Each year, educators with a variety of roles and titles turn to Literacy Collaborative for training. The program’s foundations are rooted in evidence and work to support school improvement to reach high literacy outcomes for each child.

Bringing Literacy to Life

Primary coach brings literacy to life in Upstate New York

Ganell Tremont
Ganell Tremont
Literacy Collaborative Coach
Evans Mills Primary School
Evans Mills, New York

Ganell R. Tremont has been an educator for over 20 years. Her vast experience includes classroom teacher, reading specialist and literacy coach. Ganell trained as a Primary Literacy Collaborative Coach with The Ohio State University’s Literacy Collaborative. Currently, she is a Primary Literacy Collaborative Coach with Indian River Central School District in Upstate New York.

Her Motto: Do Big Things for the Littles

What is a favorite part of your work?

The children. Always the children. I love helping them to grow and learn to their fullest potential. It’s very rewarding and it gives me a sense of peace knowing that in some small way I may help them succeed as a literate member of society. And hopefully, they love books and writing a little bit (or a lot) more than when we first met!

What led you to becoming a Literacy Collaborative Coach?

When there was an opening in my last school district, I was teaching third grade and gave it my all to implement the Language and Literacy framework. Because of my efforts, several colleagues encouraged me to apply. They were very supportive and thought I would do well in the role. So, with their support and my love of literacy, I took a leap of faith and applied for the position.

Who were the people that have inspired you along the way?

It’s hard to pinpoint a few people because I really feel inspired by so many. From the third-grade teacher, who taught in the classroom next to mine, who would stop by to brainstorm an idea for the upcoming poetry café. The fellow PTO officers who wanted to launch the first-ever science night. My daughters, who continually teach me about being resilient and determined. My past and present colleagues who show up each day to help children grow to their fullest potential. The kindergarten teacher who tried to teach guided reading remotely during the pandemic. And most importantly, all the students I have worked with that ask questions like ‘can we read another book by that author’ and draw amazing self-portraits with tiny heads and big feet.

What have you learned along the way?

I have learned to take a tentative stance and allow space for refinement in my instructional practices. In writer’s workshop, I often say ‘when you think you’re done, you’ve only just begun.’ For me, this mantra extends beyond that setting and is really how I’ve learned to look at being an adult learner.

I have learned a tremendous amount about the teaching and learning possibilities in the language and literacy framework. I remember being very overwhelmed and not feeling confident with what and how to teach writer’s workshop my first few years of teaching. I asked myself questions like ‘where do I begin…what do I teach next…how do I meet the needs of all my students…what resources do I use?’ And then, I participated in Literacy Collaborative training and learned so much. The experience truly built my confidence in teaching my writers. The quality of my instruction improved, and in turn, my students' writing improved. As Katie Wood Ray says, ‘you have to have vision, before revision.’ I did not have a clear vision for teaching writing until I attended Literacy Collaborative training.

I have learned that it's vital to develop a student’s self-efficacy—that they believe they have the power over their own learning. This starts by creating a safe learning environment where students' voices are honored, and critical thinking is encouraged. Students feel empowered when they share their work, have choice in the books they read and the topics they write about. Students have a right to tell their stories from riding the carousel to their new four-wheeler to making cookies with grandma. We hold space for their voices to rise and their stories to be told through the Literacy Collaborative framework.

The responsive teaching and learning cycle begins with noticing what the child CAN do and what he/she knows. The teacher facilitates just-right learning opportunities by analyzing students' reading and writing behaviors. It’s the skilled teacher that sets goals for what the child needs to know next and develops a plan for how and when it’s going to be taught. The teacher is always reassessing to adjust goals if needed and set up scaffolds, so the student is successful. That’s learning. And it cannot happen without a responsive teacher making decisions on behalf of the children sitting in front of them!

How does Literacy Collaborative help you grow as a leader?

I love the connection to the Literacy Collaborative trainers with The Ohio State University as well as all the trained coaches because I often reach out with follow up questions and they are always very willing to collaborate. This professional network and support system is critical to my success because I need the guidance from others that have tried the things I am trying as a literacy coach. I’m a learner and I love learning from fellow educators on behalf of children.

Explain how Literacy Collaborative training helps you to support a wide variety of teachers.

