What’s the Relevance of Handwriting Today?

Kathy LaPorte is teacher and calligrapher in Indianapolis. She is the official Kappa Delta Pi calligrapher. In honor of National Handwriting Day (celebrated Jan. 23, the birthday of John Hancock), she offered her thoughts on the art form.


LaPorte is the official calligrapher for KDP and works on charters, like this one for Alpha Zeta Delta chapter.

As I sit here with a pencil in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, I am trying to convince myself of the necessity of using handwriting as a form of communication. And, while I am passionate and enthusiastic about the fading art of handwriting, I know that the digital age has taken over its usefulness. Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or a wait-and-see thing?

For 33 years, I taught both manuscript printing and cursive writing to elementary school children. For some, this was enjoyable. For others, not so much. However, for everyone, handwritten communication was a necessity.

Even though efficiency has taken over our fast paced lives, I think there is a legacy that handwriting can offer. The warmth and personality that comes from seeing the product of someone’s hand is invaluable. It is the extension of a real person, unique and fascinating. It reflects thoughts that, once on paper, cannot be easily deleted. It causes the writer to reflect, to daydream and to let ideas gel. These are important qualities for creativity.

Handwriting is an art and a valuable part of our history. It is a relic for future generations to enjoy.

Treat yourself to a good pen, some high quality paper and write about your most cherished moments. You will be making a timeless contribution both to yourself and to others.

Tau Omega Chapter Holiday Book Exchange

B. Rose Lyons is president of Tau Omega Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi at Saint Joseph’s University.

BookExchange2Each December, Tau Omega Chapter at Saint Joseph’s University hosts a Holiday Book Exchange to assist its members in the creation of their future classroom libraries. Members place their names and certification areas into a hat during the November general meeting and pull another member’s name from the hat at random.

Instead of buying a generic gift, members buy a book relevant to the certification area of their chosen person, so that it can be used in a future classroom library. Many members choose specific books for sentimental value, such as a childhood favorite, while others choose books they feel a classroom library would be incomplete without.

The Holiday Book Exchange and party replaces the December general meeting and has consistently proven to be a great success. This night gives KDP members the opportunity to bond during the holiday season through baked goods, conversation, and a love of books.

Brooklyn College Chapter Hosts Boro-wide Professional Conference

Francine Canin is a Reading Teacher at I.S. 238: The Susan B. Anthony Academy in Hollis, Queens. A former Chapter President and Literacy Alive Coordinator, Francine is currently serving as Membership Vice President at Brooklyn College.

On November 7, Eta Theta/Brooklyn College, along with the Brooklyn Reading Council, co-hosted the 34th annual Brooklyn Boro-wide Professional Conference. Educators, a day of workshops and professional networking. The event opened with remarks from Brooklyn College School of Education Dean April Bedford, whose message of “Bring the joy back to reading” resonated with educators.

Jason Leinwand explains the relationship between Stop-Motion Animation and Literacy to a group of educators at the conference while Dr. Tova Ackerman, Director of Puppetry in Practice at Brooklyn College

Jason Leinwand explains the relationship between Stop-Motion Animation and Literacy while Dr. Tova Ackerman, Director of Puppetry in Practice at Brooklyn College

Topics included Bullying, Reading in the Content Areas, Encouraging Creativity and Thinking Skills, Understanding the Data, Drama in Reading Instruction, Forging Relationships with Parents, an introduction to ELL topics, and more. Presenters included principals, teachers, and BC faculty members, several of whom are KDP members. Dr. Tova Ackerman and Jason Leinwand amazed teachers with their Stop-Motion Animation, a vehicle for activating literacy in children. The cartoon created by students using this technique was amazing!

I presented a workshop on Teaching the Reluctant Learner, where I shared some of the strategies I use to motivate and support students. I am hoping to bring this workshop to Convo 2015 in Orlando!

Dean April Bedford

Dean April Bedford

Author Stephanie Calmenson gave a presentation about her career path as Kindergarten teacher and children’s author. Scholastic, Inc. donated free copies of Ready, Set, Dogs! No Dogs Allowed, which Ms. Calmenson co-wrote with Joanna Cole. I particularly enjoyed seeing slides which were motivations for her writing. One was a photo of her first manuscript, or what was left of it after her dog ate it! Afterwards, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Stephanie Calmenson as she signed copies of Dinner at the Panda Palace. You can hear her read this delightful PBS StoryTIme book.

Chapter President Barbara Buchholz presents Chancellor Carmen Farina with a gift membership and gold clad pin.

Chapter President Barbara Buchholz with Chancellor Carmen Farina.

