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June 2017 #NCTEchat: YA Lit – Complex Texts, Complex Lives

nctechat_grpahic_juneJoin Jennifer Buehler @ProfBuehler and members of #NCTEreads tonight, Sunday, June 25 at 8 pm ET, for a conversation around “YA Lit – Complex Texts, Complex Lives.”

Jennifer Buehler is the author of Teaching Reading with YA Literature: Complex Texts, Complex Lives. In this text, Jennifer Buehler shows how to implement a YA pedagogy—one that revolves around student motivation while upholding the goals of rigor and complexity.

Here’s what we’ll discuss during the chat:

Q1: Why do you teach YA lit?

Q2: How do you engage students in the study of YA as complex literature?

Q3: What are some texts that lend themselves to unpacking and analysis of complexity?

Q4: What classroom tasks do you use to cultivate agency and autonomy in teen readers?

Q5: What forms of assessment blend both personal and analytical responses to YA lit?

Q6: How do you advocate for YA lit in your school and the wider world?

We hope to see you tonight at #NCTEchat!

kellytumy

READ the Map!

This post is written by member Kelly Tumy.

Young adult literature has earned a place in secondary classrooms, but are we doing enough to recognize the different elements in this genre, allowing students to experience the complete book?  Examining what YA authors do when they create maps to use in their narrative spaces and taking time to really read a map will open new avenues for every kind of reader in our classrooms. Have you ever really looked at a map? I mean, really looked at it, and not just looked at it, but examined it, READ it? YA authors have, and their maps have real purpose linked to their narratives that is just waiting to be discovered.

I had the opportunity to develop and present a workshop this year with a geography professor from the University of Houston-Clear Lake—Dr. Jeffrey Lash—who opened my eyes to the wonders of maps. I had always been curious about why maps were included in many of the YA books I read, but the intent didn’t dawn on me until I was in a session with Jeff, and he asked us to read a map. Read a map?  Don’t we just look at maps and draw conclusions and find our way?  I was shown such an enlightening path to working with maps that I knew I wanted to go back and re-read books with maps and make map-reading a part of the learning environment for both teachers and students.

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Credit: Jordan Saia (jordansaia.com)

Choosing books was easy as Six of Crows had just come out, and I was intrigued by the double map in the front of the book.  I then added Snow like Ashes, We Were Liars, and City of a Thousand Dolls. Starting with some popular YA sites like Book Riot, I found some articles that actually address how maps become a part of a book’s narrative.  Then, making connections between how the setting influences the narrative, why the map was included, how characters change over time, and how the maps influenced my understanding of that character and those changes, I began seeing how maps shaped each narrative.

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Miriam Forster, A City of a Thousand Dolls

But the real gem of doing this work was the collegiality and the cross-curricular connections I was able to make with Dr. Lash. He dutifully read all the books I sent him; he shared map resources from National Geographic and took all the participants, including me, on some incredibly deep map-reading exercises.  Building on the work of Phil Gershmel, we navigated the shores of Ketterdam from Six of Crows with a new lens—a geography lens. We read the map and learned how to identify and analyze patterns, regions, movement, and hierarchies.  We practiced comparing places and interpreting how elements on the map were connected or influenced each other all the while making connections back to each narrative. In We Were Liars, we explored the fictitious yet ominously real island off the coast of Massachusetts inhabited by an incredibly wealthy family. We made comparisons, we made associations with another famous family, and we examined how the island changed over time based on traditional and nontraditional inhabitants. In short, we gave the narrative dimension by examining, reading the maps. Lash shared he was not a reader until a middle school teacher gave him a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition complete with a fold-out map, and then he was hooked—all he wanted was a book with a map to explore, read, and keep him engaged in reading.

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Six of Crows Leigh Bardugo

What are we doing to keep learners engaged in reading?  I never would have believed that maps would have such an influence on me as a reader—I took the road less traveled and found something new about the YA genre that I love.  Teachers need to remember that literature will always create a sense of place—how we examine that place outside of traditional language arts study will determine the number of children we engage and how many lifelong readers we grow in our classrooms.

