Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dublin Literacy Conference 2011

Dublin Literacy Conference:  More Than a Great Bag!
Yesterday was the Dublin Literacy Conference.  This is my favorite conference every year.  The educators in Dublin City Schools work so hard to create this amazing conference.  We are quite fortunate to live so close and have the opportunity to participate.  This conference is always full of professional conversation.  I enjoy getting to catch up with old friends and meeting new people.  The speakers are always amazing.  There are always many professional authors, as well as authors and illustrators of children's literature, in attendance.

With Twitter this year I realized how much great learning was going on in sessions I was unable to attend as well.  It's impossible to see everyone you want to see at the Dublin Literacy Conference.   As you read below, you will see some of the learning I was able to take away from the sessions I attended.  In an effort to see what I missed I have linked to some of the posted presentations at the end of this post.  Additionally, I will try to continue to add reflections from other blogs as they are posted.  (If you have posted, but are not listed, please comment & I will add your information to this post.)

Oh, if you didn't know, I LOVE MY BAG!

Kelly Gallagher
Readicide:  How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About it

Sessions at Dublin Literacy Conference were kicked off my Kelly Gallagher.  This was my first time to hear Kelly speak and he was fabulous.  His keynote was the perfect balance of information, inspiration, and humor.  I've read Reading Reasons, but I think I'm going to have to get my hands on a copy of Readicide now.  Kelly talked about how our world of testing - and the fact that we often teach to that world - is creating students who have a hard time analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information.  He believes that if we teach students to read and write well, they will do well on tests.  However, if we teach students to test well, they will not become readers and writers. (Troy Hicks posted notes to this session.)

Patrick Allen 
What Brings About a Good Conference Anyway?  

After meeting Patrick Allen at NCTE, reading his book Conferring:  The Keystone of Reader's Workshop, and following him on Twitter (@coloreader), I was looking forward to hearing him speak at the Dublin Literacy Conference.  As I figured it would be, Patrick's discussion was a delightful combination of story and smart teaching practice.  I think Reader's Workshop is such an important part of our learning day, and strongly believe that my readers benefit from the combination of focused instruction, choice, time, and community that is a part of all we do.  Students in Reader's Workshop don't just learn to read, they are able to develop their reading lives.  It's bigger than just reading.

However, I find conferring effectively to be one of the toughest challenges.  Sometimes I worry about whether or not I am giving students all they need?  Conferring in Reader's Workshop is more challenging for me than conferring in Writer's Workshop where the concreteness of the child's work is so visible.  Patrick is currently thinking about body language in conferring and suggested video taping our conferences.  (Audio taping was scary enough, Patrick!  Not sure I can watch my conferences too.)

Patrick talked about aspects of our reading community that must be in place for conferring to occur successfully.  I was nearly on the floor laughing as Patrick explained how, as teachers, we can often be much like a yard sprinkler as we confer.  We are talking with the child, we pause, look around the room, and voice sh-sh-sh-sh-sh.

Community Needs

  • trust, respect and tone
  • endurance and stamina
  • purpose an audience
  • gradual release of responsibility
This session was only 45 minutes, but I walked away with so many new questions as well as ways I want to be more intentional with my students during Reader's Workshop.  

Brian Pinkney
The Rhythm of My Art

Brian kicked off his session with clarification of his talented family tree.  It seems he is often confused with his father, Jerry.  This was hilarious!  Brian went on to talk about his life as an artist and tell about the work he does.   It was interesting to listen to Brian's life in a creative family from his days with his father to how it is a part of his life as a father.  

As an educator I was struck by the way he sees composition of story.  Many of his points were so important for our young writers in our classrooms, as well as students who may be more visual learners.  I will be thinking about these statements as I go back into our Writer's Workshop this week. 

Brian Pinkney
  • shared the importance of creativity.  
  • told us it is easier for him to write about something he knows a lot about.  
  • told us that it was important to him that his illustrations were "pictures that had to communicate" to the audience.  
  • shared, what I will call, visual essays in which he is "telling a story with pictures".  
  • always begins by drawing his stories first, "I start with sketching, I can see where the story is going." 
  • discussed the importance of tools, trying different tools, and finding favorite tools.   
We also had the privilege of hearing Brian read aloud some of his stories.  I always love to hear the author's voice in a story.  It always somehow brings the story to life.  Every pause is right.  Every change in tone and volume draws the listener into the story.  I would love to be able to read aloud Max Found Two Sticks and JoJo's Flying Side Kick to my students with all of the sounds and heart of Brian Pinkney.  

