MRA in Review


This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Michigan Reading Association Annual Conference for the second year in a row.  I love attending MRA because not only do I get to catch up with some of my amazing friends and fellow educators, but I am always inspired after attending.  MRA gives me an extra boost to get through the last third of the school year.

Friday night was a great night of fellowship with my Nerdy Book Club friends.  These people are amazing!  And guess what…you probably are already a member!  Do you like to read?  You do?  Membership granted.  In all seriousness, check out their blog here.  Very inspiring and motivating and a great community of readers.

I went to a number of sessions on Saturday.  I just want to go over some highlights so not to overwhelm with too much information…

Male/Female Differences that Affect Literacy

This session was just fascinating!  It talked about the differences in brain development among males and females.  Probably the strongest point that hit me is that both males and females do not reach convergence (when both eyes focus) until the age of 7!  And when do we start school?  In Michigan, the age is currently 5.  Finland, a country with amazing reading scores, does not start until 7.  There is something to said here.  I also understand a little more about behaviors my students exhibit in class – and behaviors of my husband as well!

Short Reads for Tall Kids with Ruth Culham

I have heard a little about the 6 +1 Traits when it comes to writing.  However, I did not know too much since it is very geared to elementary and middle school.  I am so glad I went to this session!  There are definite applications to high school.  Culham showed us how mentor texts help with writing, as I have definitely learned, and how to apply the traits to help students revise.  In writing, I really have to work on revising.  It is so important to the process and yet, it gets ignored quite a bit.  You can learn more about Culham’s work here.

Literature Circles in Secondary Classroom

To be honest, there are a few other sessions I would have liked to see at this time as I look back.  This was more about Lit Circles in general and we have been using them for two years now.  (Though I will admit I am nowhere near an expert!)  I did pick up on a few great ideas.  First of all, use literature circles with informational texts.  Genius really.  I also want to try lit circles with whole class books as well.  I plan on trying that in Honors 10 this coming trimester.  Jacqueline and I are already planning how to do it in English 10 B as well.

Lightship Titles with Paul W. Hankins

I had the honor to meet Paul last year at MRA and enjoy following him on Twitter and his posts on Facebook as well.  He shared some great titles and reminded us the power of sharing books with our students.  I appreciated his honesty and what he shared with us.  Community is so important for readers.  I can always be reminded of that and appreciate my community, or “tribe,” each and every day.

On to Sunday…

Close Reading with Erica Beaton and Dave Stuart

With the CCSS, close reading is very important.  Erica and Dave did an EXCELLENT job showing how there are many things we are already doing that supports CCSS and helps our students all the more.  They gave a great purpose for close reading – to support our understanding and doing something with the information.  They gave a great process to follow in close reading and they helped me reconsider how I approach argumentative writing and how to help my students develop their arguments.  They have posted their Prezi which I highly recommend you check out and follow up by reading their blogs and Tweets.

Reading Notebooks

I learned that, basically, I need 150 page notebooks to make sure my students are using them to write and talk about reading.  Another goal is that I do want to use notebooks more for writing AND reading.  I also learned about an excellent resource at Biblionasium.  It’s like Goodreads but tailored more for the classroom.  I am introducing it to my Lab kids next week.  I’m excited to see where this takes us!

Kelly Gallagher Keynote

A perfect way to end the conference was with Kelly Gallagher!  I have seen him before talk about reading and I loved hearing more about his approaches to writing.  Writing is so vital to our students’ success.  And students need mentor texts to learn how to write.  They also need practice.  My ultimate goal with writing is to encourage more revising and help my students see what a process writing really is.

I cannot wait for MRA next year!  They teased us with a look at next year…make sure you consider being there!  I am so thankful to my colleagues, friends, and fellow Nerdy Book Club members for an inspiring weekend!