Category Archives: Assemblies

English Teachers as Contemporary Shamans

I am always behind in my reading, so today, I finally picked up the Winter 2017 edition of The ALAN Review. The issue’s theme is “Story and the Development of Moral Character,” and it begins with the printed words of Jandy Nelson’s 2015 ALAN Workshop Keynote Address.

I need to stop here and say that I hope you’ve heard of ALAN (the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE), NCTE’s first assembly and the sponsor of that two-day book and author extravaganza on the Monday and Tuesday after the NCTE Annual Convention each year.  If you teach adolescents, you’ll want to join this group, and if you’re lucky, one day you’ll be able to join 499 other book and author loving English teachers for the ALAN Workshop, schmooze with YA Authors, and build your muscles carrying that 40-pound box of YA books you’ll receive.

But back to Jandy Nelson who started off her address by explaining “this belief I have that English teachers are our contemporary shamans: the wakers of sleeping souls, the planters of dreams in heads, the imparters of some of life’s most valuable gifts: compassion, empathy, humanity, ambiguity, wonder, joy.” She went on to describe a few of her own deep learning experiences with English teachers.

There was her 14th year of

“Man’s Inhumanity to Man”…books that explored genocide, poverty, oppression, racism, human cruelty and brutality, existential angst, social alienation, loneliness, moral bankruptcy, spiritual impoverishment…

“Audre Lorde said, ‘The Learning process is something you can incite, literally, incite, like a riot.’ This is what happened that year. We read and talked and disagreed, and the world, so very much world, began to shake inside us as we found our humanity in all this inhumanity, found empathy and compassion, found moral compasses, as we learned to hold history accountable, to hold the newspaper headlines accountable, to hold each other accountable. And all this in English class, not at home, not at church or temple or mosque, but from reading novels with Ms. W. In one year, she turned us into thinkers. I began to understand reading and writing as a revolution, thinking as being a profoundly active verb. I began to understand that a person writing quietly in a room might be burning down the world. And then rebuilding it, word by word, into something magnificent.”

Words worth contemplating this week before NCTE Advocacy Day, and all the weeks of your years as shamans for students preK-16+.

By the way, please enjoy the columns from this issue (and others) of The Alan Review. To read the full and future issues, join ALAN.

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Living in an Online, Immediate, Political, and Very Visual World

slamlogoHere we are in 2017 with smart phones, computers, comic books, and so much more. A great deal of our world, and our students’, is online, immediate, political, and multimodal. How can we English educators teach students to live The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies, to:

• Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
• Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
• Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
• Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
• Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
• Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.

Enter the Studies in Literacies and Multimedia Assembly (SLAM) of NCTE  .

Like me, you may ask, “What is multimedia, anyhow?” SLAM cofounder, Antero Garcia responds in his blog,

“[M]ultimedia is not limited to simply things that can be downloaded, clicked on, animated. From exploring powerful transmedia narratives in comic books to supporting youth music production to designing and playing games that don’t require an electronic console (such as sports games, tabletop board games, card games, social games, and alternate reality games), the term “multimedia” means so much more than just the digital stuff that is filtered to us via screens.

“While we may often be hyper-aware of the digital demands in our classrooms, I believe that multimedia tools should be utilized in ways that foster powerful relationships between students, teachers, and the larger school community. As such, what relationships do you foster vis-à-vis the multimedia used in your classroom?”

Participants in the SLAM-hosted #nctechat “Beyond the Screen: Multimedia in the Classroom” add more.  slamnctechat

 

If you and your students are ready to take action in your communities, check out SLAM School,  a series of short videos for educators and organizers, providing

“guidance and instruction for using specific digital tools and curricular ideas to support civic engagement, protest, and discussion of the crucial issues that are shaping classroom and broader culture.”

Take a look and listen to the recent class on learning to use Facebook Live and Periscope:

and then proceed to the SLAM Assembly YouTube Channel for more.

