About St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA

a professional organization of educators and individuals actively engaged
in the development of literacy throughout the Greater St. Louis Area.

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President’s Message: April 2015



Recipient of the Honor Council & Show Me Awards

Message from the President

 The poet Robert Frost once said, “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”

Over this past school year, it is my hope that the St. Louis Council has been an awakener to you in some way. Perhaps you came to one of our meetings or the “Literacy for All Conference” and heard an inspiring speaker, discovered some fresh ideas for the classroom, or made a new professional contact.

Maybe you found something pertinent in our newsletter: one of the finely written professional articles, news from the library, the legislative report or the web wonders column.  Teachers understand that learning never ends, and every teacher I’ve met is a life-long learner. So as the final weeks of the school year hurry by, I encourage you to take a break for yourself, and attend our upcoming spring banquet on April 30th. Dr. Karen Burke, Director of Academic Planning for Scholastic Publications, will be our guest speaker. Dr. Burke’s talk will provide you with a few more ideas to implement before the final school bell rings for this year.

As my final letter to you as president of the St. Louis Suburban Council, I want to thank the many people who work tirelessly for our organization: the officers and board of directors of our group, our retiring newsletter editor Beth Knoedelseder, and, of course, our members. Please join me in supporting Tammy Rhomberg, as she takes the helm of our Council for the coming year.

I look forward to seeing all of you for our April meeting, and again, at the 60th annual ILA convention, to be held in St.Louis in July. Until then, happy reading!

Mary Eileen Rufkahr


Differentiating Instructional Strategy vs. Learning Activity: April 2015


Instructional Strategy vs. Learning Activity

By: Mollie Bolton, Ed.D.

In the world of education we continue to seek research-based and evidence-based strategies for instruction. With new teaching standards and performance based evaluations, we are encouraged even more so to make sure the strategies we are using are research-based and effective. We must use our teaching time to focus on strategies that we know, through the research, work with our students. Many educators struggle with the difference between an instructional strategy vs. a learning activity. Both can be research-based and both serve a specific purpose.

Instructional strategies are “techniques teachers use to help students become independent, strategic learners” (Alberta Learning, 2002). These strategies often provide the “why” for the activity and can be transferred across subjects and grade levels. Examples may include linguistic and non-linguistic representations, summarizing, providing feedback, and similarities and differences (Marzano, 2001). We as educators must rely on our knowledge of our students, our subject matter and our situation to choose the most appropriate instructional strategy (Marzano, 2001). We must keep our goal in mind when choosing the instructional strategy and think about how the strategy will help our students through the learning process.

Learning Activities are what students “do” and usually have a very specific purpose of learning a skill or concept that may only be applicable to the specific subject or grade level. Examples may include vocabulary bingo, reading a passage and answering questions, completing a worksheet. These activities are important to learning concepts, building fluency and automaticity of skills. Learning activities may or may not be research based. As effective educators we must have knowledge of research-based and evidence-based instructional strategies and know how and when to use them. We must also be able to provide learning activities that utilize these strategies to support the content that we are teaching. A combination of effective instructional strategies with strong learning activities is the key to successful instruction.


Alberta Learning. (2002). Health and life skills guide to implementation (K-9). Edmonton, AB:           Alberta Learning.

Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works:       Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Giving Back: Community Outreach 2015


Giving Back
Dr. Betty Porter Walls

The article “Giving Back – How a Read-in Activity Can Serve as a Community Outreach
Project,” written by Dr. Betty Porter Walls, a member of the board of directors of the St.
Louis Suburban Council of the International Reading Association (IRA) appears on pages
36-37 of the current issue, March/April 2015, of the “Reading Today” magazine. The
article describes Betty’s annual intergenerational read-in activity at Harris-Stowe State

Poster Contest Winners! 2015


Poster Contest

Kathleen McDonnell

 The St. Louis Suburban IRA poster contest was held on February18, 2015 at the Ladue Middle School. The event was a big success as a result of everyone who participated. Many posters were submitted for judging this year. Members in attendance had a chance to vote on the best poster in each category. The theme: “We Love Reading to the Core,” was seen throughout each poster. The winners in three categories were:

K-2nd Grades

First place: Raegan Leigh Shelton (2nd grade Northwest R-1 School District, House Springs Elementary School)

Second Place: Kennedy Stepp (2nd grade Northwest R-1 School District, House Springs Elementary School)

Third Place: Margaret Baumann (1st grade Northwest R-1 District, House Springs Elementary School)

