Intrepid isn’t a word I would use to describe myself. And yet, I feel intrepid this week. As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in New York City watching the snow. From this height, I can’t see the street, but I can hear the traffic rushing by on Broadway. I still can’t quite believe I’m here.
I feel incredibly lucky because this week I’m attending the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Mini Institute on Content Area Literacy. After just one day, everything I learned yesterday is swirling around in my brain like the snow outside my window.
Harvey “Smokey” Daniels opened the Institute yesterday morning with an inspiring keynote on what’s missing from the CCSS. “Where’s engagement? Where’s curiosity and creativity? Choice and responsibility? Social justice? Where’s the fun?” he wanted to know.
I’ve often wondered that myself. Daniels suggested that our curriculum should be inquiry based. Turning the curriculum into questions the kids “can’t resist answering,” and creating opportunities for them to do authentic, purposeful work would go a long way toward ramping up the level of engagement AND achievement.
Daniels also questioned the omission of writing as a thinking tool, or “writing to learn.” He stressed the importance of giving our students opportunities to put their thoughts and ideas into words every single day. Teachers can engage students with this work by having “written conversations.” These can be between students or between the students and teacher or other adults. Writing letters is one way to give students an opportunity to express their feelings and develop their voice.
After Harvey’s session, the day was filled with more learning from the incredible staff developers at TCRWP. Amanda Hartman shared strategies for combining reading and writing units with content area teaching. From Lauren Kolbeck I learned more strategies that use literacy skills to support the work of young scientists. And finally, Alexis Czerterko shared ways to incorporating literacy in a unit of study on the American Revolution.
At the end of the day, I felt empowered by everything I had learned. I was energized to begin applying the strategies shared throughout the day to my own teaching. But I’m also excited to learn more. I’m excited about stretching myself as an educator so I can help my students be curious and passionate about their learning. I want to support them as they take risks and follow their dreams. I want them to be intrepid.
Don’t forget to head over to Two Writing Teachers today for more Slice of Life stories.