By Jacob Steiss
As we eagerly anticipate Antero Garcia’s (@anterobot) workshop this fall hosted by the WRITE Center (@WRITE_Center) and co-sponsored by the UC Irvine School of Education, and the National Writing Project, we find this an opportune moment to highlight his impactful and relevant work examining the civic literacy of adolescent writers. In this two-part blog, we will highlight the work of Dr. Garcia and his colleagues, with help from The National Writing Project (@WritingProject) and KQED (@KQEDedspace), that analyzed letters written by over 11,000 students from over 300 schools and 47 states in 2016. These letters were written to the next president, which at that time, was unknown.
In examining these compositions, they find that adolescents are engaged and eager to speak out on civic issues that impact their communities, such as the Black Lives matter movement and police reform. Though written as a classroom activity, the writing also represents and sustains civic identities of youth engaging in activism that addresses government leaders.
"Students wrote alongside and in solidarity with ongoing civil rights movements"
(Garcia, Levinson, and Gargroetzi , 2020, p. 1196).
Therefore, we see the research as particularly important for writing researchers, teachers, and school leaders as it describes the civic concerns and interests of adolescents and outlines a meaningful and authentic writing task educators may implement in their classrooms.
The research also highlights areas in which teachers may focus their instruction and teach crucial skills involved in writing to a specific audience and task. In part one of this blog, we will discuss what researchers learned from studying these letters to the next president.
By Jacob Steiss
Educators and researchers have increasingly given attention to the lack of diverse literature and the absence of multicultural, BIPOC, and women authors in school curricula. As teachers, our choices about texts matter; Book lists predominantly featuring texts about white, male, heteronormative characters suggest these perspectives are normative and worthy of study. Alternatively, the absence of certain perspectives suggest they are not worthy of inclusion and consideration.
To acknowledge the great mismatch between our nation’s diverse school children and the homogenous texts they read would be a meaningful step towards educational equity and justice. More though, can be done by educators and school leaders when they reflect on the books present in their curricula, make changes to include and foreground diverse perspectives and experiences, and promote diverse ways of reading texts that represent the children we serve.
Here are three actionable steps we as educators can take to critically examine who is [and is not] represented in our texts and curriculum.
By Jazmin Cruz
During Carol Jago's webinar "Writing Poetry to Read Poetry in Online Spaces", participants were invited to write a poem that reflects the changes in their daily lives during 2020. Using Quincy Troupe's poem, "Flying Kites" as a mentor text, our community of learners wrote their own poems. Pens to Pixels: A Collection of Poetry is a digital magazine we created using the free platform Madmagz.com.
By Jacob Steiss
In “A Transformative Justice Approach to Literacy Education,” Dr. Masiha T. Winn describes how teachers can use “restorative justice as a lens through which to view their roles and responsibilities to students.” She identifies key questions to guide instruction through a restorative justice lens and outlines multiple levels of inquiry for students to examine the intersections of history, justice, race, and language in their lives. This approach to education creates a space for youth to develop and express literate identities while critiquing and speaking back to social, institutional, and political forces affecting their communities.
By Jacob Steiss
Why Support Online Synchronous Collaborative Writing in the Secondary Classroom?
Our students live varied and complex literate lives outside the classroom. Adolescents write in online forums, create fanfiction in digital writing communities, and participate in literacy activities as community organizers and activists. One way we as educators can recognize the diverse and expanding literacies of adolescents is by providing diverse writing opportunities in the secondary classroom, for example, online collaborative writing. By implementing evidence-based practices to support online collaborative writing, educators can increase the engagement and relevance of classroom writing tasks, help students gain important communication skills to participate in 21st century work and civic life, and support students’ development of critical literacy skills essential for an information society.
The authors of this article, including the WRITE Center’s Dr. Jenell Krishnan, describe ways that teachers can incorporate synchronous (writing in real-time) collaborative writing in their writing instruction through a hybrid approach. This approach emphasizes face‐to‐face and online opportunities for students to write and learn from and with their peers. Such writing responds to evolving educational standards that recognize the capacity for collaboration through online platforms like Google Docs, the expanding definition of literacy (NCTE, 2020), and the need for 21st century skills. For example, the National Education Association highlights the importance of the “Four Cs” to be emphasized across content areas and through learning opportunities. Online Synchronous Collaborative Writing (SCW) addresses the 4Cs because students
Guest Blogger: Dr. Troy Hicks
On July 1, 2020, I was fortunate enough to be invited to deliver a webinar titled “Designing Purposeful and Engaging Arcs of Writing Instruction in an Era of Remote Learning” through the National WRITE Center, co-sponsored by the National Writing Project, The recording is available below, and a “force copy” of the Google Doc handout (with an additional link to the slides) is available here.
There were a number of questions that came from the chat conversation that I didn't get to respond to in detail.
By Jazmin Cruz
Integrating technology and writing can be challenging for students and teachers alike. Here are some strategies that may help!
By Jacob Steiss
Through research, advocacy, activism, and teaching, Dr. David E. Kirkland has made immeasurable contributions to improving the learning, literacy, and life outcomes of our nation’s youth. With a particular concern for research that advances educational equity and social justice, his works in the fields of education, youth literacy, cultural studies, ethnography, and sociolinguistics have led him to the distinguished role as the Executive Director of NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.
In this role. Dr. Kirkland continues to bring issues of educational equity to the foreground of policy debates in order to best enable children from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds to flourish. One way Dr. Kirkland has continued moving U.S. educational systems forward on the arc of justice is manifested in the Metro Center’s contributions to new, culturally responsive educational standards in New York State, standards that have potential to affect close to 3 million students in New York.
Guest Blogger: George Newell
Ms. Hill was aware of the literary scholarship on the short story “Indian Camp,” and its emphasis on the theme of loss of innocence. But this secondary ELA teacher decided to focus her students’ explorations on the theme of dominance. She supplanted authorized literary knowledge (the renderings of literary scholars) with knowledge derived from her students’ concerns for social justice, her own readings of the story which are connected to her history as an African American woman and her experiences (and her knowledge of others’ experiences) of racism. As Ms. Hill orchestrated a text-based discussion of dominance in “Indian Camp,” she framed the social construction of knowledge in terms of claim, warrant, evidence, and counter argument. However, she located those categories not in traditional argumentative structures used in classrooms but in terms of “arguing-to-learn.”
This blog provides a brief overview of a new framework for teaching and learning literature in secondary schools, like what was observed in Ms. Hill’s classroom. This framework is an inquiry-based approach to engage students in communicating and exploring ideas about literature. More information on the practice and research behind this framework are found in two resources featured below that are offered by The Ohio State University Argumentative Writing Project.