Wednesday, April 6, 2011

National Conference for Family Literacy

April 3 - 5, I attended the 20th Annual National Conference for Family Literacy. I had a wonderful time. This was the first conference that I have attended that was not technology related. I learned a lot of things about literacy, reading, writing, and thinking. A couple of sessions that I attended are listed below with a short description.

Reading strategies for English Language Learners to Build Life-Long Learning: Using LINCS Free Online Resources  by Blair Toso
LINCS ( has free resources. Blair stated that oral language skills need to be in place before teaching beginning readers. In order to teach decoding skills, they need to know what the word sounds like. She said that authentic materials engage students. One of the things that I liked was her example using Styrofoam cups. She took several cups and stacked them together. Then she wrote letters on them (at, c, h, s, etc.) and students would rotate the cups forming words. She also wrote words and showed how words can be pulled apart and put together using the cups.

Books that Make a Positive Difference by Julia Cook 
Julia Cook was a school counselor who started writing books at a young age. I love that she started off her session with reading one of her books to us and then saying, "What's in it for me and my students?" All of her books have messages within the book. For instance, The Worst Day of My Life EVER!, is about listening and following directions. Scoop talks about safety rules for children: S - Be Smart (listen to your uh-oh voice); C - Call List (make sure someone picking you up is on your parent's call list); O - Zero talking to people you don't know; O- Keep people out of your space (the closer you are to someone the easier it is for them to reach you) ; P - Pair up (don't go places by yourself). I really liked the safety rules for children. It also applies to all of us as adults!

Bully Beans  is a book about bullies. Julia showed a great activity where she used a sheet (called a power sheet) and stretched it between a bully, some bystanders, and targets (she doesn't call them victims). The power sheet gave everyone the same amount of power. The bully feels that they should have more of the power, so the bully pulls more of the sheet towards them. If the bystanders do nothing, the power goes to the bully. The bystanders have more power than the bully if they work together. Another idea she showed was that bystanders will stand on the side of the bully so that they don't have to look into the bully's "mean" eyes and then it looks like the bystanders align themselves with the bully. If the bystanders stand on the side of the target and look at the bully's forehead and not the "mean" eyes, it looks like the bystanders are aligning with the target and therefore the bully's power weakens. Julia states the goal is not to solve the problem, but to have bullies and targets co-existing together.
Strategies for Building Young Learners' Cognitive Abilities Through 3-D Interactive Graphic Organizers and Manipulatives by Nancy Wisker

Hands on workshop where we created several different type of foldables from Dinah Zike's Academy We created several foldables. Some ideas: have middle school students or upper elementary students create big books using poster board. Use paint strips (like you get from home improvement stores) to make math facts. Make pocket books: glue back to back and make into a book (put math facts in the books).

General Sessions
During some General Sessions we listed to several speakers. A couple of these were speakers from the literacy program. They talked about what their life was like before and after enrolling in the literacy program. Marlee Matlin and Bruce Feiler were also speakers. Marlee Matlin talked about her life dealing with deafness. Bruce Feiler talked about his battle with cancer and how he created his "Council of Dads" when he found out he had cancer so that if something happened to him, his young daughters would have "dads" to talk things over with.

What's So Wonderful About Wonderopolis?
The reason I was able to attend this conference was because of Wonderopolis. Wonderopolis was introduced and told how it came to be. This session featured Jon Fines, Maria Caplin, Melissa Edwards, Kelly Wilson, and myself (Dorene Bates). We talked about who we were and how we use Wonderopolis with teachers and students. After the presentation we answered questions from the audience. It was a fantastic time.

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