For our inaugural #3TTchat last night, we were privileged to be joined by the great Tom Newkirk. This bright light of literacy scholarship talked with us about reading, writing, and assessment in the context of two of his most recent books: Minds Made for Stories: How We Really Read and Write Informational Texts and Embarrassment: and the Emotional Underlife of Learning.
Just as his books are, Tom’s tweets were full of one-liners of wisdom and wordplay as he engaged in the chat with teachers, instructional specialists, and writers:
Many of us, in thinking about this question, highlighted the importance of identity in our reading lives–how do I see myself in books? How do I find myself in books?
Our next question asked how we taught students to do this very thing: make connections between people’s stories and their stances and beliefs:
As we pondered this question, many of us offered up the value of having students read books that they couldn’t see themselves in–moving from mirrors to windows. We connected this to moving from recognition to empathy.
Q3 focused on specific reading practices to help students view their reading lives dynamically; Tom encourages his readers to hone in on beginnings:
Book clubs, multigenre projects, studying mentor texts, modeling our reading lives, and crafting reading and writing autobiographies were all journey-focused practices chat participants offered up.
As we shifted toward talk about writing, we wondered how we might best help students read like writers in order to strengthen their own written products. Tom offered his view that variety is key:
Avoiding becoming stuck in one genre was a theme of the night–mixing narrative with nonfiction, blending story and poetry, lab reports and literary devices, all through studying provocative, unconventional mentor texts and practice, practice, practicing imitating their craft moves.
Q5 wondered specifically about genres of writing that might help students do this, and Tom replied that any genre containing “trouble” was a good place to start:
Ideas included memoir, commentary, op-eds, origin poems, author bios, annotated lists, letters, and straightforward exposition and essays. In short, the opportunities for emphasizing narrative are endless!
We shifted toward thinking about assessment, and our conversation focused on celebrating student successes rather than emphasizing shortcomings:
We railed against grades, but honed in on emphasizing process over product, using student work as mentor texts, and teaching students to have a growth mindset when it comes to goal-setting and their reading and writing lives.
Finally, we wondered about takeaways, and Tom’s just about made us weep:
His ideal teacher voice is one of kindness and encouragement, as were so many of our chat participants’: “writing is a living process;” “your voice matters;” “everyone has something to say that matters;” “there is no one correct way to write.”
Together, #3TTchat told a story of leading students to success in reading and writing through encouragement, patience, and self-generosity.
All we can say is thank you to Tom and our many participants for helping us write that story.
We are so looking forward to talking more about the role of narrative in informational reading and writing at NCTE this year. This topic has been a long time in the making–starting with some thinking at NCTE in 2014, then growing with our reading of Minds Made for Stories, and growing some more when we took a class with Tom Newkirk at the UNH Literacy Institute. We hope you’ll join us in St. Louis for more thinking about this important topic!
Shana Karnes, unfortunately, will NOT be able to attend NCTE this year, breaking her 8-year attendance streak for the important reason of having her second baby. While waiting impatiently to meet Baby Jane, Shana teaches preservice teachers at West Virginia University, works with practicing teachers through NWP@WVU, and participates in Halloween festivities strictly for the candy. Follow Shana on Twitter at @litreader or find more of her writing on the WVCTE Best Practices Blog.