An English Teacher’s Rock Concert
I would like to thank whatever English teacher fairy blessed me with the knowledge of the existence of the TALE Conference. TALE is the Texas Association for Literacy Education, and before this school year, I had never heard of it. How is that possible? I’ve been a secondary English teacher in Texas for 20 years! How did I not know about this wonderful organization? Well now I do, and because of this conference, I am a changed person.
Looking over the schedule of this conference was, for me, like reading the list of acts at SXSW or Coachella for a music lover. Stephanie Harvey, Kylene Beers, Bob Probst, Tanny McGregor, Gretchen Bernabei, Ernest Morrell… I mean it was like having U2, The Police, and AC/DC all in the same place! A serious rock concert of English-teaching gods and goddesses. I was so excited!
Pick Your Poison
Each day was a smorgasbord of offerings. They labeled them by interest (elementary, middle, secondary, etc.) so that you would be sure to pick something applicable to what you teach. I attended 8 or 9 sessions over the two days, and only two of them were disappointments. That’s pretty good for a conference! Sometimes you only come away with one or two things you can use, but I feel like someone gave me superpowers and now I can go back and teach like a champ!
Critical Literacy with Gwynne Ellen Ash
She gave us all these amazing tools and games for teaching our students to critically read all sorts of media. I can go back to the classroom and teach kids how to spot fake news, how to search legitimate sources, how to advocate for their own learning, and how to differentiate between good information and questionable content. Too many awesome things, and I can’t wait to take it all back and start working with it!
Middle Grade Book Talks
One of the disappointments. They just showed us a powerpoint of new books. They could have given us an annotated bibliography and sent us on our way.
Text Structures from Fairy Tales with Gretchen Bernabei
First of all, she teaches in my hometown, so I automatically loved her. Beyond that, she’s a GENIUS when it comes to writing and making it accessible and meaningful to kids. I bought one of her books at the conference, and the other is in my Amazon cart. You seriously need to check her out if you teach writing at any level. I learned so much from her in just an hour, and I can’t imagine what I’ll be able to get from her books. Game-changing.
Graphic Novels in the K-12 Classroom
These three ladies were super passionate about using graphic novels in the classroom, especially considering the use of multi-modalities in the new TEKS. They really opened our eyes to the levels of books out there and the inherent difficulty of reading a GN as opposed to a novel. I didn’t realize how many classic novels had been made into GNs, and I think it would be great to have these for ESL or struggling readers in my 8th and 9th grade classes. I will definitely be using some department funds to purchase some in the future.
Keynote Speech: Creating Powerful Readers and Writers in 21st Century Classrooms- Dr. Ernest Morrell
This guy. Seriously. Incredibly intelligent, passionate, and knowledgeable about teaching English in our current society of learners. I think I took four pages of notes while he was speaking even though I knew he would send us his presentation if we asked. His whole speech centered around ways to get kids excited about learning. He equated it to what we want as adults. What do we look for? What makes us happy/excited/motivated? Why aren’t we looking for these same things for kids? I was very inspired after listening. It felt like a halftime locker room pep talk. It was awesome.
Ink & Ideas- Sketchnotes for Engagement, Comprehension, and Thinking with Tanny McGregor
As a kid, I doodled a lot. It wasn’t until high school that I realized I couldn’t pay attention unless I was writing or drawing something. ADD again. Once I embraced that, my grades got better, and I retained so much more information. That’s the idea behind sketchnotes. Embrace the messy, colorful ideas in kids’ heads, and have them practice metacognition by drawing their thinking. This works for every grade level and every content area, and it is fabulous. She walked us through how she introduces the concept to kids, and she gave us a template to get us started. I HAD to buy her newest book so I could start working this into my own classroom expectations. I can’t wait to see how it changes kids memory and engagement with more difficult concepts.
This is the one that I couldn’t wait for. I am SUCH a fan of Beers and Probst, Kylene Beers in particular. Probably because she’s a Texan. 🙂 If you ever get the chance to go see either one or both of these fabulous people, you should absolutely do it. They have such a heart for teachers, and kids, and the job we all have, it really is pretty amazing. They are funny, informative, encouraging…all the things you want in a good PD session. I bought her book When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do so that she could sign it because my Notice and Note books were back at school. She was so gracious! I was definitely fangirling a bit for that one.
This was the other disappointing one. I felt like this was their very first presentation. I didn’t get anything useful out of the session, in fact, I didn’t even take one note. And I’m definitely a note-taker.
And that was the end of my five-day PD saga for the week. I am worn out, and excited, and overwhelmed, and inspired, so I’d say it was a resounding success!
If you missed Part One and Part Two, check them out!