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Literacy for All

Posted on: Mon, November 07, 2016 at 8:54

Literacy for All

Each year, a group of Nantucket Lighthouse School teachers and I venture off-island to attend Lesley University’s Literacy for All Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. It is one of my favorite conferences of the year, and it is one of the premier literacy conferences in the country. Fifteen hundred educators and school leaders gather to participate in workshops and keynote addresses from literacy legends, educational innovators, authors of children’s literature and fellow teachers. Some of the most inspiring speakers have been Jack Gantos, Lucy Calkins, Mary Pope Osborne, Nell Duke, Irene Fountas, Gay Su Pinnell and newcomer to the educational arena Meenoo Rami.

This year reading and writing guru Lucy Calkins opened the conference with a riveting keynote address. She had us laughing, crying and on the edge of our seats. Sharing anecdotes and real world narratives, she emphasized the importance of humility and grace in teaching. She urged teachers and school leaders to make more space in the day for student reading, to be present in the reading and writing process and to listen without charts and data. Calkins encouraged the audience to allow children to do the following:

• Read books of their choosing.
• Read with more wide-awakeness.
• Read materials that inspire wonder and curiosity.
• Read without always having to write about the reading.

Children need time to read, and then pause to wonder, connect, and hold onto the reading so they can decide how they’re going to interpret it. Without hurry, let them have second thoughts about their reading, as well as their thinking about their thinking, thus developing higher-order metacognitive skills. This is hard work for the developing reader and writer. Calkins reminds us that most of us don’t want to be alone for the hard parts, so it is vital for us to work in collaboration and support of one another.

Reflecting on the conference, Upper Primary teacher Mike Pasch commented, “I was inspired by the musings of Lucy Calkins regarding the importance of writing. ‘It is a necessity that allows us to research our own lives, intensify life's meaning and understand its changes. It allows us to put our thinking in our hands, put our thinking in our pocket, and think about thinking.’ Her list of Ways to Jot opened up a world of ideas for me to incorporate into my classroom. I am also excited to implement a reading strategy I learned in a session concerning struggling readers. Noticing and Naming is an effective technique in which students are guided by the teacher to identify how they came to their understanding of a text. Through Noticing and Naming a student is able to recognize patterns used by authors across a range of texts, empowering learners to develop a self-extending system of literacy expertise.” 

Primary teacher Julia Maury shared, “I left the Literacy Conference inspired and motivated to make reading and writing instruction in my classroom active, engaging and meaningful. Through workshops like ‘A Fresh Look at Phonics’ and ‘Interactive Writing’, I was exposed to a variety of strategies and activities that I have begun to introduce to the emerging readers and writers in my Primary Class. These auditory, visual and kinesthetic activities appeal to a variety of learning styles. Not only have the children found these activities enjoyable, but there have already been several ‘Aha!’ moments of clarity. Most importantly, I was reminded that reading and writing instruction should never be too rigid or formulaic. Allowing the children to experience, question, and connect promotes a wonder and appreciation for the written word.”  

I am appreciative of the priority Nantucket Lighthouse School places on professional growth and development. Each year, Lighthouse teachers set professional goals identifying areas in which they would like to extend their pedagogy and educational thinking. They identify texts, resources, and professional development offerings they would like to pursue to achieve those goals. They also look for ways they can support and collaborate with one another on special projects or extended learning. Nantucket Lighthouse School offers a variety of professional development workshops at faculty meetings, extended faculty work days and with guest speakers like Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, Cindy Horgan or Ross Greene. While offering opportunities for our teachers to grow professionally, we are also bringing newly learned skills and knowledge back to our classrooms so that our students can grow as well.

With thanks,


Emily Miller
Head of School
Nantucket Lighthouse School