Sunday, April 11, 2010

Newkirk Chapters 3 & 6

Newkirk proposes that the biggest story in literacy development is not that students fail to learn to read and write (though some do and they deserve special attention and help), but that they soon perceive school literacy as alienating work.

Students develop "basic" skills but millions don't progress from there. As they move through school, studies show, they do less and less reading and writing voluntarily. Any effort to teach analytic or reflective literacy skill is built on the premise of engagement, for analysis is unpacking of our reactions and involvement. (p.129)

What are your thoughts regarding this assertion by Newkirk?


  1. I agree with Newkirk that motivation is extremely important when it comes to student success in literacy. With new technology constantly emerging, we as educators have a wide range of texts that we can expose our students to. Students can read blogs, gamer magazines, sports articles, graphic novels, digital stories, book reviews, etc. They can also use these texts as mentor texts to help them learn to write in different genres. Students need to be given the chance to discover what interests them. When it comes to students who are disengaged, it is especially important that we think outside the box and do everything we can to spark their interests.

  2. There is surely no better "buzz" than to witness a child voraciously reading. Those of us who are considered "readers," probably gained a love of reading early on. For me, it was Ramona Quimby, Age 8 in 4th grade. To this day, I can still vividly recall a passage where Ramona complains about her grandma's faucet never having warm water. (So insignificant, yet it has stayed with me for nearly 3 decades!) I truly cannot remember a time when I didn't love to read. Newkirk's theory that readers "enter a state of engagement" where they are transported to another world is key to spark that lifelong love of reading for pleasure. Being a primary teacher, I feel one of my most important jobs is to instill a passion for literacy. If we can convince our young students that magic tree houses exist and that dogs can dance, even if for a moment, we might be able to create more readers than nonreaders.

  3. Just recently I was confronted with a situation that aligns with Newkirk’s assertion quite well. A fellow teacher was explaining/complaining that his students were not responding well to his recent increase in writing instruction. Of course I was intrigued and asked what the students were instructed to write. Sadly, I was not entirely shocked when I was informed that the writing assignment had been to copy five facts from a section in a textbook-any five facts they wanted as long as they were found within a certain 3 paragraph section which was sandwiched between a bold heading and a bullet point list of, you guessed it, five facts. After the students spent a whopping five minutes reading the text and discerning the information, they were instructed to write. Every student wrote down the pre-bulleted facts. Then they were asked to summarize the facts. They didn’t. This was shocking to the teacher who could not comprehend why the students were less than enthused about being asked to regurgitate information that required very little reflection or analysis in the first place. More importantly, it required very little of them, so that is exactly what he received.

    I genuinely believe, as Newkirk states, that both reading and writing can be attractive to all students. However, I think this notion is only true when the literature and writing become a part of you. As it is with anything else in life, if you are detached from the material you read and write, then it will not be meaningful to you. Part of being engaged is ownership, or at least the possibility of ownership. When my students and I choose the texts for the class, they are chosen because they peek our interest. If we are interested it is usually because we respect the idea that the text can become a part of both our individual and collective entities. As a result, we become invested in our literacy. It is the same with writing. Writing-whether you like your writing or not-becomes a part of you, for better or for worse. You have to own it the way you own your opinion, your ideology, your ethics, and your heart. Anyone who is allowed the space to understand that type of ownership and vulnerability will not disrespect or waste it. Asking students to regurgitate information and read texts that they are not interested in for the sake of meeting a required reading list doesn’t require much respect from the teacher or the student. It definitely doesn’t entice a student to respect the literature or their own literacy-which becomes a skill set when it had the possibility to become a passion.

  4. As someone who teaches at the college level, I found myself nodding along with Newkirk in chapter six as he decried the use of textbooks, particularly the readers that apparently lack an authorial voice or presence, in teaching reading and writing. At one of the institutions where I teach, the department has recently modified its curricula for several courses, most notably those that we can generically call freshmen composition. The courses now encourage more rhetorical analysis and more production of arguments instead of more conventional emphasis on expository modes. However, or despite these changes, instructors have more autonomy in text selection, so instead of using a reader like Gary Colombo et al.'s Rereading America, for which actually I have fairly high regard, I have decided to use Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild (1996) and Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers (2009) as the primary texts in my critical thinking course. In using these texts, I have realized how much I agree with Newkirk's criticisms of readers/anthologies and have seen that students have engaged the thematic topics addressed in the course, namely what it means and takes to be successful, more deeply than they usually have when presented with texts that address similar topics but lack a consistent authorial voice or simply offer a fragment or excerpt of a book. Furthermore, I think that both texts I have selected help students realize that descriptive and narrative writing are valuable and potentially highly effective rhetorical strategies, so hopefully the next generation of editorialists will make arguments a la Gladwell instead of David Brooks :)

