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Approaches to Argument in an Era of Alternative Facts

by Tricia Ebarvia

Given the state of today’s political discourse and the complex challenges presented by social media sharing (and over sharing), it’s more important now than ever for teachers to take an active role in helping students navigating the information and misinformation they encounter every day. At this point, many of us might be already familiar with the Stanford study published a few months ago that found that many students cannot discern the difference between stories that are real and those that are not. As the Washington Post reported, “Some 82% of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website.”

And it isn’t just students either. Even well-educated adults fall for fake news stories. Just this morning, on my Facebook feed, a friend posted a news story that turned out to be false (someone in the comments had done a fact check). Unfortunately, too often fake news sites have become adept at posing as legitimate sources. Now, when I see a news story from an unfamiliar source, the first thing I do is try to determine where it’s coming from. As literacy teachers, we can no longer just teach our students the traditional Rs of reading and writing. We need to also teach our students about third R—Rhetoric.

Rhetoric is the study of persuasion, and today, there are plenty of individuals, friends, family, interest groups, politicians, corporations, and any number of organizations trying to persuade our students—to buy this, believe that, do this, don’t do that. Information that seems purely objective can be interpreted (or manipulated) in the service of persuasion. Even the youngest students can (and should) be taught to analyze text to look for biases. Just a few weeks ago, my six-year-old came home and told me about how his class was learning the difference between fact and opinion. Of course, teachers have always done this work, but the times seem to call for more. So how? How can we teach our students be critical thinkers, especially of information that might feed into our own biases?  Read more

Books on the Blog: Who Done It Books

by Linda Walker

pic1.jpgWho Done It books help young readers and writers make inferences and draw conclusions. The opening pages of The First Case by Ulf Nilsson, a celebrated Swedish children’s author, illustrated by Gitte Spee, generates the questions of why is squirrel hurrying through the deep snow and what is the destination. The accompanying text arouses interest…” Wretched thieves!” cried a small creature as it scurried through the snow. “Thieving wretches!” It was late in the evening and the whole forest was asleep. It was snowing softly and beautifully. “Monstrous plunderers!” called the little animal in a trembling, squeaky voice. “Plundering monsters!” Read more

Tools of the Trade: Introducing Nonfiction Notice and Note Signposts


by Kelly Virgin

9780325050805.jpgIn their Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies, Kylene Beers and Bob Probst write: “Fiction invites us into the writer’s imagined world; nonfiction intrudes into ours and purports to tell us something about it.” Now, perhaps more than ever, it is important that we teach our students how to navigate this intrusion and how to challenge the “truths” of nonfiction writing. In this book, Kylene and Bob share a scaffolded approach to teaching students how to do just this. Their strategies can easily be adapted to any grade level from high elementary to secondary.

My 9th through 11th grade students have found great success with the strategies this year. I started by encouraging them to ask themselves the three big questions: What surprised me? What did the author think I already knew? What challenged, changed, or confirmed what I knew? By asking these questions, students started thinking more in depth about the nonfiction articles we read together and our conversations went beyond just comprehension and regurgitation of facts.

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Books on the Blog: The Book With No Pictures

by Melissa Hurwitz9780803741713.jpg

“Warning! This book looks serious but it is actually completely ridiculous! If a kid is trying to make you read this book, the kid is playing a trick on you. You will end up saying silly things and making everybody laugh and laugh! Don’t say I didn’t warn you…”

 

Do you enjoy hilarious, laugh out loud fun?  Are you looking for a way to spark your students’ interest in reading?  If you answered yes, then look no further than B.J. Novak’s The Book With No PicturesRead more

Teacher to Teacher: Advocacy and the Arts – Moving Forward

By Janice Ewing

 

Are you concerned about a grizzly bear entering your classroom? Neither am I. However, as educators, many of us are deeply worried about other dangers lurking around our schools, such as xenophobia, racism, sexism, and the erosion of democracy. At PAWLP, we have been reflecting on the meaning of advocacy for teachers — finding a focus, garnering support, identifying meaningful and sustainable actions to take… Now, many of us see advocacy as an integral part of our identity and mission as teachers. At our Saturday Continuity sessions, we are engaging in reflective writing, sharing of ideas, and action planning to move forward in purposeful ways within our schools and larger communities. Please join us on February 3rd and April 8th, from 10:00-11:30 at the PAWLP office for collegial connection and inspiration. Read more

Guest Post: Everything’s a Story

By Katie Egan Cunningham

 

Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote in her famed novel A Little Princess, “Everything’s a story—you are a story—I am a story.” There is so much truth in that brief sentence. Our lives are stories in the making, and there has never been a time with more ways to tell our stories or to learn about the stories of others. While my generation could be characterized as Generation X, I believe today’s students could be aptly named Generation Story. Not only are our students reading and writing stories, they are actively telling stories through photos and videos they compose and curate, and they are listening to and viewing stories at rapid speed thanks to the wonders of Netflix, YouTube, social media, and podcasts. Our students are growing up with a deep sense that everything really is a story.

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