#NCTE11 Day 2 Reflection

Day 2 of #ncte11 started bright and early, as I had made plans to have breakfast with Stacey from TwoWritingTeachers.  I was a little early for our meeting in the lobby and ended up running into Meeno, also meeting a friend for breakfast.  It was a perfect run-in because I was able to congratulate Meeno on her new status as a National Board Certified teacher!

Stacey and I grabbed breakfast in the hotel and we spent about an hour chatting about literacy, writing, and our families.  It was great to finally meet in-person!

After breakfast I hit the exhibit halls again, where I spent time talking with Ned Vizzini, Megan Mccafferty (who recognized me!), Neal Shusterman, and a variety of other authors.  I also chatted with Sarah, also known as VocabGal, at the Sadlier Oxford booth. She was a doll and chatting with her afforded me the opportunity to take a look at the new Vocabulary Workshop books, which we use in our district.  I was able to get some of our questions answered and look at a physical copy of the book.  I immediately emailed some of my colleagues to share my thoughts and we are looking forward to the new version, which we will be ordering for next year.

Saturday afternoon was spent in the exhibit hall and in downtown Chicago, where Chris and I visited the bean, a local cupcake shop, and a Millennium Park.  We skipped the aquarium, but we still had a great time.

Sunday night was fantastic.  I was invited to dinner with Little, Brown and I assumed it would be a huge crowd.  When I arrived a few minutes early, I ran into a lovely woman and her daughter who were also there for dinner.  Sharon introduced herself and took me under her wing, which I am extremely grateful for.  We spent some time chatting about our favorite books and the books my students are enjoying right now.  Sharon shared a few title recommendations for my students, which I have already added to my library.  We watched the ice skaters in Millennium Park until it was time for dinner.  When I walked into the small room at the restaurant I was stunned to see only three tables set up for dinner.  This was a small, intimate meal with some of my favorite authors!  Little, Brown had brought Sara Zarr, A.S. King, and Matthew Quick and they would be reading from their new books and rotating through the three tables.

What an amazing dinner!  It was so nice to talk with all three authors and I was able to bring back signed copies of all three books.  (I’ve already read and loved King’s Everybody Sees the Ants and Quick’s Boy21– look for reviews soon).  It was one of the best meals of my life.  And to make the night even better, I walked back to the hotel with Donalyn Miller, the amazing Book Whisperer.  Poor Donalyn walked eight blocks past her hotel because we were so deep in conversation about independent reading, the Common Core Standards, and our mutual love of helping kids learn to love reading.  Donalyn was recently named TCELA’s Teacher of the Year and it could not go to a more deserving teacher.  She is a force to be reckoned with and I am  lucky to have the opportunity to present with her and share teaching strategies and ideas.  It was a fantastic end to a great night, and an even better way to end the conference.  Monday would be spent at Midway Airport as I waited for my delayed plane to Newark, but I didn’t care.  I had books, friends, and lots to reflect on.

This past weekend I got a call for proposals in the mail for #NCTE12.  I’m already brainstorming ideas!  See you in a year, NCTE!


#NCTE11 Day 1 Reflections

I’ve been home from NCTE for a few days now and I am still decompressing and reflecting.  If you have the opportunity to attend NCTE’s annual convention you must go!  It is the most powerful professional development I have ever experienced.  Chicago was my second NCTE and I am already planning for the 2012 convention.  The PD is 24/7 at NCTE- whether at a session, in the exhibit hall, or just conversations over dinner.  In fact, those conversations were some of the best PD I’ve had in recent memory.  I had the opportunity to meet up with many of my Twitter friends and we talked about teaching, literacy, and so much more!

My convention officially started Saturday morning at 8am.  I woke up early to head over to the Palmer Hotel, where I was presenting with Donalyn Miller, Cindy Minnich, Colby Sharp, and Meeno Rami.  On my walk to the hotel, I passed the gorgeous Art Museum.

