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Category Archives: Presentations

#NCTE17 – A Story I’m Thankful For

Like Amy, my NCTE experience this year was a blur of the most magnificent proportions. I was able to share the experience with an amazing group of colleagues, survived flying on standby in a peculiar route from Milwaukee to Detroit to St. Louis, and wrapped up my planning about 72 minutes before 3TT spoke to a wonderfully supportive and inquisitive audience on Friday.

I have 7 pages of notes, in 5 colors, saw so many English Gods and Goddesses speak I lost count, sat down three inches from Cornelius Minor to plan a forthcoming 3TT Twitter chat (Ekkkk! Fangirl moment), got to room for three nights with my bestie like college roommates watching Hallmark Christmas movies, secured over two dozen books for students in the exhibit hall, spent time with my amazing co-bloggers from Three Teachers Talk, and deliciously foreshadowed Thanksgiving with a calzone of turkey, cranberries, pecans, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy dipping sauce.

thanks1So, when we flew home on Sunday night, I got to bed at about 11:30 pm. Up at 5:00 am, Franklin had school through a half day on Wednesday. I then hosted Thanksgiving for 11 people on Thursday, managed a Black Friday marathon shop with my daughter Ellie (She’s four and up at 6 am anyway – might as well take advantage), cut down a Christmas tree on Saturday, and tried to be a teacher again on Sunday in order to tackle 70ish AP Language responses and plan for the coming week. Next week (I am so excited), we fly to Arizona to visit family for a long weekend.

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Spoiler Alert: I ended up at the chiropractor this past Tuesday. She said she was surprised I could turn my neck at all. “Do you encounter a lot of stress on a daily basis?” she asked. I almost choked and laughed in her face.

Needless to say, my notes from NCTE have waited patiently for me.

NCTE last year was such an incredible experience, I came back to my district and raved about the opportunities our department could reap if a group was able to go and fan out across the convention to sample the wealth of presentations that take place. I am so lucky to teach with such amazing English teachers and even luckier to get to travel with them to this event.

We plan to debrief with administration and our department in a few weeks. I promise to share some of the information and inspiration they gathered. We attended sessions from Writing MultiGenre Papers, to Having a Life as an English Teacher, to Arab Voices in the Classroom, to Using Self Assessment with Students, to “let’s listen to Linda Rief, Penny Kittle, Kylene Beers, and Robert Probst all from the same stage and try not to faint with the fatigue of trying to write down all of their brilliance.”

So, until I find a few minutes to sift through those notes and take in the depth of learning we all did, I humbly share with you the slides from my portion of the Three Teachers Talk presentation on reclaiming our voices as teachers and students through narrative writing.

In it, you will find:

  • Some embarrassing personal photos I used to open our presentation with an illustration of  my own story and how it illustrates the power of narrative to define me: who I am, what I do, and why that might be.
  • Supporting information on how narrative defines the human experience. 
  • Explanation of the Visual Biography assignment I used to have students tell their own stories to start the year.
  • A quick write to get students thinking and telling their stories “outside the box” with a reading from Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke. 
  • A final plea to see the value of student story in narrative writing as a way to know students, value their humanity, and give narrative a proper place next to argument and expository writing in our classrooms.

Amy wished us a happy December in her post earlier this week and shared her slides as well. We hope that December really does come soon. Tomorrow, maybe?  May it bring a few moments to breathe and reflect. When we do, we will be sure to shower you with all the #NCTE17 insights you could ask for.


Lisa Dennis teaches English and leads a department of incredible English educators at Franklin High School near Milwaukee. Last year her NCTE notebook pen of choice was the PaperMate Flair, this year she highly recommends the PaperMate Ink Joy pens.  Follow Lisa on Twitter @LDennibaum 

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#NCTE17 — So Much to Remember, So Much to Do

Confession:  I do not have the energy to write this post.

NCTEStLouisI had an amazing learning experience at NCTE in St. Louis. I met Twitter friends for the first time face-to-face. I got to present with my amazing and faithful blogging buddies — and Tom Newkirk! I loaded my shoulder bag with loads of new books for my classroom library complements of the book vendors in the exhibit hall. I talked with some fascinating educators and attended fantastic sessions — all tattooed my heart with meaningful messages. I saw Linda Rief talk about her heart books and Nancie Atwell, Kelly Gallagher, and Penny Kittle advocate for choice reading and more talk and more diverse books and more time to read and write with students. I attended CEL and presented with my newfound friend, Sarah Zerwin, who is writing a book on going gradeless, my newest quest. I did not sleep much. Does anyone sleep much at NCTE?

