Join me at NCTE!

On Thursday morning I leave for my fifth annual National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) trip. This year it’s in Washington DC (National Harbor) and I’m both excited and a little nervous, too. I’m nervous about leaving Jack for a few days, but I know he’ll be in good hands while I’m gone. I’m mostly excited, however, because I love being surrounded by passionate English teachers and authors. Usually at this point in the school year I need a pick-me-up. Since I’m returning to work after NCTE, I think it will be a great way to make me even more excited about coming back to work.

This year I’ll be presenting for the third time. Both of my sessions are on Friday. It will be nice to get them over with in one day so I can relax and enjoy the rest of my trip. I’m really looking forward to the session I’m co-chairing with Jillian Heise. Here’s the information from the program; we’d love to see you there!

C.02 How Story Comes to Be: Author/Editor Relationships
Maryland A

In rotating roundtables, authors and their editors share methods of working together in drafting and revising to create stories (in middle
grade, young adult, and professional books). As they work with student writers, teachers can model interactions after these author/editor
relationships to provide guidance and support in communicating their stories.

Co-chairs: Jillian Heise, Indian Community School of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Sarah Andersen, Fenton Area Public Schools, Michigan

Tradebook Authors:

Miranda Kenneally, Sourcebooks, New York, New York
Karen Harrington, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, New York, New York
Jennifer Rush, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, New York, New York
Jason Reynolds, Simon and Schuster, New York, New York
Atia Abawi, Penguin Young Readers Group, New York, New York
Kevin Emerson, Walden Pond Press, New York, New York
Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Disney Book Group, New York, New York
Trish Doller, Bloomsbury Publishing, New York, New York
Wendelin Van Draanen, Random House Children’s Books, New York, New York
J. A. White, HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, New York
Christopher Lehman, Christopher Lehman Consulting, New York, New York
Kate Roberts, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York
Christopher Paul Curtis, Scholastic, Inc., New York, New York

After this session I’m presenting again in a research strand. I’m working with Luke Rodesiler, Meenoo Rami, Gary Anderson, Brian Kelley, and Cindy Minnich. We originally wrote the session to be an individual one, but NCTE changed it and made it part of a large research strand roundtable session. Here’s the information about the overall session and our roundtable.

D.42 Research Roundtable 3–Research about Teacher Education
Woodrow Wilson A

The roundtables in this session showcase research about teacher learning spanning the career. From pre-service education to professional development and beyond, the roundtables offer complex and varied studies centered on how teachers learn to teach for and across a range of contexts.

Roundtable 3: “It Makes My Practice Deeper”: Stories of Teachers’ Professionally-Oriented Participation Online
Luke Rodesiler, University of South Florida, Tampa
Sarah Andersen, Fenton Area Public Schools, Michigan
Meenoo Rami, Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cindy Minnich, Upper Dauphin Area High School, Elizabethville, Pennsylvania
Brian Kelley, Patton Middle School, Pennsylvania
Gary Anderson, EMC Publishing, LLC, St. Paul, Minnesota

Luke interviewed each of us for his dissertation and together we wrote an article for the English Journal based on pieces of his dissertation. I greatly admire this group of teachers and am honored to present with them. Our group has much to offer, so I hope to see some of you at our roundtable if you’re attending NCTE. 🙂

This is going to be a great annual convention! I’d love to know if you’ll be attending as well, so let me know in the comments.

Waiting on Wednesday–The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

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Many of my seniors this year are on a dark/edgy kick and seeking out titles to satisfy that. They’re looking for books dealing with grief, tough situations, suspense, etc. so this book sounds like something they’ll love. I’m currently working on a list of books to request/find at NCTE this year. The Edge of Falling is on that list.

The Edge of FallingTitle & Author: The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

Release Date: March 18th, 2014

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Summary (From Goodreads):

Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumors are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realizes that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.

NCTE/ALAN 2011 Recap

From November 18th-21st I was in Chicago for the NCTE/ALAN Annual Convention.  I ended up going by myself again this year, but unlike last year, I stayed longer and had friends to hang out with the entire time.  It was an exhausting weekend because we were constantly busy going here, there, and everywhere, but it was completely worth it.  And did you know that lugging around 20 lbs of books really wears you out? Who knew?! 🙂

Jillian (@heisereads) and I met in real life (!) for breakfast Friday morning and went to most of the same sessions.  My first session was about using graphic novels in the classroom.  It was a fantastic way to start the day because all of the presenters brought great information to the table.  One of the presenters told us about how she uses Post-it Note Diaries by Arthur Jones as an introduction to teaching the personal essay.  You can find their handouts and presentation information on the NCTE Annual Convention website.  Actually, all of the presenters were encouraged to upload their materials to the website for those who couldn’t attend certain sessions and those who couldn’t attend the conference.  Anyway, I’ve been interested in reading more graphic novels and after this session I can’t wait to find ways to use them in my classroom.

Part of my first haul of books!

Jillian and I went to the second session together, but we ended up disappointed and left.  It was about bullying but the presenter came off as arrogant and most of what she said I disagreed with.  Jillian and I decided to head down to the exhibit hall, aka the dungeon, to get in line for the John Green signing.  Unfortunately he wasn’t signing ARCs of his newest book, but we did get a chapter sample.  The exhibits were crazy when they first opened!  I have to admit that I was embarrassed for some of the teachers there.  While we waited to be let in, there was a group of teachers standing in front of us with suitcases on wheels and game planning over how to get the most books.  I completely understand being excited about free/cheaper books, but these teachers ran into the exhibit hall and bombarded the booths.  I heard teachers walking up to people working the booths and asking them what they had for free.  Really?!  Jillian and I took our time talking with the editors, publicists, marketing team, etc to find out which books were their favorites and which books they recommend for our students.  It was an excellent way to find out about new books and we formed some relationships in the process.  And you know what?  The people we spoke with were more likely to offer us books after talking with us.  So yes, some of the teachers surprised me, but most of them were doing exactly the same thing as we did.

