Melissa and Lori Love Literacy

By Melissa Loftus and Lori Sappington

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Hi teacher friends! We are Melissa and Lori, two literacy educators in Baltimore. Our purpose is to bring teachers together in a positive way to share successes and struggles with Wit and Wisdom curriculum implementation. We are SO excited to talk with you!

Episode Date
Ep. 14: What about our Striving Secondary Readers?

What happens when kids get to high school and are striving readers, struggling to fluently read grade-level text? We discuss the Libens' approach to addressing this issue, as well as share experiences of Baltimore City Schools Secondary Blueprint Literacy Coaches Zachary Jaffe & Tami James.

Read Know Better, Do Better by David & Meredith Liben, Chapter 7, to have a deeper understanding of the springboard for our conversation. 

Sep 24, 2019
Ep. 13: TNTP Shares How to Bridge Curriculum Adoption and Implementation Support

TNTP's Kristen McQuillan and Regan Kelly share how important it is to adopt a high-quality curriculum. But... what happens after that? What should be considered as next steps? What's the bridge from adoption to implementation of a new curriculum? What does this mean for teachers? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS!!! LOTS of fabulous answers and ideas, grounded in research and experience. 

  • EdReports

  • TNTP's Opportunity Myth:

  • Summary of Learning by the Book:

  • Learning by the Book itself (conclusion on page 35): 

  • Kane and Steiner's reactions:

  • Emily Hanford's podcasts:
  1. Hard Words:
  2. At a Loss for Words:

Sep 17, 2019
Episode 12: Partners in this Work: Learning with Liz Manolis

Learning from Liz Manolis' great mind (see what we did there?) on successful structures for implementation of Wit and Wisdom curriculum including the Spotlight Schools Visit Program to support leadership coaching, trends on implementation successes and challenges, and preparing for mindset shifts to trust the process. 

Liz-isms & Quotes: 

  • "Go slow to go fast." 
  • "Go back to go forward." 
  • "The Content Stages framework provides the skeleton, the structure needed for coherency K-8."

Sep 04, 2019
Episode 11: Disrupting Equity through Access with Bree-L Ukoha

Melissa and Lori begin the conversation around equity and access with Bree-L Ukoha, a Blueprint Literacy Coach in Baltimore City Schools. Bree-L shares stories from the field and how adopting Wit and Wisdom curriculum was a step in the right direction of leveling the equity playing field for Baltimore students.

Unbound Ed - 5 charges:

  1. Adopt aligned curriculum 
  2. Attend to language of standards
  3. Talk about race systematically 
  4. Examine bias and its role in our work and learning 
  5. Commit to adaptive change within the shifts

Unbound Ed Bias Toolkit

TNTP - Opportunity Myth: 

Aug 21, 2019
Episode 10: Noticing The #KnowledgeGap with Natalie Wexler

Today we are live with Natalie Wexler, the author of The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System–And How to Fix It (LISTENERS - IT’S AVAILABLE TODAY!). The book focuses on the lack of content in the elementary curriculum and its connection to what is commonly known as the achievement gap–the gap in test scores between affluent and low-income students. Natalie is also the co-author, with Judith C. Hochman, of The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades (Jossey-Bass 2017), and a senior contributor to the education channel at

Natalie provides a snapshot of research on building knowledge, then tangibly deconstructs the why and how behind the research making explicit connections to education classrooms today. She shares three obstacles she believes are holding educators back from understanding and implementing the research on building knowledge: intellectual, habitual, and emotional obstacles. Natalie provides clear steps to take to ‘fix’ the knowledge gap: adopting a content-focused curriculum to build knowledge, and providing teachers and leaders with ongoing professional development and coaching grounded in the curriculum. 

We are thrilled that Natalie joined us today! Pick up her new book, The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System–And How to Fix It, and join our book club this fall. In the meantime, find articles and say hi to Natalie at or on Twitter @natwexler. 

Jul 31, 2019
Episode 9: Geodes Rock!

Pun intended. This episode takes us into the world of Geodes - decodable readers that bridge foundational skills and Wit and Wisdom ELA - through building knowledge and accessible text. Melissa and Lori talk with Lorraine Griffith and Emily Gula, who share the research and insight behind the development of Geodes and how they can be used in classrooms, as well as (and most importantly) why Geodes are market disrupters. We can't wait for Baltimore City students to experience these special texts this year, to connect Wilson Language's Fundations foundational skills to the knowledge-building topics in Wit and Wisdom ELA core instruction. Quite simply, GEODES ROCK!


