CLAS Statement 50.2 Spring 2014

Page 1


The Journal of the Colorado Language Arts Society Spring/Summer 2014, Volume 50, Number 2

Inside This Issue: Columns How about I give you a Starbucks and I don’t have to revise this paper?

by Sarah M. Zerwin

Dear Teacher: What it Means to Teach Writing Effectively by Philippe Ernewein

YA Lit: Graphic Novels by Jill Adams

Lessons That Last

Poetry: Lessons From Within

Prove Yourself

A Thank You to Mrs. Nitz

by Erica J. Rewey

by Meredith Collins

by Amanda Cherry by Timothy HIllmer

Effectiveness: A Conversation Between Three Literacy Educators Jessica Cuthbertson, Vince Puzick, and Jonathan Wright

Some Sixty Years Later by Bill McBride

What Can A Teacher Learn From an Effective Brewer?

by Tommy Buteau and more!

This year, Palmer High School student Lórien MacEnulty made her own prom dress and titles the piece “Schindler’s Coat.” (fabric)

Spring 2014 Issue Artwork: Jane Strode, grade 5 University Hill Elementary School Boulder, CO (page 17)

Lórien MacEnulty, grade 12 Palmer High School Colorado Springs, CO (front cover, inside cover, page 43, inside back cover)



The Journal of the Colorado Language Arts Society Spring/Summer 2014, Volume 50, Number 2

How about I give you a Starbucks card and I don’t have to revise this paper? by Sarah M. Zerwin ....................................................................................................................................................................................................4 Lessons That Last by Erica J. Rewey.........................................................................................................................................................................................................5 Middle Level ELA: Prove Yourself by Meredith Collins ...................................................................................................................................................................................................9 ELA in the 21st Century: Dear Teacher: What it Means to Teach Writing Effectively by Philippe Ernewein ............................................................................................................................................................................................... 18 YA Literature: Trends in Young Adult Literature: Graphic Novels by Jill Adams ..............................................................................................................................................................................................................27 Poetry: Lessons From Within by Amanda Cherry ....................................................................................................................................................................................................41 Before the Bell: A Thank You to Mrs. Nitz by Timothy Hillmer ..................................................................................................................................................................................................47

Feature Articles: Effectiveness Some Sixty Years Later by Bill McBride ............................................................................................................................................................................................................6 What Can a Teacher Learn from an Effective Brewer? by Tommy Buteau ......................................................................................................................................................................................................11 The Best Writing Teachers are Writers Themselves by Cindy O’Donnell-Allen ......................................................................................................................................................................................15 A Conversation Between Three Literacy Educators with Jessica Cuthbertson, Vince Puzick, and Jonathan Wright ........................................................................................................................... 20

An Emphasis on Reading Book Alikes: Recommendations based on the works of A.S. King and David Levithan Jessi Barrientos ......................................................................................................................................................................................................... 30 Teen Literature Conference by Owyn Cooper ...................................................................................................................................................................................................... 32 Audio Books: Liberating the Read Aloud by Stephen Axtell ......................................................................................................................................................................................................33 Encouraging Higher Order Thinking and Reading Comprehension Through Questioning by Stacey J. Fisher, Renee Rice Moran, Amanda Bitner, and Edward J. Dwyer ...................................................................................... 35

Guest Submissions The Day I Saw A Bear by Reid Lewis............................................................................................................................................................................................................40 Ballad of the First Year English Teacher by Ben Pruitt .............................................................................................................................................................................................................44

Resources Call for Submissions .................................................................................................................................................................................................2 Guidelines for Contributors ..................................................................................................................................................................................3

Call For Submissions Statement The mission of Statement is to advance the teaching and learning of English Language Arts in Colorado. While we welcome readership beyond the Centennial State and we encourage submissions from outside of Colorado, what makes our publication most relevant for our members is content which addresses the interests and issues of Colorado teachers.

Theme for Fall 2014 Issue: The Truth(s) About Teaching Statement asked you to submit stories from your classrooms. As we all know, the magic that often happens in our classrooms represents a fraction of the work that we actually do in the teaching profession. On a daily basis, we make professional decisions about: planning: which Common Core standards will be the focus of our units and lessons, which content we’ll use to address those standards, the balance between using narrative and informational texts, the pacing and delivery of our daily lesson plans grading: which rubrics we’ll use to grade an assessment, whether we’ll grade holistically or by standard, how many points to assign each task, how we’ll use our gradebooks to be instruments of teaching and learning collaboration: which of our colleagues we will work with to produce the best units, how to create relevance through interdisciplinary planning, how to balance multiple PLCs, how to make time for meaningful collaboration with other educators and teaching staff “story facilitates knowing by creating bridges.” How can we build bridges between those who have dedicated themselves to the teaching profession, and those who think they know the realities of teaching? What stories do you have that can give insight into the daily business of teachers, especially teachers of language arts? What about teaching, besides the students, fuels your passion for what you do? What, besides the students, adds to the challenge of teaching, especially in a content area that demands so much reading, writing, and grading? As NCTE heads into the annual convention asking teachers collaboration, professional organizations, and how we can interact with those outside of our profession who have their own stories about who we are and what we do? What’s your truth about being a teacher of language arts?

Recurring Topics for Articles The theme is only one source of inspiration for contributors. Statement is also seeking articles that address a variety of topics, especially written by Colorado teachers, but also from writers who can speak with authority about current issues or best practices in ELA. Contributors may wish to consider: Teaching ideas Quick teaching tips Current issues Outstanding lesson plans Vignettes from the classroom Book reviews Technology Expressive writing by Colorado teachers Reviews of professional research

Visit CLAS and Statement Online CLAS: Find information about: conferences and workshops publications grants CLAS membership licensure updates updates on state standards and assessments Statement: calls for submissions submitting artwork becoming a reviewer

Submission of Photos and Artwork We are always seeking original artwork or photos: classroom images, Colorado scenes, artistic representations, etc. We value contributions from youth and adults equally. We also enjoy featuring the work of professional Colorado artists. Please send images to the editor as a jpeg attachment. Student work must be accompanied by a “permission to publish” form signed by a parent (available on Statement’s website at 2

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

Guidelines for Contributors Submission Process Submissions to Statement should be in MLA style, using intext documentation with a list of works cited if needed. Documents should be single-spaced and formatted in Word. Charts, graphs, or illustrations should be sent as

formatting decisions. Because we recognize that many of our contributors are not professional writers but instead actual educators, we will collaborate with contributors to ensure that the article meets the personal standards of the writer as well as the high standards of our readership. of the manuscript, include the title of the piece, author’s

the NCTE website at: Statement is a refereed journal, meaning that at least two outside reviewers will read each submission. Once the manuscript has been accepted, the editor may consult with the writer regarding revisions and may share comments deadlines, we reserve the right to make minor revisions or

Editorial Information Statement Editorial Board Members Jessica Cuthbertson District Coach, Secondary Literacy Aurora Public Schools, Aurora Vince Puzick Literacy Specialist Colorado Department of Education Julie Meiklejohn English Language Arts Teacher East Otero School District, La Junta Shari VanderVelde Writing Consultant and Coach

Mark Overmeyer Elementary Literacy Coordinator Cherry Creek Schools, Denver

city, state, email address, and website (if there is one). Also include a statement verifying that the manuscript has not been submitted or published anywhere else. Contributors will receive an email acknowledgement once the manuscript has been submitted. Please direct all inquiries or submissions to the editor, Erica J. Rewey, at clas.statement. Also see Statement’s website at https://www.

Outgoing Editor-in-Chief Sarah M. Zerwin Language Arts Teacher Boulder Valley School District,

ELA in the 21st Century Phillipe Ernewein Dean of Faculty Training & Development Denver Academy

Incoming Editor-in-Chief Erica J. Rewey Language Arts Teacher Colorado Springs School District #11

ESL in ELA Columnist Needed

Online Assistant Editor Julia Torres Language Arts Teacher Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Middle Level ELA Meredith Collins Language Arts Teacher Cherry Creek School District Elementary ELA Columnist Needed

Before the Bell Timothy Hillmer TOSA Boulder Valley School District

Poetry Amanda Cherry Language Arts Teacher Boulder Valley School District

Becoming Better ELA Teachers

YAL Update Jill Adams Metropolitan State College, Denver

Associate Professor of English & English Education Metropolitan State College of Denver

Statement, The Journal of the Colorado Language Arts Society, is published two times a CLAS, visit Statement reproduction is for educational purposes; b) copies are made available without charge beyond the cost of reproduction; and c) each copy includes full citation of the source and lists Statement as the original publisher. Address other requests for reprint permission to the editor. The Colorado Language Arts Society opposes discrimination against any person and promotes equal opportunities for access to its activities and publications. Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


How about I give you a Starbucks card and I don’t have to revise this paper? by Sarah M. Zerwin, Outgoing Editor


wanted to become more effective at in my classroom: getting my students to actually revise their writing beyond ing. We all know this is not actually revising, but there was something about my invitations to my students to revise that made them think that this was the way to do it. tend an invitation for them to revise to improve their grades several students choose to do this, but their “revision” work was little more than copy editing, and then usually just enough to bump their grades up into the next letter grade range. ough” revision on every single paper lines for Thorough Revisions” to see dents had to turn in a complete draft feedback. Then they all had to revise. ished” with their papers until they completed the revisions fully. The ing” or “partial” credit for the paper if the revisions were not complete. Some students had to revise three or four in the grade book). where when one of my seniors actually attempted to bribe me with a Starbucks card rather than having to continue to permission to tweet the conversation out as the senioritis moment for the off period and conferenced as she revised. 4

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

Sarah M. Zerwin teaches at Fairview High School in Boulder and at the School of Education at CU-Boulder. She is also a teacher consultant for the Colorado Writing Project. She completed a PhD in secondary literacy curriculum and instruction from CUBoulder in 2009.

on their papers,” and you’re wondering how we determined dividually, we looked over his/her work for the semester, them what they thought of the required thorough revisions. alized how effective the revision tasks were toward improv-

Guidelines for Thorough Revisions I initially called these rigorous revisions. But rigorous = rigidly severe or harsh. And that’s not what we’re going for here. Instead, thorough: all-out, assiduous, careful, complete, comprehensive, conscientious, detailed, in-depth, intensive, meticulous, scrupulous, sweeping, whole-hog. That’s what I mean. Here’s the process: 1) You’ll get a complete draft back from me with my feedback upon it. 2) You’ll use my feedback and the standards-based rubric for the task to determine what areas you need to work upon. Think holistically here--which of the standards for this course do you need to perfect yet? How can you use a particular writing task to work on those standards? 3) Identify at least three individual standards that you will focus on to guide your revision work. 4) Revise. Conference with Doc Z if you want to. Get feedback from your response group if it would help. 5) Do these revisions in the original google doc where you wrote the complete draft. This way, the revision history will show the evolution of the piece of writing from beginning to end. 6) In your revised version of the piece of writing, highlight everything you changed AND put many comments in the margin of the google doc to indicate the changes you made. 7) Write a paragraph or so at the end of the revised paper to identify the (at least) three standards you were focusing upon in the revision and what you did to target those standards.

students with the thorough revisions next year. effectively compel my students to really, truly revise their writing. And wasn’t working. Through talking with students about their writing. Through conversations with my colleagues. tiveness in the ELA classroom requires these kinds of things and more. And get us there. the complexities of identifying whether or not effective learning takes place. ciency in effectiveness. Philippe Ernewein presents a comprehensive list of what his students would ask of an effective writing teacher. And there is so much more too–poetry, the three voice conversation, a personal narrative submitted by a student. Enjoy! This is my last issue of Statement as my term expires this spring. Please help me welcome the new editor, Erica Rewey. You’ll get to know her on the next page. Thank you for reading over

Lessons That Last by Erica J. Rewey, Incoming Editor

Erica J. Rewey teaches IB Language and Literature at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs; she also advises the school newspaper. When she isn’t teaching, she canoeing, and photography. She lives with her husband and two young boys.


hen the Call for Submissions for this issue of Statement an interesting and complex question to attempt to answer.”

how effective she was as a teacher? Or is the longevity of the learning one measure of our effectiveness as educators? only during the time the patient spent on the operating ta-

put together a thoughtful response.” But that didn’t stop me from thinking about it nearly every day. dom people at Starbucks what makes an effective barista. outputs, as well as the evaluations of their superiors. There was no common metric between these professions that could be easily applied to teaching. makes a teacher particularly effective?” As you might predict, their responses also varied – from the level of rigor to the teacher’s ability to relate to her students. By themselves, their answers seemed only to skim the surface of the issue; together, they overwhelmed it. Every detail about the teacher, her behavior, her experience, her approach to teaching and learning, her guidelines for grading, and even the test scores of her students seemed to blend together into a complex matrix of effectiveness, each trait balancing another.

while our students are in our classrooms. What if we added to the complexity of this question by measuring the extent of our effectiveness as educators years after our students walk out our doors? Much like trading letters and Christmas cards through social media like Facebook and Twitter. The other day one of my former students messaged me on FB to apologize for being a “pill” in my class (his word, not mine). As ested in what we were studying. Seven years later, though, nary public school environment.” He then proceeded to list off all of the pieces of literature we’d read, to remind me of intense class discussions about the concept of truth in The , and to acknowledge his apathy as a high nology who studied international affairs and an assistant manager for a large corporation, his note years later should count for something. After all, isn’t one of our goals as edu-

deemed effective. One teacher in particular stood out to me, arts teacher at Harding High School in St. Paul, Minnesota and Microsoft Works to create logos and business designs, and how to use up-to-the-minute technologies like handheld scanners. She also taught me how to take risks, how to dents in her class engaged in authentic tasks; our class was responsible for producing school and district materials such alized that education was important – it was a vehicle for preparing us for the possibilities of our future. tor of Statement. And it makes me wonder: did she know then

Statement, those years ago. The tools have changed – Photoshop has evolved and Word has replaced Works – but the lessons she taught me haven’t: work hard, try new things, make mistakes, engage in authentic learning experiences, and trust yourself as a learner. Statement readers and writers, across the state and across the lanbodiment of lifelong learning. Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


Some Sixty Years Later Bill graduated from Colorado A&M (now CSU) in 1950 and, sans credentials of any kind, began teaching

by Bill McBride

lessons he learned was that students must be the center of the educational process. When he retired forty-eight years later, that lesson was still uppermost in his mind.

