Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fabulous Times at NCTE

I'm currently in Philadelphia for the NCTE convention. I am a first-timer to the convention, and all I can wonder is why I haven't made it here before! Since the moment the convention began on Thursday, I have met and listened to a multitude of very smart people.

My first session on Thursday was headed by Ralph Fletcher and was titled The Pleasures of Language. The entire session was about how we, as teachers, need to make words and language more fun for students. Ralph shared a multitude of ways that we can have children play with language. He was joined by two other presenters -- Kate Norem-Morris from Washington and Gresham Brown from South Carolina. Kate talked a lot about having students gather wonderful words for themselves and then "releasing" the words into their writing -- great idea! I can't believe I've never heard about Gresham or his blog ( before. Gresham encouraged teachers to create a playful room, full of jokes, songs, chants, tongue twisters, and poetry. I could have listened to him tell stories about his classroom forever.

This session was followed by the Elementary Section Meeting. What great fun! I sat at a table hosted by Franki Sibberson. The table also included Sharon Taberski, Pat Johnson, Ann Marie Corgill, Nancy Johnson, Mary Lee Hahn, Karen Szymuziak, and Katie DiCesare. Can I tell you how fun it was to be surrounded by all those smart people?!!

My first session on Friday was actually a presentation put together by Mary Lee Hahn, Katie DiCesare, and myself on how writing a book, making a video, and blogging have all made us better reading and writing teachers because of how much we have had to reflect on our own reading and writing processes. And all these things - writing, being on camera, blogging - forced us to take risks we might not have otherwise done. Don't we ask our students to do that each and every day at school? We had spent time planning together and that process really helped us grow as well. We were delighted with the turnout and the reception of our message!

Then, I got to go to a session where someone else was doing the work -- a group of teachers from California talked about the power of using blogs, podcasts, voicethreads, and digital videos with 4th graders. I came away energized to get back to my own class of 5th graders and to start diving into technology with them. More importantly, to find the best way to embed technology into everything they do, especially writing workshop.

Lunch was at this fabulous market across the street from us -- best turkey reuben I've ever had -- very yummy!

Then, Friday afternoon, I attended another session titled "Book Choice Matters", and the presenters were Ann Marie Corgill, Debbie Miller, Franki Sibberson, and Karen Szymuziak. They made me think a lot about what "just right" actually means, and if a child needs to always be in a just right book -- there are times it is appropriate for readers to read easy books and challenging books.

My second session was supposed to be The Significance of Teacher Talk by Peter Johnston, but by the time I got to the room, there was a crowd already outside. There was no way to pack even one more person in that room. I was disappointed, but recouped my good mood by doing some retail therapy. I went to the Exhibit Hall, and found many free ARCs, but I also paid for other books I was dying to have for certain students.

That night, dinner at a local pub where I was the oldest person in the place. Tons of fun and good times with my fellow Dublin NCTE participants.

Tune in tomorrow for the second half of my exciting weekend at NCTE.


  1. I am looking forward to hearing more! I have never gone to this conference either but it sounds like it was very inspiring. It is good to have times like this to re-energize and get new ideas.

  2. What a great recap, can't wait to read more about your energizing time there.

  3. OK I am officially jealous especially with all the "word work" conversations! maria

  4. That one session you went to was with PETER Johnston who can pack a room like that!!! He's fabulous. But I can certainly understand how you mixed up all the Johnsons and Johnstons!
    Pat Johnson

  5. Pat - Thanks so much for catching that mistake -- fixed it!

    Maria - I thought of you many times. Lots of fabulous thinking about words, word play, and poetry.

  6. Thanks fo sharing your amazing learning journey with all of us!