Every year when I am applying through my district to attend the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Annual Conference followed by the ALAN (Assembly on Literature of Adolescents of NCTE) workshop, I have to write up a rationale about why I like to attend the conference, and it is always hard to put into words. And each year the conference seems to be getting better and better.
I consider myself lucky that I get to attend this conference each year because it really does recharge my professional battery. I would not be the teacher I am today without my NCTE and ALAN peers, and I know I will keep growing because of these conferences and the people I know through them.
Like Ricki shared yesterday, we are huge advocates for ALAN. It is the organization where I have found all of my like-minded educators who believe that reading and access to a diverse and wide-range of literature is the key to a literacy education for our adolescents. (PLUG!: It is only $30 a year to join, and you get our newsletter and The ALAN Review!)
A few of the highlights this year include:
1. I am going to start with the same thing as Ricki: The “YA Lit IS Complex: Authors and Teachers Reframe the Conversation About Young Adult Literature and Text Complexity” session. It featured YA authors Laurie Halse Anderson, M. T. Anderson, Matt de la Peña, A. S. King, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, and Angie Thomas. I was in charge of moderating Laurie Halse Anderson’s round table, and I had the pleasure of working with her and her brilliance. The session, chaired by the incredible Jennifer Buehler, was based on her book Teaching Reading with YA Literature which is a must read also. I really hope I get to be part of any future sessions Jennifer decides to propose!
Please feel free to check out my handout about the complexity within and activities to do with The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Andersonthat I shared at my round table on Slide Share (click here).
Also, check out the notes I took while Laurie talked on Twitter (click here).
2. I was also very lucky to be part of the “The Vision of ALAN: Rationales and Strategies for Using Young Adult Literature in Secondary Classrooms” an ALAN-sponsored session with some of my favorite ALAN people (including the one and only Dr. Ricki Ginsberg! And we forgot to take a picture together! We’re the worst!). Five roundtables, each hosted by a past chair of the Walden Award, focused on different young adult literature (YAL) topics including the literary merit of YAL, using YAL in the classroom, and research supporting YAL. Attendees will be free to move to the roundtable of their choosing, and will have opportunities to switch tables/topics during the session. Roundtable leader(s) will provide materials for attendees to take back to their school sites, including book lists, teaching strategies, and rationales for challenged titles.
Please feel free to check out my handout about text sets that I shared at my round table on SlideShare (click here).
3. Author panels are some of my favorite to attend and be part of! First, I was lucky enough to be the chair of an amazing author panel on the use of unconventional narrators within the author’s books and within the classroom. Katherine Applegate, Lisa Bunker, Josh Funk, and Adam Rex each shared some about their writing process and then also shared a way their book could be used in the classroom.
Please feel free to check out the presentation on SlideShare (click here).
4. I then attended an teacher dream come true session called Reading as a Personal Art which included Nancie Atwell (my education hero and this was the first time I’ve seen her speak!), Kelly Gallagher, and Penny Kittle. The focus was on how they include reading in their middle and high school classes, how they get include rigorous and thought-provoking activities with the reading, and how English teachers need to think of themselves as literacy teachers, not literature teachers. One of my favorite thing they shared was the cross-country social justice book clubs Penny and Kelly are doing in their classrooms.
5. The next panel I went to was another awesome author panel: Positive Social Engagement moderated by Michele Knott with Lisa Yee, Jennifer Ziegler, J. Anderson Coats, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, and Ammi-Joan Paquette. The panel looked at ways to use literature, and their books specifically, to help students find their place in our world and make sure that they are a positive part of the future.
(P.S. These are only some examples of the panels! Wowza, right?!)
6. The ALAN Breakfast was by far one of my biggest highlights for a few reasons: A) RICK RIORDAN spoke, and I actually got to meet him. I’d seen him here in Orlando two years ago, but it was an auditorium tour. You should have heard my students squeal when they saw my picture with him! B) NEAL SHUSTERMAN was awarded the ALAN Award for his outstanding contribution to young adult literature and gave a truly enthralling speech. C) I was the chair of the ALAN Award committee, so I GOT TO INTRODUCE NEAL!
Please feel free to check out my introduction on Google Docs (click here).
7. I also have to give a shout out to the publishers who sponsors dinners, cocktail hours, book signings, and so much more for the educators at the conference. We are lucky to have you!
8. The ALAN Workshop should probably have its own top ten list because it isn’t fair to give it only one spot when those two days are such a joy in my life, so I will share my top five panels I loved at ALAN:
- MINE! 🙂 I presented with Julia Keller and Jodi Lynn Anderson on their science fiction books The Dark Intercept and Midnight at the Electric.
- Joseph Bruchac was entrancing and also such a pleasure to talk to afterwards. I wish I could absorb all of his knowledge and stories.
- The key notes were ON POINT this year! Monday opened with Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds and Tuesday started with Meg Medina. True brilliance.
- The “In Conversation” panels were fascinating this year! Two examples: Chris Crutcher and Laurie Halse Anderson talked about sex, and Donielle Clayton and Cindy Pon spoke about diversity in sci-fi/fantasy.
- The line up in general was fantastic. I am in awe of Laura Renzi and the vast array of authors that she put forth for us to experience.
9. Friends! My heart always feels just a little bit empty when I leave. I have some educators, publishers, and authors who I consider friends who I only see at conferences, so it is always hard to leave them. (Shout outs to Jennie, Michele, Aly, Jason, Dani, Wendy, Daria, Katie, Beth, Beth, Lee Ann, Sarah, Jennifer, Ricki of course!, and all of my other wonderful PLN friends! Also, I was so happy to meet Amber and Kristen!)
10. Books and Authors! So. Many. Books! I already had a problem choosing, and now it is worse. And so many authors to swoon over! I have so many photos; too many to share, but if you want to check them out, you can view my Google Drive folder (click here) if you’d like.