Rebecca Tolson has a Ph.D. in curriculum & instruction from the University of Akron and is a member of Academic Therapy Association at the level of qualified instructor and certified academic language therapist and a certified dyslexia therapist through the International Dyslexia Association®.
Tolson began her career in education as a fifth-grade teacher and later transitioned to teaching both children and adults with learning disabilities. She specializes in using Structured Literacy techniques as intervention for dyslexia and dysgraphia.
Tolson is a literacy/dyslexia consultant and teaches as an adjunct professor for Walsh University in the masters of dyslexia therapy program and serves as the chair of the Ohio Dyslexia Committee.
Dyslexia: Understanding the Science and Evidence-Aligned Instructional Approaches
Release Date: Thursday, November 9, 2023
Join this robust discussion about the key features of the Structured Literacy approach proven to work for students with dyslexia. Listeners will learn useful strategies and classroom tips with an emphasis on mastery learning and student outcomes.
Our expert will discuss:
What is taught in the Structured Literacy approach
How the Structured Literacy approach is taught
Why Structured Literacy is proven for students with literacy challenges
The difference between Structured Literacy and typical literacy practices
Kareem Weaver is the co-founder and executive director of FULCRUM, which partners with stakeholders to improve reading results for students. He is the Oakland NAACP's 2nd vice president and chair of its Education Committee. His advocacy is featured in the upcoming film The Right to Read. Weaver previously served as New Leaders’ executive director of the Western Region and was an award-winning teacher and administrator. He has an undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and a master’s degree in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina. Weaver believes in the potential of all students, the brotherhood of man, and the importance of service above self. His educational heroine, for literacy instruction, is the late Marva Collins.
Dyslexia and the Science of Reading: Educational Changes Worth Fighting For
Release Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2023
For people who have seen the documentary The Right to Read, you’ve heard of Kareem Weaver because his work is featured in the film produced by LaVar Burton. Weaver is an Oakland-based activist with the NAACP, and as an experienced educator his mission is to create a world where all children can read.
Join us for this inspiring conversation as we talk with Weaver about dyslexia, the science of reading, and what American schools need to do to help all students read at grade level. Our discussion will cover why literacy gaps are especially pronounced among certain students, the need for early diagnosis of dyslexia, and what educational changes Weaver continually fights for in his quest to help all students learn to read. Weaver brings unique insight to this discussion from a parent’s perspective because his daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia as an older student, and as an educator who knows literacy is a right every person is entitled to.
Professor John Hattie is a researcher in education. His research interests include performance indicators, models of measurement, and evaluation of teaching and learning. He became known to a wider public with his two books Visible Learning (now in a new edition) and Visible Learning for Teachers. Visible Learning: the Sequel is a synthesis of more than 2,100 meta-studies covering more than 400 million students. Visible Learning is the result of decades of research about what works best for learning in schools, Hattie says. TES once called him “possibly the world’s most influential education academic.”
Hattie has been director of the Melbourne Educational Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia, since March 2011. Before, he was chair of the Board of the Australian Institute of Teaching and Learning. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, Canada.
A Conversation with John Hattie (Visible Learning): Beyond What Works to What Works Best
Release Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2023
When John Hattie’s original Visible Learning® book was published in 2008, it instantly became a sensation. Recently, this revolutionary educator returned to his groundbreaking work and published a new edition. The research underlying Hattie’s book is now informed by more than 2,100 meta-analyses (more than double that of the original), drawn from more than 130,000 studies, and has involved more than 400 million students from around the world.
If you’ve read the book, you know this is more than just a new edition. This book is a sequel that highlights the major story, taking in the big picture to reflect on the implementation in schools of Visible Learning, how it has been understood—and at times misunderstood—and what future directions research should take.
Join us as we talk with Hattie about the need for education to move beyond claiming what works to what works best by asking crucial questions like: Why is the current grammar of schooling so embedded in so many classrooms, and can we improve it? Why is the learning curve for teachers after the first few years so flat? How can we develop teacher mindframes to focus more on learning and listening? How can we incorporate research evidence as part of the discussions within schools?
During the podcast, we will discuss these topics:
What Hattie means by visible learning
Three ways of making learning visible: student voice, student artifacts, test scores, and how the teacher interprets that information, and decides where to go next with a student’s learning
The importance of play in early learning
The need for intentional alignment of learning and teaching strategies
The evidence base and reactions to Visible Learning
The Visible Learning model
The influence of home, students, teachers, classrooms, schools, learning, and curriculum on achievement
The impact of technology
If you’re in education either as a researcher, teacher, student, school leader, teacher trainer, or policy maker, this episode is for you!
