The dates of March 13-15, 2014 are days that will stay with me for a long time. I heard many featured speakers and authors, and I took something away from each session. Actually, I took a lot away from each session. Here are some of the highlights of my time there:
One of the first sectionals I attended was with Steph Harvey, about thinking and intensive learning in grades K-2. She spoke about how our mission is to move information to knowledge in students, and the big key step in between information and knowledge is the process of thinking. She shared that our students need to be thinking intensive readers, listeners and viewers. In whatever students are doing, they need to be thinking about it.
I have heard so many great things about Dick Allington, that I put his sectional down as a “must-do”— and it was fantastic. He shared his findings in research that throwing harder texts at students is not going to increase success or motivation. If we expect readers to be successful, we must make sure they are engaged in a large volume of texts. Spot on, and very straightforward about key issues.
After Mary Pope Osborne’s luncheon, I went to a sectional by the great nonfiction writer, Nic Bishop. Did you know that most of his book’s photographs are shot within the walls of his home? He brings in animals (like snakes) and recreates their environment, often spending days establishing a shot that is just right, and then often waiting several more days for the animal to do the right thing. It was so interesting. I already loved his informational texts, but I appreciate them on a completely different level now.
Of course, the day couldn’t slip away without attending a session lead by Dr. Maria Walther. If you are an elementary teacher and aren’t familiar with her books, do yourself a favor and invest in them. She is able to connect texts in so many different ways and I appreciated every idea she shared in her sectional.
A special feature of IRC is the late night “Hear The Authors Read” sponsored by Anderson’s Bookshop. It was a treat. Dan Gutman informed us his publisher asked him to write picture books, and so he wrote a rhyming book, Rappy The Raptor, which is about a raptor who raps. Dan read the whole book for us, and it was great and had everyone laughing. Look for this book in 2015.
Aaron Reynolds read from a new graphic novel he is working on called Inventing Mongo. Another story that kept the audience laughing. And the audience did not stop laughing when Candace Fleming read from her new series about a 5th grade boy (no title yet). Mary Pope Osborne shared that she is writing books for a little bit older students that are longer, and she shared an excerpt. Jack and Annie are older and go back to WWII.
The next day I had the pleasure of hearing Tim Rasinski, who shared many great vocabulary and spelling strategies, and I heard Jan Richardson twice, who shared many fantastic guided reading strategies. The areas I felt I was lacking in were so well covered by these two experts!
I also was awarded with the K-5 State of IL Reading Teacher of the Year. I was so blessed to have Eric Rohmann, Candy Fleming, and Maria Walther as my special guests. It was also so great to have Debbie Diller as the keynote speaker- she was inspiring.
I have been a huge PETE THE CAT fan since its beginning. I think it is so great for young readers and highly engaging. So, it was so awesome to sit in on his sectional. We sang, we rocked out, we danced, and we celebrated literacy. Most exciting was singing some of his new songs from his new books, the NUTHOUSE series, including “Polka Dot Pants”- it might be a year or two before we see that title come out, but it will be well worth the wait.
I didn’t get to attend Becky Anderson’s sectional about her favorite new books, but I did browse the shelves (of which there were many) which contained the titles, and I scored a copy of Mac Barnett’s newest, PRESIDENT TAFT IS STUCK IN THE BATH. This one is sure to be a winner. It comes out next week on March 25.
Saturday morning I woke up early to attend a breakfast where Nancie Atwell delivered the keynote- I could not stop tweeting her pieces of wisdom. She had so many. Check out my Twitter archives for some very powerful pieces of wisdom.
And, lastly, it was my great honor to meet THE Jon Scieszka. I have been a huge fan, and especially appreciative of his advocacy for boys and literacy, so it was a pleasure to finally meet him. His sectional and his luncheon speech were both hysterical and it was so great to hear the voice behind his crazy books.
I returned home full of new ideas- with a full mind and a full heart. It was so great to connect and build bridges in so many different directions. Truly a great and inspiring conference.