Once at the hotel, I finally met all of my co-presenters face-to-face.  I had sort of met Donalyn a few years ago at NCTE09, when she attended my session.  But this would be my first time meeting everyone else.  As I wandered the maze that was the 7th floor of the Palmer, I ran into Meeno, the amazing mind behind #engchat. She led me to the right room where I met everyone else.  We had put the presentation together via Googledocs and twitter and I think we were all a little nervous about how it would gel together.  Plus, with an 8am workshop, it’s hard to gauge how many people will show up.

Well, we ended up with a great crowd and the presention, “Pound for #: Twitter Hashtags for Professional Development and Literacy Initiatives” was AWESOME.  I am so lucky to have presented with such pros.  We discussed #engchat, #bookaday, #titletalk, #ARCsFloatOn, and the basics behind hashtags and archiving.  We also discussed community and met some of our favorite tweeters.  I had so much fun and the time just flew by.  We also had a back channel throughout the presentation (#4pound) with people both in and out of the room participating.  It was a fantastic resource and really kept the conversation going.

I also admit to doing some reading while my co-presenters were speaking.  Cindy had brought a stuffed rabbit with her and placed it on the projector while she was explaining how to archive. She it #teamrabbit, you see. I knew that lately everyone had been talking about this picture book by Jon Klassen called I Want My Hat Back. Teaching HS, I don’t buy a lot of picture books so I hadn’t had a chance to read it yet.  Lucky for me, Colby had brought his copy along and I borrowed it.  First of all, I am #teambear all the way.  But more importantly- BUY THIS BOOK.  I already purchased a copy and read it to my freshman.  I also plan to find a way to share it with my seniors (it only takes 5 minutes to read).  It is not for the faint of heart and probably not for all average picture book readers.  But it is my new favorite book. Get yourself a copy ASAP.

After finishing up our presentation, Meeno and I raced back to the Hilton to attend a session about Chicago as a setting.  The panel consisted of young adult authors John Green, David Levithan, Simone Elkeles, Jillian Larkin, and James Klise.  The panel was great and I learned a lot about setting, revision, and general research when writing books.  I took a lot of notes to share with my students, especially in reference to research.  But the most amazing moment came at the end.  John Green is a favorite of my students and also myself- his Looking for Alaska is the book responsible for bringing me back to YA literature.  I promised my students that if the opportunity to arose, I would tell John Green that my nerdfighters said “hi!”.  I made my way up to the panel and introduced myself to John Green.  He was super-nice and shook my hand.  He even said to tell my nerdfighters that he said hi.  Needless to say- thrilling!  I immediately updated our class Facebook page with the news and my kids were ecstatic.  So thanks, John!

After that, I went upstairs to my room to recharge my phone (a theme for the weekend) as I had been tweeting so much from the sessions.  After a brief rest I headed down to the exhibit hall and picked up some ARCs.  While down there I literally bumped into Jordan Sonnenblick, who I recognized from his Facebook profile picture.  (#authorstalker).  I introduced myself and we talked about some his books and how I used to read Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie aloud to my 6th graders, which led to a fantastic service project we put together for the children’s oncology hospital in a nearby town. Jordan was very gracious and let me know that he has YA novel coming out in the spring and I was able to snag myself an ARC at the Scholastic booth. I am so looking forward to read it!

I wandered around for a few hours downstairs, talking to vendors and jotting down notes for my colleagues. When I passed the Chronicle booth at one point, I recognized the wonderful Kate Messner signing her books. I stopped to introduce myself and we were finally able to meet. Kate and I have been to the same conferences in the past but our schedules have never allowed us to meet face-to-face. Needless to say, she is a sweetheart and I was thrilled we were able to take some time to talk.

After I finished up in the exhibit hall, I made my way to my last session of the day which focused on teaching The Canterbury Tales.  I love Chaucer but it can be hit or miss with my students.  The panel was fantastic as all of them had attended NEH’s summer experience in Canterbury.  They shared many of their ideas and the experiences they have in their own classrooms.  I took copious notes and walked out feeling re-invigorated about my choice to teach the tales.

