Literacy is HEATING UP!!!

Your Central Rivers AEA Literacy Team has so many new and exciting things to share as we end 2020 and look forward to an absolutely wonderful 2021!  Below is an article on Student Agency by our very own Teri Boezinger, information on Session 4 of our Virtual Office Hours Series, a Tier2/Tier 3 class offering, and information on the Battle of the Books.  Can you even ask for more “hot” news???  Please join us in any of our offerings!!

Student Agency

Many years ago, I read an interesting book called The Myth of Laziness by Mel Levine. In a nutshell – the author described various reasons why students suffer from “output failure”. The book was written circa 2004. Fast forward to 2020 (almost 2021), and we (educators) are still having conversations about students’ lack of drive, output, tenacity, grit, independence, creativity, and self-confidence. And this seems exacerbated by virtual learning. Someone once told me way back when I began teaching in 1996 that when there is a problem with our students’ learning – we must look inward first. In other words – does our instruction match our students’ needs? I believe this to be wholly true even when talking about how well our students are engaged in their own learning. This is where student agency enters the discussion. Student agency is largely described as having four components. They are: 

  • Setting advantageous goals;
  • Initiating action toward those goals; and
  • Reflecting on and regulating progress toward those goals.
  • Having a belief in self-efficacy (Poon, 2018, para 6).

When I reflect on my place in ensuring student agency – it feels like my role is much more of an activator of learning instead of a teacher of facts and skills (don’t get me wrong…there is also a place for teaching skills in the classroom). However, when I can ensure that my students own their learning they will be well-suited for facing life’s many challenges. Teachers can: 

  • Give students voice and choice in what and how they learn, 
  • Provide students with opportunities to reflect with teachers and peers about their learning path, 
  • Empower students to make decisions, and 
  • Provide feedback to ensure continued learning (Bray, 2020). 

In a virtual education setting – ensuring student agency seems more important than ever. Students may not be in our classrooms all day, but they are still expected to learn everything they would inside a brick-and-mortar building. If we encourage students to own their own learning our roles might look a bit different, however, by ensuring that students have agency in their work – we can see to it that they have drive, tenacity, grit, independence, creativity, and self-confidence. 

Bray, B. (1970, January 01). Continuum of Voice: What it Means for the Learner. Retrieved December 02, 2020, from

Levine, M. D. (2004). The myth of laziness. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Poon, J. D. (2018, September 14). Part 1: What Do You Mean When You Say “Student Agency”? Retrieved December 02, 2020, from

For more information about student agency…please attend our Leaning In Series webinar on Student Agency. You can register using this link: 

Upcoming Class:  Targeted Literacy Instruction for Struggling Readers K-12:  Course Number- # 190003, Section Number-# 283942

Do you have learners that are struggling in reading? Are you looking for instructional strategies for Tier 2/Tier 3 that are evidence based? Did you know that 70-80% of reading disabilities are due to a phonological deficit?

Central Rivers AEA is offering Targeted Literacy Instruction for Struggling Readers K-12 starting in January 2021. This course is for teachers (general education, Title I, ELL, instructional coaches, and special education) who provide Tier 2/Tier 3 instruction with students in Kindergarten through High School who are below grade level readers and/or may have been diagnosed with dyslexia. The emphasis is on teaching students that are struggling in the Foundational Skills of phonological awareness and phonics. Participants will learn how phonological awareness and phonics fit into the big picture of literacy instruction. They will learn how to assess reading skills and how to match instruction to meet the specific, individual needs of the student. Participants will learn a multisensory approach to teaching phonemic awareness and phonics in a systematic and explicit way. This course will be provided in a blended format including content presented through zoom sessions as well as through additional  asynchronous learning. Some content will be presented through course pathways to provide individualized learning specific to elementary, secondary, or special education.

Note: The content of this course has previously been taught through the following courses: Multisensory Approach to Teaching Phonemic Awareness and Phonics, Responsive Teaching in Literacy, and Supporting Struggling Readers in Grades 4-12.

Link to Targeted Literacy Instruction Flyer

Battle of the Books

Do you know some children who love to read and talk about high-interest, high quality, diverse books? (Or, do you know some who have not discovered reading as their “superpower” yet?) CRAEA’s Battle of the Books is one avenue toward building a love of reading through collaboration with grade-span teammates.

Each year in mid-September, coaches from across the state register their teams to participate in the elementary (grades 3-5) or middle school (grades 6-8) competitions that are scheduled for April 8th and 9th, 2021, respectively. Although our event will look different this year, it promises to be as fun and rewarding as ever. 

Teams of up to six students read from a pre-selected list of books: the Iowa Children’s Choice Award winners (elementary), and the Iowa Teen Award winners (middle school).  The books chosen for the award lists are purposefully selected to expose students to a variety of genres, quality authors, diverse cultures, and historical eras. In addition to reading the Iowa Award winner books, all participants will read a book by guest author Terry Lynn Johnson.  

Preparation for the event involves the process of each team deciding how they will go about reading the books on their lists. Some teams divide and conquer, having every teammate read 5 or so books. Other teams have readers who can’t help but read every book on the list! While teams go about securing the necessary texts in different ways, Central Rivers AEA coaches and students may access and read many of the titles on either of the lists through ordering boxed book sets from the GetMedia Catalog or accessing eBooks through MackinVIA.

When competition day comes, students will have opportunities to interact with the guest author as well as compete with approximately 50 other teams for bragging rights and an additional opportunity to learn more about writing and publishing books with Terry Lynn Johnson. Students and coaches alike return year after year for this event that celebrates their passion for reading. 

Please visit our website for additional information about the Battle of the Books.