"Give Jack he jacket": Teaching Student Writers How & Why to Give Credit by Tosh McGaughy

Before a recent literacy conference in my state, an educator I follow, Lois Marshall Barker (@Lit_Bark), tweeted a popular phrase from Grenada, “Give Jack he jacket.” She was reminding everyone to cite their sources in presentations, and I fell in love with the phrase. Though ethical and academic standards for copyright, plagiarism, and citation have been a part of our literary world for centuries, the instantaneous access to seemingly infinite resources and information of the internet generation has changed the conversation. While formatting those citations in my youth required purchasing the latest edition of the required style guide, now students can easily use digital sites or add-ons to do the formatting in just a click. What have become the more crucial skills to teach are discerning the credibility of the sources that are being cited and avoiding plagiarizing the ideas of others.

Teachers and librarians are teaching critical inquiry lessons to help students learn to evaluate the deluge of information available to them in simple browser searches. A quick Google search will yield many excellent #fakenews lessons. Both Common Core and other state standards include evaluating sources, avoiding plagiarism, and citing properly. While many educators consider these to be College and Career Readiness standards, given the meteoric rise of social media as a news source, these standards actually deserve to be labeled “the most essential standards”.

As “the most essential standards”, the ideas of evaluating a source or author and then giving accurate credit (Give Jack he jacket) must be taught explicitly and modeled with every different piece of text that students are invited to interact with in the classroom. Teaching these standards only when students are doing a research project or paper isolates or compartmentalizes these fundamental skills when they are truly skills that all literate adults must master in order to navigate the inundation of digital information that is at our fingertips or in our feeds.  

With the open access to information that technology provides, plagiarism now can be a simple act of “cut and paste”, so understanding the ethical reasons for avoiding plagiarism and giving credit to authors must be an on-going, face-to-face, teacher-student conversation. Writing conferences provide teachers with many quick opportunities to check-in with students throughout the writing process, and these conversations can grow ethical student writers in deeper ways than simply paying for an expensive on-line plagiarism checker and rarely talking about or modeling how to avoid plagiarism. If only for this one reason, secondary language arts teachers have to find creative ways to make a routine of writing conferences.

As a parent of teens, I have had many conversations about “right and wrong” with my own children who have grown up in a very different world (technologically speaking) than I did just 25 years ago. Heated debates about finding and downloading “free” movies and books on-line has helped me understand how crucial (and frequent) these discussions must be in classrooms, too. The teen default response,“Everyone else does it”, really does seem to apply in this instance, but I firmly believe that teaching “right from wrong” does work when done repeatedly, systematically, and relevantly. And, I think these “most essential standards” must be taught by one writer to another writer and not simply relegated to a digital algorithm that “checks” for less-than-ethical choices. 

Please share (in the comments below) your best lessons and resources for teaching how and why to avoid plagiarism. 

A few resources:

Commonsense Media CultofPedagogy AMLElesson

PBS Learning Media NYTimes Anti-Fakenews Apps

Allsides.com The Flipside Snopes.com

Crafting Compelling Claims: A Lesson With Loose Parts (inspired by Angela Stockman)

I first heard about “making” in a writing workshop a few years ago and to be honest, I was skeptical. It felt like busy work. Sure, it would be engaging, but weren’t we already doing the work of making in our writing workshop?

Then I discovered Angela Stockman. I started following Stockman a year or so ago and have been percolating on her ideas around Hacking the Writing Workshop for about that long. I thought it looked interesting, but I wasn’t quite sure how to incorporate the work into the secondary classrooms that I support as a literacy coach.

Then last month Stockman, who is one of the most generous educators online, started posting about how to use what she calls loose parts to support argument writing. The teachers I was working with were getting ready to enter a new round of argument writing, so I followed Stockman’s posts eagerly.

When Stockman shared images of students using loose parts to find their way into arguments, lightbulbs sparked. Partnering with a few willing teachers, we decided to see what would happen. I hit up the Dollar Tree, stocking my basket with bags of shells, rocks, toothpicks, and q-tips. I raided my son’s Lego collection, and pilfered the play-doh basket in our closet. I added beads and buttons. We were all set.

“Today we’re going to play with loose parts,” I explained to the sophomores that morning. I invited them to explore what was on the tray in front of them. They looked at us wide-eyed: “are we playing with play-doh?” Every kid who cracked open the can lifted the dough to their noses and breathed deeply. They let beads filter through their fingers. They began sorting buttons and shells. The joy on their faces as they explored was something we’ve gotten too far away from in high school.

