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More thoughts on Atwell’s Afterward

I think Suzanne has raised some great points about the student – teacher relationship in her post on Atwell’s afterward.  I took away so much from this conclusion to the Beers text, including:

  • We must embrace technology in our classrooms, and we must NOT be nervous about our “lack” of understanding.  Our kids will know how to use the computer software and internet applications, and they will teach other as they go.  We simply need to create the opportunity for them to build multimodal projects into their syllabus. 
  • Atwell writes on pedagogy, “These are methods that ask and allow teens to read a lot and feel pleasure, to write a lot and feel satisfied, and to talk a lot and feel significant.”  I understand that personal preference in the classroom is a MUST when teaching kids how to feel pleasure, feel satisfied, and feel significant.  They need to help decide what they want to read and write.  This is their literacy journey, not mine!
  • Atwell writes, “Teachers of adolescents must read, must write, and must teach from our literate experiences and literary passions.”  As teachers, we must share the “personal” side of ourselves with our students.  This is the side that shows what we are reading outside of school for pleasure.  Atwell also reminds me that I can never stop reading for pleasure, stop studying the new developments in my field, or stop writing about the things I read.  I am very much a student on a literary journey, too, just like my students.
  • We must continually rethink our answer to the question about writing, “Why would anyone want to do it?”  This is the question we answer for our students, and this is our teachable moment.  We cannot expect our students to write about the things that we love to write about, or to write in the same style that we write, but we must challenge ourselves to share as many different kinds of writing as possible with our students.  As students learn to write and write well, we must show them all forms of text, including pictures, graphic novels, icons, nonfiction essays and articles, short stories, poetry, novels…the list goes on.  This is how students find their talent and their voice in writing.  We are resonsible for giving them the exposure they need.

 Most importantly, Atwell concludes her afterward with, “Teachers need to figure out how to structure our teaching so that it’s possible to know, and reach, individual kids.”  At the end of this semester in 541, I have learned through Atwell and many others that I have a duty to know my students’ interests and talents.  These interests and talents will fuel their learning experiences, and they are my springboard for our year together in the ELA classroom. Learning is individualized, and I will not assume that the great old texts that I love are the same texts that my students love and want to study, too.  I will try very hard to set a path for each of my students to set out on, which is filled with texts they care about and want to read, and which is also filled with experiences that make our projects feel important and meaningful. 



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Atwell’s Afterword

It seems that Nancie Atwell summed up the most important lesson I learned in my classes this semester:  as teachers we must provide a model of student learning, one that allows for an apprenticeship between student and teacher.  I wrote and presented on this idea for Kennedy’s class and most of you heard me speak about this.  I believe that Atwell is right in saying that one of the most important strategies for teachers to use is to show them examples of our own writing process.  Of course, creating a model that students will want to apprentice themselves to is of significance.  Atwell states, and I agree, that “we must read, write, and teach our literate experiences and literary passions (313).”  Students want to feel like the work they are doing is significant now and we, as teachers, want our lessons to be significant to them now not ten years down the road (although leaving a lasting impression is always satisfying!)  So the questions that we need to ask ourselves now and always as teachers should always include:  “Who are our students?  What do they care about?  What will they respond to (314)?” These questions seem to reappear in both of our studies on literacy and teaching writing.


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Doris Lessing’s Nobel Lecture

Hey, check out Doris Lessing’s Nobel lecture.  I don’t believe she actually attended the ceremony.  She talks about education and the decline of literacy, but I’m curious to see what people might think of her assessment.

 J. Degan


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One Question for Dr. Stearns

Dr. Stearns,

I wonder if we need to post our responses to Unit Plan feedback on the blog. I will bring a hard copy to you on Dec. 11th as we meet for the seminars.  Thanks!

Posted by L. L.

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Persepolis-Coming to a Theatre Near You

Raph here.

I have yet to read Persepolis, but am determined to after seeing the trailer for the film. This looks incredible. I was unaware that there was going to be a film version. Since everyone in class is familiar with this title, I thought some of you might want to check it out.



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Book Review #3

Below is my final book review. For some unknown reason, I cannot find the Reviewers’ Page to post it on. I hope this is acceptable. Thanks! Keep warm everyone! ~Jess

Jessica Exter

Author:  David W. Moore & Kathleen A. Hinchman

Title:  Teaching Adolescents Who Struggle with Reading: Practical Strategies (2006, Pearson Education, Inc., Boston, MA)


            Reputable and well-respected amongst educators, authors David W. Moore and Kathleen A. Hinchman offer novice and veteran teachers of secondary schools an accessible, easy-to-read guide to reading strategies and exercises. Teaching Adolescents Who Struggle with Reading: Practical Strategies describes adolescents who struggle with reading as a challenge, but not impossible. Founders of The Commission on Adolescent Literacy of the International Reading Association, Moore and Hinchman use plausible classroom scenarios so that educators who read their instructional book can relate. Moore and Hinchman convey in their text that teachers who have a passion for reading and meticulously plan out strategies, goals and exercises of relevance can produce fervent readers.

