WOW! The NCTE conference was terrific this year! I’m still recovering from information overload. My brain is literally full. Now that I’ve acquired all this new learning, it’ time to process it and actively use it…
First, a big thank you to all the presenters! I saw so many outstanding educators and leaders in the field. I learned a great deal and can’t wait to implement your research, ideas and years of experience in my classroom. I had the exciting opportunity to actually speak with people I’ve admired from afar for years—Cris Tovani, Ellin Keene, Anne Goudvis, Jim Burke, Kathy Collins and more! Thank you for your words of encouragement, openness and willingness to speak with me. Mostly, thank you for the way you celebrated teaching. For the first time in several months, I did not feel “beat down” by the media or defensive of my profession. Thank you for inspiring me and reminding me that collectively, we must fight the good fight and teach on.
Second, a big hello and thank you to all the old and new friends I saw at the conference! It was wonderful to visit and I miss you already. Hi to the friends from Hawaii, teachers from my old school, girls from Alaska, Singapore and teachers from Barrington. Let’s keep this going!
Over the next few days, I will post my new learning and reflections on the sessions I attended. It was crazy—I would attend a session and think, “Amazing! That session was brilliant! Life doesn’t get better than this…” Then at the next session, this process would repeat itself. Really, as the weekend passed it felt like each session got better and better! I am so grateful that I got to attend this event and thrilled that my principal found a way for all teachers to attend at least one day of the conference. It was wonderful to learn together.
On Friday afternoon I saw Seymour Simon, Linda Hoyt, Ann Marie Corgill and Ellin Keene (moderator) present together. Can you imagine all those people in the same room? The event was literally overflowing as people sat on the floor and in the aisles. They talked about using mentor text to enhance nonfiction student writing. It was exceptional…
First of all, check out Seymour Simon’s website: www.seymoursimon.com
Seymour taught for many years in the New York City Public Schools and just like his books, his website is first class. He even has digital books which would be perfect for the iPad! Seymour shared a bit of his writing process and unveiled the decision-making that goes into his text and why he thinks the information sticks with kids. Here’s what I learned:
1. Compare unfamiliar concepts to things that kids can connect with because kids immediately remember the comparison.
2. Use words more powerful than images.
3. Include strong verbs that enhance the text as well as photos and diagrams that clarify and extend.
He suggested that we use, and then teach kids to use, these strategies so we provide them “the gift of remembering.” Whoa…thinking like that really does celebrate knowledge and information as something to cherish. I love that.
Linda Hoyt followed Seymour and talked about using his books as informational mentor texts in the classroom. She shared that good writing instruction needs to be a marriage between mentor text and high quality teacher modeling. This point was interesting because I feel like I’ve heard different thoughts on that lately. It seems like some people are advocating for using only published examples because they are of the “highest quality” and why wouldn’t we want to show our kids the best example of what is possible? Then others continue to stress the importance of teacher modeling and showing the struggle and the inner conversations that writers have while sharing information. I have to think about this more, but using both approaches to mentoring is probably a good fit for me right now.
Hoyt also shared her love of compound descriptors. She cited some of the examples from Seymour’s books and talked about sensory images and the powerful connections kids make to them. Night-flying. Sticky-sweet. I definitely will model that for my first graders.
Finally, Ann Marie Corgill talked about her new adventure as a 6th grade teacher. I love her and have copies of her book, Of Primary Importance, at school and at home. Ann Marie continued to impress as she shared her new learning upon moving from the early childhood classroom to a departmental, 6th grade writing class. She talked about writing workshop and the mentors we use as a type of “apprenticeship.” I sent up a silent cheer when I saw an intermediate teacher celebrating and embracing active literacy. It seems so often kids lose the opportunity and choice to interact meaningfully as they get older. Ann Marie seems to lead with active literacy by engaging students to “listen and talk, read and notice, share–and then write, write, write!” In addition, I loved her advocacy for student empowerment—“We want our kids to leave our classrooms thinking they can make a difference.” NCTE, 11/18/2011
I know I left the session thinking differently and and making plans for future lessons. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to learn from these leaders in the field.