Getting Started? Getting Going!

roseboroThis blog is by member and 2016 NCTE Distinguished Service Award winner Anna J. Small Roseboro, NBCT.




Men and women often ask how I started writing and what keeps me going.  The answer is thewritingprocessnot very satisfactory when I say I am a National Writing Project Fellow who started writing with my students in order to encourage them to write, solicit feedback, revise, edit, polish and publish. I understand.  Prior to that writing project summer, I didn’t think I was a writer.  I’m a reader!  However, once I saw my poems in print as part of the writing project publication, I realized my reading was teaching me how to write.

Returning to the classroom, using NWP strategies, I included my drafts in the writing read-around-circle to which participants submitted work with a code, but no names. Sometimes my writing was trashed. Often enough, it was praised. At the end of a short story writing unit, students were required to submit their polished version to an on-line site for teen writing. Then, they asked me where I was going to submit mine. Yikes!

It just happens the California Association of Teachers of English offers a writing contest with a category for teachers. I submitted there. That year, my story was accepted. Other attempts to be published were not so successful.

When I retired and moved to Michigan, I decided to share what I had learned as a classroom teacher; this time in the role of a writing coach. I began a community outreach, GETTING STARTED? GETTING GOING!, inviting aspiring writers to join me in a conference room at our neighborhood library. I advertised on Facebook and Twitter. The week of a recent WOMEN WHO WRITE SHOWCASE, I was invited to promote the event on the local Fox News Morning Mix television show.


We attracted a range of new writers. One man came with the complete draft of a novel rubber-banded in a gift box. Another had a manuscript draft of on her tablet; one had outlined her idea for memoir, and a recently retired nurse still had her ideas in her head. All came eager to listen and learn.


In the workshop, I had an opportunity to introduce these community members to the writing process, then to look specifically at audience and purpose. I incorporated times for them to turn and talk about their own writing goals. We briefly explored different reasons for writing, consideration of our audiences, and various kinds of writing to achieve those defined goals with those specific audiences. I touched on marketing and value of social media to expand our platform of customers beyond that of family and friends.


By the end of our time together, the participants had vocalized their plans and goals and written a purpose statement to help focus their writing when they left. Before closing, I invited participants to join an on-line writing group using Google applications and face-to-face meetings at the library, or virtual meetings through Google Hangouts. The writers left ready to get started and get going!

Anna J. Small Roseboro, author and poet, is a veteran educator with experience teaching English and Speech in five states to students in middle school through college.  Now retired, Anna remains active as a mentor in professional organizations and with youth at her church, and a writing coach in the community.  Find her on Twitter @ajr1206 ; online at websites TeachingEnglishLanguageArts and  Getting Started?Getting Going! ; and on LinkedIn

Teachers, Schools, and Civil Discourse

The following post is by NCTE member  Jonna Perrillo and originally ran in the El Paso Times.

jonnaperrilloLike many American parents, I was grateful to send my children to school on November 9. They attend schools where they feel happy and at home, and I hoped that their teachers would recognize and respond to children who felt confused by the end of a confounding election season. I was not disappointed.

In the face of this challenging day, some American teachers chose to do nothing, teaching as usual. But others, including my children’s, did a great deal, from reviewing the US governmental system of checks and balances to discussing tolerance to organizing events for families to attend together. In many places, educators had to address a sense of crisis and despair.

We should applaud the work of teachers and schools like this, those who can see that acknowledging and discussing politics does not equate to either advocacy or excoriation.

American schools have always been good at teaching some kinds of citizenship skills. We require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we teach them about how government works, we ask them to vote for class president as an exercise in campaigns and elections.

Since the introduction of multiculturalism in the 1920s, schools have also been teaching tolerance. This is a vaster project, but at the very least, most humanities teachers know to teach a more diverse set of readings and ideas than they once did.

Citizenship and tolerance are related to but different from civility. Civil discourse requires a person to express ideas in ways that are respectful and informed, expressive and reasonable at once. It includes but exceeds being polite. It is about responding rather than reacting, understanding more than arguing, listening as much as talking, and believing in the process even when one is unpersuaded by another’s ideas.

It is, in other words, a skill, not just a product of character, and one that improves immeasurably when we teach it rather than just expect that it will happen between good people.

Teachers understandably feel pressured to avoid politics in polarizing times, when it feels as though any revelation of how we think is equal to petitioning for one side or the other. Yet polarization is not new, and it has helped to create many teachers who lack the confidence and will to facilitate discussions about any of the kinds of issues that were central to this election.

Teacher educators like myself too often fail to prepare teachers for holding civic discussions, especially about moments that feel unpredictable. We are good at teaching teachers to simulate important acts of citizenship, like voting between one candidate or another. But we fail to teach them how or why to lead discussions about the day after. Or how to talk about ideas around which students may fundamentally disagree. Or how to use the classroom and curriculum to respond to the political fears students absorb. Instead, we treat all of this as extracurricular work. We need to do better.

