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Posts tagged ‘Tricia Ebarvia’

Approaches to Argument in an Era of Alternative Facts

by Tricia Ebarvia

Given the state of today’s political discourse and the complex challenges presented by social media sharing (and over sharing), it’s more important now than ever for teachers to take an active role in helping students navigating the information and misinformation they encounter every day. At this point, many of us might be already familiar with the Stanford study published a few months ago that found that many students cannot discern the difference between stories that are real and those that are not. As the Washington Post reported, “Some 82% of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website.”

And it isn’t just students either. Even well-educated adults fall for fake news stories. Just this morning, on my Facebook feed, a friend posted a news story that turned out to be false (someone in the comments had done a fact check). Unfortunately, too often fake news sites have become adept at posing as legitimate sources. Now, when I see a news story from an unfamiliar source, the first thing I do is try to determine where it’s coming from. As literacy teachers, we can no longer just teach our students the traditional Rs of reading and writing. We need to also teach our students about third R—Rhetoric.

Rhetoric is the study of persuasion, and today, there are plenty of individuals, friends, family, interest groups, politicians, corporations, and any number of organizations trying to persuade our students—to buy this, believe that, do this, don’t do that. Information that seems purely objective can be interpreted (or manipulated) in the service of persuasion. Even the youngest students can (and should) be taught to analyze text to look for biases. Just a few weeks ago, my six-year-old came home and told me about how his class was learning the difference between fact and opinion. Of course, teachers have always done this work, but the times seem to call for more. So how? How can we teach our students be critical thinkers, especially of information that might feed into our own biases?  Read more

From the Classroom: On Prewriting Using Modes

By Tricia Ebarvia

My AP Lang students are currently working on their “On” essays—writing on anything they choose.

There’s a long tradition of “On” essays in the world… and by an “On” essay, I mean any essay whose title starts with the word “On…” (although, really, isn’t anything an “On” essay if it’s on a topic? The distinction for my purposes in teaching is really just technical). We read essays like “On Keeping a Notebook” by Joan Didion and “On Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner, which explore process. We read a contemporary essay like “On Compassion” by Barbara Ascher and a 19th century essay like “On Running After One’s Hat” by G. K. Chesterton, which delve into the philosophical as well as social commentary. We read “On Being a Cripple” by Nancy Mairs and “On Being Black and Middle Class” by Shelby Steele,” which focus on identity. We read essays by Lewis Thomas, whose essays,“On Warts” and “On Probability and Possibility,” are some of the best examples of elegant science writing—and writing in general—I’ve encountered. And still we read other essays whose titles don’t begin with the word “On” but embody the ethos of writing on what it means, ultimately, to be in the world—essays like “The Jacket” by Gary Soto and “Me Talk Pretty” by David Sedaris and “Salvation” by Langston Hughes.

We study and celebrate these writers and their craft. We ask ourselves questions that help us read like writers: What can I take away from this? What can I learn? What can I steal? Because my AP Lang students read Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist for summer reading, we remind ourselves to embrace being artistic thieves. We look at the ways in which these essays explain, define, and describe; how they use anecdotes and allusions; how they feature both insight and curiosity; how they zoom in and zoom out.  Read more

From the Classroom: Reimagining Learning Spaces—The Third Teacher

A few years ago, I started to rethink my classroom space. I wondered, What does this room say about me as a teacher, or my students as learners? Is the space working in the best ways it can? Here are 16 ways we can reimagine our learning spaces - with pictures!

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From the Classroom: The Pressure to Do Versus the Possibilities of Doing

by Tricia Ebarvia

Whenever I blog, especially here for PAWLP, I try to offer fellow teachers some practical strategies to use in the classroom. After all, I know how I much I appreciate picking up ideas that I can try with my own students right away, sometimes even the very next day.

Of course, now that summer is just about here—tomorrow is our last official day with students!—there is no more “very next day.” Instead, as the weather warms and lazy days at the pool run together, the planning for next year begins. Sometimes the planning is purposeful: reading pedagogy texts or writing up lesson ideas. But other times, the planning is a little more serendipitous: stumbling upon the perfect article for class or finding inspiration while on an errand to the store. Summer may be here, but I’ve found that my “teacher brain” never really goes on vacation.

Without the pressure of “the very next day,” the ideas I come across during summer have room to sit, and breathe. There’s no pressure to do—simply the possibilities of doing. The extra time summer offers allows me to think this could work or maybe I’ll try this or what could that look like?

Summer, then, becomes a time to reflect on another year gone by and to gather new ideas for the year ahead. How? Below are just a few of the things I’ll be doing this summer to reflect and re-energize:  Read more

From the Classroom: Second Draft Reading

by Tricia Ebarvia

As I walk around the room, I notice students talking—generally enthusiastically—about the book we are reading. They have a few discussion questions on a handout to take notes, which they dutifully fill out. What I don’t notice are any books open on their desks. In fact, I see many students with no books out at all, and what books are out are closed on their desks.

“Mrs. Ebarvia, do you know remember what Piggy said to Jack when they went to Castle Rock?”

“Sure, I remember.”

Pause. Expectant looks.

“You know, you could open your book to find out,” I suggest. My students smile and begin searching their books.

Years ago, when I first read Kelly Gallagher’s Deeper Reading during the PAWLP summer institute, one particular section that stood out to me was the chapter on “Deepening Comprehension through Second-Draft Reading.” In this chapter, Gallagher emphasizes the importance of getting students to go back to the text to reread:

Students need to return to the text to help them overcome their initial confusion, to work through the unfamiliarity of the work, to move beyond the literal, and to free up cognitive space for higher-level thinking. They need both a “down” reading draft to comprehend the basics and an “up” reading draft to explore the meaning. (80)

Those who have been teaching English long enough know that getting students to go back to the text can often be a difficult task. Having gotten the “jist” of the story on their first reading, students often see no need to go back to the text unless prompted.

Yet we also know that rereading is one of the first steps towards a deeper understanding of a text. When students reread, they can better appreciate craft—they can see the choices that an author made and question why. When a text is complex and students don’t “get it” the first time, rereading is not only a valuable but necessary move that students can make.

So how do we encourage students to go back to the text—to explore the text a second, or even third time?  Read more

From the Classroom: Finding “Moments Worth Writing About”

by Tricia Ebarvia

It’s just after 7:20 a.m. and my students are settling into their seats. Although it’s early, this class is usually lively, with students generally willing to try out whatever their English teacher has planned for them that day. This morning, I pass out cream-colored quarter sheets of paper and several tape dispensers. I go over the lesson plan to the sound of pages flipping, synchronized to the squeaky pulling and staccatoed tearing of tape. Into their notebook, students tape the following Willa Cather quotation:

“Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.”

Today is Day 1 in a brief unit on the personal history essay. I decided to call this next essay a personal history rather than the more familiar term memoir for a few reasons. One, the term memoir feels a little intimidating to me; the term has always implied a confessional quality to it, like a great secret is about to be shared, a great burden lifted. For better or worse, memoirs feel too big a task, too much to ask.

So instead, I like the term personal history. Read more