L better than others, teachers continue to strive for effectiveness.

borers. Prejudice became a factor when the students began to date, but that was an issue for the parental generation, not the teenagers. And there was no bullying. There were, of course, rivalries (some of which were pretty intense) but no bullying in the classroom or on the playground. The stugrounds were similar, and the ten-year difference in age was

interview for a job teaching English in a neighboring small

preparation, no student teaching, nothing that would help

my classroom. The other elementary teachers were all middle-aged women who were extremely nice to me, but they never offered suggestions or advice. The principal required a weekly plan book, due each Friday and returned on Mon-

my day. But teachers were in high demand, and superin-

received many useful teaching suggestions from my mother who was an effective sixth grade teacher in another district;

to teach and wasn’t prepared to do so; nevertheless, the su-

the traditional route, student teaching would have been six remember any concern about facing an entirely new situabefore the State Department waived the requirement. Fortunately, those kinds of situations no longer exfaced them.

bring with it the ability to share it in meaningful ways. outnumbered the boys but not noticeably so. There were probably equal numbers of Anglo, Spanish, and Mexican youngsters. Students had no evident prejudices. Spanish youngsters and Mexican youngsters were very clear about their individual cultural heritage, but that made no difference in the classroom. The acknowledged leader, athletically and academically, was a Spanish boy who was one of the smallest boys in the class and whose parents were farm la6

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

that people with no training and inadequate backgrounds are allowed in classrooms. The experiments with putting content experts in the classroom become problematic; it isn’t true that scholars are automatically great – or even good—teachers. A former governor once said that a teaching shortage should never exist because retired or out-ofwork engineers or scientists, etc. could simply take over. share it in meaningful ways. Now, though, we have come to recognize the effectiveness of mentoring and cognitive coaching, and the value tors who were very free with their comments, their opin-

us, we truly had a student-centered classroom. tous cell phone or equivalent thereof. Often, too, that’s substituting for actual conversation or involvement. Although we didn’t have all the equipment that’s available today, we did have active involvement, group work, and much deny students opportunities to be both physically and mentally involved in their learning? with diversity became more visible, partly because of numbers, partly because we didn’t seem to have enough time, perhaps because we didn’t yet know enough about how children learn, partly because as adults we were sure we were in a better position to determine what was best. Sometimes, bright students maneuvered their way into “slower” classes and were allowed to get by with less effort. Occasionally there were discipline problems, often because they were not

was the English department, and the curriculum was what me to have a student-centered classroom and to develop a vertical program. Student-centered and vertically articulated curriculum were not then in my vocabulary, but they were real. The literature anthologies helped because each level was different; the grammar books were sold as sequenhave always believed that students should be at the center of the learning process, that our task is to help them learn how to learn and how to take charge of their own education. Materials had to match knowledge, interest, abilities, and

Neither was it then nor is it now possible for a single instance of evaluation to determine the overall effectiveness of teaching or learning.

that some of those problem kids were among the brightest. The profession has come a long way both in knowledge about young people and ever increasing awareness of the individuals in our classrooms.

to have varied approaches to challenge and interest my students and have a number of ways to evaluate because grading written work for seven classes as the sole determinant was simply not cussion, presentations, observations – all were tools

enough for students to be in my English class for six years. ther was it then nor is it now possible for a single instance of evaluation to determine the overall effectiveness of teaching or learning. to learn more and better ways to work with students and to

always when) the parents learned that their son or daughter was in trouble at school, punishment at home would frequently be greater than the punishment at school. That wasn’t a perfect system, of course, but we weren’t constantly second-guessed or forced to allow the students to have the upper hand. The overall attitude in school and in the community was that people in authority were treated respectfully; and, if questions arose, protocols were in place. Courtesy to others in the classroom and on the street was a given. As a society, we’ve lost much of that; and it was the publication of differences in education. Teachers became the scapegoat for much of what was wrong in the country; and the loss of respect remains a problem.

spent three of their high school years in my English language sponsor. We have remained close, and today some of them remember some pretty lively discussions in literature and say that they became lifelong readers and learners because of classroom experiences. Others say that they remember nothing except that school was relatively painless and that ing spring, two of them were there. Was that a result of my teaching all those decades before or of their learning? Teaching and learning are far too complex to be held to simformer students who have done really well in their careers

journalism teacher, the speech teacher, sponsor of the paper and the yearbook, coach of the debate squad, director of the

to know, wherein any effectiveness lay. The concept for this issue of Statement is what effecStatement Vol. 50, Number 2


tive English language arts teaching looks like and how we might measure it. Can we say precisely what it looks like? Any answer will depend on whether we mean short-term or long-term. Effective teaching means that effective learning took place. But learning is the result of overall experience. How does what happens in one classroom correlate with learning a matter of content or is it a combination of things? Are we talking about English language learners, students with special needs, the gifted, the talented, the disinterested, the uninterested, all of the others? dents to become critical thinkers and independent learners

strategies and activities for helping students in the classroom, and teachers continue to handle the numerous variables – including their own – that occur every class period. sure effectiveness, the intangibles may be more important – true, however, that any single test, of any kind, is an incomplete picture and a totally inadequate way of determining an overall evaluation of learning and, therefore, teaching. And in all of these changes, what remains the same? The students. Every presentation last fall and every conversation emphasized that, technology or no, awareness of students and their individual needs, interests and abilities are central to effective teaching and learning.

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Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

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Middle Level ELA Prove Yourself

by Meredith Collins

Meredith is a mom, sister, wife, friend, teacher, critic, Starbucks junkie, writer, coach... She currently teaches 8th graders and writes for Statement, Glass Heel, and Women Forbes. An avid Mr. Rights Gone Wrong, which can be found at or on Twitter: @FmTheSidelines.


valuations in the world of teaching are changing yet again leaving a lot of teachers wondering what they

uated every year for half of their proof toward effectiveness able for what they are or are not doing. However in education, it’s simply not so black and white. teachers effective: being evaluated by their administrators. to see my students engaged, focused and learning. When it’s actually nice to have adults in my classroom when the dicrous. How the observer is supposed to get through that thing in a 55-minute class period, while watching me teach, is beyond me. And there is the other fact that the people who do the evaluations have no idea what my curriculum is. There’s a huge difference between theory and practice. And

it. Not on students, not on teachers, not on materials, not on training, not on buildings, but on this test. Must be equitable, well-thought out, and have a proven track record to spend that kind of money on. Right?

I completely agree that all professionals should be accountable for what they are or are not doing. However in education, it’s simply not so black and white. Then there’s the issue of Broadband. Colorado is ranked #42 in the nation for broadband accessibility in come next year? The amount of money being spent on standardized tests kills me. Literally rips me apart for our Colorado kids. PARCC – if you haven’t heard the news – is an online standardized test. The equipment needed to access the test will be outdated in three years (and let’s be honest, that’s being generous) and then more money will have to be spent. PARCC still a timed test, except kids will now have to keyboard their subject knowledge. We don’t even have a keyboarding class in our school. Sounds equitable to me. Not. PARCC feels like a great moneymaker for big busi-

and 3) the varied backgrounds of the students sitting in my class at that particular moment. This situation could be easthe teachers (although we can all see the issues stemming all just teach the exact same thing, at the exact same time, using the exact same script? That’ll be riveting for the stu-

this online environment before, they have no real keyboarding experience (and the math part – manipulating the keys for their computation… don’t get me started), and my job is “Don’t teach to the test” because that wouldn’t be “right.”

what to do in order to prove myself? Okay, let’s divert for a moment and look at the other part of how to prove yourself as an educator beginning in – is even remotely rational. Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


Then there are my students. One of the perks of my

in sports – but it does not work in the classroom. Why? Because kids aren’t all standing at the same starting line.

know the type of kid that is going to grace my presence from can have a student with a 3rd grade reading level to a gestruction to accommodate their needs. Did you catch that? ing the same standardized test. Does this make any sense at all? Teachers are rated on the outcome of a test, which houses no differentiation for students whether they are English language learners, special needs, or below grade level. There are more issues with kids today than ever before – and

Yet it’s all part of the same race? Seriously? And with Colorado ranked at #42 just in the broadband situation alone – where do you think we’re starting this race?

From deaths to mobility to crazy family dynamics – these

analyzing, reading, paraphrasing, rewriting, annotating, speaking, listening, problem solving, brains exploding, growing, inspiring, connecting, story telling, writing some more, project making, peer editing, discussing, questioning, questioning, more questioning, brain exercising, debating, note taking, memorizing, summarizing (just to name a few). Competing was never on my agenda and neither was teaching to a test. Simply put – those things are -

the end of the day, they’re all just kids, sitting in my classpublic school where every kid is allowed through the door. Every kid. Regardless of the issues or the ability. We’re not a charter or a private school where picking and choosing is the norm. How are my evaluations compared to teachers who or advanced kids sitting

of and have zero expertise in. My lips grace the die before

Teachers are rated on the outcome of a test, which houses no differentiation for students whether they are English language learners, special needs, or below grade level.

students achieve 3-4 years worth of growth in one year and have failed them as their teacher because they were still not up to grade level. There are advanced kids who haven’t grown at all, yet their teacher is a “success” because they are at grade level. Really? How is this equitable? Who’s going to want to teach in the schools and choose the kids in their classes? Will there be a lottery system for those advanced classes? Because that’s what it feels like – one big gamble on the haves vs. the have-nots. want to be a part of. A race is designed for the fastest and the most successful to win. A race’s path is usually pretty well designed, clear cut, easy to follow. Follow the path and – voilà – you win. But success in education isn’t so well de-

highly competitive – but on

my classroom there’s no time to be racing to the top because, my friends, we’re all too busy learning. There is a need for evaluations in schools – after er accountable in a fashion that doesn’t pin theory versus practice, and place one teacher against one another. No jected to mindless hours of testing, giving teachers even less instructional time with them. Let’s make necessary changes that are sustainable for all school districts – that do not depend upon millions of dollars being invested year after year for a test. Shouldn’t investing in education be making the decisions could walk through the our schools

the one that works best for you. For you. And in this case for each individual student. That’s the thing about kids – there yet people who have no clue about education keep trying


Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

the proof needed about teacher effectiveness will be seen.

What Can a Teacher Learn from an Effective Brewer? by Tommy Buteau


Tommy Buteau teaches Freshman English, American Literature, and Creative Writing at Windsor High. After working as a brewer for nearly ten years, he got his master’s degree in Educational Leadership, Renewal and Change at CSU. Tommy and his classes have been contributors on Digital Is, Book Drum, and Youth Voices.


few things about measuring it. The intricacies of an effective process were my focus while working at the New Belgium to appreciate how variability affects effectiveness while pal. While the connections between brewing, tai chi, and teaching English may not seem completely obvious, when you get right down to it, all of these professions are essentially concerned with empirical learning – a series of events which are repeated with slight variations in an attempt to fectiveness when working in a classroom with living, morphing, adapting creatures. ing. The brewery was expanding rapidly at that point, so we were getting in new equipment all the time. The new building was complete, the three stainless vessels of the brew house shined brightly behind the tasting room windows, but we only had four fermenters to start with; cranes would drop in more as we expanded production. We added a bottling line, a keg washer, a centrifuge, and the list goes on how to best use the equipment by the manufacturers. After spending some time working with each new machine,

these problems. Nothing like having thousands of pounds of wet, unmilled grain stuck in a vessel to rapidly clear the mind. Or, how about looking through miles and miles valve? Ever been stuck inside a glycol cooling tank for several shifts looking for leaks in copper tubing? Luckily, there was an understanding engineering department to help guide me out when such messes occurred.