The highlight of the day was the keynote speech given by New York City Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Farina, a dynamic educator who has not forgotten her own years in the classroom. Ms. Farina began by discussing Common Core, and emphasized that if the texts are not developmentally appropriate, then the students aren’t learning. “Literacy is joy” was a simple yet strong quote that reminded us that we need to find ways to not only meet the standards, but to teach students to love reading. Chancellor Farina supports picture books for all ages, students reading to each other, including older students reading to younger ones, independent reading to build fluency and stamina, and helping parents understand how to set the appropriate environment for doing homework. And who can argue with her philosophy on testing: More testing? No. More sensible testing? Yes! On behalf of Eta Theta Chapter, President Barbara Buchholz presented Chancellor Farina with a gift membership to Kappa Delta Pi.

Kudos to the dedicated professionals of Kappa Delta Pi – Eta Theta Chapter and the Brooklyn Reading Council who worked hard to make this event a huge success. Many thanks especially to our Chapter President, Barbara Buchholz and our Chapter Counselor and Conference Co-Chairperson, Sharon Kohn. Thanks also go to Dr. Victor Ramsey, Co-Chairperson of the Conference and Jennifer Hamilton-McKinnon, President of the Brooklyn Reading Council.

The Eta Theta Executive Board is poised to assist any other chapter needing advice or support in order to create a similar event.

It’s November–Time to Read with Your Family!

Rachel Gurley is chapter operations coordinator at Kappa Delta Pi.

Rachel_Gurley_6_10_14I firmly believe in lifelong education. I am only twenty-three and I already know I have so much to learn. Why not use every chance I have? The people around you are a wealth of knowledge. The content you allow yourself to consume could benefit you positively or negatively. This is why I am constantly reading.

At work, I listen to audio books on Audible or listen to the endless Ted talks that interest me. Now I want to share with you one of my favorite Ted talks. In honor of National Family Literacy Month (November), this woman came to mind. Susan Cain gave an excellent Ted talk on “The power of introverts.” In the bulk of her video she mentioned how much she and her family loved to read.

Instead of telling you her about her story, I’ll let her. Hope you enjoy this short Ted talk and maybe you’ll even be encouraged or learn something!

Logophiles Celebrate: It’s Dictionary Day!

Laurie Quay is Editorial Assistant at Kappa Delta Pi.

Dictionary Day 2014Today, October 16, is Dictionary Day. It celebrates the birthday of Noah Webster, the founding father of dictionaries, who was born on this day in 1758. While this day probably—okay, definitely—isn’t circled on your calendar, it reminds us to give homage to a most valuable, yet unappreciated treasure. This trusted volume of spellings, pronunciations, and definitions never disappoints.

My own dictionary—Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition—sits on my desk next to a few other reference books. Its pages may be worn and its binding in disrepair, but it answers my questions on a near-daily basis. Admittedly, I need to spring for the 11th edition, the current version with several thousand more entries, but I’ve become rather attached to this one.

To do this day any justice, though, it is worthwhile to note some interesting facts about Noah Webster and his dictionary:

  • His first job after graduating from Yale University, post-Revolutionary War, was teaching! He decried that his students’ books still came from England and wrote his own textbook, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language. This “speller” became the most used textbook in America and helped to standardize pronunciation across the country.
  • Webster’s first dictionary was called A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language and became known as “Webster’s Dictionary.” It was his later effort, American Dictionary of the English Language, that became his most famous work.
  • He wanted Americans to have their own vocabulary, apart from the English language of the British. We can thank Webster for changing colour to color, centre to center, plough to plow, and so on.
  • The American Dictionary took Webster 28 years to complete! It was published in 1828 and contained 70,000 words.

The world has obviously changed since Webster’s days. Instant communication, social media speak, and 140-character thought processes dominate our culture. I doubt Webster would have foreseen words like selfie, tweet, and hashtag taking up residence in his great book, let alone that we’d look up words electronically.

But is Webster turning over in his grave because of our evolving lexicon and technological advances? I would like to think not. After all, he was a forward thinker who appreciated new words and advocated for expanding our vocabulary. And hopefully, for as long as people need to know what words mean and how they are spelled, dictionaries—both print and electronic—will remain indispensable. I, for one, would be lost without mine.

So, grab a dictionary and learn some new words; use them in conversation. Noah Webster would’ve liked that. Happy birthday, Mr. Webster, from word-lovers everywhere!

Could Twitter Be Your Next PLN?

Ryan Hanna is an initiate of Zeta Chapter at the University of Cincinnati and a current fifth-grade teacher in Cincinnati. He has been teaching for ten years. He served as a Scholastic Book Clubs Teacher Advisor for two years and was named his school’s Teacher of the Year in 2012. Ryan is a fortunate member of the Nerdy Book Club and is a fanatic about reading (and recycling). You can find him on Twitter @rantryan and on his blog. Check out the Nerdy Book Club blog!

Happy Teen Read Week 2014! I come to you to share a piece of advice – if you are a pre-service or professional classroom teacher WITHOUT a Twitter account, pick a creative handle and sign up as soon as you can! What are you waiting for?

