middle/high school

Preserving the Cultural Identity of the English Language Learner

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Author: Wilma Ortiz and Karen Sumaryono

Summary: With an advocacy goal of helping immigrant students retain their cultural identities and succeed within the mainstream classroom while also learning a new language, the authors share several effective writing practices that validate students’ primary language in meaningful ways and promote a strong sense of self. These include: helping all students use key words from a variety of languages; inviting students to use their primary language in response to journal entries, writing prompts and free writes; using multilingual mentor texts; employing “”writing to learn”” in native languages to explore content; and using cooperative grouping to support speaking in English. The details and examples in this article make it an excellent resource for study groups, professional development or individual teachers seeking ways to support language learners.
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Learning From Laramie: Urban High School Students Read, Research, and Reenact The Laramie Project

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Author: Marsha Pincus

Summary: In this story of an extended teacher research project, the author shares the design, purpose, and impact of a course called “Drama and Inquiry,” where she and her students explored multiple perspectives, shifting identities, and ethical dialogue through their study of non-canonical plays including “The Laramie Project.” Consider including this article in an advanced institute to support conversations about teacher inquiry and social justice.
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Honoring Dialect and Culture: Pathways to Student Success on High-Stakes Writing Assessments

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Author: Michelle Crotteau

Summary: As teachers we often struggle to find ways to honor our students’ home dialects while still preparing them to take high stakes writing tests requiring the use of Standard English. In this piece, the author describes her three-pronged approach within a Writing Strategies class to work with students in danger of not receiving diplomas because they had failed the state test. Students developed linguistic and mechanical fluency by speaking and writing about their interests (e.g., hunting), drawing upon their Appalachian English dialect, and developing knowledge about how to recognize audience-appropriate situations for employing both Standard English and their own dialect. Lots of examples of student writing coupled with her own rationales and experience make this a useful piece for workshops, study groups or professional development focused on culturally relevant practices within a high stakes testing environment.
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Tech Tools for Teachers, by Teachers: Video Game Design in the Classroom

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Author: Greg Kehring

Summary: What can the writing process teach students and teachers about video game design, and how can game design expand our understanding of writing genres? Read about this middle school teacher who used Gamestar Mechanic to engage his students in digital writing and connected learning. From “creation” to “peer revision” and finally publication on a gaming website where others played the games and offered feedback, he and his students discovered the power technology can have in understanding composing and creative processes and providing new avenues for writing. For teachers who are reluctant to engage in digital work (or who are ready to take some new steps), this article can provide encouragement, guidance, and testimony about how students learn and respond to such experiences.
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Improving Students’ Academic Writing: Building a Bridge to Success

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Author: Juliet Wahleithner, Jayne Marlink

Summary: This report would be of interest to those embarking on college-preparatory reading/writing initiatives; it describes the statistically significant impact of a statewide professional development program designed to improve students’ understanding and ability to write academically in high school, and specifically in grades 11 and 12. The authors clearly lay out the study’s purpose, methods, and guiding frameworks, including one for forming sustained professional learning communities.
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Helping High School Students “Gear Up” for College

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Author: Art Peterson

Summary: This article highlights a program designed to support 9th graders developing an understanding of how to differentiate and act upon revision and editing concerns. The program’s development and implementation reflects a collaboration between area high school writing centers, teachers, and university composition faculty. Since Gear-Up funds programs throughout the country, teacher leaders and site directors might see possibilities for local adaptations.
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Culturally Mediated Writing Instruction for Adolescent English Language Learners

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Author: Leslie Patterson, Carol Wickstrom, Juan Araujo

Summary: Sites looking for examples of how to design a study and/or plan professional development focused on the impact of culturally mediated writing instruction (CMWI) for adolescent English learners may find this report by the North Star of Texas Writing Project a helpful resource. Findings suggest that positive effects are more likely to occur when inquiry-based professional development includes follow-up support as teachers learn ways to effectively mediate and differentiate instruction to meet particular needs of diverse learners in language and literacy learning.
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“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 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.
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Are You Ready for College Writing?

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Author: Mary Ann Smith

Summary: What is college writing like? This report on a series of pilot workshops for high school juniors focused on this question, and the students quickly discovered that college writing is not the traditional five-paragraph essay. Instead, it is multifaceted, always involves critical thinking, and is the most common form of assessment. These principles and others are outlined in this short report, which also gives some information about developing the workshops. This resource is useful in the planning stages of similar workshops on academic discourse for high school juniors, and demonstrates the importance of an inquiry stance to questions about writing.
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Book Review: English Learners, Academic Literacy, and Thinking: Learning in the Challenge Zone

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Author: Debra Schneider

Summary: How can we best support English language learners in classrooms where rigorous curricula focuses on intellectual practices across content areas? How can we engage in practices that enable students to construct rather than reproduce knowledge, develop deep understanding of disciplinary knowledge and forge connections between school and the outside world? In this book review, Debra Schneider shares insights and successful strategies emerging from her own practice and study group related to the chapter on Academic Literacy [see PDF], suggesting that teaching content “”deeply”” enables teaching standards in authentic ways. An excellent resource for study groups, inquiry groups, or those leading professional development.
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