ABYDOS: A Weekend in Review



I remember somebody telling me that ABYDOS used to be a THING in our district.  I remember somebody telling me that ABYDOS was one to the district what other strategies are now.  That it was one of those things that the district fell in love with and then decided everybody else needed to be doing it.
ABYDOS was before my time.
But our district still sends people to some of the conferences.  And this year I was lucky enough (no shade)  to be chosen to go.
I got put up in a hotel room, got to room with a really awesome chick, was able to spend my days BEING TAUGHT things, and I got to do it all while someone else sat with my kids for two days.
And although I walked out with more ideas than strategies to take back to the classroom, it renewed something in me.  More on that later.  Because this post is about what I brought back with me.  Read more below.

Session 1: Opening General Session

I’m going to be honest.  I was on my phone for most of it.  The organizers spoke for some of it, tooted their own horn, and then let an author read from and talk about her books.  Pinterest was my saving grace.

Session 2: Scaffolding Inference for Deeper Connection


I think that every English teacher is frustrated with how little students use their critical thinking skills.  They want to be spoon fed everything.  I have a student in my class who will literally ask for the answers with no shame.  It is the saddest thing.  So I chose this session to go to hoping that I would get some strategies to use for getting the students to do the trickiest thing we can ask them do in an English class independently.
While I did walk away with the idea that a plot chart is the best way to get the kids to infer, I’m not completely sold.  I will be using a plot chart a lot more in the classroom though.  If we can get students to understand events, and the causation between those events, maybe inferring will be easier for them.

Session 3: Visible Learning: What Research Shows Works for Every Student... Every Time!

I honestly believe the most helpful thing to come out of this training was the book list.  There was a lesson she demonstrated where the kids solve riddle mysteries.  And in order to get the result, every person in their group has to speak once and uninterrupted about the evidence to solve the crime.  I’m trying to think of a way to adapt it for literature circles.  Because discussion is the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to literature.
But there wasn’t anything “visible” about this session.

Session 4: Analysis Entente: A Guide to Finding and Communicating Meaning of Texts

So since I’ve been in my district, they’ve done a huge push of this guy named Degen, who teaches English at an all boys Jesuit high school in Dallas.  And I’m not saying that it’s not brilliant.  It’s just that… I’ve seen it before.  I’ve spent about 20 hours of professional development in dedication to this man.  So when I realized that this session was Degen 101, I was just a little more than bummed.   This session did however allow me to brush up on it, get some reading material, and discover a new for identifying text evidence by placing analysis words directly on the lines of the piece of work.
I don’t know why I never thought of that.  That’s how I annotate.

Session 5: Mix It Up: Guiding Students into Meaning Using Mentor Texts

I was hooked from the moment I read, in the description, that this session would feature Hamilton.  And I wasn’t disappointed.
This session argued the idea that in order for students to become experts, and in order for students to become more comfortable with the skills that they’re lacking, they need to see it done first.  And they need to use that example in “remix” it into their own work.  It was brilliant.  However, the one fear I have is that the students won’t “remix” and they’ll just “steal.”  I’m going to incorporate it, and then see how it goes.  Will let you know the results.

Session 6: Podcasting: Sound and Narrative

This session was so cool.  It was basically the art of “reading” a podcast.  I’ve been trying to figure out ways to incorporate podcasts into lessons and I didn’t think that it was defendable in the current landscape of teaching.  But this gave me my reason… my excuse.  And I think that podcasts are going to be a regular thing in my classroom next year.

Session 7: Comprehension: The Case of Classroom Versus State Assessment

I was talked into this session.  And the person who talked me into it left 10 minutes into it because they thought it was going to be something other than it was.  And honestly, I got a lot out of it.  Especially when it comes to questioning and short answer responses (since they are no longer on the state test).  The group I was with and I were redirected during this training, which made me salty.  Otherwise, it was food for thought.

Session 8: Personalized Learning: Abydos Strategies Fueled by Blended Learning Models

My school does blended learning wrong.  And I know that we do blended learning wrong.  But when you’re required to use a tablet everyday and it takes hours to create one day’s worth of blended learning, it doesn’t happen the way that it’s supposed to.  And besides the “Let’s share out” model that this presenter used, I found it helpful in a way that I can now point to and say, “See.  We’re NOT doing blended learning.  Put a handout in schoology and calling it 1:1 is not a thing.”
I also believe that the tablets should be used as a tool, and made less of a requirement.  Some kids like them… some don’t.  Let them decide.

Session 9: Conquering Coherence: Respond with Color!

This was more visual than the visual session claimed to be.  It basically rested on the premise that kids need to be able to visually see the parts of their writing, and that once they can, they can quickly identify what they need to do to change it.
I really liked this session.  I’m actually going to use her strategies in the classroom this week. =)  If you're interested, here is the lesson I created based on this technique.

Session 10: Just Make it Legal: Understanding Intellectual Freedom and Copyright Laws

I went into this session believing that it would be about copyright laws for teachers because of the description.  Which I would have loved.  But it ended up being about the students, and their writing process, and dissuading them from plagiarizing.  I walked out.

All in all, I’m crazy appreciative of the fact that I was given the chance to go.  I love professional development.  It was more positive than anything, and I’ve got new stuff to try.