Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Talking... and it's All Write!

Last week, I spent some time in the lovely town of Warsaw, Indiana, at the AllWrite convention. It was two action-packed days, filled with great sessions and conversations. I have to say, I was extremely impressed at the All-Star line-up of speakers (including Ruth Ayres, Donalyn Miller, Ralph Fletcher, Katie Wood Ray, Patrick Allen and Franki Sibberson.) Because of my Twitter connections, I have gotten to know Donalyn, Patrick, Ruth, and Franki... among many other All Write attendees. One of my favorite parts of my time in Warsaw was connecting with those Twitter friends in real life and having conversations that can take place outside of 140 characters.

As I'm looking back through the presenters' notes as well as my own, I'm beginning to notice that a lot of what we talked about... is talking. Talking to kids about their reading and writing lives. Talking to kids about our own reading and writing lives.

During one session, Donalyn Miller commented that we squash too much talk in classrooms. This statement has really stuck with me. I think about all of the times kids are expected to be quiet in our building (in the hallway, in the bathroom, in the lunchroom, in the classroom.) When exactly are they supposed to do this talking?! While there are times when I do need my first graders to listen, it is imperative that I give them plenty of time to talk. Isn't that how most of us share our learning? Don't we talk to our colleagues and our friends about our questions and observations? My little learners need to do the same. They need to be able to talk.

Katie Wood Ray talked about the importance of sharing authors with children. She suggested having pictures of authors readily available and talking about those authors as real people. I love how Katie spoke about being careful with our language and instead of saying, "Look at how this book does this..." we should be saying, "Look at how this author did this." Then, take it a step further and have children become mentor authors for each other. Show how student authors do things in their writing (only in a positive way though!)

Perhaps my favorite session was the one on conferring with readers with Patrick Allen. It was definitely the most entertaining, affirming, enlightening session of the conference for me. After reading his book, it was good to hear him talk about conferring to solidify some of what I learned. I love how he said we should be meeting with kids as often as possible and make it meaningful. That is key! Patrick reminded us that ultimately, our goal is to help kids understand, extend meaning, and make their reading experiences memorable. And I have to share some points he made about small group reading instruction (powerful, yet hilarious when he made them!) Patrick said that sometimes, we are just small group-ing kids to death. He referred to how small group reading instruction is sometimes like the sprinkler system of teaching reading. Those are two things I'll be pondering for quite some time!

Patrick also mentioned that his principal recently asked teachers to count up the books in their classroom library, with the goal of having at least 1000. Patrick had 3,600. This led to a discussion about how many of us no longer have a "library corner" in our classrooms. Instead, we are literally surrounded by books. What a powerful message that sends!

In this time of data and testing and uncertainty, a few quotes really struck me as important ones to keep close to my heart.

"Let's get grounded and believe WE are the best people to plan our mini-lessons." ~Franki Sibberson

"It's time to trust ourselves again and do the things needed for students' well-being." ~Ruth Ayres

"The decisions you make are based on knowledge and research and wisdom." ~Ruth Ayres

"You will always own HOW you teach." ~Katie Wood Ray

"The nationalization of curriculum will not negate the beautiful truth of individual children." ~Katie Wood Ray

Attending All Write was a great way to kick off my summer PD! It is definitely a conference I plan on attending again! How are your summer PD plans coming along?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer PD update

This week, I'll be learning with some of my Twitter friends in Warsaw (Indiana!) at the All Write Consortium.    I've already got some ideas for which sessions I plan to attend. I'm sure I'll be tweeting live from the event but also hope to post my reflections here after it's over. 

While I didn't participate in last year's Stenhouse Summer Blogstitute, I enjoyed going back recently and reading what authors like Kate Messner, Julie Ramsay and Ruth Ayres had to say about writing. This year's Blogstitute starts next week and continues through July. It will have authors like Cris Tovani, Jeff Anderson, and Peter Johnston sharing their thoughts on writing and more. I've added it to my PD plans for the summer!

In about 3 weeks, we'll be starting our second annual #CyberPD event. Cathy Mere, Jill Fisch, and I will be hosting the event on our blogs. If you're interested, you can read more about it here. This year, we'll read and reflect on Peter Johnston's Opening Minds. I have my copy sitting right here, waiting for me to get started.  

I wonder how others are doing with their summer learning. Have you already started or are you taking a little break before you dive in? (Or are you still in school?!)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Literacy Luncheon

Let me begin by giving credit where credit is due... the idea for this event came from friends at our other K-2 building. I loved the idea when I first heard it and have used it for the past 3 years!

So... rather than participate in the end-of-the-year play that has become quite a big production and competition for our first graders, our class now hosts a "Literacy Luncheon" over the course of two days. Families are asked to attend on one of the two days. We begin each luncheon with a series of Reader's Theaters and a review of our year together.... all of it releated to reading, of course. We sing songs, recite poems we've enjoyed throughout the year, and talk about our favorite books. Then half of the class goes to lunch in the cafeteria while the other half has a picnic-style lunch in our classroom with their families. The second day is the same as the first; the class just switches lunch in the cafeteria or lunch in the classroom.

Before the Literacy Luncheon, I gave my first graders time to decide what they wanted to create as their "background scenery." Because our theme was "Let's Read S'More!", they wanted it to reflect our love of books. Because we call our classroom "Camp Read-A-Lot," they also wanted it to be an outdoorsy-type of background. All I provided was the paper, and they went to work! It's raining books! :)

We also spent time thinking about our favorite books before the event and wrote our own "Top 5" favorite book lists to display in the hallway. When our families came in, they had an opportunity to write their own lists and add it to the walls! While they are having lunch together, families have an opportunity to read from children's book boxes, poetry binders, journals, and books around the room.

Rather than spending weeks and weeks rehearsing and memorizing, we focused on what really matters to us. It truly was a celebration of our love of reading!

Opening Minds with a book chat and #cyberPD

I'm so excited to be hosting our second annual summer blog book chat along with Cathy Mere and Jill Fisch! So many thoughtful bloggers joined us last year as we dove into Patrick Allen's Conferring book. It helped me so much in my journey with conferring this year! We're looking forward to another great event this year as we explore another great book.

This year, we've chosen Peter Johnston's Opening Minds. We noticed that a lot of us had this book in our summer reading stacks, and it is a title that will apply to a wide audience!

Everyone is welcome to join in the fun, even if you aren't a blogger! You can read the book and participate by:
-using the #cyberPD hashtag on Twitter
-writing your own blog post reflection on the designated chapters
-reading and commenting on blog posts from other participants
-another way that we haven't thought of yet!

For those of us who are bloggers, you'll be able to link your posts on the host blog each week to make it easier for us to find you. The schedule of events is as follows:

July 11: Cathy at Reflect and Refine - chapters 1-3
July 18: Jill at My Primary Passion - chapters 4-6
July 25: Me at Our Camp Read-A-Lot - chapters 7-9
July 26: Twitter #cyberPD chat (specific time will be announced later)

So... what that means is that you have a month to grab a copy of the book and decide how you'll participate! :) The more, the merrier!