The ongoing training for coaches is extremely helpful because we not only get lifted in the area of literacy instruction with students but also learn ways to improve our professional learning communities, develop and maintain literacy leadership teams and coaching. There is always more to learn, reflect and refine. While I am taking notes at a session, I am always thinking… ‘oh, I can’t wait to try this out when I get back to school… or hmmm...I wonder what that would look like if I did this?’ Literacy Collaborative training offers renewed excitement and endless possibilities.

How do you continually refine your practice to help teachers and students realize their fullest potential?

I think the best way to refine my practice is by working with teachers to serve children in classrooms. Formulating questions with teachers and taking an inquiry stance positions us as learners and researchers. We don’t have all the answers and we are in this together! It’s this type of model that keeps us focused on our craft and I believe will help teachers be more resilient by uncovering new paths to take.

This year, all the teachers at Evans Mills Primary School have embarked on a quest to answer this question:

How can we integrate the FPC Interactive Read Aloud texts sets into our grade level content area units of study?

We have immersed ourselves with the Fountas and Pinnell Classroom Interactive Read Aloud text sets, made noticings, shared the books we thought would match certain social studies and science standards and developed text sets and units of studies…and the work isn’t done. I’m not sure it ever will be because there are so many different paths to take but we do have a great start.

This year, the kindergarten teachers formed teams of two and worked with me on a collaborative project to explore that question. We planned, executed and reflected together. Double residencies=Double the fun!

Construction map project
Two kindergarten classrooms helped the Assistant Principal, Mrs. McCullouch, solve a very big problem. The construction workers did not know where to go in our school and they didn’t know where it was safe to park outside. No worries! These kindergarteners learned about maps and created a big mural to help visitors navigate Evans Mills Primary School.
2 Teachers in Art of Coaching
Students worked on a unit about sunflowers. Reading, writing, and presenting their information for others provided a great learning experience!

What are some of the gains you have seen since you started this process?

This is hard to put into words. So here it goes…I see teachers trying out new resources the next day after a professional development session. I see students making lots and lots of books during writer’s workshop. I hear students sharing their stories. I see interactive writing hanging on the walls. I hear students talking about the author’s craft. I see more books in classrooms. I see teachers excited to come together and refine their practice. I see guided reading book boxes empty in the book room. I hear teachers talking about text sets. I see teachers using the optional assessments from the BAS kit. I see students drawing and writing in their reader’s notebooks. I see teachers celebrating student’s growth.

What were some of the goals for this past school year?

This year, our district Literacy Collaborative focus was writer’s workshop. As the Indian River Central School District has been affiliated with Literacy Collaborative since 2000, and also has some newly trained literacy coaches, the district literacy team decided to create a yearly district focus to help us ‘reboot.’ So, across the district, classroom teachers have received ongoing training in the area of writing instruction and were provided a new resource: The Writing Minilesson Book by Fountas and Pinnell.

The ongoing trainings centered on utilizing that resource and also incorporated other teaching tools/resources to improve the quality of writing. Much work has been done on helping teachers to understand the writing process, analyze students' writing to set goals as well as explore ways to help students focus and elaborate when writing narrative, informational and opinion.

The literacy coaches have also collected writing samples. Next year, we will use the samples as a guide to build conversation around the qualities of good writing ranging from a kindergarten to a fifth-grade writer. This process takes a great deal of time and patience. It’s not an easy task to do with such a large district. I believe one of the hardest issues facing education today is that everyone wants a quick fix to a complex process. It’s not that simple. Quality refinement takes a great deal of time and it’s important that the driving forces have a common vision and belief system, or the change will not be sustainable, and in the end, student outcomes will be impacted.

Another project I worked on was creating a literacy newsletter, LitBits, that I share each quarter. Highlighted topics include the work teachers are doing in their classrooms along with a few lifts. The literacy leadership team has also been invited to share about their work. It’s vital to make our work visible to ensure we are telling our own story.

How are you creating a common vision and values?

We established a literacy leadership team in January 2022. The group includes a grade level representative, a Reading Recovery teacher, a special education teacher as well as our principal and assistant principal. To help guide us and learn more about each other, we shared our top four core values. This is an activity we will revisit every year and reflect about to see if things have changed.

Our first task was to examine our literacy beliefs and unpack Literacy Collaborative's first pillar.