Maybe some of the lessons learned be transferred to help understand effectiveness when working in a classroom with living, morphing, adapting creatures. This empirical analysis of the process always cenof cases in a run, that added to the bottom line. Yet, it was very detrimental to the overall business to forsake consistency, or effectiveness, so we were always on the lookout for process errors that led to variability. Sending even one case of bad beer out the door was never acceptable.

staff to use while learning the process. to see what went wrong. A lot of the start-up problems, typical in any process, would appear during this initial test of

rest of the staff.

thing as much as possible. For me, this became the key to ef-

less variability – our measure of effectiveness. This desire for streamlined instruction still permeates and energizes my teaching practice today. Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


brewing, however, was the difference between the words gree, and no system that measures effectiveness should igto the extent to which time, effort, or cost is well used for determined by measuring the quality of the beer and considering the number of beers produced. Yet, to improve ef-

ly gotten into tai chi while living in San Francisco; combined with my years of focus on the analysis and articulation of itive series of movements that is the instruction of tai chi

Effectiveness relates to whether one is successful in producing relates to the extent to which time, effort, or cost is well used for the intended task or purpose. lot more to understanding effectiveness in teaching humans stand individuality and the skill it takes to adapt a process to people who have widely differing paths through growth and understanding. A process in evolution is never going to be perfect, and any system built around perfecting particiaware of the true beauty and depth of learning attainable only through diversity. This is where the difference between Effectiveness is a measure of the end product while every student in the exact same manner. There were many who came through the healing center that could learn how to do the steps of the basic massage in two weeks of daily training. Still, even within that core group of students, 12

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

there was great variability in their degrees of mindfulness. Some had great touch but couldn’t remember the order of the movements; others could learn all of the movements in the massage effectively yet had horrendous touch. a process? Yes, in a way it is, but it is also a layered endeavor cated by variety in learner uptake and output. While teaching a single technique in massage, one person may learn that you apply force on a pressure point; another person in the class may learn that you activate that pressure point with a particular angle of your thumb. Another may learn that a particular angle of your arm allows you to convey a more may learn that you do all of those things while at the same time using your attention to gauge the movement’s effect in order to push the recipients to their limits, yet not beyond. Do you approach each of these students in the same way? Do you have the same expectations for each of them? Do you measure your effectiveness with all of them in the same way? Of course not. This diversity of student ability played out over and good teaching frequently has its most profound effect on the students with whom you feel the least effective. about one month with an average student who was learning the basic form. Lisa, a student who came to the center to of her, saw her breathe out the chilly morning air, and said, where your hand passes horizontally in front of your body with the palm open towards your face, and then your hand turns and drops down at the side, like this.” Most students will follow my movement with their ever, she got the entire movement backwards. She lifted her left hand up to match mine, and then moved it in reverse to follow me. She didn’t recognize that she was crossing her body and making it impossible to stretch out and complete it would take me the whole month just to teach her some of the foundational sequences. For Lisa, the intricacies of movement were like a foreign language that her ear could not process. But she was a hard worker. She was there every her because she was working hard. students from Australia that picked up the tai chi steps very

the month, we had a celebratory party, and the Australians

ognize yet differentiation is designed to capture, happened

After the performance, Lisa, who had been in the audience, came up to me and told me how impressed she was with our group. She told me it inspired her, and that she would continue with her studies of tai chi when she got home the ribly slow month, with little progress, she still felt inspired to keep working.


quickly and performed with me at the going away party in we tried to do the form, it was very clear that they had not practiced since the performance, but they picked it up again and remembered quickly enough to do a pretty decent rendition of the basic form. A lot of the subtleties, however, were already lost to them. with Lisa. She has gone on to practice tai chi and has turned it into a daily habit. She has also related to me that her life was the ritualized application of the mindfulness techniques that lie below tai chi that affected her. She engaged with the process, and tells me that she is a calmer, more lovperson because she learned what the essence of tai chi is over years of practice. She may never be a top level performer,

like Lisa was. based learning to engage and create a space to grow in. Meandering, Peer Rewards, Risk, Learning Communities, and Fault Tolerance are all techniques that help to engage adomy booktalks project. Meandering comes through student choice in mateabout YA literature, but nothing seemed to inspire Austin to start a book. The Learning Community is another techweekly reading checks, but competition didn’t engage him either. there is frequently not enough Risk for them. But audience awareness and technology make this project even riskier. put up the videos of their booktalks, he became intrigued.

There is a lot more to understanding effectiveness in teaching humans than just

of a doubt, that my effectiveness was actually much broader process was engaging, and that engagement is what created the lasting inquiry. This is the thing with streamlined instruction: keeping focused on the bulls-eye in each lesson allows more students to access the material. Those who catch on quickplemental information. However, that extraneous material cient, so they were given the subtle movements of the form, the foundational information is no longer there. With the student who only focused on the bulls-eye, it seemed less efin her inquiry. An example of this ironic aspect of teaching, the deep engagement which traditional assessments fail to rec-

my class, of both good and bad booktalks, Austin knew there was a risk. He knew other students would see his work, and that made him want to participate at a high level. The chance for Peer Rewards was also intriguing for him, but so was the project’s

nected to the standards and will be a part of their grade. that we will watch the best, most engaging examples from each session after we are done with the project. Many of my students come back during later semesters and ask, “Are you ever seen.” ing become notorious for their booktalks, and it happens. This additional type of Learning Community is attractive. Students want to be the one whose video is laughed and talked about in the hall. For whatever reason, Austin went to our booktalks agreed to read it. When he recorded his booktalk, it was Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


very engaging, and in it he went to his blog and found to read, , on his recommended reading list.� Now, when a student goes from passionately hating reading to going to

cess, becoming a better teacher by making learning easier to understand for students through streamlining

cient and that students are growing. Yet, the amazing thing about these techniques is that they also help motivate and engage high-performing students. mendous variability. True, the goal should be to have everyone be effective, to be able to do the process to perfection,

but many things affect those outcomes. The most successful students in class may not be the ones who retain the deepest lessons. Struggling students, by dint of their need to work harder when full engagement is achieved, may learn ing on my process, becoming a better teacher by making learning easier to understand for students through streamlining and engagement techniques, test of effectiveness will consistently show growth amongst to work.

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Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

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The Best Writing Teachers Are Writers Themselves by Cindy O’Donnell-Allen Editor’s note: This article has been reprinted with permission from The Atlantic. It originally appeared on in September 2012.


Cindy O’Donnell-Allen is a professor in the English Department at Colorado State University where she directs the CSU Writing Project. She is the author of Tough Talk, Tough Texts: Teaching English to Change the World and The Book Companion. She taught high school English for eleven years.

thought we should hear it out loud, too. Some assignments felt familiar, like my research paper on the Wars of the Roses and the essay analyzing the symbolism of the albatross in “The Rime of the Ancient

My secrets were safe, and so was my budding desire to be a writer. swers to the study questions at the end of the chapter and

that Christmas before she died, how they opened and closed song lyrics intended to keep my boyfriend from abandoning We’ve been married for 27 years.)

since, even in college.) -

footsteps in the hall.

my skills as a writing teacher, grew as a teacher leader, and gave myself permission to be a writer once again.


that the institute was not the end of the best professional

was different. For starters, we wrote every single day. No

a member of the nation’s only professional development network devoted to improving the teaching of writing, the National Writing Project (NWP). Founded in the Bay Area -

stopping. No excuses. Sharing what we wrote was an important drill, too. We gave feedback to one another in writing groups so we roper who sat behind me in sixth period, could also turn

Collins. Each site hosts an annual summer institute like the ment for area teachers. Many sites offer writing programs for students and communities as well. namic teachers so early in my career. But my students were Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


ly Ford’s practice once again proved true in mine: The best writing teachers are writers themselves. Why? Because we know the writing process inside out, we can support our students’ work in authentic ways. As a parent whose children have been taught by

not just for the one-shot workshop that is so common in schools, but over a sustained period. Teachers were given struction and to comb through student work to determine what students were doing well, where the gaps were, and

Meanwhile, students wrote every day and in every the lucky ones, for they see themselves as writers, too. With academic subject, and teachers began teaching writing, not that identity comes the bonus of scoring better on standard- just assigning it. Teachers helped students attend closely to ized tests than students who haven’t been taught by writing language, not merely by diagramming sentences or completteachers. More importantly, though, they learn that writing ing grammar worksheets, but by analyzing the function of is hard, joyful, worthwhile work that is meant to be shared transitional words like “although” and “despite” so students with others. could employ them for rhetorical purposes in their own One might imagine that the deeply inventive prac- writing. And teachers learned how to integrate the language arts, helping students learn to read like writers and apply No Child Left Behind and the the same complex structures steady stream of scripted cur- More importantly, though, they learn that of argument in class discusricula and standardized tests writing is hard, joyful, worthwhile work sion that they were expected that have spun out of it. Like to use in their essays. New that is meant to be shared with others. the students at New Dorp Dorp High School did far High School, our students more than change its curricmust perform well on tests like the Regent’s Exam, too, or ulum. Through an investment in teachers, it changed the else. Many NWP teachers work in some of the toughest culture of the entire school. schools in the nation, schools that could also use a writing revolution. More often than not, the “solution” has been to they are only one third of the way there. That’s because in tighten the screws so that the cogs that are our students and teachers will keep the wheel on turning. Standards begin rolling out, students won’t just be asked The solution has been to scrap the poetry, the jour- to write argumentative essays. They will be required to nals, and the peer writing groups. Dust off the grammar write informative/explanatory texts and narratives as well. teach to the test. After all, the wholesale revision of the writing curriculum is the only way to bring about a writing revolution, issue of , where students have made undeniably remarkable gains in passing the Regents Exam and are graduating in record numbers compared to recent years. changes, replacing the old curriculum with a new focus on a single genre, argumentative writing, that is also emphasized on the Regents Exam. As a result of these efforts, it would be surprising if students didn’t improve at least slightly on the Regents Exam. Yet many schools have viewed curricular changes as the silver bullet that will raise test scores and have not experienced such unprecedented results. A closer look reveals that the most important investment Deirdre DeAngelis, the school’s principal, made was not in a new curriculum, but inteachers. DeAngelis provided opportunities for teachers to visit a successful writing program at the Windward School in White Plains. She invited in professional consultants, 16

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

a “back to the basics” curriculum that focuses solely on aca-

what they thought about narrowing the curriculum in order to improve test scores. Bud is a former English high school English teacher in Longmont, Colorado. Thousands of educators know him as “Bud the Teacher,” following him on his namesake blog and on Twitter. Only a year ago, Antero was a teacher for seven years at Manual Arts High School, a high-needs school in south-central Los Angeles. He is now an Assistant ProfesBoth Bud and Antero agree that a curriculum solely focused on standardized tests is short-sighted. Bud responded to my question about standardized tests with questions of his own. “How many standardized

students to writing situations and helping them through that experience. A test is one experience.”

Bud asks his students to write in a wide range of genres for varied purposes because writing is a way of “paying very close attention to the world. The same skills that help you describe a beautiful sunset can help you deconstruct a politician’s argument. Allowing students to write about the stuff they love and care about is to help them be ready when they need to pay attention next time.” Having taught so recently at Manual Arts High School, Antero took seriously his responsibility to prepare his low-income, urban students for college. Yet he did not see test performance as the only measure of his stuall they have to do is pass a Regent’s exam, and they’re good writers, that’s really scary because we’re also commu-

struggling student like Monica who experienced New Dorp High School’s new curriculum, would she have passed the pared for college-level writing? (Almost certainly.) ing in varied genres beyond the academic argument that writing a feature for would someday seem possible? And would she have had gained enough satisfaction from preparing for the Regents Exam that she would have

It’s not just the curriculum that brings on the revolution. It’s the teachers.

But writing on a standardized test is only one kind of writing.” dents – many of them recent immigrants from Mexico and Central America – to see themselves as writers of many different genres. Writing poetry, essays, and short stories helped his students internalize content and form personal connections to abstract ideas. Some of their most powerful writing was intensely personal, like the autobiographical children’s stories he assigned at the beginning of the year. “All of the students had something powerful to say about family, loss, and feeling alone,” he explained. “None

hard to say.) This is not to minimize the importance of passing standardized tests. For better or worse, in a culture enamored with comparing and sorting students and teachers and schools, these gatekeeping devices serve an importdents to have something to show for their 12 years in education. They ought to be able to read critically and write well enough to be successful after high school in college and the workplace. And it’s important that teachers hold themselves accountable to make sure that happens. end goal is passing a single test will bring about the writing revolution our nation needs. As National Writing Project pect New Dorp High School teachers have learned as well. -

described herself as part of a “constellation of stars” – isolated in America, yet still connected to those she had left bestronger argument about the power of family to shape identity than she did through a 15-page children’s book. Peg Tyre’s thoughtful article “The Writing ing it, she, too, employs several modes. With the skill of a Dorp High School’s “writing revolution” have wrought in Monica DiBella’s academic life. She explains how writing instruction has evolved over the years in American schools, drawing on statistics and the words of various educaeven-handed, her phrasing varied. And though the piece itself is not formulaic, Tyre combines these various elements to produce a recognizable genre – the feature article that an reader expects -

When asked to think about what effective education looks like, 5th grader Jane Strode drew this depiction of free writing time in the classroom. Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


ELA in the 21st Century

Dear Teacher: What It Means To Teach Writing Effectively by Philippe Ernewein


elementary, middle school and high school, the en-

of the Frayer Model (see opposite page). The Frayer Model, created by Dr. Dorothy Frayer and her colleagues at the help students develop a better understanding of a word or something means, but also what it is not: the non-example is because of its various uses and multiple opportunities for students to make sense of vocabulary words or concepts. The methods and strategies of effective writing inopportunity to work with during my graduate studies (list writing and relearn how to make the writing experience better and more effective for my students. To tackle the questions of what it means to teach

Philippe Ernewein is the Dean of Faculty Training & Development at Denver Academy. Learn more about his latest project, a teacher training video titled, “How Are You Smart? What Students with Learning Differences Are Teaching Us,” at his website

student. Design the environmental space of your classroom to support the changing of modalities. Establish a structure for your classroom that ensures both predictability and supConduct status of the class. Allow students to schedule conferences for later in the week if you are fully booked today. Schedule time for students to celebrate their writing products; don’t be limited by the school day. Think lunch, evening programs. Find places for students to publish & of opportunities to write. Create rich text environments. Balance screen-time with face-time. Provide mnemonics for the strategies you use. Believe that what students can do in tandem today, they will be more likely to be able to

Teachers of writing should be writers. do independently tomorrow. Create weekly opportunities

to complete a Frayer Model on effective writing instruction. The graphic organizer helped frame our conversation. up with note-taking. The list of examples went viral. They took the form of a list inside a letter:

their learning and your teaching: identify the learning goals you achieved this week, list one thing you learned this week that you could teach others, list any questions you have about this week’s materials or any questions you have for the teacher that you didn’t ask. Model graphic organizers.

