The Journal of the Colorado Language Arts Society Spring 2013, Volume 49, Number 2 Inside this Issue: Our Role in the Digital Age: Troy Hicks Elizabeth Homan Bonnie Katzive Debbie Richards Debbie Tawzer Inventors of the Future: Ernest Morrell Thoughts on the CCSS: Tom Romano Cindy Oâ€™DonnellAllen Sarah Woodard Narratives: Karen Hartman Jim Parsons Columns: YA Literature by Marge Freeburn
Old Ways, New Days by Philippe Ernewein
Some Things Shouldnâ€™t Change... by Meredith Collins
The Wheel of Change is Turning by Julia Barrus
Spring 2013 Issue Artwork: Mountain Range High School, Westminster “Self Portrait” by Emily Trent (cover--teacher: Kyle Wimmer) “Freedom” by Hsin-Yin Lin, exchange student (p. 5--teacher: Kim Colegrove) “Mine” by Alexandra McCarty (p. 12--teacher: Kim Colegrove) “The Consequences of Greed” by Carlie Garcia (p. 34--teacher: Kim Colegrove)
The Journal of the Colorado Language Arts Society Fall 2012, Volume 49, Number 1
Our Role? Get out of our students’ way. by Sarah M. Zerwin................................................................................................................................... 4 The Wheel of Change is Turning by Julia Barrus........................................................................................................................................... 6 ELA in the 21st Century: Old Ways, New Days: What My Grandmother Taught Me about Teaching in the Modern World by Philippe Ernewein................................................................................................................................ 7 YA Literature: CTLC 2013, The 25th Annual Colorado Teen Literature Conference: Creating Identity Through Literary Experiences by Marge Freeburn and Jessi Barrientos.............................................................................................. 10 Middle Level ELA: Some Things Shouldn’t Change... by Meredith Collins................................................................................................................................. 15
Feature Articles: Our Role in the Digital Age Inventors of the Future: A Vision for NCTE and Our Affiliates by Ernest Morrell...................................................................................................................................... 17 Obsolete Doesn’t Mean Replaceable: How Effective Technology-Based Learning is Grounded in Social Interaction by Bonnie Katzive................................................................................................................................... 19 The Networked English Teacher by Elizabeth Homan............................................................................................................................... 21 A Conversation Between Three Literacy Educators with Troy Hicks, Debbie Richards, and Debbie Tawzer...................................................................... 28
Thinking about the CCSS It’s Still Complicated: Why Colorado Teachers Should Care about the Common Core by Cindy O’Donnell-Allen and Sarah Woodard................................................................................. 35 What’s Right and Wrong with the Standards for Writing by Tom Romano..................................................................................................................................... 41
Narratives The Discipline of Drudgery by Jim Parsons......................................................................................................................................... 45 A Broken Promise and Eleven Cows by Karen Hartman.................................................................................................................................. 47
Resources Call for Submissions.................................................................................................................................. 2 Guidelines for Contributors...................................................................................................................... 3
Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
Call For Submissions Statement is published two times a year and is one of the benefits of being a member of the Colorado Language Arts Society. 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 2013 Issue: Formula
What is the formula for great teaching in the English Language Arts? How many books should students read? How many papers should they write? How many paragraphs in their essays? How many slides as a visual aide for a presentation? How should we evaluate teachers’ effectiveness employing any particular formula in the classroom? With another formula? Under the pressure of mandated tests that have real consequences for the schools, students, and teachers of Colorado, the hunt for THE formula is on--the formula to put together curricula that integrate the Common Core State Standards, the formula to prepare students for the increased rigors of the new PARCC tests, the formula to teach students to write essays that a computer would rate as proficient, the formula for teacher evaluation to accurately assess a teacher’s true effectiveness in the classroom. In “Changes in Writing Instruction--The Challenge and the Promise” in the March 2013 issue of The Council Chronicle from NCTE, Heather Lattimer, assistant Professor at the School of Leadership and Education Sciences at the University of San Diego says, “So many students are simply going in and applying a formula as opposed to being able to communicate a message, an idea--and that is the crux of what all writing is about: having an idea and being able to communicate it effectively for a clear audience and a clear purpose. [...] We don’t know all the ways now that kids will be expected to communicate in five, 10, 20 years from now. We need to teach kids not just the medium or the genre or the particular form, but how to navigate and manipulate structure and form in order to fit with your purpose and your audience.” Will formula help us address the diverse needs of a classroom of individual thinkers as we prepare them for future communication needs we can’t even imagine now? In the search to find the formula for success in the cacophony of demands on our teaching and our students’ learning, do we lose sight of what it takes to invite our students to engage in our classrooms authentically as readers and writers? When is formula necessary and/or effective in the teaching of reading and writing? Deadline: October 1, 2013.
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 Interviews Outstanding lesson plans Vignettes from the classroom Book reviews Technology Expressive writing by Colorado teachers Reviews of professional research
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 https://www.CLASstatement.org). 2
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Visit CLAS and Statement On-Line CLAS: http://clastalk.ning.com/ Find information about: • conferences and workshops • publications • grants • CLAS membership • licensure updates • updates on state standards and assessments And find inspiration by connecting with colleagues from across the state! Statement: https://CLASstatement.org Read this issue and prior issues and find information about: • calls for submissions • submitting artwork • becoming a reviewer
Guidelines for Contributors Formatting Issues and Submission Process Submissions to Statement should be in MLA style, using in-text 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 separate files. Manuscripts should adhere to the “Guidelines for Gender-Fair Use of Language” which can be found on the NCTE website at: http://www.ncte.org/about/over/positions/category/ lang/107647.htm. 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 from the editorial board as an aid to revision. In light of deadlines, we reserve the right to make minor revisions or 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. In the body of the email which contains the attachment of the manuscript, include the title of the piece, author’s name, author’s job title, affiliation or place of employment, 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, Sarah M. Zerwin, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also see Statement’s website at https://www.CLASstatement.org.
Editorial Information Statement Editorial Board Members Jessica Cuthbertson District Coach, Secondary Literacy Aurora Public Schools, Aurora
Julie Meiklejohn English Language Arts Teacher East Otero School District, La Junta
Katheryn Keyes Instructional Coach Adams 50, Denver
Vince Puzick K-12 Literacy Coordinator Colorado Springs School District #11
Shari VanderVelde Writing Consultant and Coach Mesa County Valley District 51, Grand Junction
Mark Overmeyer Elementary Literacy Coordinator Cherry Creek Schools, Denver
Editor-in-Chief Sarah M. Zerwin Language Arts Teacher Boulder Valley School District email@example.com
Online Assistant Editor Julia Barrus Language Arts Teacher Adams 12 Five Star Schools firstname.lastname@example.org
Before the Bell Columnist Needed
Becoming Better ELA Teachers Gloria Eastman Associate Professor of English & English Education Metropolitan State College of Denver email@example.com
ELA in the 21st Century Phillipe Ernewein Dean of Faculty Training & Development Denver Academy www.rememberit.org
ESL in ELA YAL Update Middle Level ELA Columnist Needed Marge Erickson Freeburn Meredith Collins University of Colorado, Denver Language Arts Teacher Marge.Erickson@ucdenver.edu Cherry Creek School District FmtheSidelines@yahoo.com Elementary ELA Jill Adams Columnist Needed Metropolitan State College, Denver firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement, The Journal of the Colorado Language Arts Society, is published two times a year. ISSN: 1085-2549. The subscription price is included in the CLAS membership dues. Single copies are $10.00. To join CLAS, visit www.clastalk.ning.com. Reproduction of material from this publication (excluding poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction) is authorized if: a) 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. Statement is a member of the NCTE Information Exchange Agreement. The Colorado Language Arts Society opposes discrimination against any person and promotes equal opportunities for access to its activities and publications.
Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
Our Role? Get out of our students’ way. by Sarah M. Zerwin, Editor
Imagine if your students were in charge of designing your school. What would it look like? What sort of work would they design for themselves? What would be the role they asked of you in that vision? I recently learned about The Independent Project (http://www.theindependentproject.org/), a program within a traditional public high school in Massachusetts where the students have designed their own school experience. And it’s brilliant. No tests. No classes. No teachers in front of the room. There are only three things: 1. The weekly question. Each student designs his/ her own question on Monday (with feedback from classmates to make sure it’s an engaging question). On Friday, each student teaches the rest of the class what s/he learned that week. The weekly questions draw on the four core academic areas: math, science, social studies, language arts. 2. The individual endeavor. This is a long-term project that each student takes on for the semester, individually designed. In the past, students have challenged themselves to do such things as write a novel, learn the piano, and build a boat. 3. The collective endeavor. Here the group takes on a project together, negotiating to come up with something that they all believe in. This is often something that they end up doing for the benefit of their greater community. It’s so simple in structure, so different from the complex curriculum planning my district is asking of me now toward the CCSS and preparation for the PARCC tests looming on the horizon, all meant to get our students doing rigorous work.Yet the work that the students do in The Independent Project is rigorous due to being rich and challenging and collaborative, without a group of teachers planning and guiding the work for them.The students work hard because they choose the work. They get things done because they are accountable to their classmates. If they feel they haven’t mastered something, they keep working at it because there is infinite flexibility. What is the teacher’s role in all of this? Mentor. Advisor. Question asker. Sounding board. Supporter. NOT the one 4
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Sarah M. Zerwin teaches language arts and journalism at Fairview High School in Boulder. She completed a PhD in secondary literacy curriculum and instruction from CU-Boulder in 2009. Her email is sarah.zerwin@ bvsd.org.
at the center of the classroom, controlling everything and deciding what students will do with their time at school. Students in The Independent Project make all the decisions about curriculum, about how their work will be assessed, and about how to structure their time at school. And their teachers trust them to make these important decisions and follow through on the work that they lay out for themselves. This is the role we must aspire to if we wish to prepare our students for success in a future world we cannot even quite see clearly. We teachers no longer possess the information--students can access essentially the entire body of human knowledge and the on-going conversation about it via the smart phones they have in their pockets. If our classrooms function as one-way conversations--teacher passing on knowledge to students--we fail to show them how to throw their own voices into the fray. Even a twoway conversation that welcomes student voices is not quite enough, not enough to teach them to handle the layered, constant conversation made possible by Internet-based communication technology. It’s a chorus out there, often dissonant and not a controlled discussion between two parties. The central tenant is connection.Internet communication tools connect us in a glorious global conversation, making it possible for one of my colleagues to have a dialogue via Twitter with Diane Ravitch in New York from our office in Boulder in the middle of a school day. Twitter also made it possible for me to follow ideas coming out of this year’s national IRA conference (#ira2013) as I sat in my pajamas in my living room last Sunday morning. I am using these tools in my classroom, but not as fully as I need to be. I’ve figured out how to use Google Docs and Blogger and our class Facebook page to connect my students with each other, but I need to extend these and connect my students with the world outside. I need to open up my classroom to the real world problems my students think are important, and not the problems that I think they should find important--a critical distinction. I need to work with my students to figure out how to leverage the English Language Arts to address those problems. If I always stand between my students and the real work they need to be able to do on their own, I will
not prepare them for success in the digital age. It’s not about the digital tools themselves (though literacy with the tools themselves is critical)--it’s about how the tools have shifted the landscape and what it means to be literate in that space. I have to admit that immediately after I learned about The Independent Project, I had a moment where I thought I actually could not go back to my classroom ever again. I just couldn’t imagine how I could carry on in my teaching world where bells ring to tell everyone where to go and when, and where I have to take attendance and put grades in Infinite Campus, and where I struggle to carve out flexibility wherever I can to differentiate for my students. But then I remembered how much I love where I teach, the smart people I teach with, and the students I am lucky to have people my classroom. So I’ve been trying to figure out which pieces of The Independent Project I can adapt for my teaching world, and I realized that over the last few years, my teaching has gradually relinquished control to my students in places where they benefit from the decision making.We read fewer books together that I choose for the whole class, and they read more books that they choose individually, selected to challenge their own thinking about real questions they have about their lives. What I ask my students to write requires
more carefully crafted pieces by them as individual writers where they must make decisions in both topic and format. I encourage them to struggle with complexity even though the process is messy and complicated to assess. I’ve become more comfortable with the controlled chaos that happens in my classroom when teenagers show up fully engaged in the learning. In the spaces created when I step back, my students step forward, and they are more in control of the path of their learning, teaching me along the way. I’m not doing any less work now having given up some of the decisions I used to make for them as a teacher--it’s just different work. I build scaffolds that require my students’ engaged thinking to fill in the details. And believe me, I still have a long way to go in this work, in finding ways to get my students fully in charge of their learning.The digital tools available to me help, but it’s really more about the kinds of connection and interaction those digital tools make possible, connections between what happens in my classroom and the world beyond, to the space where my students will carve out their futures. This is the practice they need to ace the most important test of all--life.
Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
The Wheel of Change is Turning by Julia Barrus, Online Assistant Editor
I signed on to teach the new English 10 Language Arts course at my school and within my district because I wanted to move on after four years of teaching English 9. I wanted some new content and a slightly different age group. I wanted a chance to find my creative voice as a teacher again--and boy did I get it. Unlike some other high schools in my district, I did not choose to pilot the standards last year during the transition year between ending American Literature at the tenth grade level and adopting this new course. However, I did familiarize myself with the standards and participate in creating a new anthology for all tenth graders in my district that incorporated mentor texts from Joan Didion, Barak Obama, and Voltaire to name just a few. It was in the creation of this anthology that I began to see a problem, a big problem. Many of my students in this year’s English 10 class simply have not had enough exposure to the “increased rigor” of content and skills required to master the new national Common Core State Standards. To put it simply, they were not prepared for reading (or writing) they are now being asked to do. Logically, it seems that some mismatched knowledge and skills would be expected during a period of curricular transition. However, given that we are also in a transitional period for our teacher assessment protocols and state mandated testing, the wheel seems to be turning a bit backwards. Transitions are always difficult, but when the gap between students and teachers with regard to speaking a common language about what works in the classroom seems wider than ever, does it make sense to proceed with so much change in such a hasty fashion? We want to make sure that we leave “No Child Left Behind” and in that process, leave no stone unturned when researching best practices for teaching and learning. I believe this and public outcry against the decades-old 6
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Julia Barrus has taught Language Arts at Mountain Range High School in Westminster since August of 2007. She is originally from Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California. Julia moved to Colorado in July of 2007 and now considers Colorado her second-favorite state. When she isn’t teaching, Julia enjoys reading just about anything, knitting, watching geeky sci-fi television shows or movies, traveling with her family, and cooking (or eating) yummy food.
practice of granting tenure to teachers has lead to the adoption of the Common Core and changes in the teacher evaluation and state testing protocols. Overall, I don’t believe the changes are bad. However, I do have concerns about the pace with which things are changing, and in the process, central pieces that may be overlooked. The State Standards ask for me as an English 10 teacher to find a way to teach Seminal U.S. Documents of historical and social significance and a Shakespeare play in the same year. I have found a way to do it. We discussed and read speeches from leaders people believed in who actually turned out to be tyrants after we read Shakespeare’s Macbeth. We read “Letter from Birmingham Jail” just before studying, The Autobiography of Malcolm-X. We are preparing to read 1984 just after a speech unit where students will read, analyze and write their own TED talks. In helping to create and align a course with standards that are more rigorous, I have reached one of my goals for the year. I have found my creative voice as a teacher, but have my students found theirs? Will their scores on the state tests show this? Should state test scores be something they or I consider in the process of creating a classroom that is a place of learning, collaboration, and ultimately, hope? We live in a fast-paced world. I worry every day that I haven’t done enough--quickly enough--to prepare my students to read, interpret, analyze, think critically, and contribute as a part of this massive information age. I grow increasingly more concerned that they are disconnected from me and from each other as the gap between us in age, communication styles, and the ways we learn grows wider. Nevertheless, my students and I continue doing as we are instructed to do, trusting that those who make the rules, those who dictate the material we place in front of students, know exactly what they are doing, and that the wheel turning so fast isn’t broken.
ELA in the 21st Century
Old Ways, New Days: What My Grandmother Taught Me About Teaching in the Modern World by Philippe Ernewein
“In retelling stories, it’s clear to listeners-my children in this case--who the speakers are, or who the story concerns. Obvious advantages of oral storytelling are the expression of the teller, the responses of the participants, and the gestures as well as the inflections in the voices. Although many of the stories or jokes that are told can be translated and relayed fairly well in written form, the clear sense of voices and characters is diminished in some ways, so that even though it’s obvious when I tell a story orally that I’m not the protagonist or other person, the reader of a story may interpret it otherwise (xiii).” Luci Tapahonso, Blue Horses Rush In Flashback: First-year Teacher Blues During my first week of teaching, nineteen years ago this August, I remember preparing for a lesson on creative writing for a high school language arts class. I thought that part of my introduction should include a personal story where I could model details, symbols, and metaphors. I rehearsed telling the story in front of a mirror and jotted notes down to make sure I hit the objectives. After the bell rang for second period, the students picked up their writing folders from their classroom mailboxes. I thought things were really going smoothly. The lesson was off to a great start. Then I said, “Today, I’d like to start class by telling a story.” I distinctly remember that this was all I said before the interruption. Immediately after my opening statement, one of my students, Nadia, blurted out something between a question and a statement, “You are going to tell us a story.” With her inflection at the end of the sentence I took it as a question and said, “Yes.” Nadia replied loudly with the following announcement, more directed towards the class than to me, “A story is a lie, so you are telling us that you are going to lie to us.”
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 www.rememberit.org.
