Saturday Reunion: Like the 4 Minute Mile!

Thousands of dedicated professionals, running up and down stairs, laying across floors and sitting on tables, all eager to absorb information from 1 of the 150 or so sessions on Literacy that make the Teacher’s College Reading & Writing Project Saturday Reunion an incredibly special place.  This was my first time attending, and I wish I could have stayed longer for sure. While it was an amazing experience, there were a few things I want to throw out before I recap the amazing sessions.

There is really only one thing I wish would change:  With so short a time between sessions, I often felt I had to leave a session early to get to any of the choices for my next session, let alone to stop by the area where the great resources were being offered.  I would have certainly stayed longer to have that opportunity!

Now on to more important info!

Before you read too far into this, the sessions I attended are K-2 focused.  If you are were looking for other grade levels, I am sorry not to be able to help, but would love to hear others recap!

I know I cannot do these wonderful presenters justice, but the value of their words should be shared with as many people as possible and to recap my learning from each session will hopefully help me put all the ideas and great concepts into perspective!

Session 1: Presenter-Celena Larkey Making Reading, Writing, and Content Area Connections:  Using Best Literacy Practices to Teach CCSS Science and Social Studies

I literally ran into this session!  Grabbing a seat as the class was beginning, I was able to get some great ideas in a short time.  I will try to bullet them for ease of use:

  • Use partners or clubs for Science and Social Studies, best practices for reading & writing are also best practices for teaching
  • Anything can be “text” photos, maps, brochures, books, videos
  • Hints for images: study pictures, still images are easier to get ideas from than lecture or video- story tell, note taking, categorize, and study images
  • Use I see/I think T chart for pictures- can also reveal pictures in quadrants and have children revise these charts with partners or clubs as more is revealed
  • gather books in similar bands of text about a similar topic for reading clubs about content areas
  • Develop conversation, support talk time in either a whole class or a group
  • How does what we read fit with what we know?  Engage students awareness of a topic.
  • Use RAN charts (What I Think I know, Yes! I was RIGHT!, Oops! I Don’t Think That Anymore, New Information, Now I wonder?
  • Before and after text, use words and phrases from the text to engage students ideas on the topic, have them use those words to talk about the topic, to ask questions about it and make “I Think” statements

This was a great session and while I only hit on a some of the ideas, it will be very helpful for me in the upcoming weeks, months, and years.  Also, I love the way Celena Larkey had us turn and talk through ideas, she presented the way she was telling us to teach!

Session 2: Presenter: Christine Cook Robson   Topic: Mastering the Art of Powerful Book Introductions to Support Guided Reading Groups

This was the only session I attended with colleagues.  It was also the last time I would have an actual seat in a session!

Here are my notes & tweets recapped on this great presentation about ways to use book intros to enhance comprehension and make reading groups more valuable

  • Know your children – as Kathy Collins put it, students is a word for school, children is a word for life…  In terms of reading groups this means two things, 1. know their interests to try and make it interesting 2. take and use running records to know what students are working on so you can use the book intro to guide that focus in the story (MSV).
  • Meaning – for J readers and above especially, start using genre to develop an idea of the story… How do these types of books usually go?
  • Meaning – with chapter books, USE THE BLURB on the back.  It will literally tell the kids everything they are going to need to look for in the story. (my own add in- No Blurb? have your students write one for the story/chapter to help others know what the story is about!)
  • Meaning- know main idea, prior knowledge, introduce unfamiliar concepts, model using pictures & new vocabulary
  • When picking out a book, does the content have any relevance to your students?
  • Remember what is important to unpack in the story!
  • We need to discuss structure changes, and difficult structure as part of our intro.  Literally say “This book talks funny!” Then model how it is written differently than your speech.

This was a great session and showed me how valuable a book intro can be when done correctly.  Don’t just flip through the book or “preview” it, provide your group with the information that will make them successful and then they will be!

Session 3: Presenter: Amanda Hartman  Topic: Making the Most of Small Group Work to Radically Help Student Writers

Wow!  It was clear why people were laying across the floor to squeeze into this one!  While every session I was at had so many great concepts and information, I felt like this one could have gone on all day and I would not have noticed.

