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Reading Engagement

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Now it’s time for me to tell you about my first roundtable session! I first began looking at this session because of its amazingly awesome alliterative title: “Relevance, Relationships, and Reading Lives: Fostering Students’ Reading Engagement.” I just love alliteration, don’t you? What sealed the deal for me was seeing who would be presenting. Some of my classroom heroes including: Donalyn Miller, Katherine Sokolowski, and Colby Sharp!

I wasn’t the only one excited to see these amazing teachers, because soon the room had standing room only. As a result, the presenters decided that we could stay where we were and they would come to us!! Without further ado, my notes on reading engagement!

Donalyn Miller

  • To foster reading habits students need to be surrounded by books; complete immersion.
  • Students should be constantly reading, writing, and talking about reading and writing.
  • Teachers need to maintain high expectations for students’ reading and writing.
  • Demonstrations from a master reader and writer (the teacher!) greatly benefits students.
  • Students need to feel that they can be successful in the classroom.
  • We want our students to have a sense of self-efficacy, so that they can continue being avid readers and writers without the teacher’s guidance.
  • The ultimate goal is to create independent learners, readers, and writers.

Teri Lesesne

  • Include assignments that build a sense of community in your classroom.
  • Let students know who you are and your expectations.
  • Have students write reading autobiographies; sharing their past experiences with reading.
  • Utilize technology to connect students with authors and more books. Examples: www.shelfari.com, www.goodreads.com, and www.whatshouldireadnext.com.

Cindy Minnich

  • Identify what is in the student’s way of them being a reader.
  • Give students permission to take a break from homework to read for a while.
  • Have students plan where they want to be/what they want to achieve that year.

Kellee Moye

  • Students don’t want to read books that make them feel stupid. Find really good books that are at their reading level.
  • Teachers need to be readers if they want to encourage their students to be readers.
  • Build your classroom library!
  • Set the mood and talk about books on the very first day of school.
  • Students need time to read in class, at least 20 minutes every day is best.
  • Buddy Reading – 2 kids read the same book at the same time.

Katherine Sokolowski

  • “Conversations in the classroom should be like conversations at the dinner table” – Nancie Atwell.
  • Strive to have a conference with each student at least once every two weeks.
  • Give student a hook – a question that makes them keep reading to find the answer.
  • Watch book trailers, incorporate graphic novels and audiobooks.

Colby Sharp & Author Jennifer Holm

  • Skype with authors
  • Create memorable moments for students with books and authors.
  • Connect your students through Twitter.
  • Look for authors on book tour.

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The Time is Now: Workshop Classroom

After my first experience with a room packed with teachers, I was determined to get a good seat for my next session: “The Time is Now: Reflection, Assessment, and Teaching in a Workshop Classroom.”

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The workshop approach is one of the main ideas we have been learning about this semester in English Methods, so I was extremely excited to be hearing in person what teachers were doing in their classrooms. This session was presented by a 6th grade teacher and an administrator from a charter school in New York.

Both of the presenters had several bits of advice to share with their audience including:advice peanuts

“Have a clear plan/vision for the school year of what you want to achieve.”

“Practice reflection on the ways you are meeting the goals of your vision.”

“Observe other teachers, share strategies and ideas.”

“Treat the whole school as a learning community, not just your department.”

With all of the advice these two presenters were giving, there were also points made as to how they use the workshop model in their school. They incorporate books clubs, read-alouds, book talks, conferences, mini-lessons, and balance the reading of informational texts with reading fiction.

This increasing focus on informational texts is of course a result of the Common Core standards. I heard a lot of talk about the Common Core in many of my sessions and I appreciated the comments that the presenters of this session made on this topic. They emphasized that teachers can still teach what they love and in ways that they know work best for students, and still make these fit into the new structure of the Common Core.

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And the workshop classroom is the way these educators believe their students learn best. Their students learn best when the teacher takes a step back and lets the students go. I was able to watch a video of their classroom. (Which was another piece of advice – videotape your teaching!) It was so inspiring to watch the students engage in a rich discussion about the current book they were reading without constant prompting from the teacher. The teacher was there as a guide and spent most of the time observing students.

