What Summer Writing Looks Like in Our House

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

By Anne Elrod Whitney, Ph.D.

Our summer is underway, and all around us families are making plans, changing routines, looking back at the just-past school year and thinking in a vague, anticipatory kind of way to the next one. These are the days when saying “I’m going into _th grade” still sounds new and grown-up to the kids who say it.

These are also the days when moms and dads ask me what my kids will be writing this summer. Since I’m a professor of education focusing on writing, the parents in my community know I have opinions on what’s good for kids as writers. They worry, too, about “Summer loss,” in which kids lose skills over the summer which then have to be retaught the following fall.

Here’s what I tell them: summer writing will and should be different from school writing. So much growth as…

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Should We Be Worried?: Avoiding the Summer Slide by Moving Beyond the Cursive Debate

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

By Melinda J. McBee Orzulak

Sample of letter headings written by elementary school childrenConcerns about 21st-century writing shifts

Concerns about shifts in writing abound in the recent news. Some parents worry about whether they can keep up with their kids’ texting. Grandparents decry the death of cursive in some schools and wonder if the grandkids will be able to read their letters. The importance of writing by hand versus keyboarding is being researched and debated. You could say it’s the end of the world (again), at least when it comes to writing.

Should we be worried?

The reality is that discussions of impending doom tend to occur with any shift in writing (i.e., see Barron’s recent book A Better Pencil). Another reality is that language and the ways we write keep changing, but this doesn’t usually pose any long-term problems. It is true that cursive writing is being cut from school curricula and is…

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Think Your Kids Aren’t Writing This Summer? Think Again

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

by Kristen Hawley Turner

School is out, and adolescents rejoice in summer freedom. Most will wait until the last minute to complete their summer reading and writing assignments. Writing, it seems, will take a two-month vacation along with the teenage crowd.

Or will it?

Every day, billions of messages are sent via digital devices–many of them by teens. On their phones, on their computers, and on social networks, teens “talk” to one another, but via writing. This combination of conversation and the written word has inspired a new language that can often only be understood by those who use it most. Digitalk blends elements of Standard Written English with shortcuts, phonetic spellings, and other manipulations of language.

But what, exactly, is this language? And why do teenagers write this way?

What the Research Shows

I spent two years talking to adolescents in an attempt to answer these questions. I wanted…

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Fostering the Writing Identities of Teens in ELA Classrooms

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

by Amy Vetter, Annamary Consalvo, Ann David, Alison Hruby, Katrina Jansky, and Marie LeJeune

When I taught high school English, I became familiar with the dramatic moans and groans from some students after I said, We get to write today! Some students, clearly uncomfortable with this task, resisted by saying, I’m not a writer or I don’t write or I’m not good at writing.

In my early years of teaching, I used to buy into that kind of fixed mindset. To help them, I provided structure (e.g., 5-paragraph essay worksheets) and strategies (e.g., daily journal prompts). Even though some of them improved on academic writing, they never said I’m a writer, and that really bothered me. I wanted my students to leave my classroom believing that they were writers in some way.

In my latter years, I responded to students’ comments by saying, Everyone is a writer. We just…

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How Can Parents and Teachers March Together in Support of Our Students?

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

By Eileen Shanahan

In Kentucky, West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and all across the country, it has certainly been a school year for the books. As we watched news stories on TV and social media, followed the hashtags, read the signs, and perhaps participated in walkouts and other acts of demonstration ourselves, public education was in the spotlight this year. Teachers rallied together to advocate for themselves, their profession, and their students in the fight for equitable funding of public education.

As a teacher educator in Kentucky, my own students heard the rumors, watched the news, and have been encouraged by some to leave the profession before they even enter it. Feeling nervous but hopeful in light of the efforts by teachers to fight for the profession, they keep asking, Will these walkouts do anything? Will this be what creates change?

I want to give them a resounding YES, because…

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Part 4: Reflections on our bulletin boards

Laura Bradley

In my last post I shared the beautiful and inspirational bulletin boards that my students created when they were given the challenge to make our classroom walls their own. Not content to end this project with their displays, I then asked them to choose one part of a bulletin board that they liked and reflect on its value to them and our community. Here are some of their responses, which they added to their digital portfolios:

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 11.55.37 AMScreen Shot 2018-04-22 at 11.57.11 AMscreen-shot-2018-04-22-at-12-04-44-pm.png

Finally, I surveyed my students to find out what they thought of this assignment. What were they proud of from their own contributions? Did they think the activity improved our classroom environment? Did they learn from it? Do they think I should do it with future classes? This is what some of them said:Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 12.21.44 PM

“I am most proud of the the melted crayon art, because it was very hard to do and it turned…

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Embracing the Identity of Teacher-Writer

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

By David Premont

In my first year of teaching secondary English, a member of the journalism class, wanting to highlight the school’s new teachers, asked if I could respond to a few questions. One question inquired about my identity as a teacher—I responded that in my heart I am a writer. I knew and was comfortable with this particular identity, but I had not yet fully accepted myself as a teacher-writer. As Anne Whitney tells us, being a teacher-writer refers to “a teacher who has incorporated writing not just as an extra activity but as an integral part of teaching.” I wasn’t there yet.  

Understanding My Identity as a Teacher-writer

Viewing myself primarily as a writer led me to compose freely outside of the classroom, though that did not necessarily mean I was ready to share my writing with students. One narrative I wrote describing a humorous (but innocuous)…

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Part 3: Bulletin board inspiration

Laura Bradley

They arrived early on Day 1 of their bulletin board rotation, laden with bags of decorations, eyes and smiles full of anticipation and excitement. I handed them staplers and push pins, and stepped back to watch them work.

I had assigned this group to the largest bulletin board in the first round because I knew them well enough to expect them to produce a creative, thought-provoking display. I also hoped they would be an inspiration for the rest of the class. And they did not disappoint! They brought in beautiful pictures, inspirational quotes, 3-dimensional objects, bright flowers, and even two different strands of twinkly lights. They filled the enormous board with their creations, and then came back the following class day with more. They weren’t content to leave any large empty spaces.

When the bell rang and their classmates started arriving, their hard work was rewarded with “oohs,” “ahhs,” “wows” and…

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Framing PLC Conversations as Advocacy: A Project for Teacher Education

Everyday advocacy

by Jessica Rivera-Mueller with Jamie Ammirati, Jocelyn Bitner, Stephanie Ferguson, Joshua Killpack, Kenzie Randall, Morgan Sanford, and Mackenzie Wilson

For many secondary teachers, Professional Learning Communities provide a context for communicating with fellow teachers about the most pressing issues in their local teaching contexts. In doing so, teachers have an opportunity to advocate for particular pedagogical beliefs and practices. As a former high school English teacher and a teacher educator, I (Jessica) know, however, that PLCs are complex spaces where discourses converge. PLCs are not inherently good or bad; instead, the communities are made by members who perceive the purposes of these conversations. While PLC conversations can provide an opportunity for teachers to discuss ways to support student learning and examine the meaning and significance of that learning, these conversations can also be viewed as just another required meeting. When teachers view participation in PLCs as a technocratic activity they…

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