Saturday, November 30, 2013

Celebration Saturday - NCTE Boston 2013

Discover. Play. Build.

 I'm so happy that Ruth Ayres started a Celebrate Link-Up on her blog!!!  I will be joining the celebration every Saturday!!

     Celebration Saturday is the perfect time to write about NCTE, especially since I met Ruth for the first time on Friday night there. I was very excited about that!  I needed a week to process the weekend since it was filled with so much learning, thinking, and excitement.  My friend, former colleague, and writing partner, Megan Ginther, and I planned on going several months ago.  Neither of us had ever been - it always seemed too far away and out of reach.  This year, however, for a number of reasons, we decided we couldn't miss it.  We're SO glad we made that decision, and I hope we will be able to go every year from now on.  We arrived late Thursday night (next year we want to be there Wednesday night - we missed some great session opportunities on Thursday) and were up bright and early Friday, trying to figure out our best plan of attack.  There were SO many good people presenting, and it seemed that no matter which great session we chose, we were going to miss some amazing sessions, too.  We were also privileged to meet with a publishing company representative about a book idea that morning.  We are passionate about this project, and we hope that it will come to fruition in the future.  NCTE was a step in the right direction for that to happen!
Beautiful view of Boston
     We settled on some great sessions Friday:  Pam Allyn from LitWorld inspired us to look at global literacy.  Here are some snippets from her talk:
- Children hunger for literature.
- Literacy only happens in a community.
- Humankind's greatest innovation is literacy itself.
- An audience of just the teacher is not going to work anymore.  The 21st century kid is a 21st century writer.  Our schools don't always match that.
-  LitWorld's Top 10 Messages:
   a.  Think locally, but act globally.
   b.  Trust the child's perspective.
   c.  Value human-centered designs.
   d.  Provide access to resources.
   e.  Campaign for gender equity.
   f.  Value the strength of community.
   g.  Emphasize year-round learning to combat the summer slide.
   h.  Believe in the power of authentic audience.
   i.  Believe that every child has a right to a childhood and to the joy of it.
   j. The child will lead the way.
     LitWorld is the sponsor of World Read Aloud Day in March of every year.  I participated for the first time last year, and it was fantastic!
     Our next  session was the Nerdy Book Club gathering - it was packed!  It was like the Who's Who of literacy leaders:  Teri Lesesne, Colby Sharp and Jenni Holm, Kellee Moye, Katherine Sokolowski, Cindy Minnich, and Donalyn Miller.  See why it was packed?!  I liked the format of this session a lot.  We sat around tables and the Nerdy Book Club presenters rotated around to us.  They all had many gems on how to promote reading and writing in our classrooms.  Slideshare contains many of their presentations.
                                         Katherine Sokolowski          Colby Sharp, Jenni Holm

Teri Lesesne

                                             Cindy Minnich                        Kellee Moye

     That night we attended a Choice Literacy dinner.  Brenda Power is one of the most generous people I know.  She made the night so very special.  What an incredible dinner and amazing company! 
 Holly and Megan
                                                              Choice Literacy Dinner Group
                                 Holly and Donalyn Miller         Franki Sibberson and Jen Vincent 
 Place setting and beautiful, personalized gifts
     Right after the delicious dinner, we headed over to the Sheraton where the Nerdy Book Club gathering was held.  I loved seeing friends like Louise Borden and Gigi McAllister there.  I have to admit, though; we left early because we were SO exhausted.  There were so many authors, Twitter friends, and literacy leaders there, I wish we had had the stamina to have stayed late into the night meeting and greeting, but we just couldn't.  We needed a do-over after a good night sleep!  The only consolation is that I know I will have opportunities in the future to see them all again.
     Saturday held more wonderful sessions after the EARLY ALAN breakfast featuring Judy Blume and Walter Dean Myers
     We saw the great Nancie Atwell and her daughter who taught us about teaching students to write memoirs.  We LOVED Christopher Lehman, Kate Roberts, and Maggie B. Roberts who talked about close reading.    Here are some gems of wisdom from their session:
- In order to learn anything, it takes a few things you can do well and you grow from there.
- Ritual for close reading:  Choose the lens/purpose for reading - over time, you can add lenses, look for patterns, look for understandings - you need to do something with close reading/make ideas.
- Teaching is a transaction.  It is a dialogue.  Really listen and watch. 
- You only get good at the things that you do.
- Close reading is not just something we do inside of text.  We can study this in our lives.  You don't need to close read the whole text.  Just like life.  You'll be neurotic if you constantly walk around close reading your whole life!
 - When you find a structure that you can repeat, less teaching needs to happen.
The three of them were so genuine, funny, and inspiring!
     We also attended a session led by author Deborah Wiles.  Both Megan and I are huge fans of Deborah, so we were really excited to hear her.  Go to her Pinterest page - it has a collection of pins for her books Countdown and Revolution.  A group of my students recently read Countdown for an historical fiction unit on the theme topic FEAR.