Questions

I want to leave you with some final questions that were presented in this session:

“What do you find important to teach? Are you teaching it and how?”

“What are you rewarding in your classroom?”

“What will you do tomorrow to be better?”

 

Images:

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Letting Go of Control

OK I will admit it. I have a control issue. This is one area that I am going to need to work on in my classroom – letting my students take control of their own learning. Because of this fatal flaw I thought it would be a good idea to attend the session: “Letting Go: How to Give Your Kids Control Over Their Learning.”

The first valuable lesson that I learned was that NCTE sessions get packed, and they get packed FAST. But despite being cramped in a little room like a sardine, I managed to hear most of the presentation and come away with valuable ideas to help me in relinquishing control.

The teachers presenting in this session used an Inquiry-Based Learning approach in their classrooms. The students have choice of the texts they will read. They develop their own essential questions they want to answer and create their own plans as to how they want to answer those questions; as well as how they should share the information they have learned. What I found intriguing was that the students examined and identified what standards they would be meeting while completing their projects. I appreciated the fact that students were not just examining the Common Core Language Arts standards, but standards from other sources as well.

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Each student has an individualized learning plan that they developed themselves. Students reflect on their learning several times throughout the process. These reflections give students a chance to not only examine the progress they are making towards meeting their goals, but it also gives them a chance to explore any challenges they have come across during the process. There is a focus on the affective domain as well as the cognitive. This learning process is guided by constant interaction with the teacher, with plenty of feedback to go along with it.

The class is also set up in workshop style, with the teacher presenting mini-lessons on research strategies and other helpful lessons to aid students in their learning. Back to the issue of control – the teacher has not read everything her students are reading. Doesn’t that sound a little scary? But the session presenters stated that this then allowed the students to become the teachers. They have become the experts on their topic and they are able to share their knowledge with an audience. And we all know that one of the best ways to learn something is by teaching it to someone else.

Man, this post is getting long, but there was so much information that I took away from this session! Some final tidbits that I would like to share include: teachers have conversations with the students about why they are using this inquiry-based approach; if students are required to read a certain text this approach still works, students then have choice of the supplementary materials they use in their research and still develop their own essential questions; these teachers also took an approach similar to literature circles, using inquiry circles so that students work together as a community to develop questions and projects.

Alright I will now wrap this up. This session gave me a better look at the process of Inquiry-Based Learning and how I could use this approach in my own classroom. I was able to see how much learning students can achieve when teachers are willing to let go of control.

Images:

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We Are the Future of English

“We are the future of English” was one of the first phrases that really stuck out to me at my very first NCTE Convention. There are a lot of expectations wrapped up in that one phrase. I think it is telling us that we are always moving forward, always improving. It also fit very well with the theme of NCTE 13: “(Re)Inventing the Future of English.”

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Then the First Wave performers took the stage and absolutely blew me away. They were amazing!!

The First Wave is a group of students from the University of Wisconsin. They are artists who write and choreograph their own performances and present through the mediums of spoken word and hip hop. To learn more about the group, visit this site: http://omai.wisc.edu/.

These students had a powerful message to share with us that day. These were students that didn’t fit in the traditional mold that school was trying to make them fit into. These were students who felt their cultural identity was ignored in school. These were students who didn’t see any connections between what teachers thought they should learn and their own lives.

Why do we ignore these kids?

Why do we want our students to fit into a mold?

Listening to their performance made me do a lot of thinking about my own beliefs about how I want to teach English. How am I going to help my students discover and explore their own identities? Is what I will be teaching really going to help my students? How can I put my students in control of their own learning? In what ways can I acknowledge my students’ pasts, where they are right now, and where they want to be in the future?

welcome to the future

Listening to the First Wave performers was an amazing kick-off to what would be one of the best learning experiences of my life! More blogs to come about my stellar experience at NCTE 13!

Images:

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