Monday, July 27, 2015

A New Experience at #ILA15

Photo from Unsplash

The setting was not new -- but the experience was.

In the shadow of the Gateway Arch, on the banks of the Mississippi River, lies the city of St. Louis. It was the location of our family vacation in 2003 as well as a few other short stops over the years I've lived here in the Midwest.

But this time was different, in purpose and in company.

St. Louis was the host city for the #ILA15 (International Literacy Association) July 17-20, 2015.

And it was my first time to attend a large, educational conference.

My district sent approximately 30 educators to the conference and I was truly grateful for a chance to not only spend time with my great colleagues, but to also learn more about literacy ideas and research. I was able to learn a variety of ideas about the importance of reading, brain-based strategies, technology tools, and ways to help students grow in many areas of literacy.

Southeast Polk Educators at ILA
--most of the group! :)
Personally, the trip was a little bittersweet as I spent the entire weekend with 3 of my colleagues from the school I've been at (forever!) and now I will be at different schools this fall. I truly appreciate the time we were able to spend together talking, laughing, eating, and learning together.


Instead of describing every amazing detail of the conference, I'll highlight some memorable thoughts:

"The key to positive reading identity is engagement." Donalyn Miller

"What doesn't have reading research behind it? Test prep and motivational pencils."  :)
Donalyn Miller and Teri S. Lesesne

"Motivation and background level can overcome reading level." Donalyn Miller

"Reading is for leisure and learning." Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris

"We want students to use technology tools that engage students to read, write, talk, and think." Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris

"Contraliteracy is our well intended practices that have negative effects on literacy development." Justin Stygles

"Reading shame comes from an internalization in deficiency." Justin Stygles

"Mentor text experiences integrate instruction." Maria Walther

"Surround mentor texts with collaborative conversations." Maria Walther

"When we read we bring with us our past experiences." Dana Karraker

"Students have learned compliance. Now let's engage them!" LaVonna Roth

Awesome buttons from Anderson's Bookshop

To the ILA organizers, speakers, attendees, and especially my district and all my SEP friends, thanks for a memorable weekend of learning!

Sign at Pi Pizzeria in St. Louis

Saturday, July 11, 2015

#EdCampSurfIA - Why not?

Why get up early on a Friday morning in the middle of the summer?

Why drive 2 hours away from home to meet a room full of people I haven't met?

Why make the decision to do this less than 2 days from the event?

Why not?

After getting my daughters up and off to swim practice,
I was on the road a little after 6 am!

Yesterday's EdCamp experience in Clear Lake, Iowa was well worth the early morning drive. It was organized by Steve Kwikkel (@SKwikkel), Principal at Clear Lake Middle School as well as Kay Schmalen, Nicki Barragy, and Emily Hill.

A unique venue for our EdCamp.
Instead of having the EdCamp in a school, we gathered in the historic Surf Ballroom. Located just about a block from the lake itself, it was like a step back into time.....a time of big bands, dancing, and music legends.
I  could have spent more time here
reading all the historic info!

  After meeting (for the first time) some long-time Twitter friends, Darin (@AnIowaTeacher) and Kory (@KoryTellers), I felt like I was in absolutely great company! Shortly after an introduction, the attendees started filling up the session board with ideas. I was amazed the board was filled up in about 5 minutes!  The majority of the attendees were first-time EdCampers. For myself, it was the 5th EdCamp in 10 months. Can you tell that I enjoy these experiences?

A view of the ballroom from the lobby.
After a few words from the organizers, we divided up into different sections of the lounge and ballroom according to our choices. The hardest thing was choosing a session, but luckily notes were taken for each section. If you're interested in some new ideas, click HERE for the whole collection of notes.

Here's a summary of the sessions I attended. First, I went to the Google in the Classroom session. We discussed various Google apps, ideas, and management systems. I learned some new options for using Google Forms.

After that session was over, I attended a small group (4 of us) about Blogging. We discussed different ways to use blogging in the classroom to collect student responses, share ideas and projects, and have students write more about what they are learning in different content areas.

My third session for the morning was about Gamification and Coding. This is an area that I don't know much about but am interested in learning more. I collected a lot of new ideas and resources to look at later. My 4th grade students loved the coding activities we did last year on and for the Hour of Code. I hope to attend a training on coding this fall and use it with some students during media next year.

Next ---> lunchtime! Two local restaurants, The Anchor Inn and SIPS, gave us pre-order menus for lunch. At the Anchor Inn, we were greeted with a sign and a table ready with our food prepared. It was a relaxing, fun time to eat and talk. And BONUS - we had more than a 20-minute lunch (this is exciting for teachers).

Sandwiches, soups, salads, and more!
The Anchor Inn welcomed us for lunch!
Lunch with Darin Johnston and Kory Graham
*picture credit to Steve Kwikkel with Kory's phone :)
After lunch, I went to a session about Tech in the Classroom. There were some great ideas about connecting through Google Hangouts or Skype for projects and events. We also talked about how it's important to start small when you're a teacher that is just beginning to integrate technology. We discussed how to overcome some obstacles. There were some great ideas shared about apps, projects, creativity, and QR codes.

As the day was wrapping up (and the band was coming in to set up for the evening's show), I attended my last session about Tween Centered Classrooms. This was a great discussion about tweens and how their needs (intellectually, emotionally, physically, and more) need to be met in different ways. We all agreed that being present, developing relationships, and allowing some choice were at the top of these lists.

Although I didn't win anything from the prize table this time, I ended up leaving with a great feeling having met so many new connections -- educators that can help me as I continue my learning journey and friends whose paths I hope to cross again soon!

And...... I just had to catch a close up glimpse of the lake before I headed out of town. Wished I could have made the day last longer.

So, Why not join me next time?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Headed Into the Storm

I-80 West, mile marker 182, Grinnell, Iowa 6-28-15
Huge, billowing white clouds behind us.

Sun, rain, and dark clouds in front of us.

Caught between two beautiful pictures, but positioned to head right into the storm.

On our last of three trips back and forth to Grinnell, Iowa during the last weekend of June, we settled in for our ride home, only to be met with this scene as we merged onto the interstate. We had just finished a fun but exhausting weekend of swim competitions for our daughters and some of their teammates.

The looming clouds ahead, although beautiful, were also a sign of uncertainty.

How big was the storm?

Would we have to stop because of the rain?

Would we be able to still see the road?

Would other vehicles be able to see us?

As educators, we often see signs of an upcoming storm.......a student that is upset, an unexpected change of the day's plan or schedule, technology that stops working, a conversation that is overdue.....

How you do handle these storms?  Head on, full speed ahead? Gently, with caution? The way we respond to storms often determines the outcome, or "storm damage" as well as the way we handle the next storm. You don't want to be caught in a storm without an umbrella, or drown in the rain, but you also don't need to shy away from every raindrop.

As I start thinking about next year, I know there will be storms some days. But having a positive outlook and dealing gently with the signs of those upcoming storms will help me weather all kinds of situations.

Storms don't last forever, thank goodness! And the storm we drove through didn't either.

We made it through the storm fairly quickly, with sunny skies and fairly dry roads on the other side. 

What seemed to be a potentially stormy road trip didn't turn out too bad, and we enjoyed the rest of the ride home together.