stations and each smaller group then met for planning.  We narrowed the ages to serve to allow us to choose appropriate books and activities and all of our K-3 students are in one building. Invitations were sent out with a reply sheet so we could get an idea of how many would attend.  We had originally planned for groups to rotate every fifteen minutes, but it worked out fine for the children to roam from one station to another at their own pace.  We got a great buy on some mixed boxes of books from Scholastic and students were very excited to choose their own books.  This was our first try at this type of event, but it was a success and we would do it again.                                                                   

Calendar Reminders
By Carol Duehr, Secretary & Newsletter Editor

  • November 27—Honor Council application submitted online to International Reading Association
  • December 1 – Deadline for Technology and Literacy Grant submitted to Renee Thomas
  • January 18, 2014—Board of Directors meeting, 10:00 AM, Ames
  • January 18, 2014—Executive Board meeting, 10:00 AM, Ames
  • January 20, 2014—Scholarship Application submitted to Ed Starkenburg
  • January 31, 2014—Creative Writing and Poetry contest entries submitted to Luella Heilman, Sue Schutte, Carolyn Rubsam
  • February 14, 2014—Awards (Iowa Reading Teacher of the Year, Iowa Reading Service Award, Celebrate Literacy Award) submitted to Deb Saylor
  • March 15, 2014—Merit Council artifacts submitted to Brenda Nugteren
Our mailing address is: Iowa Reading Association | P.O. Box 16 | Ossian, IA 52161