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Guest Post: Finding Their Brilliance

by Rose Cappelli

In Jacqueline Woodson’s beautiful novel in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, the author talks about being compared in school to her older sister, Odella, who was “brilliant.” But school is difficult for Jacqueline, so soon the teachers

“…remember that I am the other Woodson
and begin searching for brilliance
at another desk.” (p. 220).

Jacqueline loves stories, and she quickly discovers that by reading the words of a story over and over again, that story eventually becomes lodged in her memory and becomes part of her. So when she is asked to read aloud to the class, she doesn’t need the book, and amazes her teacher and classmates by reciting a whole story from memory.  Read more

From the Classroom: Success Defined

By Brian Kelley

Searching photos on a phone while writing on a Chromebook.

Searching photos on a phone while writing on a Chromebook.

Change bothers most people.

We can be good teachers and still make room for change. Change does not mean we are bad teachers making bad decisions. There are many ways to teach, but consider this blog post as an invitation to grow.

Consider change as growth. Everyone can grow.

For example, I changed my approach in the classroom by adding writing and technology to my life outside of the classroom. It wasn’t a drastic change–and if writing and technology are changes you would like to make, neither needs to cause a seismic shift in your day.

Asking teachers to write is a scary proposition. Asking teachers to become more fluent with technology is a scary proposition. It sounds a little like going off of the script.  Read more

Tools of the Trade: App-Smashing

By Rita Sorrentino

app smashThe use of the word smashing while thinking of technology makes most of us uncomfortable. We certainly dread a physical or digital mishap on our computers and mobile devices. Whether we are referring to hardware or software issues, smashing is not a concept we’re likely to associate with technology and productivity. Keeping our computers and devices up to speed and virus free is definitely in everyone’s best interest.

Ironically, this App Smashing is by no means destructive, but rather a creative way of using multiple apps to create content or complete an enhanced project. Despite the popular adage, there is not always an APP for what you are trying to produce. App Smashing introduces new avenues for creation and publishing of content.  The ability to save in one app and open in another app unleashes potential and heightens creativity. 
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Teacher to Teacher: A Journey with a Mentor Text   

by Lynne R. Dorfman

take a hikeI am always amazed how much fun I have rediscovering the joy of studying a new read as a mentor text. In this case, as I am reading and rereading Take a Hike, Teddy Roosevelt – the newest book by author Frank Murphy, I am thinking about the first time I met Frank fifteen years ago. Now a fellow of the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project and a personal friend I know well, I remember that Rose Cappelli and I had absolutely no idea who Frank was the summer day he arrived at our PAWLP Author Study course on the West Chester University campus to present his books, Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares and The Legend of the Teddy Bear. Chris Coyne Kehan had recommended him, and we trusted Chris’s judgment.  Frank was personable and exciting to listen to, but he completely won us over when he spied our copy of Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray. Clutching it in both hands he declared, “I used this book to write my own!”  Indeed, Katie Wood Ray is one of our mentors for our books about mentor texts (along with Ralph Fletcher, Shelley Harwayne, and Regie Routman).  Read more

Books on the Blog: Crenshaw, Human Body Theater, The Nest

Middle Grade Book Reviews by Gabija Fischer

crenshawCrenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Crenshaw, Jackson’s imaginary cat, states, “Imaginary friends are like books. We’re created, we’re enjoyed, we’re dog-eared and creased, and then we’re tucked away until we’re needed again.” And for Jackson who feared homelessness…again, the time of need came all too often, and in times of need, Crenshaw would appear. While his parents cannot seem to catch a break, both of them out of jobs and his father battling multiple sclerosis, Jackson and his little sister spend much of their time worrying about losing the last of their possessions. For once those possessions are sold, what would be left for Jackson but a giant, talking, imaginary cat and a crowded van in which his family would spend their days? Could Jackson ignore the truth of his situation or would admitting the truth finally set him free?  Read more