Dear Teacher, topics. Push them up Bloom’s Taxonomy (and scaffold down when needed). Schedule and conduct writing conferences with students everyday. Deliver a letter on the nal. Don’t be fooled by the content you teach, there can be journals in math, science, art, social studies, music, health & physical education as well. A journal can be a place for students to respond to a quote, answer questions, engage in dialogue: teacher to student, student to teacher, student to 18

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

don’t assume he or she will never write. They are just not writing yet. Ask yourself, what is the reason for that student a map, graphic organizers, word bank or outline? Even if yes, instead of pens, pencils and keyboards. Plan. Write. Revise. Edit. Show students how to pick ideas to write about. Organize notes using linear and nonlinear thinking and whatever is needed in between. Allow for metacognitive spaces for

is the progress satisfactory? What adjustments need to be made? Allow voice to text computer programs/application. Bring in writing you like; invite students to bring in writing they like. Try to suspend judgment. Remember, your writing is a mentoring text as well. Collaborate across content your student will learn writing the way you that you did. how you learned. One way to unlearn is to dedicate time to

Honor the gradual release of responsibility and remember students learn at their own pace; so move at different speeds. Model think-alouds. Play music from Mozart to Metallica. Model executive functioning skills and tell the students you are modeling executive functioning skills: checking, remem-

“DO NOW” and end with a share-out. Laugh. Model the use of a calendar for the planning of writing. Rubrics, rubrics, vite writers into the classroom to talk about the writing process. Subscribe to professional journals. Bookmark websites that support your teaching of writing. There is always more to learn. visited, “Freedom balanced with guidelines and measured by rubrics.” And then one student added, “None of this works without trust in the process and the relationship with the teacher.” Post-Script: Thanks to Mr. Duhamel and his 4th period students and Bellin, Nancie Atwell and Linda Rief for the unlearning and relearning many years ago.

of the spirit of what you are teaching: the power of writing and the love of literacy. Allow for peer editing conferences. Vary genres. Write students back in their journals once a systematic approach so you can write students back over scheduled periods of time. Regardless of how frequently you reply, students are writing you at least once a week. Call means, among others things, you are not just editing. Edit

responsibility and remember students learn at their own pace; so move at different speeds. Do not accept one speed, helpful for all students. Find something good when giving feedback. Create visuals whenever possible for reminders of strategies. Scaffold learning. Remember the gradual release of responsibility. Adopt a developmental approach to writing. Set high and individualized goals and support students in that journey to achieve those goals. Respect the fact that dates and deadlines. Write yourself. Write right next to students. Write with students. Share your writing. Teachers of writing should be writers. Write. Read. Collect a student writing sample in September and compare it with a writing sample at a parent conference in January. Ask yourself,

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


A Conversation Between Three Literacy Educators with Jessica Cuthbertson, Vince Puzick, and Jonathan Wright

Vince Puzick has been in education for 27 years. Currently, he serves as the Literacy Content Specialist for CDE and has facilitated the work of teachers from around the state to develop standards-based units as part of the District Sample Curriculum Project. His classroom instruction includes teaching college composition at PPCC and UCCS. He has taught IB English and journalism (and advised the school newspaper, The Lever) at his alma mater, William J. Palmer High School in Colorado Springs.

From the editor: Statement

Jessica Cuthbertson currently works as a “teacherpreneur,� dividing her time evenly between teaching seventh grade literacy at Vista PEAK Exploratory in Aurora and supporting teacher leadership and solutions-oriented efforts to improve education in partnership with the The Center For Teaching Quality. She is an educator with over 10 years of experience, an edu-blogger, and an active member of the Aurora Education Association. Follow her @JJCuthy. Jonathan Wright currently teaches a Freshman Language Arts class at Boulder High School and is the Secondary Language Arts Coordinator for the Boulder Valley School District. As as a member of the Colorado Educator Leadership Cadre, he is working directly with the people who make up PARCC. Jonathan has presented nationally on the topic brain based learning strategies as they relate to gender and has taught at all three levels of public education: elementary, middle school, and high school.


Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into


Editor: What does it mean to teach the English Language Arts effectively? -

Jessica Cuthbertson: We are constantly bombarded with information and messages in this digital and warp speed er been more important to be able to read critically and to question the texts (and the authors behind the texts) across

For me, teaching ELA effectively means supporting students to become critical consumers and competent pro20

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

key literacy skills, including reading, writing, speaking and listening, in a variety of contexts. This means we must teach students not just how to read, but how to read closely and critically, and provide multiple opportunities for students to question, discuss, and defend their thinking with other

erature. As we work to develop those three very broad arwhere it is safe for students to take intellectual risks, to be vulnerable when sharing ideas that are still incubating, and to become conscious of the power of language Teaching English Language Arts effectively means

writing for a range of purposes and audiences. We need to coach students through the writing process and allow them to author and produce content in digital spaces for authentic audiences. Recently, my students created biographical


what they write. My role is really to bring their thinking, captions and an essay and made decisions about what im- reading and writing to the forefront. To let them shine. ages supported the narrative they wanted to tell about their chosen subject. They had to Jonathan Wright “read” images, videos and agree with the imStudents need opportunities to draft pletely texts as part of the research portance of setting up an and writing process. They authentic pieces of writing for the world environment where stupublished and shared their they are moving into – rather than the dents are willing to takeworld that once was. Producing texts dence to put their voices blogs with other writers. ELA effectively is about students engaging in a range of experiences that support

think is that much that passes for communication these days is so ephemeral: a tweet, a text, a snap chat. Many of the modes of communication that are pervasive in our students’ lives do not

crucial type of craftsmanship that we need to more fully embrace.

that they are capable of using literacy skills to tackle a range of tasks – from reading and interpreting a sonnet, to crafting a proposal, to debating a Vince Puzick: Jessica makes a great point about writing. Students need opportunities to draft authentic pieces of writing for the world they are moving into – rather than the world that once was. Producing texts in digital envineed to more fully embrace. Of course, there are huge challenges for this evolution: teacher comfort and willingness to take risks, accessibility of resources, and student engagement come to mind! Jonathan Wright lishing and communicating has changed dramatically in the To assign the same type of assignments that we were assigned as students makes little sense in today’s age. Jessica’s assignment is a perfect exemplar of the type of shifts that need to be taking place in the ELA classroom. Vince Puzick: Teaching English Language Arts effectively is really about creating an environment for students to develop their voice in the world. Yes, it’s about fostering the skills mand of the language, and to come to understand the human experience just a little more deeply through our study of lit-

that we must help to prepare and guide them towards more developed modes of communication that remain part of the public discourse. Vince Puzick: Two things come to mind after reading Jonters doesn’t require much. The second is the shift to more How can classroom teachers help students learn to sustain an argument – have a focus, build a logical defense or

Jonathan Wright: group of teachers who are dedicated to pursuing what had the privilege of observing these teachers in action and conversing with them about their practices. My current beliefs around what it means to teach effectively have been heavily shaped by this work, and my present comments are certainly derivative. As a group, we concluded that there are three pillars of pedagogy that must be attended to: community, authenticity and purpose, and process and choice. These pillars should be readily evident to an observer who present for even a single lesson. Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


Vince Puzick: Maybe the three pillars that Jonathan student voices matter, that all students can succeed, and that the environment is safe and equitable. Collaboration is explicitly taught as a skill and is practiced every day – this means that learning is social: positive and mutually respectful relationships are the cornerstones of learning in the classroom. Authenticity and purpose address “the why.” The goal of being college and career ready takes the lion’s share of the why, and to that end, all teaching and learning should be directly tied to the standards. But it also needs to make sense and have purpose for students on an emotional level – students tend to dismiss the abstract future of college and career readiness in favor of the more immediate now. As often as possible, learning should intrinsically satisfy innate curiosities, social proclivities, and personal identities. There should always be a reason to do and learn in the now. Process and choice address “the how.” Part of the how means that through the processes of reading, writing, and speaking, students both receive and generate new understandings. While reading and listening are largely receptive processes, speaking and writing are generative, and it is the interplay of all four that leads to lasting understanding. pose, but is also an important part of the process because it breeds passion and invites students to engage. The emphasis needs to be on exploration and shared dialogue regarding direction and achievement. Jessica Cuthbertson: thinking overlaps as well as expresses unique distinctions. “the how,”) that you’ve outlined as “pillars of pedagogy.” What a supportive (and student-centered) frame for thinking about “effective” ELA teaching (or perhaps effective esting to note what we didn’t mention as well – “the what,” as we know that this is very dependent on the standards, but also (and more importantly) the three other pillars; especially knowing our learners and their individual needs. Jonathan Wright: Quite the oversight there – leaving out

the stable support for exploring “the what.” That’s why, ers continue to have a voice in “the what” – involved in curriculum decision-making conversations in schools and ing from its were able to articulate their rationale for including the work in their curriculum. Since the Colorado Academic Standards don’t prescribe (or even suggest) curriculum argument for the “the what” in which kids will be engaged,

Editor: How well do Colorado’s Quality Teaching Standards line up with what is at the heart of our discipline? tions to the teacher evaluation rubric on CDE’s website Vince Puzick

think they are pretty meaningful ways to look at teacher practice. Without going into detail on a lot of them, let me just use the idea of creating a supportive classroom environment as an example. The work of Stevi Quate and John McDermott in – their chapters on “Community, Collaboration, and Celebration” – supports the elements of classroom environment on the evaluation rubric. So does the McREL work as seen in their research in Language Arts teachers do on a daily basis. overwhelming. There is a lot in it. Teaching is a complex business! But effective teaching means that there are elements going on simultaneously or layered on top of each -

so involved in the what for the past two years with the Colorado Academic Standards, and the Common Core State Standards, and the PARCC Content Modules, and Back-

gives us some ways to look at teaching; those lenses allow

Mostly because, it had become such a huge part of my focus

practice that we may not necessarily consider on our own.

what gives me energy each day – the who, the why, and the

Jessica Cuthbertson:

there are really four pillars.

can easily get overwhelmed. While it is true that many


Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


about the current capacity of schools to really dive deeply into the quality standards and use them to improve instructional practice over time. Will this become another academic exercise or laborious process bogging down our schools, or will it truly improve the quality of teaching and learning for our students?

the teacher’s ability to create a productive classroom culture and environment and develop relationships with parents and families. While not necessarily directly tied to our content, all of these factors certainly play a role in classroom teaching and learning. Which makes me wonder – how are we as practitioners leveraging the language of these standards to push the system for more time for collaboration

Jonathan Wright: tive, purposeful, and powerful users of language. To achieve believe that this ideal is captured in the standards which ask teachers to attend to pedagogical expertise, an inclusive and productive learning environment, a carefully conpractice, and a demonstration of leadership. hold myself to – standards that guide my practice. However, the problem with these standards, as has been the problem with many of the iterations of standards over the years, is that they

Jonathan Wright: agreement about the complex nature of teaching and that elements in the rubric all have merit, but quantifying them? ing mockingly begins to graph the elements that comprise an effective

align in several ways with the sure that a rubric will ever capture the nuance and depth of what teaching and learning in any content area really means.

herein lies the problem. All parts are not equal, elements of effectiveness do not operate in isolation, the heart of teaching and learning is a gestalt not a reductionist mechanism. Jessica Cuthbertson: that a rubric will ever capture the nuance and depth of what teaching and learning in any content area really means. How do you quantify the moment a reader moves from fake reading to devouring books? How do you check off on a rubric the number of teacher moves, mini-lessons and conferences is intended to generalize teaching across contexts and subdevelopment, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. fective communicators,” and “provide opportunities for students to practice communication skills.” The language of the rubric is intentionally broad and allows for different curricula, content, and grade level decisions to be made at the local level. Beyond our discipline, the standards also address several global elements of teaching and learning such as: planning for, implementing, and assessing instruction that is relevant, needs based and individualized; leadership

we’re in a similar place with teacher effectiveness evaluations. Vince Puzick: did not use rubrics to assess student

to that practice with a community of teachers, our assessment of student work became much more focused, had clearer expectations, and provided an opportunity to see growth and improvement. Was the rubric the be-all and end-all for assessing ing practice will provide the same sort of feedback between teachers and administrators. Editor: How might we go about meaningfully and accurately measuring our students’ learning over time? Jonathan Wright: the most meaningful and accurate means of measuring student’s learning over time is through dialogue with the student, both written and verbal. Assessment of achievement should be a shared process where both the teacher and the through a portfolio system (housed online) that contains a yearlong progression of work samples: writing and video. Each work sample is attended by a student statement and particular standards are represented. The teacher likewise gives feedback by way of a narrative assessment of the work. The gradebook would be a listing of standards rather than discrete assignments or exams and scores would represent the agreed upon standards based levels of achievement. Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


Jessica Cuthbertson: oration (and calibration) not only among ELA teachers but one thing to develop an assignment or assessment in isolation, teach into the task, monitor student approximations,

something will happen that moves us in a different direction most meaningful use of these assessments – student product, local (classroom) assessments, district assessments, state assessments – to get the most accurate measure of what students can truly do and what they truly know.

comes with calibrating these results and expectations with learned how to adjust their writing for a history or science dent’s learning if that learning isn’t transferring into other subject areas and contexts? Without increased time for teacher collaboration zle like so many others. The problem isn’t necessarily with the rubric itself, it is that the implementation of the quality standards varies widely from school to school and district to district. We’ve created a more “rigorous” evaluation process, but we’ve changed nothing about the nature and workload of the average Colorado teacher to deeply engage in using these standards with their colleagues to guide the day-to-day work of teaching and learning. What can we do? Document, document, document. Approach our classrooms as an evolving action research project in progress. My greatest hope is that the new evaluation process will deprivatize teaching and encourage more videotaping, collegial observations and student work driven discussions at our schools. Authentic classroom artifacts, especially video clips, student writing portfolios, and the results of our formative assessments and ELA assignments, will more accurately and meaningfully measure student learning over time, than any current or future standardized assessment. VP: going to be matter of professional “monitoring and adjusting” what we are doing or using to measure that progress.

