Thursday, February 28, 2013

Authentic Reading and Writing Communities

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to not only attend, but also present at the amazing Dublin Literacy Conference (#dublit13).  While I've presented twice at the Central Ohio Technology Summit and organized informal SMARTboard and Moodle sessions with colleagues, this was by far my most "official" event.

COTS is free, very local, and very low-key (yet still very wonderful!), while teachers drive for hours and pay a substantial registration fee for the Lit Conference.  Moreover, there are incredible keynote speakers (Ralph Fletcher & Louise Borden this year, and Donalyn Miller & Sharon Draper last year!), as well as other sessions with other famous teachers and authors!  (Husband made fun of me when I said there were "famous teachers," but it's true!)

Consequently, I woke up on Saturday morning with almost as much energy as I have on a Christmas morning and started sweating buckets as soon as I arrived at the conference.  This might sound like I was nervous, and I was a little, but mostly I was excited. I know some people don't really enjoy presenting, but I love it!  I love to share my ideas and help people find new strategies to improve their teaching, because I love learning so much.  I also think it's really fun to meet other teachers and connect with them.

Since this was a fancy conference, I even got my very own "presenter" ribbon.  I'll admit that I felt pretty proud of myself wearing it around all day!  Best part: when I was getting Ralph Fletcher to sign my classroom copy of Guy Write for my students, he noticed my "presenter" ribbon and said "Oh, I see you're a fellow presenter!"  A fellow presenter! I almost died!  My tiny little session didn't exactly compare to your keynote speech, Ralph!

Anyway, I had a wonderful time sharing ideas about engaging my ELLs with authentic reading and writing communities.  In addition to discussing how I use Goodreads and Kidblog with my students, I showed some examples from our reading and writing workshop discussion forums on Moodle. I also shared some of the resources I provide to engage my students as readers and writers, like  RSS feeds and widgets with news articles and the "writing inspiration" page I created.

To me, the most important evidence that these tools are effective is the fact that students use them voluntarily outside of school.  When I give a book talk and my students are adding the book to the "to-read" lists on Goodreads from their phones and iPads, that's authentic engagement.  When I visit my school Goodreads account or go to our blog and find that someone has voluntarily used them after school, that's the best feeling in the world.

After all, I want my students to learn while they're in my class, but I really want them to keep learning after they leave my class.

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