The professional development provided by our school districts can sometimes be lacking. While these trainings may be planned with good intentions, teacher professional development is often “one-size fits all” and instructs us in a way that we would never instruct our own students. One of the most prevalent “buzz” words in education today is differentiation, but I often wonder why teacher professional development isn’t also differentiated.

Twitter Chats for Teachers

So, as teachers, we must seek out our own opportunities to learn from others and gather knowledge about our craft. This is where Twitter, the best professional learning network I have ever been a part of, comes in. Connecting with educators across the country is a benefit of the online Twitter community. Professional development through the use of Twitter is real-time – resources and great ideas are simply a click away, day or night. Not only are there individuals to connect with and learn from, Twitter chats occur weekly that cover different grade levels, subject areas, different regions of the country, and educational topics (such as diversity or technology use). These chats are organized and held frequently, and you can either contribute to the conversation or just observe and take notes as wonderful ideas fly across your screen. Check out this map of all of the education-related chats that occur (generously developed by Sean Junkins). You can also check out this even larger list of Twitter chats, created by Jerry Blumengarten.

The professional learning network, or PLN, on Twitter has changed my teaching for the better, and I wholeheartedly believe it can change yours, too! Not only have I been able to improve my classroom instruction, I have found an online world where authors, books, and readers are celebrated – through the Nerdy Book Club blog and its members. Anyone can join this amazing club! I feel that I am more successful at encouraging and teaching reading because of my connection to this wonderful group. Every day, an inspiring post is shared on the Nerdy Book Club blog. Nerdy Book Club Chats are held frequently – my favorite being “Title Talk,” hosted by teacher and writer Donalyn Miller and teacher Colby Sharp.

If it weren’t for the Nerdy Book Club and my Twitter PLN, I would never have discovered the book The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, which profoundly changed how I taught reading in the classroom. I also would never have been able to connect with authors such as R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder, and directly share with her my students’ feelings about her book. There’s no other place where students and teachers can connect so easily with their author heroes! Without Twitter, I would never have read The Only and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, heard about The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, experienced the beauty of Rainbow Rowell’s writing, or discovered my new favorite writer Andrew Smith (author of Winger, Grasshopper Jungle, and 100 Sideways Miles).

Please don’t wait any longer – get on Twitter and join in on the learning fun!

Stipends Available: Literacy Alive! Professional Members

Jessica Rondeau, Assistant Principal at Junction City Middle School in Junction City, Kansas, is a two-time recipient of the Literacy Alive! Professional Member Stipend.

KDP Literacy Alive!

Teachers and Family Literacy Night participants creating their own bookmarks in our “Literacy Lounge” for younger students.

During the 2013–2014 school year, the literacy team at Junction City Middle School sponsored two Family Literacy Nights, one per semester, to support our students, families, and community with everything literacy related. Every student in attendance received a new novel and, thanks to a generous grant from KDP, we were able to raffle off a tablet at each event!

After our first event, we asked for feedback to make sure we were meeting the needs of the community and we got it! Families wanted more…more information, more access, and more free resources regarding technology and literacy.

Family Literacy Night participants using technology to explore literacy resources.

Family Literacy Night participants using technology to explore literacy resources.

Our second Family Literacy Night focused on digital literacy, as we hosted a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) event. Our breakout sessions focused on literacy apps, free regional and state library resources, digital citizenship, and our district literacy initiatives so that parents and guardians could best support their students and build on their own literacy knowledge base.

This year we are expanding our Family Literacy Night to include math literacy. Families will have the opportunity to attend a wide variety of sessions devoted to literacy. For our upcoming events this school year, we will have eight “mini-sessions” from which participants are able to select to incorporate literacy into their everyday lives, including the following: Common Sense Media, Online Book Resources, Literacy Apps and Web Resources, Helping Students with Homework, Skills for Mathematics, and USD475 Screener Simulations. In addition, our “Literacy Lounge” will be available for children in the Media Center. This is a chance for parents and/or guardians to engage their younger children in immersive literacy activities directed by certified educators.

The grant funds received from KDP were instrumental in making each Family Literacy Night a success! We look forward to even bigger and better events during the 2014–2015 school year for our students and community. Thank you, KDP, for supporting our digital literacy initiative!

Thank you, Jessica, for the work that you and your literacy team are doing to enhance the lives of the students in your school! We are proud to be able to support you in this endeavor.

Are you hosting a literacy event in your school or community? The Professional Member division of Literacy Alive! has funding available to you, too!* Check out the Professional Member Literacy Alive! section of our website for more information, sample projects, and the criteria used to award stipend funding. Submit your Literacy Alive! Stipend Request today!

*Please note that this opportunity is available to active KDP members hosting an event outside of a collegiate KDP chapter. For more information on the Collegiate Division of Literacy Alive! click here.