Sunday, November 21, 2010

NCTE Notes - Part 2

So much thinking and reflecting after listening to very smart people present! I will try to touch on some of the highlights from the other sessions I attended.

Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis talked about inquiry in the literacy workshop. One of Stephanie's first statements and a theme throughout the session was: "We need to teach kids how to be curious and to wonder." What a powerful statement. Comprehension should not be about answering a bunch of questions; it should be about teaching kids to wonder and think. I'm thinking about how that will influence my own thinking in the classroom. My goal will not be to get students to a final answer per se, but rather to have them continuing to ask bigger and bigger questions in their pursuit of knowledge.

Listening to Brenda Power, Gail Boushey, and Joan Moser (friends from Choice Literacy) speak about how to successfully launch a literacy year was very inspiring. Their tips would be important whether you're starting a brand new school year, a new grading period, or even a new week. What are the rituals in my classroom that continue to build community which in turn fosters bigger thinking and risk-taking? I will also be playing close attention to how many minutes I might be talking before students start to exhibit "good-bye" behavior. Gail and Joan also quoted Aimee Buckner: "If conferences go longer than 5 minutes, what will the students remember?" Great quote and food for thought.

I went to a session that was advertised for primary teachers, but I found it very informative as an intermediate teacher as well. Katie DiCesare, Kathy Collins, Cathy Mere, and Ann Marie Corgill talked about the importance of picture books to help students as readers and writers.
  • Katie really got me thinking about how I can be more proactive with online tools in making books accessible to children.
  • Kathy C. had me thinking about how important wordless picture books can be. I loved how she called these books the "great equalizers" full of wonderful language opportunities, with a spotlight on comprehension.
  • Cathy M. opened up the question about what truly is a "just right" book. She also believes in the value of choice for readers. My favorite thing she said was that choice is important, even if students spend too long in a series or read a book with bad writing.
  • Cathy and Katie both impressed me with what they've done with their first graders in KidBlog. I had planned to start KidBlog this week with my students even before NCTE; this just reinforced how important an online community like this can be for children.
  • Last, but definitely not least, Ann Marie talked about how picture books can be the catalysts for academic and social growth. I love her thinking about how to get students to STOP raising their hand; how school is the only place that type of communication takes place. Ann Marie talked about how we need to intentionally teach students how to have meaningful talk.
Finally, Ann Marie ended this fabulous session by reading aloud a powerful picture book, The Little Hummingbird. If you don't know this book, you really have to get it!!

I was enroute to the Orlando airport when MaryLee Hahn, Aimee Buckner, Donalyn Miller, and Franki Sibberson presented about the importance of reading workshop and its components, so unfortunately I missed their session which I heard was just wonderful! However, the wonder of twitter is that many people in that session (including the presenters!) were tweeting prolifically. That made it easier for those of us who couldn't attend these ladies' session to take away some key points (140 characters or less :) ). I would strongly encourage readers to go to twitter and then type in #ncte10. This will show you everything being tweeted during the conference. Since people were tweeting about many sessions, you'll want to look at Nov. 21 and find these ladies' twitter names: @maryleehahn, @frankisibberson, @aimeebuckner, and @donalynbooks.

But, it's not just the sessions that help you grow professionally at a conference like NCTE. It's the conversations you have over breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks that help your thinking and help you stay connected in this incredible community of educators and authors. I had the good fortune to have both lunch and dinner with the incredible Louise Borden. I met with some of my friends at Choice Literacy several times, and Brenda Power who started Choice Literacy, arranged a lovely dinner for the entire group of us. I was also fortunate enough to attend a dinner sponsored by the Macmillan Publishing Company. The food was amazing, and I got to spend personal time with authors such as Barbara O'Connor and Ellen Potter. I name these two wonderful authors because my class started the year with The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara, and we literally just finished SLOB by Ellen Potter. I am delighted to now have in my possession Ellen's next book, The Kneebone Boy!! It might actually be my next read aloud, it's that good! (check back next week for a review ) Good conversations even happen when you're in transit from one place to another: I shared a cab with someone I wasn't following on twitter, but after our cab conversation, that will be changing! Paul W. Hankins is a very smart guy! And to cap off my convention experience, I ran into Barbara O'Connor and Kirby Larson having coffee as I'm walking to the convention center and it ends up being a fun photo op. :)

This is just a sample of the thinking that I've held on to even a week after this amazing event. For more samples of NCTE reflections, check out:

Katie at Creative Literacy (who is WAY more succinct than I am at capturing her thinking - something to which I can aspire!) :)

Cathy at Reflect and Refine (a colleague who always pushes my thinking!)

Julie at Raising Readers and Writers (who was also the winner of this year's Donald Graves writing award!!)

MaryLee at A Year of Reading (I have been learning with this lady since 1986 / what a gift!)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NCTE News (part 1 of at least 2)

Being here at NCTE in Orlando has been an amazing experience. If there's one thing I've learned this year it is how important it is to share knowledge. That is the gift of the online community -- NINGs, twitter, FaceBook, blogs, wikis, etc. We need places to share and think together. The sharing and thinking help us all be smarter together. So as I share my experiences and thoughts of NCTE the last few days, please feel free to add your thinking as well.

Ok, I guess I need to back up a little and say that conventions are also a place to have fun as well. If NCTE was going to have a convention at the happiest place on Earth, far be it from me to not enjoy the Disney experience! :) So, the first night we got in, I went with some friends to Epcot to enjoy some rides, food, fireworks, Pooh, Tigger, and shopping for all things Mickey. It was a perfect way to relax, rejuvenate, and giggle a lot!