You’d think that after a week-long break I’d have caught up. Not so. Remember how I wrote about my family coming for Thanksgiving? They did. We laughed and ate and camped and ate.

And. It. Was. Awesome.

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My newly weds. Two daughters and two new son-in-laws.

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Hyrum, my soldier, and his twin, Zach

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On the 3rd day of camping, we are a motley crew but somehow still smiling.

But I am tired.

Yesterday I returned to school like I assume most every teacher in America did. The stack of papers needing grading shouted at me as I flipped on the lights. 111 emails flash danced in my inbox. One plant gave up its withered ghost, and four of my bookcases must have wrestled with the devil. Before the first bell, I sat at a table and breathed. Amazing what a few deep breaths will do.

So, yes, I have a lot to remember about NCTE. My notebook begs to be revisited, and when I get a minute or two, I will write a post that showcases the best of my learning at this inspiring convention.  In the meantime, since I did not preview my part of our presentation at NCTE like my writing partners did, I include it here. Most of my notes are in the slides, so maybe my message will make a little sense without my commentary. At least I hope so. Personally, I think our 3TT presentation was awesome! I learned so much from our journey into doing more with narrative. If you were not there, I wish you could’ve been!

Happy almost December, my friends. May your days be merry and bright right on up to the December holidays. Maybe then we will get some sleep.

 

Amy Rasmussen teaches senior English and AP Language at a large and spirit-filled high school just north of Dallas. She is the mother of six adult children and grandmother to five. She loves to read and write and share her love of reading and writing with anyone who will listen. She also loves to sleep and believes that good pillows make the best of friends. Follow Amy @amyrass and @3TeachersTalk.

Students Who Write by Ear by Amy Estersohn– an #NCTE17 Preview

The following is a sample of what I’ll be presenting with Three Teachers Talk at #NCTE17, session C.26, Friday at 12:30, room 274.

Tom Newkirk’s book, Minds Made for Stories, encouraged me to think about students as natural storytellers.

So I dug through their writers’ notebooks to see storytelling in action. During my dig, I wasn’t looking for detail or dialogue or finished pieces.  I wasn’t reading for apostrophes or paragraphing or numbered and dated pages, either.  I instead wanted to know where writers were already practicing storytelling, and what tools and strategies they were already using.

One the ways I noticed that student writers tell stories is that they listen to their inner ear.  This emerged when I read half-baked, quarter-finished crime stories where a student could hear a bought cop addressing a group of criminals.  I noticed it when I heard a writer list the annoying sayings her mother used.  I noticed it again when writers took on a Ken Burns-ish important-sounding narrative voice to discuss an important world issue.

Some students can really hear when they write.

So the first thing I did was I turned that observation back to the students: did you notice how you hear the character in this section?  That observation then became an expectation.  In your writing, you should be able to hear your character or narrator speaking.  When you revise, ask yourself if you still hear your characters or your narrators.  If you don’t, mark the text for a future revision.

There are also ways that writers can practice hearing stories.  The easiest way is just to choose a good piece to read out loud to the class.  For middle school, I’d recommend the first few pages of a Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie or Jason Reynolds’ Ghost.   For high school, I’d probably choose a text like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak or A.S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future.  You can read the book in your voice or cue up the audiobook, and ask students to discuss what they noticed and then practice some imitations.

You can also invite students to imitate characters they already know.   It’s always fun to try to imitate a sibling’s voice or a young child’s voice.  I invited students to imitate boastful and outrageous LaVar Ball, a parent of an NBA player, after I provided examples of what he has said.  Students embraced the opportunity to play around with LaVar’s voice in their writers’ notebooks.

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Another idea would be to collect some of the voices of nonfiction: this includes Deborah Heiligman’s Vincent and Theo, Candace Fleming’s Giant Squid, some Mary Roach, and whatever nearby textbook or magazine is in sight.  Work backward: what do these voices sound like?  Whom do I imagine is telling me this story?

I could even see students doing multimedia work with voice by tape recording themselves.

I’m going to assume for a moment that teaching voice is probably not new to you.  But what might be new is teaching voice and playing with voice as an element of storytelling instead of housing it within a certain genre or a certain unit.

Will you be at #NCTE17?

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I hope to see you there!

