I agree with you, Casey! Saturday Reunions are always inspiring! James Howe’s message about “heart connections” resonated for me throughout my day. Howe reminded us that when we write from our hearts we write the truth. This takes courage. I think it also takes courage to teach from our hearts. It got me thinking about how important it is to be real people, real writers, real readers in our own classrooms; to learn alongside and from our students; and to engage our students in genuine conversation and meaningful learning activities. James Howe’s message reminded me of Paley’s The Girl with the Brown Crayon. Paley taught with heart. She had the courage to engage her children in real learning. She believed in her children and knew they came “to school knowing how to think about such matters.” And that as teachers, “we only need to give them the proper context in which to demonstrate and fine-tune their natural gifts” (86). The three workshops I attended echoed this message.
I attended Mary Ehrenworth’s Virtual Writer’s Notebook session. She suggested that if our writer’s workshop feels flat, it might because we are not living like writers in our own classrooms. She suggested creating a writer’s notebook in which you do the same kind of writing your students to do. She showed us ways to teach out of these entries during small group strategy lessons. Mary suggested using an over-sized sketchpad-type notebook, so students could gather around your notebook during strategy lessons and see your writing. For example, if you notice your students are writing summary-like entries like, “I went to the beach. We swam. It was fun” you could also write an entry like this. On the next page over you could use the space to show how you improve your entry using dialogue, action and internal thoughts. She suggested writing some of these ahead of time so we teach with our best work.
While Mary showed us how to be genuine writers in our own classrooms, Kathy Collins showed us how to engage children in genuine reading – through reading clubs. I love this idea! She defined a reading club as “a couple of kids reading sets of books related I some way.” I love the idea of a pair or group of kids reading books centered on a student-selected topic or theme of interest. I imagine a non-fiction reading club (say a reading club that decides they want to read about snakes or pyramids, etc.) would compliment a science, social studies or math inquiry unit. This connects to the idea of content area literacy Casey described.
My last session was Carl Anderson’s workshop on conferencing. Carl focused on the teaching portion of the conference. He reminded us to do real teaching in the conference. Instead of just saying, “Let’s add some dialogue here,” to actually show the writer how to go about doing this.
I think Saturday Reunions are a chance to reflect on our practices, envision new possibilities and give us the courage to continue to teach, write and learn with heart.