Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thoughts (Very Late!!) from NCTE 2011 (Part 1)

It's been almost a month since I attended NCTE 2011, and much of my learning has been percolating in my mind, but I haven't been able to process how to share it. After reading a recent post from Cathy, I realized that snippets of thinking are all I could probably do as well without getting incredibly long-winded.

So, here is a breakdown of some of the sessions I attended, and a few of my take-aways:

I listened to Kathy Short at the Elementary Get-Together on Thursday as she accepted her award for the Outstanding Educator Award and was fascinated by how she talked about how important it is to share the stories of her life. What a great kickoff for the rest of the convention as I brought the framework of "story" to what I heard and experienced for the rest of the convention. It was also amazing that I sat a table right next to Ken Goodman - what an amazing thinker!!

I missed the first sessions of Friday because I needed to meet with my fellow presenters as we put the final touches on our poetry presentation for Saturday. One of the biggest stories that came out of this breakfast meeting was that I discovered that one of my cohorts, Katie, had gotten engaged since I last saw her (she lives in Oregon; I love in Ohio)!! Such exciting times ahead for her! The other story of this meeting is how much one can learn from doing a presentation with others. The two smart ladies with whom I presented (Katie and her mom, Dee) made me a better teacher just by our interactions through the past few months. It is a true gift to learn alongside others!!

One of my Friday sessions was titled Authors as Mentors for Peer Critique Groups, and it was a panel that included Matthew Kirby, Eric Luper, Linda Urban, and Kate Messner. Before I do any sharing here, can I say how fun it was to meet Kate in person after being connected to her on twitter (and after the session to get an autographed copy of her ARC, Eye of the Storm)!! These are four brilliant authors who go through the same struggles our students and we experience as writers. They all had similar messages -- writers need to engage in art of giving and receiving critiques, it is incredibly important to create a safe environment for this type of conversation, and the overall idea of critique groups is to bring out your best when writing. What terrific messages to take back to my own students.

Then, I was off to hear Ralph Fletcher speak. How fortunate that he had teamed up with Dan Feigelson and Kate Morris, as they all talked about how mentor texts lift students' writing. This session was packed with people even sitting in the hall to hear these panelists speak. Kate is a teacher who was sharing practical applications of her writing instruction. My favorite example was how she uses the v-shape to help students go from a big topic (vacation) and narrow their focus (how my brother broke his arm on vacation). She ended with my favorite line of the day, "My biggest dream is not for kids to be 'standard'." Brilliantly stated.

I ended Friday in another packed room for a session about nonfiction - Ellin Keene was the moderator, and the panel was comprised of Seymour Simon, Linda Hoyt, and Ann Marie Corgill. They were all wonderful. Seymour Simon shared how he uses strong words to enhance text - my immediate take-away after he shared some examples was that I need to go back to the books of his I own and focus on his language choices with my students. The idea that his books always promote curiosity intertwines perfectly with how we are wondering in our class this year. Linda Hoyt focused on the importance of modeling in front of students, but also making sure our modeling isn't just whole class modeling. We should also model in small groups and individually. I love Ann Marie; the thing she shared that I will be trying is the idea of group research. The level of her students' writing was really elevated because of this opportunity. Her final message was, "We want our kids to leave our classrooms thinking 'I can make a difference'."

Okay, as I look back at this post, I realized I got a lot more long-winded than I wanted, but I have the dilemma of trying to figure out what to cut. My answer -- look for Part 2 of NCTE 2011 in a day or two. :) I still have stories to tell...


  1. Karen~
    So happy to read about your amazing experiences at NCTE, NCTE is on my bucket list! learning from you here in your blog, twitter and over queso has definitely shown me what a gift it is to learn from others, looking forward to post 2. (*_*)

  2. I went to that same session on mentor texts-- it was inspiring. I asked about the workshop model and immediately set to collecting the multiple suggestions people gave.

    I struggled, though, with Kate's presentation. Her classroom seems like such a perfect, fairytale place to be. Mine will never be like that; my students won't be able to produce pieces of writing like the ones she shared. We just have too many sturggles. And that made me sad. :(

  3. THank you Karen for your reflection on NCTE. I loved hearing and reading your stories and learning from this event. I know I need to go...I'll start saving my pennies.

  4. Karen,
    Looking forward to the rest of your story. You are so right.....too much to put into words.