During his respected career, Dr. Antonio Fierro has been able to apply his many years in the classroom and as a literacy expert to help schools and districts teach reading to every student, regardless of previous experience or native language. His vast experience contributes invaluable insight into their products and services. Dr. Fierro is a former Texas State Teacher of the Year and was a member of the LETRS cohort of literacy consultants led by Dr. Louisa Moats for almost 20 years.
Dr. Fierro has contributed to several literacy curricula for English learners along with Tools 4 Reading President Dr. Mary Dahlgren. He is the co-author of Kid Lips, their curriculum that teaches the articulatory features of English phonemes to young children with additional support for English learners. His areas of interest include early literacy instruction, improving the learning experience of pre-service teaching candidates, and the research and practice that impacts English learners. Dr. Fierro is also dedicated to advancing the knowledge base and understanding of dyslexia and other reading disabilities as his son, Antonio Jr., has dyslexia. Dr. Fierro currently sits on the board of The Reading League and is the Vice President of Academics and Professional Learning with 95 Percent Group.
Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan, Ed.D, is a Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist, Certified Academic Language Therapist and Qualified Instructor. She is the President of Valley Speech Language and Learning Center in Brownsville, Texas which was established in 1993. She is also a research associate with the Texas Institute for Measurement Evaluation and Statistics at the University of Houston.
Dr. Cárdenas-Hagan is the author of Esperanza (HOPE), a Spanish language program designed to assist students who struggle with learning to read. Her research interests include the development of early reading assessments for Spanish-speaking students and the development of reading interventions for bilingual students. She serves as the Chairperson of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities and is a Past Vice-Chairperson for the International Dyslexia Association. Elsa has authored curricular programs, book chapters, and journal articles related to oracy and literacy development for English language learners. Her book, Literacy Foundations for English Learners: A Comprehensive Guide to Evidence-Based Instruction addresses the Science of Reading and provides strategies for successful implementation among this diverse population of students.
Today’s educators are teaching the most linguistically diverse student population in United States history. To ensure educational equity for English learners, teachers must be skillfully equipped with instructional practices rooted in the science of reading.
The “science of reading” refers to a vast body of multi-disciplinary research that provides a rationale for what must be taught to ensure that almost all students can learn to read. However, do all reading science practices apply equally when teaching English learners? Our podcast guests have championed using the science of reading with the English learner as a top priority in everything they do.
Drs. Cardenas-Hagan and Fierro will discuss the opportunities and the challenges educators encounter when teaching reading to English learners. They’ll explore:
The importance of structured language teaching, for all kids, but especially English learners
The need for teachers of English to understand how language works, which allows instructors to better scaffold the instruction for English learners
The specifics of that scaffolding of instruction, and tips on what educators can and should do to help English learners achieve reading success
Specifics of teaching reading, including assessment and MTSS, through the lens of the English learner
Why it’s critical that classroom instruction includes pedagogy and approaches that take into consideration the anthology of bilingualism—a pedagogy that reflects the understanding of how two languages interact.
The need to preserve heritage languages and cultures, while providing encouraging biliteracy or multiliteracy skills for all students
Resources and guidance available from The U.S. Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), which provides national leadership to help ensure that English Learners and immigrant students attain English proficiency and achieve academic success.
Author of Next STEPS in Literacy Instruction: Connecting Assessments to Effective Interventions, and former senior research associate, National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, Vanderbilt University
Susan Smartt, Ph.D., is a former senior research associate at the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality at Vanderbilt University. She holds a doctorate in school psychology from Tennessee State University and a master’s degree in special education and reading from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. In her research at Vanderbilt, Dr. Smartt studied improving teacher preparation for reading teachers. She also provided educational consulting services and teacher training to states and local school districts focusing on school reform, reading intervention for low-performing schools, using data to inform practice, developing response to intervention/MTSS initiatives, and implementing scientifically based literacy programs. Dr. Smartt owned and directed a reading clinic for more than 20 years, where she provided comprehensive psychoeducational assessments, dyslexia evaluations, and tutoring services. She has been a classroom teacher, a reading coach, a reading specialist, a principal, a university faculty member, and a researcher. She was an early contributor to the development of LETRS® and past president of the Tennessee Branch of the International Dyslexia Association®. Her publications include authorship and co-authorship of journal articles, edited volumes, and books about research-based reading intervention and policy initiatives, including Fundamentals in Literacy Instruction and Assessment (Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 2020), with Martha Hougen, Ph.D. In retirement, Dr. Smartt tutors students with dyslexia, provides advocacy services for students, and volunteers as a mentor for the TN Achieves Initiative.