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Each group of students received a tray of loose parts to begin their claim writing.

The students had already generated ideas around argument topics — they’d written beside Wislawa Szymborska’s poem “Possiblities.” They had made quicklists. They had mined their notebooks for patterns.

After letting them explore the loose parts, we gave them three post-it notes to pull out topics that were ripe for argument. They scribbled their topics down: global warming, school funding, screen time, recess for high schoolers, vacations. The topics were as varied as the students.

“Now,” I began, “we are going to use these loose parts to write a claim.” I had, as Stockman recommends, been walking around with my own fistful of playdoh. I shaped it into the shape of a phone. “Remember how I said I want to write about how much screen time I let my kids have? Well, I’m making this into a phone.” I held up my sculpture. “What could I add here to communicate my claim?” Students offered ideas.

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My claim developed from my topic about giving my kids too much screen time.

And they were off. These kids got it. They began to dig into the trays, shaping clay, piling buttons. Frankly, we hadn’t been sure what was going to happen. As they often do, the students blew us away.

We circulated the room, nudging students to add nuance to their creations. We asked probing questions. “What could you add here to communicate that idea?” We asked for clarity and students knew what to do.

I watched one freshman add details to her sculpture and then scribble more thinking onto her post-its. She had started with the idea that locally, too many new houses were being built. She used q-tips to create homes. She decided to add gray legos. She took a moment to look at the composition in front of her. Then she went back to her post-it, adding the layer about pollution. I was inspired.

We noticed that this lesson did something we didn’t expect. Over and over again, we noticed the students were developing sophisticated claims. This work helped us teach something that had been elusive about argument writing — how to develop a nuanced claim. Using learning from the National Writing Project’s work around argument writing, for years we’ve been teaching students that strong claims are debatable, defensible, and nuanced. The first two qualities were easy to teach. That third one had been trickier.

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This student started with a topic “The benefits of therapy” and ended up with the claim “Everyone needs a therapist to relieve stress, knowing you can count on someone, and being able to express themselves.” 

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This student started with the topic of “screen addiction” and worked his way towards a claim “People should enjoy the outdoors instead of being indoors on their phones.” 

The loose parts were key.  Suddenly students were digging deeper into their thinking. They were thinking through implications, making considerations, and adding layers.

After about 15 minutes, we asked students to start to put words to their compositions (see Shawna Coppola’s latest book Writing Redefined for more about honoring non-alphabetic ways of composing). Their claims were some of the strongest we’ve ever seen. They were debatable. They were defensible. They were nuanced.

“This is the most fun I’ve had in English class all year,” one student declared.

I am convinced that making has a place in the writing classroom. We writing teachers need to crack open what we mean by “writing” and honor all types of composition. We were validated when students at all levels were both engaged and successful.

Angela Faulhaber is a literacy coach in Cincinnati, OH. 

Poetry Out Loud

As a teacher, we tend to teach what we like and what excites us.  As I confessed before, poetry is hard for me to get into.  I get more jazzed up over nonfiction or an engaging book.  But this year I have pushed myself to be uncomfortable with poetry at times because my students need and deserve poetry.

And you know what, so far so good.  I have enjoyed the challenge of challenging my teaching range and comfort.

This year, aside from dissecting and discussing poems for the AP Lit exam, we have written beside poems like “Desiderata” and “Lost Generation.”  We’ve watched spoken word performances.  We have written poems about our names and heritage.  We have discussed thematically related poems in small and jigsawed groups.  We have created Book Spine poems that connected to another work of literature.  We have found and shared poems connected to our independent reading as a way of book talking those books.  We have read poetry for the sake of hearing words and enjoying them.  We have also participated in the annual Poetry Out Loud competition.  

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As a national competition sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Out Loud has been around since 2006, with the goal of promoting exposure and participation in poetry and spoken word.  Simply, it is a recitation or performance competition that begins at the classroom level with students reciting one or two poems, then progresses to the school, regional, and possibly national level. When started in 2006, only classic poets (think Dickens, Dickenson, and Front) were featured, but the program has since expanded greatly with hundreds of diverse, living choices for students to recite.

My school participates each year, starting at the classroom level.  Top performances from each period are then selected to compete among their peers in the same English class period (freshmen through seniors), with the top performances then competing at the school-wide assembly.  The winner of the school-wide assembly, which is judged by a panel of non-English teachers with Poetry Out Loud’s official rubric, goes on to represent our school at the regional level, possibly national.

