Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hands on Literacy Conference

The train trip this morning was interesting. Contrary to all evidence gathered here so far, there are people up and moving at 7am. Of course most of the people on the train (predominantly men) were asleep. How they managed to wake up just in time for their stop I don’t know.

Once off the train I headed for the bus stop and was almost immediately waylaid by a woman in baggy Adidas running shorts, a crushed t-shirt and thongs. “Are you going to the Hands on Literacy Conference too?” she asked. Is it tattooed to my forehead? No. I’m white. It was obvious I was there for a reason. We caught a taxi together to the school. It was obvious she’d spent the last 20 years in the US from the way she berated people who got into line ahead of us when we’d been standing there a while. She made no apology for it but I think she toned it down a lot for me because she kept telling me it was really obvious I was Australian. I didn’t get angry or angsty when the taxis didn’t stop immediately, happy just to enjoy the warm morning (sweltering, actually) and watch life go by.

The conference was an eye-opener. It’s organised by a very small group of people in the International Teacher Librarian Association. This was the second ever conference and there were probably 300 participants. Not bad for the second time around for a group of nine people. The focus of the conference was literacy, primarily ways to engage students in literacy, particularly when so many of them have English as a second language. By far the majority of the attendees were from international schools around the world and who teach English to students from varied backgrounds.

Ross Todd was absolutely brilliant, both as a keynote speaker and a seminar presenter. He’s so fired up and animated – so ‘into’ his topic. I wish I could be so enamoured of a field, the fire burns for years like that. His keynote and seminar segued so smoothly I barely noticed the room change. I have lots of Web 2.0 bits and pieces to share with the staff when I get back: ways to change students’ searching from information dumps to critical thinking strategies.

Fiction reading area, Senior Library, Tanglin Trust Schoo, Singapore
The school here is amazing. I haven’t seen much of it as we were inside all day but the fiction section in the senior library where Ross Todd’s seminar was held is amazing. What a great space. It’s also used for classes and committee meetings. The screen retracts.

The second guided inquiry seminar was interesting. It was good to see that the theory could be applied with successful outcomes but I think the presenter could have gone into more depth regarding student reactions and engagement in the project and how teachers found the process. She certainly had the time.

The storytelling workshop was a last minute change for me. I was sure it was just going to be a fun filler as the other seminar I wanted to attend had been cancelled. How wrong could I have been? Roger Jenkins’ story-time might have been aimed at the primary level but I could see so many applications at my school, simply because so many of our students have English as a second (or sixth) language and the stories would be a great way to engage them in a topic from the beginning and teach them some language skills at the same time. He showed us three different story styles and I could see applications in English, SOSE, Science, ESL and Tourism just from them. The possibilities are endless.

I met some lovely women at lunch who invited me to visit their school next week. I’ll email tomorrow to try to set that up. What a buzz.

Tonight is the after-conference dinner. I’m going partly because I met some lovely people today and might meet some more tonight but also because I need practice in social situations. I’m a social misfit so need all the practice I can get.

1 comment:

ali said...

nice...thanks sharing.