Tag Archives: English Journal

Sneak Preview of May EJ: Textual Revolution: Reading and Writing the Word and the World

The following post is by Julie Gorlewski and David Gorlewski, NCTE members and editors of the English Journal.

Words matter. Oral traditions of Indigenous peo­ples sustain connections to land, cultural traditions, and historical accounts. Written language in the Declaration of Independence set in motion colonial liberation from England. And digital speech has the capacity to create swift social movements across vast distances.

Laws are written in words. Justice and op­pression are reinforced through language; words inspire hope and cause despair. Many ideas are born in and nurtured through language. Words offer a means of sharing dreams. Words also transmit ha­tred and incite violence. Words can spread love and foment malevolence. Words can bridge differences and build walls.

English teachers work in the world of words. Our practice involves immersing learners in lan­guage and ensuring that they are buoyed by pow­erful texts. We hope to teach them to consume and produce words, and to understand reading and writing are as natural and necessary as breathing. But words are not air; people can survive without exercising the power of language. And danger exists in such defenseless survival. Societies that cede the power of words to leaders risk both integrity and liberty. When “alternative facts” drive policy deci­sions, the public suffers. The path toward justice recedes. Words become weapons of domination.

Educators have the capacity to teach language as a tool of transformation. Poets are protesters. Authors reveal dystopian and utopian possibilities through literature. Journalists are soldiers in service of truth. In our classrooms, students can be poets, authors, and journalists. We can teach them to dis­cover the multiple meanings in texts and to contest propaganda with truths. Teachers can model reflec­tive, critical consumption of texts, as well as coura­geous production of essential dissent.

In this issue, authors explore how textual rev­olutions occur within and stretch beyond classroom walls. They investigate how texts have evolved and reflect on how this evolution influences how learn­ers experience language as an instrument of su­premacy or resistance.

Our learners are tomorrow’s leaders. They will invent textual applications beyond our imag­ination, but only if we teach them that they can. They will use words to challenge inequities and advocate for justice, but only if they learn to ex­ercise the power of language. As English teachers, we are charged to cultivate skills and foster dispo­sitions. Learners deserve the capacity and the desire to use language as a means of personal enlighten­ment and social transformation. We can embrace the evolution of discourse and teach students to re­flect intentionally on how language affects human­ity. Reflection, coupled with evolution, can lead to revolutionary textual practices, uses of words that can change the world.

Language matters to us, and it matters to our students. If we do our work well, today’s learners will know that words are a matter of life and death.

JulieGorlewskiJulie Gorlewski is chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Commonwealth University.

DavidGorlewskiDavid Gorlewski works with preservice and practicing teachers and conducts research on literacy and professional dispositions.  Both are former English teachers and members of NCTE, Julie since 2004 and David since 2001.


Poetry and English Journal

During National Poetry Month, we will be posting poems that originally ran in one of the ten journals published by NCTE. This poem “Poetry Out Loud” by Jonathan S. Loper comes from English Journal:

Poetry Out Loud
(for Nicole Louw, 2015 Poetry Out Loud Alabama Champion)

A skinny Puerto Rican boy,
proud of his country (ashamed of his country),
confidently performs the naked buttocks of William
Carlos Williams’s “Danse Russe,”
looks in his mirror, and finds
a skinny Puerto Rican poet.
An imaginative South African American girl from
Alabama agrees (but disagrees) with a first-generation
American immigrant who remarks—sharing
his corrupted vision of politicians, businessmen,
and lovers—that Alabama is the most racist
place on earth. She voices Tony Hoagland’s
ageless speaker: “This is not a test / and everybody passes.”
The Puerto Rican boy and South African Alabamian girl
redefine American, finding a shared language to teach each other
a new way to speak—to discover on stage the voices
of poems
and Puerto Rico
and Alabama—
and unfurl in the rhythms of
poetry out loud.

