August 14, 2012

Meeting Tanny McGregor!

Something you may or may not know about me is that I'm a bit of nerd.  I actually really enjoy LOVE going to professional development workshops. So, when I had the opportunity to go see Tanny McGregor last Thursday I jumped at the chance.

I'm sure you all know Tanny McGregor.  She is the wonderful author of Comprehension Connections - a book I have used and loved for the past four years. If you don't have this book as a go-to on your shelf, hop on over to Amazon right now and score your own copy.  I promise you won't regret it, no matter which grade you teach.

Yup, I got my book signed.  I'm that girl.  :)

Now, as I said before I have used her book for the past three years and have taught almost every lesson out of it.  I'm well versed. And yet, her workshop was fabulous! So much of what she said resonated with me and it always feels good to hear someone confirm your beliefs and philosophy around teaching. I took home many new ideas and words of wisdom to teach by. Tanny was beyond personable and so down to Earth. 

Here are few tidbits from my notes:
  • "Using concrete objects is like teaching through metaphor."Whenever you find a way to  introduce a new idea or concept in a concrete and visual way, students will be more successful.  We teach math and science with concrete tools first, why not reading?
  • "I am going to demonstrate the invisible process of reading while making it visible."  Isn't that a cool idea?  That's why we think aloud - to make the invisible, visible.  Well said!
  •  Be careful not to release responsibility too gradually. Make sure your students are actively involved in the lesson. Don't just worry about the questions you are going to ask. Will the kids be able to ask questions? When will the kids talk?  When will the kids start trying things out and taking on responsibility for their learning. 
  • "How you spend your time in class reflects what is important to you." As soon as she said this, I starting thinking about how I spend my days.  Do my daily activities always reflect what I believe to be important?  Do I cut out things I know to be valuable to give more time to the tested subjects?   Unfortunately, I have done so in the past. Classroom meetings have been sliced out of the schedule and I'm always trying to find more time for read aloud. What a good reminder when we are being submersed in testing and more testing. It's definitely time to make parts of my day more sacred and non-negotiable. Teach the child, not the test.
  • Inferring is Scooby-Doo thinking!  We all CAN do it and it's fun! She reminded us that people are really good at inferencing and many jobs require. For example, police and detectives have to follow clues to solve cases, football players have to infer what their opponent might do and even dogs make inference all the time. Talk about great real world examples to share with the kids.
 Here are a few books she shared with us:

All of Bob Raczka's books use paintings from famous artists as the illustrations.  This book, Artful Reading, features paintings from the past and present that show people reading.  The simple text goes over the where, when, and why we read.  McGregor suggested using this at the beginning of the year to set the stage for reading instruction.

Add any of Barbara Lehman's books to your wordless picture book collection.  I love to use David Wiesner books to introduce metacognition, but I have also used and enjoyed Trainstop. The book follows one little girl's journey on a train while she looks at the scenery. There is a lot of substance to these books and provides much for kids to talk about.  I plan on adding a few more of Lehman's books to my collection too.
Here is another great book to add to your collection for inferencing.  Both a book and a song, Halley Came to Jackson is about the true events of seeing Halley's Comet.  Some were lucky enough to see the comet in 1910 and again in 1986. What the song doesn't tell you is that the baby on the cover is the woman at the end. Ready, set, infer!

There was so much more to the workshop, but this gives you a little taste.  I'm telling you, if you ever have the opportunity to go see her - DO IT! She is returning to my district later this year to work with teachers and literacy coaches.  Everyone keep your fingers crossed that she will end up at my school and in MY classroom.  Wouldn't that be amazing?!  

For more great reading resources, go to or if you don't feel like clicking around, click HERE and to directly to the activities that go with McGregor's book. There are FREE templates that go with lessons from the book as well as additional lessons that other teachers have come up with. It is a great resource.

More good news is that she is working on a second book to come out Spring 2013.  I can't wait.  I wish I could pre-order right now.  Her focus for the next book is introducing different genres in concrete ways.  Um... yeah... love it!

Finally, thank you Tanny for a worthwhile workshop and sharing your love of teaching reading with us. Both myself and my students have and will continue to benefit from your book and your ideas.


  1. Sooooooo jealous!
    Lucky you, Amanda... That must have been so motivating!
    I'm so glad you shared this post. And thanks for the resource recommendations. I'm off to Amazon to one-click some new books!

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. Tanny has worked as a consultant in my district for the past three years. We love her! She is very genuine and an excellent presenter! I am so happy you were able to meet her and that she will be working with your district!

  3. I got to hear her speak a few weeks ago! It was wonderful. Love her stuff!

  4. I'm a huge nerd too. I spent a huge amount of time in professional development and reading teacher books this summer. I have never heard of Tanny McGregor or her book, but I'm always looking to add to my professional library. So I'm adding this book to my To Buy list. Thanks for sharing your experience.


    1. You will love her book! It is one that I pull off my shelf again and again. It is also skinny which helps because it feel manageable. You can plow through it quickly and put the ideas into action immediately. It is very teacher friendly.

  5. You met Tanny??!! I haven't had the chance! I hope I will sometime. As for this post, it is WONDERFUL, and I love the book references. Thank you! :)

    1. I did and she was amazing! Thanks for stopping by, reading, and commenting. Your comment made my day. :)

  6. I also love professional development. Recently I have met Katie Wood Ray and Debbie Miller. I am like a teenage girl at a rock concert I swear!!

    Love it!

    1. lucky duck! You and Jessica always get to see/meet the coolest people. If you only could take me in your pocket for these little adventures. Oh, and I may have squealed a little bit when I saw her. Yup....teenage girl syndrome. :)

  7. Amanda - this post is so inspiring. I loved that you shared her tips and especially the one about "How we spend our time shows what's important". I too will now have "non-negotiables". How many times have I skipped the read aloud to do this or that - no longer!

    I will certainly be checking out Tanny's books and the resources you have left links for. I am gearing up for the next two weeks will fly by!

    Thank you.

    1. Thanks Nancy! I'm glad you found it helpful. Tanny is so inspiring. I left so jazzed about everything and looking forward to school. Her comment about spending our time really hit home. The past two years I have taught have been really data heavy and there is so much pressure in my district. Some days it feels like scores are the most important things and it hard not to get swept up in it all. It's important for us to remember that we are teaching children, not a test.


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