Sunday, June 25, 2017

What's Your Mission? Reflections from the Scholastic Reading Summit (and more)

About halfway between my house and my sister's stands a church. A marquee lights up the otherwise dark corner where it stands, and on that marquee are often words of wisdom that stick with me for days. The latest is no exception.

I passed by the sign on my way home from visiting my nieces after the Scholastic Reading Summit this week. Maybe it was everything that was swirling through my head that I had learned, or maybe it was just meant to speak to me... but I can't stop pondering it.

So much of what I heard and discussed at the Summit parallels and supports what I've been reading on Twitter and in Disrupting Thinking. In the upcoming year, what will be my mission? Right now, I'm all-in for pushing my kids to disrupt their thinking and taking on the hard work of tackling tough topics. 

Finally hearing Jess Lifshitz speak in real life was such a treat at the Scholastic Reading Summit. Jess has impacted my thinking in so many ways through her blog and her tweets, so being in the same room with her was one of the highlights of the conference for me. Her session was all about empowering readers through choice, student-created reading goals, and work that matters. I know I'm not alone when I say that each of those three parts could've been a session in and of itself. 

One immediate change I know I'll implement is the first question I ask my readers as we confer. Instead of the usual, "How's it going?" I'll be stealing Jess's question. "What have you noticed as you've been reading?" This will open the doors to help them set their own reading goals, deepen our conversations, and assist me in disrupting their thinking. Jess also gave a step-by-step process for her reading conferences that will help move me forward with my conferences as well. While reading conferences may be the least efficient way to meet the needs of readers, they are absolutely the most effective.

Although I've followed along with the work Jess has been doing with her 5th graders through her blog, listening to her talk about it made me realize just how important it is. I love her idea of starting the year with guided inquiry into story. Sadly, my district learned a lesson this year that even though we think we are teaching kids to honor each other's backgrounds and stories, we just aren't doing enough. Yet. Equality and acceptance have always been near and dear to my heart, but the world we live in is adding fuel to my fire to help kids think openly and deeply. Our continued #classroombookaday mission will help us tremendously with this endeavor! I also plan to have my kids follow Jess's lead as we take a critical look at our classroom library for evidence of how it does (or doesn't) represent a wide variety of people.

Donalyn Miller shared an idea at the Scholastic Reading Summit that has been bouncing around in my brain quite a bit. To help head off miscommunication with parents, she suggests creating a t-chart at "parent night" that highlights practices of then and now. I think this will especially be helpful this year as my district has embraced a balanced literacy approach and is beginning a 3-year implementation. This year, our focus is on word study and using the Words Their Way program as a tool. The second year will focus on Reader's Workshop, followed in the third year by Writer's Workshop. While these practices have been a part of my classroom for years, I'm thrilled that my district has officially embraced it. And it goes without saying that I still have a LOT to learn about all three components! Creating the chart Donalyn shared will be helpful in explaining to parents how our instruction has changed (or is changing) to support our learners.

Another idea that stuck with me from the Summit was the importance of book talks. So many of the presenters (and authors) reiterated the powerful impact book talks have on readers. I know how much I'm influenced by people talking about books, so I have to believe it's also true for my students. Part of my mission this year will be more consistency with book talks and offering more opportunities for students to give book talks. 

While the learning was nearly mind-blowing, I have to also throw this in. Seeing Twitter friends at the Scholastic Reading Summit was also one of my very favorite parts of the day. Not only did I get to hug some of my favorite Twitter friends and continue conversations with them, but I was also so, so happy to get to say hello in real life to a few I've never met before. I can't say enough about how much I rely on my Nerdy Twitter peeps for daily inspiration!!

It was important for me to begin by reflecting on the learning and sharing that took place at the Scholastic Reading Summit, but I'm confident my summer learning will continue to define and clarify my mission.  Conversations with my Twitter PLN, more professional reading, and a trip to Nerd Camp are all upcoming opportunities to fine-tune my mission for this year, too.  

How about you? What's YOUR mission?