3rd-5th Grades

First Place: Riley Jones (3rd grade Sacred Heart School, Ferguson/Florissant School District)

Second Place: Aria Gabrielle Jones (3rd grade Sacred Heart School, Ferguson/Florissant School District)

Third Place:  Jamie Jarzenbeck (3rd grade Sacred Heart School, Ferguson/Florissant School District)

6th-8th Grades

First Place: Alaina McAlister (7th grade Affton School District, Rogers Middle School)

Second Place: Maheen Gul (7th grade Ladue School District, Ladue Middle School)

Third Place:  Juliana Cole (8th grade Affton School District, Rogers Middle School)

Each winning poster will be sent to the MSC/IRA State Poster contest to be judged. These posters will bereturned to the winners after the state contest is judged.

Thanks to all.

Web Wonders: Connecting to Authors and Illustrators: April 2015



Mary-Eileen Rufkahr

 How to Connect with Authors and Illustrators!

Students of all ages seem to truly connect with a book when they know more about the author and/or illustrator who created the work. Younger children often don’t realize there is a “real”person who created the story they are enjoying; older students are often amazed that the person who is responsible for the book has had many of the struggles and successes they too have faced in their lives. Visiting an author’s web page provides a whole different dimension to literature appreciation.

Dav Pilkey is known for animal-oriented books including Kat Kong, Dogzilla and Dog Breath. Zany, off-the-wall, outside of the box are only a few of the phrases to describe Pilkey and his writing style. The same goes for his web page at http://pilkey.com/. His “extra crunchy web site of fun” features a biography, games and black line reproducibles.

Author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg has been producing children’s favorites for over a quarter century. His web page features a biography, news on favorite and upcoming books and videos of the author reading and discussing some of his stories. Check out: http://hmhbooks.com/chrisvanallsburg/index.html.

Avi, the pen name of Edward Irving Wortis, is an author of young adult and children’s literature. Avi has tips for young writers, information on Skype visits, readers’ theater scripts and book discussion materials. Visit Avi’s site at http://www.aviwriter.com/index.

Frank Asch the author of the Moonbear and Cardboard Genius series has a colorful, inviting web site for students. Videos of his stories, art work sent in by fans and recipes are only a few of the topics on his web page: http://frankasch.com/. Whether it is the Gilbert the Opossum series for young readers or the Annie Pitts series for older students, Diane de Groat captures the imagination and attention of her audience. Her web page includes teacher materials, a biography and news on upcoming releases. Check out http://www.dianedegroat.com/index.html.

Molly Bang’s work ranges from science for children (Ocean Sunlight) to All of Me,  and A Book of Thanks. Bang has led a rich and full life from volunteering at her daughter’s school to working with UNICEF. Her site offers a comprehensive source of information for both students and teachers. Go to: http://www.mollybang.com/bio.html

Membership News for St. Louis Suburban Council of the International Literacy Association: April 2015



Jody Rozbicki, Membership Director

 St. Louis Suburban Council of International Literacy Association is a true Professional Learning Community with 283 members as of March 30, 2015. Congratulations to our membership for recognizing the benefits of our collegial and professional organization. In the April 2015 newsletter, you will find the St. Louis Suburban Council of ILA membership application form for April 2015 to August 2016. Membership dues may increase in July 2015. This is a good time to update your membership. If you have not yet, please send your membership form ASAP to Jody Rozbicki, Membership Director.TODAY!

Highlights of St. Louis Suburban Council of International Literacy Association

  •  Members represent more than twenty-five public school districts, many archdiocesan and other parochial and private schools, seven universities, and representatives of textbook and trade book publishers/distributers.
  • Members include administrators, classroom teachers, librarians, reading specialists, literacy coaches, special education teachers, ESL teachers, undergraduate and graduate students, and university faculty.
  • Educators and administrators who work with students from kindergarten through university levels are represented.
  • With nearly 283 members, this is one of the largest local councils of the International Literacy Association of Missouri.
  • Our council has won awards at state and national levels for the quality of our programs and the services we provide.
  • We provide material to support family literacy, both locally and internationally.
  • We support international efforts to improve literacy across cultures.
  • We offer a mini-grant of $250-$500 for a member to implement a literacy-focused project
  • We provide networking opportunities for educators throughout the Greater St. Louis Area.
  • St. Louis Suburban Council is hosting the July 2015, International Literacy Association Conference

