Vacation means extra reading time. Here’s a summary of the audiobooks, e-books, and paper books I enjoyed in July:
This is my final installment in this series of #CyberPD reflections on Welcome to Writing Workshop by Stacey Shubitz and Lynne R. Dorfman. I’ve enjoyed exploring this resource and would recommend it to teachers at any grade level who are interested in launching writing workshop or who are looking for ways to enhance an already established workshop practice. The final three chapters focus on small group instruction, share sessions, and strategic grammar, conventions, and spelling instruction. Again, the focus is on using the components of writing workshop to create a community of writers within the classroom, foster strong independent writing identities, and offer differentiated and responsive support to student writers.
Here are some of the ideas I captured in my notebook while reading:
As #CyberPD comes to a close for another year, I’m looking forward to joining the Twitter chat on July 23 at 8:30 EST/ 9:30 AST to connect with other educators about Welcome to Writing Workshop.
As I continued reading Welcome to Writing Workshop for #CyberPD Week 2, I celebrated how the authors, Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman, make it explicit that the focus of establishing writing workshop is in the service of responsiveness to each student’s needs in order to foster independence. Although writing workshop provides a structure or framework for writing instruction, it is far from limiting or confining. Writing workshop, at the core, is designed to put student writers at the center, encouraging them to and providing the support they require to make their own decisions as writers. The ultimate goal is to create a space for students to live a writerly life.
Here are some of my favorite lines that I captured in my notebook while I read:
I am a week behind with my first #CyberPD post, so here I am reflecting on Week 1 in Week 2…
In the first 3 chapters of Welcome to Writing Workshop, Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman introduce readers to the structure of writing workshop and the conditions that make it successful for all writers, including the teacher. These chapters focused on the community- and identity-building aspects of writing workshop. Here are some of the quotes I captured in my notebook while I was reading:
Trust me – The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo needs to be on your reading list. It needs to be on your bookshelves. It needs to be in the hands of young people.
This novel is the story of Xiomara – a tenth grade student who finds herself questioning her budding sexuality, her moral obligations, and her upbringing. Xio is looking for a passion to call her own, and as a first generation Dominican-American, Xio is continually seen by the colour of her skin and the way her body looks. Maturing faster than the other girls, Xio has been the victim of cat-calling and sexist comments since elementary school.
Unable to cope with the frustration that builds up, Xio feels that fist-fighting and anger are her only means of communication. This is, of course, until she finds a writing mentor and a group of peers that notice her drive and passion for slam poetry. Xio is able to realize that she’s not someone to be simply looked at – she’s someone whose voice is meant to be heard.
Realistic and imperfect characters round out the novel. Xio’s twin brother is a genius with a secret. Her father has a tainted past. Her mother is a religious devotee unwilling to budge from her beliefs and believes Xio is destined to be an unwed mother who will ruin their family’s lives.
With the exception of a few pages, the entire novel is written in verse through Xio’s poetry. Acevedo writes Xio’s story in a complex manner that begs to be read again and again. The Poet X is heartbreaking but brilliant, raw but elegant, harsh yet hopeful. I would encourage any high school student to pick up this book. Its timely narrative is a catalyst for other young women to understand the importance of self-expression and self-care.
Laura Noble is a high school English teacher at Leo Hayes High in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Laura is currently completing her Master’s in Education and is an avid reader of young adult fiction, true-crime, and feminist literature.
Science fiction is always at its best when it reflects our societal or cultural anxieties. Great sci-fi leaves readers pondering the what-ifs of our own world and, more importantly, how we may respond to such events. This is the reason that this genre has always appealed to me, and Dry, by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman, is no exception. This novel focuses on how society would respond to a major drought brought on by the effects of climate change. Spoiler: It is absolutely terrifying.
Set in southern California in the midst of a major draught referred to as The Tap-Out, Dry centers around Alyssa, a 16-year-old, and her family as they navigate their way through an unravelling society. Things go from bad to catastrophic as Alyssa’s parents go missing while trying to acquire water from government operated desalination machines. Now Alyssa is faced with decisions that could mean the difference between life and death for her friends and remaining loved ones.
Like all good science fiction, Dry will make readers begin to view the world differently. I found myself questioning what I would do in an event such as The Tap-Out and that idea alone can open up some undeniably great classroom discussions or writing prompts if the book was used as a read aloud. It should be noted that parts of Dry could be upsetting to some students. The novel doesn’t shy away from how animalistic humans could indeed get in such dire circumstances. With that said, I guarantee that this novel will leave you on the edge of your seat and unable to put the book down. The novel would be fantastic as a read aloud, as the story starts from the get-go and never really lets up. High school students will find a lot to connect with but even grade 8s who see stories of climate change on the news all the time will take something away from Dry. I would be hesitant to read this aloud to classes younger than 8th grade though, simply due to the intensity of some scenes and the mild language.
Overall, I can’t recommend this novel enough. Just make sure you have a bottle of water close by as you read it. You’ll thank me later…
Devin McLaughlin is a middle school teacher at Harold Peterson Middle School and teaches grade 7 and 8 Language Arts and Social Studies.
As I was reading this book for Margin Notes, a student in my grade 8 class was sharing the book with me, as he couldn’t wait for me to finish it to begin his reading. I found a note he had scribbled on a post-it and left within the pages. It said: “This feels like my grandfather is telling me a story.” I think this sums up Shoe Dog very succinctly and clearly. This book chronicles Phil Knight’s adventures, successes and near catastrophic decisions as he chases his “crazy” dream of creating and selling shoes. And it really does read as if someone close to you is telling you a story.
