Four great days in Boston – a city I love.  I arrived just in time to see the end of the Boston Marathon. Monday was a public holiday in Boston as it was Patriots Day.  Tuesday April 19th  commemorates the anniversaries of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War in 1775. My friend who lives in Boston took me to the battle sites in both Lexington and Concord, The Battle Green and the North Bridge.  There were reenactments of events and we were fortunate to meet decedents of Patriots when we had lunch at The Colonial Inn in Concord.

Another interesting site in Concord was the home of Louisa May Alcott ( Author of Little Women and many other books).  We were given a thorough guided tour of the house, with original belongings of the Alcott family.  However I did not expect to learn about Louisa’s father Amos Bronson Alcott. Alcott believed that education should be a child-centred pleasant experience and he included physical education, dance, art, music, nature study, and daily journal writing in the course of studies he established at his school.   He did not believe in corporal punishment as a means of discipline, he would appoint a daily student superintendent where this student would report any infraction to the class who would as a whole deliberate on a punishment.  Alcott believed that early education must draw out “unpremeditated thoughts and feelings of the child” and emphasised that infancy should primarily focus on enjoyment.  He noted that learning was not about the acquisition of facts but the development of a reflective state of mind.  Alcott’s  ideas as an educator were controversial. many of Alcott’s educational principals are still used in classrooms today, including “teach by encouragement”.

I purchased a copy of the General Maxims by A. Bronson Alcott and the points I liked were

  • To teach, interestingly
  • To teach, pupils to teach themselves
  • To teach, by intermingling questions with instruction
  • To teach, by keeping curiosity awake

Many American authors are also buried in Concord – Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Many of Concord and Lexington homes are historical and well preserved – so beautiful.  We finished our drive to visit Waldon Pond, where transcendentalist and philosopher Thoreau lived for two years from 1845.

The Red Socks have played a home game at Fenway Park on Patriots Day since 1959. Darci and I went to the game on Wednesday night. The Red Socks won!

A visit to Boston is also not complete without a walk through the Public Gardens or Boston Common.  I took a ride on the historical Swan Boats on the pond and went to see the Make Way for Duckling statues for the children in my class – and me!

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Shuttuck Preschool

On Wednesday 20 April  I went to Shuttuck Preschool in Jamaica Plain- a short distance from the centre of Boston.  This preschool is a non profit Child Care and early Education  centre to 45 children between 15 moths and 6 years old, in the grounds of Lemuel Shuttuck hospital.  The children are either from local families or  hospital employees.  There are 3 rooms – a Toddler, Preschool and Kindergarten class.  Some children stay here through until Grade 1.

My morning in the preschool room was very welcoming- particularly by the children. They were SO delightful , asking me to play or sit with them.  Sweet!

Both the Kindergarten and Preschool room environments  were highly organised with literacy and numeracy evident.  Centres for choice time were clearly  defined – sensory, construction, quiet listening, writing, dramatic play, library, studio etc.

I was very impressed with the main wall where teachers and children interacted with during circle times, transition times and choice times.  Velcro is in abundance!

I particularly liked the resister of who is here today and who is absent – using a number line with velcro.  I will make one of these in my room – I can use any numbers through out the year.  I also liked how they placed cards with the songs they had sung that day- Mark explaining this was also for parents who wanted to know the songs their children came home singing – the works are on the reverse.

However the calendar was the rooms star – how simple but effective.  Each day there are 2 velcro dots.  One for the date, the other for pattern making.  Mark explained – at the start of the school year it began with a blue dot each day – matching 1-1.  Then they added a green dot  to make a blue/green pattern.  This then progressed to a blue/green/yellow pattern, then a blue/green/yellow/red pattern.  Now it includes a 5th element – a ouse!  This initiated from a story and has now grown to each 5th day there will be a little mouse (picture) hidden in the classroom for the children to find in the morning session.  Today it was on the side of the bin.  – Love it !!


Thank you to Mark Johnson for communicating with me over the past few months to organise my visit.