That night, Chris and I spent some time in downtown Chicago.  I was determined to see the “bean” and I was not disappointed.  It’s gorgeous!

We also had our first experience with deep dish pizza, which was amaaaaazing.

At the end of the night, I took a picture of my stack-o’-books and uploaded it to my class Facebook page.  I wanted to make sure I stayed connected to my students even though I missed two days of school.  The Facebook page allowed me to do so, while also letting them know what I was doing at the conference.

Needless to say, I had a waiting list before I got back to my classroom!


Day 1 of NCTE was unbelievable.  I met some of my idols and listened to many of them share best practices from their own classrooms.  I learned about writing from some of the best in the business.  I spent time learning from my colleagues.  I loved presenting with my panel and I was able to spread the word about #ARCsFloatOn.  It was an amazing day.

Look for my day 2 reflection in the next  day or so!


Just popping to say that NCTE has been fabulous. Look for a summary later this week, after I have had time to digest everything and reflect.

Looking forward to next year in Las Vegas!!

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Random Nonsense

Busy month!  November is always crazy here.  It’s the end of the first marking period, I’m trying to grade essays, #NCTE11 is in just two weeks(!), Thanksgiving is coming, then it’s Christmas, and I have a class reunion this week.  Oh, and did I mention I am doing NaNoWriMo?  So yeah, just a little crazy.  Especially when you throw in my two crazy dogs who demand a lot of running and activity- Dublin is training to be a therapy dog right now and Bailey just finished her first puppy class.  Busy times here!


This is something I am SO ridiculously excited for.  Just when I think I can’t possibly love John and Hank Green anymore, they announce CrashCourse- a youtube channel devoted to educational videos made by John and Hank.  First up? World History (John) and Bio101 (Hank).

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Book Nerd Book Camp!

I am thrilled to let you all know that this summer I will be facilitating a summer camp for bookworms. I was inspired by Symphony Space’s Thalia Kid’s Book Club Camp, as it sounds like my dream camp.  If I were still a teen, I would have begged my mother to let me go to Symphony Space.  When I realized this, I approached a local community college and asked if they would be interested in hosting our own version.  They said yes and I am in the midst of planning now.

The camp will run for one week for students entering grades seven through nine.  (There will be no more than 20 students in the group).  I am trying to brainstorm 2-3 books to focus on, which the campers will read before camp starts.  I want something fun, that they would not necessarily read in school.  But these are also going to be avid readers, so it can’t be anything that they will have already read on their own.  We figure the camp will be self-selecting, as it will appeal to those who already love to read.  Thus, I am thinking a lot of the kids will be reading at or above grade level.  The choices also need to appeal to boys and girls.  Finally, I am hoping to choose a book by at least one author who is willing to offer a free 20-minute Skype session with the students.  I’m going through catalogs and looking for at least one book that doesn’t come out until this spring/summer, in order to ensure everyone hasn’t read it yet.

But here is where I need help.  What books would you suggest for avid seventh-ninth grade readers to immerse themselves in for a week this summer?  I’ve come up with the following list and would love feedback/suggestions!

The Scorpio Races
The Name of the Star (Shades of London) (I haven’t read this yet- it’s on my TBR pile- so please let me know if you think it isn’t appropriate!)
Black Hole Sun– David Macinnis Gill offers a no-cost Skype visit
Life, After– Sarah Darer Littman also offers a no-cost 20 minute visit. Plus, I love this book!
Cleopatra’s Moon– Another author who offers a no-cost Skype visit. Plus, it’s a cool look at Egyptian history.
Breadcrumbs– Anne Ursu offers a Skype visit. And I love this book. AND I am imagining all I could do with it. An episode of Grimm/Once Upon a Time for comparison? The real Grimm Fairy Tales?


What would YOU want to immerse yourself in this summer?  Suggestions more than welcome!  And feel free to recommend upcoming books, too!  I will choose 2-3 for the camp plus at least one for read-aloud.