While many students are shy and hesitant to perform in front of their peers, the competition has great benefits.  

  • It is a unique way to incorporate speaking and listening standards and a related performance task.
  • There are ample mini-lessons to incorporate with each student’s choice of poem you can pull from your poetry teaching archives or the website.  We researched the poets and their inspiration, examined how diction creates tone, where to place emphasis when performing, and how one creates a verbal tone that mirrors the message of the poem.  
  • The entire competition is student-centered and differentiated–students are selecting the poems, working to understand their poem beyond memorizing the words, and performing the poems.
  • The competition cultivates an appreciation for performed poetry and exposes all participants, myself included, to new poetry.  This year, I really loved hearing new poems. Some of my new favorites: “How to Triumph like a Girl” by Ada Limon, “The Delta” by Bruce Bond, “The End of Science Fiction” by Lisel Mueller, and our school’s winner, “Rabbits and Fire” by Alberto Rios.

While I still have more ideas for more poetry in the classroom–mimicking a style or genre, weaving a poem with original art, creating blackout poems, crafting poems from chapter titles or lines–Poetry Out Loud adds another dimension to poetry in the classroom. 

Check it out and put it on your school’s calendar for January 2021!

 

Maggie Lopez is currently reading “Bringing Up Bebe” and “The Coddling of the American Mind” as she awaits her baby girl in April.  She will be taking a hiatus from writing for the blog, but looks forward to reconnecting in the fall.

Embracing Joy In the Classroom by Sarah Krajewski

When I was in high school, I planned to become an architect. I took all the technology classes I could and found joy in them all. Why wouldn’t I, when I had a teacher like Mr. Johnston. His passion for his subject was palpable, and his sarcastic sense of humor made me want to crack the quiet shell I had formed around myself. Each day, I entered that room knowing I would be working, but it wasn’t the kind of “working” I was used to at school. I was building and drawing as I bopped along to music, and, yes, I was still learning. I felt true joy in that room.

When I think back to the other classes I loved in high school, they, too, incorporated joy. I savored the variety in those safe, energetic rooms. I created projects, performed chemistry experiments, and utilized the artistic freedom I was given. I had fun.

Here’s how I attempted to replicate that joy in my classroom:

Liven up the look of the room. Students need to walk into a classroom and feel joy. Recently, I saw Ingrid Fetell Lee’s 2018 TED Talk called “Where joy hides and how to find it,” and she mentions “sensations of joy,” which focus on bright colors, round objects, and symmetrical patterns. I needed that in my tiny, cramped room, so I asked my students to share their suggestions. Now, I have a gorgeous, vivid book mural and round tables instead of desks. Bookshelves line the walls with a wide variety of titles. My classroom is certainly a work in progress, but when my students tell me they enjoy spending time in it, I know I’m doing something right.

Autonomy is a must. When my students know they have choice in what they read, they read more. When they have choice in what they write, they write more. They will see reading and writing as joyful. It really is that simple. I can still challenge my students, but in a mode that works best for them.

Connect through talk. Choice can lead to an innovative, and often powerful, voice. We must talk to our students. I ask mine questions, but, more importantly, I encourage them to ask me more. As proven in this UK study, young elementary students are full of questions, but that curiosity often disappears by the time I meet them in high school. I aim to bring that curiosity back. It all starts with making connections. I put myself on display, often writing on the fly, right in front of them. They know my struggles are real, but that’s what makes me human. When a student has a rough day, we talk. We discuss. We connect.

Add elements of surprise. Though Spring in Buffalo is often not until late April or early May, I can’t wait to take my kids outside to read and write. Yep, I’m talking about high school freshmen and seniors. Let me tell you, beautiful, tangible joy is on every face! We all need a change of scenery sometimes. It’s a welcomed surprise. When I am not the one who can be the “expert” on a given topic, I bring one in who is. Authors, activists, and journalists have come in to speak with my students. They enlighten, encourage, and inspire them.

When joy is apparent in a learning environment, we will see growth and success in our students.

Sarah Krajewski teaches 9th and 12th grade English and Journalism at Cleveland Hill High School near Buffalo, New York.  She is currently in her 18th year of teaching, and is always looking for new, creative ways to help her students find joy in learning, reading, and writing. You can follow Sarah on Twitter @shkrajewski and her blog can be viewed at http://skrajewski.wordpress.com/.

