reading/writing connection

Reading, Writing, and Reflection in the Holocaust Educators Network

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Summary: Each summer for the past ten years, NWP teachers, many from rural sites, have participated in summer seminars offered by the The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI), a NYC-based organization dedicated to furthering the knowledge of teachers and students about human rights and social justice through the lens of the Holocaust and other genocides. TOLI seminars use an inquiry-based approach to provide educators with tools to heighten their students’ engagement with this sensitive subject matter, guiding students from shock and denial to compassion and social action. Teachers who complete the seminar become part of the Holocaust Educators Network.

Developed by Sondra Perl, one of the founders of the New York City Writing Project, TOLI seminars place writing at the center, both as a way for participants to process their learning and as a key dimension of the curriculum projects designed by participating teachers. If you are exploring ways to address issues of human rights and social justice in your work with other teachers or in your own classroom, check out the resources below to learn more about TOLI.
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The Story of SCORE: The Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute Takes on a Statewide Reading Initiative

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Author: Lynette Herring-Harris and Cassandria Hansbrough

Summary: The SCORE monograph (Secondary Content Opening to Reading Excellence) from the Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute offers an overview of programming for content area teachers as part of a statewide reading initiative. A useful resource for teacher leaders, the monograph includes a rich description of five days of workshops (p. 14-19) along with timelines (p. 24-25), and agendas (p.26-31) that structured and organized this work.
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Reading, Writing, and Mentor Texts: Imagining Possibilities (NWP Radio)

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Summary: Mentor texts can support writers and inspire writing in all genres in the classroom and beyond. This NWP Radio show is of particular interest to study groups and teacher leaders designing professional development that explores the use of mentor texts to support writing in academic disciplines. Presenters share resources for identifying and using effective mentor texts. Highlights include: a definition of mentor texts (2:00); a discussion of using picture books as mentor texts (14:01); advice about choosing 15-25 texts as anchors for the year (15:50); a discussion of the concept of “deeper writing” (24:40); and using mentor texts as resources for teacher inquiry (36:43). Also included is a discussion of how a broad definition of “text” can enrich a thematic approach to history along with an example of using texts in a history unit on The “Other” in America. Included links contain valuable resources on mentor texts in general and in history in particular.
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Theory, Politics, Hope, and Action: Building Immersive Writing Experiences for Bilingual Writers

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Author: Carole Edelsky

Summary: This article is a great resource for study groups, inquiry communities, and professional learning of all types with a focus on English learners and writing. After introducing two pieces of “gorgeous” writing from fifth graders in a dual language classroom, Edelsky explains how this writing came to be. First she provides a theoretical overview focused on how people develop language and identity through authentic work within a community of practice. Then she describes the genesis of a different approach to writing development among a group of elementary teachers dealing with the question of “how you make schoolwork like real out-of-school work.” Offering seven “partial answers,” this article is highly accessible with the potential to generate myriad inquiries into issues about language learning, writing, power, and equity.
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Grammar—Comma—a New Beginning

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Author: Mary Ehrenworth

Summary: Teaching grammar through inquiry and seduction? In this piece, Mary Ehrenworth shares strategies for moving away from direct instruction (which seldom works) to making it possible for students to “have an apprenticeship relation with great authors, even at the sentence structure level.” By honoring diverse dialects and helping students make intentional choices through inquiry (How DO authors choose verb tense?), teaching grammar becomes an integral part of the composing process. Examples of student work illuminate the effectiveness of this approach and make this article useful for workshop leaders and teachers seeking fresh approaches for teaching grammar within the context of student writing.
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Brief Reviews of James Moffett’s Major Works

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Author: John Warnock

Summary: These brief sketches emphasize ideas for classroom practice found in the works of James Moffett, a writer and theorist in the areas of language and literacy and curriculum integration whose work has informed the practice of many NWP teachers. For teachers in any advanced institute or study group who want to do a deep dive into Moffett and his legacy related to student-centered writing experiences, these readings would provide the door.
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Puny Poetry Meets Its Match

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Author: Gerri Ruckle & Jim Horrell

Summary: What can we do when confronted with the challenge of helping young poets develop an awareness of the expressive power of poetry as opposed to rhyming lines that that often convey little meaning? By sharing a series of scaffolded strategies illustrated with multiple examples of student writing, the authors tell the story of how they changed their teaching and supported students in exploring poetry and creating sophisticated works of self-expression. This resource offers excellent ideas for professional development related to teaching poetry within a reading/writing workshop approach.
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Negotiating Academic Discourse

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Author: Linda Flower

Summary: This report discusses the difficulties experienced by many college freshmen as they seek to negotiate the transition from a writing process based on comprehension and response to a more fully rhetorical, constructive process. Summarizing a series of research studies on student responses to a reading-to-write task, the report concludes that both the deficit model (“lack” of skills) and developmental model (“stages” of growth) are incorrect characterizations of the transition between these two processes. Instead, the report supports a discourse community model, which views students as attempting to negotiate their entry into academic discourse by learning the conventions, expectations, etc. expected by this community. Although this study took place in the 1980s, the report still offers important food for thought as teachers work with students negotiating the academic transition. The report would be useful in contexts related to high school-college transition.
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Promises of Coherence, Weak Content, and Strong Organization: An Analysis of the Student Text

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Author: Margaret Kantz

Summary: This report looks at ways in which college freshmen interpreted and negotiated an assignment calling for writing based on reading, along with how teachers then judged the abilities and preparation of the students based on that writing. The study discovered that students and teachers had different understandings of the expectations of the task and that such tasks are more difficult and complex for students than teachers realize. Although an older article, the conclusions of this research are still relevant in understanding the difficult transition from high school writing to college academic discourse. This article would be a useful starting point for discussions of how teachers must examine their assumptions about students’ interpretations of assignments. In addition, it might serve as a model of inquiry into the writing process of 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 describes a series of pilot workshops for high school juniors focused on this question. Students in the workshops 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 students, and demonstrates the importance of an inquiry stance to questions about writing.
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