Why We Are Sticking To Our Stories

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Author: Tina Deschenie

Summary: In recounting the power of the oral tradition of storytelling, Tina Deschenie describes the mesmerizing experience of listening to her father tell elaborated stories in the Diné language about Coyote as well as numerous other practices of native traditions grounded in “the power and beauty of oral tradition and face-to-face storytelling.” This piece could be used within professional development or study groups advocating for culturally relevant practices, bi-literacy, family and community traditions, and exploring innovative ways to bring native stories into classrooms that might range from capturing oral histories to digital animation.

“Let’s Talk”: Building a Bridge Between Home and School

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Author: Catherine Humphrey

Summary: How do we create opportunities for both our students and their parents to be involved in assignments that generate a sense that the writing being done is “real”? The author of this piece provides a window into an initial essay assignment that prompted her high school students and their parents to talk together prior to taking a position on an education-related op ed piece. She also offers tips for generating and sustaining quality verbal interactions. Many examples of reflections from parents and students reveal both positive responses and challenging situations that could spark lively conversations in study groups, school/community professional conversations focused on parent engagement in writing, or in individual classrooms with students.

Opening the Classroom Door: Inviting Parents and Preparing to Work Together in Classrooms

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Author: Lynne Yermanock Strieb

Summary: In this chapter from her book, Inviting Families into the Classroom: Learning from a Life in Teaching, Streib draws on an extensive archive of documents (e.g., letters from parents, class newsletters, and detailed accounts of student-family interactions) accrued over a 30-year teaching career as a first- and second-grade public school teacher in Philadelphia. Capturing the complexity and nuance of working with the families, she candidly shows what can go wrong and how to overcome misunderstandings. These honest and thoughtful depictions of crossing cultural barriers could provide food for thought within a school/community study group or for professional development focused on building partnerships between school and families.

Family Matters: A Mother and Daughter’s Literacy Journey

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Author: Amy Clark

Summary: What happens when we explore our “people”—when through writing we explore the richness of our culture, our family, our identity? How often do we find examples of a mother and daughter who have the opportunity to experience a summer institute together? This beautifully written narrative set in Appalachia could be a read aloud in a workshop or summer institute to generate ideas for writing, or as a way to discuss family/generational literacy, dialect, place, and an authentic rendition of the many facets of the writing experience.

Inviting Parents in: Expanding Our Community Base to Support Writing

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Author: Cathy Fleischer and Kimberly Coupe Pavlock

Summary: Looking for ideas for ways to reach out to parents to help them understand why we teach writing in the ways we do along with sharing successful strategies for how they might help their children or teens with writing? What about how to build awareness of connections between high school and college writing? This article, filled with research-based strategies and examples for those seeking to facilitate such experiences, also makes a case for how successful workshops with parents can help them become “informed, knowledgeable readers of educational reform and potential advocates for change” that may supplant what they are aware of from media or legislative mandates.

How Our Assumptions Affect Our Expectations

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Author: Jan Hillskemper

Summary: Increased parental involvement in student success is a goal of most every school and teacher. However, there can be vastly different ideas on what parental involvement looks like at school. This article, which would be a useful resource for teachers addressing the issue of parent involvement, examines how teachers can drift into a set of misguided assumptions when they mistakenly believe parents have the same values and expectations that they have, and that the teacher’s beliefs on parental participation are the “right” ways for parents to be involved in their kid’s education.

Writing Our Future Through Family Literacy Projects (NWP Radio)

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Summary: In this NWP Radio Show, writing project leaders discuss their family academic literacy projects, developed as part of the Writing Our Future Initiative. Based in high-needs schools around the country, this work provides support and interactive programming for English Language Learners grades K-3 and their families. This resource can support NWP sites and groups of teacher leaders to understand some of the questions and issues involved in developing these programs, and provides models for adaptation.

The Family Writing Project: Creating Space for Sustaining Teacher Identity

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Author: Marilyn McKinney, Rosemary Holmes-Gull, and Saralyn Lasley

Summary: How can teacher leaders and writing project sites develop effective ways to collaborate with parents and families? The writers, all with the Southern Nevada Writing Project, argue that family writing projects help develop a writing culture, nurture authentic writing and democratic practice, build relationships between students and teachers, counter teacher burnout, and help develop teacher leadership. This article can inspire and guide groups of teachers to develop family writing projects that have the potential to influence their classroom practice as well as deepen their understanding about the assets that parents bring to their children’s education.

Are You the Teacher Who Gives Parents Homework?

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Author: Carole Chin

Summary: In this chapter from the NWP publication Cityscapes, an elementary teacher describes how she uses the writing of students and their families to build community, honor family cultures and languages, and provide a forum to address fears, anxieties, and concerns. Threaded through the narrative are many suggestions for activities that teachers might adapt to their own settings and communities.

The Family Writing Project Builds a Learning Community in Connecticut

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Author: Valerie Diane Bolling

Summary: Family writing projects provide opportunities to build relationships among families, students and teachers while strengthening literacy, and are an especially powerful resource for families for whom English is not a first language and who are sometimes unfamiliar with the dominant school culture. This article describes activities, structures and benefits for all in one Connecticut school community.