Great Minds

The Reading League

NAEP scores

Why We’re Teaching Reading Comprehension in a Way that Doesn’t Work by Natalie Wexler

Elementary Education Has Gone Terribly Wrong by Natalie Wexler

Additional Authors & Texts: 

David Kilpatrick

Marilyn Jager Adams

Cultural Literacy by E.D. Hirsch

Jul 24, 2019
Episode 8: Kyair & Katie Talk REAL Teacher Talk!

A teacher's perspective on curriculum implementation is invaluable... and today, we have not ONE, but TWO teacher perspectives on Wit and Wisdom year one implementation!  Kyair and Katie are funny, smart, and have incredible learner-mindsets. They discuss the engagement of their students in texts and tasks, how Wit and Wisdom provides equity and opportunity, and their thoughts on teaching with an integrated (not isolated) curricula - a shift in mindset from the way 'school was done' previously. Lookout for some cheesy dad jokes along the way (thanks, Kyair), and so much insight and inspiration from these two incredible educators!

Connect with Kyair on Twitter @Kyairb
Connect with Katie on Twitter @Kstoryscotti

TNTP's The Opportunity Myth

The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar - Michelle Navarre Cleary

Jul 09, 2019
Episode 7: Why Curriculum Matters!

We are thrilled to have Janise Lane, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, share how Baltimore City Schools used research and strategy to drive the high-quality curriculum implementation of Wit and Wisdom for K-8 schools district-wide. City schools drove structures for leaders and teachers by anchoring curriculum focused professional development, led by Wit and Wisdom experts, and taking the approach of learning together. Janise shares replicable strategies, structures, and insider tips... If you are in year one implementation of Wit and Wisdom, this podcast is a must-listen!

Resources referenced:

Strong Materials in the Hands of Great Teachers

Nell Duke -

The Opportunity Myth -

The Baseball Study

Why A Structured Phonics Program is Effective

Ed Reports -

Jun 29, 2019
Episode 6: The Heart of the Curriculum

Melissa was inspired by a quote in Brene Brown's book: Dare to Lead  Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics, who said, “In the past, jobs were about muscles, now they’re about brains, but in the future they’ll be about the heart.” Listen to her insightful and relatable take on curriculum with heart. 

Jun 16, 2019
Episode 5: Mad about Mad River, Ohio!

We had the extreme pleasure of interviewing Amy Holbrook & Mandy Polen, literacy leads in Mad River, Ohio. The Mad River district adopted Wit and Wisdom's ELA curriculum two years ago district wide, and three years ago for several pilot schools. Since then, their teachers have been immersed in adaptive change and test scores have soared! They provide tangible strategies and tips for side by side implementation support, share what worked for them, and describe the real process. We can't wait for you to listen in!

We reference this article during our podcast:

Jun 06, 2019
Episode 4: Fangirling Natalie Wexler

Join us as we fangirl over Natalie Wexler's articles: The Biggest Education News Story You've Never Heard Of & Why American Students Haven't Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years. We share our thoughts on the explicit connection to Wit & Wisdom curriculum, research, and building knowledge (CCSS Shift 3).

May 29, 2019
Episode 3: Wit and Wisdom Best Beach Reads!

Melissa and Lori dive into K-8 texts to highlight salty summer reads to get set for next school year! We share the why behind our choice for each summer read text choice and make recommendations for field trips and experiences connected to texts to further build background knowledge for students. Join us as you prep for summer - RSVP those books at the library NOW! 

May 20, 2019
Episode 2: Talking Shift 3

Common Core Shift 3 is often understood as "a balance of literary and informational text types," but the most important part is misunderstood, the idea of building knowledge. How does the Wit and Wisdom literacy curriculum address building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction? Listen as we interview Sarah Woodard, who shares valuable insight and information on the intentional integration of texts to attend to Shift 3 in this curriculum.

May 08, 2019
Episode 1: Don't Say the F Word!

What does fidelity mean in a large, urban school district when implementing Great Mind's Wit and Wisdom ELA curriculum? Melissa and Lori share perspective, research, and resources to support teachers in unpacking the why behind fidelity. 

In this episode, we reference: 

Apr 26, 2019