Pandemonium broke out. Other students joined Nadia’s chorus, “Oh no, what kind of teacher are you, telling us lies?” I was in Louisiana. In my students’ collective and cultural background and vernacular, telling a story was equated with telling a lie. I should have done my homework a bit more thoroughly and been more aware of the possible implications of my word choice. My classroom management needed work as well. But Nadia was displaying excellent critical thinking skills. Even before she heard my story, she wanted to know if it was true, if it was valid; she was wondering how she would categorize and make sense of the story. She was actively engaged in trying to make sense of the words, ideas, assumptions and narratives that constructed her worldview. How would my worldview match with hers; what would be different or similar and what would that sound and feel like? I wish she would have elected to pursue this inquisitive, truth-seeking track in a manner that didn’t create total mutiny during my first week of teaching, but nonetheless, I valued her critical thinking. This is a True Story: Irene & Lloyd Irene stepped on a boat, SS Aquitania, in Antwerp, Belgium in 1946 and headed West to a new world. Right after the war, she had married a Canadian soldier, who was part of the liberation of Belgium, and was going to live with him in Ontario. His name was Lloyd. Irene had just turned twenty-two; she was a war bride. She spoke no English and Lloyd, no Flemish;
Lloyd and Irene, 1945
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love, admiration, romance and youth were the language they both spoke fluently. As was common in Europe during times of invasion and occupation, Irene’s formal education had ended when Germany invaded Belgium in May 1940. In a letter about those first days of German occupation in Belgium, Irene wrote: The Germans came marching and singing into Turnhout; we didn’t know at the time, but in a village nearby, they had killed eight men. They put them against the wall and shot them. We stood watching the German soldiers march into our town. I still don’t understand why we didn’t stay inside to make them feel that they were not welcome. During the war Irene hid in the basement of a monastery near her home with twenty others. They told jokes, shared stories and most importantly shared news they had gathered from radio, newspapers, neighbors and those who had returned from active war zones and political prisons. After a few days a man arrived from a nearby town and said all men under forty years old were being taken to Germany. Irene’s father, Josef, was born in 1899. He and a few other men left on their bikes in the middle of the night. They pedalled as far as the coast and stayed away for seventeen days. Along the way they hid in barns, ditches and churches; they avoided being captured during this round-up. Eventually life had to go on. Irene and her family returned home with her elderly grandmother transported in a wheelbarrow pushed by the sixteen year old boy in the group. They had made a plan prior to leaving the monastery that if they saw airplanes or heard bombs on the road back to town they would seek cover and hide in the ditch next to the road. When the bombs did drop, they just ran like hell. Journal Excerpt: March 2013, Turnhout, Belgium Moeke, after the invasion, how did you get your news and how did you know which sources you could trust? She answered me in Flemish with beautiful endearing language that a 90 year-old grandmother uses with her grandson, “Ja jongen, dat wisten wij gewoon.” Loosely translated as, “Well dear one, we simply knew.” And I wonder, what do we simply know today and how do we know it to be true when so much of our news comes to us through a singular medium: a screen. Then she continues with more specifics about receiving news during a time of war. The radio broadcasts from England were the best, but it was a crime under the new German laws to listen to that broadcast. She makes a point to tell me that didn’t stop her from listening. Newspapers were trusted depending on where they came from and who controlled them. Other news came from people who had been picked up and arrested and came back to tell their stories. She said some of the stories were so sinister and 8
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horrific that she almost could not believe them when she first heard them. “But of course we believed them because we had known these people our entire lives.” After the war, in newspapers and newsreels, they found out their stories of crimes against humanity were true. “The news coming from across the channel was the best news and we always hoped it was true.” She punctuates this last sentence with a kind of loving cross-generational, check for understanding, “Ge weet wel wat ik bedoel, eh?” (You know what I’m talking about, right?). Yes Moeke, I will never forget it. High School Language Arts Classroom: “Never Again” With my grandparents being directly impacted by World War II, I have frequently selected a memoir from that time period among the various texts that I read with my students in language arts classes. The stories written about Europe 1933 - 1945 are loaded with important lessons, opportunities for critical thinking skills and connections to modern day life. Along with books by Elie Wiesel, Victor Frankl and Art Spiegelman, I also use excerpts from newspapers, publications from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and passages from Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich. While I use only snippets from Speer’s lengthy memoir, the passages often lead to amazing discussions and insight with both middle school and high school students. Speer’s memoir was partly written while he was in prison after the Nuremberg Trials. One passage in particular highlights the important role of school, and more importantly what happens when school is just a place of obedience and memorization. Excerpt: from Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich Reflecting on his decision-making process: As an intellectual I might have been expected to collect documentation with the same thoroughness and to examine various points of view with the same lack of bias that I had learned to apply to my preliminary architectural studies. This failure was rooted in my inadequate political schooling. As a result, I remained uncritical, unable to deal with the arguments of my student friends, who were predominantly indoctrinated with the National Socialist ideology. (19) When I think about my current and future role as a teacher in the modern world, I see part of the answer in Speer’s reflection about his own schooling. He remained uncritical. Unable to argue, persuade, offer counterpoints or ask clarifying questions. I don’t mean to imply that simply teaching and practicing critical thinking skills could prevent an atrocity like the Holocaust. Nor do I mean that this is
our one and only role as teachers in the modern world. However I do see critical thinking skills as an essential ingredient for a healthy democracy and an actively engaged citizenry. As educators in the modern world, we must be the caretakers not only of the content of our subject areas, but also the skills sets needed to think critically about the information, stories, theories, histories, and screens that our students will encounter.
T: Is this true? What are you assuming? Is this always true? What could we assume instead? You seem to have this point of view. How would other groups respond? What would someone who disagrees say? E: Evidence. How do you know? What would be an example? Is there good evidence to believe this? Are these reasons adequate? Can someone give evidence to support this?
The Meaning TEST: A Critical Thinking Tool For a number of years I have been following the work of S: So what? So what are the implications and inferDr. Richard Paul. He is is the Director of Research and Proences? What are you implying? What effect would fessional Development at the Center for Critical Thinking that have? Would that necessarily happen or proband Chair of the National Council for Excellence in Critical ably happen? Thinking. At Denver Academy, we have adapted some of Dr. Paulâ€™s strategies to be used in elementary, middle and high T: Take a look at conclusions and possible alternaschool classroom. One of my favorite strategies is the Meantives explanations. How could we settle this quesing TEST. Along the lines of a traditional Socratic Method, tion? Who can we find out? Are there alternative this strategy for analyzing, questioning, evaluating and synexplanations? thesising is a simple and practical way to incorporate critical thinking skills into our everyday lessons. The Meaning part of the slogan leads off with a series Postscript: With Gratitude Nadia was my teacher as much as my student. of suggested questions to pose at the beginning of a discusIrene is Moeke, my grandmother. sion or exploration of a topic. The acronym TEST follows Lloyd was a decorated soldier in the Canadian army and with further specific lines of clarifying questions that help to more completely and accurately understand the issue, topic my grandfather; he died before I was born. I dedicate this story to him. or problem being discussed. Meaning: what do you mean by this? Can you tell me more? It seems to me you are saying ____ .What is your main point? What do you think was meant by that remark? Can someone summarize what is being discussed? What is your point of view?
Works Cited Tapahonso, Luci. Blue Horses Rush In. Tucson, NM: University of Arizona Press, 1997. Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich. New York: Macmillan, 1970. For more information about Dr. Richard Paul, Director of Research and Professional Development at the Center for Critical Thinking, visit www. criticalthinking.org.
Lloyd & Irene on motorcyle, 1946
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CTLC 2013, The 25th Annual Colorado Teen Literature Conference: Creating Identity through Literary Experiences by Marge Freeburn and Jessi Barrientos with Owyn Cooper, Kateland Lawton, and Steven Page
Who am I and how do I want others to know me? Will anyone ever know the real me? Do I want them to? Or should others know only the person I allow them to see? Is defining myself—finding my identity—primarily a matter of control? CTLC featured authors Jay Asher, Lauren Oliver, Emily Hainsworth, and C. S. Shride, present fictional worlds that depict teens discovering and defining their identities. CTLC includes published authors, teachers, librarians, parents, university faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and teens as panelists, presenters, and exhibitors. For this article a librarian, a teen blogger, two MSUD students, and a university instructor share responses to the featured authors’ novels. Jessi Barrientos from the High Plains Library District reviewed 13 Reasons Why, Before I Fall, Delirium and Pandemonium, and compiled the Readalike lists for Jay Asher and Lauren Oliver. Owyn Cooper’s review of The Future of Us is included here only in text form and readers are encouraged to read her enhanced review at <thebookstoreinternchronicles.blogspot.com>. Kate Lawton, MSUD student, reviewed Before I Fall. Steven Page, MSUD student, shared his review of Thirteen Reasons Why. Marge Freeburn contributed reviews of Through to You, the ebooks Delirium Stories: Annabel, Hana, and Raven and Lucy Dakota, and provided additional comments on Lauren Oliver’s and Jay Asher’s novels and source information for the playlists developed by Lauren Oliver and Emily Hainsworth. Reviews and Recommendations Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver Review by Kateland Lawton Student, Metropolitan State University of Denver In a single car swerve, Samantha Kingston’s life ends. 10
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Dr. Marge Erickson Freeburn is a lecturer at the University of Colorado, Denver, School of Education.
Jessi Barrientos is a librarian at High Plains Library District with a passion for readers’ advisory and teen literature.
Yet she is brought back to experience her last day on Earth, going through events she sees and alters seven times. Sam starts out popular amongst her peers, has a handsome boyfriend, and never considers herself to want or need anything else. But as she goes through the same timeline, learning more each instance the day winds down, Sam begins to realize what she has overlooked in her life. She starts to understand that there are some things too precious to give up, even if it results in her death… permanently. Review by Jessi Barrientos Think reliving the same day over and over sounds painful? Try it when you or someone you love dies a horrible, painful death at the end of that day. Although I generally find the time loop plot line obnoxious, Lauren Oliver truly makes it work. Her characters are beautifully drawn and fully fleshed out. Sam initially comes across as a class A brat but soon begins to evolve into a very sympathetic person.The bullying committed by Sam and her friends will be difficult for some to read, but it is an important topic to explore. The lonely tone of the novel will connect with many readers and the exploration of the impact of the small actions both on the people around us and on the cosmic plan rings true.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher Review by Steven Page Student, Metropolitan State University of Denver Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why is a riveting tale that explores the psyche of the high school teenager. Asher uses a unique and creative way of story telling in order to entertain and portray both the masculine and feminine voices while tackling issues very prominent in the world of
today’s teens. Asher uses these diverse voices in a rapidfire style in order to keep the reader’s attention through what becomes a roller coaster of emotions for any reader, young or old. Thirteen Reasons Why is a breathtaking novel and should be a must read for all lovers of great fiction. Review by Jessi Barrientos Can you say you like a book that is about teen suicide? Perhaps not, but the story did move me deeply. I recently watched a TED Talk in which the speaker called for a more open dialogue about suicide to begin overcoming the many taboos that surround this subject. Hannah faces this enforced silence when she anonymously suggests that her class discuss the topic and all of her classmates effectively shut down the discussion in embarrassment. It is something we need to discuss rather than cover up and I think that is why I listened to Thirteen Reasons Why even though it is a tough subject. The characters are wonderfully drawn and sympathetic. It explores isolation, pain, the banality of evil, and a whole host of big ideas in a way that is extremely relatable. If you enjoy audiobooks, the story is brought fully to life by brilliant narration. This beautifully written book will break your heart. But you should still pick it up if only to challenge your own reactions to suicide and to remind yourself of the power of your everyday actions.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver Review by Jessi Barrientos I thought I was all dystopian’d out, but I picked up the first in the Delirium series to celebrate Lauren Oliver’s upcoming appearance at the Colorado Teen Literature Conference and it grabbed me right away. The idea is intriguing – society has come to view love as a disease and has developed a lobotomy-like surgery applied after a person’s 18th birthday as a cure. When we meet Lena, she is like many dystopian heroines – fully believing in society’s dictates and rather gullible as a result. Of course, she must face the reality of the oppression in her world and the force that causes her to do this is the dreaded Amor Deliria Nervosa that infects her when she meets Alex. The romance in the novel is particularly appealing – it’s of the slowly smoldering variety and the development of their relationship is both sweet and fraught with danger. The pace of the story is leisurely, but picks up quickly in the end when we are left in abject terror for our heroine. Overall it is an engaging and gripping story and will leave readers clambering for more.
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. Review by Jessi Barrientos While reading Delirium, I worried that Lena would
fall into the passive heroine category that is surprisingly prevalent in the teen dystopian world, but Pandemonium put my fears to rest. She certainly comes into her own in this novel as she grieves for her loved ones and learns to find the inner strength to survive in a new and terrifying world. She doesn’t hesitate to take on enraged friends, violent hooligans, even the very fabric of the society that she was raised in. A new love interest is introduced in this novel – I had hoped to escape the dreaded love triangle trope for once but it looks like Oliver is building up to some serious romantic drama on top of a violent rebellion. However, the incredibly gorgeous language that Oliver employs in her novels and the excellent character development kept me reading. The third installment of the novel was released in early March and I know that I and my fellow Delirium series readers will be excited to join Lena in the last part of her journey.
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. Review by Owyn Cooper Student, Fairview High School thebookstoreinternchronicles.blogspot.com I was very intrigued by this book. All my friends and I agreed that this was a very interesting premise. Here are the things I liked: *AND SPOILERS ARE AHEAD! AVERT YOUR EYES* 1. Awesome Premise (as stated above previously). What’s cooler than a book that’s barely sci-fi with a hint of historical with a ton of teen angst and romance? Nothing. That is the answer. I also liked how Asher and Mackler made the main theme/idea of the book the whole “Do you really want to know your future? And will you try to change it if you do?” (This is a lit magazine, so I have to be fancy.) 2. Josh and Emma are so cute together. What happened last November when EVERYTHING CHANGED was Josh acting on their sexual tension. And I was like, Oh no that can’t end well... but then their relationship/friendship OBVIOUSLY had to become more but Emma had this weird infatuation with a runner but then they kissed and YAY! 3. The ending was SO PERFECT. So even though Josh suddenly got way more attractive to the other girls at the school and got to go out with the hottest girl in school, he still liked Emma a lot. And Emma finally realized she could only have a great future if it is with Josh, and then the ball pit and then the pizza place and I can’t even finish this without being attacked by my emotions. But yes, if you haven’t already you should read this book. Additional reviews and comments by Marge Freeburn In Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver gives Samantha Kingston, near death in a car crash, the chance to reflect on her life, Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
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realize what she really values, and choose a different self who will be remembered. In her Dystopian trilogy Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem, Oliver’s two main characters Lena and Hana experiment with various images of possible selves. They live in a totalitarian society that demands conformity; by age eighteen they will have a surgical procedure that will define the possibilities of their existence so narrowly that they will be protected from the disease amor deliria nervosa and all other human emotions. Lena escapes, but the many challenges she faces in The Wilds cause her to re-invent herself many times. Hana seems to accept her fate until circumstances finally make her realize who she wants to be in her world. Several novellas published originally as the ebooks Annabel, Hana, and Raven, relate backstories that show how the fight against circumstances defined them Resistence members. In The Future of Us, written by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, two teens experience a sci-fi type of flashback to the 70’s and the early days of on-line identity creation. While setting up an AOL account, they connect to Facebook and post profiles. Josh is pleasantly surprised as his future life is revealed, but Emma continuously changes the future by manipulating her Facebook identity. These explorations are humorous yet thought provoking as Emma tries to discover who she wants to be and what she values in life. Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why is tragic story of a teen’s identity challenges in a realistically depicted contemporary world. Hannah Baker has committed suicide but in a set of tapes she recorded, she confronts those she believes refused to see her for who she was. Hannah Baker realized that she could not make others see her real self. She could not control the images of her that they had created. In her taped messages she wanted others to learn how wrong they had been. Perhaps she thought that they would feel guilt; perhaps she hoped to make them more sensitive. In the end Hannah wanted to be in control of her identity, to make sure they remembered who she really was, even though it was too late. The text is powerful if the reader identifies Clay. Listening to the tapes at www.thirteenreasonswhy. com/tapes however allows the reader to identify with Hannah Baker. “Who am I without her?” The question drives Camden to return again and again to the corner where his girlfriend Viv died in a car crash. He senses her nearness, and is pulled into an alternate universe where she is still alive. Emily Hainsworth’s first book Through to You raises questions about how our relationships affect our identity. In Camden’s story,Viv’s second chance threatens his life. C.S. (Suzie) Shride won the 2012 Colorado Humanities Award for Young Adult Fiction for her coming of age novel Lucy Dakota: Rocky Mountain Beginnings, the first book in the Adventures of a Modern Explorer series. Shride relates Lucy Dakota’s metamorphasis from a timid, chubby,
bookish, unpopular middle schooler to a confident, outgoing, attractive, competent and courageous adventurer. Lucy’s transformation began with physical changes. Unpleasant consequences and self-reflection on some poor decisions helped her define her values and think about the identity she wanted to create for herself. Shride depicts Lucy participating in Colorado’s outdoor activities and then reflecting on the ways her relationships with others influence her development. In the Ultimate Challenge, a 25 day wilderness backpacking course the summer after high school graduation, Lucy demonstrates leadership, maturity, and a clear sense of her own identity. These novels have dynamic characters who grow and change within the structure of the novel. As reader R\ response theorists argue, each reader brings his/her own experiences and his/her own identities to interact with the text to create the experience.These authors have established strong relationships with their readers through their blogs and their individual websites and have created additional social media and digital opportunities for readers to stay connected to the fictional teens. For example, listening to Hannah Baker’s voice (even though we know it’s an actor shaping an audiobook) makes the text of Thirteen Reasons Why come alive. Lauren Oliver has compiled a playlist of Resistance songs for Delirium and another for Requiem. She “shares the songs that capture this beautifully haunting novel about the power of love and what one will risk in order to keep it.” Emily Hainsworth has compiled a playlist to accompany Through to You. The selections enhance the eerie mood of the story and advance the plot. C.S. Shride’s Lucy Dakota has a website that includes an on-line advice column, t-shirts, tie-ins with an outdoor leadership camp, in addition to video clips of the author’s research trips to Nepal. Avid readers frequently use social media to enhance and expand their literary experiences. They publish their responses and evaluations through blogs such as Owyn Cooper’s. Goodreads provides a discussion forum for posting reviews and recommendations. Fan fiction writers continue the stories in often unique and unexpected ways. Aspiring authors are becoming aware of the variety of careers that make up the publishing industry. Many teens realize the value of participating in critique groups, editorial panels, writing workshops, and self-publishing opportunities. Yet another aspect of creative self-expression was presented at CTLC by teacher and author Hannah Hilbert in her non-fiction literary guidebook Memories in Motion: Creating a Graphic Cache of Travel Moments. This approach is based on the idea that documenting experiences such as travel and interactions like CTLC while they are lived provides us with tangible evidence of who we were and who we are becoming.
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Works Cited Asher, Jay. Th1rteenR3asons Why. Razorbill. New York. 2007. Asher, Jay. ThIrteenR3asons Why audiotapes. www. 13Reasonswhy.com Asher, Jay and Carolyn Mackler. The Future of Us. Razorbill. New York. 2012. Cooper, Owyn. <thebookstoreinternchronicles.blogspot. com>. Hainsworth, Emily. The Official Through to You Playlist. Balzer and Bray. Digital pdf at www.amazon.com. 2013. Hainsworth, Emily. Through to You. Balzar+Bray. New York. 2012. Hilbert, Hannah. Memories in Motion: Creating a Graphic Cache of Travel Moments. Banyan Tree Press. Englewood, Colorado. 2012.
Oliver, Lauren. Before I Fall. Harper. New York. 2010. Oliver, Lauren. Delirium. Harper. New York. 2011. Oliver, Lauren. Delirium stories: hana, annabel, & raven. Harper. New York. Print edition 2013. Kindle ebooks at www.amazon .com . Harper Collins. New York. 2013. Oliver, Lauren. Pandemonium. Harper. New York. 2012. Oliver, Lauren. Requiem. Harper. New York. 2013. Oliver, Lauren. Songs of Resistance: Delirium Playlist. www. amazon.com 2013. Oliver, Lauren. Songs of Resistance: Requiem Playlist. www. amazon.com 2013. Shride, C.S. Lucy Dakota: Rocky Mountain Beginnings. My Piece of the Puzzle, LLc. Lakewood, CO. 2011. www. lucydakota.com
Jay Asher, 2013 CTLC Keynote Speaker:
by Jessi Barrientos
Lauren Oliver, 2013 CTLC Keynote Speaker: If you enjoyed Before I Fall, try... Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher ...for the lonely tone, the exploration of the impact of small actions, and the beautifully drawn characters. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen ...for another girl whose world is turned upside down forcing her to re-discover herself and what is truly important. If I Stay by Gayle Forman ...for the difficult decision that Mia, the narrator, must face and the touch of paranormal that enhances rather than dominates the story. If you enjoyed the Delirium series, try... Matched by Ally Condie ...for a dystopian world that seems ideal until the characters begin to uncover its true nature. Wither by Lauren DeStefano ...for a character who believes she cannot control her destiny until she finds the strength to act. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater ...for a wonderful romance that is threatened by circumstances beyond their control. If you enjoyed Liesl and Po, try... A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz ...for an exciting adventure touched by traditional fairy tales. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman ...for a friendship created by epic adventure. Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson ...for heroes in unespected places and plenty of humor thrown in. If you enjoyed The Spindlers, try... Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins ...for another world filled with strange creatures. The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black ...for adventure in unexpected places. The Traitor King by Todd Mitchell ...for siblings forced into adventure in a strange world. 14
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If you enjoyed Thirteen Reasons Why, try... Speak by Laurie halse Anderson ...for an isolated teen afraid to share her story and reach out for help. Looking for Alaska by John Green ...for the unexpected consequences of a friendship and love gone wrong. Identical by Ellen Hopkins ...for an exploration of the danger of secrets and the impact of both our actions and inactions. Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles ...for another teen faced with the reality of death and forced into exploring what it truly means to live. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver ...for the lonely tone, the exploration of the impact of small actions, and the beautifully drawn characters. The Pact by Jodi Picoult ...for an exploration of the permanent consequences of the decisions we make. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney ...for teens who decide to be avengers instead of victims. If you enjoyed The Future of Us, try... Ready Player One by Ernest Cline ...for more life-altering adventures with technology. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow ...for a techy teen whose life goes haywire because of his online activities. Nick and Norahâ€™s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan ...for another book written by two authors to create unique voices and fun adventures. Winter Town by Stephen Emond ...for an exploration of how to recover a friendship that is strained by the ways we change as we grown up. Through to You by Emily Hainsworth ...for a guy who discovers parallel universes and gets a second chance to keep the love of his life alive. Every You, Every Me by David Levithan ...for another guy receiving messages from an unlikely place. Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone ...for a time traveling teen, a lot of romance, and more flashbacks to the 90â€™s.
