Yesterday I attended the Bright Ideas conference at Michigan State University. I enjoyed this conference, but was surprised at how small it was. However, there were many choices of sessions to attend, which made this conference, in the end, useful. 

The conference began with the keynote speaker: Jacqueline Woodson. She is an award-winning author of many children and young adult books. In my opinion, she was not the best orator nor an excellent adviser for teaching methods. Despite these traits, when she read excerpts from her various works, her talk became motivational and inspiring. One of the things I really liked about her talk was that it was personal. She was not afraid to give the audience glimpses of how she became a writer. In this aspect, she urged the audience to help kids understand that they have such a powerful voice in the world. She compelled me to think about the stories that so many kids could tell if given the right environment and the chance to write. Overall, though she was not well-versed in innovative teaching methods, I felt that her writing was extremely powerful.

After Jacquelin Woodson spoke, I went to my first session called “Engaging Literature Lovers and Reluctant Readers.” This session was facilitated by Erin Bentley of Western Michigan University and Jackie Folkert of Portage Northern High School. I have not taken English 311 (Teaching Reading to Adolescents) yet, and so the ideas presented were very new to me. I did not even now what a literature circle was. Therefore, I found a lot of what these two speakers had to say, very interesting. Jackie Folkert talked about engaging literature lovers with after school sessions of book talks and writing chats. This, to me, was a really cool idea, especially seeing as I will not be interested in coaching as an after school option, I could see myself doing this with really good results. Overall, I feel as if this session got me excited to teach reading, and to take English 311 next year.

The second session I attended was called “Let’s Talk Writing: How to Help Students Share Their Own Writing and Effectively Respond to Peers.” This session was taught by Christine Dawson of Michigan State University. She talked about ideas for peer editing and how to teach students to become good peer editors. The most valuable thing I took away from this session was an idea for peer review called “fishbowl.” In this exercise, most of the students in a class form a circle, while four or five of those students form a smaller circle in the center of this larger group. The smaller group discusses a piece of writing, while the other group listens. Then, when one small group member feels that he or she is finished, he or she goes to someone in the larger circle and switches seats with him or her. The teacher in this exercise begins in the small group to begin discussion, and then eventually ends up watching the students discuss amongst themselves.

Overall, the ideas I heard seemed to all look at empowering students to love literture and writing.