#NCTE17 – a found(ish) poem

Found Poem – A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.

Found(ish) Poem – all of the above, plus a sprinkling of my own thinking, because – hey, I matter… right?!

Click Here for a Recording of the Poem: https://youtu.be/9lngtSenc1Q 

What is right with education? 


And me… well…

there are so many things that I am not —
until I open a book.

And I read to gain empathy
empathy brings the most reward
I am, because we are
and we
We don’t gotta be a hero
We gotta be a human
We don’t save
We see.


Embrace discomfort and disruption;
Claim the uncertainty of that imaginative space


The canon is what is present in
it is being written in

Our disenfranchised readers,
are kids who are often
disregarded &

Our classrooms are battlegrounds for love,
for stories,
and for truth
And since I respect you and love you, I must tell you the truth:

  1. You cannot make a connection with a student who
    you have already put facedown.
  2. There is no apolitical classroom
    because no matter the issue,
    there is never just one point of view.
  3. Social justice is a pedagogy, not a unit of study
  5. When we write
    we must remember:
    there is never garbage.
    Garbage is discarded,
    never thought of again.
    Bad writing is fertilizer
    barren land needs to be packed with shit
    in order for anything to grow.

We write to keep the light lit
the light in the eyes of children
who need to hear our stories


Pass me the Hi-C so I can sing in High C
And my hymn will be of the unknown
With everything in hand
Despite tired feet
remaining until only ash lingers
I have hope knowing
there is a promise
of a new

And with my magic wand, I will improve education (and life) by:
teaching literaCY, not literaTURE
tackling bigotry, racism and homophobia with acknowledgement
by teaching sensitive literature
which is diverse, not because of its diversity
but because it is human.

So I say thank you,
I say good-bye now,
I smile knowing,
and I leave you with this:

No More, “That’s just the way it is.”
Or things will always be the same.


“Don’t Call it a Comeback!”

Hey blog-o-sphere – it has been awhile….

I am sorry for the absence. I have been gathering life experience that has forever changed my path, opinions, personal missions/mantras, and my daily manner of thinking.

Here are 7 things I learned since I last wrote:

  1. Hope – at its core, is the most precious thing one person can give to another
  2. Humor is a sign of resilience
  3. No matter the issue, there is never just one point of view
  4. Life is not fair – not even a little bit.
  5. We are stronger than we are capable of understanding
  6. My story is important and so is yours
  7. The WHY must be your biggest motivation in life

As I sit at #NCTE17 in St. Louis, Missouri, I can’t help but feel energized and happy to be writing professionally again, despite taking a step back from doing so. Because I am a transparent person, this hiatus occurred because my 6 year old daughter was diagnosed with cancer in March of 2016, and despite strength, beauty, and innocence, she passed in March of 2017. I share this not because it is sad… which it is, but I do so because I have struggled to find the time to contribute to this blog because of it.

Like many of my students, I have had to prioritize my emotions, time, and willingness to be public.

I type this now to my professional followers because I believe more than ever, that our students lives and individual experiences matter most and must be the muse for the interactions we get to have each day. We each bring our delicious burdens with us and often times, these burdens are the things that hinder us and prohibit us from contributing to our fullest.

So where I am going with this entry… well, a reoccurring question in my life and thoughts lately has been: why? Many of the whys I have been asking are a bit more spiritual, personal, and existential, the question has led me to a moment of pause, and I find myself asking why with more frequency in my life.

I recently read Simon Sinek’s book Start with the Why and it helped to bring me to an awakening in multiple facets of my life AND THAT is what this entry is about…

Simon calls it the Golden Circle (Why, How, and What):


So, when trying to sell, or in my case teach, something to someone, we must ensure our WHY is the core of the sales pitch, not our WHAT. This simple idea has helped me to try to be critical of all that I do in my classroom. I don’t want to waste a moment of my and my students’ time. Now, this idealistic approach is tough to achieve — but the Golden Circle model has helped me see a light at the end of that tunnel.

