Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Slice of Life: Professional Development for the First Day

One of my favorite picture books by Lester Laminack
The first day of school in my district, which was yesterday, is a professional development day for teachers.  We were very fortunate to have Lester Laminack as the keynote speaker for the day.  Lester has written professional text for teachers, as well as children’s books.  One of the many brilliant things he said was, “reading is an act of living through a text.”  When students live through a text they are thinking deeply.  They may stop at a scene to wonder or question.  They may go back to reread a chapter to clarify their new ideas about what’s happening.  When students live through a text the story remains with them even after they’ve closed the book.  Too often students don’t live through a text. They read to simply answer the teacher’s questions or to earn points on a computerized test.  This can happen with students if teachers are always asking the questions.  When teachers ask all the questions students start to think that they need to read to find the answers the teacher wants, a game Lester called, “What’s in my head?”  A few of Lester’s suggestions to help make reading a journey in which students are engaged and creating meaning from the text are:
  • Encourage students to ask questions about their reading
  • Model how readers reread to clarify what they are thinking
  • Ask an open-ended question at the end of a read-aloud to foster thinking, such as, “What did you think?” or “What does this book make you wonder?”
  • Revisit books that you have previously read aloud in order to think more deeply about the text or look at it through a different lens
  • Provide time for independent reading in which students are choosing what they read and reading for pleasure 
In his presentation, Lester also discussed the many reasons we read and stated, “We’re reading to make ourselves powerful, we’re not reading to raise a score.”  In today’s educational climate in which data and test scores seem to be at the forefront of learning, this was an important take-away.  I appreciated that all of the district administrators, including the superintendent were sitting in the audience, hearing this message.  If students are going to be motivated to read, it’s not going to be because they want to pass the test.  Students will be motivated when they find joy and pleasure in reading.  Finding ways to foster the joy and pleasure of reading, while also meeting the demands of the curriculum amongst pressure to prepare students to pass the state test is a challenge for many teachers.  Lester Laminack reminded us that our job is to create readers, not students who answer questions or take tests.  This is an important message to remember at the start of a new school year. 


Lester Laminack's soon-to-be released professional text

9 comments:

  1. Lucky you! I could listen to Lester Laminack all day and then some!!

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    1. I've seen him multiple times and don't think I would tire of him either!

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  2. I love your post! YES to thinking deeply while reading, YES to living through the text. Brilliant!

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  3. How wonderful to begin the school year with a message from Lester. Thanks for sharing some take aways, too.

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  4. How wonderful to begin the school year with a message from Lester. Thanks for sharing some take aways, too.

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    1. It was very refreshing to hear him talk about building joy of reading. We've started to drift too far away from doing that with all the focus on test taking.

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  5. I've seen Lester Laminack several times, but never in PD. You are fortunate indeed. Love hearing all the words you thought important in helping students love reading.

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    1. We've been fortunate to have some great speakers on the first day in the last few years. Last year we had Steven Layne, who teachers found very inspiring, and the year before Ralph Fletcher.

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    2. Wow, Lisa! I've heard Lester Laminack three times, and it's always a pleasure. I would love to hear Ralph Fletcher. You're lucky to be in a district who brings in great speakers.

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