We’ve created a more “rigorous” evaluation process, but we’ve changed nothing about the nature and workload of the average Colorado teacher to deeply engage in using these standards with their colleagues to guide the day-to-day work of teaching and learning. Jonathan Wright: over time, portfolios, dialogue. These aren’t new, and yet it sessment practices while faced with trying to understand the unfolding face of the forthcoming high pressure, stantests should be thought of as one piece of the student portfolio, and that it is our job as teacher to partner with students to generate and document the meaningful measurements of student progress over time. Jessica Cuthbertson: what this looks like in practice, but there’s certainly a disconnect between what we see as authentic assessments of learning and what the larger system currently emphasizes. Situating standardized tests as one (small vs. large) piece of

have learned from our teacher-colleagues at the elementary level is the whole concept of gathering a body of evidence about our students and their learning. Elementary teachers

assessment of learning – if growth over time, multiple mea-

seriously look at portfolios of student learning and become skilled at measuring their progress on the authentic types

VP: Part of the problem is that the intended purposes and audiences, and the tools, for measuring student growth are getting blurry. Authentic assessments in the classroom have different uses and audiences than a TCAP assessment or other standardized assessments. Which of the assessments have greater instructional value for the learner? Which are more valuable in the teaching-learning cycle? Which have the greater value for measuring the achievement of a whole statewide education system? Perhaps we are emphasizing the wrong measurements – teachers place value in their

right balance of assessments that make up each student’s weight is to give those elements in the “body of evidence.”


Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

evaluation, shouldn’t these values be protected for students as well?

classroom work and, as an example, student portfolios of authentic work. Other parts of our system place less value in that product and more value in the larger standardized assessment. How can BOTH assessments give us a more complete picture of student growth, and how can we develop a system that values both? Editor: How well will the impending PARCC tests be able to capture our students’ learning over time? Jessica Cuthbertson: reveal more information about how and what students learn provement to our current standardized measure TCAP (and formerly CSAP). Our education system relies on high stakes lieve that will dramatically want the best possible standardized assessment for my students. with a few of the released PARCC items for the grade

Jonathan Wright: PARCC uses an ECD (Evidence Centered Design) framework. This means that the assessment starts with the standards and then asks what evidence would be necessary to prove the claim that the student has met the standard. Refreshingly, PARCC acknowledges that the assessment system, by its nature, must draw conclusions from imperfect evidence. An argument is then made based on how students answered “limited choice” test items or in three instances, how they represented their thinking through written pieces. So what students do or produce in a few particular circumstances supports inferences about what they know, can do, or have accomplished more generally. PARCC acknowledges that the evidence is imperfect and the claims being made are inferential, and it is to this limited degree that PARCC is able to capture what a student knows and can do. seven full days in Chicago working with the people involved

We cannot teach behind closed doors and we cannot do this alone. We need to collectively share what teaching and learning in Colorado in the 21st century is really all about. -

more closely mirror authentic literacy instruction, such as providing students with three sources (two texts and one video for example) and then asking them to respond to a prompt based on the information they’ve read and interpreted. Vince Puzick: tasks on PARCC give us a clearer picture of the quality of lenging transition for all of us as we move into a type of assessment not seen before. accurately measure student progress over time. From my observations, conversations, and participation over the last sessments includes providing data that measures growth. Because of the nature of these assessments, we’ll be able to measure the full range of student performance for all stuour educational system to get this practice of measuring student performance right.

item review for the test. This involved working with ETS and Pearson. And from my viewpoint, everyone is doing everything more or less right given the constraints

of big worries though: Will available technology work without overly burdening schools? Will the range of tasks be able to capture the abiliuling and time burden be manageable? If we look 5 years into the future, what difference do we hope the new evaluation system has made for Colorado teachers and students? How might we as practitioners take control of the narrative and work toward this future? (question from Jessica) Jessica Cuthbertson: My hope is that every practitioner – regardless of his or her evaluator, available resources, or level of implementation – will focus deeply on quality stanto become an agent of change both within and beyond our is an increasing need for us to also be advocates for our profession and for our students, so that future education policy begins with best practices and input from our schools and is that the evaluation system, in tandem with new standards and assessments, will laser focus us on student learning and result in higher graduation and lower college remediation Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


port each other. We cannot teach behind closed doors and we cannot do this alone. We need to collectively share what teaching and learning in Colorado in the 21st century is really all about. Vince Puzick the narrative from the teacher’s perspective. A lot of voices are currently contributing to the dialogue at the state and national level. The teacher narrative needs to be strong, going to need to continue to be advocates for the profession. CLAS, in my opinion, can help be a voice in that narrative. sustain by one’s self. ELA teachers in individual schools and districts can help shape the narrative. Collectively and as a larger community, CLAS and NCTE can sustain that narrative in larger contexts.

Jonathan Wright: uation system has settled on an equitable system of assessthinking, it’s not equitable to place PARCC assessments on equal footing with assessments that are teacher generated and teacher scored. This becomes an apple and oranges scenario that may lead to resentment and unfair treatment of teachers whose content falls under the domain of high

out in the collision of two cultural/political forces: Waiting for Superman and Race to the Top. Both demanded a tool for measuring teacher performance in a way that more easthe new evaluation system helps strengthen the quality of the teaching force as a whole.

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

Vince Puzick central to developing the literacy skills of our students – and hopeful our colleagues in other disciplines are supporting students to develop literacy skills, as well – we have our content area called Language Arts. We have content and skills unique to our content area: the study of literature, the craft of writing a range of “text types” (to use a rather communicate to others in the educational system that we deliver literacy instruction in the context of a rich body of literature. We need to keep honoring that. Jessica Cuthbertson ership” of both instructional practices and curriculum materials demands advocacy and involvement beyond our classroom and school walls. We must continue to develop,

We also need to deprivatize our teaching and share our successes (and challenges) with external audiences [...] writing and speaking publicly about our work [...]


As English Language Arts teachers, how can we continue to have ownership of instructional practices and curriculum materials in order to be effective practitioners in our content area? (question from Vince)

and we also need to deprivatize our teaching and share our successes (and challenges) with external audiences – from writing and speaking publicly about our work, to facilitating conversations with a range of stakeholders, including parents and the communities our school serves, school and district leaders, school board members, policymakers and state level leaders. Jonathan Wright where PARCC assessment may further cross-content literacy instruction. Truly, the test is a measure of how the entire school system has contributed to a student’s literacy skills. The test measures reading and writing skills that are within the domain of the typical language arts classroom, but equally writing and reading skills as they are present in the domains of science, social studies/history, and techknow that there are many writing and reading tasks that are measuring standards outside of language arts as it is decross-content literacy data will move us toward collaboration and shared ownership with teachers across all domains of instruction.

YA Literature

Trends in YAL: Graphic Novels by Jill Adams


words.” But is it really? Wouldn’t the image have to be a truly unique and amazing in order to garner such acclaim? And what about other pictures – are all images notemean for literature that contains both? landscape for quite some time, and they have become a part of the secondary English Language Arts curriculum across the nation. They have won numerous awards ( won the Pulitzer in 1992, and won the Printz

The and ture (YAL) has emerged: the adaptation of noteworthy YAL titles to graphic novels. These graphic novels still have the same author in the byline, but the byline also happens to include illustrators, artists, and the individuals who worked on the adaptation. The following is a list of some titles that have made the switch from YAL title to YAL graphic novel.

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel Adapted by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin Color by Paolo Lamanna novel it is noted that Artemis is a brilliant child prodigy who also happens to be a part of a legendary crime family that is falling apart. His mother is mentally unstable, and father is absent (and possibly dead). The 12-year-old genius develops an intricate plan to earn back his family’s riches, which includes kidnapping

Dr. Jill Adams is an Assistant Professor of English at Metropolitan State College of Denver. She teaches courses in composition, young adult literature, and teaching composition.

ever, that Holly isn’t nearly as dainty as she appears, and neither is Commander Root or the others battling to get Holly back. What ensues is a battle not only for riches but for control and power as well. Broken into chapters, the book is easily digestible. Dwarves, fairies, and trolls are just a few of the interesting characters in the book and are illustrated with angular features that are, at times, grotesque and morbid. The quick dialogue of the novel is aided by the visuals, and the conversations throughout the text propel the reader through information about the main characters, which deepen the context of the story. Overall, this is a fun, engaging read that will entice teen readers and perhaps intrigue them to read more of the books that follow.

The Lightning Thief Rick Riordan, Adapted by Robert Venditti Art by Attila Futaki Color by Jose Villarrubia Layouts by Orpheus Collar Lettering by Chris Dickey Most teens have been exposed to tary school years. Much of this limited experience, however, focuses on the memorization of the gods and goddesses. Connections are not always made to other literature, and the information seems incredibly distant to most kids. Simply put, the kids aren’t always given a reason to care. Perhaps author Rick Riordan, a former middle school English teacher, had similar thoughts and feelings about the way mythology was being presented to students in school. His breakthrough novel, these stories to life with the help of protagonist Percy Jackson, a teen with ADHD who struggled getting by in schools throughout his life. Once he arrives at Camp Half-Blood, he learns about Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


determine who has stolen Zeus’ master lightning bolt. The graphic novel version of this text enhances the fantasy aspect of the book – the reader vividly sees the mon-

A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle Hope Larson

depiction of Mount Olympus. The pacing of the text doesn’t and imagination must step forward to draw inferences and connections. For all those students who didn’t really care for those who haven’t yet experienced Riordan’s magic, this novel is a great starting point into this hero’s journey.

The Red Pyramid Adapted by Robert Venditti Art by Attila Futaki Color by Jose Villarrubia Layouts by Orpheus Collar Lettering by Chris Dickey Many teens are familiar with they may not be familiar with his second series, , Riordan explores Egyptian myth and lore through Carter and Sadie, twins whose parents’ research interests have directly linked the protagonists with the various myths. Through their alternating viewpoints (demonstrated in both the narrative and graphic novel version), the brother and sister duo jet around the globe to go on a quest to learn more about Egyptian history and mythology in addition to their own family connections to it. The transition to the graphic novel format seems help the readers keep track of gods, magicians, and it aids the reader in seeing the striking mythological creatures. The supernatural elements are highlighted in this text and – with color – seem even more striking than in my imagination. Those who liked series will appreciate Riordan’s second series as well, although it’s important to note that most people aren’t as familiar with these gods, goddesses, and folklore, which can make the reading a bit more challenging.

A and explored a fantastical world with Meg Murry and her younger brother Charles Wallace as they tried to rescue their scientist/researcher father with the help of their friend Calvin and the trio of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Their amazing journey included traveling to other planets and meeting a disembodied revelations and discoveries in my own world. Countless other tweens, teenagers, and adults have had the same magical reading experience since its original publication. tions with the text. Hope Larson both adapted and illustrated the book, utilizing a blue hue for her artwork. The cool tone throughout her artwork is reminiscent of a starry evening and helps the reader see startling situations and characters clearly. The children in the book are portrayed with large, innocent eyes, which mirrored my own personal feelings while reading the wondrous text viewing the innovative artwork. reading of the graphic novel adaption afforded me the opportunity to explore Meg’s world with a new vision and as well as appreciation for the groundbreaking work that Madeline ways researching physics and contemplating writing a book about it. As L’Engle noted, “You have to write the book that grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

The City of Ember Jeanne DuPrau, Adapted by Dallas Middaugh Art by Niklas Asker was written Now, it has made its way to graphic novel form. The city


Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

of Ember is an underground refuge from a supposedly destroyed planet Earth, and its people believe that this city possesses the only light around (even though its reliability

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Art by Cassandra Jean

The big question is this: How long will the lights last? Protagonist Lina discovers a written message with an unclear meaning about this questions and calls upon friend Doon permanently in Ember. The feeling of isolation and darkness permeates evgraphic novel. These visual genres, however, bring more life and energy to the text. This is shown each page and panel, even though there is a dark tone in the artwork throughout. – the darkness is ever present, but where there is life, light is present. The story continues with more other books in the Ember series, and has been adapted to a graphic novel.