Troy Hicks

If you've been following my blog, you know that in the last year I've been on a journey toward understanding technology (Technology:  What Are the Questions to Ask?, Creating Meaning with Visual Images:  It's a Snap, Right?) .  I've never wanted to have technology be a part of classroom just to be able to say, "My students are using technology."  I want technology to be like a pencil in my classroom, we use it because it just makes sense for what we are learning or creating.  As technology has become more a part of what we do this year, I've realized how powerful it is within our community.  It has given voice to my students, especially quieter students.  It has also extended our classroom beyond the walls we work in each day.  

Troy talked about creating digital spaces.  Not just spaces in the digital world, but also physical spaces in our learning communities that allow for the collaboration, creation, and conversation required to compose digitally.  He asked the question, "Are we asking kids to create something they couldn't create with pencil and paper?"  I think this is an important question.  I don't want technology to be another form of worksheet or low level written response in my classroom.  
However, I also like to consider:
  • Is it EASIER for student(s) to write/compose/create with technology?
  • Is it possible to get student thinking to a larger audience with technology?  
  • Is it possible to create spaces for collaborative conversation with technology?
  • Is it possible to create a more powerful piece (better quality product) with technology?
Troy shared so much in such a short time.  If you'd like to view my notes, you will find other key points and many links.  

In Summary
Whew, it's no wonder I was exhausted when I got home last night.  Thanks to everyone in Dublin who helped make the conference possible.  Thanks to the great speakers for sharing your thinking with all of us.  

Other Session Information

Dublin Literacy Reflections 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Picture Books for Independence: A Community of Readers

Today is the Dublin Literacy Conference. This is one of my favorite conferences each year. For me the conference is a short drive, it has a reasonable registration fee, and there are always many authors and great speakers. Today Katie DiCesare and I are talking about Picture Books Possibilities. Here you will find a copy of our presentation slide shows and resources that may be of interest.

Picture book characteristics can support young readers.  I've started a Google doc of picture books based upon these characteristics, Picture Book Possibilities.  You can view AND ADD to the document.  My hope is it will continue to grow and be a resource for everyone.

 If you are interested in more reading about supporting students with self-selection of books, you might want to stop by these links.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Does Professional Development Happen To Us?: Action Steps

(This post is part 3 of 3.)  
Part 1:  Does Professional Development Happen To Us:  January Opportunities
Part 2:  Does Professional Development Happen To Us:  Learning Through Collaboration

Life Long Learning
It's funny how sometimes a collection events or conversations connect quickly and take you to a new place.  A few days after virtually attending Educon and the Reform Symposium the #edchat conversation on Twitter was about "How to promote life long learning in all educators".  The conversation soon turned to the pros and cons of professional development.

In my professional career there has rarely - if ever - been a professional development opportunity in which I haven't walked away with something to improve the work I do with children.  Yes, some have been better than others, but I'm a learner and I enjoy hearing different perspectives.  I'm going to question.  I'm going to search for more information.  I'm going to think about the strengths of what I am hearing, and the drawbacks.  But I'm going to take something away.

The Need for Action
In the course of our #edchat conversation about professional development we talked about redefining professional development and considering professional learning.  I've always felt the biggest problem with professional development is educators let it happen to them.  I think it's important to have a professional learning plan and seek the information needed to grow from a variety of resources.  During the conversation, Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom) made this comment:

The truth is one size fits all professional development is never going to work for everyone.  We have to make professional development provided part of a bigger plan toward growth and change.  As Pernille reminded us, we are in charge of our own change.  Steven Anderson's comment really made me stop and think.  What action(s) am I taking away from these days of professional learning and collaboration?  

So What's The Action
Build Connections/Relationships:  While I will continue to build relationships and make connections through the learning network I have developed on Twitter (blogs, wikis, etc.), I most need to think about building these same connections and relationships at school.  Our days at school are so busy we don't create the time to talk about what is going on in our classrooms.  Additionally, many of the connections and resources I've discovered on the internet would be helpful for my colleagues at school.  I need to start sharing this with them.  

Collaborate (grow community):  The underlying message I received from EduCon and RSCON11 was the importance of collaboration on many levels.  It was obvious in Elluminate rooms and EduCon conversations how much faster thinking grew and moved toward action through creating shared understandings with others.  

Stay Focused on Bigger Picture:  In times where educators are taking hits from many levels, it is easy to get discouraged.  In a time where we can analyze data down to the miniscule there is the danger of forgetting the global significance of the work we do.   Which leads me to...