Top 5 Benefits of IRA Membership

  • Receive practical teaching tools you can use in the classroom
  • Access to top-rated journals, innovative research, and best practices
  • Being part of a community of literacy professionals
  • Discounts on ILA publications and other professional development resources
  • Reduced conference registration rates

Information on ILA membership see: http://www.reading.org



International Literacy Association is Coming to St. Louis In July 2015


International Literacy Association (ILA) Conference
St. Louis, Mo
July 18 – 20, 2015

The International Literacy Association (ILA), formerly known as the International Reading Association (IRA) will hold its annual conference in our City of St. Louis this summer and our St. Louis Suburban Council is the major conference host. Reserve the dates of July 18-20 on your calendar for the ILA. Council member Betty Porter Walls is the general co-chair of the Local Arrangements Committee (LAC) preparing for the conference with LAC co-chairs Jody Rozbicki also from our council and Glenda Nugent from the Mid-Rivers Council. The three of us meet regularly to plan and strategize as we prepare for a monthly phone conference with the conference committee in New Jersey at ILA headquarters. “What do you do?’ someone asked. Our response is that we are the ‘worker bees’ who promote the conference by appearing in general service announcements to be shown nationwide, organizing other LAC members to volunteer during the conference, and helping to promote a Legacy Project by which the conference will leave its literacy imprint on our city. Fortunately we have the counsel of Dolores B. Malcolm, past IRA President, for assistance with questions and plans. Yes, a past IRA president resides in St. Louis!

We are pleased to have more than fifty educators from the St. Louis Public Schools become members of our St. Louis Suburban Council to ensure a St. Louis area wide representation and participation until their council reorganizes. More ILA hands to help are more than welcome.

If you’ve never attended an International Literacy Association, you will be amazed at the resources available, the experts you’ll meet, and the mass of information and free products you will receive. Not often will such an opportunity be available. Just think of the savings you will enjoy when you attend a national professional organization conference as large and as significant as the ILA. The conference is in downtown St. Louis, so plane fare probably won’t be necessary; you can drive. You won’t need a hotel room if you live in the greater St. Louis area or have a friend who’ll let you be a house guest during the conference. The international conference isn’t this close to us very often; please take advantage of this opportunity and the savings.

Did you know that basketball star Shaquille O’Neal and famous actress Octavia Spenser are literacy advocates and authors of children’s literature? They will be speakers at the 2015 ILA Conference and you can read about their reading and literacy contributions in the March/April 2015 issue of Reading Today. An exciting program is planned for the conference and can be reviewed on the ILA website www.reading.org.

We need your help and assistance at the International Literacy Association Conference. Please consider volunteering to greet participants as they arrive at the conference, help with registration, or help with sessions. We are asking for a two-hour commitment from our members. If each of our more than two hundred members would volunteer, we’d have plenty of help. The Volunteer Commitment Form can be found on our local website www.stlsuburbanreading.org and the website for the Missouri State Council of the IRA (MSC-IRA) at www.missouri.org. LAC co-chairperson Glenda Nugent, glenda.nugent@gmail.com, can assist scheduling your volunteer time. You do not need to attend the conference to be a volunteer. You do not have to be an active ILA member to volunteer.

The LAC is also making plans for the “Read and Feed” Legacy Project for the ILA Conference. St. Louis will have a lasting memory of the 2015 Conference with this ‘Read and Feed’ Legacy Project. The “Read and Feed” Legacy Project is about providing books to a Title I school(s) in the St. Louis area which has a feeding program. Books will be given to students for their personal home libraries. Jody Rozbicki, jrozbicki@ladueschools.net is the LAC Co-chair for the Read and Feed Project. More information about the project will be shared with you.


Early Bird registrations at a reduced fee are available for groups of Missouri
educators. There is a deadline for these reduced rates and a certain form must be used. The Early Bird registration form can be found on the websites for the St. Louis Suburban Council and the Missouri State Council. Contact LAC co-chairpersons Betty Porter Walls, drbpwalls@earthlink.net, and/or Glenda Nugent, Glenda.nugent@gmail.com for more information.


The President’s Message: February 2015






For me, February has always been a bright spot in the long, cold, winter months. Even as a child, I looked forward to this “break” from the winter doldrums.

February always seemed like somewhat of a maverick, having only 28 days (and sometimes 29) when all the others were in such lockstep with either 30 or 31.

For a teacher, the educational possibilities are abundant: Black History Month, Dental Health Month, American Heart Month, Groundhog’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Washington’s Birthday, and Presidents ’ Day.  Wow is all I can say!