Since I am a teacher, I focus on a lot of “whats” – for example – close reading/ literary analysis, personal narrative, formative assessments, independent reading, writers workshop, etc. What I have come to realize is that the “whats” that have been the most successful in my classroom are the ones that use the “whys” to get my students to buy in.

To prove this point, let me use the Trumbull High School Poetry Slam as an example. Just so you have a little background, the Annual Poetry Slam is part of the Poetry Elective Curriculum. We call it a Cross Course Interdisciplinary Unit. The students in all the sections of the Poetry Elective work together to create the Slam from the ground to the sky. On the day we tell students they will be empowered and they will steer the direction of the Slam, we have to pitch them the idea. So let us consider two different sales pitches and see which one would get more buy in.

Sales pitch #1 –

“Ok gang – today I am going to challenge you to be in charge of the Annual Poetry Slam. To do so, you will be put into groups of like minded individuals that play to your strengths.”

Not terrible – the WHAT is clear and HOW they will do it is laid out. Now, I realize this example may get buy in when presented like this, but what about starting with the WHY!

Here is the new pitch using the Golden Circle:

“Ok gang – today you are going to get a chance to leave a permanent mark on our school community and help to change the lives of some of your peers. You will be a part of a group that plays to your strengths and work with students/ faculty who are like minded. You will learn skills that go beyond these classroom walls, by hosting, producing, and promoting the Annual Poetry Slam.”

If you notice in the second sales pitch, the WHY is very clear (“to leave a permanent marl on your school community and help to change… lives.”). A student isn’t left to wonder why I think they should be doing this. It is transparent.

So what does this distinction teach me and how does it apply to my day to day thinking?

Well, I value love, life, and time more now than ever before. So, as much as I possibly can, when I am thinking about a WHAT, I do my best to ensure there is a WHY.

In teaching, it has helped me to be sure my students know why I think what we are doing is important and meaningful. This simple formula has helped me diagnosis why lessons have been successful and why some have failed. When I am passionately invested in instruction, I have been unconsciously focused on the WHY.

So go out there – start with the why when you work with your students and when someone tries to get you to buy into a WHAT – be sure they can defend it with a WHY.

Much love all, it is good to be back, and my NCTE17 highlights will follow soon!


Join the THS Reading (R)evolution

We are very proud to announce that we will be hosting a Professional Development opportunity for any interested Middle/ High School Language Arts/ English teachers, Reading/ Writing/ Media Specialists, and/or administrators on November 8, 2016 from 9am-2pm at Trumbull High School in Trumbull, CT.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR FLYER: thsreadrev-consortium-flyer

The goal of this unique opportunity is to engage participants in professional development on the benefits of Independent Reading, and to offer instruction on how to effectively implement this proven program.

Our program was initially inspired by Mamaroneck High School’s presentation at the 2014 NCTE National Convention. It highlighted their Independent Reading program which is modeled after Penny Kittle’s Book Love.

We culled strategies from various resources using research and our experiences to design our current program. The THS Reading (R)evolution is successful because it establishes a culture that supports reader choice, daily reading time in class, and accountability.

Here is what the day will look like:

  • 8:30-9:00 – Arrival and Registration
  • 9:00-10:45 – Session 1 – Presentation: How to Jump Start Independent Reading in Your Classroom
  • 10:50-11:50 – Session 2 – Round Table Discussion: Embedding Independent Reading into Your Current Curriculum
  • 12:00-12:50 – Lunch Round Table with students, administrators and faculty members who are currently participating in the program or implementing it in their classrooms and district.
  • 1:00-2:00 – Session 3 – Individualized Sessions based on need and interest. Topics could include: Acquisition of Classroom Libraries, Assessments, Professional Resources, Daily Organization (Reading Rates, Reading Logs, Book Talks)

During this Professional Development, you will receive:

  • Independent Reading Starter Kit
  • Link to the Online Presentation
  • Classroom Library Recommended Title List
  • Professional Relationships and Support Network

Registration Information:

  • To register online click here: https://goo.gl/forms/wmJF110351w8izOk1
  • Cost of the event is $5 before 11/1 and $8 after.
    • Day of Registration will be accepted
    • Checks ONLY – made out to: Trumbull High School
    • First 20 Registrants will be entered into a raffle. The raffle winner will be given 10 books for their Classroom Library.