Kelly E. Tumy is the curriculum director for English language arts and social studies for the Harris County Department of Education in Houston, TX. She is currently the vice president for membership and affiliates for the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts and a passionate advocate of young adult literature in the secondary classroom. 

erinoneillcarlos

What Happened to Carlos?

This post is written by member Erin O’Neill Armendarez, NCTE’s Higher Education Policy Analyst for New Mexico.

One semester years ago, after noticing a student’s uncharacteristic absence, I asked the students who usually sat next to him, “Where is Carlos?”

“Oh, he was deported, ma’am,” was the casual response. Deported? Wait. Carlos — not a US citizen?

From time to time, I still wonder about him.  Occasionally I find myself remembering an essay written by a student from Juarez, Mexico, who often crossed the border to visit family and friends. His essay described an afternoon in Mexico when suddenly the loud, staccato sound of automatic weapons fire sent the entire street into immediate panic. Finally summoning the courage to explore, my student encountered two strangers lying dead on the street, haloed in rings of blood.

“How did that make you feel?” I wrote in the margins of his essay, fumbling to prompt him toward some larger purpose. “I don’t know,” he said when we discussed it. “It just happened. It happens a lot.”

Right. Okay—pretty good structure, development, and punctuation — we will give the essay a pass.

With my nose to the grindstone teaching, I did not know much about the DACA program, New Mexico law with respect to undocumented students, or even why an undocumented person would not do the obvious thing —  get into the citizenship pipeline and out of the spotlight.

Now I find I have to think about these things, because I care about all the students who have a legal right to be in my classroom, about their ability to learn and their freedom to come to class without having to worry about whether their parents, grandparents, or siblings will be unlawfully questioned, apprehended, and taken to one of the nation’s detention centers before the evening meal.

After ICE raids in February 2017 coincided with “A Day without Immigrants” activities, absence spiked almost 148% in Las Cruces public elementary schools. Officials saw a connection and immediately made a public announcement that schools and buses are considered “sensitive” spaces where inquiries and arrests would not be made without a warrant or some other compelling reason.

Newer, tighter federal regulations probably will not cause families to voluntarily send their undocumented members back to wherever they came from, as the risk of returning for most far outweighs the risk of staying. Many families immigrated to avoid ongoing, life-threatening violence in their communities. Alternatively, they immigrated to avoid the desperation of poverty and to take advantage of the chance to work and to meaningfully contribute to a society where a stable, prosperous life might be possible. Nevertheless, this new climate of fear could keep students in the shadows indefinitely as they and their families do their best to avoid sudden detention or deportation.

Whatever we might believe about public rhetoric and federal policy with respect to undocumented immigrants, I hope we can all agree on this: children should be in school. To learn and to grow as they should, they also need to be cared for by stable families able to meet their basic needs.

Yes, our schools are already populated with too many children whose parents are US citizens struggling below the poverty line; too many children in our nation’s schools are exposed to horrifying trauma and crime. New Mexico hovers at the top of the national rankings for child poverty and for violence against children. However, addressing the needs of one group of children should not necessitate abandoning the needs of another group. Kids are kids.

The needs of all children should be prioritized. Children of refugees often have trouble learning and focusing in school. The American Psychological Association and other mental health agencies have convincingly documented the depression, anxiety, and PTSD suffered by refugee students scarred by past trauma and the constant threat of separation from loved ones. If that were not enough, many immigrant children are bullied at school because of obvious differences in dress or ethnicity.  Some suffer the humiliation of having their spoken English mocked by classmates.

Children have no power over their own legal status; they are completely dependent on the adults around them and on our legal system. For a variety of reasons, legal status can be virtually impossible to get for many family members of documented immigrants and US citizens. In the best of circumstances, for many it would (and in fact does) take decades. Meanwhile, for their children enrolled in classes in the United States, the very real possibility of deportation or detention (de facto imprisonment) looms.

As educators we are not able to solve all of these complex problems. But at the very least, we should be willing to welcome each and every student who is legally admitted to our classrooms, unlike an Albuquerque high school teacher who posted on Facebook that she believed undocumented students should be deported to “better serve American citizen students.”

Before posting, she probably did not think carefully enough about how her words would hurt her students, kids who were already hurting in ways she knew nothing about.