Now, as much as at any time in our history, teachers across the nation, Democrat, Republican, and Independent, will need to serve as beacons and instructors of civic consciousness and behavior. As citizens who seek greater civility than we have seen, we need to support teachers in the cause, letting them know we value it and the larger goal at hand. And we need to thank those who are doing this difficult work well, however they do it. Our children’s classrooms may just become the best models of how to participate in respectful, productive, and civil discussion.

Jonna Perrillo is associate professor of English education at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of Uncivil Rights: Teachers, Unions, and the Battle for School Equity.

Moving to America

This is a guest post written by Bob Fonow. 

Bob Fonow (2)Chinese students are bright and industrious.  However,  students from China moving to the United States are often frightened and sad. Many are forced to leave home and friends at short notice when an agent finds an investment program that offers a visa attached, or an open homestay spot.   This creates a teaching challenge.

Earlier this year one of my students at a top university affiliated middle school in Beijing was given two months’ notice of her move.  Her parents were told by an agent that going to a public high school in Northern Virginia would increase her chances for “HYP” (Harvard, Yale, Princeton), the big prize conferring massive family bragging rights.   The irony is that her school in Beijing has exceptionally high acceptances at Ivy League and other to universities and liberal arts colleges.  She will have an adjustment period in her new school, working with a new teacher, in a school with students from many countries.

For a moment let’s review a Chinese public school, since that’s the system that 99% of the students who come to the United States attend.  In the major cities, the schools are likely to have over 2,000 students.   Classes will be large, 40-50 students.  Schools in the major cities have access to the best education technology.   Breakfast, lunch and dinner is available for students who want to extend their school day or participate in extra-curricular activities.

The English teaching emphasis is on grammar, phonetics and numerous multiple choice quizzes and examinations.  It is repetitious and reminds me of my own grade school, St. Peter’s in Steubenville, Ohio, under the direction of fierce Dominican nuns.  Everybody learned English, some better than others, and many students in China thrive in that kind of system.  Maybe you can’t write a story yet in your new American school, but you can function in math class where the emphasis is on numbers.

Teachers in China, as in the United States, are held responsible for the performance of their students. The classes are streamed by end of semester exams.   Students are under enormous parental pressure to do well.  During exams almost all my middle school students, both boys and girls become ill, withdrawn and display facial sores and boils during these periods.   They return to health very quickly, but the stress is apparent.

My wife and I run an after school program in northwest Beijing, the university area with many university affiliated schools.  Our job is to prepare students for a life that will demand fluency in English.

We think in terms of three sets of students.  First, are the more academic students in middle school and high school who plan to attend university in western countries.    We devise a curriculum that helps the students understand western culture.  Any teacher would recognize it: a history, literature and science curriculum that replicates what the students learn in their schools, but in English. This curriculum is also designed to prepare the students over several years for SAT and TOEFL success.  Each lesson will also have vocabulary and writing homework.

The second group are the students who may or may not go abroad.  We have greater flexibility with this group of students and are able to plan study sessions that engage a student’s interest.  This could be reading the “Twilight” books, or the many choices that fall under American young adult literature.   We have a 13 year old boy who hated English until we introduced him to Formula 1 racing, another interested in tanks and battles.  Each lesson includes vocabulary – write two sentences for each word – and a writing exercise stressing full sentences and short paragraphs.  For this type of student, who does not have a clear goal, we strive to teach to their interests, otherwise in our experience they lose interest and fade away.  Programs like ReadWorks can be helpful with these students.

Third, the students, especially in the summer, coming to us for emergency culture and English training before starting in their new schools in September.  These are often students going to homestay families and schools chosen by agents, and often the most confused and concerned kids.  Unlike the other two groups, which primarily come from northwest Beijing, these students can come from anywhere in northern China, and sometimes beyond.  Their English can range from completely fluent to working with students who will need a great deal of support in their new schools.  This program necessarily stresses conversation and listening and a close study of the new school’s curriculum and culture –  as much as we can discern from the school website or local publicity in newspapers.

I think it’s important to note that students from Beijing and many other Chinese cities have been raised with great privilege.  China today is a wealthy country.  The families moving abroad are not destitute refugees, and their parents usually highly educated, often with high expectations which sometimes translate to unwarranted demands on teachers. They may not recognize that their students will need a transition time to get used to their new school and teaching methods.

Most students will be responsible, polite and work diligently to succeed.   However, teachers should be aware that Chinese students have been uprooted.    Students will have a foundation of English, but may be unwilling or emotionally unable to progress for some time.   As with all of my students, I find that a friendly smile, patience and most of all kindness is the approach that encourages – or reawakens – an interest in learning English.

Bob Fonow is a management consultant and chairman of Discover Club, an after school English program in the university area of Beijing, China

The 2017 Mid-Atlantic Summer Conference of the Conference on College Composition and Communication

This post is written by member Jessica Gordon. 

jessicagordonccccIf you are like me, before the Annual Convention of the Conference on College Composition and Communication begins, you sit with the conference program and a highlighter and eagerly mark every presentation you want to see. You quickly find that during every concurrent session, there are a plethora of presentations that you really must attend—but alas, you can see only one session at a time. In an effort to narrow down your options, you learn more about each session by researching them online, and finally, by process of elimination, you agonizingly choose just one session to attend. And if you are like me, even if that session is mind-blowing, a creeping thought plagues you: what are you missing in those presentations down the hall, the ones you chose not to see?

