Highlights from the 2019 Adolescent Literacy Summit

Saturday, April 20, 2019

As an EAL teacher, my focus is always on bringing my language learners to a place where they feel they can participate in conversations, share their options and feel valued as a participating member of their core classes, particularly English and Humanities. Attending the Adolescent Literacy Summit, hosted by the Manitoba Reading Association on April 11 and 12, reminded me that these are not goals restricted just to EAL teachers, but that "every student should be able to use literacies to change the world." It is a tall order to imagine being able to do this for every child, but at this year's summit I found a plethora of research-based strategies that I can apply on Monday to bring all of my kids a little closer to the goal.

Highlighting Hattie’s Visible Learning research in her energized opening keynote, Dr. Nancy Frey armed us with considerations about what works best to get students into deep consolidation of skills and concepts and taught us that there is a time and place for everything from vocabulary instruction to extended writing practice. In her breakout session she reminded us that student can’t be left in the dark about where they are, where they are headed and what success will look like. Learning from Dr. Frey was certainly a highlight for me but walking away knowing that my school and I are on the right path was very encouraging.

Equally delightful, though, were those Manitoba gemstones who shared their stories and resources with us. I nearly fell off my chair as I listened to the positively inspired spoken-word poetry presented by the youth from Glenlawn Collegiate, directed by the small but mighty, Vindra Jain, who shared her process to promote creative writing and literacy in her school. Not to mention the many other “Voices from the Field”, who showed us how they are embracing the new Manitoba ELA curriculum to bring deeper learning to their classrooms.

In the end though, I have to say that the biggest bang for my buck came from Timothy Shanahan’s breakout session on Teaching Students to Read Complex Texts. He shot down my commonly held belief that students should only be reading texts at their own level +1 by piling research in front of us that revealed the danger in such thinking. He gave us concrete evidence showing that students can handle texts far above their level with the right instruction and then taught us how to give them that instruction necessary to produce successful readers of complex texts. In addition, Shanahan has made dozens of examples and resources available on his website at www.shanahanonliteracy.com, which is a fountain of information and inspiration.

About the Author

Brenda Boonstra is an EAL teacher at Balmoral Hall school as well as a member of the Manitoba ASCD Professional Learning Committee.

Posted by Meghan Burns at 5:59 PM

Currently, 1 Comments

Wonderfully written Brenda. Thanks for sharing your highlights and new learning from this exceptional literacy summit. I concur that Dr. Nancy Frey’s keynote...we must involve students in their learning and remember without more complex tasks, students will not deepen their learning. We all play a role in making literacy visible in our schools!

April 21, 2019 at 10:00 AM by Margaret Murray

Post your Comment