Beautiful Creatures: The Manga

Delightfully odd. That is one way to describe the Ransom Riggs novel that introduces us to a group of supernatural misMiss Peregrine. These kids possess all different kinds of excepbut ultimately, all of them mesmerize. These intriguing eccentricities are contrasted with the protagonist of the story, Jacob, who has recently gone on a journey to discover information about his grandfather, who has a connection to Miss Peregrine’s home. The graphic novel adaption of the award-winning book is enhanced by the visual images (created by Cassandra Jean, who also work on the adapnization of the panels and panes on the page help propel the reader through the storyline of the narrative text. The

Art by Cassandra Jean The book

is the natural series that focuses on a love story between Ethan Wate wallowing in his dismal life, but things seem to get better when a unique girl moves to the small town to live with her reclusive uncle. These two are drawn to each other, and they soon discover that this connection enables them to commuLena’s home, they discover that their paths have been linked for much longer than they realized. The artwork in this graphic novel was created by Cassandra Jean and is described on the book jacket as “atmospherically illustrated.” Perhaps this is alluding to the supernatural, other-worldly feel that the book has. The young male characters have sharp, angular features while the females possess a different approach—more endearing, approachable, and beautiful. So why make this YAL novel into a graphic novel? The story is streamlined a bit and is a bit more fast-paced (as YAL novels tend to be). The graphic novel enhances the action of the plot a bit more and makes the supernatural feel a bit more real.

photographs supplement the artwork nicely. the second book in the series, was recently released, and the novel would be full or horror and despair…and the book does possess these – at times. What is also present, though, is a fantasy adventure with time travel, and this element is what may just hook teen readers.

Statement needs you! Make a statement! Help drive important conversations about teaching English Language Arts in Colorado. Check the Call for Submissions on page 2 to read about the theme for this fall as well as ideas for recurring topics for articles. Statement is also seeking regular contributors in the following areas: ESL in ELA Elementary ELA Contact Erica J. Rewey at clas.statement. with further inquiries.

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


Book Alikes:

Recommendations based on the works of A.S. King and David Levithan

Jessi Barrientos is a librarian at High Plains Library District with a passion for readers’ advisory and teen literature.

by Jessi Barrientos try …

If you enjoyed

Avi … for pirates! Plus plenty of adventure and a female heroine surviving in a world she didn’t expect.

Stephen Chbosky … for a group of unusual friends facing all the ups and downs of life and not always coming out on top.

Melina Marchetta … for a love-hate friendship and characters who come to life off the page.

emotion and confusion and mystery.

try …

If you enjoyed

Sherman Alexie … for a teen surrounded by adults who have no idea what they’re doing and who must face life on his own.

Patrick Ness … for a dark world where dreams and reality collide.

Rainbow Rowell … for a teen who is faced with abuse and protect herself.

, try…

If you enjoyed

M. Molly Backes … for a heroine the complete opposite of Astrid who faces a similar set of uncertainties.

Shine Lauren Myracle … for the struggle of burgeoning sexuality amid small town bigotry – with a very dark turn.

Elizabeth Wein … for family and friendship and coming-of-age wrapped in a unique time period.

, try…

Libba Bray … for an out of control reality television story with plenty of absurd humor.


… for another intensely dark story that deals with violence and identity.

, try…

If you enjoyed

If you enjoyed

… for swashbuckling fun in an equally well-developed, if very different and more fantastical world

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

Cory Doctrow … for another teen struggling against public perception and his own fears.

Sara Polsky … for dysfunctional family members ness of growing up.

If you enjoyed

try …

Francesca Lia Block … for friendship, drama, and fun wrapped in a world that is a bit too good to be true but that you’ll long to visit.

Rainbow Rowell … for a story that takes on anxiety, mental illness, abandonment issues that still manages to leave you with a happy glow in the end.

If you enjoyed the Levithan/Cohn books, i.e. , try… Robin Benway … for a girl struggling through a break-up-gone-bad who comes out the other side a better version of herself. try …

If you enjoyed

… for a story of optimists and dreamers facing the world head on – told from multiple quirky viewpoints. If you enjoyed

Lauren Oliver … for a teen stuck in a time warp and facing death and the consequences of her own mean girl actions.

, try…

Jesse Andrews … for an exploration of what it truly means to be lonely and the dangers and joys of reaching out to someone else. If you enjoyed

… for quirky characters facing the unexpected consequences of friendship and love gone wrong.

, try …

Stephenie Meyer … for a complicated love story involving mind-controlling aliens and wrapped up in discovering personal identity. If you enjoyed

Wes Moore and Tavis Smiley … for a true story about two guys with the same name who grew up in the same city but with very different fates.


Jay Asher … for another teen who receives messages (this time through cassette tapes) that leads him on a dark journey. If you enjoyed

Sarah Dessen … for lessons on growing up that happen in unexpected places and a great romance, too.

… for a love story with an unusual slant, slight paranormal twist and a race to a very dramatic ending.

, try…

Malinda Lo … for a unique story wrapped in myths and fairy tales as

Brent Hartinger … for teens exploring their sexuality, facing prejudice, and

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


Teen Literature Conference by Owyn Cooper

with Amy, a librarian from the Denver Public Library, the tech guy Luis, another librarian Becker, the winner interviewing A.S. (David,) the winner interviewing David Levithan (Max,) and the parents of both David and Max. talking to Becker, Max, Amy, and Luis about things like Star and books and TV shows, along with taking pictures.

Owyn Cooper is a Colorado high school student and copy editor with a love for all things bookish. She manages a Young Adult/ teen lit blog called “The Bookstore Intern Chronicles” and hopes to one day become a famous writer.

had more time to kill before David Levithan got there. So graphic enough where Max was just showing the different instead of just mildly disgusted, David Levithan entered. And so was Max.

as Amy) walks in, apologizing for being late but everyone was sitting across from him and Max. contest winner, David. David had some very interesting questions and Amy was very fortunate to be able to witness it and even participate in it at the end. After the interview itself endAsk the Passengers

was fangirling so hard on the inside because he’s essentially my author crush. He signed my copies of Boy Meets Boy and and we all got into an awesome discussion afterwards that was such a blast. This whole experience was just genuinely amazing

hard on the inside.

(along with her having a mullet). out the Denver Public Library Teen site for the podcasts and got our questions ready for David Levithan. Then Amy, the librarian one, informed us that we

about the Colorado Teen Literature Conference!!

Can you feel Owyn’s passion for the Teen Literature Conference? Reenergize your own passions for teaching Language Arts by attending the NCTE Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. this fall:

NCTE: Story As the Landscape of Knowing

November 20-23, 2014 at the Gaylord National Resort in Washington, D.C. Join your NCTE colleagues and friends as we examine the power of story build towers of knowledge. For more information visit: 32

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

Audio Books: Liberating the Read Aloud by Stephen Axtell


Stephen Axtell studies English and secondary education at Metropolitan State University of Denver. His passions for persuasion have informed both his teaching and his developing pedagogy.


prospect of reading one more page. Willa Cather, Bartholomae, Boethius, and the Ramayana all in a single week. The by Veronbut the short instrumental tune that began the audiobook caught my attention and the voice chosen to portray the -

another three weeks. Therein lies the hidden powers of the audiobook. Speed, accessibility, interest cultivation, and ease of use are limitations of traditional book reading that the audiobook format can alleviate, particularly in secondary classrooms. , Jim Trelease details the many advantages of the read aloud both in the classroom and at home, including an increase in test scores and pleasure for readers. While not disregarding his material, there is a problem that needed further development in his text: the growing need for independence of a child and student as they age. When a child is young, read alouds are fun and exciting. A trusted adult pushes through the hard words and gives voices to the characters that will live in their minds for hours, and hopefully, years to come. But as and the forced read aloud of teachers can become patronizing. This is much more a result of the presentation rather than the material. When the attention of a student is lost at the outset of a lesson, how can the lesson sink in? But handing the text to them to peruse themselves generates a new set of problems. Large, unpronounceable ing books aimed at the class average can leave a slow reader at a loss in classroom discussion. The sheer volume of texts assigned in order to keep up with No Child Left Behind test-

ing, as detailed in with no energy or interest to push forward. Audiobooks combine the advantages of both approaches as the student doesn’t need to rely on an authority to consume them readily. They can peruse the material at their leisure and feel more in control of the experience. When students have control, they feel that they own the material and are much more likely to enjoy reading it. act same run time regardless of the reading level or speed of the reader. This means that even slow readers, long since jaded to the fact that they will not have anything productive or insightful to talk about in class, will feel empowered to disagree when the class speed reader makes an analysis of the book ending or the piece overall. The amount of material tested in an English class is cial but untested material. A fast adult reader may be able to burn through a thousand page book in a dedicated week, but most students cannot read that quickly. That means that it will generally take a few weeks of time to allow students to read full length novels for class. “Reading does not while you drive or jog, but you cannot read a book” (Willem. That same book, in audiobook format, might average eight to ten hours of reading time that can be spread across the entire day. Students can read a novel while they walk through the halls to class, on lunch, or on the bus ride home. A large book can be fully consumed by students in a weekas a security guard staring blankly at screens with music blaring in his ears he’s making money, but if he sits staring at screens with an audiobook playing he makes money and he gets homework done. ly by an accomplished reader so all that remains to be understood is the meaning, which increases a student’s chance for

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“Why are their names so weird?” These are likely to be the depth of questions that an introductory student will be able issues, more important and intelligent questions will arise: “What recurring symbology appears in the text? Why is there a bow only Odysseus can string? What did Eurycleia do to serve her masters? Why did she feel like she needed to keep secrets from her fellow servants?” These questions will spark memory forging discourse in the classroom. Additionally, one of the hidden advantages to the audiobook is the inherent longevity of the “reader.” The book will continue playing until actively stopped by the listener. This effectively creates a situation in which the student has to exert energy to stop reading. All of these advantages are powerful, but if the text doesn’t generate interest in the reader, it isn’t likely to generate a love of reading. This is one of the most persistent schools be the place where students interact with interesting books? Shouldn’t the faculty have an ongoing laser-like commitment to put good books in our students’ hands? Shouldn’t this be a front-burner issue at all times?” With audiobooks we can cheat just a little. Books can be notoriously slow to engage reluctant readers in comparison with

everything else competing for teenagers’ attention. But, as shown in my own anecdote, the multimedia presentation of an audiobook allows for teachers to trap the student into wanting to read a book. Mood-establishing-music and talented voice actors can create mystery and excitement from way to become the voice actors for their own books, giving fans a special treat and lending authority in pronouncing words they created for the piece. The beginning of a book goes from representing an impending tax on students’ energy to an adventure they are swept up into. As supplementary material, audiobooks have the capacity to revolutionize the teaching of literature and reading to teenaged students. Audiobooks will even increase the amount of material that can be taught instead of limiting or reducing it. What else could a teacher ask for? Works Cited

Trelease, Jim. ture>.

Adolescent A dolescent LLiteracy iteracy SStrand trand NCTE’s Principles in Practice Imprint

Adolescent Literacy and the Teaching of Reading Lessons for Teachers of Literature Deborah Appleman ISBN: 978-0-8141-0056-1 No. 00561

Adolescents and Digital Literacies Learning Alongside Our Students Sara Kajder

Adolescent Literacy at Risk? The Impact of Standards Rebecca Bowers Sipe

ISBN: 978-0-8141-5299-7 No. 52997

ISBN: 978-0-8141-2296-9 No. 22969

Shaping literacy for tomorrow, today.

Visit our website: or call toll-free: 1-877-369-6283


Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

All imprint books

$24.95 member/$33.95 nonmember

Encouraging Higher Order Thinking and Reading Comprehension Through Questioning by Stacey J. Fisher, Renee Rice Moran, Amanda Bitner, and Edward J. Dwyer Stacey Fisher is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). Stacey teaches literacy oriented classes at the ETSU Morristown location.



seat in their desks. As the students got settled, Ms. Jones grabbed a book from the classroom library and began to read for the school’s class-wide required reading time. After the story was completed, she reached into a jar and pulled out a popsicle stick with a student’s name on it. She asked, “Where was Sally going after school?” “Her grandma’s house,” Rex answered. Ms. Jones reached in for another popsicle stick. “What did she do at her grandma’s house, Allison, and why?” “Ate snack and played outside because she wanted to,” Allison replied. Ms. Jones looked up from the book at the blank stares and propped-up heads and thought, “There has to be more than this…” and then dismissed the students to the next activity. As she was sitting at her desk during planning period that afternoon, Ms. Jones was still bothered by the lack of interest her students were showing in reading and the lack of depth of both her questions and her student responses. She recognized that she needed to change her comprehension instruction, particularly her questioning techniques. Ms. Jones explored the wealth of literature on comprehension with a focus on questioning. Over the next few months, she began to weave purposeful and authentic questioning of literature into her daily routine. As a result, she found that not only could her students adeptly answer literal and interpretive questions, they could also engage in accountable talk and even formulate their own questions to further discussion with peers.

Renee Moran is an assistant professor of reading education at East Tennessee State University. She completed her Ph.D. in Teacher Education with a focus on Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee. Renee worked for eight years as a primary grades teacher in the public schools of North Carolina and California. Amanda Bitner teaches third grade students at Bluff City Elementary School in Bluff City, TN. Ed Dwyer is a professor in the CUAI Department at ETSU where he teaches classes in literacy development/reading/ language arts instruction.

interpretive questioning. We then apply and adapt Trosky’s questioning categories and provide the reader with several practical strategies.