    Kate Roberts, Christopher Lehman, Maggie B. Roberts 
                             Holly, Deborah Wiles, Megan                       Nancie Atwell 
     That night we felt like we needed to get out of the hotel and convention center, so we tried to tough it out at Faneuil Hall Marketplace to watch the tree lighting, but it got way too cold.  We walked to an Italian restaurant in the North End called Bricco instead. Yum!

      On Sunday we could only attend one more session because of traveling back to Cincinnati.  We decided on Jeff Anderson, Matt Glover, and Kathy Collins.  They were definitely the right choice!  They were funny, poignant, and made us think about why we are teachers.  Takeaways from that session:

- All fear, depression, anxiety, etc. stems from either being in the past or worrying about the future - unfortunately, this is how we look at education too often.
- When you're aware of things that drain you and energize you, you can make different choices.
- The most important data is right there in front of us (the students).
- If everything is the priority, nothing is a priority.
- Joy is in the now.

     In between the sessions were author signings and Twitter friend hangouts:

Gae Polisner, Megan, Barbara O'Connor, Holly

                                               Jonathan Auxier                     Kirby Larson

Alyson Beecher, Holly, Cindy Minnich 

                             Louise Borden, Holly, Gigi McAllister   David Weisner
 Swag Bag!
    Megan and I got to hang out with Louise Borden at the airport since she was on our return flight.  She is so fun to know!  The whole experience was quite a celebration, and I definitely hope to return next year in Washington, D.C. for NCTE 2014.  There were educators and authors I wish I had been able to spend more time with and attend their presentations.  Next year!  Maybe Megan and I will even be presenting!  Time to write our proposal...
                                                                   Goodbye, Boston!



Friday, November 29, 2013

I'm Thankful For... students.  During this week of gratefulness, bloggers, Facebookers, and Tweeters have been writing about what makes them thankful.  I've been thinking about my family, my health, my community, and my friends, of course; all reasons to get up every day with a "Thanks" prayer on my lips.  I'm blessed beyond comprehension on all those fronts.  I've been writing about my family and friends in Celebration Saturday posts and Slices of Life.  Today, though, I'm going to write about my students.  I've been thinking about them all week because of how Monday morning started.

     I came back from Boston's NCTE Annual Convention late Sunday evening.  I was filled with messages to slow down and recapture the joy that teaching brought us - before Common Core, before high stakes testing took over teacher evaluations, before the negativity surrounded the teaching profession, before, before, before.  We were urged by amazing people (Christopher Lehman, Kate Roberts, Maggie B. Roberts, Nancie Atwell, Pam Allyn, Jeff Anderson, Matt Glover, Kathy Collins, Penny Kittle, Donalyn Miller, Kelly Gallagher, numerous authors, and the list goes on and on) to make relationships with our young people and SEE each and every one of them. 

