Saturday, November 30, 2013


The last session I attended on Sunday at NCTE  was exciting  and thought-provoking, not just for the content, but for the presentation format, as well.

It was an Ignite Session..

Like its older sister Pecha Kucha, Ignite is a presentation structure which limits time and forces the speaker to carefully consider what points are presented. The result is a finely polished offering of bare-bones wisdom and quotable gems in each bite.

An ignite session is 20 slides, each showing 15 seconds for a total of 5 minutes with commentary fitting into this same time frame.  (Pecha Kucha is 20 slides, each showing for 20 seconds.)

I  love both of these formats and wondered how to harness this power.

What might it look like in writing?

As I reviewed my copious notes from NCTE it occurred to me that I might cull one or two memorable statements,  important ideas, or overarching themes from each session and  presenter--creating a written ignite session.

Then I decided to further cull and reduce each of these brief statements to one word or brief phrase to create a very short slide presentation of 20 slides lasting 60 seconds).

As I began to think more about this process,  I realized it would work well for any learning situation-- conventions, conferences, meetings, and other professional development settings.

This process of review, analysis, summary, and synthesis will also work for writers as they consider their reading, research projects and more.

By adding additional layers to this reconstruction of ideas, understandings can be deepened and learning extended. Additional layers might include intentional animations and transitions, music, narration, and other effects that enhance, support, and further illuminate  learning.

I am continuing to think about "igniting" learning in this way, both as a process, and also as a  final presentation or publication structure.

Your may choose to view my final presentation before or after (or without) reading the  process notes included below.
Click here to see my  IGNITING NCTE 2013 Slide Presentation.
Click "Present" at the top right corner once the link opens.


First Wave

This group ignited my mind and heart- preparing me for all the learning to come at NCTE.
Five spoken  word artists from The University of Wisconson-Madison surrounded our senses and  delighted our sensibilities as they turned the prism of learning and life to every angle, reflecting new images and metaphors .  I was surprised and proud to see Shameaca Moore of Columbus, Ohio among this amazing group.   She is a former student  one of our CAWP Teacher Consultants,Wyk McGowan.  This award-winning group is a must see. WOW!

Slide 1   Word

Keeping Poetry Central to Our Core

Georgia Heard
It is essential for students to connect to poems-- to find themselves and their lives inside the poem.
Borrowing from Celtic thought, she insisted that all teachers are poets. Why? Knowledge that does not pass through the heart is dangerous.

Slide 2   Heart

Tom Romano
In writing, if there is not surprise for the writer, there is not surprise for the reader.
Poets write ourselves into realization, using simple precise language.
Possibility is enough start for anyone.

 Slide 3 Possibility

Linda Rief
Recognizing the importance of choice, her students created Heart Books, beginning with Georgia Heard's Heart Maps.  Choice of poems to collect for their books was a major force in fostering connections and personal responses.
For each poem they asked themselves: How does this poem speak to you? what does this poet say about writing?
Quoting Ted Kooser:  You have to read 100 poems to to write one poem.

Slide 4  Choice

The Persistent Call of Stories

Ralph Fletcher
Narrative is foundational, the mother of all writing. Story is the way we think and make sense of the world.

Slide 5  Narrative

Tom Newkirk
A sense of story is essential to our well being.  Those who knew their family stories are psychologically healthier. Narrative is how we explain causality.  Paul says in the Bible Now we see dimly.  Tom says Now we tell stories.

Slide 6  Story

Not All Bad Girls are Bullies: Using Literature to Introduce Perspective About Women's Roles in History

Heidi Stemple

Context is important, the context of history.  It is not just how we look at the women, but how they looked at themselves.

Slide 7  Context

Jane Yolen
All writers are mired in their own history.  I can't help as a writer, no matter what I am writing,wrestling with the things I am wrestling with in my mind and my century.  I can only write from my own center.  I look at who I am,  in the context of what I stand for and the questions I am raising.
Writers are in the constant process of discovering themselves.

Slide 8   Center

Burleigh Muten
We owe it to our students to stay current with the books they are reading.

