Sunday, August 19, 2018

Required Reading and Some Alternatives

Throughout the summer, many educators on Twitter have been discussing how to get students interested in reading during this upcoming school year. Often the comments have been about requirements that teachers set up for their students' reading: what students are told that they must read (or do with that reading) or that they are not allowed to read (or do).

Here are five articles (and several Twitter resources) related to that topic. What do you think?

"Is The Great Gatsby Really Required Reading? Disrupt Texts Challenges Teachers to Reconsider the Classics" (2018) by John Warner
The sentiment isn't necessarily anti-"classics" (the traditional texts that so many of us think of when we think of "the canon" typically read in high school English courses). Instead, the Disrupt Texts project asks us to think about which perspectives are left out when we persist in reading only the classics. Our students who do not find themselves or their experiences represented in canonical texts benefit when teachers consider how to rectify that by supplementing the classics or replacing them, as appropriate.
Check these out via Twitter: Tricia Ebarvia, Lorena Germán, Kim ParkerJulia Torres, and John Warner
"Assigned Reading Works as Well as Assigned Flossing" (2018) by Amber Counts
The title of the article is also its main point! Read this one after the one above and look for the point about some students' "fake-reading" of the classics versus their actual reading of young adult literature.
Check this out via Twitter: Amber Counts
 "On the Level" (2017) by Donalyn Miller
The article opens with an anecdote about elementary students who were taken to visit the school library but were forbidden from selecting their own books, instead being told that they were limited to books that were marked with a certain Lexile reading level--whatever had been determined to be each child's level. This misuse of reading level measurements to label children instead of the texts that children read drives the rest of the article, a look at "what reading level systems offer and what they don't."
Check this out via Twitter: Donalyn Miller
 "How to Stop Killing the Love of Reading" (2017) by Jennifer Gonzalez
This one-teacher-to-another interview of Pernille Ripp addresses the teaching practices that often make our students dislike reading . . . and those that can get them passionate about reading again, making the English classroom a place for enjoyable literacy development.
Check these out via Twitter: Pernille Ripp and Jennifer Gonzalez 
"Classroom Libraries Can Plant the Seed for a Lifelong Love of Learning" (2018) by Lauren Barack
Getting students excited about reading requires giving them access to texts that they will want to read. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is promoting an effort called "Build Your Stack" to help teachers set up classroom libraries that make appealing, enriching texts accessible to students without their having to leave the room.
Check these out via Twitter: Lauren Barack and NCTE

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Yes, a Conference on Grammar!

The Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar (ATEG) held its annual conference July 27-28 at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. As an assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), ATEG is a membership group of individuals who share a common interest in helping students to understand the importance of grammar, to learn it, and to put their knowledge of it to good use when communicating in speech or writing.

I attended this year's conference and enjoyed meeting the presenters and other attendees and getting new ideas for teaching grammar
  • in the English composition courses that I teach,
  • in the Modern Grammar course that I teach, and
  • in the English language arts teaching methods course that I offer for future teachers of English.
Here were some particular highlights:
  1. Christian Aguiar (University of District of Columbia Community College) -- He offered a session on using mindfulness practices to help students put aside the distractions of technology and the concerns of their daily lives in order to focus on the study of challenging grammatical topics.
  2. April Burke (Central Michigan University) -- She presented interactive instruction activities appropriate for use with K-8 students learning grammar. We adults enjoyed doing the activities as much as elementary children likely would!
  3. Beth Rapp Young (University of Central Florida) -- Her presentation was on advanced dictionary skills. She sees dictionaries as an illustration of how rhetorical context affects language use--and she has found that her students enjoy delving into dictionaries, learning about what they offer, learning about what different dictionaries offer differently, and so on. A fascinating session!
  4. Sean Ruday (Longwood University) -- He is a proponent of studying grammatical concepts "in their natural habitats"--i.e., in published texts to see how authors use them in their own writing. Like April, Sean got us out of our seats to participate in some of the grammar activities that he advocates for use with students. Very engaging!
Here are some texts that you could check out if you're interested in how grammar is and/or could be taught so that students will be better users of and experimenters with their own language(s):
  1. The Common Core Grammar Toolkit: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Language Standards in Grades 3-5 (2013), in Grades 6-8 (2014), and in Grades 9-12 (2017) by Sean Ruday (here)
  2. Teaching Grammar: What Really Works (2010) by Amy Benjamin and Joan Berger (here)
  3. Understanding English Grammar (2016) by Martha Kolln, Loretty Gray, and Joseph Salvatore (here)
And now, a couple timely articles:

"A Grammatical Analysis of Donald Trump's Double Negatives" (2018) by R.L.G. -- After Donald Trump used the world stage to side with Vladimir Putin and against American intelligence agencies in their determination that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election, uproar across our country caused Mr. Trump to issue a pseudo-retraction by saying that he had meant to say the opposite of what he said. This author takes a deeper look at that claim.

"Behemoth, Bully, Thief: How the English Language Is Taking Over the Planet" (2018) by Jacob Mikanowski -- "English is everywhere; and everywhere, English dominates." How did that come to be so? And what does that mean for the world's other languages? Read on!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Your Classroom Library

Many teachers spend a good chunk of their summers reading. I'm in communication with a lot of PreK-12 teachers who are catching up on their own pleasure reading while relaxing and rejuvenating. Many others are reading professional books on teaching as they plan for the school year ahead.

And some of my best conversations in the summer are with teachers who are reading children's literature, middle grade literature, or young adult literature to familiarize themselves with great titles and be able to make recommendations to students once school is back in session.

How can you get great books for youth into the hands of your students? And why should you? Read on!

"Who Doesn't Read Books in America?" (2018) by Andrew Perrin -- From the Pew Research Center come these sobering data about the "demographic traits that characterize non-book readers" in the United States of America.

"How to Get Your Mind to Read" (2017) by Daniel Willingham -- The article starts with, "Americans are not good readers." Why not? And what can parents and schools do about it? Dr. Willingham shares his insights and advice.

"Statement on Classroom Libraries" (2017) by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) -- Many teachers--particularly elementary teachers and secondary English language arts teachers--maintain classroom libraries: collections of books stored on the classroom shelves and available to students for small-group or independent reading. As opposed to school libraries, stocked and maintained by school library media specialists for use by the entire school, classroom libraries generally are curated by the classroom teachers in whose rooms they exist and accessed by students in the classroom. Read this statement by NCTE for clarity on what classroom libraries can and should offer to students.

"Building a Vibrant Classroom Library without Breaking the Bank" (2017) by Haley Moehlis -- If you are a teacher who has committed to providing a classroom library for your students, then check out this article's advice on how to get started . . . particularly if your school has no start-up funds to help you out.

"Build Your Stack" (2018) by NCTE -- This is not an article but an initiative. It is "focused exclusively on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries."Get advice from other teachers, authors, and literacy experts by attending Build Your Stack sessions at NCTE's annual convention and/or by following the hashtag "#BuildYourStack" on social media.

"What Is a Book Talk? Your Guide to Making Them Work in the Classroom" (2018) by Samantha Cleaver -- Once you have established a classroom library, how do you get students interested in books from your collection? Check out this advice on delivering a "book talk" to promote a book and help get it into readers' hands.