After pouring over all the session choices offered today at the free Oklahoma Vision 2020 conference offered for teachers at the Cox Convention Center, I finally chose three English/Language Arts-related sessions to attend. Each session offered invaluable information, and was taught be experts in their fields. I am hoping that my writing my thoughts here, I will be more inclined to remember what I learned, and incorporate these practices in my teaching next year.
Creating a Community of Learners
Taught by a fellow Westmoore alumni, this class sought to help teachers “establish and maintain a safe and collaborative learning environment for all students.” The first thing we did is look at a chart that helped us figure out what kind of collaborator we are, and then find other like-minded people in the room. Adams then explained that by helping students find others who think like them, you can create a safe learning environment for them. Once that safety has been established, students can then begin to work with people who think and collaborate differently.
Based on the descriptions Adams provided, I think that at my last school, I served as The Expert, technologically speaking:
We also discovered another collaborator: The Chameleon. I'll discuss this topic more in coming weeks as I evaluate and integrate what I've learned.
Teaching Grammar Through Revision
I had really wanted to attend “The State of ELA in Oklahoma,” led by Oklahoma State Department of Education Director of Secondary Language Arts Josh Flores, but I figured that I'd be able to either find that information later, or request an overview from someone who attended the session.
Instead, I decided to attend “Teaching Grammar Through Revision.” Presenter Rae Payne of the Oklahoma Writing Project demonstrated several ways to incorporate grammar into the revision stage of the writing process.
Research suggests that the finer points of writing, such as punctuation and subject-verb agreement, may be learned best while students are engaged in extended writing that has the purpose of communicating a message to an audience. Notice that no communicative message is served when children are asked to identify on a worksheet the parts of speech or the proper use of shall and will, according to Becoming a Nation of Readers, the 1985 report by the National Institution of Education.
Her ideas, such as focusing on one element (strong verbs, for example) and asking students to edit each others work, sound like fantastic ways to get kids to expand their writing repertoires. Payne also strongly suggested making sure you validate each student's work via the publishing stage of writing, even if you just ask students to read a portion of their work to the scholar sitting next to them.
I've brought home several handouts to ingest, and will report on how these lessons work with my students after school begins.
Hook ‘Em with Poetry
Payne presented an inspiring session on getting students to buy into the fact that they are all writers by using poetry. Poetry can be introduced early in the year in bite-sized, high interest form, such as two line couplets, haiku, list poems, autobiographical poems. Once students see how fun and easy it is to write a four or five line poem, convincing them to write a paragraph will be much easier. Once they're writing paragraphs, convincing them to write essays will be easier, and so on…
In helping students tune their ears — and mouths and eyes, even their fingertips, their nerve endings — to the glorious range of ways they can string words together, we need to encourage them to fool around, to experiment, to break rules even before they know the rules. Whoever knows all the rules, anyway? according to Judith Rowe Michaels.
In both her sessions, Payne recommended three books that I must buy:
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Teachers Collaborating Over Coffee (At a Conference)
Unfortunately, Flores was not allowed to bring coffee to the final session of the day. However, the English/Language Arts teachers in this session created lists issues teachers have in areas where they have control, such as pedagogy.
My group came up with several issues that we have experience, and also discussed ways in which our districts can help support us in those areas. I am excited to see what ideas other groups discussed and the solutions at which they discovered.
Even better, I won a reusable Starbucks coffee mug door prize. Woohoo!