School of Education Holds Annual Literacy Symposium

The Monmouth University School of Education held their annual Literacy Symposium on Friday, Oct. 20.

The event serves to provide professional development for teachers in local school districts, focusing on the instruction for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, according to Carolyn Groff, Ph.D, Department Chair in the School of Education.

“This allows teachers, especially local teachers, to have a professional development day,” said Lilly Steiner, an associate professor of education. “It also highlights the work of the graduate students who present, and it shows the community how education research and the practice of education intersect and result in professional development.”

The symposium also features workshops and a presentation by a keynote speaker.

“This year, Dr. Katherine Stahl from New York University (NYU) was chosen because of her award-winning research and teaching in the area of early literacy,” explained Groff. “The keynote speaker needs to be a well-known and published scholar in the field of K-12 literacy instruction.”

Stahl is the Director of the NYU Literacy Clinic and has done extensive research on the topics of comprehension, reading acquisition, and struggling readers. Stahl’s keynote address, held in Anacon Hall at 9:30 a.m., was titled “Helping Erica (and Other Young Children with Comprehension Difficulties)” and focused on the importance of comprehension research in early reading instruction, and provided practical suggestions for implementing such methods of teaching in primary grades.

“She has been a teacher for 25 years, and she is an outstanding educator,” said Steiner. “Currently, we use our textbooks, she’s done great works on literacy assessment and reading comprehension with children who struggle. We were really fortunate to have her.”

According to Steiner, the keynote address was well-received, especially as Stahl made an effort to speak to other presenters and visited the other workshops. 

This year, eight workshops were presented at the symposium. According to Groff, the workshops are given by University faculty and other local teachers and administrators, many of whom are graduates of the University’s School of Education.

“The topics that are covered are similar every year because they need to cover the range of what is considered to be the key pieces of literary instruction, such as word study, vocabulary, comprehension strategies, and writing,” said Groff. “However, the presentations of these topics vary according to the presenters.”

Held in the Rebecca Stafford Student Center from 9:00 until approximately 1:00, the workshops were separated into Session A and Session B sections. Session A sections began at 10:30 a.m., and Session B workshops ran began at 11:30 a.m. In each session, attendees could choose to attend one of four panels.

The Session A workshops included presentations such as “Designing Comprehension Instruction for Students With Diverse Needs”, by Rachel Fox and Marisa Scarpitta, “Using Digital Literacy to Enhance Reading and Writing Instruction for the 21st Century Leaner, Grades 3 – 8”, by Sheryl Konopack and Christine Frenville, “Dyslexia: The Dirty Word”, by Dierdre Goodman, and “Literacy Integration Into Early Childhood Science Instruction”, by Katlyn Nielsen.

The Session B workshops featured topics such as “Falling In Love With Close Reading”, by Adrienne Hansen, “Filling in the Blanks: Graphic Novels and Multimodal Artifacts”, by Alex Romagnoli, Ph.D., “Book Clubs: Tapping the Interests of Young Readers”, by Stacy Frazee, and “Building Tier 2 Vocabulary” by Colleen Henkin.

“While this symposium primarily benefits practicing teachers, we also have School of Education students attend as well,” said Groff.

“It is quite content specific so if one is not an education major or a teacher, one may have difficulty grasping the content. That said, we certainly welcome everyone from the community who is interested to join us,” Groff added.

The event also included a continental breakfast before the programming, and was concluded with a networking luncheon, which featured a hot buffet, door prizes, and a slide show.