On Friday, September 30th I was able to attend the Illinois Reading Council Conference in Peoria, Illinois and let me tell you it was AMAZING!
I personally know that teaching writing is one of my weakest areas (both handwriting and the writing process, ugh), so I made sure to get myself to Nell Duke A.S.A.P. Her session was called “Motivation Matters: How to Motivate Informational Reading and Writing.”
What I loved most was her affirmation of Project Based Learning. As an early childhood educator who just moved up to second grade, I’ve struggled with the balance of rigor and best practices. It’s one of those things I already knew but I just needed that push, but a project based approach is PERFECT for informational writing. I’ll post more about Genius Hour, a project based approach to writing, and the results of the student work at a later date. Stay tuned for a review of Nell Duke’s book “Inside Information” (I’ve got a few other books to finish before I can let myself start another one).
I heard from a colleague that Steven L. Layne was AMAZING during his session the previous day, so I knew where my next stop was. If you get a chance to hear him you neeeeeed to go! He started off by reading a passage from “Sold” by Patricia McCormick and those few minutes re-energized my passion for read-alouds. You could hear a pin drop in that packed room of educators.
He went on to discuss some general points from his book about the benefits of doing read-alouds with kids, including vocabulary, fluency, and text structure. His book cites specific studies done for so many different areas of reading to show that read-alouds really are best practice. Like the Nell Duke book, this is in my “to-read” pile, especially after listening to him!
Our school is the “Dunlap Grade School Royals” so we have a a crown, like Flat Stanley, that travels with us different places. Here’s my 2nd grade partner and I at our last session.
Last up was Mr. Schu and OMG I’ve been reading like crazy since his amazing session. His passion for books is contagious, and it definitely doubled my “to-read” pile. The combination of Mr. Schu and Steven Layne is changing how I approach my read-alouds. I found myself in a read-aloud rut; I was reading all of these easy, blah books just to up my class’ AR percentage. Now, we’re reading books that both the students and I are excited about, and (like Steven Layne explained) they are 1-2 reading levels above where my kids are independently. They are being exposed to new series, difficult vocabulary, and all different kinds of sentence structures. They are excited about reading, and so am I! And most important administratively, they are still doing well on AR quizzes.
As a math brain, I need all the help I can get with ELA.