If you have questions you can email us (THSReadRev@gmail.com) or DM us on Twitter (@THSReadRev).

Let’s start and sustain a professional conversation about the nature of reading in our classrooms!

The Skypes the Limit!

This year the @THSReadRev has been connecting student readers to authors through Skype. These connections have been made possible through the promotion of our student readers on Twitter. If you haven’t witnessed this positive social media movement, please follow us on Twitter IMMEDIATELY – also, search the hashtags #ireadths, #readitforward, and #thssummershelfie (to name a few). You can also look into the teachers that contribute to the @THSReadRev – @THSteacher, @MrsMagazineTHS, @MrsJalowiec, and @mccaffths.

By connecting students to authors directly, we do many things for them. First, it creates a buzz about a book. It becomes something that students flock to read. It increases the circulation rates in our libraries, it connects readers to each other, and it encourages conversation. When you take it to the next level and try to bridge the gap that exists between reader and writer, well… the skypes the limit!

So far we have done 3 group Skype sessions with 3 different authors.

We first connected with Kimberly McCrieght. Her novel, Reconstructing Amelia was a huge fan favorite among our readers of all levels.

McCrieght Group

As it was our first, it featured 10 students and 5 teachers. It was great to hear her interact with our readers and answer their burning questions. Kimberly did a great job relating to the students and talked about her motivation as a writer and what helped her come up with the ideas for her characters and books.

Our next author Skype was with Andrew Smith. His books have come to define our year. In the picture below you can see we have all become best friends:

Us and Smith

I say this because we are such friends – he has forever influenced the readers of the @THSReadRev for the 2015-2016 school year. I can not imagine what our reading culture would look like without his books. One of his titles comes up every week. He also goes to amazing lengths to make his readers feel important. See below:

Standoff signed

Our session with Andrew was widely attended and featured discussion about his motivation and decisions as a writer. The students in the session had all read at least one of his books, so the discussions were less about plot choices and were more closely connected to how a character is created. For example: Did you know that Andrew was a 14 year old Junior in High School just like Ryan Dean? Did you know that Grasshopper Jungle was not a book he planned to publish? We had multiple students walk out of this session saying they couldn’t wait to write…

Smith quote 1

That is what is special about connecting with an author: STUDENTS DIDN’T JUST WANT TO READ MORE – THEY WANTED TO WRITE MORE!!

Smith group

Our most recent Skype was with Nicola Yoon – author of the novel Everything, Everything. As my colleague Kristin Magazine always says, “I am jealous of you if you haven’t read this book.” The Everything, Everything frenzy of 2016 was amazing to watch. Our library couldn’t order the books fast enough. Students were trying to take the books out of the boxes before Media Specialists could even get barcodes on them. It was amazing!

This book was frequently read by our students in less than a day. I even had one girl read it in a school day, sneak reading during all her classes – we call these students our ReadRev Reading Renegades.

This Skype session was another big one for us. Nicola was naturally good at connecting with our students. It is clear she is a natural storyteller. She brought us through tales of her early days as a reader to why she called her first book “Everything, Everything.” So you know, she discovered Harlequin Romance novels at the age of 8 as she was hiding from a tree that reminded her of the movie Poltergeist and the title of her book came from shared moments with her husband…

“What do you want for dinner?”

“Everything, everything.”

Super cute right?! She even called herself a “romance goober.”

