The first one I heard was from Mary Bigler. If you have ever heard her before, then you know how funny she is and what a hoot she is to listen to. She used to be a teacher and she has many wonderful stories that make you giggle. She also has a book out that tells of these stories. It's a must read if you need to make connections with someone who has walked in your shoes before. She emphasized that the best thing we can do is allow our kids TIME to read. We spend so much time teaching them to read, but if we don't allow them TIME to practice those skills in school, then we are losing ground fast.
The next words of wisdom came from Nell Duke who has also written about book about Genres. She said that we have to think outside the box and not have our kids learn the same way that we did, or assign the same kinds of work that we have assigned for years. For example, instead of asking your students to write a report about a state, have them learn the facts from that state and then make it into a board game. Teach them how to write the directions of how to play the game. Teach them how to make a game board and how to lay it all out. Let them play it with their own classmates, other classrooms, or take it home to play with a family. Doesn't that sound like a much better way to learn something than to just write up a report!
She also said that instead of writing an informational report have them think about their audience and write for them. What environment is this informational writing about? For example The Potter Park Zoo in Lansing wanted some new literature to give to the visitors. So a summer class of kdg - 2nd grade underprivileged boys learned all about the animals at the zoo and they wrote up the brochures in kid friendly terms and that was what the visitors to the zoo received when they walked in the doors. That also sounds much more worth while than just "write a report!"
How can you use this kind of writing in your classroom? Well what about making a book about your school? Write the book for a new student or family moving into town. What would that family like to know about your school? What are the strengths of your school? Then put that book in some Realtors hands, on the tables at coffee shops, at doctor and dentist offices, at the library. . . anywhere someone would have a minute to read something. After all, who knows your school better than your students?
The last thing I will share with you comes from Donalyn Miller from Texas. She wrote the Book Whisperer. She is a reading teacher of 5th grade I think. She talks about what we need to do to make our kids life long readers, but what does that really mean? So she took a survey and found out what avid readers thought they needed to have. One of the things they need is books. But not just one book. Make a plan. What are you reading now. . . . what are you going to read NEXT, and what would you like to read in the future. Keep a book with you ALWAYS!!! Her kids know that if the teacher has to step out to the door to talk to someone for a couple minutes, they all grab a book out of their desks. .. .They always have something to read. She expects her students to read 40 books each year. . . and I'm sure she isn't talking picture books!
Sorry this is so long. But going to MRA fires me up and