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Words With Friends

I've been traveling since school ended on June 4th--speaking at the 8th Georgia Conference on Teaching Writing and Reading, leading staff development in several Texas and Indiana schools, and attending the All Write conference. I've visited with and learned from dedicated, thoughtful educators who are committed to improving literacy instruction for children--from thought leaders in our profession like Smokey Daniels and Debbie Miller to first year interns like Darian to long-term Twitter pals like Paul W. Hankins and Teresa Bunner.

Sitting in the Indianapolis airport, bemoaning the death of my Kindle, and playing Words with Friends, I considered how lonely and isolating being a teacher would be without friends to share my thoughts and questions with on a regular basis. That's what summer brings me--the opportunity to connect with other teachers in a relaxed way. Although I learn a lot from my colleagues at school, the hectic pace of the school year doesn't offer as many of these opportunities as I would like. By the end of the year, I am in desperate need of an attitude and pedagogical adjustment. Seeking out like-minded colleagues during the summer months advances my teaching and puts the steel back in my spine.

With limited time and funds, many teachers seek out online learning communities and free Internet resources as paths for professional development. This "armchair PD" provides us with the ability to learn from conferences far away, investigate new ideas, or connect with other teachers who are interested in the same topics. Via Twitter, I was able to follow both the International Society for Technology in Education and American Library Association 2011 summer conferences without leaving home. I am taking a deeper look at techology tools I implemented on the fly in my classroom this year like edmodo and Prezi, too.

Here are some free, online professional development opportunities that might interest you this summer:

English Companion Ning Summer Webstitute: Reading Classic and Young Adult Literature with Students, July 11th and 12th. Join the movers and shakers of the English teaching profession for this engaging online institute about integrating classic and contemporary literature in our classrooms. The ECN consistently provides outstanding teacher-led professional development through discussion threads, book studies, blogs, and forums for English and Language Arts teachers.

Edutopia Summer Rejuvenation Guide. Edutopia's outstanding annual list of ten suggestions on how to use the summer months for learning, rejuvenation, and personal growth. In addition to this guide, Edutopia includes abundant resources on its site--including a New Teacher Workshop and Project-Based Learning tutorials.

Choice Literacy: With podcasts, interviews, book lists, instructional tips, and classroom videos from literacy leaders like Brenda Powers, Franki Sibberson, Ann Marie Corgill, Aimee Buckner, Katie DiCesare, and The Sisters, Choice Literacy's resources are worth the inexpensive subscription cost three times over. Sign up for the free weekly newsletter, The Big Fresh, for a weekly dose of inspiration and learning delivered to your email inbox every Saturday morning.

Twitter Chats: #engchat (every Monday at 7 pm EST) and #titletalk (the last Sunday of every month at 8 pm EST). I learn more from my colleagues on Twitter each week than I do from an entire year of district-level PD. Dive into a Twitter chat this summer and pick up incredible ideas for implementing technology tools, meet teachers from around the world, keep abreast of policy debates, or follow your favorite children's and young adult authors.

As much as I like to plan for the upcoming school year and expand my teaching knowledge, I also see the need for teachers to relax and play. While I miss my students during the summer, I know that I am a better teacher because I spend my vacation reconnecting with my non-teaching self, too. Visit a museum. Ride bikes until dark with your kids. Wake up after 6 am. Savor a meal that lasts longer than 20 minutes. Stick your toes in the sand. Enjoy a marvelous summer. You deserve it.

***The half way mark for my Summer Book-A-Day challenge (#bookaday on Twitter) arrives next week and I already read some illuminating and entertaining books. I will share a list of my recent reads in my next post.

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