Tag Archives: Wonder

NCTE#17 TakeAways


I am in St. Louis, MI to attend NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) and it is always empowering to be among thousands of English Teachers, Literacy Coaches, Researchers, and Authors. From 7:00 AM through the wee-hours of the night we are listening, learning, networking, collaborating, discussing, sharing, and inspiring each other. This annual convention is one of the best in-person professional development opportunities for someone in the English Language Arts and Literacy field.

Yesterday the kickoff included a meet up for Middle School Teachers with Ignite Keynotes from Kylene Beers, Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle, Chris Lehman, and author, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich addressing the role of Middle School and literacy in shaping student identity. This morning the power of poetry was the theme with Jimmy Santiago Baca and youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman.

The first session I attended was with Penny Kittle on “Creative Structures for Organizing Writing: Beyond the 5 Paragraph Essay.” She mentioned that the five paragraph essay is nothing that students have to complete in college so why are we using this limited writing structure to teach writing. Breaking free of the 5 Paragraph essay structure allows for more authentic writing like Op-Ed pieces, reviews, profiles and Public Service Announcements. Show students the models and mentors to help them succeed in writing these types of texts and build their writing repertoire. Her handouts are available on her website under NCTE.

Kelly Gallagher spoke about Fake News and helping our students develop world knowledge and being critical readers. Too many people accept information for what it is where a website, news story, or text and don’t ask questions about who is writing the story? What is their purpose? What is being left out? Who is the audience? Does it pass the CRAP Test – Currency, Reliability, Authority, Purpose? He argued that maybe we need to put literary analysis aside in order to bring to the forefront the value of the reading experience.

I was one of the presenter in the next session on Igniting Wonder in the Classroom along with Laura Robb, Kristen Ziemke, Carol Varsalona, Blanca Duarte, Laura Purdie Salas, and Wonderopolis. I presented on Quest Based Learning to spark wonder and play in the classroom. My slide deck is below.

Since there are so many amazing authors at NCTE, I could not forego seeing a few outstanding YA authors including A.S. King, Somon Chainani, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, Andrew Smith, and e.E. Charlton-Trujillo. Let’s just say, these are a few of the badass authors who write great YA fiction. They addressed social justice, humor, and tackling tough topics with their readers.  For all of them writing has been “freedom, power, and voice.”

Dropping into the exhibit hall, a few ARC copies of soon to be released books were shared and cannot wait to start reading. New titles that tackle historical fiction and zombies, dystopia, and poetry.


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#EdcampLI’s Rigor, Wonder, and Book Love

Saturday was amazing.  I attended #EdcampLI held at the Willet’s Road School in Roslyn Heights, Long Island and left energized and excited to go back to school on Monday. Some common threads addressed by the workshop leaders and attendees included: engagement, relevancy, growth mindset, and connections.

If you do not know much about EdCamps, they are anti-conferences or a choose your own professional development opportunity tied into one. Teachers and administrators show up to an Edcamp and can either lead a session or attend sessions presented by a host of educational experts. By educational experts I mean current teachers, administrators, authors, educational consultants and more. Edcamps are no to low cost and allow attendees to attend the workshops and discussions that are most meaningful to them. These unconferences are a great way to meet like-minded colleagues who are looking to improve and learn from one another.

Throughout the day I participated in four workshops, talked with a ton of people, tweeted nonstop, and made lots of connections. The two workshops left a lasting impression on me were Carol Varsalona and Blanca E. Duarte‘s interactive presentation Discovering Wonder: Increasing Student Engagement with Curiosity and Awe and JoEllen McCarthy‘s Book Love: New Titles, Tools and Tweeting to Energize All Readers & Writers!

Here are some sticking points:

Invite vigor and engagement into your classroom with wonder and passion.

To create WONDER in your classroom:

Redesign the literacy landscape — think outside of the box and create a classroom that promotes inquiry and excitement right when they walk in the door. It is not just about what you are doing in your classroom but also how your classroom is set up and looks. You want your classroom to be inviting and pleasing to one’s eyes.

Never stop learning. Use websites like Wonderopolis, Google Cultural Institute, Google Wonder Projects, Google Art Projects, and How Stuff Works with your students.

Check out and download Scholastic’s Open a World of Possible ebook that is filled with amazing essays written by authors, educators, and celebrities about their love of reading the role that books play in their lives.

Pair and Layer Texts

If you do not already follow The Nerdy Book Club on Twitter and the blog, then you should!

Here is one last secret that I will to share. I am currently in the process of organizing EdcampMville at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY for K-12 educators and also those in Higher Education this upcoming Spring 2015. The idea is to bridge educators of all grade levels and content areas together for a day of conversation, collaboration, and connecting. I will be sharing a lot more about this endeavor over the next few months. If you are interested in participating, please contact me.

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