 

Amy Estersohn is a middle school English teacher in New York.  She writes book reviews at teachingtransition.wordpress.com and is deeeeeelighted to serve on the CYBILS book award committee for middle grade fiction.  

 

Ready or Not, #NCTE17, Here We Come

Sometimes November is too much fun.

I keep telling myself that as I plan for my six children, two new son-in-laws, and five little grandkiddos to come home for Thanksgiving — not two or three days after I get a good night’s sleep and recover from the extraordinary time I expect to have at NCTE this week — but one, less than 24 hours!

Oh, I am excited. No question about that. There is nothing like family for the holidays, especially my big and boisterous one. But the getting ready? Just a little crazy.

I already know my refrigerator is not big enough, and I don’t have enough beds. (How can I put my daughters’ new husbands on the floor? Would their mothers put my daughters on the floor?) I’ve been on a mad hunt, shopping on Facebook Marketplace, for enough beds. Thank God I live in a huge metroplex with lots of people selling lots of stuff.

I won’t even mention how my sweet husband decided we needed new carpet, which if you’ve ever done that deal in a small home packed with 32 years of “Oh, I might need that” you know what an exhausting move-and-shove-and-throw-that-out time that is.

So, all that to say this:  Who is ready for NCTE?

My heart is, but my head is not. Neither are my presentations. (Did you notice that s? I did it to myself: I’ve got THREE. NCTE with this 3TT writing team, a 5 minute Ignite spiel, and my first ever CEL.) Shana’s promised to remind me how I feel right now when proposals come due for 2018. Frantic does not quite cover it. Can I take another day off? I just took off Friday. Instead of putting slides together, I bought a trundle bed.

If you will be in St. Louis, I hope you will find me. Flag me down. Wave across the room. Introduce yourself. Come to one of my sessions and say, “Hi!” Shake my hand or give me a hug. I could use a hug or two or twelve.

Reclaiming Narrative and Amplifying Our Voices_ Using Story to Invite Fearless Inquiry and Intellectual Challenge for Our Students and Ourselves

NCTE is my favorite conference. It fuels me for the whole year. I cannot wait to get there.

I remember the first session I attended at NCTE last year — a Thursday workshop tribute to Thomas Newkirk. So many of the teacher leaders I admire spoke on how Tom’s work has influenced and strengthened their’s: Tom Romano, Jeff Wilhelm, Penny Kittle and so many others.

Tom’s been a blessing to my work, too. I am a better teacher and a better person because I know Tom Newkirk. Penny Kittle told me once, “Tom is the smartest person I know.” I have to agree. He is so wise. He is kind, too.

Tom Newkirk is our session chair!

Writing that out still gives me a thrill. (I refuse to call it pressure. Tom Newkirk will be listening to us talk about narrative. HE IS AN EXPERT ON NARRATIVE! He wrote a book about narrative! Okay, maybe a little pressure.)

So, all this to say:  Who is ready for NCTE?

I will be.

 

Are you ready? What are you most excited about at NCTE? Please share in the comments.

Amy Rasmussen is not usually a procrastinator. She keeps lists so she can mark things off lists. Someday soon she will get her act together — certainly before 12:30 on Friday. Amy teaches AP Lang and English IV at a large senior high in north TX. Follow her @amyrass and @3TeachersTalk.

Giving Thanks: NCTE 2016 and a Plate Full of Passion

The season is upon us, boys and girls. A time for calls to the Butterball Hotline (1-800-BUTTERBALL if you need it). A time to smile at Grandpa’s snoring after dinner. A time for gifts and giving and  possibly some figgy pudding.

After my first trip to the Annual NCTE conference, it’s also a time to be thankful.

It’s difficult for me to put into words how thankful I am for the opportunity to meet with and learn from so many amazing educators.

Amy, Shana, and Jackie, presenting with you was an incredible experience. Your passion and expertise around workshop is a gift that I will take back to my department as we continue our own workshop journey. Your believe in the power of choice, challenge, reading, writing, and speaking makes this shift in delivery easier and more rewarding each day.  ncte-1

Beyond our own presentation, the sessions we attended have my heart and mind bursting with enthusiasm for the work we do with kids. I am watching some of them read right now (I promise to confer in a moment) and the promise that they hold is the reason for all of this. NCTE 2016 refocused my attention on the core of my purpose in the classroom…to inspire connections. Connections to one another, to great texts, to authors, to the written word, to what they believe in.

As if that weren’t enough, the past few days has me thankful for:

Spending time with like-minded professionals.

