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Faces of Advocacy: Reflections on the 2016 NWP and the NCTE Conferences

The theme of the 2016 National Council of Teachers of English was Faces of Advocacy. A theme that couldn’t have been more timely. NCTE’s call for proposals included the following: “Many times as educators, we feel defeated and incapable of making change of any sort. This [NCTE] conference is your opportunity to rise to the challenge of who you are as a teacher or teacher leader – celebrate and discuss the possibilities that lie ahead of us.” There was definitely celebration in finding a COMMUNITY of educators dedicated to a shared purpose – literacy, freedom, and agency for all. Advocacy. What are we doing to advocate and to inspire advocacy in our classrooms, buildings, community, and the world?

pawlp dinner

L to R: Mary Buckelew, Lynne Dorfman, Rita Sorrentino, Janice Ewing, Tricia Ebarvia, and Kelly Virgin

In this post, PAWLP Fellows Rita Sorrentino, Janice Ewing, Pauline Schmidt, Kelly Virgin, Patty Koller, and Tricia Ebarvia share some of their takeaways from this year’s NWP and NCTE conferences. We encourage readers to respond. Please share your strategies for teaching and inspiring advocacy and service. We also urge teachers to attend and present at local, regional, and national conferences to renew the professional spirit.

– Mary Buckelew Read more

A Call for Hope, Positivity, & Action

A Call for Hope, Positivity, & Action
by Mary Buckelew

Today, some are elated and some are despondent. I do not assume that the readership voted for the same candidates or party; however, as teachers we do have common goals.
One goal is to create a classroom environment where all students feel safe so that learning can take place.  In turn, we wish a safe world for all people everywhere.  We know this: Thinking, reading, writing, listening, discussion, and resulting actions can change the world. Together, we can make change.  We do and can create and sustain safe spaces.  With Hope, Positivity, and Action we can make a difference.

Purdue University Associate Professor Roxane Gay asks:

Where do we go from here? That is the question many of us will be trying to answer for the next while. For now, we need to breathe, stand tall and adjust to this new reality as best we can. We need — through writing, through protest, through voting in 2018 and 2020 — to be the checks and balances our government lacks so that we can protect the most defenseless among us, so that we can preserve the more perfect union America has long held as the ideal. We have to fight hard, though I do not yet know what that fight looks like.

Read more from Professor Gay:

Furman University Professor Paul Thomas shares: Read more

Tools of the Trade: Adobe Spark

by Rita Sorrentino

Need to spark up a lesson, add passion to a blog post or Image result for adobe sparksimplify digital storytelling for your students?  While there are indeed many tools and apps to accomplish these tasks, Adobe Spark is one that offers an ease-of-use for professional-looking designs.

With today’s students, technology is second nature, and Adobe Spark is a productive tool that even young learners can use to communicate their ideas and arguments. This suite of tools provides educators and their students many opportunities to foster voice and choice in the creation of content.

A Little Background

Adobe Voice, Adobe Slate and Adobe Post were popular digital tools used by educators and students to easily create and share content. However, since they were available for iOS devices only, Android users were left out.  With the premier of the web-based Adobe Spark, the tools are now available to everyone from within their favorite browser. The web version of the software allows users to create, edit and share their pages, videos, and posts anytime, anywhere.

Adobe Spark is also available as three free separate iOS apps on the App Store. They are currently working on Android versions. Adobe Slate is now Spark Page, Adobe Voice is now Spark Video and Adobe Post is now Spark Post. These three tools equip students and teachers with resources to add style to their content and share their visual messages. If you were familiar with Post, Slate and Voice, these new integrated apps will still look and feel familiar.

The best news is that with this makeover, you can use the web-based version, the iOS apps, or a combination of both. It’s free and doesn’t require a subscription, but a login is required since Adobe Spark syncs content between platforms and devices making it convenient to pick up where you left off. Students can log in with an Adobe ID, Social Media account, or Google account (including Google App For Education). The same login may be used on multiple devices and browsers. See Adobe Spark: A Guide for Schools and Educators for student age considerations, system requirements and further details. Read more

Books on the Blog: Two Middle Grade Books About Growing Up and Discovering the True Meaning of Family

The World from Up Here by Cecilia Galante

Reviewed by Ginny McGarvey

Rating: V25648199.jpgery Good-Book of Note. Level: Elementary School/Middle School. Genre: Realistic Fiction – 309 pages.

Summary: Wren Baker is afraid of everything and when her mother is hospitalized in a different state, requiring her father to go also, Wren and her brother with Asperger’s syndrome are forced to live with their aunt and cousin who are new to their town; and Silver, her cousin appears to be afraid of nothing at all and inspires bravery in Wren.

Annotation: Wren Baker is afraid of everything. Her mother, suffering from depression must travel from their Pennsylvania home to an Ohio hospital for treatment which means that her father must go as well. Wren’s new to town and her Aunt Marianne and cousin Silver offer to care for Wren and her brother who has Asperger’s syndrome. Silver does not appear to be afraid of anything. As the girls become close, they inspire each other, and when they climb the forbidden Creeper Mountain, they discover parts of themselves and rely on each other.

This fast paced, well written novel is sure to thrill young readers. It is packed with suspense and its many plot twists will engage and entertain readers. With all the action that abounds, the story comes full circle and all that is mysterious is resolved and explained making it a very fulfilling read.

Recommendation: This book is highly recommended for any elementary or middle school library as a Book of Note and will relate well, engage, and entertain young readers.

Wish by Barbara O’Connor

Reviewed by Lynne Dorfman27414384.jpg

Then, as we were turning onto the main road into town, I saw a black horse out in a field, eating grass and swishing its tail at flies. I shook my fist at it three times and made my wish. That was the rule for black horse wishing. If you see a white horse, just make a wish. But for a black horse, you have to shake your fist at it three times. (p.43)

Set in a small town in North Carolina, Charlie (short for Charlemagne) learns many important life lessons. Her family is broken – “Scrappy” (her Dad) is in jail being “corrected” and her mom just can’t meet the everyday challenges of raising two children on her own. Charlie’s older sister Jackie goes off to live with her best friend’s family, and Charlie is sent to Colby to live with her Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus.

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Teacher to Teacher: Helping Students Spell

by Lynne R. Dorfman

How many times have you observed writers in your classroom who do not seem to know what to do when they want to use a word in their writing but do not know immediately how to spell it?  Do some of your students just stop writing when they are stuck on spelling?  How often do your students substitute another word they know how to spell for a more difficult word that is not part of their spelling vocabulary?

Kindergarten students are often fearless about spelling. They learn to use the consonant sounds they hear in a word, especially the initial and final consonants. Vowels are tricky, and come much later in the kindergarten year or in the first grade. Invented spelling plays a big part in the work of a primary level writing workshop. Minilessons involve teaching students to stretch out words to hear all the sounds and blend them together, writing down the letters for the sounds they hear. Primary grade teachers often offer some strategies to help students spell tricky words.

Kindergarten teacher Shelly Keller celebrates students’ attempts to spell tricky words independently during writing workshop. As she circulates for roving conferences, she takes note of her students’ spelling attempts and sends one or two students each day to fill in the chart with their kid spelling. If it matches the adult spelling, the students fill in that column, too. If not, Shelly fills in the adult spelling. The students often will edit without being asked to do so. Friday is a time to celebrate these writers with a silent cheer at the end of writing workshop. Then, a new chart goes up for the next week. Shelly is celebrating risk-taking and using invented spelling to communicate ideas with words her students want to use without limiting their choice to words they are sure they know how to spell.

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