The annual conference is an opportunity to give new mentors and fellows a preview of the kinds of teaching practices that the foundation will be advancing in its two year professional development program. The conference also offers alumni a yearly chance to reinforce the work done during the core fellowship.
Presenters are drawn from among outstanding thinkers, researchers, and writers in TK -5 education. Their work reflects an emphasis on both the social-emotional and intellectual qualities characteristic of the teaching valued by the ART of TEACHING. Those who present are authors of books that frequently inform fellows’ new or continuing practice and often are the focus of monthly inquiry meetings.
This year each of six speakers presented three sessions in the areas of their respective expertise – reading, writing – or math – varying each session’s focus by topic or grade level.
Deputy Director of the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University’s Teachers College, Mary Ehrenworth, spoke on teaching writing, altering her grade level focus from 2-8 to 3-6, with one k-5 session, based on her book The Power of Grammar, Unconventional Approaches to the Teaching of Conventions. Since so many days of Cotsen professional development in literacy draw on the work of Ehrenworth and her colleagues at Teachers College, her sessions were especially appropriate for a large number of Cotsen mentors, fellows, and alumni.
In responding to the movement to include TK in k-5 elementary schools, Matt Glover, author of numerous books on young children’s writing and a third time speaker at the conference, presented two sessions on primary writing including TK. Focusing on the word “nurturing” in both composition and reading, Glover acknowledged the need to be attentive to the social and emotional needs of the youngest students. In his K-6 session, he emphasized the engagement that can be elicited by offering choice of genre in teaching to students at all age levels.
Elham Kazemi of the University of Washington and Angela Chan Turrou of UCLA paired for three sessions with two based on the work described in their book Choral Counting and Counting Collections. These practices – so important in developing children’s number sense, relational thinking, and math fluency – offer support for Cognitively Guided Instruction or CGI, the math approach advanced by the Foundation. Their third session “What is CGI?” offered an introduction to those new to CGI principles.
For her presentation, Debbie Miller drew, largely, from her most recent book, What’s the Best That Could Happen, New Possibilities for Teachers and Readers. Her theme was especially apropos for new Cotsen fellows as well as alumni since it addressed both the fear of trying something new and the feeling of “being stuck” in practices that may not be responding to children’s needs. She also discussed teaching to develop children’s agency, by creating an environment where children are encouraged to be independent, a topic that she underscored with references to Peter Johnston, a past speaker at Cotsen conferences.
Ruth Parker, Co-founder and former CEO of Mathematics Education Collaborative and co-author of Making Number Talks Matter, presented yet another practice that can be supportive of CGI. With special attention to access for all students, she spoke on number talks, a math learning activity that can offer multiple entry points for different learners across all grade levels. Offering one session on how number talks can support English Language Learners, she followed with another about number talks as a means of engaging “every learner.” Then addressing the need to bridge the connection between early grades and higher math, she spoke on bridging early multiplication relationships to algebra.