And, there are SLAM Hangouts , featuring discussions on a variety of multimedia topics. I found Cheryl Ball’s discussion of Kairos, for which she’s the editor, and multimodal composition fascinating.

Speak Up survey after Speak Up survey demonstrates the disconnect students have between in-school and out-of-school literacies. More often than not this disconnect is not only technological but relational. We and they live in an online, immediate, political, and very visual world, and as humans we need to be in relationship. SLAM and its members are eager to share and learn together with us how to help our students utilize and examine in school the multimodal literacies they use after school.

CCCC 2017: Cultivating Capacity, Creating Change

This post is written by CCCC Associate Chair Carolyn Calhoon-Dillahunt. 

2017 cccc logoIt’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since I developed the call for the 68th Annual Convention of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. I started with a concept—“cultivate”—and a vision of using the convention space to engage as a conference in working exchanges.

In the time between, over 1,900 proposals were submitted and later peer reviewed by a smart, thoughtful, and generous group of Stage I and Stage II reviewers. Using the reviewers’ feedback and scores—and capitalizing on the amount of space available in Portland’s beautiful Oregon Convention Center—I selected nearly 700 concurrent sessions, roundtables, poster sessions, and workshops for the program. Then, through summer and fall, the complex work of scheduling began, adding Special Interest Groups (SIGs), Standing Group–sponsored sessions, committee meetings, and other activities into the mix.

An innovation for CCCC 2017 is featured “Cultivate” programming. I have introduced two new types of highly interactive sessions: Cultivate sessions and Think Tank sessions. Two or three such sessions are showcased in each time block throughout the convention. These facilitated sessions, selected from over 85 member-generated proposals received in a fall secondary call, are designed to provide space for members to “cultivate capacity” and “create change” around organizational, professional, or disciplinary issues or concerns. I urge attendees to participate in one—or several!

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This year’s Action Hub, a large open space in the Pre-Function E area, near the exhibit hall, enables attendees to participate in organized activities, peruse various informational displays, or simply meet at open tables to talk and work together. See the app or the program for more specific details.

Conventiongoers also have the opportunity to “Cs the Day,” attend SIG and Caucus meetings, engage with the Computer Connection and Digital Pedagogy Posters, play in the Gaming Lounge, visit the exhibit hall, celebrate colleagues’ achievements at the Awards Recognition Reception, and much more!

Needless to say, with more than 50 Cultivate or Think Tank sessions, concurrent sessions, roundtables, and peer-reviewed poster sessions from which to select in every session time slot and a wide array of other activities taking place before, after, and during the regular convention schedule each day, the hardest part of negotiating CCCC 2017 for many of you will be choosing from among the many high-interest options happening at the same time.

jose-antonio-vargasAnd that’s not all! To maintain the convention energy from beginning to end, I’ve planned a full day of activities for Saturday as well. Saturday’s General Session will feature keynote speaker Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, filmmaker, and media entrepreneur whose work centers on the changing American identity and US immigration reform. Vargas’s work embodies “cultivating capacity, creating change” through writing and digital media. After Saturday’s concurrent sessions, which feature topics related to high school–college connections, library partnerships, writing/literacy pedagogy, and two-year colleges, a selection of free, half-day postconvention workshops will be available to all convention registrants. Also, in an effort to bring CCCC to a broader audience, including area high school teachers and adjunct and contingent faculty, special Saturday-only convention rates of $85 will be offered.

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Few spaces are more generative and regenerative than conferences; they are sites of possibility and productivity. And what better place than Portland, the city that embodies the notion of environmental sustainability, to work together to find answers about how to sustain ourselves? I invite you to CCCC 2017, March 15–18, 2017, and look forward to the opportunity not only to learn together and enjoy some camaraderie, but also to build our capacity, individually and collectively, to address the issues we face and to create conditions for change, in higher education and beyond.

Carolyn Calhoon-Dillahunt, CCCC Associate Chair, is the program chair for CCCC 2017 in Portland, Oregon. She teaches English at Yakima Valley College in Washington state. Carolyn can be contacted at ccalhoon@yvcc.edu or cccc2017programchair@gmail.com

The Joy of Reading

CLALogo Joy, the joy of students reading, that’s what the Children’s Literature Assembly is about.

