This is a guest post from Amanda Holstrom, Instructional Technology Specialist/Library Media Specialist at Sartell Middle School. Need a scholarship to attend a conference or participate in Professional Development? Apply today!
Ties 2017 was a very intense and exciting conference. The sheer amount of people and the ideas that were being shared was enough to excite all learners. The focus of the keynote speakers was “What’s Your Story?” and the message was to focus on sharing ideas around the world and letting students share their learning with an authentic audience. Jeanie Magiera, one of the Keynote speakers, did a wonderful job of explaining the impact of storytelling and how using technology to share her ideas and learning has helped her personally and professionally. This idea that sharing is encouraged rather than trying to keep thoughts and ideas inside was very motivating and gave me the reassurance that our new independent reading curriculum is beneficial to students.
In regard to reading/independent reading practices a shift was made for the 2017-2018 school year. Whereas past practice had teachers assign a given amount of AR points for students to earn by reading and taking a test of recall, after discussion on best practices in reading and reflection on the Common Core Standards a change was made to honor choice independent reading time and conferring practices into daily lessons. This overhaul on student reading and subsequent shift of the focus from points and books to sharing stories has made a huge impact. Students are required to read but they choose the novel as well as meet with the teacher to discuss their reading and learning that is taking place. Students are also encouraged to share their reading with others. This new shift in the reading curriculum has shown growth in student reading and natural conversations centered on reading are taking place.
Another speaker that I felt will help me in the classroom was Dave Burgess. He offered two sessions: Teach Like A Pirate, which explained his book and how he approached education in his classroom and Teaching Outside The Box, that covered how to use creative ideas in your classroom to harness student learning potential. One of his ideas was to capture trends and use them in your classroom rather than trying to ban them from school. His examples included using fidget spinners for probability math problems, science experiments with data collection, writing exercises that focus on poetry for spinning, and learning about trends and inventions in social studies. His main message was to look at learning with lenses of opportunity rather than rules and rote memorization.