By Janice Ewing
My grad class is small this term, a seminar-like community with lots of conversation and sharing of ideas and experiences. The comfort level among the group is a welcome respite at a time when everyone is striving to fulfill end-of-year requirements and scrambling to reach unmet goals, while keeping up with grad school and family obligations.
Recently, a few of the teachers shared experiences that were unexpectedly positive and rewarding. For example, Anne (names have been changed) teaches in an alternative high school for students who have previously dropped out or taken other detours from the traditional path to graduation. Most, if not all, have had struggles and negative experiences with reading, robbing them of the pleasurable experience of getting caught up in a book. By chance, Anne acquired a large enough collection of Walter Dean Myers’ Monster to accommodate her small class. She had not read the book, but had read reviews and commentaries and it seemed like a great fit for her students. She decided to jump in without reading it ahead, which was not her usual practice. Next issue: a well-meaning colleague pointed out that there were related “packets’ available, which would provide questions, prompts, discussion points, etc. An inner voice told her to forgo the packets, and she listened to it. Read more
By Janice Ewing
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
Mary Oliver (from “Sometimes”)
These are among my favorite lines from Mary Oliver, and I think that these “instructions” apply to poetry, too. Once again we find ourselves in April, Poetry Month. Many of us have considered the value of giving poetry its special twelfth of the year, versus reading, writing and enjoying it all the time. This year, I’m feeling a little more mellow about that issue. I’ve come to believe that we can immerse ourselves and our students in poetry through all seasons, and still take the month of April to celebrate it with fun and fanfare. Read more
Middle Grade Book Reviews by Gabija Fischer
Crenshaw 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
By Janice Ewing
Most PAWLPers don’t wait until New Year’s to engage in reflection and goal-setting; nevertheless, this time of year especially lends itself to those pursuits. For example, one PAWLPer said, “I firmly resolve to write something every day that is not just a compilation of events, but actual insights of life that I’ve noticed and contemplated.”
Here’s a sampling of some more of our Writing Resolutions, collected at our December Continuity and Leadership meetings: Read more
By Lynne R. Dorfman
As teachers, we often feel like we should know the answer to every question. Often, we make sure that the questions we ask in our classrooms are questions we can answer. But is it necessary or even effective to ask these kinds of questions most of the time? What does a teacher asking questions of a class expect the class to learn from the questioning process? Can we learn from our students who just might have possible answers to questions that we have not imagined? Read more
By Tricia Ebarvia
Last week, I shared how I organize my classroom library. But how did I build my library? How did I know what books to include? And how do I keep it fresh and inviting for students? This week, I share the answers to these questions and more.
START AT HOME
Three years ago, my first attempt at a classroom library was a collection of titles that I’d read during and after college. Well-loved copies of books like A Farewell to Arms, Pride and Prejudice, and Mrs. Dalloway sat along side more contemporary fiction I read for pleasure when I had the time, titles like A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Time Traveler’s Wife. As an English major and general book nerd, it was a lot of books! That was also the year I was teaching AP Lit, so many of those “English major” titles were going to come in handy with the independent reading I was planning on having my seniors do.
But I soon realized that while many of these titles were great for AP Lit students, they weren’t so great for my other classes, Read more