#NCTE15: Beginning at the End



The Teacher You Want to Be:  Essays about Children, Learning and Teaching was the source of the last panel presentation I attended on Sunday at #NCTE15 in Minneapolis. (Trivia note – #NCTE15 participants wrote 33,000 Tweets!)


Rock Stars on Stage:

  • Katie Wood Ray
  • Kathy Collins
  • Vicki Vinton

The session was both funny, illuminating and oh, so insightful.  After all, it was an introduction by Katie Wood Ray (who taught Matt Glover everything he knows as well as thinks of the greatest book titles EVER!), Kathy Collins and Vicki Vinton.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the illustrious crowd present:  Kylene, Donalynn, Franki, Maggie, Katie, Christina, Dani, Katherine, Ryan, and Katie and many others that I did not see from the front row!

The 13 Beliefs


We explored these beliefs and the important qualities of readers.


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And the question:  How do we brand our reading?  How do we really help students understand the importance of reading?

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Kathy also spent time on belief # 3  – how do we appreciate that quirky child (annoying, yes) and make sure that he/she continue to grow and learn?  And belief # 8 – Joy!  Such a strong belief in joy that it needs to be a secret so that publishers don’t create and market “JOY kits”! And the gifs . . . oh, my!  LAUGHTER!  Here’s a gif that Kathy Collins did not use but may fit your future needs!

Vicki Vinton began  with framing several issues with quotes and examples for the audience to consider.


Dewey vinton

standards not goal.jpg

And an example of grade three CCSS – aligned “reading work” for teachers.

pic two.jpgBeliefs that were embedded in Vicki’s presentation included:  4, 5, 6, 7 and 10. And then we moved into a demonstration . . .  as we used a problem-solving approach to reading (like math?). “Words aren’t the problem…what does it MEAN when you put all the words together?”

maggie tweet

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And here’s the most important part of this post.  I was the first volunteer for this problem-solving small group.  Five of us – all adults and literacy folks – volunteered to participate in this demonstration.  We had roles – as students – dyslexic, ADHD, ELL, ELL, and Unmotivated. We had never seen the script and time was fleeting.  We actually read from a script and from text projected on the screen and we missed a couple of cues (“oohing” during reading) but we did “get into our parts”!

  • As a reader, I was anxious.
  • As a reader, I was worried about how well I could read and follow directions.
  • As a reader, I was worried about the task.
  • As a reader, I had no time to “think” about the text even though I scanned all my “parts” as soon as I had the script in my hands.
  • As a reader, I wondered about “how well” we would do as a group.
  • As a reader, I wondered if we would meet Vicki’s expectations.

In the interest of full disclosure, dear readers, I must tell you that I presented on a panel with Vicki Vinton last year at #NCTE14.  So I was reading a script from a trusted/respected friend/mentor.  Another group member was a respected colleague.  I provide PD to all sizes of groups so the actual speaking/performing was NOT really one of my concerns.

If I, a confident reader, was worried about how well I would read so I didn’t let the group down, how do our students feel when they aren’t sure of the task or topic?

How do students really feel when they encounter new tasks/situations?

How have we structured our work/learning so that a mindset for growth is present?

The work that we demonstrated was important.  The students were figuring out “Minneapolis Simpkin”. The teacher had not pretaught all the vocabulary words in the book.  Words from “real students” showed that they were continually revising their thinking about what “Minneapolis Simpkin”was.  This was a Peggy Parish “I Can Read” level 1 book.  It was not a “hard” text. But the reader certainly had to be thinking in order to make sense of the text.  YET, it was a tricky text where the narrator was not explicitly revealed.  The text did not say, “Minneapolis Simpkin said, ‘——-.'” Students had to do the work of figuring out the story!

Big Take Away Thoughts:

Before:  Remember to think of the student perspective when planning your instruction.

During:  Listen to the students. Follow their lead.  Don’t be the leader.  (Remember that you already know how to read.)

After: Do notice and name the work students did (“Who’s doing the work?”) and discuss where and when this work might be expected to transfer.

What are the ideas that you want to remember from this session/post?


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Thank you, Anna, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey, and Tara. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

19 responses

  1. I love this post! Fran, thank you for sharing about such an amazing session. I like how you focused on one specific session. I almost felt like I was there. I love the list of beliefs. I know I’ve said this before, but I must get that book…NOW! Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Michelle,
      You can read this book one essay at a time so it’s perfectly “digestable” for Thanksgiving or Christmas!

      I had a lot of drive time thinking about the sessions! My own “know/wonder” time!