It's About the Children:  Any changes I make should make learning better for my students.  You will find my goals for students below.  This Educon Encienda presentation by Karen Szymusiak titled "Where Are the Children?" speaks volumes.  

Make Public (or take down classroom walls):  While I still wrestle with the line between my personal world and my professional one, or if a line can exist at all (see Dr. Alec Couros discussion), I understand the significance of sharing my professional learning journey with others.  I am so thankful to the educators who make their learning and thinking visible for me to consider.  Their willingness to open their classroom doors improves my practice.  

Action Steps for Students
Help All Learners Reach Their Academic Potential:  Dr. Branigan's talk reminded me of the importance of key characteristics for student learners (energy/emotional levels, stamina to a task, visualization, self-talk, and organization/time management).

Follow More / Lead Less:  Though I know our academic goals and path, I could be doing a lot more to help students follow their learning interests and move toward independence by thinking of myself more as a partner in learning.  Additionally noting the interests of students, continuing to allow opportunities for choice, and helping students to set goals and evaluate progress is important.

Give Everyone a Voice:  I think having student blogs has really helped develop student voice in my classroom.  Since we've started blogging it seems more students are being heard and respected for their contributions to our community.  I think it's important to continue this practice.

Build Connections/Relationships:  Through Twitter, online conferences, and other internet professional learning opportunities I've discovered the significance of learning in a more global community.  I want to develop this in my students as well.  I am currently working on a common blog with a local classroom in a neighboring district, and a collaborative learning experience with another local classroom.  I'm hoping as we continue to grow our ability to collaborate in this more global environment students will see the purpose and significance of their learning as we connect conversations.

Collaborate (grow community):  I suppose this is very similar to the above action step.  However, I think learning goes beyond just having a connection.  I want students to learn to collaborate with others within our classroom community, as well as outside of it, to create deeper understandings.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Does Professional Development Happen To Us?: Learning Through Collaboration

(This post is part 2 of a 3 part reflection.  Part I is here.)

Professional Development:  A Delivery Model?
It's Saturday morning.  I got up, poured my cup of coffee, sat down by the french doors where I can see SNOW (of course), and began sifting through the newest professional information available to me.  I read the Big Fresh, browsed through the tweets and links on Twitter, and read a few blogs.  I'm constantly amazed by the learning conversations happening on the web.  I find myself in awe of the amount of knowledge, thinking, and reflecting available at the push of a button.  The fascinating part is how connected all of the conversations are among educators using technology to collaborate around the world.

I marvel at how different this learning is from the professional development I receive at a local level.  Now, first of all, I must say that I see great value in district professional development.  Large districts especially, need to be sure there is a common conversation running through the work educators do with children.  There is value in looking at local data and determining need for professional growth within a district.  However, it occurs to me after reading The Control Shift:  A Grassroots Education Revolution Takes Shape that professional development is often in the same delivery format that is usually associated with schooling.  Someone stands in the front of the room, everyone listens, and then everyone leaves.  This is often a two-way transaction between the speaker and the listener (and sometimes only the speaker).  If we are not careful, professional development happens to us.  But are we changed?  Do we do anything differently?  Do these opportunities result in action?  

In my last post, I talked about January professional growth opportunities I found on the internet.  I found EduCon 2.3 and the Reform Symposium to be powerful learning opportunities.  Not only was I able to choose conversations that met my needs as an educator, I was able to participate and collaborate with other learners.  It is the collaborative nature of these opportunities that stays with me today.

Through Collaborative Professional Development Conversation

  • we rethink our understandings.
  • we gain (and learn to value) the insight of others.
  • we look at multiple sides of a problem.
  • we are pushed to analyze, evaluate, and create.
  • we become flexible in our thinking.
  • we communicate more effectively.
  • we create common dialogues. 
  • we develop "seed" ideas toward more innovative thinking.
  • we envision greater possibility.
  • we pursue purposeful action. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Does Professional Development Happen TO Us? January Opportunities

(This post is part 1 of a 3 part reflection.)

Professional Learning
True confessions.  I've always enjoyed professional development.

Yep, I said it.  I enjoy professional development - make that professional learning.  Actually I left my small district over ten years ago and moved to a larger district because I wanted more professional learning opportunities.   You're thinking I'm crazy.  You might be right, but continued learning has always been so important for me.  Teaching has never come easily for me, and I'm always looking for ways to improve my practice.

In the last year, I've been learning the power of the internet for providing professional conversations and learning.  The connections I have developed have been invaluable in shifting my thinking.  I've been trying to find the words to explain the impact these opportunities have had on my thinking and practice, but I am still trying to find the words to articulate the change.

