Twenty elementary teachers from the Alta School District will be attending the 28th Plains International Reading Association Regional Reading Conference this Friday in Sioux Falls., S.D., in order to help them learn new and advanced techniques to help improve reading education for students in the school district.
Educators will take four vans to the conference early Friday morning, and will engage in workshops, strategy sessions and group-sharing events from 8:00 a.m. to approximately 3:15 p.m.
Many of the teachers who are signed up for the conference have never been to a Plains IRA conference before, and Alta Elementary Principal Maxine Lampe said the proximity of Sioux Falls to Alta made the decision to have a group of teachers attend the conference much easier.
"Since it is in Sioux Falls this year, we decided we should definitely have a group go to it," Lampe said. "I have been to similar conferences before and they've been very helpful, so we think the teachers will be able to benefit quite a bit from attending this conference."
The Iowa Department of Education's Phase III program is helping to cover the expenses of the teachers for the all-day event, which will include numerous reading workshops and guest speakers hailing from all across the north-central region of the United States.
All of the Alta teachers who will be traveling to Sioux Falls have elementary teaching backgrounds, and Lampe said the conference would be aimed toward that particular segment of the education field.
"The conference is geared more for elementary teachers, and that's why all of the people going to it from Alta have elementary experience," Lampe said. "Certainly there will be some meetings going on for middle school teachers, but the vast majority will be for elementary teachers. That's another reason why this conference will be helpful, because most of it is targeted to help elementary teachers."
Lampe said the conference will be a great learning opportunity for all of the elementary educators, and said the sheer number of teachers and speakers who will be there will allow the Alta teachers to pick up a host of new concepts and techniques to better help their pupils.
"There will be presenters from all over the Midwest, so we think it will be a very helpful and informative meeting for our teachers to attend," Lampe said. "It will help our teachers receive the latest information for improving the teaching strategies they use to help the students in reading, and we think that's something that is very important."
The teachers will learn new ideas and strategies for teaching a wide variety of topics within the elementary reading curriculum, including building real life reading skills with older students and memory strategies for spelling and reading.
There will also be sessions dealing with motivating kindergarten through second-graders to explore nonfiction reading, helping students learn about interactive writing and exploring new ways to aid students in comprehension, spelling and phonetic skills.
Lampe's staff will also receive hand-outs illustrating different ways each teacher can apply those skills and strategies in their classrooms in Alta, and will get a chance to speak to authors such as Richard Paul Evans, Tony Johnston, Janet Allen, Ben Mikealsen, Mike Thaler and Gloria Houston.
All of the authors have written several book series for children and will be in Sioux Falls to sign autographs and to answer any questions teachers may have about their series.
There will also be numerous workshops for elementary administrators to learn about skills such as motivating teachers and understanding the new reading programs which could be implemented in their schools in the future.
Lampe said those administrative courses have been positive experiences for her in the past, and said she thinks they will help her in the future as well.
"There will be many sessions for us as administrators to know what a good reading program is like, and those are good for us to go to and learn from," Lampe said. "Like all of the teachers, we will also be learning the newest strategies and ideas about reading and how to better help our students now and in future years."
In addition to acquiring new teaching skills, Lampe said the district will also be scouting out possibilities for a new reading curriculum series, which would be implemented at the beginning of the 2002-2003 academic year.
"One of the big things we're hoping to do is adopt a new reading curriculum series for next year, so we will be able to talk to several of the bookmen that will be there and take a preliminary look at some of the series that are out there," Lampe said. "It will be a great opportunity for us to look at the products and ask some questions to the representatives there. We won't be buying anything at this time, but it will be good for us to get our first look at them and see what we might like."
The Plains IRA is a branch of the International Reading Association, a group which has 350,000 members in 99 countries, including 1,250 state and regional councils in the U.S.