Middle Level ELA
Some Things Shouldn’t Change... by Meredith Collins
I remember when I was a student—way, way back in the day—and the word “technology” had to be learned. It was a new word, one that confused me at first. I remember sitting in my Computer Programming class, a semester long class mind you, listening intently to my instructor. I was in the 8th grade, never having seen an Apple II computer before, nonetheless actually getting to use one. I was excited and afraid all at the same time. I mean, what if I broke this thing? I learned an entirely new vocabulary—including the words: floppy disk, drive, monitor, programming, and ROM. Before this class, these words didn’t even exist in my world. My teacher told us we’d begin by writing the program, spend another few weeks entering in our data, and then our programming would produce an image on the screen. I didn’t believe her. I mean, really, how in the world would I be able to create a picture to appear on a screen? I filled an entire notebook with programming data, then spent a few weeks inputting the data into the Apple II. The keyboard was so awkward, so different than the manual typewriters I’d be using once I got into high school. After every entry, I double-checked my work—knowing if my entries weren’t perfect no picture would ever appear. I saved my work every day to the floppy disk. And then one day I was finally ready! I remember raising my hand, so nervous, and my teacher making her way over. “Are you sure you’re ready?” she asked me and I shook my head in the assent, so filled with anticipation. After a long, tedious 14 weeks of entry and learning, I was able to FINALLY see my product. I hit ENTER and a picture of a computerized house, with a tree, and the sun appeared on the screen. Its green glow was nothing compared to the joy I was experiencing! Exciting stuff! Since that time, technology has come a long way. When I tell my students of my first computer experience, they laugh—unable to comprehend anyone taking so much time and effort to produce a really crappy piece of clipart (another new term, as it sure didn’t exist back in my 8th grade class). As a teacher, I’m seeing less and less effort and time having to be spent on anything. I mean why learn? Why study? If you need to know something, just Google it. And it’s this Google-when-needed mentality that frightens me
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 lover of fiction, Meredith is working on completing her first YA novel and is proud to present her first novel, Mr. Rights Gone Wrong, which can be found at http://mrrightsgonewrong.com/index. php. You can find her blog at http:// merelovesthepack.blog or on Twitter: @ FmTheSidelines.
the most when it comes to my students. How do I, as a teacher in the 21st Century but with the work ethic of the 20th Century, get my students to understand the value of knowledge? Of learning? To really know something versus finding the answer immediately on the Internet? How do I make books as needed as their Facebook? How do I allow them to see the power of the written word, and not just through texting or tweeting or Instagramming? Quite the challenge, and quite necessary. As an 8th grade teacher, I first had to take a step back and remember what it was like to be in 8th grade. Lucky for me, I still had all my old journals—filled with the same drama I see every day in the hall. Being a teen hasn’t changed all too much, just the tools used. Instead of passing notes, they text. Instead of teachers catching the notes, they look for eyes diverted under the desk. Crushing on the cute boy is still happening, except now one gets to stare at his Facebook pictures versus the yearbook pictures. There will always be the popular girl, except now she may at least friend you virtually—something the unpopular would never have had a shot at in the real world. Drama exists both in and out of school, and the rival schools are all still in place. There’s the teacher you can’t stand and the teachers who are adored. School lunch still blows, the lockers still aren’t used, and friends are still the best part of everyday—unless you’re in a fight with them, which still happens at least once a week. The good news is if you are the one who’s cast aside, you can always look at your cell phone, text, or appear to be completely engage with something else—back in the day we just used a book. Same ideas, different tools. And with this knowledge, I began to realize the role of teacher has had to change in some ways and has had to remain the same in others. My students often tell me I should have been one of two things—an attorney or a preacher. What they don’t realize is I’m both every single day, but with the title of teacher. Because our kids are so inundated with technology, with high action video games and movies and television, the old school method of lecture and take notes would never give way to the spark and interest I want to create in my students. And so I preach my lesson. I use my voice as a Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
way to grab hold of their souls, using the good old rhetorical triangle to my advantage. I play devil’s advocate all the time—so much so my students would never be able to tell where my religious, political, or social passions lie. I make them think of things they never thought about. Teach them how to critically think their way through different problems. And boy do I make them question everything, even me. I tell them on day one, “If you automatically take every thing I say to you without ever questioning me, you are not doing your job as my student. Don’t assume I know it all just because the title ‘Dr.’ is in front of my name.” And their eyes widen, as they realize thinking is now a requirement. It’s this thinking about the source I’m hoping to get through to them. I want them to not only question me and question others, but to start questioning those Google sources they instantly turn to. I sometimes allow them to use their phones as a resource, much like how encyclopedias or dictionaries or library resources were used in the “old days.” Other days all they’re allowed to use is their brain. And on most days when they exit my class their brains are aching, or at least I’m hoping they are. Teaching in the 21st century means I am an actor on a stage, five hours a day with a new play being performed five times a week. And they eat it up. I’m a storyteller, letting them into the memories of my youth and they crave those stories--always asking for more. I’m a counselor who listens to their woes--whether they are of family issues or the anger and detachment they’re feeling because they’re being grounded from their phone or their IPod or their computer. It means I’m a librarian always making recommendations for good books or good movies. I’m a referee in a boxing ring supervising the drama about to unfold, separating when necessary, other times just ringing the bell and letting them go. I’m a medic, a really, really bad medic, there to help the injured or sick child--honestly to merely shoo them out of my room to head down to the nurse. I’m a terrible medic. I’m a housecleaner, constantly sanitizing the desks and chairs and anything else in need of sanitizing or picking up and straightening the mess usually left behind. I’m the creative mind behind every lesson plan, the mediator during parent-teacher conferences, and the copier queen (able to fix the thing with a swift kick on most days). I’m the correspondence guru and the snack vendor--keeping those needed snacks for hungry kids without lunch money. I’m the sole provider for classroom supplies with a budget of zero. I’m the almighty of my classroom, making the decision of pass or fail. I’m the accountant, the coach, and the one who must inspire. I’m the warden always keeping a close eye on the cheaters or the nappers or the I’m-going-to-putmy-ear-buds-up-through-my-hoodie-and-she’ll-never-see-it ones. I’m the therapist reading the stories or the letters of the ones in need, the reporter when I must, and at times the rapper just to make them laugh. I’m the comedian, although my jokes are not gotten by most, and the enforcer when 16
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they don’t meet my expectations. And all of this is what I do…on Monday. There are so many other aspects to my job, but the one I love the most is the one I hope never changes. The one technology cannot replace. The one every child I’ve ever come across needs. And that is my role of caretaker. As a teacher, it’s important for me to notice the little things--whether it’s their new haircut, a new outfit, or when their mood changes. To compliment them, to push them, to guide them. I love when they start to realize what amazing people they are, when they see their age doesn’t determine their ability to love, to hate, to feel. That they are more than just a bratty teenager on the verge of change. Those moments when they teach me something new about my lesson or about myself are the best moments of all. And this, my friend, is the part of education that has never changed. The part I hope never changes. When I think of the teachers who inspired me all those years ago, before technology ever took hold, those caretakers are the names I remember. Mr. Kruesel, my 7th-10th grade English teacher, who always made it a point to simply say, “Good morning, Meredith,” with a smile and a pat on the shoulder when necessary. Mrs. Beyers, my kindergarten teacher, who let me pass out the graham crackers and milk when I was having a rough day. Mr. Schultz, my 9th grade Science teacher, who always made me feel like an intellect. Mr. Hahn who calmly got me through Driver’s Ed--how this was possible was beyond me because my driving was not for the weak-hearted. Mrs. Hiles who not only taught me 8th grade Science, but also was an amazing coach--always pushing me further than I ever thought possible. And Coach Robinson, from Central High School, who not only bought me my letterman’s jacket because my family was too poor to purchase one, but who drove me home from practice (along with the rest of my team) because he didn’t want me getting on the city bus when it got dark out. Boy did he care…about me. No piece of technology can provide the kindness or the love each one of these educators gave me without ever batting an eye. I know while students today are enraptured with their technology and having information at their fingertips is something they’ve always known, they also love and need their educators. Why? Because there is a difference between accessible information and truly understanding what the information means--and they need to be taught this. But most of all, my students are still kids and in need of someone who’s there to push them, to inspire them, and care for them. And I hope every 21st Century teacher remembers being a caretaker is not only essential to a student’s learning, but also it’s something no electronic device can ever provide.
Inventors of the Future: A Vision for NCTE and Our Affiliates by Ernest Morrell Editor’s note: This is the text of Morrell’s address at the Affiliate Breakfast at the NCTE national convention in Las Vegas in November 2012. Inventing the Future Thank you Teri Knight for that wonderful introduction and thank you NCTE Affiliates for having me. Greetings colleagues, I come to this talk, to this impending presidency with the idea that we as individuals and as an organization are inventors of the future. This is partly inspired by a life where I have seen movements end segregation, overturn apartheid, occupy Wall Street, topple regimes in the Middle East, and transform the world such that I could be standing here before you as a future president of this organization and that you all could be sitting here as the backbone of NCTE. The world had to be a changeable place for many of us to be here. The world is changing and will continue to change and the people who have embraced that possibility have always been inventors of the future.As we contemplate inventing the future of English education and the role of the affiliates in that process I will ask five questions 1) what will it mean to be literate? 2) What will it mean to teach literacy? 3) What is the role of the professional organization in this process? 4) What is the role of affiliates? And 5) what should be our takeaways from this talk and this convention? What Will it Mean to be Literate? Any vision of the future for literacy educators must begin with the student. How are our students experiencing the world as literate beings? What kind of world will our students inhabit in 2050? In 2100? What kind of literacies will they need in order to be empowered and self-actualized participants in the global democratic project? And what kinds of literacies will they need in order to continue to be able to tell themselves stories about themselves? Because everyone has a story to tell and we are the sum of the stories that we have told ourselves about ourselves. As adult educators, how are we telling each other the stories of NCTE 2012? Through essays? Through handwritten notes? No! If we like Tweeting, texting and using technological tools to learn and communicate as adults, you think the kids might like it too? Being literate for this iPad generation of youth, these
Ernest Morrell is a Professor of English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is also the Vice-President of NCTE. For twenty years Dr. Morrell has drawn upon youth’s interest in popular culture and participatory media technologies to increase academic literacy development and civic engagement.
22nd century youth, will mean processing and producing more information than you or I can even imagine today. It will also mean processing and producing information in modes and genres that we cannot imagine, that I won’t even live to see. Being literate is about having a literate identity, a belief in one’s self, a stance toward knowledge, a stance toward the world, and an ability to continually learn and adapt to new situations. It means having access to and facility with communicative tools that are most relevant today. The teaching of discrete skills is important to this vision, but it is only a means to a greater end. What Will it Mean to Teach Literacy? One of the first questions associated with the future of teaching concerns what we will teach. Will it be literature traditionally defined? Will it be informational texts? Will it be digital texts? What “counts” as literature has always changed with our technologies of communication! Part of 21st century learning goes beyond the incorporation of digital technologies into classroom instruction. 21st century learning is as much about the “how” as the “what”. Teaching literacy will continue to mean helping students to develop a critical stance toward the knowledge they consume and it will also mean helping them to become multimodal producers and disseminators of new knowledge. They will need to be good communicators and even better listeners. Students will need to be creative, engaged, interactive, and tolerant. They must come to see themselves not only as decoders of information, but also as innovators of ideas, as problem solvers, and as transformers of the world. Teaching literacy means helping to unleash the social imagination, it means facilitating dialogue, of modeling a critical stance toward information, of uplifting youth and celebrating in their accomplishments, giving them opportunities to practice being powerful, and in giving them permission to accept their greatness. I am the son of teachers, the husband of a teacher, and like you all, this is why we do what we do. Who would come into our profession solely to raise test scores? We become teachers because we have a love of the word, of communication, and primarily because we want to play powerful roles in the lives of future men and women. After all, teaching makes us eternal. Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
What is the Role of the Professional Organization? Professional organizations will have to evolve to become places where people participate in a continual process of knowledge production. When I first became a member of NCTE in 1993 as a pre-service teacher candidate at UC Berkeley, membership in NCTE entailed opening and reading my copy of English Journal and possibly trying to convince my principal to let me off work for the three days needed to travel to the convention each fall. In total, maybe I was a member of NCTE for a dozen days a year and that involvement was largely as a recipient of information. Being a member of learning communities twenty years later means something else entirely. More than receiving information (which is still possible), members can produce information, they can share information, and they can work collaboratively within and across sites and organizations. Participation in the digital age is also a 24/7/365 enterprise and professional groups like NCTE are making that adjustment. Professional organizations can also help teachers as we collect data and become researchers of innovative practices and innovative learning communities for teachers. We have to document these impactful K-12 and professional learning practices to make more room for them. A professional organization should help to provide teachers with the information we need to advocate for the practices we should believe in. It should have our back. We speak more powerfully when we have a united presence, a solid research foundation, a strategy for advocacy, and 50,000 or so close friends to join in the chorus.
teams design and implement plans to support literacy learners in every classroom. By sharing stories, vignettes, and cases from these schools, NCLE will not only make visible teaching and learning practices, it will highlight the organizational conditions and community support that make real progress possible (www.ncte.org/ncle). How Affiliates can support the development of teacher agency through NCLE? By signing up affiliates as teams, by signing up local school teams, by asking essential questions, by modeling a process of collaborative inquiry, and by sharing that process locally and nationally.
Takeaways NCTE has always been about helping English teachers across the K-16 spectrum to invent the future of English. Much of what we need to do in the future is what we always have done; only we are adapting our vision to a new age.We have always wanted students who are able to interpret, analyze, create, resist, and transform! We have always wanted to study the most powerful stories that illuminate the human condition whether those stories come to us as Miltonian sonnets, Shakespearean plays, British 19th century novels, the free verse of Whitman, the stream of consciousness of a Virginia Woolf, or the righteous indignation of the Last Poets and the triumphant rising of Maya Angelou. We will advocate for the space to tell new stories through hip-hop odes, slammed poems, blogs, digital films, or other genres that have yet to be invented. Because literature is about the stories and the people who need to hear and share them more than it is about adherence to tradition or genre. Finally, this is one of those rare occasions where what What is the Role of the Affiliate? happens in Vegas shouldnâ€™t just stay in Vegas! We must go Affiliates can serve as the intellectual and ideological forth inspired, united, and undaunted, emboldened by our home for teachers who are trying to find their way in these traditions of informed resistance and reflective practice. conflicting times. Affiliates are physical and digital spaces for Our challenges are not easy ones but when have we been the playing with ideas, for asking big essential questions, and promised ease or comfort? What we have instead is a joy for being informed in our pursuit of learning, of doing whatâ€™s of purpose and a pride in belonging to a profession and a right, not just what is sanctioned. professional organization that are about service, equity, the Affiliates produce journals, newsletters, conferences, power of language, and humanization. English educators, afand increasingly, social media spaces where teacher-initiated filiate members, colleagues, friends, you are too beautiful, to ideas are honored, affirmed, and, most importantly, taken up brilliant, and too indignant to be stopped.The future is ours! and put into practice by other teachers. Affiliates are lead- And because of you, I am confident that future of NCTE and ers in advocacy at the local and state levels because while her affiliates will be even brighter than our illustrious past. our struggles have many similarities. The context in Arizona Thank you! is not quite the same as New York, and many of the policies that affect our daily lives are decided at the district and state level. NCTE is at the forefront of a project, the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE), that simultaneously aims to change literacy education and how literacy educators work together to make changes to their practice and the discipline. Through the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE), NCTE will provide support to and compile evidence about how educators working in cross-disciplinary 18
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Obsolete Doesnâ€™t Mean Bonnie Katzive has been teaching Language Arts (with occasional forays Replaceable: How into Social Studies) at Monarch High School in Louisville since 1999. Her Effective Technologynon-teaching interests include writing poetry, playing ukulele, and knitting. based Learning is Grounded in Social work on Facebook and have a Facebook group for the class to use to discuss plans and ideas. Everyone keeps a blog Interaction with cool story and design inspirations. We use Google by Bonnie Katzive I have to admit that the standardization industry has cowed me into unlearning many of the teaching principles I held dear at the start of my career. How can I let students learn to organize their paper organically if my work will be measured by some test rubric when I am only 2/3 of the way through my teaching year? If my department is being asked to synchronize our teaching methods for writing, but I find the model hard for students to internalize, how can I negotiate between student needs and the department goals? Increasingly, I have felt trapped between the principles of inquiry and exploration that have encouraged much of my past success as a teacher and the current testdriven education ecosystem. The tremendous amount of systemic pressure to standardize curriculum and the ability of the Internet to instantly deliver the tools of standardization have the potential to disconnect teachers from the art in teaching and students from the art in writing and literary analysis. How can teachers invite students to acquire a sense of communal enterprise and personal investment even as publishers, states, and school districts create ever more mechanized means of delivering curriculum? How can students gain ownership of their learning if the teachers themselves lose ownership of the tools? But I have a new hope and it grew out of teaching journalism. I am in my second year as a newspaper adviser. When I walk into newspaper class, students are excited to write, eager to study exemplars of great writing and visual reporting, and responsive to each other as editors and peer responders. They have grown to understand how to match writing form to writing purpose. They want to create pieces that move and entertain readers. And they are using technology every day to make this happen. My journalism class is connected. They tweet the news. They tweet responses to tweets responding to their news. They post articles online. They add photo commentary using Instagram. They podcast and post video essays. They publicize their
Docs for peer response and the margins are filled each month with lively debates about everything from facts to ideas to grammar. A tremendous amount of what happens in class takes place digitally. And yet, the newspaper staff would never give up their in-person collaborative time. That time makes us a family. It is where the in-jokes and ridiculous staff memes are built. It is where we solve the tough problems over ethics involved in reporting stories that might hurt people in our community or where we plan stories that are complex and require every head in the room to toss out some ideas. Twelve students came back to school for election night to watch the election coverage together, eat pizza, and create their own online reports. And the need to communicate in person goes beyond staff solidarity. Even though some students enjoy the shield they get from the occasionally necessary e-mail interviews, none of them would ever make it a class policy to give up in-person interviews or even the dread ad sales. That is where students are learning to have challenging conversations with strangers while receiving the feedback of vocal tone and facial expression. We practice on each other in class. I demonstrate and I also bring in guests for mock interviews and mock ad sales. These interactive tasks are where students learn how to test and verify what they learn on the internet. Social interaction and the guidance of an effective teacher for how they carry it out are essential to their success as learners and as journalists. I think we fear (in many ways rightly so) how technology might atomize us, stranding students alone at one end of an online course interface. It is intimidating to build a relationship with a teacher who is faceless on the other end of a canned course. I have seen some horribly designed online courses that make a pretense of having discussions that are really not discursive at all in any true sense. They are anti-relationship building discussions because students participate only to check off a requirement and not to learn anything. I, in fact, have been guilty of creating this same problem in my initial use of discussion boards or Edmodo in my classroom. I would throw out a question and require everyone to answer the question and then respond to another studentâ€™s response. While it was useful for getting Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
out some basic ideas and helped me assess overall comprehension, it was not conversation, not really. It quickly became clear that many students just went through the motions. When we use a discussion board without generating true engagement, we are far away from the epistolary tradition of in-depth written conversations in which people truly and deeply exchange ideas. We are far away from the depth of attention we pay in Socratic Seminar discussions. But here is lesson one I learned about technology from my newspaper staff this year: for today’s digital natives, students who perceive themselves as a community will start to find ways to use social media and online writing platforms to gather information and ideas and to respond to them in an authentic way. My newspaper students own their communal online identity. It keeps them all honest and productive. It makes them a team. They read each other’s stories. They compete, too, to notice which stories earn the most “likes” or get the most pageviews.Their work may end up scattered over all sorts of media, but it is all part of one enterprise. However, they would never give up the print edition of the paper. They adore watching the rest of the school read the paper, knowing that their stories at that moment are being shared by hundreds of students and teachers. They tell me that they hope the educational pieces we publish will really reach the readers who need them most. Being part of a learning community is powerful. A focus on community is the answer I chose for reinvigorating my literature classes as well. I recently dropped my very formal final assessment for my unit on Dante’s Inferno and switched to a free form written response to the question: “what can reading The Divine Comedy teach us about how to live a good life?” The class responding to the question is full of reluctant writers, but they responded enthusiastically to the prompt. It asks them to write about what they really think in response to the text. I allowed them to choose a writing platform for presenting their argument. I allowed them to oppose the prompt (writing, for example, about finding Dante’s ideas invalid). They began to have conversations about the text rather than how to fill out an outline handout. Students had to consider whether or not to personalize the format of their writing or stick with a familiar essay form. They asked each other for advice. The students who studied the canto on suicide realized that today it might speak to issues of eating disorders or cutting. They saw that Dante’s view of suicide as a sin has been overturned but that we still struggle ethically with how to view people harming or modifying their bodies. They tried out ideas together. They were showing signs of becoming an inquiry team. Everyone in the class was doing something different in his/her own writing, but they were a team united around one, open-ended but very answerable question. They are not going online with this assignment, but I see the transfer of the principle here and it validates how important it is for teenagers to interact around true inquiry. 20
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A second lesson I have learned from my newspaper class is that reporting the news and sharing opinions is exciting. Getting a scoop on other reporters is big excitement. Developing an explanation and the sources to support is satisfying. So why not try to bring that feeling back to 10th grade Language Arts? Why not incorporate that excitement into how we use instructional technology? For our next unit, we will be exploring Macbeth. I plan to try Edmodo again. But this time, I will make plans for my students to own it. If I use the discussion board, I will ask the class to post questions and respond to posts. Furthermore, I am going to introduce it as a news board, sort of a Scottish-noblesfocused Reddit. I will ask the class to debate, encourage, and add additional information and understandings. They will be able to use their phones to stage Instagrams, videos, etc. to post as news updates on the text. As students prepare to write more formally about the play, I’ll have them post ideas for evidence, connections, visuals, observations, etc. so everyone can discuss those posts together during an in-class discussion. But most essentially, all of the work that happens online will be connected to interactive explorations that happen during class time, as we work as a team to understand how a good person can go down an evil path. I always tell my newspaper class that my job as an adviser is to teach them enough to make me obsolete. But I don’t mean that literally. I think when we let go of teachers as an important part of guiding the learning process, we let go of the person who fosters relationship-building, the person who plants seeds for creating community around learning. And when we do that we leave students less able to transfer their knowledge to social and work situations. No faceless online course can replace that cultivation of community. Making myself obsolete means providing the support so that students can feel safe making their own meanings, publishing their own ideas, finding evidence through their own research. It means I guide them without getting in the way of their own authentic inquiries. Obsolete means I have created a team that carries out a response that is not just jumping hoops for the reward of grades. Obsolete means that my students start to drive their own learning. Obsolete means that I am more a resource than a director. After two years, I am getting there with my newspaper class. We’ll see how well it goes for my 10th graders. I am nowhere close to “obsolete” in that classroom, but I hope that my journey in that direction will lead them to become brave, creative writers and speakers, working in a supportive team. I hope their writing will thrive and grow and that their engagement will brighten. And I hope that they will remember it was human engagement, not a multiple choice quiz or reading summary notes online that defined their understanding of literature for the year.
