Spotlight Article
February at the Project
February 22, 2012 at 2:54pm

As the spring and summer months draw near, we are busy preparing for the July and August Institutes on the Teaching of Reading and Writing. Participants hailing from over 40 countries will line the corridors of Teachers College, attending workshops and keynotes speeches on the teaching of literacy. Our applications went live on February 13th and we received an astounding 500 registrations—per institute—that day alone! If you are interested in joining us this summer, applications are available here: Summer Institutes

Meanwhile, Teachers College is bustling with participants from around the country, here for the February Mini-Institute on Content Area Literacy and the Common Core Standards. Educators at all levels are learning to develop the curriculum and methods necessary to ensure that students reach the rigorous new standards for content area literacy embedded in the Common Core. Across the week, participants will hear about a repertoire of skills for teaching readers to think and read analytically about nonfiction texts. They’ll also learn to develop and use performance assessments to track students’ progress in some of the higher-level comprehension skills inherent in the CCSS. The institute also focuses on nonfiction writing, with an emphasis on writing quick content area essays. Participants learn ways to help students write fluently across the curriculum, using writing as a tool for analytical thinking.

The week has been marked by tremendous speakers, as well. Dr. Douglas Reeves, a leader in the field of education and founder of The Leadership and Learning Center, gave a keynote address on the leadership implications for the Common Core State Standards. He encouraged participants to embrace the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by the Common Core, reminding us of the importance of “doing the right thing, for the right reasons.” As we grapple to understand and implement the standards, Reeves explained, the most important thing we can do is to keep in mind what really matters—children. Literacy is, he said, a true “health and safety issue.”

Matt de la Pena opened the week with a call to action in his keynote, “Working Class Writer.” De la Pena began with the gripping story of his own childhood, growing up on the border between California and Mexico, the child of a Mexican father and a Caucasian mother. He talked about the relationship between reading and identity and reminded us that “sometimes when you hand a kid a book, you hand him his life.” He emphasized the importance of finding kids’ heartbeats, of discovering the places where they “feel like they’re somebody,” and of finding the “grace and dignity” in each student.