I hope the children liked the story  A Diary of a Wombat?

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Here are some more photos from their centre –

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Lesley University

School of Education

The Centre for Reading Recovery & Literacy Collaborative

Cambridge,  Massachusetts

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I enjoyed walking through Harvard University on a hot sunny spring day to find Lesley College – it was enormous!  Finally I reached the right building and spent an interesting time with Jessica Sherman a Primary Collaborative Trainer .  I was to meet with Cindy Downend, Assistant Director, Primary Programs at the Centre forReading Recovery & Literacy Collaborative, however she was detained at a school in Connecticut.

Together we discussed the work of the college -which works with school districts across the country to build capacity through  professional development for improving literacy achievements of all students.  The rigorous curriculum is based on a comprehensive language and literacy framework that includes a wide range of individual, small group and large group reading, writing and word study activities guided by ongoing assessment.

The foundation of the model is long term professional development provided in schools.  School-based literacy coaches are trained in the curriculum, provided with ongoing professional development as they continual implement research-based approaches in their own classrooms, and supported as they provide on-site training for the teachers and principals in their schools.

Literacy coaches sound like they have a similar role to our L3 trainers – ” Literacy coaches are expected to teach the literacy block in one classroom in their school.  The literacy coach videotapes teaching, completes assigned readings, case study assignments, and reflection papers. The literacy coach also provides in-school professional development to teachers. During the literacy coaches’ first year , they receive two visits at their schools from a Lesley University faculty member.”

Pre-K Framework – supports powerful entry to literacy.  The focus is on supporting learning in all areas through whole group, small group and individual opportunities that incorporate play and nurture the imagination.  The Pre-K child becomes more aware of print in the environment and in books and learns to love reading, writing and language.

Primary literacy Collaborative K-2 – The goal is to engage every child in authentic literacy opportunities.  They participate in whole group experiences with age-appropriate, grade-appropriate texts, receive small group instruction, and have substantial opportunities to read and write independently.  The teachers’ goal is to to take every child from where he is as a reader and writer with levelled books as far as she can take him in a given school year.


Data to Monitor Effectiveness – Teachers collect and analyse data annually ( DIBELS and Terra Nova) to assess the effectiveness of the program in their school. These  evaluation plans adjust yearly to meet the ongoing need of the school population.  This data also becomes part of the national research on the effectiveness of the Literacy Collaborative.

more info –


Fountas and Pinnell Continuum of Literacy and Learning  is a book of proficiencies. This includes:-

  • Interactive Read-Aloud and Literature Discussion
  • Shared and Performance Reading
  • Writing about Reading
  • Writing
  • Oral, Visual and Technological Communication
  • Phonics, Spelling and Word Study

A new edition of this book is soon to be released and will be available with apps to support the publication. An example of what this curriculum looks like can be found here and study guides here 

Tracking progress sheets for each F & P level can be found on this Wiki here

Guided Reading Comprehension questions for each F & P level  – here

Unfortunately Irene Fountas was also not in her office that day – I was looking forward to meeting her!   Irene, along with her team are revising editions of the Continuum of Literacy Learning, Literacy Beginnings to include Kindergarten  and the Guided Reading book.

Jessica also made me aware of a lovely book  – A Place for Wonder by Georgia Heard & Jennifer McDonough -centres for inquiry learning and great writing stimulus ideas.

In discussion with Jessica we talked about centres being managed for independent learning with students self regulation – no bells and rotations.  I asked about teacher monitoring of student engagement and achievement.  Jessica’s thoughts are if there are wonderful centres -there will be learning, it’s about the process not the product and all groups should be heterogeneous groupings and then pulled to guided reading as a homogeneous group.   Sharing at the conclusion of the literacy block is critical to reflect and discuss “what did you learn today”

Thank you to Jessica Sherman for her time.  Also Cindy Downend and Benjamin Mardell for communications over the past few months arranging my visit to Lesley University and Shuttuck Child Care Centre.




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