January Collaborative Opportunities
January provided opportunities to participate in two professional development learning opportunities:  The Reform Symposium and The Science Leadership Academy's EduCon 2.3.  These learning opportunities, when considered together, have me rethinking what professional learning should look like as well as the way students are learning in my classroom.  There are so many new possibilities.

In January I participated in:

Reform Symposium 2011
The Reform Symposium was an online learning event taking place on Elluminate organized by Shelly Terrell, Christopher Rogers, Kelly Tenkely, Greta Sandler, Lisa Dabbs, and Melissa Tran.  If you were unable to attend this conference, most sessions are archived and can be found by starting at Meet the Presenters.

If you haven't been able to attend an Elluminate learning session, you want to find the time to do so.  I'm never sure if I'm more amazed by the content being presented, or the ability to have a collaborative conversation around the topic with others in the room during the session.  Elluminate sessions allow collaborators from around the globe to talk together about educational issues.  (Of course, I always love that I get to put voices with some of my colleagues on Twitter.)

In Dr. Gary Brannigan's session, I was able to participate in a discussion about "Maximizing Children's Academic Potential".  Dr. Branningan (@GaryBrannigan) discussed ways to help students effectively use time and energy to learn.  I was intrigued by his discussion of goal setting for students as I've been trying to help my students to do this (Dr. Brannigan also discussed energy/emotional levels, stamina to a task, visualization, self-talk, and organization/time management).

Dr. Alec Couras's (@courosa) keynote session left me wrestling with my own dual online personality (Twitter = professional, Facebook = Personal) and the continued merging of my professional and personal online identity.  What do we share?  What are the implications of what we share online?  Do we have an obligation to be more open about our professional journey?  How do we benefit from this global conversation?

I've also been able to listen Greta Sandler share her thinking about creating a safe learning and environment.  Greta's (@gret) respect for children and learning shines in this discussion.  Pernille Ripp (@4thGrdTeach) also shared her professional learning journey with us as she moves toward a more child centered classroom.  Pernille reminds us that we are in charge of our own change.  Remember all of these session archives can be found here.  I'm continuing to visit and revisit these sessions.

EduCon 2.3
I attended EduCon virtually.  (You'll want to stop by this link to find out more about EduCon and follow the posts related to the EduCon experience.  Thanks to Franki Sibberson for sharing this document compiled by Shelley Krause with me.)

There's nothing like "from your couch" professional conversation.  Educon was set up so it could be viewed through a live stream.  This conference really has me rethinking what education should look like, but I'm quite sure the experience was even more powerful if you were in attendance.  Watching from afar was sometimes a challenge as rooms would get full and switching to LiveStream wasn't always easy.  Still I was able to follow conversations, chat on Twitter, and many sessions were quite thoughtful about distance participants.

Watching EduCon sessions was interesting as session leaders (I think they'd be appalled by the term "presenters") led collaborative discussions.  It was obvious from afar that collaboration and conversation were key features of this conference.  It seemed from watching that everyone had an equal voice and everyone had something to say.

From EduCon I was able to join Jon Orech's (@jorech) conversation about Digital Storytelling.  I was interested to hear how this group discussed the definition of digital storytelling (a growing collaborative document about digital writing can be found here), but came away with the powerful message of the importance of story.  Too often we get caught up in using tools and glitz, leaving our STORIES behind.

Diane Cordell (@dmcordell) and Gwenyth Jones (shared their thinking about showing our learning in powerful ways.  You can read more about their thinking at the "tlvirtualcafe".

A special thanks to Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep) and Zoe Branigan-Pipe for their collaborative conversation, "Classrooms of Tomorrow (the day of today that is)".  In this discussion of revisioning classrooms, it was decided that classroom itself was a confining word.  In this discussion of learning spaces, Rodd & Zoe so carefully considered participants inside and outside the walls of this room using sites like Scribblar and linking sites through Twitter.  I guess that says a lot about learning beyond classroom walls in and of itself.  You can see each group's vision for classrooms of tomorrow in this post discussing "Learning Spaces of Tomorrow".

So What?
In the upcoming posts I will share my reflections of these two digital opportunities.  How do they have me rethinking professional learning?  How have they impacted the learning in my classroom?

