Despite earlier stormy and precarious weather that hindered travel, IRW was able to participate in and present at the Island Teachers Conference on October 30 in Belfast. The theme of sustainability was a natural tie-in for the IRW workshop, Reflect to Learn, Learn to Reflect. Program Director Ruth Feldman led 20 participants in an active, hands-on, minds-on session.
IRW encourages reflection that leads to deep and critical reading. The participants, who came from many of the island schools and collaborating organizations, practiced a variety of techniques that encouraged discussion, analysis and making meaning from text, while having fun! A Gallery Walk opened the session, where participants were asked to read four posted quotes all about reading and reflection and congregate at the quote that most resonated for them. They discussed in small groups, and shared their highlights with the larger whole group.
Carousel was a lively way to have the whole group read a passage, think on their own for moment, and share reactions to several probing questions. The room really came abuzz when the outer circle of participants and inner circle of participants (facing one another) were asked to move to their right after each question and conversation, offering them a new partner with whom to discuss after each 3-minute pair share.
We reviewed a process called Two Column Stories and several ways in which this method could be used: a student can write (in first column) a passage from a book and in the next column analyze the deeper meaning of the character’s actions, thoughts, etc. We also discussed how this same reflection tool could be used by teachers and students to record what they did (as in, their action in class) in the first column, and their thoughts, feelings, reactions in the other column. It could also be a great way to develop characters when writing a story – describing the surface level of that character, but developing their underlying characteristics in column two. Of course, as always, the most productive part of the session was the sharing between and among participants.
The morning session segued into the full group viewing of Lightning Talks, in which IRW was a presenter. Three to four minutes of timed Powerpoint slides encouraged a lively and fast paced presentation of who we are, what we do, and how we could collaborate with all those in attendance. Old friends reconnected, everyone made new friends, and all in all a great time convened by Island Institute so that – together – we can work toward sustaining island schools, teachers, and communities.