The 17th Annual College of Education and Human Performance Literacy Symposium brought over 500 K-20 educators, researchers, policy makers, and literacy advocates to the UCF campus Friday, April 3rd for a day filled with sessions and keynote presentations focused on the importance of reading. Specifically, this year’s symposium covered the intersection of changing assessment standards, the role of reading and writing in teaching and learning, and the changing digital landscape – literacy in the 21st century. Four national keynote speakers and 105 presenters addressed the event’s theme from a variety of perspectives.

Dr. Troy Hicks from Central Michigan University presented the first keynote session of the day, and helped to establish the theme of 21st-century literacies. From the changes in writing and reading tools (e.g., tablets, e-readers, and more), to the implications that these new tools and technologies have for writing instruction, Dr. Hicks offered a number of examples of tools for writing instruction and practice, as well as exemplary educators who are effectively integrating these tools in their classrooms. He demonstrated the need for effective utilization of digital writing tools in instruction and the ways in which teachers use and promote such tools for narrative, informational, and argumentative writing, collaborative writing, peer evaluation, and knowledge sharing. Dr. Hicks’ message was clear about the need for our students to become effective creators and consumers of information in today’s technologically advanced world.

Following a number of concurrent sessions, Alan Sitomer presented the next keynote session – this one touching on the literacy needs of students and how those needs could be met by approaching pedagogy and writing instruction from a whole-curriculum viewpoint. He also touched on the inconsistency that can exist between educational mandates or measures and the need to adapt to technological advancements, especially in literacy learning, and how using creativity and fostering an environment of “constantly learning” can boost reading and writing instruction for all students. Mr. Sitomer emphasized that teachers should focus on helping every student become a critical thinker, and should view writing as a manifestation of thinking. He also stated that preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s world requires reading informational texts, close reading, writing, speaking, and listening, as well as providing students with opportunities to apply their knowledge.

Cheryl Ellis, national education consultant with Zaner-Bloser, led attendees through a presentation that dove into the DNA of writing ranging from the process of good writing, to teacher involvement throughout the student’s writing process. She also presented six key traits of writing: ideas, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and voice. Ms. Ellis provided examples and teaching resources for each writing element, and her session showed how all of these pieces need to come together in order to create successful writing instruction that results in student achievement.

The final keynote presentation from Dr. Katherine McKnight offered a framework for engaging learners in reading and writing, and preparing them for the literacy demands of college and careers. The session emphasized the importance of fostering students’ self-regulation and how teachers can model and promote it in the classroom. Dr. McKnight also discussed the importance of a growth mindset, the importance of students making mistakes and learning from them, and the benefits of strengths-based reinforcement for successful instruction. She demonstrated the phases of self-regulation and how to use them with small- and whole-group instruction. Dr. McKnight motivated all of the teachers in attendance by reminding them that tenacity leads to success – especially in writing (and writing instruction).

“The purpose of the literacy symposium is to provide a forum for K-20 educators, researchers, policy-makers, and literacy advocates to discuss and propel literacy across grade levels, content areas, and contexts,” Vicky Zygouris-Coe, UCF Professor of Education and Literacy Symposium organizer, tells us. “The 2015 event was a tremendous success! Prestigious and scholarly presenters addressed literacy in the 21st century from a variety of perspectives. We are honored to have collaborated with such a stellar group of professionals. We are also thankful to all of the participants, many of whom were in-service and pre-service teachers, reading and writing specialists, school leaders, researchers, faculty, Florida Department of Education directors and staff, personnel from various statewide school districts, and others. Literacy instruction and learning in the 21st century and beyond require much more than the traditional literacies and learning tools of yesterday. UCF’s Literacy Symposium is a vehicle for connecting, supporting, and inspiring K-20 educators to prepare students for the literacy and learning demands of college and career readiness.”

To learn more about the keynote speakers and all of the presenters who made this year’s Literacy Symposium a success, visit the Literacy Symposium website.