Upcoming Posts:
Post 2 of 3:  Does Professional Development Happen TO Us?  Learning Through Collaboration
Post 3 of 3:  Does Professional Development Happen TO Us?  Action Steps

In a recent #edchat conversation we talked about professional development.  The question was raised, "Does professional development happen to us?".  I'm going to say professional development doesn't happen to anyone.  If educators are not interested in learning, they're not going to learn.  If educators are interested and seeking learning opportunities they will shape learning that fits their needs and take away new ideas.

A few links of interest:
A Few Educon Reflections
Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep) shares his take-aways from the event in EduContext.
Franki Sibberson shares her reflections at A Year in Reading.
Kristina Peters' shares changes she is considering.
Chris Lehmann shares a bit about SLA.
Susie Boss continues to grow the conversation.
Elizabeth Peterson shares her take-aways.

A Few RSCON Reflections
Nancy shares her enthusiasm for #RSCON11 here.
Jo Freitag shares links and contacts from #RSCON11 here.
Josh Stumpenhorst shares highlights from the conference here.

Feel free to add your links and highlights to the comments.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Literacy Sites for Students

This is a repost WITH links.

Thanks to a tip from Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep), I have reposted this Slideshare with links.  You should now be able to go directly to the sites from the slides.

(Google doc:  feel free to add your favorite sites here.)

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

January Mosaic

I'm still trying to figure out how to take my Flickr 365 days of photos and create a mosaic.  Mary Lee from A Year of Reading always inspires me with her end of month photo collages.  Today I decided I was going to sit here in the ice (well, on my couch) and make it happen.  I still haven't figured it out.  I ended up taking a screen shot of pictures I moved to

Oh well, it works.  I'll keep trying.

Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.”  Tennessee Williams 
                                                                                             ...thanks friends

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Will He or Won't He: Picture Books For Groundhog Day

I've really never gotten the whole groundhog craze in February.  I mean what kind of logic is it when the groundhog sees his shadow (sunshine, right) and that means 6 more weeks of winter?  Then if he doesn't see his shadow (no sunshine) spring is coming?  There's just no logic in that.  Just sayin'.

Well, here in Ohio it looks like we're going to celebrate Groundhog Day with our usual mix of weather.  We're going to have everything from snow to rain to snow.  Gotta love it.  What profound information will the groundhog pass along?  Honestly, at least for us, we're going to have everything from spring weather to bitter cold in the next six weeks.  It's Ohio.

For those of you who like the excitement of speculation, however, we have the groundhog predictions to anticipate.  The great thing about Groundhog Day in Ohio is we can choose the groundhog we want to believe.  There's "THE" groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, who will give his opinion on the days of cold left in our world.  Of course, if we don't like his answer, we can turn to our own Buckeye Chuck.  These two do not always see eye-to-eye or shadow-to-shadow.

All kidding aside, I'll have to do what every primary teacher in our area will do.  We'll predict the outcome (looks like I better put a poll on our blog since we're iced in for the day) and then read a few groundhog books.  Looking for the perfect groundhog literature (oh, I know you are)?  Here are a few of my favorite groundhog lit pics:

Go To Sleep, Groundhog! written by Judy Cox and illustrated by Paul Meisel is a story of a groundhog who can't quite get to sleep.  He wakes up throughout his rest to catch bits of holidays he normally sleeps right through.  Finally, he falls into a deep sleep.  As is often the case, the alarm goes off too soon.  Groundhog is still sleepy, but decides to go outside to see what is happening.  Will he see his shadow?  There is a repetitive pattern to this story which students always enjoy.  You'll also find an information piece at the end of the book about Groundhog Day and other animals that predict the weather around the world.

What happens when groundhog decides he doesn't want to go to sleep?  In Groundhog Stays Up Late written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by Jean Cassels, Groundhog refuses to get ready for winter.  Unlike his friends, he doesn't gather food or prepare his place for a long winter nap.  He decides he is going to stay up all winter.  It isn't long until Groundhog decides he is lonely without all of his friends who are hiding away for the cold days.  He decides to play a trick on his friends and tell them spring is coming early.  Would you wake a hibernating bear?  See what happens when Groundhog does just that.

Can a girl be Punxsutawney Phil?  Maybe Phyllis can.  In Wake Up, Groundhog!  written by Susanna Leonard Hill and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, Phyllis loves spring.  With all of her heart Phyllis dreams of being the next Punxsutawney Phil.  Her family reminders her that a girl cannot do that job.  She thinks she can.  This story shares the excitement of spring and the hope of making a difference.  You'll also find information about Groundhog Day at the end of this book.

For those of you now wishing you had a large collection of groundhog books, you'll find more titles here.

Here's hoping spring is on the way!