As educators we are constantly searching for the best ways to serve all of our students. Although it can be a struggle, we strive to offer the best possible educational opportunities to every single one, offering them a haven against violence, prejudice, and ignorance.

I understand educators will have varying opinions on this topic. My point is that until the recent ICE raids, I never thought carefully about the issues undocumented immigrants — including students — face beyond their struggles with our perplexing idiomatic expressions and our less than intuitive system for spelling in English.

Now I want to be sure that all of my students are able to attend all of their classes. I want to be sure they know they are truly welcome, respected by all in my classroom and on campus.

It is my job to support their dreams with high-quality educational experiences no matter where they came from or how they got here. While I do not know where they have been, I know what they might become if given a chance.

Erin O’Neill Armendarez teaches writing courses at New Mexico State University Alamogordo, a community college in southcentral New Mexico. 

Please read NCTE’s 2015 Resolution on the Dignity and Education of Immigrant, Undocumented and Unaccompanied Youth.

Join #NCTEchat!

nctechatimageHave you joined in on #NCTEchat yet? This Twitter chat takes place on the third Sunday of the month at 8 pm ET. There is a new topic each chat.  If you have never participated in a Twitter Chat, you are in for a tweet!

You have probably heard about Twitter and that Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters or less. Twitter hashtag chats are pre-organized events and use keywords with hashtags (#). The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords in a Tweet and therefore categorizes messages. Hashtags make it easy to see the full conversation on a particular topic: Simply type the keyword into the search box at the top of your Twitter screen. For our Twitter Chat, the hashtag is #NCTEchat.

Wanting to join the Conversation? From the Twitter homepage, either sign in or sign up for a new account. At the time of the chat, type #NCTEchat into the search box at the top of your Twitter homepage. “Listen” in. Watch the comments coming from other attendees. When you are ready, speak up! To compose your own message, click the blue and white icon (looks like a notepad and quill) in the upper right corner of your Twitter page. Be sure to include #NCTEchat somewhere in your post, so that your comment is automatically pulled into the chat feed for others to see.

#NCTEchat uses the Q1/A1 format. When discussion questions are posed, they will be labeled with a Q showing it’s a question. If you are responding to a question, use an A to show that you are answering and you the same number that was in the prompt.

Twitter chats move quickly! If you can’t catch everything as it’s happening, don’t worry! You can search again by #NCTEchat to find the conversations. A Storify will also be posted a day or so after the chat. This is an archive of the conversations that take place in the Twitter chat.

With all this newfound knowledge, we hope to see you at #NCTEchat! The June chat will be held on Sunday, June 25 at 8 pm ET. This month’s topic is “YA Lit: Complex Texts, Complex Lives”.

summerabookofhope

Summer – A Book of Hope

“‘Summer was here again. Summer, summer, summer. I loved and hated summers. Summers had a logic all their own and they always brought something out it me. Summer was supposed to be about freedom and youth and no school and possibilities and adventure and exploration. Summer was a book of hope. That’s why I loved and hated summers. Because they made me want to believe.'”

“Now that’s how you start a book!” notes Kate Walker, in her book review of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe on the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English Language Arts blog.  She goes on to say,

“If you need a summer read, why not start with one that also begins in summer? I had no less than three students recommend this book to me in the last week of school. Thus, when I went to the bookstore to buy my first read of the summer, I picked up a copy of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Honestly, I don’t know how in the world I hadn’t read this book yet.” aristotleanddante

All the ebullience we English teachers feel about books and wish to help our students feel!

But, summer reading lists, made and assigned for all the right reasons, can still make or break that joy and enthusiasm—maybe the list is too confining, maybe it’s an assignment that will be tested and feels like a chore, maybe a parent objects to a text and raises such a furor that the reading no longer is fun.

If summer is to be “a book of hope” and students are to while away days lost in a book they enjoy, summer reading programs need to be more like this one at Milford High School that strives to” inspire a love of reading and teach our students that reading is an enjoyable and social activity that fosters intellectual curiosity” and that gives students over 90 choices suggested by all teachers in the school.

And the bonus—aside from the obvious—the laudable goal of the program and the number of choices are the best defense against a book challenge!