Yoon Group

In the end, when readers see writers as human beings they grow to appreciate reading more. Skype is just one tool we use, but it has been a powerful one. When authors like Nicola Yoon explain that her motivations to write about her main character comes from her fears as a mother – it means so much more coming from her!

Yoon - quote 1

So reach out to authors – ask them to talk to your students and you will see why:




Dear Penny Kittle*,

*Please know, while Penny Kittle is the person this letter is directed to, we are asking the questions to everyone on the interwebs.

Penny (in my mind we are on a first name basis),

We are 100% committed to Rigorous Independent Reading.

We have collaborated with Mamaroneck High School – we have presented at NCTE about it – we have ever expanding classroom libraries – we have amazing readers – we have tons and tons of happy moments in our classroom – check us out on Twitter where we share the work of our students (@THSReadRev and #ireadths).

Unfortunately this isn’t the purpose of this “directed” open letter.

We need your help. Our English Department is comprised of 20+ educators that educate 2,100+ students. Our merry band of 3 lone nuts who have incorporated RIR into our classrooms has grown to 9. In the long term, we need to sit down as a department and have some tough discussions.

In the short term, though, I was wondering if you could give us some insight and professional advice regarding Mid-Terms and Finals. At THS we have formal Mid-Terms and Finals. These exams are 1 hour 50 minutes long. We must administer an assessment that is completed during that period and RIR isn’t in all classes.

Yesterday we met as a Department to discuss the state of the assessments. Each year we tweak them and we try to unify the exam so every class takes the same exam.

We have debated a great deal as a department as to whether a Mid-Term and Final is a good thing for students. We tend to always fall into the trap that we can’t fix it this year, so let’s make do with what is required of us. So, we try to sculpt an assessment that allows students to write in a manner that is critical, comprehensive, and passionate. This is no easy task.

So we have some road blocks and here we are in December preparing to administer exams again…

In the end, we are looking for some guidance from anyone out there. We want to hear about what your districts do and what your beliefs and rationales are with regard to exams. The information you provide (if you decide to) will be used in dialogue and as a tool for growth.

That said, if you could answer the following:

  1. What are your thoughts on Mid-Terms and Finals and what should be on them?
  2. If forced to administer an exam that had to be completed in 2 hour time slot, what would your exam look like?
  3. What do you think major assessments, like an exam should measure?
  4. Dream world – what would your ideal semester ending assignment look like?

If you decide to answer these questions please send your responses to us at: mccaffrj@trumbullps.org

Thank you for your time,

Jim McCaffrey and the THS Reading (R)evolution

AGAIN to REITERATE – While this post is directed at Penny Kittle we would love to hear what other districts do as semester ending assessments (exam or portfolio work). The more information we have the more likely we can start having more productive conversations!


“It wasn’t the readers that were disengaged… it was the classroom!” – Dr. Kirkland, NYU

I woke up Saturday at 5:30am in Minneapolis, took a deep breath, put on my running gear for a quick 4 miler (a run Steph joined me on), and immediately began to panic that no one would attend the session I was co-presenting at with Karlen, Steph, and Jess Spillane (our department chair).

As Steph and I ventured out into the dark, 19 degree morning to run the quiet streets, trails, and bridges or Minneapolis, I told myself: there is only so much you can control. I needed to remember that we were presenting at 2:45pm and I had a whole day of inspiring speakers to see before I presented.

In my previous blog post I took the notes I recorded in each session and composed them in (what I think was) an engaging and entertaining manner… For this post, I am going to bounce around, mainly because of the mixture of excitement and anxiety I felt all day awaiting my opportunity to stand in front of a crowd (hopefully) and share my teaching methods and assessments along with the other two lonenuts.