Recently my Methods class was assigned to come up with strategies for teaching a few texts from a 5-week unit plan students made. Moore and Hinchman’s guide to practical reading strategies is an excellent resource for my Method’s assignment. Each chapter opens with a question that gives the reader an area of concentration for the upcoming chapter and engages him/her. The authors respond in the form of vignettes and short categorized paragraphs as to avoid chapters that drone on for pages. At the close of the chapter, the reader revisits the question as a means for reviewing the strategy and assessing what has been learned. Difficult terminology is explained as to avoid confusion, and outside resources are included that the reader may refer to in case he/she needs further clarification.

For my Methods class, I chose Moore and Hinchman’s strategy called Story Frames. Story Frames help students that find it difficult to retell a story into their own words with sentence starters and endings. A series of aspects may be touched upon in a Story Frame: Story Summary with One Character, Important Idea or Plot, and Character Analysis. An example for Story Summary with One Character would be, “This story is about __________. ___________ is an important character in (the) story. ___________ tried to ____________. The story ends when ______________” (Moore, 69). For simplicity, I will use the classic children’s story Cinderella. The students complete the Story Frame as follows: This story is about a young woman who is abused by her step-mother and step-sisters and forced to be a servant to them. Cinderella is an important character in (the) story. The story ends when Cinderella marries the Prince and escapes the cruelty of her step-family. Students use this approach for assistance, but will not depend on it. A strategy like Story Frames intends to guide the students into independent writers. As time progresses, Story Frames should be less frequent while the students advance towards restructuring stories on their own.

The importance of being able to read and read well is evident in the emphasis Moore and Hinchman put on instruction that promotes self-efficacy and stimulates students to achieve literacy goals inside and outside the classroom. Moore and Hinchman’s text comforts and motivates not only the struggling reader(s), but the struggling teacher(s). Professor Richard T. Vacca, of Emeritus Kent State University, writes in Teaching Adolescents . . .’s Forward, Moore and Hinchman, “. . . present down-to-earth direction that is meant to be in touch with the real world of teaching . . . providing quality instruction . . . and adaptable for educators who need information now” (Moore, x). The authors introduce the reader to the text with the “4 P’s” of teaching and learning: passion, partnership, purpose and plans. Moore and Hinchman explain that a teacher who expresses his/her passion for reading humanizes the act of reading, thus making reading an acceptable and enjoyable activity. Prompting and modeling the act of reading, that is reading along with the students and discussing one’s own favorite pieces of literature, “. . . rubs off on students” (Moore, 3). A passion for reading and writing combined with a passion for the development of the students’ reading and writing skills create an encouraging reading and writing-centered environment. Purpose is described as the point when “you’ve got to think about big things while doing small things so that all the small things go in the right direction” (Moore, 3). A purpose for every exercise, strategy and lesson keeps order, provides a goal to work towards and helps the class move forward. Moore and Hinchman add that creating community between the students and teacher allows students to become brave and daring readers. The strategies offered in the text ask for students to participate and voice their opinions. Diversity is welcomed and encouraged. In order to achieve openness and participation, the students and teacher need to have a comfortable, accepting relationship.

With each strategy they present, planning is the most crucial step, Moore and Hinchman reiterate throughout the text. Plans can be coupled with purpose. A classroom’s arrangement and the distribution of work (i.e. type of assignments, due dates and grading scale) need to be premeditated, but also open for change, the book explains. Moore and Hinchman stress the importance of planning ahead and having alternative plans for the possibility of an exercise not working out or having time left over.

Moore and Hinchman make multiple connections between their lessons and strategies with the lives of adolescents. They show how reading strategies connect with the school structure, school culture and popular culture of the students. Moore and Hinchman find that strategies succeed when all aspects of school are involved. From bell schedules, to counseling, to reading materials that are readily available, Moore and Hinchman teach their readers a multitude of ways that will mold adolescents into strong readers. 

David W. Moore and Kathleen A. Hinchman use Teaching Adolescents Who Struggle with Reading to simplify the complexity of lesson planning, strategies and reaching goals through visual aids, such as graphic organizers, lists, charts and illustrations. This text calls for readers to ponder what type of classroom environment and culture they wish to construct. Acknowledgement of classroom and personal goals, and framing strategies based on their appeal and abilities of the students become more realistic after reading Teaching Adolescents Who Struggle with Reading.



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Snow Day and House Keeping


Hi Dr. Stearns and class,

I see from our Binghamton news cast that Cortland classes are off today due to snow.  Dr. Stearns, I will be emailing you attachments of my seminar strategies, my YA paper revision, and my 3rd book review by the end of the day.

Just wanted to check and see if there was any other requirement due to the snow day?



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