This isn’t just a book for the sports enthusiasts in your classroom. Yes, this is the story of a runner who sees value in creating shoes that improve speed and endurance. But this is also the story of an entrepreneur. The book is replete with business jargon with discussions of equity, loans, and the fight for the title of sole distributer, but it is also a story of relationships and how we treat people “on our team”.
I am excited about having this “window” book that explores the initial resistance of banks/society to take running shoes seriously, but who are forced to, because Phil Knight’s ability to “dream crazy” is something nobody can contend with.
Megan Young Jones is a guest blogger for Margin Notes. She teaches Grade 8 Language Arts at Nashwaaksis Middle School in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Her favorite genres to read are historical fiction and true crime.
Two years, ago I was planning a workshop for teachers on using an inquiry approach toward genre studies in writers workshop. I wanted the participating teachers to explore mentor texts through the lens of the question “How is this written?” Unfortunately, we only had 90 minutes together, so our reading time would be limited. My solution was to use flash fiction. Because, by definition, the pieces would be short, we would be able to read and discuss several of them in the time available. When I started looking for examples, I discovered they were everywhere, including on the cups and bags at Chipotle.
I recently discovered that flash fiction has a cousin, flash nonfiction (aka the flash essay). Spry Literary Journal offers this definition: “Flash nonfiction, just like flash fiction, is a story shrunk into miniature form. It’s a single story, a moment, or a scene shaped and compressed into a small capsule.”
Using flash nonfiction as mentor texts is a way of supporting writers in examining craft in a larger variety of examples than they might typically be able to when reading only longform essays. This can also be helpful during mini-lessons because students can see the craft move in the context of the whole text and not simply an excerpt.
Invite students to write their own flash essays as a fresh alternative to the traditional memoir or personal essay. You might challenge them to revise a longer piece down to its essence or ask them to create a flash essay that will eventually be developed into a longer, more detailed text.
There are many possibilities for incorporating flash nonfiction into the readers and writers workshop. Here are some sites/resources to get you started:
I am not a wasted person. I am not prowling the streets. I am not an addict. I am a girl spinning her locker combination. I am a girl who got a B on her math test. I am a girl who has two holes on the inside of her arm, but they do not tell the whole story of me.
Mickey Catalan is famous in her hometown for being the star catcher on a softball team that is supposed to make history this year. But just before the season starts, Mickey is in a car accident that leaves her with three screws in her hip, intense pain, and a prescription for OxyContin. And so begins a story all too familiar due to the current opioid crisis.
Before the accident, Mickey thought she knew what pain was. Her father had an affair and now has a new wife and baby. She rarely felt comfortable with people and always struggled to find the right thing to say. But this pain is so intense that she starts to take more OxyContin than she should, and then more, and then more…because what she comes to realize is not only do the pills alleviate her pain, they make her feel good. And with them she can train harder and recover faster and get back to where she needs to be – crouched behind home plate.
The fact is though, OxyContin is expensive. And hard to find. And nobody wants to share their “stash”. But there is something less expensive, that is easy to find, and that many are willing to share. Heroine. As a reader, you wonder if there is any way to stop this downward spiral that so many find themselves trapped in.
This book is a gut-wrenching account of how addiction slowly builds and how, once it exists, feeding that addiction will cost a person everything.
What I Was Reading:
In Underrated, his most recent essay published on The Players’ Tribune, Stephen Curry introduces a new venture he is calling The Underrated Tour, “a camp for kids who love to hoop, and are looking for a chance to show scouts that their perceived weaknesses might actually be their secret strengths.”
Stephen Curry opens this essay with a memory of being 13 and playing poorly at a tournament. At the hotel later, as he was questioning whether he was good enough or if basketball might be over for him, his mom “gave me what I’d call probably the most important talks of my life.” His mother’s words became a mantra for him: This is no one’s story to write but mine. It’s no one’s story but mine. He goes on to share experiences when he has drawn on his mother’s words of advice, including the time he thought Virginia Tech was interested in him, only to discover they were meeting with him as a courtesy to his father.
I’ve used other examples of Stephen Curry’s writing with students, including The Noise. I enjoy the way he infuses his writing with energy and voice. He incorporates punctuation and text features—italics, capitals, commas, dashes, ellipses, italics—to create pauses and add emphasis. What results is writing that reads as though Steph Curry is speaking directly to us.
The section that stands out most to me is Curry’s description of playing basketball at Davidson College:
I remember how……humble our whole experience was at Davidson.
Which, first of all, is funny—because it’s really nice now. Like, for real: if you’re reading this, go to Davidson. It’s an amazing school with an amazing hoops program. But back when I got there, what I mostly remember is just how loud and clear we all got the message that, you know—we were not playing Big-Time College Hoops. Man, like, we were STUDENT athletes. Size 100 font STUDENT, size 12 font athlete. We were “cool, how you hoop and everything…but I’m going to need that Philosophy paper” athletes. We shared a practice court with the volleyball team.
What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:
The progression of the last four sentences creates an image of what it meant to be a student athlete at Davidson. This combination of sentences makes the point in four different ways, each one layering on to the next:
Possibilities for Writers: