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?
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
By Lynne R. Dorfman
If you are teaching the qualities of good writing, all you need are some picture books! Why picture books? Picture books provide the models that will help students grow as writers. They have vivid vocabulary—word choice is so important! They have beautiful illustrations or photographs, adding another layer to the text to motivate and engage our struggling readers and writers. Teachers can read them aloud in one sitting, but also return to them throughout the year as mentor texts to imitate. Students can also return to picture books independently to help them take a risk and try out something new. Sometimes, students will gather a set of books by an author to study one craft move that an author has used across some of the texts he has published. Read more
By Janice Ewing
So winter finally arrived. Remember how during the mild days of December we wondered where it was hiding, and if it would ever make an appearance? Then in January the snow burst in, followed by a couple of languid snow days, and now it’s that slushy, drag-along season, when we sometimes find ourselves struggling to maintain energy and enthusiasm.
A bit of metacognition about the blog (metablognition): when we first designed this project in 2013, we identified monthly themes that seemed to follow the path of a teacher’s year. As we’ve grown and changed over the years, we’ve continued to use those themes as a guide, rather than a mandate for the topics of our posts. The theme we chose for February was “Maintaining Positive Energy for Teachers and Students,” and that still seems relevant. Read more
by Lynne R. Dorfman
I 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
By Janice Ewing
In this season of giving and receiving, of lists and recommendations, I’ve been thinking about teachers, especially new ones, and what they need. So, here’s a wish list for new (and not so new) teachers:
- Voice: the confidence to share ideas, ask questions, raise doubts about questionable practices and about why things have always been done ‘that way’
- Agency: the understanding that it is teachers’ day to day and moment to moment decisions, based on knowledge of their students, that move students forward, not following a scripted plan with the goal of raising test scores x number of points for x number of students