Irene Heffel – Fuel Your Thinking Through Reading


In this episode of our podcast series, we visit with Irene Heffel, a long-time literacy coach, instructional lead, current Designer of Professional Learning with our ARPDC team and an instructor at Concordia College in the faculty of Education in Edmonton.  Irene has over 35 years of experience at all levels of education and has worked in and with elementary and secondary teachers to implement best practices in curriculum, assessment and backward design with a primary focus on reading and writing instruction across the curriculum.

Our conversation brought up the importance of conversation, dialogue around what you are reading, what you are thinking as a result and how your thinking has changed as a result of your reading. We found ourselves discussing motivation, making thinking visible and working to develop our own professional practice as curious learning readers in addition to developing those same attributes in our students and classrooms.

While Irene shared her fiction reading love for mysteries, particularly the works of James Patterson and Micheal Connelly , this episode provides a range of titles and websites for our listeners; parents and fellow educators, to use in their own growth and learning as well as in their work with students and their own family.

Professional Resources to consider adding to your library:


The work of mindfully supporting our students in thinking about what they are reading, what they are hearing from others as they discuss or share what they are reading, and our ability as teachers to be attuned to the processes of reading, viewing, listening, as they impact our understanding and thinking is the focus of this podcast episode. Irene emphasizes the importance of preparing the students, priming them to be mindful of their thoughts, and drawing upon their background knowledge before reading an article, an excerpt, or a book. With that excellent preparation, you are enhancing expectations and curiosity. Following the reading, you get into the conversation and questioning that helps draw out what you still think, what you now think and how that has evolved, been affirmed or changed in the process.

Note: Using Thoughtbooks to Sustain Inquiry comes from the team at The Critical Thinking Consortium and was written by Garfield and Laura Gini-Newman

In addition to the Making Thinking Visible and The Power of Making Thinking Visible from Dr. Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church and Dr. Ron Ritchhart’s most recent (June 2023) book, Cultures of Thinking Action: 10 Mindsets to Transform our Teaching and Students’ Learning, we also discussed the outstanding resource available at Harvard’s Project Zero – Particularly the Thinking Routines Toolbox.

The lifetime of work from Dr. Ron Ritchhart, supported by Mark Church and the Project Zero team, is a gift to all teachers. As we all mentioned, it is essential to explore the routines and identify a couple you can start with and utilize as a routine with your students, then add judiciously as they master and become comfortable with those initial routines.

As the legendary basketball Coach John Wooden frequently suggested, “Go slow to go fast”, and “be quick…” (in adding one or two) “…but don’t hurry” (thus swamping the students and yourself with too many too soon).

Educators are encouraged to share this notion of making thinking visible early and often with parents, supporting their ability to engage in meaningful conversations with their sons and daughters about what they are reading, what they are learning, what questions they have, what they want to know more about and …well really what they are thinking.