  2. I love that you attend so many PD events and share so well. I swear you should be on my PD list for the year. I also love those beliefs- great reminders. I keep telling my students what hard work they are doing (and it’s true)- it is a hard time to be an elementary schol student.

    1. Thanks, Erika! PD with Fran across the miles!

      It’s all about the kids! ❤

  3. Thanks for sharing this session. I wonder how many teachers and administrators would say yes to all those beliefs? Probably all of us. Then why don’t we act on them? Sorry, I am feeling the natural low after the high of NCTE. Will we really be able to change? To be among so many amazing authors and educators affirmed my beliefs. I just hope I can spread the love, so to speak.

    1. Margaret,
      You always share the love. It’s conferences like #NCTE15 that are “upliftin” and literally allow us to tighten our belts and raise our voices on behalf of our students!

      Asking teachers and administrators to share how they “live” these beliefs will elevate the conversations! Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. I did not attend NCTE this year so looked forward to FB posts form friends who did attend. Reading your post today makes me feel almost like I was there listening and gathering useful tips and ideas. Thank you for sharing. The list of beliefs is one that every teacher should have and display proudly.

    1. I think displaying evidence of how these beliefs are met would make the “perfect portfolio” for teachers and administrators! More to come in future days!

  5. Wow! Thank you for writing about this session. I was so sorry I missed it (and you). How did that happen?! I love your reflections on being called up. The pressure you felt even though you were with friends (read safe place) and had the ability. It still felt so scary. What a great reflection on what it feels like to be put on the spot. Even when we are competent and volunteer for the job. I also love Kathy Collins’ idea about how we brand reading. We do need to sell this work. And do it with JOY! Thanks so much for this post Fran!

    1. Julieanne,
      Next time we need to have a plan in advance! The 7 blocks to the hotel from the convention center via the skywalk was deceiving. Across the street like last year is infinitely better!

      Can’t wait to read more of your ideas/responses as well!

  6. I learned so much from this post. The thing that hit me hard was the Third Grade is the new Middle School. My daughter is in 3rd grade and she is struggling with the amount of work and the pressure. My son skipped 5th grade because he wanted to learn more but what he’s finding is that 6th grade is like being in high school and he isn’t given time to process each learning point. It’s killing me. I want education to be joyous for my kids. I want them to think of sharpened pencils and libraries with fondness. instead the pencils are thrown away for iPads and the books are cleared out for the video their showing.

    1. Kimberly,
      That’s Pearson’s version – 3rd / 8th grade. Quite scarey as a literacy educator and even as parent/grandparent.

      So much joy is being sucked out of our children’s lives. I think school can still be fun with deep learning/ understanding. However, it requires thoughtful teachers who have strong beliefs! NOT for the faint of heart!

  7. Thank you for always being so generous by sharing your learning, Fran. I saw Kathy and Vicki’s session pop up in my Twitter feed. I’m sure it was as wonderful as you described it to be!

    Hope to see you next year in Atlanta, if not sooner! I’m presenting at ILA in Boston. Will you there? (It’ll be my first ILA Conference.)

    1. I won’t make two next year since they are not states that bookend Iowa like this year.

      And Kathy and Vicki’s session was so much better than my description! AMAZING!

      Odd, Stacey, that this is only my 2nd NCTE but I believe it is a better conference than ILA. ILA was SOOOOO commercial. (Better than when the name badges and bags were free gifts from the company that had a “protest” staged against them, but it seemed like 1/3 of the sessions were commercials!) You really have to read the fine print!

      Missed you and your organizing the slicers! ❤

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this, Fran! Since I didn’t get to go to NCTE this year, I especially appreciated you posting your session details. I almost felt like I was there. I really like the belief statements you shared. I think they are so important to remember because it’s our beliefs about our role as teachers and the nature of learning that largely determine our decisions in the classroom. I saved your image to my phone as a reminder. 🙂

    1. The book has essays that cover all of these beliefs. It’s really inspirational.

      More posts to come, Tricia! it was a great experience!

  9. So sad we missed this session!! Loved the tweets we received in the airport and so happy you picked this one to write up. Great to see you –even if we didn’t get much time. Hopefully we will meet up again soon. Happy Thanksgiving.

    1. It was fabulous learning and such a great ending for #NCTE15. More posts to come.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

  10. […] (Vicki Vinton & Katie Wood Ray) here, (Kelly Gallagher’s Top 10) here, (Sessions – Colleen Cruz, Jennifer Serravallo, Clare […]

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