I firmly believe in reading and writing workshops, but there are some days when I feel like I'm the only one who does, so it's awesome when days like today come around. I spent today at the Northern Virginia Writing Project (NVWP) Conference, and oh, was it was fabulous!
I spend each day in my classroom committed to teaching through workshops, but teaching in a building where almost none of my coworkers share my beliefs (or at least no one is willing to fully jump in and try implementing them). I teach along side some wonderful language arts teachers, but in our content planning sessions I often feel like an outsider. But that was completely different today. I went into the conference not fully knowing what to expect and left with a great feeling of re-validation for how I teach.
The day started out with this great session presented by Mary Tedrow on reflective writing. I walked out with some great ways to build upon several of the things I already do — i.e. beginning of the year discussions on our reading territories, reading journals, general free-writing, portfolios, etc. She talked of her students' daybooks which I LOVED. Great new name for a writer's journal and something I already know I'm going to work into place next year.
Then from there it was off to a great session on using improvisation as a device for building writing ideas. I love theatre and up until several years ago used to love attending the Southeastern Theatre Conference (up until I switched districts and now can't get away). The workshops at SETC that dealt with general education and theatre were rare, but always so awesome and today's session at NVWP was the same. The presenter had us up and improving scenes and then using the scenes as inspiration to develop story plots. It was a blast!
Finally after lunch, came the keynote. Donalyn Miller was the speaker....and wow! How wonderful it was to sit for two hours and hear someone talk about all the great results that come from giving students the freedom to just read! There were so many great quotes, lines and thoughts and it was just inspiring to get re-validation for what I believe and try to do on a daily basis in my room. It was nice to hear her say that people even ask her, "How do you know they're really reading?" (It's a question I'm very used to in my building from my co-workers!) and actually I might just have to steal her response: something along the lines of "How do you know if they went to a birthday party on Saturday? They're going to tell you by how they talk about it."
In my school building, there's increasing pressure building from upcoming standardized tests in May, a new curriculum map coming next year and ultimately new regular benchmarks too, but for today it was wonderful to escape all that and be reminded of the wonderfulness of workshops. I'm definitely feeling re-inspired. I'm already excited to get back into my classroom with my kids on Tuesday and continue all the great conversations about reading and writing that I try to have with them each and every day.
Yes, we'll continue to celebrate reading freedom...and writing freedom too! :)