The Networked English Teacher by Elizabeth Homan Introduction: Today’s Digitally Connected Teacher Dawn Reed , a high school English teacher in Michigan, arrives at school excited to work with her American Literature students on their “This I Wish to Change” projects, which they will begin this week.This is a favorite assignment of Dawn’s because it allows her students to address problems about which they are deeply passionate. Students have written letters to congress, created videos on topics such as immigration and posted them online, developed websites, promoted their projects and causes using social media, given presentations to undergraduate classes at the local university, and created flyers to distribute throughout the community. Topics range depending on students’ interests and have included environmental concerns in the community, bullying online, and the requirements behind high school course tracking. Dawn is looking forward to seeing what her students will produce this semester for this assignment, which has morphed over the past eight years that Dawn has been teaching. Earlier in the year, Dawn’s students created podcasts about the beliefs that they hold, a project entitled “This I Believe,” modeled on NPR’s “This I Believe” series. This semester, students will use these as a launching pad for their “This I Wish to Change” projects, which require them to work in multiple media to develop an argument that targets an audience of their choosing. For example, a recent group of students developed a poster display for a local park, promoting awareness about an invasive species of mussels that was damaging boats and water pipelines in their community. When I ask Dawn how she arrived at the idea for this project, there is a long pause, not because Dawn can’t remember, but because the trail of individuals and experiences leading Dawn to the current manifestation of this assignment is a complex one. She notes that other teachers, including current colleagues, people she knows from her work with The National Writing Project, from her time student teaching and teaching in multiple districts, and from her graduate coursework, have shaped her approach to the assignment over time. Dawn’s professional network, like the networks of her friends and colleagues who are spread across her school, her state, and the nation, has shaped the teacher she has become, the ways in which she incorporates digital tech
Elizabeth taught middle and high school English Language Arts and communications for three years while earning her master’s in Curriculum and Instruction at Purdue University. She is currently earning her doctorate at The University of Michigan, where she is conducting research with teachers and investigating their uses of digital technologies. nologies into her teaching, and the ways in which she goes about learning new practices and adjusting old assignments to meet the needs of her current students. When asked whom she consults about curriculum and digital technologies, Dawn mentions many teachers in her school. She also notes professors and friends from her surrounding community, elementary school teachers, her student teaching mentor teacher, two graduate students from (different) nearby universities, an English teacher in Utah, technological consultants from her district and other districts, and even her spouse, who has a background in computer science. As educators, we are no strangers to the multifaceted and interspatial collaborations that occur in our lives. We have long met new friends at district meetings, attended local or national conferences with our colleagues, and kept in touch with former mentors from previous teaching jobs, administrative or leadership posts, or graduate courses and other professional development experiences. However, in the age of digital media, far-reaching and longer-lasting ties to professionals outside the walls of one’s school are becoming the norm for teachers like Dawn. For today’s teachers, local concerns, such as developing and adapting a “This I Wish to Change” assignment, meet with global interactions, such as The National Writing Project or an email exchange with a fellow teacher in another district. As teachers share resources with one another in social media venues such as classroom blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as in faceto-face professional development sessions at their schools, the space of an English classroom like Dawn’s is shaped by professional networks that extend far outside the school. As I will argue here, the networked nature of teachers’ lives today will require a shift in how schools support teachers whose digital and social connections are rapidly changing in nature and scope. Reimagining Teachers’ Connections: A Network Alternative The concept of networks is not a new one in the field of education, nor is it a foreign term in the social sciences or humanities more broadly. However, what constitutes a “social network” varies depending on whom you ask. Surely, when many of us hear the term “social network,” we think of our students’ (or our own) vast networks of Facebook friends, the network of individuals who follow the edchat Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
hashtag on Twitter, follow or contribute to weekly webcasts on Teachers Teaching Teachers (http://www.teachersteachingteachers.org), or the many other “social networking” opportunities available to us online via LinkedIn, Goodreads, Google+, and other web resources that promise to connect us to our friends or to influential professionals in our fields. However, scholars across disciplines often mean something very different when they say “social network,” referring not to those webs of connectivity established solely online, but to those networks of face-to-face and digital social interactions that, like Dawn’s, have the potential to impact how she thinks about her teaching and her relationships with colleagues and students. Latour’s actor-network theory, for example, offers a counter-pressure for many former researchers’ theoretical interpretations of our social world. Actor-network theory conceptualizes our social world not as organized in stable, definable “groups,” but as simultaneously locally and globally influenced. According to this understanding of social connections, teachers like Dawn don’t belong to multiple cohesive “groups,” such as The National Writing Project or NCTE, but instead engage networked connections that draw on membership in multiple social spaces. This approach is characterized by a focus on the in-between, on the movement or flow of resources from one space to another, moving with an actor through his or her network. Latour argues that researchers who want to know more about individuals’ social lives must “follow the actors’ own ways” and travel along the “traces left behind by their activity of forming and dismantling groups” (29). Latour’s theory, applied to education, thus challenges a focus on “teachers” or “students” in “schools” as problematic, because this approach limits those individuals’ social interactions to those spaces and interactions which are predetermined a priori as of interest, instead of following individuals through their networks to learn how they develop and/or dissolve their local and global connections. Deborah Brandt and Katie Clinton make a similar argument, but tie this notion of networked social interactions to literacy tasks. At the same time that individuals engage in “localizing moves” that bring local passions, interests, or habits of mind to bear on literacy tasks, they also engage in “globalizing” actions that connect them to multiple constituencies which will undoubtedly have an impact on one’s localizing moves (351). In other words, while teachers are certainly thinking about the local space of the classroom as they engage students with a podcasting assignment, they might also be encouraging students to think about audiences outside the classroom, thus bringing those outside audiences’ concerns into the classroom space. Teachers, in lessons like these, might also be thinking about a conversation they had with a professor the following week about introducing podcasts to students, adjusting their practice according to reflections that took place after the meeting. 22
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Thus, in the space of a single classroom lesson, multiple network connections are at work, moving information and resources through social ties. Apply this to teachers who, like Dawn, both collaborate with teachers within the school and in spaces far removed from it, and one can see how the concept of social networks might be further complicated by digital technologies that not only allow for, but make easier, these interactions across physical boundaries. As Rainie and Wellman note in their recently-released book Networked: The New Social Operating System: Networked individuals have new powers to create media and project their voices to more extended audiences that become part of their social worlds. Their connections can ripen in important ways because the Internet offers so many new options for interaction through social media such as emailing (still the most popular overall), blogging, posting Twitter messages, and Facebook activities. Social media allow people to tell their stories, draw an audience, and often gain social assistance when they are in need. (14) Some social science researchers, including Wellman, have developed methods that statistically and visually “capture” these digital and face-to-face networks in order to analyze how they might shape individuals’ actions in the workplace or in their daily lives. This sort of social network analysis relies on surveys or on mined online data that can then be analyzed for statistical trends. These statistical measures can then be used to characterize the network – to identify influential actors or to assess where breakdowns in communication may occur within the network. William Penuel and his colleagues, for example, have studied how teachers’ actions are shaped by their schools’ professional climates and communities. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches, they found that the structure of the social network had a significant impact on the success of reform initiatives in the school.Teachers who felt that they had easy access to expertise among their close colleagues were more likely to enact changes that were being supported by administrators. This approach to understanding networks focuses entirely on the face-to-face, confined network inside the school. However, it acknowledges and attempts to empirically examine the role a teacher’s close colleagues might play in his or her classroom practice. To date, no one has employed these quantitative methods to the study of teachers’ digital networks or practices, but as I will discuss in the following section, this approach, when taken in conversation with those understandings of networks as at once locally situated and globally influenced, may help us reimagine the role of the English teacher in the 21st century. Today’s networked English teachers “live in an environment that tests their capacities to deal with each other and with information,” and they must decide how they
will mold this environment to meet the needs of their students and communities in the classroom (Rainie and Wellman 18). In this networked world, those teachers who are “armed with potent technology tools” will be the ones who best leverage their networks for information and resources, and those teachers who are supported with the time and resources necessary to engage in networked action will be those best positioned to integrate digital technologies into their classroom teaching in meaningful ways. Dawn’s Professional Networks: Within and Beyond the School Allow us to return to Dawn, and to the social networks within and beyond her school. In a survey I recently conducted at Dawn’s school, I asked her and her colleagues whom they consider “close colleagues” and whom they consult regularly about using digital technologies in the classroom. In addition to nominating individuals within their schools, teachers were also able to nominate individuals outside their schools. Dawn, who uses digital technology regularly in her classroom, plays a major role in her school’s social network, helping her colleagues think about the role of digital technologies in their curricula as she works to transform her own. Dawn plays a role in a few of her school’s many leadership committees and helps to plan school improvement initiatives in collaboration with the principal. Because she often uses digital technologies with her students, she is also per-
ceived as an expert in the school when it comes to using technology: many of her colleagues nominated her as someone with whom they regularly discuss digital tech. Dawn notes on her survey that she frequently uses the following internet technologies in her everyday life and in her work as a teacher: • Blogging sites such as Blogger or Wordpress • Website design sites such as Google Sites or Wordpress • Social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter • Video and photosharing sites such as Instagram or Flickr • Online presentation sites such as Prezi or Google Presentations • Document collaboration sites such as Google Drive • Drive backup and filesharing sites such as Dropbox For Dawn, many of these technologies are what Baym calls “domesticated,” or are “now so ordinary as to be invisible” to her (45). Though Dawn may not see these technologies as “invisible,” she certainly recognizes them as integrated components of her daily life and as part of the normal and necessary routine of being an educator in the 21st century. Dawn reports using these technologies in the classroom with students, in professional development sessions, in her communication with parents, and in her communication with colleagues in her school and across the country. For Dawn, these digital resources and the social ties that they enable are integrated into all facets of her
Figure 1: Kate's technological consultation ego network. This is known as an "ego" network in social network analysis because it depicts only those from whom Kate is two or fewer social steps away, meaning Kate has either direct access to the individuals in this graphic or has access via a connection with only one other individual. Created using UCINET (Borgatti)
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Colorado Writing Project
summer workshops 2 - day seminars
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summer workshops Colorado Springs (District 11 Staff) - June 3-14 Boulder (Boulder Valley Staff) - June 10-21 Montrose (open to all) - June 10-21 Cherry Creek (open to all) - June 20-21, 24-27, & July 1-3 Adams 12 (open to all) - July 15-26
Jefferson County (Kyffin and Mitchell Elementary staff) - July 22-August 2 Denver North High School (open to all) - July 29-August 8 this new er! summ
Boulder June 27-28
Teaching and Writing Argument
Cherry Creek July 17-18
Writing In and Out of Complex Texts
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Colorado Springs June 19-20
Geared toward grades 6-12
Writing In and Out of Complex Texts
Colorado Springs June 26-27
Teaching and Writing Argument
teaching life, as well as into her relationships with colleagues at her school and beyond. The visualization on the previous page (Figure 1) represents Dawn’s ties to her colleagues based on their consultation with one another about digital technologies in the classroom. Dawn is positioned in the center, and as one can see, Dawn maintains relationships and consults about digital technology with individuals across departments in her school, including resource teachers, science teachers, social studies teachers, guidance counselors and librarians, and so on. The algorithm that produces this visual places Dawn closest to those who also consult with one another – thus, consultation occurs frequently between her and other teachers in her department and between English teachers and resource teachers. Network visuals like these allow us to see those individuals who form tightly-knit consultation groups, passing along information, expertise, or troubleshooting advice.This visual depicts individuals from which Dawn is two or fewer “social steps” away, meaning Dawn has either direct access through her network or access through one other person to all people depicted here. Those “closest” to Dawn in her in-school technology consultation network include a special education teacher, a librarian, and an art teacher. Closeness, here, is defined both by whether or not actors nominate similar others and whether they reciprocate the nomination. Network visuals like these, taken together with observations of teacher practice and interviews with teachers, can tell us much about how information moves through a school, as network analysts have argued elsewhere (Zhao and Frank, Penuel). Dawn, who plays many leadership roles in her school, could be consulted for any number of reasons --for help with curriculum, for advice about a policy decision for the school, or for thoughts on what resources to buy for the library. Network images like this enable researchers to examine how teachers are related to one another based on particular dimensions of interest – in this case, consultation about digital technologies. However, other factors are always wrapped up in these relationships, including the teacher’s existing practices and her reputation within the school.Thus, these images are powerful in their capacity to capture the network at a particular moment in time, and in their ability to show us how resources flow throughout departments and classrooms in a school. But they are also limited because they are “snapshots,” and are thus often unable to capture the complexity of networked teachers’ lives--like Dawn’s. For example, both in her survey and in an interview, Dawn identifies others--outside this in-school colleague network--with whom she consults about technology and maintains diverse relationships. Dawn maintains contact with the teacher with whom she did her student teaching, Jared. Dawn says of Jared’s impact on her teaching, Sure it’s at the assignment level, but also at the high
er level of intellectual conversation about teaching. We get together every November for the [NWP] conference and we usually catch up in the summer. […] But a lot of these folks, including Jared are also my friends that I hang out with. If Jared lived closer, I’d see him more, and did when he lived closer. Though Dawn consults with Jared about digital tech in the classroom, she also considers him a friend and consults with him about other matters related to ELA teaching.The other “folks” Dawn references here include a professor Dawn knew during her undergraduate and graduate work at the local university, Tom, who has since earned his PhD and moved on to work at another university in the state that is farther away. Tom and Dawn collaborate regularly in their capacity as directors of different National Writing Projects in the state. Dawn notes that many of these collaborations are enabled by her uses of digital technologies: Tom and I collaborate when we look at how students may be involved with digital technologies, so it’s a topic we discuss, but also it’s a way we stay in touch too. I get faster answers with colleagues via smart phone. I also collaborate a lot digitally through document collaboration. For common work, we work digitally a lot. I have planned presentations with NWP folks across the country through use of Google Docs, Skyping. For Dawn, digital technologies provide more than a way to keep in touch with and collaborate with colleagues; they are also a topic of conversation in collaborative meetings and an integral part of her curriculum. Dawn reflects on the ways in which these relationships outside of her school have an impact on her teaching, in particular the “This I Believe” and “This I Wish to Change” assignments that have become such a major part of her curriculum. She says of how the project started: I was in a master’s program, and Tom sent out a message to this listserv and said “hey anybody want to write on this?” and I was like “me! I do, I do!” so we went through the whole IRB process and then we wrote and published it, and he came in as an outside researcher and interviewed my students. So that really influenced me a great deal as a writer, as a thinker, as a teacher. But in terms of the technology, he helped me figure that piece out at the time, too, but it also influenced me in terms of how I think about the reflection that students do. Dawn’s relationship with Tom is multifaceted. He is a mentor to her, but as Dawn notes in a later email, that mentorship “goes both ways.” He is a fellow thinker and experimenter when it comes to technology, but is not part of her immediate collegial network in her school (though other teachers in the school know who Tom is).Tom’s impact likely extends beyond Dawn, as well; as Dawn’s colleagues in her in-school network consult with her about how to use digital techStatement Vol. 49, Number 2
nology in their own classrooms, they may receive advice from Dawn that stems from her collaborations with Tom, or Dawn might learn something new that she will later share with Tom as they write together. Conclusion: Supporting Today’s Networked Teachers Teachers like Dawn and her colleagues cannot maintain supportive professional networks without sufficient support from their administrators, from the school board, and from their local communities. Dawn’s school is particularly supportive of her--and her colleagues’--experimentation with digital technologies.Teachers consult with one another regularly about digital technology (as evidenced in Dawn’s network, above). The administration incorporates teacher choice into professional development opportunities, such as PD days led by teacher leaders and PLC topics chosen by teachers in collaboration with their colleagues. My time with Dawn and her colleagues has brought to light some things schools can do to create more supportive environments for today’s networked teachers. The first of these relates to time. Only 3% of teachers in Dawn’s school, 81% of whom responded to the survey, report “lack of support from administrators” as a key obstacle to integrating digital technologies into their instruction. Instead, the most frequently cited obstacle to technology integration for teachers at Dawn’s school is lack of time: 80% of respondents said “lack of time to learn how to use a digital technology” hindered their ability to introduce new digital practices into the classroom, and 58% of teachers noted “lack of personal knowledge” as an obstacle.Teachers at Dawn’s school feel supported by their administrators and colleagues, but the constraints associated with teaching in the 21st century render them incapable of finding the time to also be learners. As Kajder notes, teachers today need to learn as much and as quickly as their students do, potentially learning with students even as they are teaching them. This is particularly unfortunate considering the nature of digital literacy practices--they are constantly and consistently changing, requiring not only students, but also their teachers, to be adaptive and consistent learners. Dawn says, “this is one reason I love digital literacy--it levels the playing field --teacher as learner and facilitator. The learning together is so rich in the classroom.” Dawn and her colleagues are supported by her administration in other ways, too. The administration listens to teachers and attempts to respond to their needs and concerns. This school year (2012-2013), teachers have been encouraged to take up new technologies in their classrooms. To support this endeavor, professional development time has been dedicated to helping teachers learn about technologies of interest to them. Recent sessions included a Google Drive and Blogger seminar, led by two English teachers, and a session on Quia, an online quiz and assessment resource, 26
