Early this week, I attended the best professional development I’ve been to in a long time. During this particular gathering, I wrote furiously. I jotted down book titles and mini lesson ideas. I left eager to get back to the classroom to try out these new ideas.
Now, you’re probably wondering where I was. If you are thinking that I was at Teacher’s College listening to Lucy Calkins or one of her cohorts, guess again. I was in the basement of my own home gathered with a group of colleagues who love literacy.
This week we focused on teaching with picture books. After talking with my colleagues, I can’t wait to go out and buy Car Wash by Sandra Steen so that I, too, can use it with young children to teach visualization and interesting word choice. I am looking differently at my own copy of Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee. Before, I always saw it as a great text for teaching noisy words, now I see its potential for teaching young writers about small moments. We looked at several of Charlotte Zolotow’s books and I learned about Say It, a book with a great ending, a crafting strategy I’ve been researching how to teach better. I teach a comprehension monitoring strategy called “Does it make you go EW” and I learned about a title written by Jennifer Rapp called Misery is a Smell in Your Backpack. This book will be another great text to use to model this strategy to growing readers.
As you can see, this was a productive and engaging conversation—exactly what I expect from good professional development. I very often encounter teachers who lament that there is not enough money in their school budgets to attend workshops or to do the learning that helps them become better teachers. When you’re feeling that way, remember that good PD doesn’t have to cost a lot. Assemble some like-minded colleagues around a table with a pile of picture books and go through them one-by-one. Take turns talking about how you use different books in your classroom. You’ll walk away with lots of new ideas and the only thing it will cost you is time.