Friday, October 10, 2014

Illinois Reading Conference 2014- Recap!

Attending the Illinois Reading Conference for the first time was enlightening and inspiring.  I've been to plenty of reading conferences and professional development sessions in my lifetime, but never the IRC.  Perusing the book of available sessions to attend was exciting, but a tad overwhelming at the same time.  There was so much to choose from, and wanting to *soak it all in*, I decided to hit a few of the big-timers.

My first "big-timer" was Dr. Richard Allington.  He was fantastic, as expected.  He explained how early intervention is key in preventing difficulties from being magnified in the later grades.  He brought up the point that classroom teachers matter.  Of course they do, right?  Teachers must believe it is their job to teach every child to read, not only the reading staff.  Classroom teachers must effectively differentiate reading lessons in order to reach all of their students.  Strengthening Tier 1 reading instruction must be a priority to reach struggling readers early in the proverbial game.  It's also crucial to expand reading volume in the classroom and focus on metacognition and meaning while reading.  

Another big idea from Dr. Allington was intervention has to be ALL DAY LONG if kids are to significantly improve their reading abilities.  He mentioned "if you want to keep kids stupid, keep doing worksh*ts!" Yep, worksh*ts.  His main point being, kids need sufficient time reading books to become better readers, not a bunch of activity sheets.  Below are a few slides from his presentation. 

The next "big-timer" was Lucy Calkins.  I was excited to see the entrance ticket in my registration packet for her Friday breakfast presentation.  I got up  early in the morning in hopes to meet her before hearing her speak.  A wish come true!  She's amazing. :)

Lucy declared great teachers call students to emerge to show their unique selves through writing.  Each teacher needs to bring a few great *themes and truths* to their life's work.  Sharing those themes with students to show writing is more than just words on paper is important.  Lucy is not against the CCSS, but feels all teachers should add their own unique 10% to the CCSS.  I laughed when she stated "The art of teaching is not telling students (in a squeaky little voice), 'Make sure to provide little sentences of evidence in your writing!'"  She provided a poem for us to view and discuss.  We had to dig a little deeper into the poem and discuss it from different lenses because that's what the CCSS asks of students.  It was an enlightening activity to say the least.   

In addition, Lucy commented on how teachers must be explicit for students.  Kids need a crystal clear sense of goals, so we need to help them set those goals for reading and writing.  Giving sample pieces of grade-level writing to students and having them compare and contrast pieces will allow them the opportunity to view firsthand evidence of what it takes to make their writing stronger.  Guide them to *what's next* in a higher level of writing!

My last "big-timer" was Timothy Shanahan.  He goes against grain of popular beliefs in literacy, which is what I totally admire about him.  I've viewed his blog in the past, but after listening to him speak, I'm now a follower of Shanahan on Literacy.  If you want some eye-opening, research-based information regarding literacy, I suggest you take a peek.  His session was titled Teaching with Challenging Text.  I know the slide below is a little blurry but what it states is "Many studies show that- with scaffolding- students can read 'frustrational level' texts as if they had been placed in books at their 'instructional levels'".  In Shanahan's words "Learning from relatively harder texts is superior because teaching can facilitate/mediate students' interactions with text in ways that allows students to bridge the gap."  Whoa!  Right? Something to think about... Last but not least, Shanahan discussed the importance of expanding students' vocabulary.  Below is a slide of Shanahan's main points. 

Well, there you have it- a little insight into the sessions that impacted me most as a teacher.  I'm looking forward to attending next year in Peoria.  On my Someday list, I commented on wanting to attend the IRC at least once, but would love to attend annually.  My at least once has been accomplished and thanks to my supportive principal she smiled when I requested to attend annually.   I'm hoping that's a yes.  Maybe I should up the ante on my Someday list to being a presenter at the IRC instead of just attending it, eh?  Who knows?  It's being discussed amongst my colleagues.  We even picked up the  proposal paperwork.  ;)

Enjoy your weekend! 


  1. Thanks for sharing, Colleen! I'm glad you found it useful and meaningful to attend that conference :)

    Ventaneando: A Window Into First Grade Bilingüe

    1. Thanks, Adriana! I'm sure hoping to attend annually. I'd love to present with Michelle Brezek along with some others next year, too. Setting my goals high will push me to get my rear in gear. ;)


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