Sunday, October 9, 2016

Day Two of IRC's Annual Conference

Hmm, a bit behind. I attended IRC's annual conference on September 29th and 30th  September 30th I posted reflections from day one and now it's...October 9th. Oops. I had good intentions for day two's reflection, but the past week has gotten in the way.

We began on the 30th with an early morning (6am) drive to Peoria so we could start our day with Jason Reynolds. I've read several of Jason's books with Ghosts being the most recent one. My students loved it, even if Lizzie wasn't thrilled with the ending. 

I wanted to hear Jason, meet him if I had a chance, so that I could bring that back to my students. I unfortunately didn't get a chance to meet him, but was spellbound by his quiet stories for sixty minutes. Listening to Jason talk about the influence of poetry on his life, of Langston Hughes and Queen Latifah, of the poetry of hip hop music, of the beauty of allowing yourself to be you, I was swept away. 

You don't have to look for the magic, it's already in them. Inside is where the magic lies. - Reynolds

Jason is not someone I'm going to forget anytime soon. I want to surround myself with every book he has written, soak in the words, and grow from there. 

Then we headed over to see my wonderful friend, John Schumacher, give a presentation on being reading ambassadors. I love John's enthusiasm for children's literature. I am always struck by the positive message that exudes from every bit of him. I smiled as he shared favorite titles and scribbled down any I didn't know. What a fabulous way to spend an hour.

Our last two sessions were with Kelly Gallagher. He had a session before lunch about reading and one after lunch about writing. I loved how he has his students examine articles for bias. He asks them what the passage says and what it doesn't say. He went into this over and over. I think it is of critical importance. My students tend to believe anything they read, they don't pause to think about bias or persuasion. Heck, judging from my Facebook news feed, adults don't really think about this either. It infuriates me. Critical thinking seems to have gone the way of the dodo. I want to bring it back. These two questions, What does it say? What it doesn't say?, are going to be ones I incorporate into the Article of the Week.
Our seat to hear Kelly the first time, the floor. 
In writing, Kelly talked about the four things students need to be better writers: volume, choice, modeling, and conferring. Writing is an area I need to grow this year, so this was good for me to hear. I did quick writes all the time in fifth grade, but I've gotten lazy about them in 7th, only doing two a week. Heading back to daily ones next week. I loved how Kelly graded those - he collects notebooks after a certain amount of quick writes. There's a list on the board of the ones they've done since the last collection. You get points for each being present in your notebook, but then you put a post-it on the one you want him to read. Love it.

Beyond that, I cannot wait until the book he and Penny Kittle are working on comes out. Sounds like it will be amazing.

And that wraps up two days of learning! I'm so grateful my district recognizes the benefit to attending conferences like IRC and NCTE. Each time I go I'm not only rejuvenated, but ready to try something new in my classroom. What a blessing!