Our Iowa Reading Association's Annual Conference was again held at the Convention Center with meals and a variety of functions at the Rennaisance-Savery Hotel, all in downtown Des Moines.
The conference is sponsored by the Iowa Reading Association, one of the 50 state reading associations which are a part of the International Reading Association. This organization is comprised of teachers, educators, administration and anyone concerned with teaching reading and impacting the "state" of literacy.
I've been on the State Board for slightly over 4 years and "passed two torches" yesterday. I've been the State Creative Writing Chairperson for two years. In my opinion, this is one of the most important things we do! And I've been "Zone I Director" for a little over 4 years.
The Creative Writing Contests and Poetry contests are a way to involve and recognize our talented young people. Any school district in the state, desiring to participate, can find the guidelines and rules on-line as well as through their local councils. Entries must be submitted to a local council. They each promote a contest, open to students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Their deadline would most likely be the end of November. They judge their entries, picking a first-place winner at each grade level. All first place winners, from each local council around the state, are submitted to the State Creative Writing Chairperson by January 20.
Each story at each grade level is graded and ranked by three different judges. First, there are a number of criteria that must be met, including word limits, double-spacing, no student identification on the front of the story, and identification labels on the back.
The judges critique each story with regard to creativity and originality, "flow" and "making sense," the components of each the beginning, middle, and end, and finally the writing mechanics that include spelling, punctuation, etc.
Each judge also ranks their choice of first-, second-, and third-place winners.
My job was, then, to record the scores and rankings of each judge at each grade level. As all three judges of any grade level returned their packet of stories, I was then able to add and average the scores, note the rankings and discern the top three winners.
The State first-place winners, their families, and their teachers were all invited to attend a Young Authors' Award Ceremony in Des Moines Friday afternoon. The event began at 1:00 p.m. and ended around 3:15 p.m. The students were divided into three groups. The K-4th grade winners of Creative Writing and Poetry met together, the 5-8th grade winners met together, and the 9-12th grade winners met together. Each student in each group read their winning entries to the group.
Every year, well-known authors (and sometimes author-illustrators) are invited to this event. There's always one author in each group of students. Consideration is given in the selection, as it would be most appropriate to invite an author of books that would appeal the the students to whom they are speaking.
At any rate, yesterday Cheryl Harness was the author in the Kindergarten through Fourth Grade room. And what a treat THAT was! :-) You can catch a glimpse of her right here.
The state of Iowa is divided into 9 or 10 zones (I always forget). I've been Zone I director. That only means that I attended 4 board meetings a year and kept in contact with each local council in my zone (of which there are five). I attended their meetings periodically, passed along information and answered questions - if I could. ;-) I've met a lot of wonderful people due to these positions. I will miss them.