Last year at the CCCC Convention in Houston, Texas, I complained to a colleague that there should really be more than one CCCC Convention each year. After all, their annual conference is the only conference I can attend where I want to see one third of the presentations in every concurrent session. It is also the only conference where I can truly reconsider and improve my pedagogy while simultaneously attending presentations that will progress my research and meeting colleagues with whom I can collaborate and grow. Sadly, because there were so many intriguing presentations last year, there were necessarily too many sessions that I was not going to see. So I was overjoyed when I heard Joyce Carter announce that for the first time, CCCC would be offering a handful of regional conferences during summer 2017.

You can ask my department chair: I cried a little when I found out that our proposal to host a regional conference at Virginia Commonwealth University was accepted. Not only do I strongly believe that the consistently high attendance at the annual CCCC meeting demonstrates the need for more conferences devoted to the study of composition, but personally, I find that I learn more about pedagogy in one morning at a good conference than I do in a whole semester of lonely reflection on my own teaching. And I find good conferences to be inspiring and rejuvenating! An insightful presentation always reminds me why I teach writing, why I think written communication is the most important skill that students learn in college, and why I relish teaching students to respect and cherish the written word.

And so, we are delighted to invite you to propose a session and/or attend the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Summer Conference of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. This one-day event will be held on June 2, 2017, at Virginia Commonwealth University in historic Richmond, VA. Our intimate conference will feature a variety of types of presentations and interactive sessions. Although participants will choose which concurrent sessions and lightning talks to attend, this conference will also provide opportunities for participants to come together as one group: the morning plenary and a charette-style collaborative working session that will close the day.

We sincerely invite all teachers of writing to join us in a day of rejuvenating and inspiring discussions, and so we aim to keep this conference affordable: $50 for full-time faculty and $35 for adjuncts and graduate students.

We are excited to announce that Jonathan Alexander will deliver the keynote presentation. Alexander is Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine, where he is also the director of the Center for Excellence in Writing & Communication. He has authored, coauthored, or edited twelve books, including Writing Youth: Young Adult Fiction as Literacy Sponsorship; Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy: Theory and Practice for Composition Studies; and On Multimodality: New Media in Composition Studies.

The deadline for proposals is January 15, 2017.

Learn more about the conference at

Jessica Gordon is an assistant professor in the Department of Focused Inquiry, which is home to the writing program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Along with two colleagues, Joe Cates and Julie Gorlewski, she is hosting the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Summer Conference of the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

NCTE Award-Winning Publications

ncteawardwinners2016A number of teachers, authors, and researchers were presented with awards recently during NCTE’s Annual Convention in Atlanta. Here, we feature some of the awards for books, journal articles, and publications.

Fiction: The NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children recognizes fiction that has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder. Learn more about Charlotte Huck, the inspiration for the award. This year’s winner is Ghost by Jason Reynolds.

Nonfiction: Look to the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children to find the best nonfiction titles for your students. Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet was this year’s winner. Learn more about teaching with content-rich nonfiction and informational texts.

Poetry: NCTE established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1977 to honor a living American poet for his or her aggregate work for children ages 3–13. This year’s winner is Marilyn Nelson. She is the author of many award-winning books. View more about teaching poetry.

These three awards are given at the Children’s Book Awards Luncheon. Watch a slideshow of the winners.

Diverse Books: The Alan C. Purves Award for an article in Research in the Teaching of English is presented annually to the author(s) from the previous year’s volume judged as likely to have the greatest impact on educational practice. The 2016 award went to Denise Dávila for the article “#WhoNeedsDiverseBooks?: Preservice Teachers and Religious Neutrality with Children’s Literature“. Dávila’s research examines the sociocultural contexts in which preservice teachers and underrepresented groups of children and families engage with diverse works of children’s literature.

Secondary Classrooms: The Paul and Kate Farmer Writing Award is given for articles in English Journal written by classroom teachers. In the first timely article, “Using Memorials to Build Critical Thinking Skills and Empathy“, Jennifer Ansbach asks students to challenge their views of iconic memorials and guides students through the challenges of creating a memorial that represents all. Her work demonstrates the important role English teachers play in helping students develop empathy.

In the second award-winning article, “Photos as Witness: Teaching Visual Literacy for Research and Social Action“, Kiran Subhani helps students position themselves in both recognition of and creating a call to action using visual literacy. Subhani emphasizes the importance of visual literacy in today’s world as students are bombarded and bombard others with visual images.

Professional Learning: This year the CEL English Leadership Quarterly Best Article Award went to Christina Saidy for “Moving from Them to Us: Making New Arguments about Teaching and Learning via Teacher Inquiry“. By telling one teacher’s story of professional growth, Saidy explores the power of effective teacher inquiry groups.

See the NCTE website for information on all of the awards and a complete list of winners. View the slideshow to see the winners with their awards.