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Posts from the ‘monthly feature’ Category

NCTE November: Bringing together a Community of Educators

by Liz Corson

I arrived at the Baltimore Conference center on Thursday morning and happily bumped into Pauline Schmidt, PAWLP director, who had invited me to join PAWLP fellows to lead a roundtable the next day. This was my third NCTE conference and, by far, the most transformative, because of how much I felt a part of communities of educators.

One of these is an on-line community of educators. Through @ValBrown’s #cleartheair and #disrupttexts, I began learning from educators of color and reading books such as White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and White Rage by Carol Anderson and Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmed.

At a Thursday workshop on Identity, Inquiry, and Equity, Jess Lifshitz, a 5th grade teacher who I followed on Twitter and through her blogs (https://crawlingoutoftheclassroom.wordpress.com/) shared how she teaches a critical reading process. “We can give them a critical reading process that they can apply to the reading they do in the world and the ways in which they live and interact with others in the world” (J. Lifshitz, NCTE 2019). This is something I am striving to do with my students constantly and year round. 

Another presenter, Sara K. Ahmed, shared the importance of examining our own privileges as well as helping our students to recognize their privileges. On Saturday, I was able to speak with Sara in between sessions in the hall and thank her for her book, Being the Change, that a year ago, gave me the courage to start to explicitly bring identity into my classroom with my fifth graders through choices of texts, topics we study, and discussions we have. 

Tricia Ebarvia, a PAWLP fellow and #disrupttext founder, led us in creating our own timelines and explained how our students’ time lines can be shared and discussed. Tricia shared Beverly Daniel Tatum’s (2000) work, “Who I am? The answer depends in large part on who the world around me says I am” (Tatum, The Complexity of Identity: “Who am I?”).

In addition, I grew closer to the PAWLP community. I became a PAWLP fellow two years ago. I had the pleasure of presenting at last year’s PAWLP day and am a part of the Anti-Bias Book club. Hanging out over dinners in restaurants, sharing pizza in a hotel lobby and talking long after the pizza had gone cold, enjoying s’mores and finding more books to buy, and diving deep into our passions and worries as educators, wives, mothers, and citizens, we connected and I felt lucky to be part of the PAWLP community. 

And that was even before the Sunday brunch when PAWLP directors, Mary Buckelew and Janice Ewing, authors of Action Research for English Language Arts Teachers: Invitation to Inquiry (Routledge, 2019) presented. I had attended their workshop the previous day, along with other PAWLP fellows, and loved being guided by Mary and Janice and Liz Mathews to creatively reflect on my research question through sketching and poetry and sharing. At the brunch, in addition to hearing Mary and Janice talk about action research, we also got hear from Brian Kelley about his use of sketching to help slow down kid watching and noticing, and from Courtney Knowlton who shared her discussion with a colleague that helped her refine her action research, and Liz Mathews’ use of art to reflect. I felt lucky to be a part of such an incredible group of educators and grateful I had been able to spend time with fellow PAWLP educators.

NCTE November: Magical Moments

Happy November! With NCTE right around the corner – physically and metaphorically – we want to dedicate this month’s feature to the conference. Please check back regularly to enjoy posts about NCTE past and present as our teacher consultants reminisce about past conference experiences and share their plans for presenting at this year’s event.


With the flip of my calendar page, my excitement for this year’s conference became palpable. As I count the days until my next NCTE experience, I can’t help but think back on past moments that are filled with memorable encounters and game-changing presentations.

There was the elevator ride with Matt de la Peña. With my infant daughter wrapped to my chest, we chatted about our children, bed time stories, and his books. I was able to thank him for creating the sweet story, Love, which without fail lulls my daughter to sleep each night while bringing tears to my eyes.

There was the Kylene Beers’ presentation when we were asked to share memorable reading experiences with someone nearby and I turned to find Bob Probst standing to my left. We introduced ourselves and chatted in response to Kylene’s question for a bit before I let my excitement take over and I gushed about his influence on my teaching. I was able to thank him for his reading signposts, which have changed my reading instruction and strengthened my students reading engagement.

There was sitting next to Nic Stone as she read aloud from Dear Martin and led us in a book discussion. Afterwards, I was able to thank her for writing a book that made my husband, a strict nonfiction reader, fall in love with fiction again.

There was meeting a friend for dinner, and upon arrival being introduced to the “kind person who kept her company while she waited” – Linda Rief. We chatted about books and writing and our kids and her grandchildren until our tables were ready. Before we parted ways, I was able to thank her for her quick writes, which have made my students and me better, more confident writers for years.

And there are the countless hard-working, thoughtful, innovative educators who take the time to share their craft. From them I have gained new insights into teaching poetry, fiction, nonfiction, writing, reading, and, of course, my students. Because of them I am a better teacher.

Finally, there are my colleagues and friends, who have co-planned, co-presented, and collaborated with me. They have invited me to join them in sharing our voices. They have pushed me out of my comfort zone. They have encouraged me to take chances on my own. And they have celebrated every success along the way. I cannot wait to make more memorable experiences with them in just a few short weeks.

If you have attended NCTE in the past, what magical moments happened for you? If you are attending this year, please stop back later and share your experiences. Please also stop by the PAWLP roundtable – How Can We Help Our Students Establish and Maintain a Writer’s Identity? – and say hi!

Prompt-ober: Wire Writing

Happy October and welcome to fall! Since our classroom snapshot feature was so successful last month (thank you to all the contributing voices!), we are running another regular feature this month focused on sharing writing activities that we or our students have found particularly engaging. Please check in daily to enjoy our Prompt-ober posts. If you are interested in contributing one yourself, please contact us!


Wire Writing

Early in the school year I give my students a piece of wire about 8-10 inches long (I purchase this in the bracelet making section of any craft store) and I ask them to shape it into something that is meaningful to them or representative of them. This idea was inspired by a writing activity I engaged in at the PAWLP summer institute where the instructors gave us a piece of playdough and similar instructions. I give my students ample time to play with the wire and shape/reshape until they feel confident in their design. While they do this, I welcome conversation and meander around with my own wire checking in and talking with students.

wire prompt.PNG

When time is up, I invite a quick pair share of shapes before we study and discuss a short mentor text titled “My Life has Been like a Basketball Game.”

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