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led by a science teacher in the school.Teachers were able to choose which sessions to attend and were given some time to ask questions and experiment with these technologies during each session. Despite this supportive environment, Dawn and her colleagues still note that time and personal knowledge are major obstacles when it comes to integrating digital technologies. In order to make full use of those networks that enable teachers like Dawn to create assignments such as “This I Believe” and “This I Wish to Change,” they need to be encouraged (and given time) to seek collaborations with individuals outside their schools and, after or during these collaborations, to share their newfound expertise within their schools. Teachers learning from their colleagues then need sufficient time to integrate these digital technologies into their practice in ways that mirror Dawn’s uses of digital technologies – “domesticated,” or part of the regular routine of their teaching. Elements of this are already happening at Dawn’s school, where teachers like Mary learn how to use Google Drive in graduate courses and then lead professional development sessions during time set aside for teacher learning. However, as one teacher noted in a survey response, these teacher leadership moves are only as productive as the time that is dedicated to them: We have had some PD time to learn about some of these new technologies but then don’t have the time (PD or otherwise) to then work them into our lessons for the classroom. By the time we have another PD day, I have forgotten how to use the tech and have to start almost all over. Another teacher (who uses both Google Drive and Blogger in her English classes) noted in an interview that after 20 years of teaching, she would rather be outside in her garden or enjoying the sunshine than spending time trying to figure out how to use the latest digital resource. The assumption that teachers will spend time they might have otherwise spent outside, with family, or in their communities learning how to use technologies that take hours, practice, and often social support to learn how to use and to integrate is an unfair assumption, at best. Teachers are no strangers to taking work home--however, when it comes to learning new literacy skills, the time to learn in school, among colleagues is an integral component of the process. Tom’s support of Dawn’s project through co-writing and research, for example, helped to shape two projects that are now a major component of Dawn’s digital curriculum. Which brings me to the second way in which today’s schools can support teachers: opportunities to engage in network expansion. Teachers have long benefited from being given the opportunity to take graduate courses at local universities or community colleges, to attend seminars from visiting experts in their field, or to otherwise learn from professionals outside of their schools. Teachers need
to be able to spend time fostering their digital and face-toface professional networks. Whether this means encouraging teachers to visit other schools to learn what they are doing, giving teachers the funding to travel to conferences and learn from professionals in their fields (as Dawn does every November when she goes to NWP to catch up with other English teachers from across the country), supporting teachers in their development of an online presence, or enabling teachers to earn graduate degrees through financial incentives, teachers who are able to extend their professional collaborations are able to bring new knowledge to their colleagues within their schools. Dawn says of her NWP time every year, “this is super important to me and I give up all other PD to go to this one because I met up with people across the country. I end up on planes with friends and share cabs. It’s so fun and inspirational.” As scholars have noted, digital professional networks do more than give teachers friends with whom to swap stories about teaching: they give teachers avenues through which to share information and generate ideas (Davies and Merchant 190-191). Dawn’s network, as she notes, allows her to foster friendships, but also allows her to foster reflection, collaboration, and inquiry. As opportunities to connect with individuals in diverse networks are aided by social media and new communications technologies, teachers are finding new ways to integrate these tools into their professional lives and into the classroom, educating students about ethical uses of digital technologies. Other teachers are transforming the ways in which they interact with students, becoming learners alongside their students as they learn new literacies (Kajder). Still other teachers are integrating blogs, wikis, and podcasts into their teaching in innovative ways that continue to change (Hicks; Herrington et. al.). Regardless of how teachers are reimagining the spaces of their classrooms and the assignments in their curricula, teachers in the digital era are changing themselves in some significant ways as well. No longer members of cohesive “groups,” they draw on resources
from across their various networks, integrating knowledge from multiple spaces – including home, graduate courses, and Facebook – in their conversations with colleagues, students, and administrators. How will schools like Dawn’s capitalize on the expertise of the networked teacher? This will be the question, and the work, of the coming years. Works Cited Baym, Nancy. Personal Connections in the Digital Age. 1st ed. Polity, 2010. Print. Borgatti, Stephen P. NetDraw: Graph Visualization Software. (2002) Harvard: Analytic Technologies Brandt, Deborah, and Katie Clinton. “Limits of the Local: Expanding Perspectives on Literacy as a Social Practice.” Journal of Literacy Research 34.3 (2002): 337–56. Print. Herrington, Anne, Kevin Hodgson, and Charles Moran. Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change, and Assessment in the 21st-Century Classroom (Language & Literacy Series). Teachers College Press, 2009. Print. Hicks, Troy. The Digital Writing Workshop. 1st ed. Heinemann, 2009. Print. Kajder, Sara B. Adolescents and Digital Literacies: Learning Alongside Our Students. Urbana, Ill: National Council of Teachers of English, 2010. Print. Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to ActorNetwork-Theory. Oxford University Press, USA, 2007. Print. Penuel, William R. et al. “Analyzing Teachers’ Professional Interactions in a School as Social Capital: A Social Network Approach.” Teachers College Record 111.1 (2009): 124–163. Print. Rainie, Lee, and Barry Wellman. Networked: The New Social Operating System. The MIT Press, 2012. Print. Zhao,Yong, and Kenneth A. Frank. “Factors Affecting Technology Uses in Schools: An Ecological Perspective.” American Educational Research Journal 40.4 (2003): 807–840. Print.
Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
A Conversation Between Three Literacy Educators with Troy Hicks, Debbie Richards, and Debbie Tawzer
Debbie Richards is a teacher librarian and technology teacher at Evergreen Middle School. She has enjoyed teaching in many different levels and content areas. She is committed to being a lifelong learner, enjoys the challenge of expanding her knowledge, and loves working with middle school students. Debbie received the 2012 Apex Technology Teacher of the Year Award from the Colorado Technology Association.
From the editor: Here I present a conversation between three literacy educators who have particular expertise teaching the English Language Arts in the digital age. As explained in the previous issues of Statement, inspiration for this regular feature came from a conversation on the pages of Adolescent Literacy: Turning promise into Practice, a recent book by Kylene Beers, Robert E. Probst, and Linda Rief. Beers, Probst, and Rief argued that they wanted not a co-authored chapter by three national leaders in litearcy education, but “something that suggested the starting and stopping, the rethinking, the interrupting, the contradictions (of self and each other), the hesitations, the silences, the rush of ideas, the spontaneity of the moment that comes when you put three very bright, very passionate, very dedicated teachers into one space” (105). That’s what I am going for here. Teaching litearcy is complex, and I hope that these ongoing conversations between Colorado literacy educators (and the occasional guest from the national stage) will capture that more effectively than anything else. For this issue, I recruited three educators who I knew would have compelling things to say about the theme of this issue, inspired in part by Sherry Turkle’s recent book about social identity in the digital age, Alone Together. In this book,Turkle addresses her view of today’s interpersonal landscape with one concise statement: “We expect more from technology and less from each other.” To these three educators, I posed several questions. (Thank you to Statement Online Assistant Editor Julia Barrus for the 28
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Dr. Troy Hicks is an associate professor of English at Central Michigan University and focuses his work on the teaching of writing, literacy, and technology and teacher education and professional development. A former middle school teacher, he collaborates with K–12 colleagues and explores how they implement newer literacies in their classrooms. Hicks is author of the The Digital Writing Workshop (Heinemann, 2009) and a co-author of Because Digital Writing Matters (JosseyBass, 2010). Debbie Tawzer is a technology teacher and computer resource teacher at Legend High School. She has been teaching for 23 years, technology for 15 of those years. She teaches a little of everything technology related-Multimedia, Video, Web Design, Computer Animation and Engineering Design. Debbie also received the 2012 Apex Technology Teacher of the Year Award from the Colorado Technology Association.
questions.) They each responded to the questions via email and then had the opportunity to read and respond to what the other two had said.What follows here is the resulting conversation. Editor:What does literacy look like in the 21st century now that social media has exploded and been used as a platform for selfexpression? Debbie Richards: Literacy today has changed to include the many forms of media that make up our high tech world. As a result, we need to further develop the skills of students commonly referred to as “digital natives” who are already comfortable with the fast paced tools used to communicate and who effectively navigate the many dimensions of this digital environment. Many of our teachers are not as comfortable with these tools as our students are, and we must work together to bridge this chasm. Our professional development and focus must take the intimidation factor out of deploying the many technology tools currently available so that we can effectively communicate with our students in a language that they understand. It is not enough to provide technology in our schools – we must develop comprehensive plans that provide specific objectives and benchmarks to boost our teachers’ and students’ digital literacy. The explosion of social media has changed the way our students communicate with each other, their teachers and
the world at large. The biggest change may well be a blurring of the lines between what is private and what is for the world to know. Students think nothing of announcing their every step on social media sites and then wonder why their lives are practically an open book. As educators, we must not lose site of the need to teach our students the power of words and images shared in this manner and help them be less vulnerable to embarrassment and exploitation.They are never too young to learn about the digital footprints they will leave behind. A positive aspect of the explosion of social media is the fact that students are writing, collaborating, and analyzing the works of their peers and others in their lives. The Internet has changed the way our students read, research, and carry on conversations. Literacy is needed to effectively and creatively use and communicate information. The digital natives who inhabit our classrooms know how to communicate information in a multidimensional manner.They have grown up reading and interpreting media gleaned through cyberspace. It is our obligation to teach them in a way that honors this mode of learning and we can’t effectively teach them without using the many tools and strategies we have available. Our lessons must include tools such as live-streamed video, interactive maps, real-time audio and video interactions in a manner that still teaches analysis, synthesis and evaluation of the material presented. We must incorporate collaborative projects utilizing tools such as websites, wikis, and blogs to keep our learners engaged. As we prepare our students for a successful future, technology is an important addition to increasing their higher level thinking and problem solving skills.Technology has forever changed the world and we must embrace this change. Troy Hicks: In many ways, and in many classrooms, literacy looks the same now as it has for quite some time. The many forms of media that have been present in society and schooling for the past 100 years or so are all still there: reading and writing, listening and speaking, viewing and visually representing. What has changed are the tools now available for us to engage in literacy practices, if we let them. We are able to read a book, search the Internet, watch a video, take a picture, and draft a document on a device that fits in our pocket. To that end we are still reading and writing, listening and speaking, viewing then visually representing. And, as Debbie R. noted above, social media could make a meaningful difference in students’ academic lives, but again only if we facilitate that process. How do we plan to accommodate that kind of change? So, in some ways we are really seeing old wine in new bottles, unless we commit to pedagogical change. So, what could change for us as well as our students is a more intentional and creative focus on digital reading and writing
activities, activities that encompass the multiple modalities of literacy and can take place with the aid of these devices. Whether or not literacy “looks” different in the 21st century will largely depend on how we, as teachers, invite our students to become active composers and critical evaluators of these types of texts. I hope that we are moving in that direction, especially since students are creating work now that will be associated with them far into the future. Debbie Tawzer: Literacy incorporates so much more than it did before. Students must learn to build their online reputation from when they first begin using the internet, email, social networking, etc. They must learn to balance their online self expression so that when employers and potential employers look at their online profile they see the good and not the questionable. Students must also know what sources to use, what’s reliable and why, and what’s under copyright and what is not. Students must also learn to embrace the technology and truly use it as a networking tool in life after high school and college (e.g. linkedin). I think the last area of literacy that we must teach students is how to balance all the technology and the constant influx of information. Editor: How do our roles as traditional teachers compete with or work in unison alongside the internet and all it offers to our students and our classrooms? The internet even permits education without an actual, physical educator present--what do we think about that? Debbie Tawzer: I think that as teachers we must learn to work alongside the internet. I think in some ways it make the person at the front of the room even more important. Students can often feel disconnected from others because we do so much online and I think our students still crave (maybe even more so) our attention to them as a person --they want us to know them and build a relationship with them. Troy Hicks: Our role as teachers continues to be amplified by the Internet, not reduced by it. This happens for both academic reasons as well as for reasons that are, quite simply, about being human. While students may have access to all the world’s knowledge, amazing video tutorials, and the ability to connect with nearly anyone on the globe, they do not inherently possess the habits of mind that are required to be conscientious, creative, and literate people. They do not always seek out strategies to build connections, strengthen relationships as Debbie T. describes. Debbie Richards: This is such an important point--when I watch people around me in the world who spend much of their timed “wired,” it makes me feel sad. They miss the “right now,” real moments in front of them. At times, it feels Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
like we are losing the ability to enjoy the people who sit right next to us. It’s amazing to watch this shift--I’ve seen it all over the world. In order to keep our human creativity and continue to value human relationships, I believe we have to remind our students to value unwired time, too! Debbie Tawzer: Absolutely! I do see a “shift” beginning to happen. I can’t tell you how many students come to my room during my planning period, before and after school just to “hang out” and talk with me and who ever else is in there--it is difficult at times because I feel like they are craving attention, time, and personal connection, and I have things I need to get “done.” Sometimes I have to take a step back and realize that the relationship is a very important part of teaching--perhaps the part that we are losing to technology. It’s easy for schools to say relationships are important on paper but do we really live by that? Troy Hicks: While our role as a “traditional” teacher--one who delivers content and assesses students’ performance --may be changing, the need for teachers continues to increase. Or, at least the need for connected, critical, and collaborative teachers who want to build strong relationships with students continues to increase. Even though our role might change slightly because of the Internet, we are still an indispensable part of a full and rich educational experience. Debbie Richards: The Internet poses both a challenge and an opportunity for traditional teachers. It is a reality of life in this era and we must strive to incorporate the many resources we have virtually at our fingertips. It is clear that the Internet is one of the main ways our students learn. If we are not comfortable with this massive change, we will need to do some real soul searching to determine if we are willing to push our learning to stay effective as educators. As students are able to communicate with each other, with experts in any field of study, and with people living in all parts of the earth, we must try to harness the power of this vast tool. Of course, we must also teach our students to be critical thinkers who identify the sources of the information they gather and to discern the point of view of the person who shares the material they obtain. We must always teach them ways to protect their identity and filter the information they share. I believe it is also important to expose students to the idea of spending time in their lives away from the many screens that can own them.We need to encourage them to free themselves from the trap of being always tethered to a device. The reality of our young people’s lives is many of them spend the majority of their time connected to their cell phone, online or in front of a computer screen. Exposing them to the value of taking a break from this connection and being present in the “real” world is also important. The idea of obtaining education online without a physi30
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cal educator present is one that has to be considered as we seek to transform education into a system that works for students. The notion of “seat time” to obtain mastery of a subject is one that is dead or dying. Due to the way students can obtain information or learn about any subject of their interest, we have to change the way we educate our learners. This may mean offering an online course or creating a hybrid course with an element of online learning mixed with a face to face teacher. It may mean giving credit for mastering a skill – we need to find flexible solutions that honor what students know and allow them to move forward at their pace. As educators, it is imperative that we be open to creative ways to reach our students. No longer can teachers be the “sage on the stage” with all the information ready to pour into our kids. An effective classroom may look more like a room with small groups engaged in their own learning.The expert may be talking to them via YouTube, iTunesU, Kahn Academy, TED Talks, a MOOC (massive open online course) or by Skype from across the world. Of course, the idea of computers replacing teachers completely is preposterous, but we must be cognizant of the changing way our students learn and comfortable with committing to being lifelong learners who grow and change. We should not be threatened by the increased use of technology. Rather, we must embrace it and use it creatively and effectively to enhance our teaching practices. Editor: Are we truly “alone together” with technology or does it somehow bring us closer together? What kind of potential is there for reaching students and interacting with them individually more, rather than less, when we use technology? Troy Hicks: As I understand her idea of being “alone together,” MIT social science professor Sherry Turkle argues that the more technology we have and use, the less we attend to basic human interactions, needs, and etiquette. I have read some of her other books, and I respect her ideas. Still, I take issue with Turkle’s argument because I think that she puts the agency in the tool, and not as much in the way you choose to use technology. I have heard her on NPR and seen her TED talk, so I am only summarizing what I know of her book. “Alone together” seems to be a slightly misplaced idea: technology enables us connect in unprecedented ways, or to simply tune out. That choice is what makes us human, and we need to be intentional about how and why we use technology. Helping people become more intentional is what teachers do best. I know that there are times when we can turn toward devices in order to shut out the world around us, and yet that is a deliberate choice even though it sometimes happens almost automatically. Thus, we need to work with students to help them realize the potential that any given technology holds, as well as the trade-offs that they make in using the technology at
any given moment. For instance, if a student is simply trying to avoid conversation with a classmate and chooses the immediate satisfaction of sending a text message to a friend, then this is less about the technology and more about the choices that the student is making. We need to think carefully about how we can invite students to use technology to reach out rather than to simply dig deeper inside themselves. The technology enables us to make certain choices, for better or worse. That said, these are about human choices, and we cannot blame technology for making us feel “alone together.” As Debbie R. describes her approach to teaching with technology, I think that her intentional choices will show us how to make connections deeper, relationships stronger.
time to get to know each of my students and learning what they each value in life. My experience with integrating technology has made this process easier and more meaningful. I love the enthusiasm of middle school students creating a project using Animoto, Glogster, or Voicethread to tell a story that is important to them in a unique and fun way to complete a required assignment.Witnessing the delight of a student dressing up and recording a speech to be dropped into YouTube and shared on a Google site or added to a digital poster (Glogster) is a great reward for a teacher. When I email the YouTube link home and students have the opportunity to share their accomplishment with parents and grandparents, you’d better believe we are communicating in a way that draws us closer.
