All posts by Lisa Fink

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About Lisa Fink

Lisa Storm Fink is the Project Manager for ReadWriteThink at NCTE. After teaching grades K-4 for almost 9 years, she brought her varied experiences (multi-age classrooms, looping, cooperating teacher for preservice teachers, plus a specialization in Remedial Reading) fulltime to the ReadWriteThink site. Lisa feels lucky to have worked on all parts of the ReadWriteThink site as a writer and reviewer, curriculum developer, and now as Project Manager. She enjoys sharing the site with others during professional development opportunities as well as with her preservice students at the University of Illinois.

Text Options for the African American Read-In

Quote from Jerri Cobb Scott: It is important for all of us to see ourselves in books.When selecting texts to have as part of African American Read-Ins, many people first think of books or poems. What about using plays or dramas?

The works of playwright August Wilson are a good place to start. His play, Fences, won him critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. It is currently a Major Motion Picture directed by Denzel Washington, and starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Students can read Fences, then watch the film and compare the two.

Sticking with August Wilson and looking at his play, The Piano Lesson, readily invites students to ask a number of questions—big and small—about the characters, setting, conflict, and symbols in the work. After reading the first act, students learn how to create effective discussion questions and then put them to use in student-led seminar discussions after Act 1 and again at the end of the play. Read more in the ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan, “Facilitating Student-Led Seminar Discussions with The Piano Lesson.”

This lesson from ReadWriteThink.org invites students to explore the things relevant to a character from Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun, such as Mama’s plant, to unlock the drama’s underlying symbolism and themes. Students explore character traits and participate in active learning as they work with the play. Students use an interactive drama map to explore character and conflict, and then write and share character-item poems.

If the genre of plays or dramas is too much of a challenge, what if students use both their analytical and creative skills to adapt passages from a novel into a ten-minute play? This lesson plan invites students to read Beloved or another suitable novel. Students then review some of the critical elements of drama, focusing on differences between narrative and dramatic texts, including point of view. They discuss the role of conflict in the novel, and work in small groups to search the novel for a passage they can adapt into a ten-minute play. Students write their play adaptation in writer’s workshop sessions, focusing on character, setting, conflict, and resolution. When the play draft is complete, students review and revise it, then rehearse and present their play to the class. As the plays are performed, students use a rubric to peer-review each group’s work. Because students are responding to a novel with significant internal dialogue and conflict, they are called on to use both analytical and creative skills as they create the adaptation, rather than simply cutting and pasting dialogue.

What dramas or plays written by African Americans have you used?

Literature and the African American Read-In

AARI_180To be recognized as an official African American Read-In Host, it’s easy as I,2,3:

  1. Select books, poems, speeches (anything) authored by African Americans;
  2. Hold your event during the month of February; and
  3. Report results by submitting an African American Read-In Report Card.

The first step is to choose a piece written by an African American author. NCTE has a Resolution on the Need for Diverse Children’s and Young Adult Books.

The African American Read-In Toolkit provides a variety of resources to help support both individual hosts and hosting organizations implement and promote African American Read-In programs. Included in the toolkit are a number of booklists including one that was crowdsourced at an NCTE Annual Convention.

The September 2016 #NCTEchat was on the topic of Black Girls’ LiteraciesDetra Price-Dennis compiled a list of Black Girls’ Literacies Resources that were shared during #NCTEchat.

Tune in to the Text Messages podcast episode #weneeddiversebooks to hear about recently-published YA titles that celebrate diversity in a range of genres. There’s something for every reader here: comic book superheroes, Civil Rights history, love stories, humorous essays, poetry, artwork, and stories of suspense.

What titles would you add to these lists?

The 2017 African American Read-In!

“The African American Read-In (AARI) . . . is built on an ambitious yet confident premise: that a school and community reading event can be an effective way to promote diversity in children’s literature, encourage young people to read, and shine a spotlight on African American authors.”

Join over a million readers as part of the Twenty-Eighth National African American Read-In in February 2017! Learn more about what happens at a Read-In in the English Journal article “The African American Read-In: Celebrating Black Writers and Supporting Youth“. This month, look for posts marked with #AARI17.

The ReadWriteThink.org Text Messages podcast “Celebrating the African American Read-In” provides recommendations of both old and new titles by distinguished African American authors who write for teens. Featured books range from historical novels to contemporary explorations of African American life in both urban and suburban settings.

In the ReadWriteThink.org lesson “Analyzing First-Person Narration in Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind” students explore the different facets of complexity in the compelling first-person narrator in Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind.

The lesson plan “I Have a Dream: Exploring Nonviolence in Young Adult Texts” has students identify how Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of nonviolent conflict-resolution is reinterpreted in modern texts, including a text by Walter Dean Myers and rapper Common.

Childhood Remembrances: Life and Art Intersect in Nikki Giovanni’s ‘Nikki-Rosa’“, invites students to read Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “Nikki-Rosa,” and then writing about childhood memories of their own.

This lesson from ReadWriteThink.org this lesson gives students an introduction to Jacqueline Woodson’s verse memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming.

Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 is the focus of the lesson plan “Graphing Plot and Character in a Novel“, which invites students to graph the journey of the family while exploring the plot and character development in the novel.

Nikki Giovanni’s poem “The Funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.” is paired with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, taking students on a quest through time to the civil rights movement in the lesson “Entering History: Nikki Giovanni and Martin Luther King Jr.

Listen as Myers shared how his own experiences as a reader shaped his approach to storytelling.

Tune in to a podcast interview with Nikki Grimes where her writing process and what inspires the characters in her books is shared. Also shared is her philosophy about writing for children and how her life has influenced her writing.

For more ideas, see the ReadWriteThink.org Calendar entry for the African American Read-In which includes more lesson plans, classroom activities, and online resources.

The 100th Day of School

100The 100th day of school is celebrated in schools around the country, usually near the month of February. The 100th Day of School is usually filled with activities, crafts, and math exercises based on the number 100. Here’s an idea for combining the school celebration with history.

Invite students to investigate what life was like 100 years ago. Using multiple sources, have students read and talk about the clothing that was worn during that time, who was President (or Prime Minister, King, or Queen), what inventions weren’t around then (computers and television, mobile devices, hoverboards, video games, etc), how many states were in the United States at that time (and what the US flag looked like then). Ask the students to find and share other surprising differences between now and 100 years ago. They can record their discoveries using a Venn Diagram.

To take this idea a step further, engage students in researching various aspects of a setting’s decade.  Then using the information they have gathered, students communicate their findings via a presentation tool. Through the sharing of their findings, all students gain an understanding of the historical decades. This understanding can be transferred to historical novels or other studies of history. After all students have presented, students will write a paragraph explaining which decade they would have like to have experienced firsthand.

How do you celebrate the 100th Day of School?

Using Advertisements in the Classroom

macOn this day in 1984, the “1984” commercial launched Apple’s Macintosh personal computer in the United States. The 45-second ad, which aired during a break in the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, was declared the best ad of the last 50 years in 1995. Directed by Alien and Blade Runner director Ridley Scott, the advertisement cost $1.6 million to produce and was aired only once. How can you use advertisements in the classroom?

Begin by checking out one of these lesson plans from ReadWriteThink.org:

After finishing one or more of the lessons on advertising above, have students create original advertisements. Begin by having students review the advertising techniques they’ve studied (propaganda, advertising fallacies). Next, have students identify a subject for their ad, such as a favorite television show, album, or product; an upcoming event; or a political figure. Then, ask small groups to create advertisements designed to persuade others to use a product, hold a viewpoint, or participate in an activity.

How else can you use advertisements in the classroom?