Sunday, June 26, 2011

All Write--Tuesday

Mindy Hoffar closing the All Write Conference

Tuesday's sessions were as good as Monday's. It was a conference in which every session was incredible.

A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary GradesI began the day in Georgia Heard's session. Her topic was A PLACE FOR WONDER and I see huge possibilities for the library. I have read and loved all of Georgia Heard's books. She was the person who years ago at a Teacher's College Writing Project Summer Institute convinced me that I could include poetry reading and writing in my classroom. Her book, FOR THE GOOD OF EARTH AND SUN is still the resource I go back to again and again for inspiration in the teaching of poetry. This topic, A Place of Wonder, follows Georgia's theme--helping kids find and live their passions--but in this book, she focuses more on nonfiction. I have been especially interested in nonfiction lately, thinking about how to get more kids at our school reading nonfiction by choice. I see huge implications for the library after hearing Georgia talk. I think I read this book when I was new to the library and now that things are set, it seems the perfect time to implement some of the ideas that Georgia shares in the library. One of the key things Georgia talked about was the importance of valuing student questions and having a permanent place in the classroom to capture those.  She also talked about the idea of "pondering time" when a class could explore one question together as a way into class shared research. She says, "Google can answer questions. We want them to think about things. We want them to put opinions with fact-they need voice." She wove all of this in with the teaching of nonfiction and what struck me was the idea that research is not about report writing. It is about wondering, finding answers, thinking together and finding voice because you understand. I will be revisiting this book with an eye toward the library this summer.

I Read It, but I Don't Get It: Comprehension Strategies for Adolescent ReadersCris Tovani (@ctovani) talked about her upcoming book, SO WHAT DO THEY REALLY KNOW? ASSESSMENT THAT INFORMS TEACHING AND LEARNING (due out from Stenhouse in July).  She talked about the importance of getting back to our beliefs about students and learning. She shared that when your beliefs don't match your practice, you get burnt out. She said, "If you don't believe that children can read, you won't do the learning needed to figure out how to scaffold them so they can read for 90 minutes." She really pushed us to think about our practice--why do we do what we do. She did this by sharing her own process and her own thinking over the year. She reminded us that Reading Workshop is not an activity--that it is a planning structure. And she talked about assessment that matters--the kind that helps us know where to take kids next. I am anxious to read her new book. Her first book, I READ IT BUT I DON'T GET IT, impacted me incredibly years ago. Even though Cris was a high school teacher and I was teaching 4th grade at the time, the issues she shares are universal. Cris's work is work that can support our thinking and learning about literacy K-12.

Three Hens and a PeacockLester Laminack really pushed us to think about the role of setting in books. He is brilliant in his understanding of the subtle things an author does in a text and the way that it impacts the reader. As always, listening to Lester was a treat. He can bring powerful thinking to us with his humor and wit. This was the first time I was able to hear Lester read aloud from his new picture book THREE HENS AND A PEACOCK. I love that he can use his own writing to share the decisions he makes as an author. This combination is a unique one for a presenter--his understanding of child development, literacy learning, and the life of a writer. Setting is often one of those things I don't pay attention to but Lester gave us ways to really look at the way setting impacts a story--when it matters. I hope to reread some picture books that he recommended to begin to make sense of setting myself. Lester's blog is also a great source of information.

Teaching with IntentionNo matter how many times I hear Debbie Miller, she keeps me grounded. Debbie shared student samples from K-5 on how she is helping students make their thinking permanent. She is brilliant in her choice of books and shared picture books like THE MAGIC FISH and THE HARMONICA as ways to help students at different levels make sense of text at deeper levels. I loved Debbie's book READING WITH MEANING--it helped me see what kids were capable of when time was given to thinking.  But her book TEACHING WITH INTENTION is one that has impacted my thinking most in the last several years. In that book, as in this presentation, she shared the thought process she goes through to show how intentional she is about every move she makes in the classroom. Everything she does is purposeful and every book she chooses, she does with intent. For me, Debbie is always about thinking hard about the ways in which we spend time with kids--keeping our classrooms authentic and powerful places for learning.

All Write was definitely an energizer. The speakers all gave me so much to think about.  And June is a great time to start thinking and planning!  :-)


  1. All three teaching books that you posted here sound really good. Off to go put them on my to-read list on Goodreads...

  2. This conference sounds amazing! I'm definately going to see if I can get it in the district budget next year.

    I just bought Teaching With Intention, it is now moving to the top of my professional reading pile. I love how thoughtful and purposeful Debbie Mille is in her writing.

  3. After having read Teaching with Meaning countless times in the past five years or so how have I now read Teaching with Intention? That has just jumped to the top of my summer reading list.

    A Place for Wonder was my big read last summer, including a book club with many, many teachers from my school. We created a wiki to capture our thoughts for those who couldn't make various meetings ( I don't know if that is helpful to anyone but us. Rereading that book is also on my summer plans.

  4. I heard about the All Write conference in the blogosphere and would love to attend next year. They had great presenters. Thanks so much for sharing your notes and thoughts. How would I go about getting information for next year's conference?

  5. Ramona, check here for updates about next year's conference:


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