Our St. Louis Council is hoping to chase away your winter doldrums with our upcoming meeting on February 18th. We are having a members’ showcase in which many of our colleagues will present mini-seminars on pertinent topics related to literacy. During the evening, you will have an opportunity to attend several of these workshops and come away with some new ideas to implement in your classroom. We also encourage you to bring your students’ posters to be judged for our annual poster contest.

Just as the short month of February packs a great deal into its 28 days, we promise to provide you with a full and satisfying experience at our upcoming meeting. Looking forward to seeing you on the 18th!

Mary Eileen Rufkahr


Content Area Reading and Writing Strategies: February 2015


Content Area Reading and Writing Strategies

By Tamara Jo Rhomberg

“To be literate in content classrooms, students must learn how to use language processes to explore and construct meaning with texts. When students put language to work for them in content classrooms, it helps them to discover, organize, retrieve, and elaborate on what they are learning.” (Richard T. Vacca, Taking the Mystery Out of Content-Area Literacy)

As a result of studies such as that by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, (Thompson, et al., 2012) there has been a focus on the essential role of informational literacy. Hence the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) call for an increase in the amount of informational text read by students at all grade levels. Traditionally, informational text may have referred to textbooks or expository writing, but today informational text is defined as literary nonfiction, including biographies, autobiographies, historical, scientific, and technical texts such as textbooks, news or feature article book reviews, and informational trade books. The challenge of reading and writing in the content area is a daunting task for both students and teachers.

I offer just a few reading and writing strategies that can be readily implemented at any grade level, at any point in the reading/writing process, and adapted to any content area. Key to any of these strategies being successful for students is to actively engage students in the process of learning and using the information in some way which allows the new learning to connect to what the student already knows and understands about the topic.



A brainstorming activity used to activate background knowledge but could also be used as a review strategy. Independently students brainstorm any and all words/concepts related to a concept or topic. (10-12 is a suggested number of entries.) Small groups discuss their word choices and then combine their lists to create categories by sorting their words and providing labels. Through this process, students activate their background knowledge for the concept as well as establish areas of study within the content. As the content is read, it is important to revisit the categories and make additional connections, clarify thinking, and use the words/categories for review.

Alpha Boxes

As a concept/topic is read or discussed, students collect key words relevant to the topic and record them in the appropriate letter box. The alpha boxes can be as simple as the letters of the alphabet listed on paper. Teachers pause at key points to record key words/concepts and have students make connections from what they have read using the listed words. Through the process of connecting a variety of words or phrases, students deepen their understanding of how the words are interrelated.  There have been a number of studies (French, 2004; Leung, 2008) supporting the integration of content area learning and vocabulary as it builds connections between words and concepts resulting in deeper comprehension.

RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Topic)

RAFT writing provides an opportunity for students to think critically, synthesize information, and to produce a creative form of their analysis. It is used after students have read and studied a topic.  Each student takes on a ROLE or a perspective from the content, identifies a specific AUDIENCE to address in the writing, chooses a FORMAT (a letter, an editorial, an obituary) by which to express the content, and decides on a TOPIC to be covered in the writing project which demonstrates the depth of the student understanding.

I encourage you to try one of these strategies and share your work with St. Louis Suburban members via our website – www.stlsuburbanreading.org.



Check out the Changes at the International Literacy Association: February 2015


New Name for IRA!

“Email Sent to IRA Members”

by Marcie Craig Post (Executive Director of the ILA)

The International Reading Association (IRA) is officially the International Literacy Association (ILA). Over the next few months, you will begin to see and feel the positive changes that come with this evolution, and our dedication to transforming lives through the power of Literacy.

Here are just some of the changes you’ll see right away:
Reading Today Online is now Literacy Daily! The blog features even more practical resources, research, and thought-provoking articles to support the literacy efforts of our global network.
Our website has been updated to reflect our new name, logo, and design. The site will be further enhanced to fully reflect our mission in the first half of 2015.
Registration for the ILA 2015 Conference—themed “Transforming Lives Through Literacy”—is open at ilaconference.org.

And we’re just getting started! We are busy at work on several new initiatives and announcements for the coming months and we look forward to sharing them with you. We’re excited for the road ahead, and we are proud of this significant step we are taking to build upon IRA’s legacy and forge our future as advocates for literacy in the classroom and beyond. We hope you’re excited, too.
From all of us, we want to thank you again for your commitment to literacy and education. We welcome you to the new ILA!

Shared by Mary Eileen Rufkahr, President of St. Louis Suburban Council