Review of the Literature of Literal and Interpretive Questioning

The primary goal of questioning based on a selection read is to determine if purposes designated for reading have been achieved. Consequently, asking higher order thinking questions is critical for determining how well speachieving the overarching goal of fostering comprehension determined that “critical reading depends on both literal and interpretive comprehension; grasping implied ideas for focusing intensely on critical thinking in comprehending


Literal comprehension of a message, that is, being able to recognize what is directly stated, is the foundation of Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


reading comprehension. On the other hand, what is not directly presented and must be inferred by the reader is essential for depth of understanding and for richer reading expethat teachers ask a disproportionate number of questions requiring only literal comprehension of the material read (Durkin). However, one must not dismiss the importance of literal questions. Literal questions can get the students “off to a running start.” We have found that asking literal questions in a variety of learning environments is highly productive at the outset of discussion relative to material read. Literal quesing strategies. Reutzel and Cooter cautioned against the over emphasis on lower level reading competencies such as word

lication of questioning categories, yet they remain relevant even today. We have used the questioning strategies with elementary and middle school students in a variety of environments. The strategies also work well with struggling readers in tutorial and clinical environments.

Higher order thinking and application of cognitive strategies is essential for establishing in-depth understanding of text.

word meanings. Although Reutzel and Cooter determined that the lower level competencies are essential for comprehension, they concluded that higher order thinking and application of cognitive strategies is essential for establishing in-depth understanding of text. Consequently, engaging readers in interpretive reading through thought-provoking questioning is an essential component of reading instruction. yond what is explicitly stated and “read between the lines” to develop a richer understanding of the message read. This is often referred to as “critical thinking” and/or “higher order that too much time in schools is spent on tedious and uncreative learning while, on the other hand, discussion involving critical thinking shared perspectives can foster “intuitive understanding of almost any concept” (248). Questioning strategies can encourage what Weil described as “healthy variability” (9) in activities that encourage higher order thinking while discouraging high levels of mundane and predictable classroom activities. The procedures suggested below present a concise but powerful set of questioning strategies for teachers and other reading support personnel. Questioning strategies are presented herein to foster what Flippo described as encouraging developing readers to engage ideas and concepts rather than just the surface of text. While working with the questioning strategies, our overarching goal is for the categories to become internalized. That is, reading teachers do not have to rely on a specategories of comprehension, becomes innate with practice. 36

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

students in developmental reading classes have worked well in responding in writing as well as orally to questions generated using Trosky’s categories. College students in teachimplementation of the strategies, especially when preparing the comprehension component of a guided reading activity. Trosky’s categories of questions are: 1. Recognition, 2. broad range of questioning and encourages readers “to think beyond the words on the page” (Morrison and Wilcox 173). The strategies presented herein are complementary to comprehension strategies presented in the Common Core State Standards ( These strategies can be used at almost any level. For example, we used the strategies for writing questions on a section of John Steinbeck’s with college tion, in undertaking comprehension study with struggling readers in reading clinic environments, we found that applying Trosky’s questioning strategies using Aesop’s fables from collections such as those of Anno and Sneed is very effective. We sometimes rewrite the fables where there is esoteric language that might pose problems for developing readers. A comprehensive source of fables is http://aesopfaTrosky’s questioning strategies also lend themsion-enhancing activities based on articles from news magazines such as Time, , and from on-line resources such as the . Topical information from local sources and from news agencies such as the Associated Press can also be successfully implemented. Topical subjects such as homelessness capture the attention of secondary and college level students. This we discovered while working with students placed in college developmental reading classes because of low ACT reading scores. The developmental studies college students generally were not enthralled with the prospect of studying how to improve their reading, believing they were off to college to study a variety of career-oriented possibilities. The text originally assigned to them appeared devoid of material of interest to college

students, developmental or otherwise, with the leadoff story being about how ducks “imprinted” on a psychologist and followed him around as if he were their natural mother. On the other hand, current events provide students with interesting material. For example, a newspaper article on a proposed plan to encourage the development of single sex classes and schools proved to be a very engaging topic and a good source for applying Trosky’s questioning strategies.

A Current Practical Application of Trosky’s Questioning Categories questioning categories to scaffold students in the application of both literal and interpretive questioning. The original story segment presented below and the questions that follow are designed to demonstrate how Trosky’s questioning categories can be effectively used to develop questions:


1. Where was Dr. Benson going? to rest when they arrived at their destination? The reader must use imagination and knowledge of the overall setting to determine possible destinations for Dr. Benson. On the other hand, the suggested possibilities must be reasonably grounded in events that are presented in the selection read. 1. Was Dr. Benson mean and cruel to Old Rex because he did not stop to rest or feed him? The reader is encouraged to evaluate the behavior of characters in the message and bring personal values into the response. Determining the correct response to a situation from an ethical standpoint provides for highly interesting and enlightening discussions among readers. 1. What is another way of saying “bitter cold night”?

1. What was the weather like? 2. Who drove the horse and carriage? Literal questions, as mentioned above, can be answered directly from information contained in the text. Even though recognition questions are generally quite easy for the reader (or listener), they are still very important. Andence and establish a basic level of comprehension for the selection. However, it must be kept in mind, as Norton determined through an extensive review of the research, that “questions must be sequenced from less to more abstract in order to get students to operate at higher thought levels” (82). 1. What season of the year was it? The reader can determine that the season is winter responder might suggest that it could be spring or autumn if the events take place in a northern climate. 2. What was the name of the horse? The reader can determine from the overall context of the message that Old Rex is the name of the horse. Although not directly stated, the reader can logically determine the answer. Sometimes it is necessary to provide direct instruction in determining how one can determine information

scribe what the author’s words mean to them leads to a richer understanding of the text and often to a greater apnot ask, “What did the author mean when he or she said it was a bitter cold night?” This is confusing to students who often mimic the text in response: “The author meant it was a bitter cold night.” : Trosky’s categories of comprehension provide the teacher with a quick and effective method for developing comprehension questions. The goal is not to categorize questions as the categories often overlap. The goal is to become adept at generating good questions, often “on your feet.”

Extending Troksy’s Questioning Categories ulum. We have found that using Trosky’s questioning strategies as a major part of the comprehension component of a guided reading activity work well with all kinds of reading materials. For example, (DiCamillo) is onwards and can be a vehicle for building comprehension competencies. Another example, and there are countless Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


others, is (Paulsen). Most children love dogs and this book of tales of brave and good dogs can be readily used as a reading instructional text with the Trosky questioning strategies. See Appendix A for other books we have found highly entertaining and worthwhile for developing comprehension through questioning. Books designated primarily for younger children can be used for developing comprehension strategies with more advanced readers. For example, the story with wonderful illustrations but also lends itself to developing higher order thinking competencies through questioning. A list of favorite books is presented in Appendix B. Readers’ theater performances naturally accompany comprehension study. Students practice reading while engaging in what Rasinski described as prosody, that is, attention, Rasinski determined that practice for readers’ theater involves encouraging comprehension when students are encouraged to “make meaning with your voice” (58). Students practice readers’ theater scripts and, in addition, sometimes produce stick puppets to add to the performance. Enjoyable follow-up activities are essential for establishing a desire to read among students.

literal and interpretive questioning through authentic practice with quality children’s literature and reader’s theatre the following activity encourages them to use their knowledge to create their own questions. We call this the evening news report. The students get into groups of three or four and prepare a 45-second news report on an aspect of the material read. The model is the six o’clock local news format. For example, students prepare a news report on is interesting to note, for example, how students use their voices when taking the part of the tortoise or the hare in this timeless story. The news reports are very entertaining prehension of the material read. Though not using Trosky’s strategies per se, the questions asked by the “anchor” and -


We have found that application of the questioning strategies described herein complement Allyn who determined that comprehension is about students having the ability to put forth opinions, hopes, and arguments as they -


Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

through questioning invites students into the essence of the reading material and the concurrent enjoyment that accomwith Rome who concluded that reading instruction is as much about teaching children “to want to read as it is about how to read” (12). Practice using Trosky’s questioning strategies. You lishers to provide comprehension questions. Further, you can free yourself to use a variety of stories and not be locked into using a prescribed set of reading materials or scripted questions.

Works Cited Allyn, Pam. B New York: Core State Standards: A Primer on Close Reading of Text.” Education and Society Program. Durkin, Dolores. Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1993. Print. Flippo, Rhona F.


Harris, Theodore Lester. & Hodges, Richard E. The Association, 1995. Print. New York: Norton, Donna E. Print. Roe, Betty D., Smith, Sandra H., & Burns, Paul C. New York: Houghton Resources and Stories.” Print. Reutzel, D. Ray . & Cooter, Robert B. New York: Pearson, Trosky, Odarka. Reading Association, 1972. Print. Van Zile, Susan. Napoli, Mary, & Ritholz, Emily. New

Appendix A: Model Assignment Maria Case Study

Appendix B: Literature Cited and Additional Suggested Books

: Maria, the Roma child, has been very much in the news lately. Watch the videos and study the accompanying text and the leads within the text. Follow other leads relative to -

Anno, Mitsumasa. 1987. Print. Bartone, Elisa. 1987. Print. Bunting, Eve.

. New York: Orchard Books, New York: Scholastic, New York: Clarion Books, New

due on 12 November. As a teacher you will undoubtedly encounter children like Maria. The environment and geography might be different for you but complications might be similar. There is no “right or wrong” in your responses;

Hest, Amy. Candlewick Press, 1997. Print. Hutchins, Pat. Print.


Cambridge, MA:

Please go to:

Print. Berkeley Munsch, Robert.

Important Links for Statement Readers: NCTE: CLAS Talk: CLAS on Facebook: Search “Colorado Language Arts Society” Statement on Twitter:


Munsch, Robert. . New York: Annick Press, 1989. Print. Noble, Trinka Hakes. . New . New York: Yearling, 1998. Print. Rathmann, Peggy. Putnam, 1995. Print. Rodowdky, Colby. Print. Rylant, Cynthia.

New York: New York: Sunburst, 1999. New York: Voyager Books,

Rylant, Cynthia. Paperbacks, 1991. Print. Teague, Mark. Dear Mrs. LaRue:

. New York: Aladdin

Statement Online:

Trivizas, Eugene. . New York: Aladdin, 1997. Print. Sneed, B. New York: Dial Books for Young

Statement on Google+: Search “CLAS Statement”

Yolen, Jane. and Company, 1992. Print.

Statement Email:

New York: Little, Brown, New York: Harper Collins,

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


The Day I Saw a Bear

old high school student at COVA (Colorado Virtual Academy). He resides with his family in Morrison, Colorado.

by Reid Lewis





the hot summer months.

road. By my best guess, he was probably six hundred pounds, and he had

asked me.

was bear vs. bike, and the bike had no chance of winning in a head-on collision. Even if you have seen bears before, when you’re that vulnerable it’s very different. This happened to me, need to start acting like an adult more often, even in everyday situations.

nearly being slung forward off my bike. eyes to adjust after walking outside pouch that’s der the seat.

located un-

into this story which is sure to intrigue you, let me tell you a little about my-

his appalling odor. A horrible tunnel vision hit me like bricks, and adrenaline was pumping through my veins faster than my blood was. The massive creature was focused in my sights and everything else was a big blur. He looked at me carelessly, but somewhat harshly, almost as if to say, “You aren’t people invading my personal space, so stay back.”

had just moved back to Colorado into our new house, which is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, a ly unpacked all of my stuff and was able to relax. Ok, let’s get back to the story now.

walked my bike in the opposite direc-

made a split second decision to warn which wasn’t very fast due to the size

was June – the time of the year when you can smell the trees, so dry that there was a chance of them bursting was that dusty, dry, pollen smell, the one that can’t be easily described, but anyone who lives in Colorado knows. outside, even though it was hot – summer days are sometimes the best days

the top, it was easy riding. The dusty smell was all over now, and the sun was blocked out by the surrounding trees. The wind made the air feel cool could smell something odd. The potent yet distant smell reminded me of a zoo;

sound of the fans that run 24/7 during 40

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

it might not have been the best way to tell kids, but luckily their babysitter was outside with them and she was able to get them inside. “Thank you so much for letting us know! Are you ok?” she said to me. would be the best solution right now.

for home. Everything was peaceful and normal.

a take a ride around the neighborhood. that suited exercise a little better than

adult not just for myself, but for other people as well. “Hey kids, you should go back

at about twenty miles per hour. Then time stopped. The blur of green pine trees around me became almost still for a moment. Right in front of me, maybe thirty feet, stood a massive black bear. He was just walking right across the

could while rattling the chains on my bike from fear. “Hey, could you have dad pick “Yes! Dad is on his way now. Are you ok?” she asked.

guide me through what to do in a panic until my dad got to me, which didn’t

longer a sheltered child and now will need to be able to act like the adult

by myself, but nothing dangerous like a day-to-day basis.

After the bear inci-

that felt so in control, yet the most out of control too.

Poetry: Lessons From Within by Amanda Cherry

my life that felt so in control, yet the most out of control real but it felt unbelievable and fake.

Amanda Cherry teaches 6th grade language arts and reading at Southern Hills Middle School in Boulder. She enjoys writing loves sharing her passion for writing with her students.

An inside-out tickler, From within. Your midnight Leaves me aching, urging, longing For just one more

That his preference For cross-classroom questioning Rather than hand-raising Has derailed the entire bunch. Breathe out a loud sigh And ask him to sit, Before he can protest.