The first day of the convention, the highlight of my day was the Elementary Section get-together. One of our central Ohio blogger friends, Julie Johnson, from Avery Elementary School in Hilliard won this year's Donald H. Graves Award for outstanding work as a writing teacher. This award annually recognizes teachers in grades K-6 who demonstrate an understanding of student improvement in the teaching of writing. To receive this award in a year when educators are both mourning the loss of Donald Graves as well as celebrating his contribution to writing education is a true gift for Julie. I am soooooo very proud of Julie and this amazing achievement, and I feel so fortunate to have been there when she received this prestigious award.

There is much learning that comes outside the actual sessions that are offered here at NCTE, and dinner Thursday night was a perfect example. I sat at a dinner table with Katie DiCesare, Meredith Melragon, Franki Sibberson, Louise Borden, Mary Lee Hahn, Karen Szymusiak, Stephanie Harvey, and Anne Goudvis. To be part of the conversations at this table was very energizing, both professionally and personally.

I do want to mention at least one session that I attended. My first session was bright and early Friday morning. It was a session that talked about poets and bloggers. I was drawn to this because I have participated in Poetry Friday in the kidlitosphere VERY sporadically, but I truly want to do more. I got to listen to gifted poets like Lee Bennett Hopkins, Pat Mora, Jame Richards, and Marilyn Singer. I also heard some very talented bloggers who are very connected to poetry online -- Tricia Stohr Hunt of Miss Rumphius, Elaine Magliaro of Wild Rose Reader, adn Sylvia Vardell of Poetry for Children.

Fun little tidbit for me -- Lee Bennett Hopkins stopped by here on our blog to comment on my review of his anthology, Amazing Faces. So I introduced myself to him and got a huge hug! How fun! In addition, he introduced me to Pat Mara, the author of one of the poems in Amazing Faces. Marilyn Singer read some poems from her book, Mirror Mirror. I forgot how fun it is to hear a poet read her own words -- I sat there with my mouth literally hanging open as she read. Then, as each blogger shared their commitment to sharing poetry online, it renewed my resolve to be a bigger part of that community. One of my favorite take-aways was when Tricia shared how she believes that scientists and poets look at the world with the same eyes. A fascinating take-away for me as I look at the students in my own class.

What I've shared has not even begun to tap in to this NCTE experience. Stay tuned in the next few days for more!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

5th Grade Newbery Club Off to an Exciting Start

When I was considering moving into the library 4 years ago, I made a list of things I would like to try or accomplish if I got the job. You're reading the number one thing on the list, a blog, and today my friend Maria of Teaching in the 21st Century helped me accomplish another. Since the beginning of my library adventure I've wanted to start a Newbery Club or mock selection of some sort, after all, trying to read the Newbery winner before it's announced is what started me down the road to being a librarian.

Anyway, about two weeks ago Maria and I sat down and hammered out some logistics of the thing, I would take the lead on setting the expectations, communicating with parents, and organizing lists. Maria took the lead on showing the kids the wiki we set up, writing expectations and how comment on each other's posts.

I put together a packet with a parent signature form that clearly spelled out our expectations clearly spelled out, students must read a minimum of two books from assigned books, attend before school meetings roughly every other week, be ready to share what they are reading and write regularly on the wiki. It was stated very clearly that this club was not for everyone, it would involve lots of fairly high level reading and writing. After meeting with the whole fifth grade, I think they actually walked out of the library a little scared, they were very quiet. In fact Super Aid Yvonne even said that to me, "I think you scared them!"

I wasn't trying to scare them, but we only wanted the most serious readers to join us and I made it clear that if they failed to meet the expectations, they would be dismissed from the club. This was not a place to just "hang with your friends" this was a group who was going to be serious about reading good books.

The forms began coming back in and we ended up with 18 kids, a good number, most of them we had predicted would join, but there were a few surprises. Today we kicked it off, 17 of 18 showed up, one was sick. Just let me say this, IT WAS AWESOME! When we took a status of the group, every student had read one book on the list, most had read two and one had read three and is working on the fourth! All were excited about being there, and all worked hard on their first posts as members of the club. It was one of those moments that remind me of why I chose this profession, it was a Grand Discussion good feeling.

Later one of the kids commented that it was just awesome to be in a room of people who love to read, and I'll throw this in for my friend James Preller, it was a boy! WOO HOO!

I look forward to reading the posts and commenting on every one, I look forward to future meetings when we have time to discuss the books, I look forward to introducing Voice Thread to the group as another tool to discuss our reading.

Basically I have only one regret in organizing this group, I wish I had scheduled more before school meetings so we could get together more often.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Touch Blue Provides Another Succesful Grand Discussion

It really never gets old! My friend and colleague Joyce and I always leave the Grand Discussion with a sense of pride and satisfaction. We both agree that it is one of the high lights of our teaching, watching kids and parents get together to enjoy a good book. This time we chose Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord. The story of an island community that took in foster children in order to keep their school open provided engaging and interesting conversation.

Two points of real pride for us, we had between 70 and 80 people at our first discussion of the year, and two other schools have begun having discussions as well. My blog partner Karen wrote about the GREat Discussion at her school, and another school in our district, Wright Elementary, home of Mary Lee, recently hosted their first discussion. I've written about our discussions here several times even providing a "how to" guide which actually has led to a visit from Kirby Larson in the spring! If you've been inspired by posts to start a similar event at your school, let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

In honor of my friend James Preller's efforts to encourage boys to read, I took a picture of all of the dads who came, some with daughters, some with sons. It was great to see so many men there, hopefully our numbers will keep increasing! Reading, it's a guy thing!

Touch Blue Provides