The Rollercoaster of a Teaching Career

Last week, I began a new teaching assignment–the seventh in my career.

As I familiarized myself with my new role, new students, and new colleagues, I couldn’t help but reflect on how many turns my teaching life has taken over its twelve year span.

RIP the Vortex, my first looping rollercoaster

I once heard Penny Kittle refer to her ideal reading life as a rollercoaster–some easy, downhill books; some tough, uphill climb books; some that make you want to puke and abandon the ride; some that make you scream with exhilaration and joy.

My teaching life has been a lot like that: a rollercoaster of good years, hard years, long years, and fast years. It’s been a wild ride of new states, new schools, new colleagues, and new subjects. It’s been difficult, and fulfilling, and exhausting, and uplifting.

My rollercoaster teaching life, as full of ups and downs as it is, is a ride that I don’t see ending anytime soon. In fact, as my personal life settles down in the next few years and my husband’s job will no longer require us to frequently relocate, I hope to see some of the bumps and hills even out.

And as much as I loved rollercoasters as a teenager, I’m getting older. I’m ready for a smoother ride.

As a teacher, this means cultivating a sustainable, healthy practice that allows me to feel comfortable and confident as a teacher, while also providing enough excitement and novelty to keep me engaged and interested.

My One Little Word for this year is curate, which I hope will keep me focused and restrained. I’ve been concerned about the health of my teaching practice for a while–my classmates in a summer NWP course noticed that I have a penchant for trying to do/read/learn/investigate/accomplish way too much when it comes to teaching. My friend Chris gave me this invaluable advice: instead of learning more, curate my inquiry process. Hone it. Sharpen it.

And it’s been so helpful, to feel allowed to do less–to make it a goal, in fact, to say “no” more often, or click “save for later” in my Amazon cart for that newest teaching book, or keep thinking about how to improve the depth of my reading instruction without worrying that I’m dropping the ball on writing.

The truth is, teaching is an unsustainable profession if we don’t give ourselves permission to curate. When I was brand new, single, and 21, I relished the fact that I beat the principal to school every day. I loved spending 12 hours in my perfectly-lit, freshly-painted classroom.

But now that I have children, a home, and a slew of other responsibilities to care for, I have to curate. I may not have the most Pinterest-worthy classroom in the future. I may not have the neatest classroom library; I may not sponsor three clubs; I may not volunteer to be on all the committees. But I will be able to do the work I love, which is having a life that allows me to take my daughters to soccer practice and read my students’ fascinating essays from the sidelines.

I hope that this year is a year in the rollercoaster of your teaching life that you enjoy–whether you’re hurtling down the big hill, looping with abandon, or slowly creaking up a steep slope. I hope that you’ve thought of one little word to help focus you, and that it helps you enjoy this year’s ride.

Shana Karnes is enjoying the ride this year with her 9th graders in Wisconsin. She looks forward to moving one last time, to Columbus, Ohio, where she hopes to curate a life that balances teaching, family, and fun. Connect with Shana on Twitter at @litreader.

5 Takeaways from #TCTELA20

Last Monday I made my way up to school fearing the worst. Missing one day of school is stressful for most of us, but missing two days meant that I needed to prepare myself to return to a classroom that needed to be reassembled. I imagined paper strewn floors, piles of books randomly placed around the room, and desks askew if not overturned.  I must have had the two best substitute teachers of all time. The room looked immaculate, the work I’d left for the students sat neatly stacked on my desk.  Both notes reported students who worked hard and followed instructions.  I can’t say enough about how much returning to a well run classroom helps me feel better about missing work to attend a conference.

The 2020 TCTELA Conference left me feeling empowered and excited to return to my classroom stronger than I left it.

Oh, and I got to meet Rebekah O’dell.img_6255

Several of us on the board agreed that we would answer Rebekah’s call to share our voices through our writing.

 

Thus, these are the top five takeaways from the 2020 TCTELA Conference

  1. Clarity

    One of my goals for this conference was to visit as many sessions as possible. I bounced in and out of the morning workshops and the concurrent sessions, and almost every speaker talked about or touched on the idea of clarity.  This subject, one I’m learning more and more about each week, is emerging as an area of interest for many of us. Research tells us that teacher clarity has a huge effect size, and I’m excited to see this shift in focus moving forward. The clearer we are in our interactions with our students, the greater our chances of helping them grow in their literacy.

