NCTE 2011: Chicago

I have so much to share from my short, but super busy time in Chicago for the 2011 NCTE National Convention. Lots of buzz about Common Core [which I’m currently writing curriculum for as my school is going full CCGPS next semester] and “tools” [which if you’ve followed along with my thoughts, you’ll find I love tools but have a problem when it comes to focusing on tools (if that makes sense)].

Be on the look out for my reflections on the Convention AND for some thoughts on the semester this year. I know I haven’t posted as much as I should be [I need to work on getting my handwritten notes turned to posts on here], but my goal is to write much, much more! Also, I want to share with you some notes of thanks that my students gave to me before the Thanksgiving break. These notes were a reminder that the little things truly do matter the most.

Hope you all are refreshed after your breaks and ready to head into the homestretch of the semester!  Only 10 full days of school left for me! [read: where in the WORLD did this semester go?]

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Hello, Chicago!

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Hello, Chicago!

Very excited to be in Chicago for the NCTE 2011 National Convention!

This year, I’m presenting on how digital literacy narratives bring a classroom together [and how Third Space Theory is intertwined in our students’ reading/writing practices].

Will definitely be sharing things that I learn with you all once I have time to reflect and write:]

School Spirit Banter

I am SO impressed by the creativity of two local area high schools and their students’ videos. As quoted in this Get Schooled post, these ARE examples of what the best “spirit cheers” look like today. You can check out the original video in this “battle” here and the response here.

For me, these videos show just how multiliterate our students are and all of the neat ways in which they are reading, writing, and engaging with the world around them. These videos use rhetorical strategies, rhymes, video angles, music — and this list only continues — all to help show their school spirit. And, I love the fact that they pull in lots of different members from their respective student bodies to be a part of the banter.

No matter which school wins the game, the main point is that these two videos have just under 400,000 hits (combined) in two weeks. Where these students’ voices heard? [I think so!]

Censorship Stinks

It’s funny that I was just talking about Banned Books Week today, and then I happened to see a post from one of my former students regarding censorship. The energy I felt from this student’s writing reminded me just how important it is to value every thing (and every one for that matter).

This post reminded me that the lack of open-mindedness plays a huge role with things that get censored. When people don’t “get” things, things get censored. I also thought about how fear plays a huge role, too. When people fear things, they push them away. Out of sight…out of mind. However, some of those things that we fear might just be the light that another needs.

Though I am sad to know the confusion/anger/pain associated with this post, I am also breathing a breath of fresh air. The fact that there are kids out there who want to make a difference, who want to stand up for what is right, and who have open-minds to appreciate the diversity that surrounds us today is a beautiful thing.

Thus, in honor of the upcoming BBW (and the post I read tonight), I wanted to share with you all (again) beautiful words from the talented Ellen Hopkins. Her “Manifesto” is hanging in my office, and I hope it moves others as much as it moves me. Enjoy!

Shakespeare and High Schoolers

…don’t always work well together. I’ve found that until you help kids make that connection with his language, themes, characterization, etc., many dread pulling out their books to read Shakespeare.

With this in mind, I’m always looking for new ideas to help liven up Shakespeare lessons. It is through these great teaching strategies and my passion for reading his work (and again, helping show kids the connections they can make with his work) that I have found teaching Shakespeare can be a LOT of fun for both me and the kids.

One resource that I have found VERY helpful is Mary Ellen Dakin’s book Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults. There are so many helpful topics in this book (ranging from understanding the language to reading strategies to acting out to hear [and see] the words) that my kids have really enjoyed participating in and that have truly helped bring Shakespeare’s work alive.

[note: a favorite activity is the “living pictures” (pg 158) assignment that I modified to fit in with our Othello reading. We record the groups “spins” and enjoy watching them together to add to our discussion (with some even taking it a step farther to create a video in which all of the spins are brought together to ultimately define the complexity of the characters, specifically Iago).

Also, as many of you probably already know, the Folger Shakespeare Library has TONS of resources, too!

If you’ve had success teaching Shakespeare to high schoolers (or if you are a high schooler who has found something that works for you or you have enjoyed doing!), feel free to share! 🙂

NCTE Day 4: Final Thoughts

I left for the NCTE National Convention looking forward to coming back refreshed, loaded with new ideas, and reaffirmed that many of my beliefs on teaching English today were shared by educators from all over.

I came back home with all three of these things accomplished.

The Convention has become a place where I have grown as an educator and had the opportunity to meet so many influential people to work with, learn from, and talk about everything related to teaching English with. And, needless to say, I’m looking forward to next year’s gathering, too!

Thanks, everyone! See you in Chicago!

NCTE Day 3: Teachers are learners, too!

And isn’t this the truth!

The day started off with one of the NCTE author strands with some of the big names in our field (Sara Kajder, Deborah Appleman, and Bob Fecho to name a few). I really suggest checking out this series as I’ve already checked out Kajder and Appleman’s books and know the rest will be great, too, if these are any indication. Another point that hit me when I listened to these authors talk is that researching and teaching DO go hand in hand (read my previous struggle/thoughts here). And I absolutely believe that they SHOULD.

The next talk I attended was another great one that dealt with Google. (However, I’d have to say that many people were still talking about the “tools” and not the “whys” and “implementation.” See previous note here about my thoughts on moving this mindset.) The presenters all praised the Google Teacher Academy as they participated in the program (note: I only wish it weren’t half way across the globe this year or I would absolutely LOVE to submit an application! just have no idea how I would EVER find the funds for that trip).

One of the biggest things I liked with this presentation was the idea of using Google Docs to have kids collaborate, publish, and share as link to others (note: I’m thinking it would sort of look like this example shared by Jim Burke here — which will lead me to another blog post in a bit on the idea of multimedia essays). In addition, I liked the idea of sharing lesson plans within a department using docs (and ties into my thoughts here on collaboration).