Pillar 1: Collective Ownership of Student Outcomes

Educators create a common vision for literacy learning in the school, collaborating in teamwork, and shared leadership.

Educators in the school work as one team responsible for the literacy outcomes of all children. Within the school community, educators form specific action groups for different purposes. Time is dedicated for literacy problem-solving, data analysis, and the implementation of Literacy Collaborative.

The team is responsible for:

  • Creating a home-community-school partnership.
  • Creating and working together toward a common vision.
  • Communicating progress toward the common vision with interested groups including teachers, school administrators, families, community members, the Board of Education, etc.
  • Considering and problem solving the factors of implementation.
  • Monitoring student progress, program evaluation and interventions.
  • Ensuring the individual needs of all literacy learners.
  • Managing literacy materials including the leveled book collection.

We read the article Every Child, Every Classroom, Every Day: From Vision to Action in Literacy Learning by Fountas and Pinnell. We then charted our understandings and highlighted our literacy beliefs.

Here are just a few:
  • No cookie-cutter teaching.
  • Our students, Our goals.
  • Culture of shared responsibility often reflects the same tone in classrooms.
  • Obligation to learn about different cultures.
  • Create inclusive environments that honor and leverage the strengths of diversity.
  • Execute data-informed teaching (how they read and write).
  • Develop expertise around the reading and writing processes.
Around that same time, the new professional resource Leading for Literacy by Fountas and Pinnell was published, and our team attended a virtual mini workshop with the authors. We each received a copy of the book and homed in on the LIFT rubric (Literacy Improvement Facilitation Tool). We decided to score and only focus on the first section on Culture and Leadership to start. We built conversation around that part of the rubric and noticed that there were areas that received higher scores and there were some discrepancies. We also noticed that overall, we scored lower in the areas of common values and beliefs and collaboration and teamwork.

The team decided to take our common literacy beliefs list and create a visual representation to share with others. We thought about making a poster, but ultimately decided on creating a video that showcased our beliefs in action at our school. Over the next school year, the team took photos and videos of teaching and learning in the language and literacy framework. It was a labor of love but truly ended up being the best way to showcase our beliefs and what we do every day.

What are some things that you have implemented that you see are cultivating collaboration and teamwork?

The teachers have been working together to create integrated units. Some have chosen to do that with a grade level partner while others have worked in a small group or engaged as a whole grade level team. Each are sharing their resources and the integrated units they have developed. They are also creatively combining new resources with others they already had to integrate content areas throughout the Language and Literacy framework. It’s impressive!

More recently, I have created a bulletin board for teachers to reflect on how their students have bloomed as writers this year. Again, making the work we do visible is important! Providing creative space for teachers to celebrate, reflect and smile about the great work they do cultivates collaboration and teamwork.

I also started up a One School, One Book team. Evans Mills Primary School just started this home-school project last year and it’s been so much fun! It’s open to any and everyone who wants to be involved with putting a book in a reader's hands and bringing it to life. Our last book was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. We held a kick-off assembly during the day which featured a reader’s theatre by Wilbur and Charlotte (aka our Principal Mr. Lee and Assistant Principal Mrs. McCullouch). We also had a word of the day that got caught on Charlotte’s web and students had access to chapter recordings made by Evans Mills Primary School faculty along with daily trivia questions. We had a Picnic at EMP Farm where families could enjoy a picnic meal, kids could play on the playground, visit the FFA animals, take a literacy walk and listen to Mr. Lee read aloud chapter one. The culminating event was inviting all Evans Mills Primary School families to the drive-in to watch Charlotte’s Web on the big screen!

Ways that your team is bringing literacy to life in your district.

We have created a video showcasing our daily literacy teaching and learning across the framework. Our plan is to share this on our school website with parents and families as well as school board members.

Literacy Collaborative at Evans Mills Primary School

The rich agenda also made way for practicing listening and responding skills, offered techniques on cultivating emotional-intelligence and synergized learning by engaging in a coaching case study. The case study included a video of a teacher and coach working together to expand their understandings of the practice of Interactive Read Aloud, a component of the Literacy Collaborative Comprehensive Literacy Framework. Educators were challenged to consider how to support the teacher with the “act” of the practice, as well as building a rationale for the practice.

Participants will complete ongoing assignments in preparation for upcoming sessions in December and April that will support them in taking a student-centered, inquiry-based approach to coaching.