Tuesday, October 27, 2015

PD Love

When I received an invitation to an engaging professional development opportunity from a longtime friend and colleague, Sue Baum of Baum and Beaulieu Associates, I immediately cleared my calendar. What's better to a lifelong learner than being immersed in a day of learning with engaging and knowledgeable presenters? 

Yesterday, as I traveled to Bayside, Queens to hear Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts present on close reading, I felt both the light crispness and brilliance of an October Indian Summer day. I usually like to observe nature when I travel to a workshop, training, or conference but basking in the wonder of autumn is a bit hard to do when driving on the major highways of Long Island that reach into Queens. Luckily, the traffic was mild and the commute an easy one. I eagerly anticipated PD love being spread by the two favorite, enthusiastic presenters to the audience at the Heinemann Professional Development Workshop.

Pleasantries were exchanged upon arrival, followed by a light, delicious breakfast. I had looked forward to meeting up with the hosts of the workshop, Sue Baum and her daughter, Jamie Garippo. Their warm smiles always lend a cheery note to any event. I also enjoyed a lovely chat with Kate and Chris whom I've known professionally for several years. I am a fan of their book Falling in Love with Close Reading so much so that as part of the NYEDChat team had them guest moderate one of our chats. I've seen both Chris and Kate present at NCTE, Kate at TC, and Chris at ILA. One of the most enjoybale PD experiences to be a part of was what we refer to as Chris' Saturday in Pajamas PD with The Educator Collaborative

Needless to say, I was excited to be present in the audience for the start of the Heinemann workshop. The topic, Fall in Love with Close Reading, would extend my knowledge bank on close reading as I continue to consult with teachers on Long Island. As the workshop started, I settled down next to a Long Island colleague, Dr. Laquita Outlaw and a young teacher, Jessica Romano from Brooklyn. We formed a triad and spent the morning involved in learning, collaborating, and sharing our thoughts on the engaging exercises created by the presenters. 

Laquita and I started tweeting and promised Jessica that we would have her on Twitter by the end of the workshop. Twitting from conferences is always a great way to allow others to learn virtually. Chris and Kate were also retweeting learnings and comments sent out by the audience. 
The presenters led us through a series of collaborative conversations based around print, audio, and visual texts displayed. I noticed educators from the tri-state region openly conversing with each other throughout the workshop. I attributed the positive energy in the room to the high level of engagement established at the onset that led to the formation of a thriving community of learners. I tweeted that out because it is important to establish rapport during any professional development workshop.

Here are some inspirational quotes from Chris and Kate that I gathered during the professional development experience:

  • Close reading is a human act. It does not have to be only an academic act.
  • Close reading fills us with energy.
  • Students need to practice close reading with texts that they can read.
  • Text has layers.
  • Word choice impacts text. 
  • Develop student's literal and interpretation understanding of text or ability to critique the text.
  • We are the author of the words we use to talk about ourselves.

Chris and Kate created their own definition of close reading. 

My favorite inspirational quote of the day: 

Good reading work is life work.

During the course of the workshop, we read through lenses, jotted our thinking, used lenses to find patterns, used patterns to develop new understanding, and shared. We grew as learners based on the amount of knowledge and facilitation provided by Chris and Kate. We also talked about the importance of student watching (historically referred to as "kidwatching") as a vital form of assessment. 

Did we walk away with new learnings and English teacher chills, a term coined by Kate Roberts? Absolutely! Here are some take-aways that I jotted down in my notes or tweeted across the Twittersphere with the hashtag #FILWCloseReading:

  • Images convey meaning! They are wonderful ways to empower students, especially at-risk learners who need images to build vocabulary.
  • Accountable talk in collaborative conversations is important to build thinking and meaning.
  • Start with a pop song to immediately engage students in close reading. Use the Top 10 list and find the lyrics to accompany the song.  

Passion and energy flowed throughout the Falling in Love with Close Reading workshop. My table got those English teacher chills as we moved through the series of texts and presenter interactions. We learned strategies, tips, and techniques to have students closely read and transfer that learning across narratives, informational, and argumentative texts. We talked about assessment and how the work we engaged in becomes life work. Lastly, we left with the understanding that close reading is not the curriculum but one part that provides a foundation for students to become meaning makers. 


Since today is Tuesday, the site Two Writing Teachers encourages educators to share their Slice of Life. Please visit the community of bloggers to read other's slices. You can also access some slice under the Twitter hashtag #sol15. 

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