The session of the day for me was: Beyond Beats and Rhymes – A Conversation on Hip Hop in the New English Classroom. I had been looking forward to this session because I knew Michael Cirelli’s name from his work with Urban Word NYC. Before the session I looked up his co-presenter Dr. David E Kirkland and my excitement grew. Let me put it this way, if you (as a reader of this blog) get a chance to see Dr. Kirkland present you need to jump at it. He is logical, knowledgeable, and insightful. Cirelli called him his Game Changer*.

*Game Changer – a person or moment that changes the complexion of your previously unrealized viewpoint.

Yea, that!

Their presentation spoke to me because it was a validator of my practices. I have been teaching Spoken Word Poetry and Hip Hop Curriculum my entire 13 year career. I know the value of teaching a movement that is about being in the know and acting. The evidence and pedagogical connections that both presenters discussed provided support and encouragement for me to continue the work I have been doing.

Kirkland made me consider the following big points:

  • A study of Hip Hop can be rooted in a rich study of language. In fact, it will allow students to interrogate their own means of communication.
  • When students engage with texts that represent where they are at – WE ARE ENGAGING STUDENTS! In many cases a teacher has misjudged a disengaged learner:
    • “It wasn’t the readers that were disengaged… it was the classroom! Why start with a blank page when we can begin on page 100.”

A student who listens to and is immersed in the Hip Hop culture has the tools they need to write and in many cases are. Frequently, they are the students who have lines and lines of poetry memorized already. Ask a group of kids who say their into to hip hop to respond to the following line, “It was all a dream…” and see how far they will take it.

As a segue into Cirelli, he encouraged to view Hip Hop as a means for connection to canonical texts. The above referenced Juicy by Biggie is a rags to riches story. It correlates seamlessly with other stories of the same ilk. If we devalue the lessons we can take from Biggie’s perception of the American Dream, why not do the same to Willy Loman.

Cirelli encourages us as teachers to remember that when we are engaging students in a space that isn’t ours we are in “an apartment that (we) don’t live in.” I am in a culture that isn’t mine – even if I am a G, I’m still not in their culture, because I am an adult and they are students. I’m in an apartment that isn’t mine. If I recognize this and respect this, students will respect that I need something from them, as much as they need something from me.

Michael performed a poem for us that I believes demonstrates this point beautifully: My Bootleg Video of Michael Performing

In the end, Cirelli encouraged us to:

  • Be a champion for and create student centered classrooms – he called this “Cypher Centered Learning” – that:
    • Validates and champions youth voice
    • Celebrates indentity and culture as primary texts
    • And cultivates critical literacy skills

Lastly – Cirelli exposed us to Ramya Ramana, a teen voice that I had never heard before (but a teen voice I had heard before). She represents (to me) the truth in why we must let a student’s voice sing. Enjoy these videos:

Miss America

Youth Poet Laureate Ramya Ramana at Inauguration 2014

So… I left there and then had to present. My head was spinning with new ideas and I had to focus it all in and get ready to stand and deliver…

My fear came flooding back in…

We got to our room early and in the adapted words of WP Kinsella – “people (did) come…”


Putting yourself out there takes tenacity and a willingness to be vulnerable. These are the principles that many students (and adults) struggle with. As I sit here now and try to think about what I want to say about our presentation I can only say that I felt inspired and validated.

I am proud of what we talked about and how we delivered it.

I look forward to the new connections that we made and want to remind everyone who is reading this that we as teachers cannot let a title dictate our curriculum, we have to think about the skills we want students to learn. Furthermore, when thinking about those skills, think about your students. Ask yourself, does it help them grow. If you feel you need to change something… do it for them.

Thanks for reading and if you attended our session, thank you for the support – I hope we inspired you as much as the other speakers we saw inspired us.

NOTE – here is a link to our presentation in case you want it – Reading (R)evolution – and  here is the video we made of our readers for the first quarter – The Students of the Reading (R)evolution

“That dog is going down…” – Korman

Alright kiddos – buckle up… it’s #NCTE15 time…

Captain’s Log – Minneapolis date 11/20/15 – FRIDAY SESSIONS

A.29 – A Quartet of Acclaimed Authors on the Art of Language, the Richness of Creativity, Fun, and the Value of a Literate Life

In this session, authors Alan Lawrence Sitomer, Andrew Smith, Gordon Korman, and Sonia Manzano presented about the things that inspired them to write, the observations they have about books that impacted them, and the importance of placing a book in the hands of children.

