National Council of Teachers of English 2018 Annual Conference

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by Kevin J. Gray, Managing Director, Westchester K-12 Publishing Services

Anne Riccio (Sr. Supervising Editor, ELA and Humanities) and I recently attended the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual conference in Houston, TX. The theme of this year’s conference was Raising Student Voices, with an emphasis on extending the diverse array of voices in our classrooms.

The NCTE opening keynote by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah) echoed the need for diverse and inclusive voices in schools. Adichie argued against a “single voice” in our literary canon and instead encouraged educators to use a variety of materials to expand perspectives and to connect with students.

Anne attended many of the sessions during the conference and shares some of her highlights here:

Among the workshops I attended, two stood out. “The Intersection of Literacy, Sport, Culture, and Society” panel was the first one. Chris Crutcher, the popular YA author whose books realistically depict young adults (often male athletes) struggling and going through hard times, started the panel by talking about his background growing up in a small town in Idaho where sports was all-important. After Crutcher’s remarks, there were a series of panels led by teachers using sports novels to reach and motivate at-risk students, develop empathy in students, improve literacy skills and practices that support learning across content areas, and promote college and career readiness. This panel is an annual event at NCTE, so if you haven’t attended before, be sure to catch it next year.

The other standing room only session I attended was: “Expert-to-Expert on the Joy and Power of Reading: A Panel Discussion.” Moderated by past NCTE president Kylene Beers, the panel included Ernest Morrell (NCTE’s immediate past president), Kwame Alexander (Newbery Medal winner), and Pam Allyn (founder of LitWorld). Beers asked panelists questions about the importance and power of reading, and the panelists then offered their insights about the importance of independent reading, student book selection, and other classroom issues. Once again, developing empathy was one goal they all have for students. Helping students craft reading lives in which they make their own book choices and read deeply and with clear purpose was another. An inspiring session with four stellar presenters.

Of course, I also made time to browse the exhibit area, where I saw lots of wonderful trade books and presentations.

In conjunction with the conference, Anne and I conducted a teacher forum, where we had a productive dialogue with literacy teachers from schools throughout the country. We discussed the most pressing needs these classroom teachers have, including finding materials that students see themselves in, and exploring what products and resources they found worked best in their classrooms. Based on what the teachers shared in the forum, we are currently undertaking a larger-scale survey of literacy teachers from around the country. We will be compiling a comprehensive summary of the survey results that will be released in the first quarter of 2019. If you are interested in receiving a copy, please contact us.

Finally, we were pleased that Peter and Paul Reynolds, the twin brothers who co-founded FableVision Studios, were selected to give the conference’s keynote. True to their creative roots, the brothers urged attendees to “Create bravely” and to remember that at any point, teachers may have profound impacts on students’ futures. FableVision Studios partners with Westchester K-12 to provide comprehensive and engaging digital programs for our clients. Read more about the partnership in this press release.

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