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
By Janice Ewing
In a recent post on this blog, guest poster Stacey Shubitz talked about the values of ‘mirrors and windows’ in children’s books, specifically in relation to their use as mentor texts. Stacey also expressed the view that books dealing with diverse characters and families should not be reserved for special months. I strongly agree, although I also feel that there can be value in highlighting particular groups at certain times, especially if it gives us, as teachers, the motivation to explore new texts, authors, or genres. Stacey also shared a list of excellent titles that may provide mirrors to some, windows to others, great readalouds/mentor texts for many.
So here’s something I’ve been thinking about – what are some strategies for the teacher who wants to embed more diversity into the classroom library, readaloud, and/or writers’ workshop, but has concerns about taking the leap into topics that might be controversial or out of his/her comfort zone? For most teachers in today’s climate, I would think (hope) that books featuring racial or religious diversity would not be cause for concern, other than that they portray authentic portraits, without stereotypes or tokenism. Can we say the same for books that portray non-traditional families, or explore sexual orientation? I think for many teachers, these are more complicated issues.