Seems you’re done for tonight, though. Even though my hand hungers to stay, Roll over and leave you To coil and unfurl as you please, Still too tiny for me to feel Most of the time. That moment All teachers wait for. And here he comes. He never, ever, ever Raises his hand. He storms right up to me And stands in my face And asks me if he can Borrow a pencil, Turn in his assignment tomorrow. And everyone is talking again. And he’s just standing there, waiting. Delightfully unaware

The woman moving The jelly-greased wand over my belly Says you have the hiccups. That’s why you’re jerking Like a hooked rainbow trout Left on the rocks too long.

Overcome by a negligible connection, An almost tedious detail. My tears puddle on the starchy pillow, Then the woman sighs. A little exasperated, she says, – The voice of an overworked photographer Who just needs her subject to cooperate. Can’t she see the charm The sweetness in your repetitive jolts? And smile politely Letting go of the tears with a forced grin. Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


Of other hiccupping babies Just down the hall. And he’s still here – Needing to turn in a missing assignment. His mom told him if he didn’t, He couldn’t play lacrosse. But the assignment’s still not done. Because he never read the book. Because he’s never read any book At any point during the entire semester. And now he wants me to give him the answers Or at least hint around enough to get him a C.

His mother is late For our conference. She shows up in seven, the kid trailing behind. Red, angry eyes. Red, angry faces. Looks like they’ve both been crying. For bad behavior, missing work, failed tests. Why he just can’t, just didn’t, just won’t. And he plops down Just the same as her, though neither one notices. Without saying hello, she says,

And he’s a slobbering, snarling, scarlet-faced mess. He wails between sobs.

The labor dream leaves me sweaty, sleepless.

He thrusts his hands through his hair, Slams his head on a desk.

Walking in with a lunchbox Bigger than your head, A little nervous but less afraid than me. To wave goodbye. You don’t.

And he’s still here. And love cheese. My dreams are vibrant splashes of strange. When you’re feeling weepy. Even my subconscious doesn’t know enough To conjure that kind of pain Without a real memory from which to draw.

And leave you. He made promises at our meeting,

To tackle the world without The watery warmth of me. They won’t understand you

Cautiously hopeful. That moment All teachers wait for.

They won’t cradle you And here he comes. They won’t protect you To borrow a pencil, Right now, you are mine only, Turn in his assignment tomorrow. But even in my blurry dream, You burst forth,


Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

To pinch the bridge of my nose And breathe out a loud sigh.

That’s when you kick. Not an inside-out tickle this time, A full-on football punt to the gut. And he jerks back, eyebrows up. . He laughs And waves a hand at my belly.

Put a hand on his shoulder.

He grins, wanders back to his seat. His question evaporated. My frustration dissolved. On the way back to his desk,

Not as the sigh-inducing, trouble-making, Bane-of-my-existence, All-around-really-annoying kid.

Someone with a mom who didn’t think Anyone could care for him – Not the way she would have. Someone with a mom who didn’t want To let him go. Ever. But she did – right into my arms, My arms that weren’t totally open.

From time to time.

Let go into my fumbling arms, What would happen then?

For my little

Pencil and paper, artwork courtesy of Lórien MacEnulty.

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


Ballad of the First Year English Teacher by Ben Pruitt


The hot summer had whizzed right by. And though he felt fresh and inspired, his heart a smolder, The young English teacher was untested, Legendary Teaching Academy in Boulder. and his wits were sound, He had even changed his morning bathroom schedule around! For his students, their future, in his hands they lay, And how he teaches them, will affect their lives in so many ways.

Please do not let this young English teacher burn out.

Ben Pruitt was born and raised in Colorado Springs and currently resides in Denver. He graduated from CU Boulder in 2010 with a BA in English and received his MA in English from the University College Dublin in 2013. Other than reading, he enjoys traveling, hiking, skiing and cheering on the Denver Broncos.

The principal lectured the teachers on the importance of Common Core Standards, The more she read, the more the English teacher found the subject he loved reduced and slandered. “To teach these things does not even require a degree!” With the meeting adjourned, The teacher approached the veteran, very concerned. good teaching is good teaching, so just do your best.” Meeting after meeting after meeting, One day on the job and the English teacher had already taken a beating. But school started in one week, And with the district’s focus on Common Core Standards kept his nose to the grindstone, And to his surprise, designing lessons around standards, focused his goals and rid them of the unknown.

Forget other requests, forget other bids, Because in the end, this is all for the kids. The English teacher stepped into the school on an early August morn, And thought to himself, “This is the place where heroes are born.” He went to the meeting, and met some of his peers, Some of whom had been there for twenty odd years. As they laughed and caught up telling tales from summer, Some of the teachers felt like returning to school was a bummer. This angered the young English teacher, full of passion and moxie, A veteran noticed this, and said, “Sit down, and have some donuts and coffee.” Finally the principal walked in, “Well troops, it’s that time of year again!” 44

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

he knew his efforts were not in vain. He began class by taking roll. Every name he butchered, his students look at him like he was a troll. Once the excruciating task of taking roll was done, He suggested an ice-breaker to get to know everyone. The class responded with hesitation, But eventually everyone learned a little about everyone else setting up the class foundation. The rest of the period went off without a hitch, with sans a glitch. Sixth was planning, then seventh, then he was free. place he wanted to be.

As the semester progressed, he got to know his students better. He liked all of them, and felt bad about having to give them a letter. There were some students who did not always get it though, They had started at different levels than their peers He knew they would get it, differentiating with just the right scaffolding, But even then, there was one student, who did not; This child was falling behind; The English teacher kept trying to reach the student though and never resigned. During silent reading, the troubled student would dink and dawdle, And thought the English teacher, He would draw upon two great sages of pedagogy from decades past, He needed something different for his troubled student and fast! So the English teacher revisited Freebody and Luke. Text Analyst and Critic, any approach he used, the student thought he was a kook. All the scaffolding and differentiation did not work, He tried and tried and tried with the student, whose only reply was to call the English teacher a jerk. The teacher used everything he could from the canon, and he could not understand

You have worked hard to build a community, Do not let one student throw you off and cause disunity.” The wisdom hit the English teacher hard, but the veteran was right. On the other hand, he was not ready to give up Then one day, the English teacher started a class Wiki, And the troubled student became engaged just like that with the introduction of technology. had off days and were bored. But the bulk of them came around to the English teacher’s philosophy that “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Winter break rolled around, and the English teacher felt a sense of relief, But the second semester was when his students were going to be tested, so his respite was brief. Everyone came back to school after a three-week span, Said the panicked English teacher to the veteran, “All of the tests this semester… The veteran replied, “Just calm yourself and do the best that you can. Remember that a good teacher can incorporate test prep with meaningful learning. Thenceforth, the English teacher used the veteran’s advice as a map, And in subtle yet engaging ways, he began preparing his students for the TCAP. Thought he to himself, “We have two months until they test you,

Finally, out of ideas, the English teacher sought the veteran’s advice. on just a snap shot. and the others are starting to pay the price.” The veteran laughed heartily and said with a sigh, “Oh young teacher, not all of your students will want to touch the sky. You love English, it is your passion, But people like other things, like E! Channel, , and fashion. more than you can chew. and to like you. They trained you well in Boulder, But just remember that you and your students go shoulder to shoulder.

and this is all that they’ve got. special and good but this test can set them on a track, And if it is not the right one, it could end up setting them back. High-stakes testing puts me and my students under duress, But it is my job to relieve their worry and make sure they progress.” The big day arrived and the English teacher addressed his students, And ended up saying something quite imprudent. Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


“You’ve worked hard, you’re more than ready for this class. Now enough with my speeches, it’s time for you to kick the TCAP’s ass!” The class let out a whooping roar and the test commenced. Even with all their preparation, the atmosphere among the students was tense. The English teacher was not supposed to look at the test, Even so, as he walked through the aisles he glanced at the thing just to put his mind to rest. Yes Muse, his students owned this test, For the English teacher had trained his students to be the best. Finally all the pencils were down and the test was over, And the teacher rewarded the students with chocolates he bought from Russell Stover. The rest of the year was theirs to explore, They learned about each other and life and their spirits did soar. June rolled around and the English teacher was sad to see everyone go. Oh Muse, he loved his students and how they did grow! The year was over just like that, the end. “Another summer,” thought the English teacher, “Let the next Chapter begin…”

Please submit your own photography for Statement readers to enjoy! Contact the editor at

Above: A row of lockers. Right: A tiny bug crawls on a branch at sunset near Rampart Reservoir. To see more of Erica’s pictures, visit her photoblog at http:// or on Facebook at “Erica J Rewey.”


Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

All Eyes On You, courtesy of Erica J. Rewey

Before the Bell

Tim Hillmer is currently in his 30th year in the Boulder Valley School District where he works as a classroom mentor to support new and veteran teachers. Tim has also served as a teacher and consultant with the Colorado Writing Project. He is the author of two novels: The Hookmen (Scribner) and Ravenhill (University of New Mexico Press)and lives in Louisville with his wife and two daughters.

A Thank You to Mrs. Nitz by Timothy Hillmer

still ruled, but Bruce Springsteen was emerging as a new force in rock and roll. We affectionately referred to E.H.S. ture course. You probably wouldn’t remember me because however, remember you as being rather shy and conservative with metal-framed glasses and your hair in a tight bun. You weren’t some glamorous, outspoken young teacher who tried to charm her classes with cutesy assignments and edgy

it needs to be about something you’re interested in. That’s the criteria, plain and simple. And it needs to be appropriate for school.” You smiled at us all, casting an especially furtive look at Zwicki. “Extra emphasis on appropriate,” you said with a knowing smile.

teaching and took it seriously, that you cared about me as well.

about me as well. glish classes either. Due to my abominable ineptitude at both

We started writing that day in class, then were giv-

ways been quite skilled at reading and writing. As a result,

there were plenty of moans and groans from my classmates. Chances are strong that Mike Zwicki wrote about his beautiful red Camaro and how he raced it on weekends on the country road infamously known as The Seven Dips. The massive Russ Edison probably wrote about his passion for the gridiron and what it felt like to pulverize his opponents into oblivion every Friday night during football season.

individuals who celebrated the opportunity to share literary ki, who loved his Camaro more than life itself, and Russ Edison, who once left me in a near concussive coma after for you, Mrs. Nitz. Perhaps it was our lack of motivation that triggered your giving us a simple yet risky assignment One day, possibly in mid-February during a typ-

newcomer, who battle in a championship match in Las Vegas for the heavyweight title. At the time of the story’s creeach acters on these two sports legends, and focused the story on men batter themselves into bloody exhaustion.

where this was headed. Another grammar test or prepositions quiz?

manuscript of that story, handwritten on tattered paper Statement Vol. 50, Number 2


the gratuitous and vicious description of the bloodbath that ensued in the ring, the predictable and repetitive nuances of the stock characters, the complete absence of any irony or literary foreshadowing, and the utterly ridiculous twist ending embedded at the conclusion (For the record, you hated that twist ending as well). -

perhaps Mrs. Nitz will see it as well. top of my page, as well as numerous comments written in red in the margin. Wonderfully descriptive...Compelling images here...great characterization...nice use of irony. Even

received two years in a row from my Algebra teacher, Mr. writer for nothing from my high school classes. No memorable assignments. Very few books. No papers or projects or “deep” experiences that fueled my passion for learning. Zip. Zero. Zilch. And yet, to this day,

and read your comments over and over, the words illuminated on the paper like a sacred text -

those pages in my hands and read your comments over and over, the words illuminated on the paper like a fully grasp.

the opportunity to truly thank you for that assignother chance to write like that in high school, nor during my

and getting lost in the glitzy, big money world of Las Vegas

So this is a long overdue attempt at a thank you. You invited me to explore my own voice as a writer and, for scious creative self. ter having published two critically acclaimed novels as well


you with all my heart because this writer and teacher re-

was given the chance to choose an idea of my own and write sense of dread and foreboding. What if she’s offended by all

to write about and trusted me to tell it in my own voice, then validated my efforts with your inspiring comments. Thank you for taking a teaching risk. Thank you for allowing me to write my story. Thank you for taking the time to read the

and gives me an F? What if she posts it on a school bulletin board as an example of something both “inappropriate” and “just plain awful”?

Tim Hillmer E-vil High

writing this story and enjoyed how it made me feel as a perevery single character and setting and image, had come from myself as a learner that went beyond the frustrations and failures which often accompanied my experiences in school. 48

Statement Vol. 50, Number 2

2014 CLAS Fall Regional Conference Our annual CLAS Fall Regional Conference will be held October 10-11, 2014 at the School of Mines in beautiful Golden, Colorado. Friday, October 18 Rebecca Rule is Friday night’s workshop speaker. “From Pittsburgh to Peterborough (Peeta-burah), Becky is out and about telling and gathering stories with a strong dose of good old-fashioned yankee humor (humah). She loves to laugh and to get others laughing, too...” (more at Saturday, October 19 Ted Conover is the keynote on Saturday morning. “I feel lucky to do what I do. I write about real people, often living their lives for a while - visiting their lives, you might say. Trying them on for size.Though there are easier ways to make a living, none strike me as a fraction so interesting...” (more at Chris Crutcher is Saturday’s luncheon speaker. “Crutcher’s years as teacher, then director, of a K-12 alternative school in Oakland, California through the nineteen-seventies, and his subsequent twenty-odd years as a therapist specializing in child abuse and neglect, inform his thirteen novels and two collections of short stories. ‘I have forever been intrigued by the extremes of the human condition,’ he says, ‘the remarkable juxtaposition of the ghastly and the glorious.’” (more at http://

Artwork: “The Chief” by Lórien MacEnulty Palmer High School Colorado Springs, CO

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