Thursday and Friday, June 21 and 22, I attended the Midsouth Reading & Writing Conference in Birmingham, Al. Thursday was done in what I think of as "traditional" conference style, with a Keynote speaker and four breakout sessions. The conference is geared more towards elementary school, so I only attended three sessions, as there was no option for a middle school teacher for session 4. However, the three sessions I did attend were great! Tonya Perry, a professor at UAB, held a session on Common Core. As I have been a stay-at-home mom while most of that was happening, I don't know a lot about it. Tonya was very knowledgeable and gave us some great information. We talked about the shifts and changes Common Core would produce in middle school ELA classrooms. She gave us index-card-sized color-coded papers with the different standards and we grouped them based on "do it," "do some of it," and "don't do it." That was a very telling experience as we were able to see patterns based on the color-coding.
The second session I attended was with Rick Shelton. If you teach writing at ANY grade level, you should take any opportunity you get to hear him speak. He's amazing! He's a huge proponent of "you have to write to learn to write." He also believes that grammar is useless when taught in isolated lessons. For it to have any meaning it has to connect directly to the students' writing. Makes sense to me! I've been reading about writing workshops for a few years now, but it didn't REALLY click until yesterday!
The third session I attended was with Kathy Champeau and was about RtI and how Wisconsin handles it. It was also informative considering I'm not familiar with the actual wording of the law, just what was disseminated by administrators at the school I worked in during the 2010-2011 school year.
The most interesting part of the conference, though, was the second day. We spent the whole day listening to Peter Johnston. Most of his presentation came form his book Opening Minds and is about the use and effect of language in the classroom. He has some very intriguing ideas, but I'll save that for the next post!