Determining the Right Literacy Intervention: Using Assessment to Guide your Course
Release Date: Thursday, July 20, 2023
What happens after a formative literacy assessment? How can educators translate the results into targeted interventions and improved reading outcomes? This applicable and informative presentation from Dr. Susan Smartt, a respected literacy expert, helps educators make sense of what to do after the assessment and how to best use the valuable data gleaned from those assessments to inform intervention—and move all students toward literacy success.
To help educators address the challenging literacy needs of their diverse learners, our discussion will cover appropriate approaches to intervention and how to determine what approach is best based on assessment results.
Dr. Smartt will explore:
Dyslexia and other reading challenges, and best practices for the right intervention at the right time
Explicit instruction and Structured Literacy, and the reasoning behind these instructional approaches
Designing Tier II and Tier III small-group instruction and monitoring student progress
The importance of integrating five essential components of reading during instruction
Ways to effectively target the specific "trouble spots" literacy assessments have identified
How to take the guesswork out of intervention and transform struggling students into skillful readers
Dr. Anita Archer serves as an educational consultant to state departments and school districts on explicit instruction and literacy. She has presented in all 50 states and many countries including Australia. She is the recipient of 10 awards honoring her contributions to education. Dr. Archer has served on the faculties of three universities including the University of Washington, University of Oregon, and San Diego State University. She has co-authored numerous curriculum materials including Phonics for Reading (Curriculum Associates), a three-level intervention program REWARDS® (Voyager Sopris Learning®), a five-component literacy intervention program; and a best-selling textbook, Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching (Guilford Publications).
Dr. Louisa Moats has been a teacher, psychologist, researcher, graduate school faculty member, and author of many influential scientific journal articles, books, and policy papers on the topics of reading, spelling, language, and teacher preparation. Dr. Moats is the author of LANGUAGE! Live®, a blended reading intervention program for grades 5–12, and the lead author of LETRS® professional development and the textbook, Speech to Print: Language Essentials for Teachers. Dr. Moats is also co-author of Spellography, a structured language word study program. Dr. Moats’ awards include the prestigious Samuel T. and June L. Orton award from the International Dyslexia Association® for outstanding contributions to the field; the Eminent Researcher Award from Learning Disabilities Australia; and the Benita Blachman award from The Reading League.
Why the ‘Science of Reading’ Needs the ‘The Science of Teaching’—A Conversation Between 2 Literacy Leaders
Release Date: Thursday, June 22, 2023
The “science of reading” refers to a vast body of multidisciplinary research providing a rationale for what must be taught to ensure almost all students can learn to read. Our podcast guests have championed this movement and supported organizations such as the International Dyslexia Association®, The Reading League, Decoding Dyslexia, The National Council on Teacher Quality, and The American Federation of Teachers who are advancing awareness of reading science.
But is this movement enough to develop more effective literacy instruction? Join us as our guests discuss why it may not be, unless teaching practices themselves receive more attention.
The “what” or content of reading instruction is often characterized with reference to the “five pillars” or “five components” that were each addressed by The National Reading Panel Report of 2000. Most state standards and policy guidelines name these essential components of instruction: phoneme awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Often added to the list are oral language, spelling, and writing. The content-related issue now being debated concerns the interrelationships of these components, their relative emphasis—for whom and at what point in reading development—and what level of content mastery to expect. We know the impact of curriculum content is diluted without systematic, explicit, cumulative teaching of the lessons.
Our experts will discuss:
How policy and practice guidelines about the science of reading often mention the importance of “systematic, explicit” instruction. Yet, the “how” of teaching seems to be getting short shrift in comparison to the emphasis on the “what.”
Why the right reading content must be married to best teaching practices of the “direct instruction” variety
The importance of structured language teaching, especially for students who are struggling, with an emphasis on language
Why developing expertise in lesson delivery and evaluation is a long-term but very rewarding undertaking which will transform the “science of reading” into “success for all”
Dr. John Woodward is a nationally recognized mathematics author, writer, and speaker. He is the past dean of the school of education and professor emeritus at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA.