     My Monday started with one of my sixth graders bringing me a bag full of money before the bell rang.  Her family celebrates Thanksgiving early and does a gift exchange.  In lieu of presents, this amazing girl asked for donations to our 6th grade project, inspired by A Long Walk to Water, to raise money for Water for South Sudan, Inc. (Nerdy Book Club post about it).  She raised almost $100!  She was so excited.  When my first class came to me at 9:00 am, one of my 5th grade girls came up to me right away to tell me her weekend story.  She was visibly excited and passionate.  She wanted to tell me all about the time she and her family had spent at Hope House Mission over the weekend, a local center for homeless women and children.  Compassion poured out of her as she told me about the woman she sat next to at a meal and listened to, hearing all about her circumstances.   Goosebumps stood out on my arms as I took in all she had to say.  Her story jumpstarted a whole discussion on the various good works my students are involved in:  Cincinnati Children's Hospital fundraising, local soup kitchens, building wells in Guatemala, collecting food for Thanksgiving dinners at relief shelters, etc.  Many of my 5th grade students have brought in pajamas for our Scholastic Book Clubs Pajama Drive for the Pajama Program, a wonderful charity that donates pairs of pajamas and books to children in need.  We took the time to hold those up and ooh and ahh over the cuteness and coziness of the pjs, imagining the children curled up in them, listening to a new, donated book.  Soon it was 9:30 - a half hour had gone by, and my stomach clenched for a moment, thinking of all that I should've been doing in that 30 minutes, but then those NCTE voices played in my head, reminding me that I needed to be doing this.  I'll be able to catch up on those academic things, but would I ever have had that conversation and seen the part of my students that the world sometimes misses if I hadn't slowed down to listen?  I thank God that my young readers and writers have hearts for the hurts of the world.  That they want to help.  That they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.  That they are compassionate people, not just numbers.  That's what I'm thankful for. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Nonfiction Wednesday

Thanks to Kid Lit Frenzy, I made a goal to read more children's nonfiction this year which I will be featuring on my blog every Wednesday.
Before I review my nonfiction picture book, I'm so excited to say I got to MEET Alyson Beecher!  Yay!  She is lovely - I only wish I could've spent more time with her, but NCTE is a whirlwind.  Next time!  Thanks for all you do for children's literature, Alyson!
Alyson, me, Cindy Minnich
Here is the nonfiction book I read this week:
Monsieur Marceau: Actor Without Words
Several people recommended this to me at NCTE in Boston when looking through sale books, so of course I bought it! I knew of Monsieur Marceau, but I didn't know about his role in the Holocaust, joining the French underground and saving hundreds of Jewish children by leading them out of occupied France, over the Alps, and into Switzerland. Sparse writing but beautiful illustrations will introduce children to a fascinating man.
What nonfiction did YOU read this week?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Slice of Life - Friends' Thanksgiving

I've been participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers. I love the challenge of composing a piece of writing at least once a week about life or teaching.
     Since I'm still processing the incredible weekend I had at NCTE in Boston, I'm going to save that for a later post. Today, I'm going to share an Animoto video of our 26th Annual Friends' Thanksgiving weekend my high school/college friends started in 1988 and celebrated the weekend of November 15-17.  I shared a little about this tradition in an earlier post on the 16th.  It's difficult to capture in words what this tradition means to our group, so I hope the video does it for me...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm Kirby Larson's Guest Blogger Today!

I am THRILLED to be part of Kirby Larson's series, "From the Office of the Future of Reading," a series written by teachers, librarians, and literacy coaches on connecting books and readers as a response to Kirby's call.  Who would deny a request from Kirby?!  Stop on by her blog to read my post today and then read all the way back to September to read the others.  They're all wonderful!!  Thank you so much, Kirby, for the voices you've collected celebrating books and kids!

Click this link to start reading!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nonfiction Wednesday

Thanks to Kid Lit Frenzy, I made a goal to read more children's nonfiction this year which I will be featuring on my blog every Wednesday.
This week I read:
Henri's Scissors: with audio recording
I love books about artists and how they get their inspiration. This is an interesting biography of Henri Matisse and how his art developed over time.
This New York Times Best Illustrated Book is just beautiful - so detailed! I loved that I had visited The Netherlands before so I could recognize some of the images. Gorgeous scenes of Dutch culture, seasons, landscapes, architecture, etc. The only thing preventing me from giving it 5 stars was that I wanted descriptions of each scene in the back of the book.
Pictures of my own time in The Netherlands with my mom, daughters, and brother-in-law:

What nonfiction did YOU read this week?