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Posts from the ‘Tools of the Trade’ Category

Tools of the Trade: Local Libraries

by Kelly Virgin

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Throughout the school year I have the ability to push my students across that threshold on a regular basis. We visit the school library at least monthly and since I line my classroom walls with bookshelves, they literally walk into a library every school day. However, as the end of the school year looms, I grow increasingly concerned for their literary lives over the summer. To ease my worries, and to nudge students to cross that magic threshold on their own, I take the time to introduce my students to their local library.

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Mini-Conferences and 1-Day Workshops

By Jen Greene

Professional organizations like NCTE, ILA, PCTELA, and KSLA offer a yearly conference that takes place over several days and is usually packed with inspiring presentations and amazing authors. These conferences are tremendous opportunities to grow and learn in your teaching. I have attended many of these conferences and have been so awestruck by the presentations I’ve seen and people I’ve met.

There’s just one slight problem…..

They are expensive. And many districts cannot or will not provide funding to attend a national or state conference (particularly if it involves airfare).

Fear not! There is a solution…

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Tools of the Trade: Poetry (Reading) Out Loud

by Kelly Virgin

This week my students and I are celebrating National Poetry Month by reading poetry the way I believe it is meant to be read – out loud. Using the Poetry Out Loud recitation competition for inspiration, we are enjoying our own poetry reading competition (I removed the added pressure of memorizing the poems).

Our week started by finding inspiration in poetry recitations. We spent a class period watching, noticing, and discussing past Poetry Out Loud winners and finalists. Presenters such as John Uzodinma  and Cennemi Diaz showed us how to alter our voices, change our expressions, and use our gestures to communicate the deep and varied emotions found in poems such as “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar and “Cartoon Physics, part 1” by Nick Flynn.

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Next, we spent time sifting through some of the resources available on the Poetry Out Loud website. After investigating in pairs, students reported out on the resources they found most helpful: the online anthlogy of poems, the tips on physical presence, voice, and articulation, and the collection of recordings of actors and poets discussing and reading poetry were mentioned several times. Read more

Tools of the Trade: Kindness in our Digital and Physical Spaces

Rita Sorrentino

R.J. Palacio’s award-winning children’s novel Wonder and the recent major motion picture of the same name shed light on tender topics for the tween-targeted audience. In the book and movie, kindness, acceptance and friendship triumph over bullying, exclusion and peer pressure. Readers/viewers of all ages can undoubtedly connect with feelings and emotions of the characters in identifying empathy as an important and vital skill for social and emotional growth.

As we begin this New Year, perhaps a companion book, 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts offers us an alternative to traditional resolutions, that for the most part, decrease significantly as the months of the New Year unfold. Read more

Tools of the Trade: Gratitude 

Gratitude is the golden frame through which we see the meaning of life. -Brendon Burchard

img_1611.pngThis past Thanksgiving my husband posted these words to his Instagram account along with this picture of our happy family. As you can see from the photo, I have a lot to be grateful for in my personal life this year. However, at the time I read this post I had just returned to school and was feeling the strain of balancing my work and home life along with missing my daughter and trying to play catch up with my classes. Needless to say I was forgetting to look through this golden frame in my professional life.

My husband’s post reminded me of a project I undertook with my students last school year and inspired me to attempt it again this year. Around Thanksgiving time I showed them a TEDx titled “Unlimited Gratitude” by Brian Doyle. In this talk, a young man describes a near death experience that awakened him to the realization that he needed to express his gratitude to the people in his life; not just once a year, but everyday. So he BD.PNGcreated a year-long project in which he set out to personally thank a different person every single day. At the end of his talk he issues a call to action to his audience: “I want to call on us to think about these people in our lives that we appreciate. Those that we have gratitude for. Those that we’re thankful for… And let’s not stop there. Let’s say it. Let’s tell them before it’s too late.” Read more

Tools of the Trade: C3WP

by Kelly Virgin

Late this past March I spent two beautiful spring days holed up in a conference room in D.C. feeling both overwhelmed and excited by four letters: CRWP (now known as C3WP). The College, Career, and Community Writers Program is a National Writing Project initiative aimed at providing teachers across the nation with resources needed to help their students critically read and analyze multiple points of view in an attempt to responsibly enter the civic dialogue. As their website explains, the program “answers the contemporary call for respectful argumentative discourse.” In an attempt to reach this lofty, yet vital goal, NWP has gathered and created an impressive stockpile of mini-units complete with suggested text-sets, graphic organizers, audio and visual materials, formative and summative assessments, and suggested extension activities.


In the months following my brief introduction to this program, I spent numerous hours mining the provided resources in an attempt to meaningfully pass the information along to fourteen teacher-leaders through PAWLP’s Advanced Institute. While I still feel slightly overwhelmed by all the possibilities of the program, the three intensive days I spent locked away this summer with a group of thoughtful and inquisitive teachers helped me boil it down to three essential elements: time, access to multiple perspectives, and the freedom to choose. With these three key elements in mind, any teacher can start to meaningfully engage his or her students in thoughtful, thought-provoking, and responsible argument writing. Read more