UNI's Elementary Literacy Conference Perseveres for 45th Year

April 25, 2013

For more than forty years, Malcolm Price Lab School (MPLS) faculty in the Department of Teaching planned and implemented a large and well-respected annual conference for educators to innovate and develop skills in teaching literacy and to provide the opportunity to meet and learn from a prominent children's author.  Once known as the Beginning Reading Conference, and later called the Elementary Literacy Conference (ELC), it has benefited thousands of teachers as well as generations of students.

Following the closure of MPLS last year, the future of the conference was uncertain.  While many of the former Lab School teachers chose to remain at UNI as field experience coordinators, their time and attention was focused on creating a new model of field experiences and professional development in partnership with Cedar Falls and Waterloo schools and teaching new university courses. However, a committed group of former MPLS elementary faculty with support and encouragement from the UNI College of Education Dean, Dwight Watson, made the decision to continue the legacy of the Elementary Literacy Conference in partnership with the Richard O. Jacobson Center's Reading Recovery Conference.

Field experience coordinator Amy Griswold served as chairperson for this year's Elementary Literacy Conference, which was sponsored by the College of Education’s Department of Teaching. The conference was held on Friday, April 19, in the Schindler Education Center on UNI’s campus along with the Reading Recovery Conference. Over 500 teachers from local and surrounding areas in the state of Iowa were in attendance.

Well-known author Steven Kellogg was invited to be the featured keynote speaker for the 2013 Elementary Literacy Conference. Mr. Kellogg has authored or collaborated on approximately 110 children’s books including favorites such as The Missing Mitten Mystery, A Rose for Pinkerton, The Mysterious Tadpole and A Hunting We Will Go!  Although Mr. Kellogg was unable to attend due to inclement weather, his books were available for purchase at the conference.

“The purpose of the Elementary Literacy Conference is to increase understanding and awareness of research-based literacy strategies and improve teaching and learning in the area of literacy across the state of Iowa,” noted Chair Griswold. It offers another opportunity to foster collaborative relationships with schools and teachers in Cedar Falls and Waterloo as we move forward collectively providing premier educational experiences for UNI students preparing to be teachers.  In addition to speaking and signing books at the conference on April 19, Griswold had arranged to have Mr. Kellogg visit Orange Elementary School in Waterloo on Thursday, April 18, where he was scheduled to speak with the teachers and students and sign books.

Angel Munson, Partnerships in Comprehensive Literacy (PCL) Model Classroom Teacher from Poyner Elementary School in Waterloo, is a mentor teacher for Griswold’s UNI Level 1 field experience students.  Prior to presenting at the Elementary Literacy Conference she stated, “I am looking forward to learning more about the Comprehensive Literacy Model and also sharing how reading conferences work best for me.”

More information about the conference can be found at http://www.vpaf.uni.edu/events/brc/

Next year’s featured speakers for the Elementary Literacy Conference will be author J. Patrick Lewis and illustrator Gary Kelley. The conference will be held on April 11, 2014. For more information, please contact the 2014 Elementary Literacy Conference Co-chairs, Allison.barness@uni.edu and Denise.Tallakson@uni.edu