As a researcher, he focused on mathematics interventions for academically low-achieving students, particularly in elementary and middle grades. Dr. Woodward has published more than 80 articles and presented on mathematics education issues throughout the U.S., as well as in Canada, Asia, and Europe. He is the senior author ofTransMath, a math intervention program for middle school students. He also is the co-developer of NUMBERS, a math professional development program for K–8 teachers.
What Does ChatGPT Have To Do With It? Technology and Today’s Math Classroom
Release Date: Wednesday, May 17, 2023
The public release of ChatGPT by OpenAI late last year has captivated, if not terrified, certain sectors of public education. A simple interactive screen allows users to create a range of “authentic looking” documents. ChatGPT essays are either free or fractional in cost.
Some have called ChatGPT the “calculator moment” for writing assignments. Is there a similar, potential effect in math? Should we be welcoming or fearful of this technology?
This podcast will explore programs like ChatGPT and what they mean for mathematics instruction. We’ll discuss other current technologies used in math education today, and reflect on potential, near-term improvements and how upgrades like the “intelligence assistant” now being developed by Microsoft using ChatGPT might be used in math classrooms.
Dr. Woodward will discuss:
How simple uses of technology today can add value to mathematics instruction and how it helps with assessment, instructional decision-making, and accountability
How assessment information can be synthesized across a classroom of students to help teachers make critical instructional decisions about grouping
How to use technology to assist teachers and save time
Key issues of concern for systems like ChatGPT, including that they do not rank or evaluate the quality of the information captured from the web, and ways to confront those issues
Ways to use ChatGPT to solve math problems, improve instruction and student engagement, and the program’s limitations and benefits
For 25 years, in 13 countries, in 45 states, for more than 3 million people…Antonio Sacre has told stories.
His tales of growing up bilingually in a Cuban and Irish-American household have inspired children worldwide to gather their own family stories and become storytellers themselves. His stories have been published in award-winning books and audio recordings. His professional developments and keynote addresses have helped educators teach writing to students from prekindergarten through graduate school. Now, his stories are being developed for film and television.
He teaches at the UCLA Lab School, and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two children, and two cats. Yes, he's a cat guy.
Join this fascinating conversation that surrounds storytelling—an age-old oral tradition—and how it can be used to improve reading and writing in the classroom.
Our guest, Antonio Sacre, a professional storyteller, children’s book author, and educator, will discuss the simple technique of storytelling and how teachers and specialists can use it to help unlock the writer in every student and get them excited about reading.
Listeners will find this podcast inspiring, captivating, and immediately applicable to classroom instruction. Sacre will discuss the science behind why and how storytelling works to support reading, how to share a good story, and the types of stories that motivate students to want to read and write more.
We hope you’ll join us as our internationally renowned expert leaves you with stories to tell, the capability to share stories more effectively, and keys to teaching them to students across the curriculum.
Tips about making read-a-louds come to life and the research that supports storytelling, with a focus on ELLs
Five secrets to effective storytelling—and how those secrets help build literacy skills in students
How personal storytelling builds empathy and student connection
Denise Eide is an educator, speaker, social entrepreneur, and curriculum designer. She has worked in the field of literacy instruction for more than 25 years and has authored 23 books and more than 20 supplements based on the information presented in Uncovering the Logic of English.
Uncovering the Logic of English: Reversing the Educational Crisis
Release Date: Friday, March 24, 2023
Reading is the most important skill children need to master to be successful in school and life. However, students increasingly are struggling with this most basic of academic abilities. When children have difficulty reading, they can quickly fall behind their peers. Luckily, there are ways to improve almost any child's reading proficiency with good instruction that’s based on science.
This fascinating discussion with renowned author Denise Eide will explore how the English language works, and the importance of spelling in developing better readers. Eide, who was mentored and inspired by literacy giant Robert Sweet (one of the nation's most-powerful champions of phonic-centered reading reform) will share why students need to be taught the building blocks of words: phonograms and spelling rules, and how understanding the reasons for the spellings of words can transform teaching and learning. Eide will share the “rules” she outlines in her book, ways to teach students to analyze the reasons for English spellings, and much more.
We hope you’ll join us for this fascinating podcast!
