Now, almost thirty years later, I've attended CCIRA in some capacity (presenter, conference committee, Executive Board, Conference Chair) almost every year. It's always the first weekend in February, right before our state tests, a time when I am really tired and usually more than a little discouraged. The conference revives, reinvigorates, and just gives me the juice to keep going for the last three months. I love the speakers and authors, but probably most of all, I love the time chatting with colleagues and friends I rarely see
Some highlights of this year's conference:
- Linda Hoyt- Linda did an hour-long session on interactive literacy. As a presenter, I was fascinated by the way she used/didn't use powerpoint. Linda's entire presentation was done almost entirely in photographs and images and video clips. Powerful stuff. She shared brain research about how kids can't listen for more than seven minutes without DOING something, but she didn't just share the research, she crafted her whole presentation so that we, the session participants, didn't have to listen for more than seven minutes at a time. Such a great example for teachers and presenters. Linda's research spoke especially loudly to me, not only as a professional, but also as a mom. I've been struck recently by emails I've recieved from teachers about my sons' alleged issues in their classes. So many of these seem to really speak to teaching deficiencies, e.g. when a teacher says to me, "Your son just can't sit still and take notes for 45 minutes," it takes everything I have to not just snap back, "No, my son can't sit for 45 minutes. And even those kids that can, shouldn't have to."
- Patrick Allen- Patrick's a brilliant Colorado teacher and I've followed his work with the PEBC for years. Most recently, I've enjoyed reading his blog, All-en-a day's-work.blogspot.com (His recent entry, "Is it a problem?" about buying books had me laughing so hard I was crying!) . He presented a session on conferring, using material from his newest book, CONFERRING: THE KEYSTONE OF READER'S WORKSHOP. Patrick is a master at talking and listening to kids and I loved learning from him. Especially enjoyed his five "ashlars" (an ashlar, as I understand it, is the stuff that holds a stone masons' work together). Patrick's five ashlars are 1) defining the trust, respect, and tone of the workshop 2) strengthening readers' strength and endurance, 3) discussing purposes and audiences 4) focusing on gradual release and responsibility and 5) focusing on the structure of the reading workshop. I also loved Patrick's format for conferring and can't wait to get to school tomorrow to mess around with it a little bit.
- Ralph Fletcher- Ralph shared information from his newest professional book book, PYROTECHNICS ON THE PAGE: PLAYFUL CRAFT THAT SPARKS WRITING. The book, which will be published in April, focuses on teaching children to delight and play with language. Ralph made one comment that really stuck with me. He said something like, "When we talk about words with kids, we are always so serious. We use phrases like word work and word study. We very rarely talk about teaching children to delight and enjoy and play with language." Fletcher went on to share some great examples, e.g. poetry from J. Patrick Lewis. I've been thinking, ever since, even this week, on the eve of CSAP, about how I can build more playfulness into my work with kids' writing.