My girl Shana Karnes introduced me to this phrasing over the weekend. Spending time with people who are pursuing a common goal is enriching, invigorating, and downright fun.

ncte-8My weekend started when I met Winifred as we were in line to pick up registration materials. One of the Coordinators for Special Education Services in Georgia, Winifred and I got to talking about her garden. She pulled out her phone and showed me a video of her abundant harvest and we talked about trips planned around picking your own food right off the tree/vine/stalk. She showed me pictures of her fiance, as she is getting married after being widowed for years, pictures of her grandchildren, and her salmon on the grill.

And then we talked about hope for the future (left turn). Using the opportunity of the weekend to fuel our hope around the power of education. Well, if Winifred’s passionate character is any indication of even half the educators this country employs, I have renewed hope too.

Then, this fangirl met some of the biggest names in education. Amy and Shana introduced me to Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher.

I sat between them at a table and had a cocktail. 

I repeat.

I casually chatted with Penny and Kelly (Can I say that? It feels weird), like I belonged there. Like I had anything of value to contribute to conversation.

And yet…once I got over my shock and awe at where I was sitting and who I was sitting with, Penny and I talked about the work I’m helping to lead in moving the Franklin High School English department to workshop. Kelly and I talked about the power of promoting educational philosophy and policy while still in the classroom, working each and every day with students in order to refine our own craft and reinforce our philosophies for the betterment of our kids.

When thought that benefits the advancement of students becomes purposeful practice, magical things can happen.

Maybe it was the Moscow Mule I was sipping, or maybe it was the fangirl phenomenon, but sitting with those great thinkers and discussing what’s best for kids, may be the professional development highlight of my career so far.

The Opportunity to Hear from Passionate Voices Who Support Our Work 

Over the course of the past several months, we have all dealt with division on a daily basis in a ways that feel intensified and frankly, frightening. Understandably, this is something many of our students have intensely felt too, some for a very long time.

During a session on Equality in Education, Cornelius Minor (who proclaimed himself a black nerd, but I think he might be one of the most powerfully tolerant and inspiring voices of our time – in fact, I hugged him after his session) suggested that it’s our job as educators to teach children how to “maintain partnerships” in order to “define our culture.” Among countless other profound and inspiring quotes from that session, this stuck with me.

My job as a teacher can be defined in countless ways: facilitator, psychologist, content specialist, reader, writer, engineer, surrogate mom, cheerleader, conflict resolution specialist, event coordinator, nurse, lesson planner, assessor, tour guide, bookkeeper, data systems specialist, actor, career counselor, bailiff.

But, at the moment, advocate is my personal goal. In my humble opinion, as teachers, we are charged with shaping the future (no small task), so the partnerships we build with students and the partnerships we help them create with one another, might be some of the very best work we can do to promote social change and unity.

I’ve long advocated for students to be readers and writers. In the workshop model, I’ve learned that choice and challenge are additional areas of advocacy I can promote.

However, teaching my students to advocate for themselves, as informed, collaborative, and responsible citizens is my most important task right now, and it starts with building partnerships that bring us together to work toward common goals of kindness, respect, and the respectful promotion of educated opinions.

The insights of incredible thinkers

Can I name drop, for a minute? Before I left for NCTE 2016, my best friend on the planet, and teaching neighbor Erin, congratulated me on Facebook for my upcoming speaking engagement at what she coined as the “Super Bowl of English teachers.”

It made me chuckle when I wrote it, because I think she might have been implying I’m super, but as it pertains to those that I heard speak at the convention, it was spot on.

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I have a notebook filled with quotes from the likes of Jason Reynolds, Pam Allyn, Donalyn Miller, Kylene Beers, Kwame Alexander, Ernest Morrell, Tom Romano, Cornelius Minor, Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Amy Rasmussen, Shana Karnes, Jackie Catcher, and many, many more.

I will have to write more on these quotes. Dig into them. Flood my classroom with them. But here is a taste:

On issues with equality in education Cornelius Minor said,”It’s not the students that are disabled, it’s the curriculum.”

Speaking to our current national focus on division and divisiveness, Kwame Alexander said, “We [educators] have to be the manufacturers and purveyors of hope.”

Pam Allyn added, “Be vigilant and aware and active in defense of words that heal, not words that wound.”

Ernest Morrell incited that we must have students consider how they “speak back to the book.”

And one of my favorites, was Kyleen Beers suggesting that if your inclination is to test students knowledge on the content of a book. she would “prefer you didn’t give them the damn book” (Beers).

Food for thought. Food for fuel. Ideas to motivate and captivate. I love my job…

Free books

Have you ever seen the videos of The Running of the Brides? Matrimonially incensed women trampling each other to secure the dress of their dreams in a wedding dress-laden warehouse turned streets of Pamplona? A place where otherwise calm, rational, respectable people turn into Black Friday bargain hunters with cutthroat tactics  and pitiless elbowing skills?

Now, swap out the brides for savings-fueled educators, who are not only passionate about saving money on books, but particularly prideful of stacking those free treasures into towers of savings that stand taller than the students they teach.

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Add Curious George, countless authors signing their books (Matt De La Pena?  Neal Shusterman? Ann M. Martin?!), a hot dog stand, and free book totes, and you’ll see English teachers practically stab one another to get free texts.

It made me smile to see so many teachers literally fighting (friendly competition fighting, not literally throw a punch to grab a copy of  The Association of Small Bombs fighting) to support their classroom libraries and their commitment to putting books in the hands of teachers. ncte-3

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I have enough notes, inspiration, and red hot passion for this profession right now to fuel another dozen or so posts on the incredible opportunity that was NCTE 2016. I’m so very thankful I could attend. So very thankful to my district for supporting this work. Thankful to my department members who are working their tails off to support our students as growing readers and writers. Thankful to my students for exploring their ncte-2deeper thoughts though books. Thankful that the Heros and Villains Fan Fest was starting, so we briefly shared the convention hall with roaming bands of beautifully costumed characters. Hey, we all have passion for different things. I find Thor’s passion to be particularly commanding.

I emailed Penny Kittle to thank her for talking with me and for sharing her insights on this powerful, albeit extremely challenging move to workshop, and I want to leave you with a quote that I think we can all give a little thanks for as we walk down this workshop path and learn how to do what’s best for our kids. The message is…workshop is simple.

We just need to, as Penny said, “be sure that students have time to read every day so [we] can confer, write every day to build volume, and study texts that help them learn the craft.”

Amen.
Let’s eat.

If you attended NCTE, what are you thankful for? If you couldn’t join us, which of the quotes above speaks to your practice? We LOVE to hear from you. Please join the conversation in the comments below. 

 

Choice as the Keystone in Secondary English Classes

Shana and I were privileged to present a session during #TheEdCollabGathering on Saturday. If you joined us live, thank you! If you’d like to see our session, here it is. If you have questions we did not answer, leave them in the comments. We’ll do our best to answer.

Choice as the Keystone in Secondary English Classes

A big thank you to @iChrisLehman and the EdCollab Community.

Choice as the Keystone in Secondary English Classes

In a readers and writers workshop, everything comes back to choice.

Have you seen the movie You’ve Got Mail?  If so, you’ll recall the scene where Tom Hanks is giving Meg Ryan business advice.  “The Godfather is the answer to any question. ‘What should I pack for summer vacation?’ ‘Leave the gun, take the cannoli.’ ‘What day is it?’ ‘Maunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday.'”

It’s the same with choice.  “How will I know they’re reading if I haven’t read the book?”  They’ll be engaged, authentically, because they’ve chosen their books.  “How will I get them to want to revise their writing?”  They’ll want to strengthen the writing about topics and in genres they’ve chosen.  “How can I assess them if they’re all reading different books?”  You offer choice in ways for students to show their mastery–reflections, conferences, blogs, and more.

Choice is the keystone.img_1957

We have written about choice here and here and here.  It crops up again and again in our writing, thinking, and talking.

And we’re excited to talk more about choice with you all this Saturday, April 2, during The Educator Collaborative’s annual Gathering.  This amazing, free, inspiring day is the perfect way to spend a spring Saturday, as it will leave you energized, rejuvenated, and brimming with ideas.  It’s the modern PLC at its best, and the perfect way to help you finish the school year strong.

Tune in at 1:00 EST as we discuss choice as the keystone in English instruction.  We’ll share:

  • Research to support choice in literacy education
  • Strategies for teaching independent vs. small group vs. whole-class novels
  • Why conferring is at the heart of workshop
  • Writer’s workshop non-negotiables and the use of skills learned from independent reading

Please let us know in the comments, via Twitter (@amyrass or @litreader), or on our Facebook page what questions you have about choice as the keystone in secondary English classes.  We’ll be happy to answer them Saturday, and we can’t wait to see you there!

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