Teachers for Teachers | It’s Monday! DIY Literacy – We Have the Power
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It’s Monday! DIY Literacy – We Have the Power


DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts

DIY Literacy 2

We first heard about demonstration notebooks when we attended Kate and Maggie’s session at #NCTE2015. As soon as they showed how a demonstration notebook could be repeatedly used as an interactive instructional tool during small group and individual instruction, we turned to each other and whispered, “Now that is brilliant!”   It is a teaching tool that is responsive to students’ needs, helps you collect authentic formative data as you teach, and is always at your fingertips – WOW!

So you will not be surprised when we tell you that yes, we love Kate and Maggie’s DIY video series. And yes, we preordered our copies of DIY Literacy so the books would arrive on our doorsteps the day it was published. And yes, we put this book right on the top of our TBR piles as soon as it arrived.

DIY Literacy focuses on teaching tools we can co-create with students to help them remember what they learned and to work harder to achieve their goals.   As students work with these tools they become independent learners who reflect on their learning, set goals, and create their own action plans.   These are the actions that help students engage in learning and find their voice in the assessment process. Thank you Kate and Maggie!

This book empowers all of us to draw on our own expertise and collaborate with colleagues to create these teaching tools. They even quote Glinda, the Good Witch, from the Wizard of Oz, to hit this point home,

You’ve always had the power, my dear. You had to learn it for yourself.”

Here are just a few of the teaching tools Kate and Maggie describe to help students remember what they are learning and to help them work harder to meet their goals.

Demonstration Notebooks

A demonstration notebook is a collection of interactive lessons the teacher can use to demonstrate repeatedly with kids, whether individually in conferences or in small groups across a day, unit, and year (14).”

demonstration notebook

It is a notebook that contains lessons on those strategies and skills that students have the most difficulty learning. Each lesson in the demonstration notebook contains the following:

  1. Examples of work before teaching – a sample that needs improvement
  2. Strategies or prompts for students to use or try
  3. Examples of work after teaching
  4. A place for students to try the strategy (15).

Here is a video from the Kate and Maggie’s DIY video series showing how to create a demonstration notebook.

Micro-progression of Skills

“Micro-progressions show the way toward a higher level of work (17).” It is a series of student work examples written from simple to complex to help students reflect on their current understanding and to help them know how to improve their work.


microprogression 1

Each micro-progression contains the following:

  1. A model at each level made by the teacher and/or students.
  2. Clear criteria naming each level of the skill.
  3. A focus skill for the micro-progression.
  4. A form of leveling. (17)

In this video from the Teachers College Reading and Project, Nekia uses a micro-progression to improve student understanding of how to infer the theme in a text.

And here is Kate and Maggie explaining the nuts and bolts of how to create a micro-progression.

Bookmarks: Creating Personalized Action Plans

The bookmarks Kate and Maggie write about are a bit different from the more traditional bookmarks. “Students use these bookmarks to write down the strategies they want or need to remember – book marks can act as a helpful “grocery list” of tips (19).”

  1. Bookmarks are small enough for students to carry and use while they work.
  2. Student bookmarks can include icons or drawing of each of them.

book mark

In this video Kate and Maggie explain to how create student bookmarks to promote independence.

If you are like us and are continually looking for ways to refine your teaching, you will love reading DIY Literacy.   This book introduced us to some new tools to use in the classroom, helped us continually refine our practices, and taught us new ways to support students as they travel down the “yellow brick road” towards becoming independent thinkers and problem solvers.





  • Avatar
    Michele Knott
    Posted at 13:37h, 09 May Reply

    I am so excited to start this book! I’ve been watching the videos and watched their webinar last week. This week I begin reading the book! I know it’s going to be inspirational!

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 08:53h, 10 May Reply

      Hi Michele,

      We love the way they launched this book with videos. Such a wonderful idea!

      Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    cheriee weichel
    Posted at 23:02h, 09 May Reply

    This sounds very interesting.

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 08:55h, 10 May Reply

      Hi Cheriee,

      It is a very practical book filled with ideas to help students become more independent – such a great resource

      Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    Linda Baie
    Posted at 23:20h, 09 May Reply

    I love the idea of the book, know it will be helpful to so many. Thanks for giving so many details!

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 08:57h, 10 May Reply

      H Linda,
      So glad the post was helpful. We love the practical ideas in this book.

      Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    Kellee @ Unleashing Readers
    Posted at 01:27h, 10 May Reply

    I’ve heard so much about this one over the last couple of weeks. Sounds so fascinating! Thank you for sharing!

    Happy reading this week 🙂

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 08:58h, 10 May Reply

      Hi Kellee,

      We enjoyed the book and learned some new ideas to try out in classrooms.

      Tammy and Clare

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    Posted at 10:39h, 13 June Reply

    […] spring we blogged about DIY Literacy – What an incredible book! It is filled with ideas for how to help students remember, how to help […]

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