I love attending conferences because they provide the perfect venue for connecting with other educators AND learning new strategies and ideas to take back to my building and share with others. I've attended several conferences in the past, but was particularly excited about this one because I was attending strictly as a participant and NOT as a presenter! Without the pressure of presenting my own session, I could truly focus on other sessions being offered and design my own PD for the two and a half days of the conference.
The experience was wonderful and I am trying to digest and process all of it. The conference theme was "Common Core & So Much More" and that accurately summarized the different sessions. Strands of teacher leadership, supporting diversity, technology integration, and Common Core implementation were woven throughout the sessions offered. Upon receiving the conference guide, I immediately charted my own course and personalized my PD experience. The sessions did NOT disappoint!
The keynote speaker was Kelly Bergman who discussed changes and challenges in education and how to get through them. She delivered an inspiring message sprinkled with research done about change. Change is scary, but I have always been one to embrace it and look at it as an opportunity to grow. Why would anyone want to remain stagnant? The research sprinkled throughout helped me "check myself" and remind me to be more patient with others who react to change with fear or negativity.
"Performance Feedback...The Power of "I Got It" with Dr. Kathy Kennedy
This was my first choice session and it did not disappoint. I had heard great things about the presenter, Dr. Kathy Kennedy, and had high expectations which were met. During the session, Dr. Kennedy defined performance feedback, shared research on different types of feedback and the effects on student achievement, concrete examples of performance feedback in action, and the importance of providing immediate and specific feedback to learners.
--Writing and sharing objectives in student-friendly language with students leads to a 27% increase in student achievement.
--Think about teaching as a cause and effect relationship.
--Goal-setting is extremely powerful with students and displaying their results graphically has a significant impact on achievement.
--When prepping for standardized tests, mix it up! Instead of having them figure out the answer from four choices (A,B,C or D), give them the right answer and ask them to explain why the other choices are incorrect.
"Constructing the Written Response to Literature and Informational Text" with Pat Calfee
This was a fun, hands-on session. If the words "Thinking Maps" are in a session description, it is pretty much a given that I will be in attendance! Pat provided an overview of the Maps and made connections to the Common Core Standards for Reading Literature, Reading Information, and Writing. There is great emphasis being placed on the ability to construct short and extended responses. She then showed us how students could interact with texts, create a Thinking Map to help them organize their ideas, then "take it off their map" and create a beautifully written constructed response.
I was first introduced to Thinking Maps by a dear colleague of mine a few years ago and was instantly hooked! As a visual learner myself and one who is constantly making connections across disciplines, I immediately recognized the power of these tools. I consistently integrated the Maps into all areas of my instruction and used them in combination for depth and complexity as a classroom teacher. Watching students construct their own color-coded Maps would always make my heart sing! To be honest, I haven't integrated these Maps as much as I should since moving out of the classroom teacher role and into different schools. Thinking Maps training coming to a PD session soon??
I'm pretty sure Thinking Maps picked up a few new fans in Pat's session!
"The Perfect Blend: Mixing Traditional Teaching with Technology" with Heather Kaiser
I attended this session for a few reasons-- 1. I love technology and 2. Heather and I have been Twitter/Facebook/TPT buddies for a long time! She has been part of my PLN for years, but I had never met her "face to face." I knew this would be an excellent session because she is an incredible teacher who shares so much and stays up to date on tech tools to use with her students. We didn't capture a photo together, but definitely will next time we connect! There definitely WILL be a next time!
Heather shared engaging strategies that combine best teaching practices with technology tools. Today's learners require a blend of BOTH types of learning experiences. She showed us how she uses tools, such as Edmodo, Google Forms, Padlet, Skype to motivate and reach her diverse learners. I especially love the way she has jazzed up her students' weekly Word Work with tasks such as "Wordle Wednesday" and "Twitter Tuesday." Those ideas have inspired me to create additional tech-inspired Word Work activities for our third, fourth, and fifth graders.
Check out her site for more tips on blending traditional teaching and technology!
"Teach like you Tweet! (Move from I Teach to iTeach Using Social Media)" with Suzanne Long & Brent Anderson
I was surprised that this session only drew myself and three other educators. It was one of the best sessions and I gained a lot from it, specifically with regards to using social media. The small number of participants allowed this session to be more informal. Much of the session focused on the concept of PLNs. With my recent work with my district's Professional Development department as Networking Coordinator, I was interested in hearing how other districts were spreading the word about PLNs and encouraging their teachers and administrators to get connected. I left with a few new ideas and am now motivated to make a movie or presentation to share with different departments within my district to help build momentum around the PLN. Strategies were also shared for integrating Twitter into the elementary school classroom. I have used a few of the strategies, but left with a few new ones to try and share with other teachers.
Bonus: I received a $10 iTunes gift card as a door prize! Any app recommendations?
"The Envelope Please: A Winning Strategy for All Learners" with Evalee Parker
Who doesn't love foldables?! Some of our grade levels utilize Interactive Notebooks to help their students process math, science, and social studies concepts. This was a hands-on session and we folded, cut, and glued. Who knew envelopes and paper could have so many uses!?
"Writing for Success in K-5--Where, When, What, and How?" with Kathy Bumgardner
This was one of my favorite sessions! I have been a Kathy Bumgardner fan for a long time and a user of her reading and writing strategies, but have never been to one of her presentations until this conference. She captivated the crowd with her enthusiasm, sense of humor, and kid-friendly strategies. As a classroom teacher, writing was always one of my favorite subjects to teach and I still think it is so important to explicitly teach students how to write and how to take a piece of writing through the entire writing process. She reaffirmed a lot of my beliefs with regards to writing and I left equipped with new ideas to try and share with other teachers.
It was great to network with educators and administrators across the state. It is always inspiring and uplifting to be around others who are passionate about the work they do and willing to collaborate and share with others!
Some other exciting events took place at the Conference! I was elected as Secretary of the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators and will also serve on the Advisory Council for Region 6. I am thrilled to be more involved with this organization through these different roles.
I first became involved with NCAEE when my friend Nancy Betler, the Director for Region 6, approached me with assisting her with the organization of last year's regional conference. I always love a good project so of course I said, "YES!" Coordinating the event was a lot of fun and the conference turned out to be a great success! This year, we have a small group to help us with organization and logistics. We have tentatively scheduled it for March and I already know it's going to be better than last year's. I am also looking forward to helping with next year's NCAEE Conference, which will take place in the Concord area--- just a short drive away!