Tag Archives: disciplinary literacy

Ways to Celebrate the Eclipse!

On August 21, the Moon will block the Sun, as seen from North America and down through mid-South America. The Sun will be entirely blocked on a path that is about 60 miles wide. This path will go through parts of 14 states. 

When I was in grade school, I remember working with a few other students to build a pinhole camera out of  of cardboard. We stood with the sun at our back, while trying to look at the projected image on a second piece of cardboard. Here are some more modern ways to get students engaged with the eclipse.

Invite students to look at historical and primary sources about eclipses throughout history. Then compare that coverage with the news we see today. What is the same? What has changed? Student can record the similarities and differences as a Venn Diagram or in a Compare & Contrast Map.

All Summer in a Day” is a science fiction short story by Ray Bradbury that was first published in March 1954. The story is about a class of school children on Venus, which in this story, constantly has rainstorms and the Sun is only visible for one hour every seven years. Invite students to make connections from the short story to this current eclipse. If you would like to engage more with the text, check out this lesson plan from ReadWriteThink.org.

In this lesson plan from ReadWriteThink.org, students listen to and discuss poetry that pertains to the study of astronomy and write their own poems to enhance their learning of the subject. As a final project, students use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to compose original poetry books about astronomy.

What makes a shadow? Do shadows change? These and many other questions provide the framework for students to explore their prior knowledge about shadows as fiction, informational texts, and poetry. In this lesson, language arts skills are linked to the learning of science in a literacy-based approach to the study of shadows.

Will you be able to watch the eclipse? What are you planning to do with your students?

An Invitation

The following poem, added to our Arts of Language Collection, was submitted by Belgrade High School writing coach Aaron Yost, who says it “represents how I often feel about the ELA teacher’s project.”


Woman walking through a book, a way to think about poetry opening doors.An Invitation

I placed a door
alone on a hill
and invited you through.

There was no sense
of coming or going
when you stepped around

but, suddenly, we were
together in the same grass,
the door’s other side now

visible to us both, its paint
peeling away the grain
underneath. Where are

the hinges? you asked.
It was the wrong question
but I didn’t walk away.



Poetry Across the Content Areas

Poetry reading, writing and enjoyment don’t just have to be limited to the English Language Arts classroom. These resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org show poetry across the content areas.

Poetry of Place: Helping Students Write Their Worlds is chockfull of student poetry samples and unique ideas, including field trips and a poetry night hike, to spark students’ imaginations and inspire them to write poetry.

360 Degrees of Text: Using Poetry to Teach Close Reading and Powerful Writing describes an approach to teaching critical literacy that has students investigate texts through a full spectrum of learning modalities, harnessing the excitement of performance, imitation, creative writing, and argument/debate activities to become more powerful thinkers, readers, and writers.  View the sample chapter online to read more about poetry as a means into academic writing. Learn more with these ReadWriteThink.org poetry lesson plans from the author.

Students learning English develop their poetry writing through dialogue about the topic of journeys and their interactions with visual art as described in “Finding the Right Words: Art Conversations and Poetry”. Similarly, in this lesson, students explore ekphrasis—writing inspired by art. Students find pieces of art that inspire them and compose a booklet of poems about the pieces they have chosen.

Poetry in Science” describes how a seventh-grade teacher incorporated poetry writing into her science class, helping students to learn the science material and helping the teacher to evaluate the students’ knowledge. This Community Story shares how the ReadWriteThink.org’s poetry tools and lessons helped a teacher see all the different ways students could write poetry, including in the Science classroom.

Two math teachers, two English teachers, and 86 students bridge cultural divides between mathematics and English in urban Massachusetts and rural Iowa as described in “Math in the Margins: Writing across Curricula into Community Heritage”.

To understand better the subtle relationship between history and English, first-year students in an introductory literature class compare Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about the 1876 deaths of General George Armstrong Custer and his men with historical accounts of the Battle of the Little Bighorn in order to discover how historical and poetic truths are related in this article. Try a similar idea with this lesson plan which pairs a magazine article about the Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck in 1975 with the Gordon Lightfoot song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

For more poetry resources, visit the NCTE Online Store and the ReadWriteThink.org calendar entry on National Poetry Month.

Time for Collaboration

timeIt’s all well and good to talk about the importance of collaboration in schools and colleges, but unless the systemic conditions have been established to facilitate quality time for collaboration, it won’t work. Here is what the National Center for Literacy Education describes as those necessary systemic conditions:

  • Dedicated time is provided for professional collaboration within the work week.
  • Training, assistance, and tools are provided for effective collaboration.
  • Leadership supports and promotes collaborative work.
  • Leaders ensure access to timely data sources.
  • Experimenting with practice and trying new ideas are encouraged.

We’re advocating for such conditions in this year’s policy platform.

“Provide teachers with the time and resources that are essential to creating collaborative, sustained opportunities for professional learning and building teacher inquiry and decision making.”
— 2015 NCTE Education Policy Platform

#NCTEchat 3.15.15 at 8pm ET: Advocate for Literacy


Q1: What are the organizational conditions that support powerful literacy learning for which we need to advocate? #NCTEchat

Learn: Read more on the Literacy in Learning Exchange.
Act: Add your thoughts to this Ideascale project.

Q2: When we advocate for literacy, whom do we want to persuade to take action? #NCTEchat

Learn: Review these tips for sharing your views with policy makers.
Act: Reach out to your local, state, or federal lawmakers.

Q3: What kinds of advocacy are you doing from which others committed to powerful literacy education could learn? #NCTEchat

Learn: Advocacy looks like lots of things, check out some strategies here.
Act: Share your stories about assessment, we’ll make sure they’re heard!

Q4: What could @NCTE and @NCLE do to support your advocacy for literacy education? #NCTEchat

Learn: Read the 2015 NCTE Education Policy Platform.
Act: Share your suggestions in the comment box below.

Q5: What’s one thing you could commit to do during @NCTE Advocacy Month to advocate for literacy? #NCTEchat

Learn: Check out our advocacy pages on the NCTE website.
Act: We’ve got a whole calendar full of suggestions!