“It is a teacher’s privilege and responsibility to help students discover the joy of reading, while they also teach students how to internalize the skills and strategies of fluent reading. This occurs through teacher modeling, reading aloud quality literature to the class, recommending books to children based on their individual interests, and through incorporating literature into teaching lessons and learning activities across the curriculum.”

CLA makes choosing books for kids easy. Under CLA’s auspices, every year since 1985 or earlier, the Notable Children’s Books for Language Arts committee members select the 30 Notable Children’s Books in the English Language Arts.  The committee reads, reviews, and jointly decides on the list—for the 2015 awards they reviewed over 620 books! THE LIST is published on the CLA website and Facebook page  and in NCTE’s Language Arts Journal.  in the late summer/fall. Then the Notables Committee presents the books during a session at the NCTE Annual Convention.

CLA publishes one of the outstanding journals in the field, the Journal of Children’s Literature. This article from the Spring 2014 issue, “ Building on Windows and Mirrors: Encouraging the Disruption of ‘Single Stories’ Through Children’s Literature,” speaks to the important theme in literacy teaching and learning—teaching diverse books.

In 2004, CLA established its own endowment fund “to support research in the field of children’s literature and to ensure the influence of quality books for children in every classroom.” They are very close to their $50,000 goal.

In the meantime, at the 2015 Convention as at many conventions before then, CLA awarded Children’s Literature Assembly Research Awards to recipients who will pursue a research study involving children’s literature.

CLA hosts many events during the NCTE Annual Convention. This year’s events  include a workshop, a master class, a roundtable, a presentation of the 2016 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, and the CLA Breakfast. Join them at one or more of these if you’re onsite in Atlanta.

CLAturns40Last year marked the 40th Anniversary of this NCTE assembly  and they celebrated! Balloons and confetti, bookmarks and stickers, awards and a limited issue book CLABagbag with an illustration by Jon Klassen abounded at their 2015 CLA Breakfast in Minneapolis with Klassen as speaker.

 

 
If you teach young children and want to bring them joy in reading, you’ll want to join this “organization dedicated to bringing children’s literature and advocates of children’s literature together.”

Literature with “A Positive Approach to Life”

WaldenAwardIn response to those challengers of young adult fiction who ask “Why Can’t Teachers Assign Happy Books?”, the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award is given “for a book that exemplifies literary excellence, widespread appeal, and a positive approach to life in young adult literature.”  The award has beem presented annually since 2009 by ALAN, the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE.

This Monday, August 8, 2016, ALAN announced the winner and four finalists of its 2016 Amelia Elizabeth All American BoysWalden Award, an award  in honor of educator, YA author, and YA literature pioneer, Amelia Elizabeth Walden. The award goes to titles that meet the following criteria:

 “Per Walden’s request, honor and winning titles must be a work of fiction, ideally a novel (stand-alone or part of a series); be published within one year prior to the call for titles; be published in the United States but WaldenAwardFinalists2016may have been published elsewhere prior; and possess a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit (please see this document for additional details about these criteria).”

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Kellee Moye wrote on the Nerdy Book Club blog about her experience as chair of the Walden Award committee and her pride in the selections chosen to win the award,

“Through my four years serving, I have been so proud of the novels that have been chosen because I know that each of the books not only is beautifully written, but will be loved by teens and will influence their readers in such a positive way.”

In“Meeting the Standards: Criteria for Great YA Literature,” Teri Lesesne paraphrases from Ted Hipple’s criteria for evaluating YA literature:

• The book beats others at the common games: vocabulary, character development, and authorial moral concern.
• The book has classroom usefulness.
• The book reflects real life and has artistry in detail.

In this Voices from the Middle “Book Talk” column, Lesesne notes the biggest criteria for teachers to keep in mind when selecting classroom texts:

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