NCTE CONFERENCE – my first but not my last!!

What an amazing weekend! I am fortunate to live in the Washington Metropolitan area so it was very easy to attend the NCTE conference as it was held nearby at the Gaylord at Harbor Place, 20 minutes from my house. My main draw was to go hear Ellin Keene speak on Saturday at 9:30am. I met Ellin when my daughter Bridgit began college. Bridgit became best friends with her hall mate, Elizabeth Keene, on the first day of college at Barnard. Once I met Elizabeth’s mom, Ellin, at Parent’s Weekend, we became friends, both around being Barnard moms and both around our love of literacy.

So as I drove very early to the Gaylord on Saturday morning, I had ONE brilliant person to see. Who knew the two days would be FILLED with such rich discussion by so many brilliant educators around my favorite topic – strong literacy instruction.

Some of my take-aways (in order of hearing them!):
LUCY CALKINS with Amanda and Alex: After hearing Lucy’s description of what is involved on a conference, I realize I need to work on my conferences. I know the architecture of a conference but I am NOT doing it. Lucy reminded me of  the WHY of conferring and the HOW of conferring. Now I just need to NOT just plan the daily mini-lesson but to also plan my daily/weekly conferences!

ELLIN with Linda Hoyt and Seymore Simon:
Ellin pondered why curious kinders seem to lose their natural curiosity as they continue in school. She questioned who is in charge of the engagement? She had us think of a time when we were so engaged and motivated to learn. She reminded us that this feeling is what we want for our students. She suggested that when the following is present, we are engaged, will stay curious and are motivated to learn:
* intellectual urgency – we have a topic we MUST know about
*emotional commitment – we have a topic we care about and want our heart, as well as, our mind to know more about it
* perspective bending – we have a topic that changes our mind
* aesthetics – we have a topic where we can find a deep sense of beauty

Both Ellin and Linda Hoyt suggested reading this book:

so I did and then I went to hear him speak. He presented with a HS teacher who suggested that the oldest way of reading was the reading of animal tracks. She showed us a photo she took that looked like raccoon tracks in the snow. She simply asked us: WHAT DO YOU SEE HERE? and WHAT IS IT TELLING YOU? She shared how it is these 2 simple questions that guides her students to find patterns, motifs, images, and surprising details so they can comprehend any reading passage.
MARY EHRENHERT, Vicki Vinton and Katherine Boomer
Mary is the master of having her audience “read” videos. She had us watch three different New York City Public Service Announcements. She told us to come to this text with the understanding that it is about more than one thing. We need to read nonfiction closely. We need to talk back to it. We need to not be victims of nonfiction but actively analyze it, aware that a hidden agenda could be present. Mary reminded us that we don’t teach kids how to read nonfiction to pass a test. We teach them how to read nonfiction for the lives they will live.
KRISTI and MARGORIE with Zoe – Chartchum ladies!!
Kristi is an amazing presenter! I will admit that I thought of charts as the cute thing to make. Kristi presented it as a way to organize information for thinkers who solve problems. So when a problem arises in a classroom, a routine chart can be created to solve the problem. To help kids be flexible and realize they can try many ways to solve a problem, a repertoire chart can be co-constructred. Now the flexible thinker can see his choices. Thinkers also need to be strategic, so step-by-step charts can be made. Thinkers also look to mentors and models for examples so exemplar charts are made. I get it NOW!! Charts are NOT just information. Charts are thinking. Charts give us the tools to overcome. Charts are tools to make us feel independent and powerful!! (Personally, I need to work on how I use charts. So glad I could be reminded by the chartchum ladies today!!)
RALPH FLETCHER skyping with two teachers
WOW!! What a great last session!! A teacher in Alaska and a teacher in Boston used kidblog to match each kid up with a student in the others class. Both classes were reading aloud Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher. Then one class created questions around chapters 1-4 of the book and the other around chapters 5-8. The students were tasked with writing a friendly letter to their partner and respond to the posted questions. The blog posting shared were amazing! One teacher said he reminded the kids that “their words were their face so be sure to represent yourself well in writing.” The teachers checked the letters and would not send it until it was following all the expected written conventions of 4th grade. I was amazed at the exchanges around a shared book. Then to skype with Ralph was just icing on the cake!! My daughter is working in a school in France right now. I think I want to try something like this with her school. In preparation, I am going to investigate kidblog and The Bread Loaf Teacher Network, two resources used by these two teachers.
Thank you NCTE for coming to The Gaylord!! I can’t promise I’ll attend next year in Minnesota (seems  far away and cold!) but I WILL attend again and I’m so glad I attended this year!!

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