Honoring the Word: Classroom Instructors Find That Students Respond Best to Oral Tradition

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Author: Michael Thompson

Summary: In this award winning essay, Native American teacher and NWP site director Michael Thompson, reflects on his own practice and shares findings from research interviews he conducted with instructors in tribal college and university classrooms to learn how they approach literature and writing. In particular, he wondered if assigned texts represented “the value that Native people have historically given to traditional stories, teachings, speeches, tribal journeys, and accomplishments.” Instructors reported that Native communities typically value the spoken word over the art of writing and described language practices such as collecting personal narratives of elders in documentary films and digitized recordings. Classroom teachers, study groups and professional development leaders interested in exploring resources and practices that support efforts to “reclaim and honor oral traditions” of native peoples may find this article of interest.

Collaborating to Write Dialogue

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Author: Janis Cramer

Summary: By engaging children in a collaborative workshop environment to help them learn to develop characters, consider word choice, and interweave dialogue and description, the author simultaneously helped her students to strengthen social and independent writing skills. Opportunities to perform their dialogues in front of the class were also a component of this authentic experience in writing narratives. This article provides vivid details and examples of student writing and could be a useful resource for professional development related to hands-on approaches to writing as process.

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.

Publishing Students’ True Stories

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Author: Rus VanWestervelt

Summary: Creative nonfiction? What better way to engage students in all disciplines than to write real stories about life events that matter to them! And what if there were opportunities to publish these pieces in a journal designed and edited by youth? In telling the story of the creation of a journal that eventually encompassed the state, the author describes types and characteristics of creative nonfiction and shares an example of one student’s narrative that focused on her family’s evacuation from the American compound in Saudi Arabia following terrorist bombings. Even without the goal of publishing a journal, there are excellent suggestions that could be used for creating and supporting collaborative writing spaces (e.g., in classrooms, student writing clubs, supporting Scholastic Awards).

Writing in Home Dialects: Choosing a Written Discourse in a Teacher Education Class

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Author: Eileen Kennedy

Summary:In exploring how to encourage her Caribbean teacher education students to use their vernacular dialects (vernacular Englishes, Spanish, and Haitian Creole) in narrative writing, Kennedy discovered reluctant writers who lacked confidence, in part because their use of home languages had always been suppressed. Over time, she helped her students compose drafts in their home language(s) and use Standard English for final drafts. For teachers and sites wanting to explore political and sociological implications related to suppression of home language and devaluing of students’ cultures and identities, this piece provides a rich, theoretically grounded narrative of strategies and possibility.

Narrative Writing Works Magic with Children Learning English

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Author: Lisa Ummel-Ingram

Summary: Lisa Ummel-Ingram tells the story of engaging her third graders in creating books that honored their lives, language and cultures through storyboarding, sharing, conferencing, gathering information, and illustrating. Student ownership, confidence and language development extended into subsequent years as students saw themselves as authors and learners. This piece provides many details and examples of what worked as well as challenges along the way. It could be a valuable resource for elementary teachers or workshop leaders looking for specific ideas and support for implementing workshop approaches and culturally responsive teaching with language learners.

Why I Write: Scientist Timothy Ferris on Writing to Learn

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Author: Timothy Ferris

Summary: Ferris explains that he writes as a way to learn science and describes the vital role that science has played in changing the world for the better. He discusses how writing for general audiences can help scientists to “clarify their own thinking, by obliging them to put specialized ideas into wider contexts and to express them simply.” This short piece could be motivating for science students and teachers to read aloud and discuss before prompting them to write their own ‘why I write’ narratives.

Digital Storytelling for Language and Culture Learning

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Author: Judith Rance-Roney

Summary: Interested in introducing digital storytelling in a writing classroom? Rance-Roney, a teacher with the Hudson Valley Writing Project, explains digital storytelling, discusses its strengths in promoting literacy, and, by documenting her own multilingual classroom work, suggests a path for getting started with this technology.

Students Tell Their Stories Digitally

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Author: Joel Elliott

Summary: When designing a digital storytelling workshop, it may be easy to forget that it’s really about the telling of stories and the writing practices that generate powerful narratives. This piece provides a good conceptual starting point and reminder that in such settings, students are more engaged, willing to work harder and write longer pieces–and all the while quite adept at figuring out the technology. This is important for teachers nervous about not knowing the latest digital tools.

Striking It Rich: Finding My Digital Story in Northern California

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Author: Corey Harbaugh

Summary: This short piece could be a useful conversation starter or reflective tool in an institute or workshop focused on narrative. Reflecting on his excitement about the allure of new digital storytelling tools, the author reveals his insight that the power of telling our stories and making them public through digital media is also the power of writing itself–for students and for ourselves as teacher-writers.