Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Looking for a Dynamic Speaker? (Language Arts)

Look no further than Meredith Alvaro, Literacy Consultant.  She's worked directly with Lucy Calkins at Teachers College Columbia University.  NOTE:  I do not know her beyond the three workshops she presented at my school to our staff.  If I ran into her on the streets, she wouldn't remember me. So, as you can see, I'm not benefiting in any way from sharing her info.  Why am I doing it?  Because she was, hands down, the best presenter and the most informative presenter I've ever seen in my 25 years of teaching. I'm sharing her contact info just in case you're able to book her for your teachers. She offers lots of workshops and she's worth every penny and then some.  (Based in NJ/NY area but travels.)

Our district has worked closely with Teachers College over the last decade.  We've been lucky to have various workshops led by mentees of Lucy Calkins.  So while I knew her Writing and Reading Workshops would be good. I just didn't know how good GREAT they'd be thanks to Meredith.

Please realize that this post IS NOT to share the info she shared with us.  I don't think that would be right as it's hers to share. Rather, by giving you some insights as to how the day was structured and sharing feedback, I'm hoping you may be able to get her for your district.  She strengthened our programs.  Raised our game. I can tell you this:  if you pass on her name, you will be elevated to Rock Star status after she visits because she's THAT GOOD.  

When we started, she asked everyone what they hoped to get out of the day.  Any burning questions, an area in writing or reading that needed clarification, etc. At the end of the short intro, she had 8 different topics from us that WE were most interested in.  THOSE topics became the agenda for the day and she was able to fully speak to each topic by days' end.  I loved the fact that WE set the agenda! I had never been to such a personalized workshop before.  She's funny, sincere, oh, so knowledgeable, clever, REAL, and determined to have the attendees understand what's needed to run a successful Language Arts program. Theory turned into practical practice!  She broke down the Common Core Standards in the simplest terms.  (First session was writing while the second was all about Reading.  For this post, I'm speaking generally about both as though it was one workshop.)

She broke down Calkins' Small Moment stories in such a way that we were giddy with our new-found ease of delivery of instruction.  You know the watermelon and the seed analogy?  Way too complicated for her and not easily understood by the kiddos! Seriously, what she shared was genius and our students truly get this "simple" format now.  Her tips/tricks are SIMPLE yet effective,  So many Ah-Ha Moments!

To see her model a K and 1 Reading Workshop was amazing!  I was in awe of her K modeling. Again, so simple and manageable. 

But the best part came in the afternoon, we had 25 minutes left over.  She had finished speaking to our agenda and said she could answer questions or show us what a writing conference looks like. We chose that.  We literally walked next door to a first grade classroom and she took over.  No prep from a teacher (who was with us...a sub was in there) no anything.  They didn't know we were coming. It was kick ass awesome.  Really.  

She proved she could not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.  Although she had never seen the classroom before, met any of the kids, etc., knew the routines, etc.,  it was an absolute incredible conferencing session. Effortless on her part.  I learned more from her about conferencing in that short time than I had learned in all my years of teaching.  In that short time, she met with three young writers (ones who sat closest to us so we could hear everything) and they happened to be high/low/middle writers.)  She met with each one for about seven minutes.   She made each one feel like a rock star with her meaningful, authentic, feedback and did a quick mini-lesson on some aspect of their writing which became their new goal for the day. Calm. Respectful. Meaningful, targeted interaction between teacher/student.

Although we're well-trained in our district, Meredith was a breath of fresh air and was easily able to cut through some of the Calkins "noise" and kept it real. Everyone loved her.  The days we work with her fly by and we all leave eager to implement what we've learned.  It's how ALL workshops should be! 

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