After lunch and taking some time to rest our shoulders after lugging around 15+ books each, we went to a session on teaching grammar better.  I was exhausted by this point and couldn’t retain that much information anymore.  I was happy to attend the session, though, because they had a PowerPoint prepared that we can use with out students and they also had some good ideas on making grammar more relevant for our students.  I even sent my department head a text letting her know about the session because so many of the teachers in my department are concerned with teaching grammar.

Me, S.J. Kincaid & Jillian

Friday night ended on a high note when Jillian and I went out to dinner with HarperCollins editor Molly O’Neill and upcoming debut author S.J. (Shelley) Kincaid.  Shelley’s debut novel, Insignia, releases in July, but we were fortunate enough to get an ARC before the conference.  If you work with teenage boys, make sure you get this book.  I know some girls will enjoy it, but I can’t wait to hand this novel to my reluctant boys and my sci-fi fans.  It’s full of action and humor and just a fun read (my review will be posted soon).  Molly also invited Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops and Becky’s daughter.  I’ve only heard great things about Becky’s stores, so it was really cool getting to meet and connect with her.  Shelley is wonderful and really intelligent.  After spending some time with her at dinner, I’m really looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.

I attended my first ALAN breakfast on Saturday morning.  I met more of my Twitter friends like Jen (@mentortexts), Kellee (@kellemoye), Mindi (@mindi_r) and so many more.  It was really cool meeting everyone for the first time!  The breakfast itself was a cool experience and I really enjoyed listening to Sharon Draper speak.  The best part of her speech was talking about how our life is our dash and we need to fill it with great stories.  What a wonderful way of looking at life.  Jilllian and I were constant buddies during the convention, so we perused the exhibits and met some authors during signings.  I met Laurie Halse Anderson and now have a signed copy of Speak (squee!).  My favorite session of the day was on writing and revision.  Four teachers presented their teaching writing and revising strategies.  One of the teachers uses NaNoWriMo in her classroom.  The way she does this is so cool and something I’d love to try.  Another teacher is using writing mini-lessons for different paper assignments and has stopped using letter grades.  She has a rubric for her students and grades them on Exceeding Expectations, Meeting Expectations, and Needs Improvement.  The students have pieces to work on according to different rubrics and are graded on their improvement during the trimester.  This way of teaching sounds like something I could adapt in my classroom, so I’m excited to check out her resources.  For information on using NaNoWriMo in your classroom check out her website: msansbach.wikispaces.com  If you want to learn more about eliminating letter grades and refocusing on writing as a process, check out her website: msshortlearnstwice.blogspot.com

Sara Zarr!

Saturday night was tons of fun because we had a Twitter friends dinner at Carnivale.  The food and drinks were delicious and the restaurant is bright and vibrant.  I was sitting at the end of the table with Katherine (@katsok), Cindy (@CBethM), Lea (@leakelley) and Chris (@ckervina).  At the other end of the table was Jillian, Aly (@alybee930), Cathy (@Cathy_Blackler), Mindi (@mindi_r) and Jillian.  The conversations were great and so was the experience in general.  I really miss my Twitter friends.

Picture from Jen's blog--Jillian, Jen & Me

Sunday and Monday were simply awesome.  There weren’t that many sessions on Sunday, but I did go to a good one about using YA in a traditional curriculum.  Some of the titles were outdated, but the ideas on discussing themes were very cool.  One of the presenters discussed the idea of using theory and heuristics. They also said their handouts would be on the convention website.  The best part of Sunday was the ALAN cocktail party.  I geeked out over so many authors!  I met Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, M.T. Anderson (because after meeting John Green & telling him a story of how his books and M.T. Anderson’s books hooked one of my boys John took me to meet him and tell him the story), and so many others!  I had a chance to talk with A.S. King which was awesome after how she and I have connected since I read and reviewed Everybody Sees the Ants.   The Twitter group met up with Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) and Teresa (@rdngteach) there as well.  Donalyn has no fear and helped us get the courage to approach some of the authors.  Heidi (@hmz1505), a librarian and blogger, spent a lot of time hanging out with us as well.  All of us had fangirly moments over different authors 🙂

A.S. King!!

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the entire ALAN portion of the convention.  I was there most of the day on Monday, but I had to head home since we had finals going on for the end of the trimester.  Listening to Matt de la Pena, Chris Crutcher, Sarah Dessen, and so many other authors speak was inspiring.  Our entire Twitter row was tweeting what the authors said like crazy.  Matt de la Pena was probably my favorite speaker of the day.  Besides the fact that he’s eloquent and thoughtful, he represents so many of our reluctant readers.  I’m really bummed that I missed Laurie Halse Anderson’s presentation.  I will admit that I was happy to return home because I missed Keith, my small cats, and I was exhausted.

Overall, I can’t encourage teachers enough to attend this conference in the future.  Next year it’s going to be in Las Vegas, so I’ll start saving after Christmas.  It’s the perfect way to connect with authors and other teachers.  It’s also an excellent way to learn from other teachers.  What I liked most about the sessions is how excited the teachers were to share with us; so many told us to email them with any questions.  I loved meeting my Twitter friends and I can’t wait to meet up again! 😀

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