John Arthur is the 2021 Utah Teacher of the Year and 2021 National Teacher of the Year finalist. He is in his tenth year of teaching at Meadowlark Elementary, a Title I school in Salt Lake City. Arthur is a national board certified teacher, a Utah Teacher Fellow with the Hope Street Group, and an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education at Westminster College.
Alisa Cooper de Uribe is the 2021 New Mexico Teacher of the Year and the 2022 Teach Plus NM Fellow of the Year. She has taught first grade at New Mexico International School in Albuquerque since 2012. Her classroom follows the 80/20 model of two-way language immersion, and she provides the majority of instruction in the target language of Spanish. She plays a key role in the development of an International Baccalaureate Programme of Inquiry, weaving together inquiry-based learning and language development.
Anthony Swann became the first sitting teacher to be appointed to the State Board of Education in Virginia by Governor Ralph Northam in 2021. He has had the privilege of teaching every elementary grade except kindergarten. His experience also includes two years in North Carolina. Swann has been in education for 16 years as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, and recently was named as the assistant principal of Monterey Elementary in Roanoke, VA. He was chosen to be the 2021 Region 6 Virginia Teacher of the Year as well as the 2021 Virginia State Teacher of the Year. In 2018, he began the program, “Guys with Ties,” to teach boys the importance of honesty, integrity, and character inside and outside the classroom. Swann earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Averett University and a Master of Education in educational leadership from Regent University.
Student Engagement, Empowerment, and Literacy Learning: Strategies of Three Award-Winning Teachers
Release Date: Thursday, February 23, 2023
It’s critically important to provide all students (MLLs, students with IEPs, high achievers, those with dyslexia and other reading difficulties, etc.) with targeted, effective reading instruction and interventions—this is a well-known fact. However, these students can be tougher to engage, and special teachers, with unique approaches designed to motivate and help every student feel heard, have strategies that bring literacy learning to the forefront while engaging students in ways not always imagined.
This lively discussion with three award-winning teachers will open your eyes and inspire every educator to strive for what is possible for every student. Each of our panelists were named Teacher of the Year in their respective states. Our host, John Arthur of Utah, was also honored at the White House as a finalist for National Teacher of the Year.
Join us as these three energetic educators share specific strategies and practices they use to help all children overcome challenges, feel seen and heard, and gain new literacy skills that will serve them for a lifetime. Our guests will share tips and ideas useful in any classroom and with any student, with special emphasis on those who struggle as readers and often don’t know how to advocate for themselves. This episode will connect the dots for listeners between engaging literacy instruction/intervention and empowered student voices.
Joan Sedita is the founder of Keys to Literacy, a literacy professional development organization working across the United States. She has been in the literacy field for more than 40 years as a teacher, administrator, and teacher trainer. She is the creator of The Writing Rope framework, and has authored multiple literacy professional development programs, including The Key Comprehension Routine, The Key Vocabulary Routine, Keys to Beginning Reading, Keys to Content Writing, Keys to Early Writing, and Understanding Dyslexia. Beginning in 1975, she worked for 23 years at the Landmark School, a pioneer in the development of literacy intervention programs. Sedita was one of the three lead trainers in Massachusetts for the Reading First Program and was a LETRS® author and trainer. She received her M.Ed. in reading from Harvard University and her B.A. from Boston College.
The Writing Rope: A Framework for Evidence-Based Writing Instruction
Release Date: Thursday, January 26, 2023
Writing is a task as complex and multifaceted as reading—but it’s often taught as a single skill. Our podcast guest is Joan Sedita, the successful author of the popular book, The Writing Rope. Her book and the innovative framework she created weaves multiple skills and strategies into five fundamentals of a comprehensive writing curriculum: critical thinking, syntax (sentences), text structure, writing craft, and transcription (spelling and handwriting).
We hope you’ll join this informative discussion as Sedita shares the guidelines that demystify the process of helping students learn to write and write to learn. Our conversation will explore ways educators can plan and deliver comprehensive, explicit, and evidence-based writing instruction, aligned with IDA’s Structured Literacy approach, and based on the latest research. The focus of the book is on grades 4–8, but much of what Sedita will address can be used in earlier grades and high school.
She will share:
The essential skills all students must learn to become proficient writers
How to help students use writing to enhance their learning across different content areas
Ways educators can plan effective writing assignments in different content areas