Debbie Richards: While it may appear counter intuitive to some, I believe that the introduction of technology can allow us to interact in some ways more intimately with each student. Our teaching of a skill such as writing becomes a process where we can communicate individually along each step of the process. With a collaborative tool such as Google Docs, we don’t even have to be in the same physical space to share comments, directions, encouragement and teachable moments. Our assessments can now be formative along each step of writing as students receive individual, timely and relevant feedback and instruction. It is very easy to give this feedback either in written or audio form. We also use this tool to teach students to provide feedback and collaborate with each other.
Debbie Tawzer: I think used correctly it can bring us together; it can help us meet people we never would have known and increase awareness of how others live and of injustices in the world. There is also the ability to learn so much using the internet that would not have been possible 20 years ago.
Troy Hicks: Perhaps we are “alone together” in our personal lives, but for teaching, the benefits outweigh the costs? Debbie Tawzer: Good point--I think used correctly for teaching the benefits could outweigh the costs. Good teaching with technology means teachers have to carefully consider how we are using technology. Many teachers haven’t been trained effectively in how to look at and weigh the benefits of using technology well for instructional purposes. Debbie Richards: As Troy and Debbie pointed out, effectively using technology creates a teaching situation where the benefits outweigh the costs. As educators, we must always question whether the use of technology is increasing rigor and relevance. Students also have more freedom to share about themselves when they are given creative license to produce projects such as digital stories. As a teacher, it is gratifying to see genuine excitement from my students when they are able to share with classmates and teachers a part of their life that is meaningful to them. The chance they have to shine when sharing their passion is positive in every respect and builds rapport with fellow students. Clearly, part of being an effective teacher is taking the
Editor: The Common Core State Standards include enhanced rigor in terms of products students create, but what about those they are exposed to? What is the place of the classics with the influx of so much media and mass-media available with just the click of the mouse? It isn’t uncommon to find book trailers, author interviews,YouTube video re-enactments, etc. for a variety of the classics. How could these be used in pairing with new common core assessments to provide 3-dimensionality to our units and lessons? Deb Tawzer: Honestly, I don’t know too much about what the assessments look like since I teach in an elective area. I would hope that the new assessments have students producing work using all of these media instead of just regurgitating facts and information. The best work I see students do is in authentic situations where they have to plan, prepare and present--even those students who don’t test well will excel with these types of challenges. I know right now it might not be possible to test this way but I think so many people would be impressed with what our students can and can’t do in these more authentic situations. I worry especially in the content area that I teach that a multiple choice test will never be able to measure a student accurately in an area like multimedia, graphic design, or engineering where students must “do” more than what they simply know. Most of the careers we are preparing them for require things they need to “do” and not just know. Not sure what the answer is. Troy Hicks: As Debbie T. reminds us, these new assessments shouldn’t drive us to even worse models of a test prep curriculum. One thing that we must remember about the Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
CCSS is that English teachers are still responsible for teaching “content.” That means--even with all the hype around nonfiction reading and more information and argument writing--we are still the ones teach literature as well as the craft of writing. Yet, I think that we can ask our students to kick it up in a notch and to think about how they can contribute their own interpretations and understandings of the classics. These are skills that can’t simply be regurgitated on tests. And, certainly, the large variety of media that is available online can help enhance our lessons. In fact, we should ask that they participate in a broader dialogue about characters, plots, and ideas. That is the heart of teaching literature. What if, for example, students copied a Shakespeare sonnet from Project Gutenberg, and then somehow remixed the original text into a multimodal production using a tool such as Prezi or WeVideo? What if they could engage in sustained conversation with another group of students from a different region, with a different perspective through Edmodo or a Twitter hashtag? Rather than simply reading it, they would have to interpret it in a critical and creative fashion using a web-based tool. So, yes, I think that there are many ways in which students can meet and exceed the CCSS. Debbie Richards: I believe the model of book trailers and author interviews is one we can use to teach our students to creatively compose their own digital products and and responses to reading. Our units and lessons can take advantage of the many resources already created. They become a springboard for our students to contemplate as they create their product. For example, after completing a writing piece, they can interview each other and create their own author interviews. The chance to write, record, listen to their recording, and revise it with the understanding that others will listen to their creation gives a real life example of the importance of their work. Using a digital means to communicate makes them aware that what we record is presented to the world for evaluation. As they critique the models we share with them, it gives them more power to plan their own work with the idea that they will also share. This is an opportunity for them to present to a larger audience and gives them pride in knowing they can choose what an audience beyond the classroom will think of their presentation. As we model the idea of combining images, voice, music, and text along with the power of choosing the right blend to present the desired message, students rise to the opportunity to create for a real audience and usually display more engagement. Editor: What are your thoughts on the constant pull between living a real, authentic life, and living in a virtual world where the possibilities and life-spans of our thoughts, writings, musings, status updates, etc. are endless. 32
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Troy Hicks: This is a very important question, especially as we consider the role that games play in the lives of our students and, increasingly, those of us who teach English. This is a case where we definitely do not want an “either/or” dichotomy and instead want to invite thinking in the “both/ and” perspective. Many people find great value in their lives online and, of course, some take this to the extreme by essentially having no off-line life. However, more and more people are finding authentic, real experiences in virtual worlds and we should recognize these experiences as legitimate ways to interpret the human experience. How might we help a student understand that the immersive game world he or she occupies is just as expansive as the world imagined by our greatest novelists, poets, and playwrights? Debbie Tawzer: I think that as part of literacy we must teach students to balance technology and being “connected” all the time with necessary time to be disconnected. I think that the constant “connectedness” is especially difficult in some ways for teachers--there is definitely a demand from parents that we are connected always to help students. I think if we don’t teach teachers how to balance and give them “permission” to be off, the burnout rate will increase. Debbie Richards: This is such an important point. We have to encourage students (and maybe the world at large!) to consider the importance of using technology to enhance our lives at the right point but enjoy the times of being disconnected, too. I also agree that as teachers, we have to remind parents and students that we have a life that is not always connected. I like the idea of set “office hours” online or the expectation that teachers will respond within a certain time frame. Debbie Tawzer: With the change in how teachers are evaluated (in Colorado at least) it will be difficult to find that balance. I know in my school district one criteria for evaluation is parent and student satisfaction--do you have to be connected all the time for a parent/student to be satisfied with your performance? With no teacher salary schedule any more, this is the only way to get a raise in my district I worry about the impacts of setting these limits or if young teachers will be afraid to set them. I have my sacred time and I keep it sacred, but I have many years experience that I feel make it easier to set those limits. Debbie Richards: Teaching our students to live a real, authentic life in light of the fact that they have largely grown up in an era where they have had so much exposure to virtual pets, virtual friends, and role playing situations is a challenge. This is a great example of the importance of having a relationship with a caring, encouraging teacher. Human inter-
action will never be replaced by machines or role playing situations. The capacity to feel empathy and express feelings is essential to being human and we must nurture this ability and provide our students encouragement and situations to contemplate this fact.The mutual respect that we model and the lessons about character, values, and moral decisions can never be replaced by an automaton. It is imperative that we include lessons about digital citizenship and the power and permanence of the information we share online. As the adults in our students’ lives, we must cultivate the type of relationship that allows us to guide them to consider the lasting effect of their online activity. The angst of middle school years can be made much worse when students do not understand this fact. Editor:What will the role of computer mediated testing look like? The new common core assessments will place different demands on our students as readers, writers, listeners, and viewers. Troy Hicks: From what I can say of my own reviews of the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) sample items, computer mediated testing is not really asking for anything different than what a paper and pencil test would be able to deliver. Despite the fact that it is on screen, the sample test items that I have reviewed (at least for SBAC) appear to be the same types of formulaic responses that we would expect on a typical standardized test. These are not “next generation” assessments, at least not in any substantive sense. The one slight, albeit inconsequential, difference is that one of the items has an embedded video to watch rather than a selection to read. Again, just because this is on screen does not mean that the intellectual work is any more rigorous or interesting than what students would be expected to do on a paper and pencil test. The final thing that we need to worry about is the other ways in which these assessments, especially the written portions, could be graded by computer. For all the formulaic writing that still exists in classrooms across this country, my fear is that we will now have teachers helping their students figure out how to game the tests. At least with human readers, attempts at sarcasm and humor may have been met with a feeling of connection or other emotion. The computers will be unable to even understand that much. Given that both SBAC and PARCC have, in recent weeks, pulled back on their goal of implementing computerized scoring of the writing portions of these tests in the initial testing cycle for 2014-15, I am encouraged that the assessment consortia are seeing the fallacy of efficiency and progress that computerized assessments have promised. Still, both Debbie T and Debbie R raise some serious concerns about what these tests will look like when they are implemented in schools. Debbie Tawzer: As a technology coordinator and teacher in my building I think the first aspect will be funding--how will
schools with limited funding be able to afford testing. I think if we are testing in labs, then those labs that could be used for more meaningful work will become testing centers. If we get to one-to-one computing where students are testing on their own computers--how do we regulate who is completing the assessments? Debbie Richards: The introduction of Common Core testing will effectively put most states on the same playing field and offer continuity for our students. The burden of providing the computer access for completing testing will have to be a part of District Technology planning. How will schools who do not have frequent access to computers for all students prepare them for taking these exams? Part of the testing needs to be a comfort level with the use of computers. Troy Hicks: Do we take this for granted with “digital natives”? Debbie Tawzer: I think we do take it for granted. We have many “digital natives” who can use many other forms of technology but who cannot use a computer effectively or with any degree of comfort. Debbie Richards: As Troy pointed out, it is a frightening thought to think of computers grading writing tests. But the benefit of computer mediated testing for our students is the idea that if they move from state to state or district to district, they will not lose learning time because the standards being taught will remain consistent and their student data will follow them seamlessly. As we move towards this implementation, students will have higher expectations placed on them in the areas of reading and math in hopes of graduating from high school prepared for their futures. As we complete this transformation, it is clear that technology will play a huge part both in delivering content to prepare our students and in the delivery of formative and summative assessments. How do we teach young people not to live by the statement above - “We expect more from technology and less from each other.”? (Question from Debbie Tawzer) Debbie Tawzer: I think that as educators we must value how students treat each other and we must raise the expectation for that behavior. This will also need to be something that administrators will need to help parents do as well in their interactions with teachers--students model what they hear and see at home. Troy Hicks: At risk of oversimplifying this issue, we need to make it clear that there is another human on the end of any message our students send, whether in a text, a status Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
update, or tweet. Certainly, we need to make them aware of issues related to cyberbullying and proper netiquette.Yet, that’s only a small part of the equation. As we have done for all of human history, we need to teach our children the norms and expectations of appropriate behavior and interactions. If we remind them that technology is just a tool, and that if they control their own behavior, the ways that they use the tools, then we will continue to have high expectations for one another. Debbie Richards:Technology is a valuable tool when used in the right way. It can enhance education and allow students to go deeper and reach farther, however, it can never take the place of thinking, feeling human beings. It is imperative that we encourage our students to think critically and to evaluate information they glean with technology. As Troy said, it is a just a tool, and we need to remember the value of human beings, who can’t be replaced by this amazing tool. What are the biggest challenges facing educators as we make the changes necessary to grow into the kinds of teachers our students need? (Question from Debbie Richards) Troy Hicks: Teaching is a job that never looks the same from day-to-day, sometimes even minute-to-minute, and yet there are principles that we can hold onto as we learn and grow. At risk of being too cliche, the only thing we have to fear about our ever-evolving educational landscape is fear itself. So long as we continue to listen to our students, honor their needs, and draw from their experiences, then we will each continue to be good teachers. You do not, should not, know every single website or smartphone app. Your students can and will help you with all the technology. You should, however, rely on the fact that you are an intelligent, literate adult and help your students learn how to make smart choices for themselves.
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Debbie Richards: My thought is we need to be flexible, willing to change and grow as technology ushers us into a new era. As Troy so correctly pointed out, we do not need to know everything we need to honor the fact that our students many times know more than we do about technology, and in fact, the best teaching may be allowing them to be the teacher. The engagement we see when allow the true experts to shine is a vital part of facilitating learning. Troy Hicks: more importantly, we need to listen. If our students aren’t engaged, then they aren’t engaged. Technology is not a hook, not just infotainment. It should support thoughtful, rigorous, and intellectual work.We know how to help students do that kind of smart work, especially when we listen to what they are telling us. Debbie Richards: I wholeheartedly agree with your statement! Debbie Tawzer: I totally agree as well. I also think we need to become more thoughtful about the kind of work we ask students to do, how it is connected to the “real” world. Using technology, students can help us solve “real” problems. I believe that when students feel that what they are doing isn’t just busy work, they are empowered and excel beyond our expectations.
It’s Still Complicated: Why Colorado Teachers Should Care about the Common Core
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.
by Cindy O’Donnell and Sarah Woodard Something very curious happens when everything is being disrupted--institutions, technologies, personal lives, governments, so on and so forth.... [T]his is a period in which small moves can actually make a huge difference if you’re willing to step back and embrace change rather than just fear change. -- John Seely Brown The 21st century is an exciting time to be a teacher because, as John Seely Brown pointed out in a recent interview, both students and teachers “can get educated in brand new ways.” Yet we would be disingenuous if we pretended that supporting our students’ development of 21stcentury skills, teaching to a rigorous set of relatively new standards, and preparing them for constantly changing state assessments all at the same time wasn’t also overwhelming. There’s no way around it; even on the best of days, meeting the “mandate du jour” is complicated. In the movie It’s Complicated, Meryl Streep stars as a single mom who has been divorced for ten years. Her life is disrupted when she begins having an affair with her exhusband, while simultaneously falling for the architect remodeling her house. Whom should she choose—the familiar stand-by or the new guy? In the end, she decides on a blended family, moving forward with the new guy and “breaking up” with her ex-husband, knowing that he will always be part of her life. This plot line parallels Colorado’s adoption of the Academic Standards for Reading, Writing, and Communicating. Just eight months after the state adopted a set of “fewer, higher, clearer” standards aimed exclusively at English Language Arts teachers in December 2009, things got complicated. In August of 2010, the Colorado School Board of Education essentially “broke up” with the newly revised standards. In order to compete for Race to the Top funding, the board voted to become a Common Core state and requested an integration of the old with the new. In December 2010, the final revision of the standards was complete, the plot line resolved, and teachers could move forward into blended family bliss.
Sarah Woodard teaches 8th grade Language Arts at Falcon Bluffs Middle School in Littleton, Colorado. She is a co-director of the Denver Writing Project and a National Board Certified Teacher.
Not exactly. In our leadership roles with the National Writing Project (NWP), we know that it’s still complicated in Colorado. Cindy directs the Colorado State University Writing Project (CSUWP), and Sarah Woodard is a co-director of the Denver Writing Project (DWP). For the past two years, we have served with other teachers from our writing project sites on a national team sponsored by NWP and the Gates Foundation called “Literacy and the Common Core.” On this team, we have designed curriculum and professional development aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts along with writing project colleagues from Idaho, Kentucky, and New York. Unlike those states, which replaced their standards entirely with the CCSS, Colorado chose a blended approach by embedding the CCSS in the newly revised Colorado Academic Standards for Reading,Writing, and Communicating. Since states were allowed to include up to 15% of state-specific content in revising their standards, some saw this as an elegant and expedient solution. In our work with schools and districts across the state, the common refrain has been, “Since our teachers meet the Colorado Academic Standards for Reading,Writing, and Communicating, we’ve got it covered.We’re also meeting the Common Core.” Here’s the hitch. Although they are referred to as the CCSS for English Language Arts (ELA), these standards actually include expectations for literacy across the content areas, including science, history, social studies, and technical subjects. While a common set of “anchor standards” for Reading and Writing applies to all subjects, ELA teachers are responsible for teaching grade-level and content-specific standards in two additional areas—Speaking and LisStatement Vol. 49, Number 2
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tening, and Language. Teachers of history/social studies in grades six through twelve have a separate, content-specific set of standards in the Reading and Writing categories only; secondary teachers in science and technical subjects have their own separate, content-specific set in these two areas as well. In Colorado, all of these standards for teachers in all of these content areas, however, are embedded in one single document--the Colorado Academic Standards for Reading, Writing, and Communicating. Since this document has historically been considered the purview of English Language Arts teachers only, what’s a Colorado teacher to do? Stick with the familiar stand-by of the academic standards for her/his respective content area or get to know “the new guy” as represented by the Common Core? In considering these complications, we contend that an intimate knowledge of the CCSS is every Colorado teacher’s business, and the “got-it-covered” approach is woefully insufficient to meet the expectations of the Common Core. In the following sections, we offer five reasons why you as a Colorado English Language Arts teacher should care both about the Colorado Academic Standards and the CCSS so that ultimately, you and your colleagues can honestly say, “Together, we’ve got it covered.” Reason #1: You Need to Know Who’s Responsible for Teaching English The short answer is that you are. Unfortunately, the only reference the Colorado Academic Standards for Reading, Writing, and Communicating makes to the obligation for teaching literacy skills in other content areas is this: “[t]hese expectations are NOT meant to supplant academic standards in other content areas, but to be used as a literacy supplement” (1). The CCSS document, however, insists that “instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a shared responsibility within the school.” The division of the standards into two sections--one for ELA teachers and another for teachers in other content areas--“reflects the unique, time-honored place of ELA teachers in developing students’ literacy skills while at the same time recognizing that teachers in other areas must have a role in this development as well” (4). Distinguishing the standards for ELA teachers from those for teachers in other content areas in the Colorado Academic Standards for Reading, Writing, and Communicating is tricky business. The clue is in codes like this-”CCSS: W.6.1.” This code keys the “evidence outcome” in the Writing and Composition section of the Colorado standards document to a particular Writing standard in the CCSS document, the grade level, and the CCSS standard for that grade level. In this case, then, the Colorado grade-level outcome corresponds with the CCSS Writing section, 6th grade, standard 1, which reads: “Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. (CCSS:
W.6.1)” It falls under the purview of English Language Arts teachers because it is does not include the code “WHST.” The “WHST” code stands for “Writing, History, Science, and Technical Subjects,” and is thus the responsibility of content-area teachers in those areas. Readers will only see this code in the “Nature of Reading, Writing, and Communicating” section of the Colorado standard. It is meant to alert them that there is a corresponding standard for content-area teachers in the CCSS document, though they won’t find the actual CCSS standard in our state document. To illustrate the difference, the Colorado evidence outcome coded WHST 6-8.1 refers to Writing standard #1 for 6th8th grade teachers of History/Social Studies and Technical Subjects. Unlike the standard stated in the previous paragraph that is the purview of English Language Arts teachers, the Common Core standard reads, “Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content” (emphasis added). The term “discipline-specific” appears nowhere in our state standards, so it’s essential that our content-area colleagues work back and forth between the Colorado standards for their respective content areas and the CCSS document to make sure that they are covering all the bases. While we do not want to imply that you toss our Colorado standards and just work with the CCSS document, we should note that in our own work with the standards with teachers across the state, we’ve found it far easier to see these distinctions in the CCSS document for English Language Arts. (You can download it for free at the CCSS website: http://www.corestandards.org/.) Because the standards for ELA teachers are in a different section from those aimed at content-area teachers, this document is easy to navigate; it’s also much shorter—only 66 pages as compared to our 172-page state document. The only disadvantage to this approach is that you won’t be able to find the “plus” part of the Colorado standards. For this very reason, we recommend working back and forth between the CCSS document and our state document. On the CSU Writing Project website (http://csuwritingproject.net), you can find a color-coded version of our state documents that highlights the CCSS in blue; everything that isn’t highlighted is the “plus.” Reason #2: You Need to Know Which Standards Pertain to Your Colleagues in Other Content Areas In consulting with many Colorado districts over the past two years, we’ve found much variation in their understanding of who will be teaching the content-area section of the Common Core literacy standards. Some districts have notified their content-area teachers that they must use literacy strategies to teach their content. One of Sarah’s colleagues, for instance, now sees his job as “teaching social studies content via literacy,” that is, using reading, writing, and thinking strategies to help students both understand content and to read, write, and think like a historian does. Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
Other districts expect English teachers to do it all, although this expectation directly contradicts the CCSS document. It states that schools would be wise to undertake a “schoolwide literacy program,” requiring teachers even outside of the designated content areas to integrate literacy strategies in their classrooms in discipline-appropriate ways (6). (The subject areas they specifically mention are math and health.) These expectations are reflected in the assessment items released by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the consortium developing the test Colorado students will take beginning in the 2015. These tasks require students to read non-fiction texts from other content areas and to explain their reasoning in writing, even on math problems (see http://www.parcconline. org/). As we explained in the previous section, however, the shared obligation for teaching discipline-appropriate literacy skills is only alluded to in the Colorado standards and not even mentioned in the prefaces for content area teachers. So consider for a moment what content-area teachers would have to do to be aware of their “shared responsibility”: 1) They would have to know that this expectation exists, even though their own content standards don’t indicate that it does; 2) they would have to be able to read closely the Colorado RWC standards to identify the WHST code and then deduct which of the Colorado standards also link to a Common Core standard that applies to them; and 3) they would have to cross-reference the WHST code to the actual content-area standard in the CCSS document. You know your content-area colleagues best, so only you can be the judge of how likely it is that they will deduct this reasoning process and know how to take action on it. (To be honest, our own content-area colleagues have reacted with push-back.) We speculate, however, that the best hope for them is probably to have someone in the know like you who can point them toward pages 59-66 of the CCSS document rather than to the Colorado standards for Reading, Writing, and Communicating. Reason #3: You Need to Know What’s Familiar and What’s Different about the CCSS Despite all the confusion in some school districts over who will be responsible for teaching literacy strategies, the CCSS make it clear that ELA teachers will be responsible for teaching students how to read closely, write well, speak and listen purposefully and collaboratively, and demonstrate command of Standard English in their writing and speaking. This is familiar territory for us, but it doesn’t mean that nothing has changed. While we still get to teach the literature we love, we’ll also be responsible for integrating more informational texts in our curriculum. We’ll still support students through the writing process, but we’ll need to expand our instruction beyond literary analysis to include strategies for writing 38
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in informational/explanatory and narrative modes as well. We’ll also need to help students engage in multimodal reading and writing. Classroom discussions and presentations are still mainstays in the Speaking and Listening standards, but students must also develop skills for collaboration, synthesis, analysis, and persuasion. Finally, while students will need to know about grammatical structures and language conventions, the primary focus will be on how to use (not just label) those language structures and conventions, both in writing and in speaking. Let’s work through these differences one by one. Integrating More Informational Texts The CCSS document points out that students are likely to be reading far more non-fiction than literature once they leave our classrooms. If we want them to thrive in postsecondary contexts, we need to make sure that they can read complex informational texts well, too. Consequently, the CCSS recommend that the curriculum include an increasing percentage of informational texts so that once students reach secondary school, they are reading approximately 70% informational texts compared to 30% literary texts. Don’t forget, though, that we--meaning English and content-area teachers--are all in this together. This means that we will still be teaching mostly literary texts because students will be reading informational texts almost exclusively outside of the English classroom. Chances are good that you already teach many of the sub-genres the CCSS lists as informational texts, so the stretch may not be as difficult as you think.The list includes “exposition, argument, and functional text in the form of personal essays, speeches, opinion pieces, essays about art or literature, biographies, memoirs, journalism, and historical, scientific, technical, or economic accounts (including digital sources) written for a broad audience” (57). Another key difference in the CCSS is the emphasis on “text complexity.” This term means exactly what it sounds like and reflects the argument in Appendix A of the ELA standards that the difficulty level of texts has “trended downward” in the last half century (4). Appendix A provides a good description of how to discern the degree of text complexity based on qualitative and quantitative dimensions as well as on reader and task considerations. In case you’re worried that text complexity will be boiled down to lexile scores only, remember that two-thirds of this equation relies on “teachers employing their professional judgment, experience, and knowledge of their students and the subject” (4). Appendix B of the CCSS also provides text exemplars you can use to gauge the relative difficulty level of the texts you’re currently teaching. If you’re worried that these exemplars equate to a national curriculum, the Appendix makes clear that they are meant only to serve as examples of the depth and breadth of texts students should be reading.