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Collaboration, Innovation, and Contextualization: Enduring Themes in an Era of Digital Literacy

This post, written by members Julie Gorlewski and David Gorlewski, is a reprint of “From the Editors” from the January 2017 English Journal.

ejjan17coverOne of the benefits of editing English Journal is that we are entrusted with bound copies of every issue ever printed. These journals, displayed in shelves in the journal office, remind us of the constancy and the relentless change that marks our field. Times have changed; that is certain. In some ways, contemporary classrooms would be unrecognizable to educators teaching English in 1911, when the journal was established. And yet many of the debates and challenges prevalent in classrooms 100 years ago remain relevant today. Our work still centers on learners, teacher, and texts.

This remarkable collection of articles, curated by Suzanne Miller and David Bruce, attests to the complexity of this work as well as our need to adapt and evolve even as we sustain our principles and vision. Throughout this issue, the guest editors and authors remind us that we consume and produce various kinds of media on a daily basis.
Acts of consumption and production are mutually influential; what we consume affects what (and how) we produce, and what we produce affects what (and how) we consume. Moreover, contributors inspire us to extend our own learning in order to model for students the importance of stretching past comfortable practices and materials.

As we read and thought about the articles, with a century’s worth of EJ infusing the air that we breathed, three themes emerged. These themes reflect the intersections of innovation and tradition, and are as present in the bound journals as they are in the 21st century literacies emphasized in this issue. The first theme is collaboration. Teachers and students thrive in environments when collaborative opportunities abound. Multimodal literacies are particularly well-suited for students and teachers to become partnered in the learning process, and for teachers to experience the joys and frustrations of exploring new media and technologies. The second theme, innovation, is generally associated with bold new initiatives. While such initiatives are seductive, it is instructive to note that the word “innovation” is not defined strictly as a product; it is also a process – a process that builds upon what already exists. The third theme we noted is contextualization. Now, as always, the contexts in which teaching and learning occurs are critical. As our lives, inside and outside of the classroom, become increasingly digital, we must maintain our focus on learners and teachers as embodied human and social creatures.

We deeply appreciate the generosity of Suzanne Miller and David Bruce in developing this special issue. We trust that readers will be inspired, exhilarated, and revitalized by the ideas shared throughout. Educators who embrace the principles of collaboration, innovation, and contextualization flourished in 1911 and, with luck, will be flourishing still in 3011.

JulieGorlewskiJulie Gorlewski is chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Commonwealth University.



DavidGorlewskiDavid Gorlewski works with preservice and practicing teachers and conducts research on professional dispositions. Both are former secondary English teachers and members of NCTE.

EJ September Sneak Preview: Native Feminist Texts

The following post is by Julie Gorlewski and David Gorlewski, NCTE members and editors of the English Journal.

EJCoverPhoto[F]or Native women there is no one definition of Native feminism; rather, there are multiple definitions and layers of what it means to do Native feminist analysis. However, as Native feminists, our dreams and goals overlap; we desire to open up spaces where generations of colonialism have silenced Native peoples about the status of their women and about the intersections of power and domination that have also shaped Native nations and gender relations.

—Mishuana R. Goeman and Jennifer Nez Denetdale, “Native Feminisms: Legacies, Interventions, and Indigenous Sovereignties”

The work of education is both global and local. To do the work, then, is to examine our practice, our relationships, and ourselves from various perspectives. Educators are challenged to think about the tapestries of our classrooms through countless lenses, examining patterns that reveal themselves in myriad contexts. We can, therefore, explore this metaphor by considering our classroom fabrics from different perspectives. Spread the tapestry of your class and imagine seeing it from a step stool, then a rooftop, and then a helicopter. Imagine that tapestry bordered by the tapestries of other classrooms, until the whole becomes visible from space. Now envision how the tapestry might look close up, if you gazed on it while resting on your hands and knees. Next lie flat and investigate the threads, and the frays of the threads, to see what they reveal. The tapestries of our classrooms are woven from our daily interactions; they are sensitive to heat, light, and tension. They can warm and protect us, and sometimes they can smother us.