There were so many great sound bites and moments that inspired me as a teacher… Here are some of the highlights in tweet bursts

  • @alansitomer – The most powerful technology for delivering a story is a book!
  • @alansitomer – I write underdog stories – about kids who are asking “how do I get out.”
  • LOVE THIS QUOTE @alansitomer – We read to discover who we are. Cultivate our inner story. #addingthistomypresentation
  • @alansitomer – I write books for kids who don’t buy books.
  • @alansitomer – We (the teachers) are the gatekeepers of books. #thereaderisthekeymaster
  • @marburyjack is asked why he stays in the classroom still?? I get 200 stories a day! #studentsinspireus
  • @number7 – Hey! How about you promote the library during announcements too, not just sports – sincerely, @marburyjack
  • @marburyjack was a 14 year old junior – #heisryandean
  • @marburyjack – The Media sculpts our compulsions of cultures we have not met face to face. The Alex Crow was inspired by a refugee from Syria.
  • “In the end, my students inspire me.” @marburyjack
  • Hey @gordonkorman – you were so funny I didn’t even take notes #humorcreatesreaders
  • “When I was 2 years old, I wanted to be a dog when I grew up. When I started reading in school – all that changed.” @gordonkorman


  • @gordonkorman – looking at the required books from 2nd grade through high school – what have a I learned – well, anytime there is a dog I say – “THAT DOG IS GOING DOWN.” #sotrue #greatobservation
  • @gordonkorman – my first book was a project I did in 7th grade. #authorsinourrooms
  • @soniamanzano – you might remember my voice when you think of the alphabet – “The letter of the day is A.” #canyoutellmehowtoget #mindblown #shewasthevoiceofsesamestreet
  • @soniamanzano – leaving Sesame Street taught me the value of letters and their power
  • “Reading was seen as a means for being lazy in my house – why read when you can clean up or help out.” @soniamanzano – #nonreadersarentalwayslazy #knowyourstudents

B.01 – Love, a brave & startling truth: Healing Educational Practices Within the Cipher of Hip Hop and Spoken Word Pedagogy.

This session featured Tish Jones (@TheTishJones) leading us through an articulation of how Hip Hop and Spoken Word can influence instruction. I found myself giving mental high fives during this interactive session where we defined Hip Hop, discussed our voice, analyzed “i” by Kendrick Lamar, and learned about Critical Response Protocol (what a great resource!!). As an added bonus, we even got to write and perform.

HIP HOP – is to be in the know and act.

What I got out of this session was Poetry connections and a discovery of a new artist. Here are several links to Tish’s poetry! She is FOR REAL.


March for Me


DE.01 – High School Matters – Roundtable Session!

So, here was the format: Speaker, Roundtable Breakout #1, Speaker, Roundtable Breakout #2, Speaker

Speaker#1 – Carol Jago – “A Book in the Hand”

Here is a list of all the books recommended by Carol

  1. Why We Work – Barry Schwartz
  2. Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coats
  3. The Wright Brothers – David McCullough
  4. Here, Bullet – Brian Turner
  5. The Meursault Investigation – Kamel Daoud
  6. Citizen, An American Lyric – Claudia Rankine
  7. Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy – The Many Faces of Anonymous – Gabriella Coleman
  8. An Unnecessary Woman – Rabih Alameddine

Round Table Breakout #1 – I was at Table #17 w/ Troy Hicks and Dawn Reed – our topic was Research Writing Rewired: Incorporating Digital Tools, Inspiring Authentic Inquiry.