Teaching Students How to Write Argument, Informational/Explanatory, and Narrative Texts The CCSS requires that students develop skills for writing three text types--argument, informational/explanatory, and narrative. For many English teachers, especially those who teach Advanced Placement and honors classes at the high school level as Cindy did for many years, writing instruction has primarily centered on argument, with the literary analysis essay taking center stage, usually at the expense of other expressive forms like narrative and poetry. While we have sometimes been able to justify memoir and personal narrative as a way of getting to know our students at the beginning of the year or helping our seniors generate fodder for college entrance writing samples, we may rarely, if ever, teach informational/explanatory writing, save for the ubiquitous research paper. Thankfully, Tom Romano’s work in multigenre writing has breathed new life into many of our classrooms, allowing us to sneak in other genres while still meeting expectations for teaching research skills. Literary analysis is still required by the CCSS, but the genre is no longer privileged. At every grade level, we must spend equal time teaching all three text types, as well as helping students learn “to combine elements of different kinds of writing—for example, to use narrative strategies within argument and explanation within narrative—to produce complex and nuanced writing” (41). Fortunately, the CCSS spell out in very specific terms the skills students must employ in each genre, distinguishing, for instance, the different stylistic devices used to write a good narrative (e.g., sensory language, dialogue, pacing) from those needed for an effective argument (e.g., precise language and transitions that indicate the relationships between ideas). Imagining these elements as more than just items on a checklist, but as possible topics for mini-lessons, can help us shape curriculum and instruction to support our students in becoming well-rounded writers. Helping Students Engage in Multimodal Reading and Writing Students not only have to be able to write in multiple genres, they must also employ multimodal literacies to a greater degree than former standards required. This requires us to broaden our notion of texts beyond print to include “diverse media and formats,” including digital, visual, quantitative, and oral texts. How far do these expectations reach? Primary teachers participating in CSUWP professional development programs have been surprised to learn that even kindergartners must be able to use a range of digital tools to produce and publish writing, to describe the relationship between visual texts and written content, and to use visual texts to meet speaking and listening standards. These expectations advance substantially in subsequent grade levels so that by the 11th grade, students must be able to “[g]ather relevant information from multiple authorita
tive print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation including footnotes and endnotes.” And that’s just to meet Writing Standard 8 for Research and Reasoning. Because students are so immersed in texting, posting to Facebook, and viewing YouTube videos in their everyday lives, they are likely to have an intuitive understanding that these diverse media constitute texts. In order to meet the standards, however, we have to make this concept explicit for them so that they can read these texts critically, and use media and technology purposefully and responsibly to compose, collaborate, and distribute their ideas. The Area 3 Writing Project in California has created a handy one-page pdf demonstrating how the CCSS align with digital and visual texts; we provide a URL in our bibliography. Teaching Speaking, Listening, and Language Skills The biggest change we have noted in these areas is the emphasis on the independent application of highly sophisticated skills. In terms of speaking and listening, most English teachers we know rely on whole-class, teacher-led discussion to help students negotiate literary texts. Unfortunately, as Peter Smagorinsky points out in Teaching English by Design, [e]ven in ‘discussions,’...teachers tend to control the talk, and students speak largely in response to what teachers say, with few of their contributions requiring little more than recall of information from the text… [S]uch a pattern provides students with little opportunity to pose questions of their own; their role is relatively passive. (32) If we want to help our students meet the Speaking and Listening standards, however, we have to integrate a range of discussion structures in our teaching and help students participate actively so that they aren’t just answering our questions, but posing their own, evaluating others’ contributions, and synthesizing ideas to arrive at their own interpretations. As we mentioned in the previous section, they must also use multimodal texts to bolster their oral presentations in various contexts. Finally, we must teach them how to collaborate effectively by setting their own rules for participation and following through on jointly negotiated goals and deadlines. The Language standards are also decidedly skewed toward independent application. Students must “demonstrate command” of conventions when writing and speaking (not “label” subjects or verbs or “diagram” sentences); they must “determine or clarify” the meaning of words (not “memorize” vocabulary lists); they must “demonstrate” understanding of the relationships between words (not underline Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
similes and metaphors); and so on. In short, they must use language in their reading, writing, speaking, and listening, for as the CCSS state, “indeed, [language skills] are inseparable from such contexts” (51). Reason #4: You Need to Know How Will Your Students Will Be Assessed—and in a Hurry The new PARCC assessment ain’t your mama’s TCAP. As explained in a recent PARCC bulletin, the tests “will look very different to students.The tasks on the assessments will resemble the classroom work they do during the school year and look less like a conventional fill-in-the-bubble or short-answer test.” While short-answer comprehension and vocabulary questions are part of the test, essay-length writing will be required in three tasks--a research simulation, a literary analysis, and a narrative task. All tasks and questions are connected to specific texts, both literary and informational. Rather than inciting panic, we encourage you to visit the PARCC website to view released items and consider the stark contrast between the journal-type prompts students are accustomed to seeing on our current state exams and the PARCC prompts, which resemble questions on AP Literature tests. Then consider that all of our students must tackle the PARCC exam. We remain morally opposed to the idea that our primary role is to teach to the test, but we do want students to develop the sophisticated skills they will need to complete these tasks. Seeing these differences has motivated us to dig deeply into the standards, develop curriculum aligned with CCSS, adjust our classroom practice and assessment, and talk with colleagues at other grade levels to make sure that students are on track to meet the standards in grade-appropriate ways. Reason #5: You Need to Know That You Can Do This The shifts we’ve described in this article will certainly have an impact in all classrooms, but there are numerous supports available to help teachers rise to the challenge of the CCSS. We recommend the following resources as a starting place: • Read and study the standards themselves and other resources on the Common Core website, including the Appendices. • Access the resources in the Standards and Instruction section of the Colorado Department of Education website. • Read these recently published professional texts (or better yet, organize a book study on them with your colleagues): • Text Complexity: Raising Rigor In Reading by Nancy Frey, Diane Lapp, and Douglas Fisher (International Reading Association, 2012). • Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, 40
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Mary Ehrenworth, & Christopher Lehman (Heinemann, 2012). • NCTE Book Series: Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards. • Exceeding the Common Core State Standards Book Series by James Fredricksen, Michael W. Smith, and Jeff Wilhelm (Heinemann, 2012). • Opening the Common Core: How to Bring ALL Students to College and Career Readiness by Carol Corbett Burris and Delia Garrity (Corwin, 2012). • Participate in high-quality professional development, preferably facilitated by teachers who already implement the CCSS in their classrooms in innovative ways. Visit the websites of the CSU Writing Project and the Denver Writing Project to learn about low-cost opportunities focused on the CCSS. Finally, follow Thomas Newkirk’s advice and don’t let go of the good ideas that sustain your teaching and your students’ learning. As he points out, “In this age of big reform, [a] focus on the small and immediate may seem timid. Yet... great teachers are great not because they are constantly engineering revolutions in their classroom--but because they are alert to the small changes, the small victories. This alertness allows them to reinforce and acknowledge those changes, both to the student and to themselves” (172). Works Cited Area 3 Writing Project. “Why Digital Writing Matters: Common Core ELA Standards and Digital Writing Alignment.” Web. 1 March 2013. <http://digitalis.nwp.org/ resource/3201>. Brown, John Seely. Interview by Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd. “Why Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Change the World.” Big Think: Smarter, Faster. Web. 1 March 2013. Colorado Department of Education. Colorado Academic Standards for Reading, Writing, and Communicating. Denver: Colorado Department of Education, 2010. Web. 1 March 2013. <http://www.cde.state.co.us/StandardsAndInstruction/ColoradoStandards.asp>. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. Common Core State Standards. Washington D.C.: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010.Web. 1 March 2013. <http:// www.corestandards.org/>. Newkirk, Thomas. Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones: Six Literacy Principles Worth Fighting For. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2009. Smagorinsky, Peter. Teaching English by Design: How to Create and Carry Out Instructional Units. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2008.
What’s Right and Wrong with the Standards for Writing by Tom Romano
Tom Romano teaches writing and English methods in the Department of Teacher Education at Miami University in Ohio. His next book, Fearless Writing: Multigenre to Motivate and Inspire, will be published by Heinemann in August 2013.
It’s not that the Standards for writing are bad. There is something for everyone in them. I can’t read the Standards without respecting the time, thought, and language craft expended in producing them.You soon see that the Standards “put particular emphasis on students’ ability to write sound arguments on substantive topics and issues, as this ability is critical to college and career readiness (Appendix A, CCSS 24). In fact, the text of the Standards is an argument proposing and defending a “vision of what it means to be a literate person in the twenty-first century” (Introduction, CCSS 5). The problem is that the Standards’ vision for writing is narrow, biased, and incomplete. Sometimes the Standards feel divorced from the reality of teaching. They who wrote them are dismissive of writing that is something other than exposition, though narrative is given a nod as a “text type.” Below are three of the four areas of writing that the Standards specify students should understand and be able to do: Production and Distribution of Writing 4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. 5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach. 6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
10.Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences. (CCSS 41) There is much to like there. I, too, want clarity and coherence. I exhort my college students to keep in mind---especially after writing is launched--their purpose and audience. I push students to experience the clarifying power of revision. We want students to grow ever more sophisticated in their use of technology, and to “write to be read,” as Ken Macrorie put it (1976), to write writing that works with readers. And is anyone against students using research to build and present knowledge? I would add here, however, that number nine leaves the door open for a steady writing diet of analytical essays about literature, a narrow subgenre that has been, to my mind, overused and much abused in English language arts classrooms. Even “Range of Writing” I don’t object to. My idea of bliss is “extended time frames,” several months, say, of daily writing on a book manuscript. I want students to develop similar stamina for big writing projects. And writing with facility, even in “a single sitting”? Who doesn’t want the quality of email, text messages, and tweets to be clear and substantive (OK, I’ve got my tongue in my cheek. The Standards probably have in mind writing under testing conditions.) In a side note, the Standards declare that students “must have the flexibility, concentration, and fluency to produce high-quality first-draft text under tight deadlines . . . .” (CCSS 41). A line from Shakespeare comes to mind: “’Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.” Research to Build and Present Knowledge I am companionable with these three areas of writing, 7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research even believe that the idea of multigenre research papers projects based on focused questions, demonstrat- fits comfortably within them (Romano 2000). My objection ing understanding of the subject under investigation. comes with the first category of the Standards for writing: 8. Gather relevant information from multiple print “Text Types and Purposes,” which, I believe, is shortsighted, and digital sources, assess the credibility and accu- exclusive, and biased against creativity. And creativity, regardracy of each source, and integrate the information less of the genre being written, is the heart of linguistic exwhile avoiding plagiarism. pression, that generative quality of language that makes ex9. Draw evidence from literary or informational tended thought possible, whether writing a poem, a position texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. paper, or grocery list. Here is the Standards’ first category: Text Types and Purposes* Range of Writing 1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis
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of substantive topics or text using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content. 3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, wellchosen details and well-structured event sequences.
students’ writing repertoire the stock in trade of English language arts classrooms--literature: fiction, poetry, drama, experimental writing, prose poems, flashes, meditations, prayers, stream of consciousness, and so much more. “The inclusion and evaluation” of creative writing beyond narrative, the Standards leave to “teacher discretion.” How magnanimous of the Standards. How trusting of teachers’ expertise and judgment, since the Standards leave no other text type to teacher discretion. Students must write arguments, must write informative/explanatory pieces, must *These broad types of writing include many sub- write narratives. Why is creative writing left to teacher disgenres. See Appendix A for definitions of key writing cretion? I fear that many teachers will be so bedeviled by types. (CCSS 41) the pressure to teach argumentative writing--the text type It is the third “text type” I object to: Narrative. And I likely to be called for on a standardized test--that they will say this as a writer who sees narrative as the heartbeat of neglect creative writing altogether. The Standards point out his writing. But for the Standards to single out narrative to that narrative does not include “all the possible forms of the exclusion of all other genres that are not argument or creative writing.” That seems an odd assertion. Who would informative/explanatory . . . really? What about making sure expect narrative to be inclusive of all creative writing? Postudents write poetry? And drama? What about making sure etry doesn’t have to be narrative. Neither do all subgenres students try bending and breaking rules of standard writing and hybrids of creative writing. Rather, narrative is more as a way of communicating powerfully, as Virginia Wolf and e. properly sheltered under the text type of creative writing. e. cummings did, as contemporary creative nonfiction writ- My hunch, however, is that the Standards writers did not ers do? What about making sure that all students—those want creative writing given the status of “text type.” That who will become accountants and lawyers, as well as those would give it too much legitimacy. The Standards want to who will become artists--write creatively? omit creative writing without seeming to. So it appears in I followed the asterisk after “Text Types and Purposes” an appendix. to Appendix A. There the Standards elaborated on narraSome will argue that I’m making too much of this, that tive, pointing out that it “can be used for many purposes, even though it is in an appendix, creative writing is still a part such as to inform, instruct, persuade, or entertain. In Eng- of the Standards. I can’t argue against that. But I can point lish language arts, students produce narratives that take the out this: By placing it in an appendix with a two-sentence, form of creative fictional stories, memoirs, anecdotes, and dismissive caveat, the Standards diminish creative writing, autobiographies” (Appendix A, CCSS 23). Sound thinking, I give it second class status, sanction its neglect under the believe, that links to another laudable assertion: “The Stan- guise of leaving it to teacher discretion. In fact, the text type dards require that students be able to incorporate narrative of narrative, which is the closest the Standards come to elements effectively into arguments and informative/explan- creative writing, is undermined and diminished by the Stanatory texts” (CCSS 65). For years I have argued--often in dards document itself. Appendix C is composed of samples the face of dogged opposition--that story/anecdote/narra- of student writing that would meet the Standards. Nineteen tive has a natural place in expository writing as a way to pieces of writing are presented by 7th through 12th graddraw readers in, illustrate claims, add imagery, and people ers. Eighteen of these samples are categorized as either arour prose (a sure way to heighten readers’ interest). gument or informative/explanatory. The one narrative was The Standards’ understanding of the power of narra- written by an 8th grader (Appendix C CCSS). Though imtive heartened me. And then I saw a shaded, boxed bit of plicit, the message is clear: teachers may slight narrative.The language beside the discussion of narrative: Standards sure have. Creative Writing beyond Narrative Why did the Standards writers do this? Was it that the The narrative category does not include all of the world of creative writing is simply too vast, which the little possible forms of creative writing, such as many box seems to indicate by noting “all the possible forms of types of poetry. The Standards leave the inclusion creative writing”? Or are there other, more insidious reaand evaluation of other such forms to teacher dis- sons for marginalizing creative writing? cretion. (CCSS Appendix A, 23) Is it a devaluing, even a dismissal, of imaginative thinking? At first blush that clarification seems inclusive of mulIs it to make English classrooms more like business and tiple genres in that big world mural of writing. At second technical writing classrooms? blush, however, I see those two boxed sentences as placatIs it an assault on cushy thinking that many believe ing and dismissive. The writers of the Standards simply do creative writing represents, primarily, I think, because they not value creative writing. They essentially remove from have never experienced its rigors (I can still hear a guidance 42
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counselor say to me when I was a young teacher nearly forty years ago, “How can you grade creative writing? It’s whatever comes out, right? It’s creative.”). Is it because the Standards writers thought that their argument touting expository writing would be stronger if they simply minimized creative writing, while appearing to respect its breadth and depth? Whatever the reasons the standards writers had for marginalizing creative writing, I resist. I’m with high school English teacher Judy Michaels, who wrote in response to demands that students be trained to write clearly and concisely, in the way business people want to read, Okay, clarity and concision are fine, but as a teacher of the art and craft of writing, I’d like to help produce not only future employees in the global economy but also imaginative friends, siblings, lovers, neighbors, grown sons and daughters, and parents of imaginative teenagers. (Michaels 7) The Standards relegation of creative writing to secondclass status is a slap to that “art and craft of writing.” It’s rotten guidance to English teachers, too: “By all means,” it implies, “have students read creative writing produced over the centuries, but to insure that students are college and career ready, it is unnecessary to have them engage in such writing themselves.” The Standards do not value ways of thinking and knowing that creative writing offers, at least as far as students are concerned. Imagination? Trifling. Associative thinking? Of little importance. A poet’s eye for detail? Come now. The Standards want writing that’s all head, no heart. In Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones (one of the most important books about literacy education in the last 25 years), Thomas Newkirk lays out the range of discourse he finds essential: Expressive, Informational, Persuasive, Literary (Newkirk 152). Newkirk’s second and third categories align with the Standards, though instead of the word argument, he uses persuasive. Newkirk’s fourth category--Literary--beats and includes the Standards’ text type of “Narrative.” I’m guessing the Standards’ writers wanted to avoid “literary,” a term that makes some people uncomfortable, since so many as adolescents were overmatched by classic, literary texts and may also have been bludgeoned with strict interpretations of them to the exclusion of their own budding powers of reader response. “Literary” might also suggest elitism and condescension, as in “literary snobs.” I have to say though, “Too bad if ‘literary’ makes someone uncomfortable.” The Standards tout the use of disciplinary-specific language. “Literary” is about as disciplinaryspecific as we can get in the subject of English language arts. “Literary” encompasses everything from the limericks of Anonymous to the abstract expository prose of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I also prefer the word “literary” to creative. Say the words “creative writing” and you often encounter an immediate dichotomy: some people dismiss creative writing
as fluff; others believe it is sacred, something reserved only for the most talented writers. Creativity is not exclusive to narrative, poetry, and drama. Every act of writing is an act of creativity with language as the creative medium. Two Further Gaps in the Standards for Writing Mentor Texts In Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” two neighbors meet each spring to repair the stone wall between their properties, rebuilding it to eliminate the gaps that have appeared over the winter. The Standards for writing, I believe, could also use mending. Frost’s narrator says: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense.” (Frost 34) The Standards have sought to wall out creativity, imagination, and narrative ways of knowing. And they’ve offended many teachers, especially teachers like me who want literary writing to have the status of argument and informative/ explanatory. “Standard 9 stresses the importance of the writingreading connection by requiring students to draw upon and write about evidence from literary and informational texts” (CCSS 8). I apbplaud the Standards for using the language of “writing-reading connection,” but oh, what a narrow view of it the Standards advance, harnessing the writingreading connection only in the service of gathering evidence for writing arguments. There are other, more fundamental connections between writing and reading: oth are active processes of meaning making. Writers and readers choose topics, immerse themselves in language, reread for understanding, revise their thinking. Breadth and depth of reading usually make for stronger writers. And students who begin to think like writers, actively using elements of writing craft, become more appreciative readers. The strongest writing-reading connection is perhaps the use of mentor texts to teach students about writing craft and text possibilities. Scott Fitzgerald finally began selling short stories to The Saturday Evening Post after he learned the kind of story structure the magazine preferred. This he discovered by outlining short stories published in the Post. I wrote my first free verse poem after immersion in Marge Piercy’s work. Nowhere in the Standards for writing do I see mention of “mentor texts”--of students looking to see, for example, how Anne Lamott structures an essay and then trying that out in their own attempts, of writing persuasive commentaries patterned after the op-ed columns of Maureen Dowd or Charles Blow, of writing poems that use techniques of Mary Oliver, Ken Brewer, or Mekeel McBride. On the concept of mentor texts as models for student writing, the Standards are silent . Expressive Writing By not including Newkirk’s first category in his range Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
of discourse--expressive--the Standards reveal a second significant gap: a spurning of writing process. The Standards don’t mention expressive writing, yet without it, there is little chance students will write vivid narratives, clear explanations, elegant arguments. Expressive writing is where we start when we pour forth first words, seeking to make meaning from fragmented, chaotic inner speech. Expressive writing is writing closest to our speaking voice, the seedbed from which all other writing grows. Expressive writing with all its stumbles, indiscretions, lucid moments, and exuberance gets us to our essays, reports, poems, and stories. Look at our notebooks--expressive writing. Look at our letters-expressive writing. Look at our drafts--expressive writing. When we begin to write anything, often with much doubt about what we will produce, expressive writing is what we must have faith in. “The aim of the Standards is to articulate the fundamentals, not to set out an exhaustive list or set of restrictions that limits what can be taught beyond what is specified herein” (CCSS 6). If expressive writing is not fundamental to learning to write, nothing is. Expressive writing is an absolute basic skill for students to learn to produce routinely with faith and fearlessness so language can work its generative magic. That expressive writing is absent from the Standards reveals profound ignorance about how writing is created or a calculated omission. Many know me as a proponent of multigenre writing that can take the form of research papers, memoirs, literary essays, fiction, reports, even exams (Romano 2000). I’m not at all certain how multigenre will fair in light of the Standards. Their language has certainly opened the door to the possibility that teachers--conscientious teachers who want to do right by their students--will exclude any kind of writing from the curriculum that isn’t argument, informative/
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explanatory, and narrative (with even the slighting of narrative a possibility). I know that multigenre encompasses the Standards’ “range of discourse” and much more. Many of us became English teachers because we thrilled to the big world mural of literature. We loved the grand stories of good, evil, yearning, and redemption. We smiled at ornery limericks. We imagined characters strutting and fretting their time on stage. We memorized lines from poems that spoke our unarticulated feelings. And when we got our own classrooms, we opened those imaginative worlds to students. That meant not only having students read the visions of authors, but also having them write their own visions. We knew they would grow as language users if we broadened their possibilities for expression, if they tried writing stories that mattered to them as well as lucid explanations, if they created the precise imagery of poetry as well as extended arguments, if they cut loose with expressive writing in notebooks, journals, and first drafts as well as polished writing they let go to readers. In one of our seminal texts of American Literature,Walt Whitman proclaimed, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” The Standards for writing could proclaim that too. The document is a mandate and guide with much that is good about it, despite the serious omissions and troubling bias I see from my perspective of forty-plus years teaching writing. I hope teachers see that, too. I hope they boldly step forth, teach what the Standards omit, and thereby mend them. Works Cited Appendix A: Research Supporting Key Elements of the Standards Glossary of Key Terms. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects. 2011. Appendix C: Common Core Standards for ELA/Literacy: Samples of Student Writing. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/ Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects. 2011. Frost, Robert. 1969. The Poetry of Robert Frost. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Macrorie, Ken. 1976. Writing to be read, revised second edition. Rochelle Park, NJ: Hayden Book Company, Inc. Michaels, Judith Rowe. 2011. Catching Tigers in Red Weather: Imaginative Writing and Student Choice in High School. Urbana, IL: NCTE. Newkirk,Thomas. 2009. Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones: Six Literacy Principles Worth Fighting For. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Romano, Tom. 2000. Blending Genre, Altering Style: Writing Multigenre Papers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
The Discipline of Drudgery by Jim Parsons
Preface When one writes academic work for academic audiences, that work is reviewed and improvements are suggested. Such reviews are a way academics talk with each other. As an author, I relish others’ comments on my work. In reviewing this work, one reviewer wisely commented that “teaching as drudgery is both true and false” and asked “What about time they spend working with each other, attending conferences, taking summer courses?” and “Could the writer add to the impression by also including observations of the teacher working with her children (a classroom observation)? Or from in interviewing the teacher?” These questions are worth asking and answering. This reviewer is correct: having taught since 1970, I know teaching is so much more than drudgery. As a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta in Canada, I am both a researcher and teacher educator. In my research, I make a number of claims. These include: (1) the key to instructional leadership (including teaching) is relationships and (2) the best teacher professional learning is collaboration with colleagues. In these claims, I concur fully with the reviewer’s notes. In writing this story, however, I was working to craft a narrative slice of life from the point of view of a parent (who happens to also be a teacher) who walks by a school and reflects upon a single act of teaching dedication-and, by doing so, comes to review his own commitment to teaching. I hope readers of this short story, who are also teachers, take heart--as I do by my writing--in a celebration of the power and importance of our work on the lives of children. Stories, I believe, are often more about the author than the story’s subject. This, then, after 42 years, is a story about my own recommitment to the vocation of the joy of teaching. I hope it promotes celebration in other teachers.
Jim Parsons has been a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta for the past 37 years. This year, he celebrates his 42nd year of teaching.
The Story I would drive past the school on my way home from work. It would be late, but her car would still be there. If I walked the dog on Saturday, sometimes even during the summer, I could walk past her classroom window and see her lights on. She was a teacher, and she was preparing to meet children. She was the grade one teacher for two of my kids. They liked her, although they probably didn’t know why. They would come home and say teacher said this or teacher said that.They probably didn’t realize how much she toiled alone getting her classroom ready for the brief moments they spent with her, and they probably didn’t care. They were still at an age when they believed teachers were someone welded to the school and classroom where they taught. Had they known of or considered her preparation, it would have meant little to their lives. Maybe they will remember this teacher with fondness later in life: probably they will forget. It mattered little to them that their teacher was there on her weekend, when she could have been doing something else. It might even have seemed to them fun to cut and staple as she did, to laminate and file, to color and make bulletin boards from pictures cherishingly cut out of magazines purchased with private funds. Even if they had known, the probably wouldn’t have given her much credit for the task. But this teacher is not the Lone Ranger. Such is the life of most good teachers. Good teachers spend the vast majority of their time working alone, surrounded by their papers and plans, dealing with the infinitude of those petty tasks that make up so much of their everyday lives. Although this work is necessary, there is nothing of distinction, ego, or status in it. The everyday experiences that make up the life story of a teacher are hardly important enough to mention even in common communications between husband and wife. Many families go so far as to make rules against it. The Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
work of a teacher is often drudgery. Yet, in this drudgery lies the essential beauty of teaching. The life of a teacher wouldn’t make much of a movie, unless of course one created insane situations and crazy characters such as those in the movie Bad Teacher. Only in its insanity would it be interesting. But most teachers are not insane. They are just teachers. Shakespeare never wrote about the life of a teacher, wishing rather to write plays of kings and conquerors, battles and empires, witches and cauldrons, or sonnets of love and beauty – the deep things of the head and heart. The stories of honest working teachers occupied with the routine and drudgery of daily life, living on their earnings, anxious about questions of what will help this child and what won’t, and intent on making the best of sometimes horrible situations--these stories are not exciting reading. Yet, when considered carefully, this collection of drudgeries that envelops the day-to-day life of a teacher only allows us to see more clearly the morality of their work and the depth of their personality and commitment. The true character of teaching can never be separated from its drudgery. The genius and inspiration of teaching is more consistent with the commonplace than the spectacular. And, in the preparation of a thousand trivialities, one comes to understand only more clearly its essential demands. It is, in fact, the willingness to attend to a life of routine drudgery, of common labors, and of attention to the trivial that forms the disciplined condition where true teaching can best flourish. The dignity of teaching is perfected in monotony. If teachers are to live ethically and nobly, it is because they are willing to labor alone. My children’s teacher readies herself for class. But such a state of readiness comes only from first being absorbed in the lonely pursuit of the ridiculously insignificant: the detail of the schedule, the little attentions to the comfort of her students, the accounting of supplies, the stacks of exercise books to be checked, the constant logging of successes and failures, the attention to explanation to parents. It is the attention to such detail that provides the thousand little bits of knowledge she has of the abilities and frustrations of children’s experience. And all this work is done alone, at night or on weekends. The classroom is too much of a frenzy of learning and life. If eternal work is to be completed in the lives of children, that work is first disciplined and matured in obscurity. One doesn’t just teach. One prepares to teach. The principles and disciplines of preparation are lonely indeed. These principles are difficult to master.The lack of discipline for the trivial drives many from teaching. Many wouldbe teachers permit the drudgery to blind them to the glory of their work. They see the mountains of paperwork and not the joys of children. Their vision is a vision of tasks they must do, rather than of children who learn because they work. They sometimes refuse to attend to the vulgar, the 46
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petty, or the passing that must occupy so much of their time. Or they get lost in these trivialities, seeing too clearly the littered floor of their apartment, fixing their eyes only on debris that never seems to get cleaned up, and the materials of their job, forgetting that the majority of their vision is perfected by the growth of the children, not by the spreading of the fertilizer. Part of the joy of teaching must be nurtured in its drudgery. To see teaching truly and to interpret it soundly means to honor teaching’s most humbling tasks. The supreme significance of teaching is moral and cannot be seen by those who superficially regard only its difficulties. The glory of teaching is created in the obscure, simple, and disciplined virtues of loneliness. Like the teacher who taught my children in grade one, most teachers never receive the recognition they deserve. The magnificence of their work is overshadowed by their mean circumstances; the power of their task is tempered by its impotence, and its greatness chastened by failure. Obvious success is not the rule of the classroom. One’s failures grow more obvious than one’s successes. As a result, the great host of teachers seems to suffer more from failures than they gain in joy from success.They are haunted by their weakness, desires, and errors: teaching can eat people alive. The circumstances of teaching are often distressingly difficult, and the main features of the job are typically depressing. Many teachers hurt too much to discipline. Many teachers are too touched by difficult situations of students. Many teachers never give up on unwinnable projects. Many teachers never seem to cast off their ideals to become surviving pragmatists. Many teachers are never willing to give up on some children to save others. Teachers can forget that the occasional indignities of their profession do not affect the intrinsic greatness of their task. The answer comes in the realization that the very humiliations of teaching attest and evoke its greatness.There is no truer test of the vocation than the temper in which it is completed. The temper of good teachers is heroic. My children’s teacher is a hero, but she doesn’t see it. Her acts of courage are more typically done in private than in public. Her love for children is shown most clearly when children are not present.The strength of her commitment is a strength developed in loneliness. Her discipline is matured to the applause of no one. Her beauty is developed in her drudgery. She seldom sees the full impact of her labors and she undoubtedly suffers for it. But I know her work well. I have seen her lonely Saturdays touch the lives of my children. I joyfully salute her commitment, and the commitment of all teachers like her.
A Broken Promise and Eleven Cows by Karen Hartman
As the sounds of Zulu hymns and prayer drifted out of the dusty library windows at Talana High School and made their way across the township, I marveled at the beauty of my South African students’ voices, voices mingled in joyful song and solemn praise. I turned to my left and listened as Bheki led the group, his deep baritone a contrast to the women’s voices, and his compact body moving to the music, his arms waving above his head. As the final song and prayer came to an end, the teachers sat, ready to begin the day’s work. I asked them to take out their writer’s notebooks and write about unfinished business. I asked them to think of a time when they left something undone, a time when they didn’t follow through with something important. I watched as they began to write, concentrating on the English word--writing of unfinished business. Bheki wrote furiously--a slight frown furrowed between his eyebrows. When the writing began to wind down, I asked for volunteers to read their work aloud. Bheki, the only male in the room, said he would share. He stood, a short man, his spine soldier-straight; this unfinished business was a serious matter to him. He began, in his deep melodic voice, expressing his regrets. “I am with a woman, and I promised her we would marry when our first child was born.” I smiled as the women in the room added their comments and shook their heads. Bheki continued--“Now my son is 8 years old, and I’m still not married. I broke my promise. It is unfinished business.” Bheki shook his head and looked toward the floor. He was obviously upset, but he faced the 15 strong African women with courage and with honesty as they bombarded him with questions: “Do you take care of your son?” “Do you give your woman money to care for him?” “Have you talked of marriage with her since your son was born?” Bheki answered each question with a nod or a shake of his head and then Nonhlanhla, a large, proud, independent woman asked him from across the circle, “Have you been with other women?” The other women in the library were quick to react to Nonhlanhla’s question, nodding their heads in indignation, waiting for his answer. Bheki vehemently shook his head no, saying the word aloud--“No!” I
Karen Hartman is director of the Colorado Writing Project. She taught a two-week workshop in September to 16 wonderful South African teachers at Thalana High School in Dundee, South Africa. Her South African students honored her with the Zulu name of Khwezi, meaning Dawn. decided then the poor man had answered enough questions and asked someone else to share. For the next six days Bheki said nothing of his broken promise. He sang lustily during morning song and offered up a prayer at the end of the week. He read and wrote and shared and enjoyed learning about the teaching of writing. On the day before our Celebration, the last day of the workshop, Bheki and several of my students worked late, finishing the pieces for their portfolios. At 6 p.m. he came to me and formally handed me his portfolio, thanking me for coming--thanking me for all he had learned. “Khwezi, I promise you I will cascade all I have learned down to the other teachers in my school.” Then he told me, “I can not come tomorrow. I must travel to Durban and make arrangements for my marriage. I must pay the lobolo (dowry) to my woman’s father. I am sorry, but this must be done.” He’s kidding I thought to myself, smiling at him, and saying, “Bheki, the celebration is important--you’ve been here every day--you need to be at the celebration. Surely you can leave for Durban after class tomorrow?” “No, I will need to leave early, at 5 in the morning.” This time I frowned and said, “You need to be here. Can’t you wait until noon?” When he told me no, I wondered why he couldn’t wait a few more hours--after all, he’d waited eight long years. As I watched him leave the computer lab, I turned to Sizwe in frustration and asked him if Bheke was really going to deliver eleven cows to his future father-in-law or if he really just wanted to start his weekend early. Sizwe, in his deep, somber voice told me, “Yes, Karen, he must travel many miles to make the wedding plans and to take the elder the lobolo. He would be here tomorrow if he could, but he must keep his promise.” I don’t think Sizwe understood why I couldn’t understand the significance of Bheki’s journey. Though I knew I would miss him on that last day, I finally began to realize Bheki knew what was important for him at this time; he was a man on a mission--8 years was too long to break such an important promise. I shook my head in embarrassment at my stubbornness and marveled once again at the power of writing. One quick write--unfinished business--a broken promise--a marriage proposal--and eleven cows. Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
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Statement Vol. 49, Number 2
FALL CLAS CONFERENCE 2013 Create, Innovate, Celebrate Teaching in the Age of the Common Core Come and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Colorado Language Arts Society October 18-19, 2013 Colorado School of Mines Golden, CO
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Featured Keynote Speakers Jeff Anderson
Jeff Anderson, former middle school teacher and author of Mechanically Inclined, Everyday Editing, and Ten Things Every Writer Needs to Know, will present Friday evening’s workshop. Jeff helps teachers make grammar instruction meaningful within the structure of the writing workshop.
Colorado’s own Stevi Quate, author of Clockwatchers and The Just-Right Challenge, will deliver Saturday morning’s keynote address. Stevi is a former high school teacher, university professor, and now an international consultant in reading, writing, and student engagement.
Saturday’s luncheon speaker, Malinda Lo, is an award winning YA author of Ash, Huntress, Adaptation, and her new release, Inheritance. Malinda was born in China, moved to the U.S. as a child, attended school in Colorado, and has degrees from Wellesley, Harvard, and Stanford.
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