IRA Conference 2014

Reading...The Teachable Moment

"Teachable Moments" was the theme of this year's conference, and the Wordle of my conference notes shows that teachable moments occur when student choice occurs in classrooms where there is a strong relationship built. Letting students have input and a time to read text of their choice was discussed by keynote speakers David Pearson, Jeff Kinney, and Dav Pilkey.

Highlights from the Keynotes

Jeff Kinney
  • Student choice in literature is epically important
  • Innovation by subtraction. Take away the most important part of anything, create something new
  • Putting a book into the hands of a kid is a sacred act

Dav Pilkey
  • It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. If we want kids to be expert readers, they need to read what interests them
  • If we give kids choice, they will read
  • Our job is to help kids discover clues to the universe in what they choose to read
  • Don't be a "well meaning teacher" who keeps kids from reading because their choices don't match yours!
  • A reading revolution is happening. We just need to get out of the way

David Pearson
  • Knowledge begets comprehension, comprehension begets learning, learning begets new knowledge. It's a virtuous cycle!
  • As a profession we will be judged on how we address accountability
    and the relationship between poverty and the achievement gap
  • We have a higher accountability then tests, it's to our kids and
    their parents
  • Instead of regarding what kids bring in to our classroom (SES, home life issues, lack of background knowledge, etc) as an inconvenience, we need to treasure what they bring
  • The reason for productive struggle is students need help making
    sense of difficult text

Session Highlights

Best Ever Informational Text CCSS Lessons that Promote Close Reading and Engagement: Speaker: Lori Oczkus
  • Informational text is read differently.
  • At the elementary level, 80-90% of texts read is informational
  • Use mentor texts to teach text features (1 book per feature)
  • Model, Model, Model
  • Text feature wall (Kelly and Clausen-Grace)
  • Text feature hunt/race: out books all around the room and in teams
    students must list as many features as they can find in the text.

Coaching for Complexity: Promoting Deep Understandings of Self and Teaching:

  • Relationships
  • Learning is co-constructed
  • Maximize time with teachers (Collaboration and support!0
  • Focus on student learning
  • A series of interactions

Teaching Students to Effectively Read and Write Informational Texts:

  • Use mentor texts
  • Read and coordinate information from a variety of texts (productive group work grafitti/connections poster)
  • Use a variety of subject areas
  • Have students: generate questions, research with an authentic purpose, evaluate online tools (WWWDOT), and seek experts in the field.

Memorable Moments

  • From standing backstage and talking to well known reading minds like Doug Fisher, Frank Serafini, Dav Pilkey, and Maureen McLaughlin to name a few, to the new ideas shared at various sessions, this conference was full of outstanding moments! A huge highlight occurred after that second general session and as we walked up to Doug Fisher for a photo, he recognized me from the award announcement earlier and congratulated me!
  • Another reoccurring event, was the ah ha's or pat on the back I was able to give my colleagues from a distance. The students in our building are extremely fortunate to have amazing teachers that are dedicate to continuing their own learning and giving their best. From technology integration to reading intervention examples that presenters shared, there were many times that I could say "Hey, we already do that!" We may have a small building, but thanks to the access to great teachers with a large tool box of instructional strategies, our kids are ahead of the curve!
  • One other moment that I thoroughly enjoyed was walking into the first general session. The room was at least two football fields long and packed! To see so many educators fill a room at 8:30 in the morning, ready to learn from the keynote speaker and be reinvigorated in their teaching was inspiring. Knowing that whether face to face, or through the social media hashtag, I had an opportunity to collaborate and learn from everyone in that room was exciting to say the least!

I left the conference with more strategies in my toolbox, connections with educators and reading greats, and a renewed focus and drive for the teaching and learning that occurs in my classroom.


I would be re missed if I didn't mention the main reason I was sent by my district to attend the conference, my award. During the second general session I was recognized for my work with technology and reading. This work included using technology to improve reading fluency (my master's action research project), comprehension, and writing. I am very humbled to have been chosen to receive this international award, and know that without my amazing students and colleagues it would not have been possible. Also, without my district being willing to send me from Iowa to New Orleans, I would not have had the opportunity to accept the award in person, or discuss my work with the reading experts I have looked up to for many years.

Next Steps...

During the conference I began to think about what would be next. What information would I want to share with others, and how would my teaching and learning be transformed based on what I gained. Below are some of the notes I jotted down during the keynotes and sessions:

  • Provide students time to read text of their choice (magazine, comic, how to's, etc.)
  • Encourage collaboration and discussions (productive group work)
  • Share ideas with PLN (blog, write articles, social media, etc.)
  • New role as instructional coach (website with toolbox strategies, articles, and more!)
  • Always set a purpose for reading (even during free reading time)
  • Increase connections on social media
  • Continue to present at conferences and encourage colleagues to do the same