Slide 9  Current

This Time It's Personal

John O'Connor
Tell the truth slant. Sometimes we need to turn something upside down to see more. (We had just created a collective group poem by listing what Capital A looked like--standing up,turned on each side and upside down, then listing our 5 most interesting A words)  This is what we do with creative nonfiction-- we mine our lives for riches.
Creative nonfiction always aspires to truth, although it may use tools of the literary novel.  As we keep writing, we begin to discover  patterns.

Slide 10   Mine our lives for riches.

Have You Wondered Today?: Using Wonderpolis In the K-12 Classrooms

Emily Kirkpatrick
Wonderopolis is not a website but a state of mind.

Maria Caplin
Gretchen Taylor
Paul Hankins

Each shared practical ways to use this amazing site and the nonfiction resources there, as they shared how this developmentally appropriate site fit demands of Common Core Standards, as well as supported the natural curiosity and wonder with which our students come to elementary school, nurtured the growing inquiries of the middle schoolers, and nudged the wonderings of secondary students.

This site can help combat a culture of coverage and lead to a community of curiosity.

Slide 11  Wonder

Toward a  Deeper Understanding : Models , Structures and Strategies for Student Conversations

Ellin Keene
Any child whom can use oral language to communicate by age five can think and learn at the highest levels. Every child deserves impeccable examples of oral language.

Nancy Steineke
We must be taught to be good partners and how to take active roles in conversations.

Harvey Daniels  and Elaine Daniels
It is important for every kid in the room to be talking at the same time through written conversation.

Jim Vopat
Conversation does not happen because you say so.
Collaboration is powerful. Collaborative intelligence is higher than individual intelligence. 

Each of these speakers engaged us in the collaborative conversation models, structures and strategies they were describing.

Slide 12  Oral language,  Conversations, Written Conversations, Collaborative intelligence

Core Standards: Minding The Gaps ( An IGNITE session) ( the session that inspired this post!)

Sandy Hayes
Multitask the standards.

Slide 13  Mulitask

 David Finkle
The standards do not tell us how to make things interesting.

Slide 14  Make things interesting.

Penny Kittle
How do we motivated or change the trajectory of our students' reading lives?
Start where they are and build their stamina

Slide 15  Change the trajectory of a reading life.

Kevin Hodgson
Enter into their pop culture lives to harness the collective power of gaming.

Slide 16  Pop Culture

Troy Hicks
All children want to write, but the writing we have them do is not circulated far enough.    We want them to Do, Share and Send out, Present or Publish and then Repeat.

Slide 17  Do, Share and Send Out, Present or Publish,  Repeat

Andrea Finkle
Poetry surrounds us.  Poetry creates writers, creates memories and makes us better humans.

Slide 18  Poetry creates writers, memories ..better human beings.
 The student is the costar

Scott Finkle
Text is not the sole star.  The student is the co-star. Caring begins with engagement.

Zanetta Robinson
Incorporate pop culture along with the classic. We do not have to choose either/or.

Sara Kajder
We need technology in reading and writing, not only in productions but for process, as well, thinking intentionally about the work we must do.

Slide 19  Technology in all 

Sarah Brown Wessling
Our readers need spaces not gaps.  This is where teachers live.

Donalyn Miller
What texts/ type of reading are students avoiding?  We must add what they don't read.

Slide 20  Spaces, not gaps.  What are we avoiding?  What are the students avoiding?

Click here to see my IGNITING NCTE 2013 Slide Presentation
Click "Present" at the top right corner once the link opens.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Review your notes for your most recent conference, convention, presentation or meeting.

Instead, you may want to review notes or marginalia from your latest reading or research or project.

Cull 20 main points, statements, ideas or over-arching themes and list those.

Reduce each of these to just one word or brief phrase.

You may want to write an essay around your results, or you may want to create a slide presentation or some other visual presentation to synthesize,  represent  or present your work.


  1. Hmm...this has me thinking about how to incorporate this into my classroom. I'll let you know what I come up with. :)

  2. I an interested to see what you do with this at the elementary level. I can see a "power" list of words, a poem, posters incorporating visuals as part of the meaning, slides and more...... Please share ;-0

  3. This post makes me wish I could have been at NCTE this year even more! What great sessions you attended! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Gretchen, We missed you and hope you will be in DC in 2014. For me this was one of the best set of sessions I have attended. I am still pondering the ideas and mulling over my learning. You may also want to check out other people's reflections on NCTE. Franki Sibberson has rounded up many of these on her blog: