Teachers’ Voices: So, You Want to Write for the Newspaper

I led a roundtable discussion yesterday at NCTE around nurturing teacher voices, and my roundtable topic was about how to encourage teachers to use their local newspapers as a platform for writing and publishing, and changing the dialogue around education. The work is informed by a strong partnership that our Western Massachusetts Writing Project has with a regional newspaper to feature teacher-writers once a month. I used this handout as a way to encourage individual teachers but also groups of teachers to consider the local newspaper as a conduit for positive news.

NCTE Session Getting It in the Paper by KevinHodgson

Peace (in the news),
Kevin

 

Peter Elbow: Cheerleading for the Common Tongue

The eminent Peter Elbow, whose work around literacy with such books as Writing Without Teachers and Writing with Power led the way to completely revamping the ways in which we nurture young writers, recently released a book about the importance of everyday speech in our literary lives. The book — Vernacular Eloquence — was at the heart of his keynote address to the Western Massachusetts Writing Project’s fall conference earlier this month. Elbow allowed me to videotape his talk for WMWP.

What I found fascinating is the point of how much we devalue common talk as a form of literacy, and how Elbow notes that formal education often snuffs out the phrases and pauses, and syntax, of how we talk when our guard is down. He notes, rightly, that segments of our population feel left out of the definition of “literacy” because the academic world does not value their speech.

I also enjoyed the connection Elbow made to how we “feel” our words, on our tongue and in our heart, and that when our language is at odds with those emotions and experiences, our thoughts become disjointed and inauthentic. By examining how we speak and whether we value the ways in which we speak, Elbow is hoping to show the value of the vernacular in our definitions of what it means to be writer and communicator. As Bruce Penniman pointed out during the discussion phase of Elbow’s talk, the new Common Core does put more value on the aspects of Speaking and Listening, but that all examples and references seem to point more towards formal expectations, not daily vernacular.

Here are some excerpts from Peter Elbow’s talk at WMWP:

Peace (in the way we speak),
Kevin

Workshop Presentation: What Does Literacy Look Like?

Best Practices Donahue Session
I am fortunate in that I am co-facilitating a roundtable session this morning at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project‘s Best Practices conference. The session I am part of evolved from a year-long partnership in which three WMWP leaders (myself, and two others) led professional development around literacy at an urban elementary/middle school. During the year, we moved from the Common Core implementation, to the introduction of a true Writing Workshop model, to using technology and digital media, to having teachers launch into a classroom inquiry project.

Today, in our Dialogues with Donahue session (the name of the school), we will be talking about the hurdles and the successes that were part of our year together, framed around the essential question of “what does literacy look like” at a school and how do you bring teachers together to begin to foster a shared vision of what writing and reading looks like in the classroom. The inquiry projects were at the heart of this work, allowing teachers to develop an important question and working to make change in their classroom, and school.

This was also the most difficult part, as many of these teachers had become accustomed to stand/deliver professional development, and not inquiry-based work. Some of the teachers will be sharing their journey today and involving the audience in examining their own school climate around literacy and doing some thinking about inquiry themselves.

An added bonus: Peter Elbow, whose work — including the influential Writing Without Teachers — has informed writing instruction for decades now, is the keynote speaker for our WMWP Best Practices event. I have my video camera and he has given me permission to tape his talk, so I will see what I can do with the video in the coming days. Elbow’s topic is about speaking and listening, as tied into his new book Vernacular Eloquence, and the connections to writing.

Peace (in the day ahead),
Kevin

 

WMWP Best Practices: Writing is More than the Common Core

WMWP Best Practices

Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project’s annual Best Practices is coming up soon (Saturday, October 19) and if you are in our area, I invite you to considering joining this day of professional development around the teaching of writing. We are very fortunate to have the esteemed Peter Elbow as our keynote speaker, who will focus in on how we talk and what it means. And you can see from the title that we continue to push back on the Common Core expectations, and work to expand the ways in which our students are writing.

Here is the full program:

WMWP Best Practices 2013 Program by KevinHodgson

Peace (in the PD),
Kevin

In the Newspaper: Making Learning Connected

gazette clmooc piece
Our writing project has a sort of partnership with the local newspaper, where teachers have a regular column each month called Chalk Talk. I have been coordinating our end of it but I also write, too. This past week, the first column of the year came out, and in it, I talk about the Summer of Making and the Making Learning Connected MOOC experience.

I decided to make a podcast of the piece, so, here you go:

Peace (in the voice),
Kevin

 

Digital Is: Technology as Learning in PD

seedgrant digitalis

Over at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is, I posted a new resource this week that looks at a six month professional development program in which we incorporated digital learning into many facets of the work, trying to make the technology invisible and a natural part of the learning for teachers (with hopes they will turn around, and do the same with their own students).

Take a look at SEED Grant Partnership: Technology as Learning

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

Making Avatars in a Webcomic Classroom

Holyoke WorkshopComicClassroom
In the summer workshop for high school English Language Learners, we’ve been talking a lot about digital literacy and online identity, particularly about avatars. This concept of representing oneself will come back around as we move into video game design, too, and yesterday, after viewing a fascinating New York Times slideshow that features portraits of people and their avatars, I brought our students up into Bitstrips for Schools.

One of the first tasks in Bitstrips is to create an avatar for use in the site, so it ties in perfectly to what we had been discussing. And the webcomic space is very user-friendly, even for struggling writers. Today, I will give them an overview around how to create a comic in Bitstrips. But as they were working on their avatars, I kept refreshing the homepage of the site, showing how their representations of themselves were populating the “classroom.” They got a kick of that, shouting out to refresh the page.

Take a look at the class picture and you get a sense of the students I am working with this summer. (A few students were absent or are still working, which is why there are some blank spaces).

Peace (in the comic),
Kevin

First Day Jitters: Digital Literacies Workshop for HS Students

workshop teaser

I haven’t written much about this, since I have been knee-deep in the Making Learning Connected MOOC, but today is the first day of a five-week workshop program I am leading for high school students around digital literacies, remixing the web and game design. I’m a little jittery. You know that feeling? My workshop is part of a partnership between the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and a local urban school district, which got a big grant to offer up a comprehensive program to support English Language Learners this summer. There are tutorial sessions, group activities, work programs and workshops in this Summer of Power program.

I am one of the workshop leaders. Along with a WMWP colleague, who has expertise in ELL, I am going to have these high school students explore the digital worlds from a couple of angles — first, through creating avatars to represent themselves in a webcomic space and beyond; then into remixing websites with the Mozilla Webmaker tools; and then into video game design with Gamestar Mechanic. Meanwhile, I am weaving in game design from the very first week (tomorrow, we hack the game of Chess, for example). Writing will be at the heart of what we are doing — from writing in and out of the day, to storyboarding projects, to reflecting on the experience and possibilities. I am working to line up some outside visitors, too, from the field of computer programming and video game design, and I am reaching out to the Mozilla folks, too.

I don’t know the students, and I have not worked much with high school students, and the language barriers are somewhat of an unknown. Yet today, I have to give an elevator speech (15 minute presentation) six times, to six different groups of students, as they will be deciding which enrichment workshop they want to attend. I am using Prezi to present my overview, but I decided to start with a non-threatening quiz — showing icons from the gaming world and I’ll ask if they recognize them (we’ll be using a lot of visual clues this summer). There is one outlier in the mix (Mr. Monopoly) who does not originate from a video game. We’ll see if they can pick him out of the lineup.

What has me on nerves, though, is not the students, so much. Since this is not my school, I worry about the infrastructure of technology and whether things will work as I need them to work, and what kind of support I will get when they don’t. I did visit the lab last week, checked out the computers, and foundĀ  a few upgrades that needed doing. The teacher there is fantastic, and she got to work on the upgrades even as I was leaving the lab. She wants it to run smooth. That’s a great sign.

I’ll let you know how it goes …

Peace (in the pitch),
Kevin

 

WMWP: Writing to Go

WMWP Writing to Go

Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project just published a second round of profiles of teachers with lesson plans around writing, complimented by student work. It is called Writing to Go, and I was lucky to have been asked to contribute to the publication. My topic: teaching the synthesis of reading across multiple texts and using evidence from those texts in analytical writing. (This is also my main teaching goal this year).

The book has a wealth of great ideas, from using images to inspire writing, to how to build a sense of community through reading and writing, to using primary sources to inform writing, to how to best analyze the potential of quotations and dialogue. Writing to Go was rolled out at the WMWP 20th anniversary last week and will go on sale through the WMWP office and website in the coming days. It also provides a nice look inside the work being done by various WMWP teachers.

Peace (on the pages),
Kevin

The Coding Video

I’m a little late to this party for sharing this video (it got lost in my draft pile) but I wanted to share out this video about the importance of learning coding and programming, and its connection to literacy. This fits in nicely with a summer camp program for high school students in which we intend to explore hacking as literacy, and the concept of learning coding as literacy is right in the mix.

Peace (in the code),
Kevin