The session was great for many reasons. What I liked most was that Dawn and Troy revealed that the muse for the book and for the assignment was to engage students in authentic, self-driven research. They discussed Literature Circles and how allowing a student to come up with the topics based off the books they read helps break the temptation of students to go to google to come up with a general research topic. Immediately, I saw how this would work with RIR and the THS Reading (R)evolution and our conversational readers.

Some examples I came up with:

  • Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    • Research topic – The Stages of Grief
  • Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
    • Research topic – Origin of Buddhism
  • Reconstructing Amelia, by Kim McCreight
    • Research topic – Secret Social Groups

As long as the research is rooted in curiosity and is inquiry driven, with genuine questions developed by students and their interests – students will be more engaged.

Speaker #2 – Penny Kittle – “Book Love”

Penny, as per usual, did not disappoint. Not only is she a rock star, but she is one of us. She has students, has a classroom, and is transparent. I love how she features her students and I am thankful she is in my life, even though I may not be in hers. Penny, if you are reading this – THANK YOU. I hope that you know because of you, my students have more voice than ever before and I know them better than I ever could have before.

While she was discussing the structure of her classroom, she gave us some great titles and great writing exercises. The book that stuck out most for me was Revolution by Deborah Wiles – The second book in a trilogy about the 1960s. While talking about the book, Penny pointed opportunities for connect to the text and the fostering of empathy by having students writing from the perspective of people in the pictures from the book.

Before I list out the other books she discussed, I want to mention I was inspired by something one of her students wrote with regard to writing styles from the book Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley. He wrote – Life is a run-on sentence – that is why the author uses them… I was inspired this and took it one step further… so here is my inspired wisdom for the day:

LIFE is a run-on sentence that turns into a fragment because inevitably it will end before it concludes. 

Here are a few of PK’s recs that are now on my Next List:

  1. Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon
  2. Every Last Word – Tamara Ireland Stone
  3. My Heart and Other Black Holes – Jasmine Warga
  4. Station 11 – Emily St. John Mandel 
  5. Euphoria – Lily King
  6. Infographics – Jason Lankow

Round Table Break Out #2 – Was good…

I didn’t get any new ideas about instruction but I did have a good conversation with a teacher about ELL students. It really wasn’t a new insight, just an interesting moment.

We voiced to each other that we are struggling to put books in the hands of ELL students who are low level, but highly motivated readers. The complaint most of these students have is that the books just aren’t meeting them where they are. I liked one thing she said. She scours the internet for articles and stories in their native language and challenges them there and let’s them know that if they keep working they will get stronger in English. Love it. Bottom line – we have to work for them… not dismiss the conversation – Let them know we are fighting for them.

Speaker #3 (and the last NCTE session moment of Day One) – Kelly Gallagher “Faculty Book Clubs”

First off, buckle up THS, here we come.

I loved how he discussed the ups and downs of the Faculty Book Club throughout the years. He has been at it for 20+ years and it began with 4 people. We can not be scared to start something from (essentially) nothing… remember – the leader is only as strong as the first follower.

He talked about more than a dozen books, but there was one quote that really stuck out for me. He was talking about Robert Olen Butler’s book A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain and he asked us if we had read it… only PK raised her hand, then he moved close to the mic and said “If you haven’t read it, I’m jealous.” and with 7 words, it moved to the top of my Next List.

I will leave you for today with the list of books he recommended, until tomorrow – where I will recap Saturday’s sessions – including our experience presenting at 2:45.

  1. Ghettoside – Jill Leovy
  2. Bill Bryson, A short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
  3. The Tender Bar: A Memior – JR Moehringer
  4. The Attack – Yasmina Khadra
  5. Last Chance in Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth – John Hubner
  6. True Notebooks – Mark Salzman
  7. Courtroom 302 – Steve Bogira
  8. I Am One of You Forever – Fred Chappell
  9. Stones from the River – Ursula Hegi
  10. Hellhound on his Trail – Hampton Sides