Hong Kong International School at 50

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Hong Kong International School

Just let them read

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 12:43pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 12:41pm

[Sponsored article] If you can read this, you are blessed – a long time ago, somebody taught and encouraged you to read.

Nearly 200 educators who care about reading convened at the HKIS campus on January 21-22 to learn from visiting experts and each other at the 9th annual HKIS Literacy Institute.

Don Drake, Director of Professional Learning at HKIS, said, “Not only did our own teachers get access to experts who validated their practices and supported new ideas, they also had the opportunity to meet other teachers from Hong Kong and around Asia, and also from Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and South Africa.”

Renowned teachers, authors, consultants and keynote speakers Stephanie Harvey, Debbie Miller, and Vicki Vinton, all visiting from the US, shared their expertise about the craft of teaching reading and writing, the best practices in literacy instruction, and the practical applications to meet the needs of Pre-K to Grade 8 students so they become inspired learners, readers and writers.

So why do the speakers care so much about literacy, and inspiring teachers to teach it? Harvey explained: “I don’t remember not being passionate about education and literacy. Reading and writing are not goals in and of themselves; they’re tools for understanding just about everything, whether you’re going to be a software designer, a historian or a businessperson.” Miller was equally passionate: “What ignites me is learning about the things children can do that we never expected: infer ideas, synthesize information, make meaning and connections, and determine importance,” while Vinton shared: “I think my relationship with books has been my longest and most constant relationship with anything in my life! It has given me a sense of self and of the world.”

One key message that all three speakers wanted the conference participants to take away was about nurturing a sense of agency in children – a confident knowing that “I’m the kind of kid who can figure things out.” Harris said, “Just let them read! It’s about schools fitting kids, not kids fitting schools.” Echoing that, Miller urged teachers to think about how children learn best and what matters most to them, and to design their classes with that in mind. Vinton encouraged them to consider the words of Lilian Katz, a renowned American teacher and author about early-childhood education: “Teachers throughout the early years tend to overestimate children academically, but underestimate them intellectually.”

Participants certainly appreciated what they learned at the event. Bonnie Wan, a Year 1 teacher at the Chinese International School in Hong Kong who has attended the conference several times, said, “Every year, HKIS brings in such inspirational and passionate speakers. To be able to see the ‘gurus’ of literacy is an amazing gift. People who write the books we use, do the research, develop best practice, and always keep the children in the front of their minds... fantastic!” And Tanja Galetti, Primary School Librarian at the Hong Kong Academy, tweeted: “One of my favorite Hong Kong pd [professional development] events each year. My head is buzzing with so much new learning, so many new ideas from the past two days.”

Attending from overseas was Amy Scranton, a Grade 1 teacher at International School Bangkok. She commented: “I’ve attended the HKIS Literacy Institute for several years now. This year my stand-out session was Debbie Miller’s session on book clubs for our youngest readers. Her suggestions made book clubs into something I could make happen the minute I step back into my classroom.”