Literacy guru Penny Kittle inspires educators and students at Lakeview School

Literacy guru Penny Kittle discusses the “power of a notebook” with Connie Freeman’s Grade 8 class during a visit to Lakeview School in M’Chigeeng. photo by Robin Burridge

M’CHIGEENG—Legendary literacy guru Penny Kittle visited Lakeview School in M’Chigeeng last week, working with students and delivering a workshop to teachers on inspiring struggling readers.

“It was really great,” said Grade 8 teacher Connie Freeman. “It was pretty inspiring and I got a lot of good feedback from a number of the other teachers.”

During her visit Ms. Kittle also worked with a number of the Lakeview classes such as Ms. Freeman’s students.

Sitting on a desk in the front of the classroom, openly sharing with the class her writing notebook, it was easy to see why both teachers and students find her relatable.

“I started writing in a notebook in Grade 6 and have continued throughout the years,” explained Ms. Kittle. “They carry all the stories of my life and just think how neat it would be if you did something similar and what that would mean to your grandkids one day.”

“There is a lot of power in a notebook,” she continued. “It’s a place where I think and learn how to write.”

After guiding the students though her current notebook and explaining some of her favourite writing exercises, Ms. Kittle encouraged the students to trace their hands and write in the tracing “glimpses of memories of things you have done with your hands.”

She then had the class pair up and pick memories to explain to their partner, followed by a “whip share,” with everyone sharing stories throughout the class.

“This is a really good way to brainstorm stories,” said Ms. Kittle. “I often hear things that relate to my own life as well and get inspired.”

Ms. Kittle’s trip to Lakeview was organized through the school’s relationship with Laurentian University and prompted by Ms. Kittle’s trip to the area as the keynote speaker at the Reading Rocks the North Literacy Conference in Sudbury.

Ms. Kittle is a high school English teacher from New Hampshire who also teachs at the University of New Hampshire Literacy Institute in the summer. In addition, she is an author and tours North America speaking to teachers about empowering students through independence in literacy.

She has been recognized for her efforts with the Literacy Leader Award from the state of New Hampshire and the James N. Britton Award from the National Council of teachers of English for her book ‘Write Beside Them.’

When asked why she began speaking to teachers she explained, “After my first book I was asked to talk to a group of new teachers about what I would have wanted to know as a new teacher.”

Ms. Kittle said that she enjoyed the experience so much that she started speaking at conferences.

“I get a lot of joy out of my work and I wanted to share that love of reading and writing,” she told The Expositor.

The most important element in inspiring literacy in youth, Ms. Kittle, said is “living your passion.”

“Teachers should share books they enjoy with students and set weekly reading goals,” recommended Ms. Kittle, “and with writing, write with them.”

For more information about Penny Kittle visit www.pennykittle.net.

Robin Burridge