  2. Collective Efficacy

    Saturday morning, sitting at the High School section meet-up area, I kept noticing teachers filtering past with the same maroon t-shirts. Later that morning, I saw them sitting a few rows behind me at the general session. As evening approached, I saw this group presenting at the round table sessions. Their presentation shared their experience with FlipGrid, and it just about floored me. I sat in awe of how many amazing ideas they brought to their session and how they made this technology work for them at every level of high school English.  The most impressive part of their presentation wasn’t their understanding of this teaching tool, rather, it was the mutual commitment to their shared goals. The collective efficacy that they brought to the conference impressed me so much that my instructional coach team and I waited only 3 days before meeting with them online to talk about how I could bring their experience into my classroom.  No offense to all my friends out there, but the English department at Silsbee High School is my second favorite.

  3. Practices based in Research

    Over and over again presenters reached beyond their own experience to support their claims.  Our understanding of research continues to grow in importance, and our capacity to fold that understanding into instructional practices must grow as well. The research piece can be daunting for teachers because we have limited time and energy beyond those factors that immediately affect our students. However, the shift to incorporate research based practices into our instructional methodology will affect the learning of our students as much as anything else.

  4. Service over Self

    My role at this conference differed greatly from conferences in the past.  Typically, I’ve focused on presenting with or learning from others, but this time my position as high school section chair meant that more would be required of me. I talked to so many people on Friday morning that my voice failed me by lunch. I handed out buttons and invited people to join the various sections for meet-ups. I visited with presenters to make sure they had what they needed. I shook more hands than ever before.  One of my goals for the conference was to help our attendees feel like they had a connection to the organization, and I did my best to make those connections happen.  This idea is one that we often preach to our students, and it felt so rewarding to live that message.

  1. Choice

    Choice remains at the top of the list of discussion topics.  Besides being a keyword in the title of the conference, every presentation that I saw touched on the importance of choice. I hope this concept continues to spread to classrooms across out state and empower all students to find themselves as readers and writers.  My first adventure into the world of AP Lang has only strengthened my resolve to advocate for student choice and I know that the support for that commitment continues to grow.


Charles Moore looks forward to his new role as VP-Elect for TCTELA. Every day he looks forward to bringing his very best to his students and his school. He’s excited to finish up graduate school and continue to build his professional learning network one conversation at a time. 

Lap One in Research

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When I first read 180 Days Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Galagher and Penny Kittle, I was intrigued by the way they approached planning and teaching within their four essential writing units. Instead of taking the “4 x 4 approach” of four big essays across the school year, they “plan for students to create a series of texts using a progression of skills.” They call this “taking laps around the track” and with each lap, they increase the complexity of skills. They further explain that by completing multiples laps, their students will increase their volume of writing, which will lead to deeper understanding.

Sadly, I was pretty much a 4 x 4 teacher. We took one genre of writing, immersed ourselves in mentor texts, taught minilessons, and produced a piece of writing. We did this with each writing genre required in our state standards. I knew Gallagher and Kittle’s approach to planning instruction would help me and help my students as well. My units are not as in-depth and are not quite structured the same as the units in 180 Days, but we have slowly moved away from the 4 x 4 classroom.

The emphasis on research skills takes a big jump in the 6th grade, so I knew this was an area where I might explore the planning of a unit and where students may benefit by using a series of laps.

I wanted students to master basic research skills while creating a small research project. They were not yet ready to tackle a full research essay. The unit began by teaching them the skills of using keywords to begin a search and evaluating websites. Many students at this age need to understand the difference between searching and “googling a question.”

Once they learned how to find reliable sources, we moved into finding information that was relevant to their research topic and question. Finally, we tackled paraphrasing and summarizing information to use in the project.

The final product for this first lap in research was a collaborative slide presentation that we called an eBook. The mentors we used were the books in the If You Lived Series, in which the books are written in a question/answer format. The is format was perfect for the researching of a short question and when put together with others, became a book. Each class brainstormed times and events they were interested in learning more about, voted on a topic, and chose questions to research. After researching, each student created their own slide using the question/answer format and the information they learned.

This project was small enough to teach basic skills of researching yet a fun way to work collaboratively with classmates while demonstrating their learning. By having students complete this first lap in research, I believe they will be better prepared to tackle their next research project – an argument in an open letter format.

 

 

Have you tried planing instruction using laps similar to Gallagher and Kittle? If so, we would love to hear your success story.

Leigh Anne Eck is a middle school English Language Arts teacher who is currently participating in the #100DaysofNotebooking challenge. 

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