  • Vary our teaching practices within the group and student to student- (seems like a no brainer but sometimes we all need to get hit across the face with the obvious!)
  • content comes from assessments, make sure not to go too far or you will feel like you are pulling teeth (your frustration becomes theirs’)
  • release scaffolds- more work by the students and less by the teacher- some students will need more, others less…
  • mix your groupings- help student a once, student b 3 times and student c 2 times all in the same time span by having varied groupings that are still working on the same general skill (similar but not the same, equitable but not equal)
  • guided practice- should be your main teaching practice (ultimately leading to inquire, self reflect, teach self)
  • partnerships – loved this, give student something they are good at, then have them teach it to others
  • (my favorite tweet from sessions) Phonics is a major part of Writer’s Workshop!  Use phonics lessons throughout writing lessons to reinforce and strengthen understanding of phonics skills!
  • Have a mini-anchor chart to refer to while students are working (person next to me suggested keeping a collection of mini anchor charts in their writing folders!)
  • Getting kids to write more than 1 sentence per page in books with question charts
  • How can I say more & teach more with my writing? – Make students feel like they are teaching… for each page of an informational book ask “who, what, when, where, or why”  “Which Question do you need to ask yourself?” and show students the chart
  • Get all students engage before going to coach!  Be patient, do not begin helping unless they have started the process
  • Foster inquiry about writing to engage students in editing “How am I using ___ in my writing?”  Students can create mentor texts, refer to mentor texts & charts.
  • Another favorite tweet- Give kids the tools to be successful, don’t be the tool! -” If they can only do it with you by their side, what is the tool?”  Instead, teach students how to use the tools they have to solve their own problems.  This leads to more coaching opportunities too!
  • Every writer should be asking, “How can I teach/reach my readers?”

As I said, there was so much in this short hour, and there were many videos that are available on through the project that were used in this session.  This time flew by, and I barely made it into my 1st choice session 4!

Session 4: Presenter: Brianna Friedman-Parlitsis  Topic: Lifting the Level of Questioning in Your Read Aloud:  High Level Questioning and Thinking Even in Low Level Texts

Sometimes there is such beauty in simplicity.  This session was also so packed into a tiny, hot room and I had to fight through the door closing in my face to stay in that room!  It was worth it!  It dealt with Depth of Knowledge level questioning in a way that simplified it down and made it so easy to understand the process of creating high level questions!

  • Level 1 DOK questions – questions are specific, look and find, pertain to 1 page only
  • Level 2 DOK questions – Sorting, comparing, go across the text (whole book or multiple pages)
  • You need Level 1 questions to be able to access Level 2 questions if students cannot answer about 1 page, how will they compare across the text
  • Bring in pictures, background knowledge, videos, enhance Level 2 questions by questioning across multiple “texts”
  • In a low-level book (She used bands C & D for some of the demonstrations) you need to use the pictures, structure, concept of the story in order to get beyond Level 1 and 2.
  • “Some books are just about Fruit Salad” funny and true.  At the lowest levels, there may be no questions beyond level 2, AND THAT IS OK!
  • Level 3 Analyze & evaluate – She refers to a book about beaks and asks, what do the birds eat?  use clues, knowledge across subject matter to make determinations about the pictures & text beyond what the text gives you to discuss.
  • Level 3 questions ask students to go beyond the text to make determinations about questions that are not answered directly by the story or pictures.
  • Level 4 questions – design & create!  (referring to the beak book again) design a beak, what would that bird eat?  What features of the beak tell you what the bird eats?  Use those features to design a bird beak that would eat ___.  Great examples of how with a very low-level text, students can create & design
  • Another Level 4 idea, what if we made our own story like this about ____?  How would it go and what would happen?  We need to have knowledge of the story to create a new one in its image
  • Get kids to be the “teacher” and design questions for each other
  • Get kids to ask higher level questions by complimenting the “Super tricky ones”… Every kid wants to come up with the “super tricky one”
  • I loved a video she showed of a girl reading an incredibly low (B/C text) and letting her use an overlay with a thought bubble to read/tell the story.  After each page she had to tell what the child in the non-fiction story was thinking about for their future.  This child could barely read the story, but her insight and concept development was fantastic!

After 4 straight sessions Brianna was energetic and had everyone laughing.  Is it a comment on how overloaded we all were or that we are all as mature as our students that everyone laughed when she made a great “butt” pun after showing a video of how a skunk sprays?  Maybe both, but it was a great end to my 4 lap spring around Teacher’s College!

I wish I could have attended about 30 more sessions!  I hope others will recap what they got from their sessions as well…

I know that my random thoughts do not do these great presentations the justice they deserved, but I am hopeful that they will help inspire others to find out more, share more, and connect those who could not make the day or a session.  If you have questions about my less than complete bullets, I would be happy to expand, but this is all I can manage in one night!

Thanks for reading and also a Thanks to the 4 GREAT presenters who shared so much knowledge with me in those sessions!


3 thoughts on “Saturday Reunion: Like the 4 Minute Mile!

  1. TCRWP staff developers are always so energizing and thought provoking, but what I love most is that they do model and use best practices like “turn and talk” in their presentations!
    I enjoyed your comparison to a 4 minute mile!

    1. I felt like each class was a lap and I was sprinting through educational knowledge and concepts as fast as possible. I needed to write it out for myself as much as I did to share it with others! I hope it was a blip of info to bring the event closer to you!

      1. It was enough to whet my appetite and to give me enough “fuel” for the rest of the year! I wrote a lot last summer to process my learning at the summer institutes! Helps me check my thinking!

        Thanks so much for sharing!

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