WSCC hosts Literacy Conference
Walters State Community College’s fourth annual East Tennessee Literacy Conference, held Thursday, featured organizers and speakers including Jefferson County Schools reading specialist Susan Roberts, Walters State Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Lori Campbell, children’s author Mike Artell, literacy expert Dr. Timothy Shanahan, Walters State Dean of Distance Education Dr. Amy Ross, and Jefferson County Schools Director of Federal Programs, Accountability and Elementary Education Sherry Finchum.
Walters State Community College held its fourth annual Literacy Conference Thursday on the college’s Morristown campus.
The conference, which this year was sponsored by the Mid-East Tennessee Regional P-16 Council, the Mossy Creek Literacy Council and the Jefferson County School System, is held as a celebration of literacy and for teachers and other educators to discuss the latest techniques in English language arts education.
The conference keynote speaker, Timothy Shanahan, spoke on “Meeting the Challenges of the Common Core.”
Shanahan, who gave two presentations over the course of the conference, is the director of the University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Literacy and has co-authored multiple books on early childhood literacy and Common Core reading standards.
During his morning address, Shanahan spoke about Common Core teaching standards.
He said to meet the new standards teachers will need to push students in the future to go outside of their reading comfort zones and read at higher levels, and compared learning to physical exercise.
He explained that improving, mentally or physically, requires working a little harder every day and that teachers and parents will need to motivate students to do this work.
At his afternoon presentation, the reading education researcher discussed close reading, a reading technique Shanahan said is encouraged by Common Core standards, in elementary school classrooms.
Close reading involves reading a challenging text more than once to first understand what a text’s key ideas and plot are, then how the story is structured and, eventually, to critique the text.
“Close reading is not … a teaching technique. This is a way of reading,” Shanahan said.
“This is actually an outcome of the common core,” he explained. “This is what you’re striving to make your kids into: people who can take … the text itself and, by reading and rereading that text in thoughtful ways, can really come to understand it deeply and critically.”
Children’s author Mike Artell spoke to the educators about ways to encourage a love of reading in boys.
He suggested using books with shorter texts broken up by photos and books with activities like tongue twisters, science projects or magic tricks to keep children reading outside of the classroom.
Artell advised that, once a child is excited about reading, teachers could then move on to more complex reading. For example, once a third-grader has read books about magic tricks, a teacher could recommend an age-appropriate biography of Harry Houdini.
Brothers and bluegrass duo Jason and Ron Coffey performed for attendees during lunch.
The Coffey brothers are teachers in the Hamblen County School System who turn lesson plans into songs. Among songs performed at the conference were “Stop That Sentence” and “The Subject and the Predicate.”
-From Staff Reports