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Sunday, January 24 • 9:00am - 12:00pm
Redefining Rigor: Building Classrooms of Joyful, Independent Growth

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In this session, author and teacher Kristi Mraz will empower teachers to reclaim the most important aspects of education: creating independent, motivated, engaged, and resourceful students. In the world of “college and career ready,” rigor is too often interpreted as academic drills, developmentally questionable expectations, and an increased emphasis on academics to the exclusion of all else. It is up to us, the teachers, to redefine rigor in a way that encompasses a whole child’s growth, while creating and maintaining joy and independence. 

During this session, Mraz will outline the research and studies that support the claim that social emotional growth, play, and interpersonal skills are essential and critical aspects of successful classrooms. Academic instruction alone is not enough to develop active and engaged citizens. Additionally, teachers will learn and practice strategies that build resilience, flexibility, optimism, and empathy in their students, and have opportunities to see how this work folds seamlessly into an already cram-packed school day and enhances the instruction already in place. 

Teachers will have opportunities to see these strategies in action in classrooms, and develop (or further develop) an understanding of how play enriches and extends academic learning. This session will focus heavily on the practical day-to-day choices a teacher can make to build her classroom into one of joyful, independent growth. Mraz will explore how traditional teaching structures— conferences, small groups, and class conversations—can be used to develop powerful habits of mind. She will also highlight less common instructional methods: storytelling, self talk, and reflection that can create lasting impact in classrooms. She will discuss how charts, technology (like iPads and computers), and picture books teach towards a powerful mindset, alongside their traditional academic purposes. Teachers will leave with a toolbox of techniques, tips, and tools to become an agent of change. 


Sunday January 24, 2016 9:00am - 12:00pm CST
Ballroom B-Atrium Level (Lobby)