In April 2018, I was honored to present on behalf of the PA Writing and Literature Project at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit Spring Dinner to a group of educators from the local area. Click HERE to see view the full slide deck. NOTE: Permission to use with written request and proper citation.
We have officially arrived at the point in the year where panic ensues. The fourth marking period is here and there is still. so. much. to. do. And with the additional pressures of AP and state testing season, to say I’m feeling overwhelmed would be an understatement.
The truth is that it’s when the going gets rough that I tend to slip back into a more teacher-directed instructional style. It makes sense, after all; as the sage-on-the-stage, I can control the pacing of the class and how much time we spend — or don’t spend — on any particular activity. Free-flowing conversations? Write to explore? Who has time for that when the clock is ticking?
But that’s when I take a deep breath and remember that any heavy lifting I’m doing at the end of the year is only heavy when I’m the one doing all the work. More than ever, it’s time like this that I need to engage students as active learners — to get them up, moving, talking, walking.
So here we are with only a few weeks to go, and in my AP Lang class, there are still so many wonderful essays and mentor texts that we have yet to read. Ideally, with more time, my students and I could spend 1-2+ days discussing each text. So my dilemma was this: how could I maximize the number of high quality mentor texts they could read but also give them the time needed to dive into a deep study about craft and style?
After the Parkland school shooting in February, we witnessed something tangible shift in our discourse about school safety and gun regulation.
Nationally, we saw and still see young people like the Parkland student survivors stand up and make their voices heard, including the CNN sponsored town hall with Florida politicians and a coordinated student-led walkout on March 14 in schools across the country. With the increased attention to issues related to gun control and gun rights, we’ve also seen some (though not enough) discourse around the history of activism among students of color regarding school safety and gun reform. And this weekend, millions are expected to gather for March for Our Lives events around the country to advocate for gun reform.
But something shifted, too, among my students. All politics is local, and the fears and challenges that have increased in the wake of the Parkland shooting has become personal for many of my students. In fact, shortly after the shooting, several of my own students asked me to sponsor a new club, Students Against Gun Violence. They hope to not just increase awareness through greater education on gun control issues, but to also advocate for change that will keep students safe in schools. They want change, and inspired by their fellow young people at Parkland and across the country, they don’t want to wait for the change to happen—they want to do something.
Yet in my actual classes, students didn’t bring up Parkland and many seemed content to go on with class, business as usual. But as a teacher, it seemed strange to continue with the lesson of the day with so much happening in the world affecting our students’ lives. Perhaps it was me: maybe students feel comfortable with me leading us through these messy conversations. I know the routine and ritual of school can also be comforting for kids. Or perhaps it was a lack of awareness or disinterest. But no, I knew that wasn’t true. You could hear their conversations in the hallways, on social media, and in the library. Students were already talking about these issues, which made me wonder: How? Who was leading them through these difficult conversations? If school is any kind of reflection of the outside world, I wondered, how many of their conversations included multiple perspectives? How critical was their media consumption? How were they processing the endless stream of noise? How were they distinguishing the shouting from the dialogue?
This is my fourth year doing the Slice of Life Challenge. Even though I’d been planning on participating again this year, I almost forgot about it until someone (thank you, Aeriale!) asked if I was slicing again this year. Is it March already?
To be honest, I thought about not participating. Even though I’m always telling myself I’m going to be better at managing my commitments, it’s really hard to do. Unfortunately, in the busyness of life, writing is usually one of the first things that ends up pushed off for another day and then the momentum is lost. I try to do the weekly Slice of Life throughout the year, but the last time I wrote for that was back in November, and before that, I think it might have been sometime last summer. It’s okay, I told myself. Just make it up in the March challenge. Well, it’s March, and here we are. Read More
Whenever my students and I come to the end of any novel study, I’ve always struggled with finding that perfect and elusive “closing” activity—the lesson that can somehow do justice to our novel study before we move on to the next text. While we often do some sort of writing that helps students synthesize their ideas, I don’t think that we always have to write the traditional literary analysis paper in order to engage students in higher level thinking.
In recent years, I’ve shifted my reading and writing practices to try to be as authentic as possible. Whenever I revisit my approach to a text, I ask myself: How authentic is the learning we’re doing? In what ways is the work we do in class work that’s done only in school or work that reflects the type of reading, writing, and thinking that’s out in the world, beyond our classrooms?
My 7-year-old currently claims that he has a hard time falling asleep. He’s not lying exactly. The other night, I sat next to his bed in the too-small-for-a-grown-up beanbag chair, waiting for him to nod off. He tossed, turned, tossed some more. Finally, I squeezed in next to him. He cuddled into the crook of my arm; within minutes, he was asleep—and so was I.
Last night, the same thing happened, except that I woke up at 1:36 a.m. and then couldn’t go back to sleep. Groggy, I trudged down the hallway in search of the comfort of my own bed, my familiar pillow. Yet as my husband snored peacefully, I tossed, turned, tossed some more. I remained awake for the rest of the night. Read More
Although we’ve been sharing and writing on the same online space on Moving Writers, there’s nothing like being able to present in real life! together like we did at #NCTE17. Rebekah O’Dell compiled and posted a recap of our session highlights HERE on MovingWriters.org.
Click HERE for my specific slide deck on using Steal Like an Artist Swipe Folders with students to curate mentor texts.
Ever since I attended my first Ignite session at NCTE in 2014, I’ve been fascinated by them. These intense, 5-minute presentations by some of the best thinkers in the literacy world were fast-paced and packed with so many practical, inspiring ideas. I was honored to have an opportunity at #NCTE17 to participate in my first Ignite session alongside some truly incredible individuals (special shout out to Amy Rasmussen and Susan Barber who kept me sane during the preparation process!).
Click HERE to see my slides from this presentation, in which I share an inquiry into the definition of “compassion,” including mentor texts, and culminates with students writing their own definition essay.
NOTE: Permission to use with written request and proper attribution; please email. Thank you!
This workshop is for teachers who have decided to implement independent reading and want to extend their practice. Here, teachers share strategies, materials, and resources for creating whole-class and independent reading experiences designed for transfer; building text complexity for young men of color; and using authentic accountability to create a transformative reading experience for diverse students.
Click HERE to view the slides from our presentation.
NOTE: Permission to use with written request (send us an email!) and proper citation – thank you!