If you’ve been following my blog, you know just HOW much I look forward to attending the WSRA Wisconsin State Reading Association each year in February in Milwaukee, WI. I find it so uplifting, invigorating, and reaffirming to rub elbows with the top experts in our field, attend sessions that expand my thinking, and be surrounded by such passionate, knowledgeable educators. Then I always come back to my blog to share the cutting-edge research and educational materials I discover. See my previous posts below if you’re curious!
This year was no exception. Such careful planning and TLC go into making this conference the best in the nation. And this year, something extra special – I got to be a presenter! Proposals need to be submitted almost a year in advance, so I had no way of knowing that my idea for “Fake News” would grow to be such a popular, trending topic by 2018. But I was thrilled at the high level of attendance and participation at my session. Educators from middle and secondary classrooms expressed to me a heightened need for media literacy and critical consuming awareness and education in their classrooms. They hailed from social studies, language arts, journalism, english, and history classes across the state. I’m so thrilled that we, as educators, see ourselves at the front line in preparing and equipping students to be the critical citizens that can intelligently shape their own futures. Presentation Link
Of course, I also had the honor of attending the keynote and several other sessions that day.
Our 2018 Keynote speaker was Alfie Kohn, an author, lecturer, and expert on education, parenting, and human behavior. He was so incredibly engaging and humorous – a great way to start the day! His presentation, entitled “How to Destroy Children’s Interest in Reading” was a perfect summary of classroom teacher’s frustrations and instincts regarding encouraging and maintaining a student’s love of reading.
Alfie had 8 was to certainly kill a child’s joy of reading:
- Quantify reading. Tell them how much or how long to read
- Force students to analyze, summarize, and otherwise digest their reading.
- Make reading a solitary activity. include copious amounts of independent homework.
- The teacher decides everything about the reading process. What a student reads, where s/he reads it, with whom, when, and under what circumstances.
- Frame everything as test prep.
- Make everything about reading strategies and phonics practice instead of just enjoying the experience.
- Force students to read at their own level and practice a narrow band of skills, regardless of what they find interesting.
- Give them a reward for reading. When you offer rewards, you change what, how, and why a student chooses to read.
Next, I had the privilege of attending a session held by none other than Jan Richardson herself! This presentation was entitled “Moving Forward with Guided Word Study.” Let me tell you, it’s a once in a lifetime experience to see an intervention or curriculum demonstrated by the creator, herself. She had many videos of her working directly with students, which she still does today. She clearly explained word study and its correlation to reading at each level, A and up, and demonstrated what it should contain and look like. The fear here is that teachers don’t always spend time on Word Study, seeing it as optional, and instead focus on reading comprehension and strategies.
Jan reminded us that sight word study should be part of Word Study at least through level I (2nd grade-ish), and that the goal is not to memorize words, but rather to learn to look at and recognize words. I loved the following process she used with a group of 1st graders.
- She chose the word ‘here’ from a reading they just completed (connected, not random word choice, and a focus after authentic exposure.
- She showed them several permutations of the word ‘here’ and asked them which letter(s) were missing. h-re, he-e, -ere, etc.
- Next, she gave them magnetic letters and asked them “mix and fix” or shuffle the letters and reset them several times.
- Third, she asked them to write the word with their finger on the table, then on the whiteboard (kinesthetic, tactile). They practiced writing it several time, mixing in some previously known words in between.
This activity reallllllly made me want to get some magnetic letters and a tray! It was so concise, scripted, engaging, and hit on so many different learning styles. And again, to her point, it wasn’t about memorizing the word ‘here,’ but rather about learning to manipulate and recognize the word several different ways.
Jan reminded us that Word Study should be multifaceted and contain:
- Picture sorts to learn the sounds
- Making words to learn to apply the sounds to reading
- Sound boxes (aka Elkonin Boxes) to learn to apply the sounds to writing.
All three of these components are important!
She also introduced us to a new method of analytic phonics that is remarkably different in essential ways from Words Their Way. If you are familiar with WTW, you may often hear the complaint that students learn to visually recognize the patterns but don’t always master “hearing” the patterns. Jan’s answer to this is an auditory approach to analytic phonics. For example, if she were teaching students the “ick” and “ike” pattern, she would have them write down “sick” and “like” on either half of the page. From there on, every word would be dictated orally, and students would add them to the correct side of the page by listening and spelling by analogy. I loved this!
So those were my 2018 WSRA adventures. If you attended or have questions / comments, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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