Teachers are always toggling among such perspectives, getting to know our learners close up, one on one, as well as who they are when interacting in larger communities. We understand the need for flexibility as well as the benefits of loose and tight stitches. We know that strength comes from interconnectedness, and that when beauty is hard to see we need to first examine the limitations of our own vision.

When guest coeditors Eve Tuck and Karyn Recollet suggested an issue of EJ focused on Native feminist texts, we were delighted and inspired—delighted by the possibility of reflecting on these important aspects of secondary English education and inspired by the opportunity to extend (and share) our knowledge in these areas. Echoing the concepts that frame it, this issue presents particular perspectives on texts and the experiences that generated them, as well as the responses they engender. Texts are defined broadly, as film, poetry, treaties, and architecture. Texts are co-created and communally critiqued. And texts are oral, written, recorded, portrayed, and played.

We hope that you will love this issue as much as we do, and that you will read and reread it in ways that expand and contract the aperture of your practice. Analyze microscopically and gaze telescopically. As you begin this academic year, the themes in this issue may help you contemplate the tapestry of your classroom from unexpected perspectives that have been ignored by, or erased from, historically dominant viewpoints. As Goeman and Denetdale note in the epigraph to this editorial, Indigenous women are both disparate and common. They represent particular, local struggles that can teach us about and lead us toward global liberation. So when the work of teaching makes you feel like you’re hanging on by a thread, inspect that thread to see what it might teach you. We wish you the courage to follow where it might lead.

JulieGorlewskiJulie Gorlewski is chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Commonwealth University.




DavidGorlewskiDavid Gorlewski works with preservice and practicing teachers and conducts research on literacy and professional dispositions.  Both are former English teachers and members of NCTE, Julie since 2004 and David since 2001.



Work Cited

Goeman, Mishuana R., and Jennifer Nez Denetdale. “Native Feminisms: Legacies, Interventions, and Indigenous Sovereignties.” Wicazo Sa Review 24.2 (2009): 9–13. Print.

Reinterpreting the CCSS

Light bulb changing from old to new.What might happen if educators took interpretation of the Common Core State Standards into their own hands?

That is the question explored in an article entitled “Rewriting the Common Core State Standards for Tomorrow’s Literacies” by Jessica Van Cleave and Sarah Bridges-Rhoads in the latest issue of English Journal.

Do check out the full article, but here are some excerpts:

“We want to emphasize that the standards movement is not just a narrative thrust upon educators from above but also is a narrative that can and must be rewritten each day in our classrooms.”

The authors explain that the same attitudes we ask our students to adopt in approaching texts apply with the Common Core:

“When we understand language as partial, never neutral, and contextually dependent, we can ask alternative questions that invite collaborative explorations of the CCSS rather than questions that incite disagreements over its meaning . . . . We suggest that having conversations [with colleagues] guided by the question, ‘What if we read the CCSS as . . .?’ allows the CCSS to remain relevant to any cultural, historical, or technological movement in which it is put to work . . . .The shift from seeking the truth to continuously producing truth in conjunction with others, then, invites constant re-imagining of the CCSS.”

This approach makes it possible to see what some consider an outdated emphasis on the teaching of Shakespeare as an opportunity instead to explore via technology the many ways Shakespeare “circulates in the multiple environments in which we work and live.”

And while it appears the CCSS prioritize print-based text, the authors suggest “What if we read text as print-based text and digital text and multimedia text and  . . .  including a list of ands every time we encounter the word text in the CCSS renders the standards unfinished and allows them to remain relevant regardless of the historical moment.”

The point behind this shift in approach, the authors argue, is that “changing conversations about the CCSS away from battles between the right and wrong way to read them and towards questions of what possible readings we might enact, presents an opportunity to shift how the history of the CCSS progresses from here.”