  5. I love the textbook critique too, Jason- and along with Callie I find it interesting how teachers can overlook engagement when assigning writing tasks. Newkirk's four dimensions make such logical sense to me: authorship, form, venue, and duration, and isn't duration from the writer's perspective engagement? Being able to grasp and hold your reader's attention from start to finish? And yet, I know I've been guilty of assigning writing tasks that offered students little or no room to even attempt to engage their audience. By doing so, I'm confirming the value of textbook writing and other terribly written materials that don't address their audience's engagement- I'm validating "readerless" writing! ("Unreaderful" writing?) This makes me think back to Chapter 3 and the idea that we can accidentally reinforce errors. If what I expose my students to is bad reading experiences and bad writing opportunities, then how I can expect the opposite? This is yet another Mentor Text moment for me, where I realize that, duh- the solution is simple if I would just take some risks and try it more in my classroom!

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  7. In my classes, I give my students options to write in different styles, much like other teachers do. We have academic writings, where they better have a "thesis" and "body paragraphs" and "support" and don't forget that "DETAIL." Teachers just HATE when students forget detail in their academic writings.

    What is interesting to me, though, is what happens when students are given the option to write in different a journal, diary entry, personal letter, creative writing, or that "low-level" descriptive writing that Newkirk alluded to. I'll give a few prompts...and even give the option to write on a completely different topic if my pre-chosen ideas offend or do not ignite interest. I'll then dutifully show examples of what I am looking for...what it "means" to "write this nonacademic piece." I'll end by asking questions like:

    "Would you worry about having a topic sentence when writing in your diary at home?"

    "No, Professor Manasse."

    "Do you need to worry about your thesis statement when writing a letter to your mom?"

    "HA. Of course not, Professor Manasse! Don't be silly!"

    But time and time again...what do I get when I ask for a piece of nonacademic matter what the genre? prompt? or time of year? I get student after student structuring their writing like they are trying to publish a dissertation. There really is something odd about seeing sentences like "Therefore, I will ask my mom for a new car; in fact, I will do so because it will benefit me socially and emotionally" in a journal entry.

    So, to add to Newkirk's assertion, I would add that not only have we alienated students, we have stunted their ability to write outside of the academically-structured box. Writing is not one size fits all, and not all students will be academics....and I think you most likely want that new car to pick up chicks in...

  8. Aaack! I just wrote about 3 paragraphs and then hit something accidentally and it all disappeared. If anyone knows how to prevent me from doing this again or how to retrieve it please let me know. sigh. I guess I'll start over. . .

    Newkirk gave voice to my continual puzzlement over the separation of reading and writing instruction in elementary school. Writing is rarely used as an essential part of the reading support programs that I've seen. When I read the words "national neurosis" about reading, I almost felt like it was sacriligeous to agree.

    The practice of "free reading" for pleasure has gained validity in elementary schools with slogans like "DEAR" (Drop Everything and Read). But how often do we encourage "free" writing--writing for pleasure, entertainment or to pass the time, without expecting a finished piece?

    So much writing in school focuses on final product and so little value is placed on process. Bulletin boards at any school open house-- K-12-- will showcase the polished pieces, NOT the scribbled brainstorming, scratched-out rough drafts, or peer review comments.

    The one area where I found myself disagreeing with Newkirk was in reference to textbooks, particularly anthologies. I would argue that anthologies-- like mix CD's--have introduced me -to artists,authors and ideas that I otherwise might never have encountered. Anthologies also provide a place for emerging and lesser known authors to be published (including students and faculty).

    I'm no big fan of the textbook industry racket, but I definitely think there can be a balance-- sometimes the textbook really works well. I wondered what is the typical experience for most teachers-- I usually see a pretty good mix of both textbook and original source material.

  9. WOOHOO!
    Finally the freedom to not have to score every piece of student writing! I now will actually feel excited about encouraging my students to write...I HATE being the writing cop! I love the idea of encouraging my students "connect" to their writing the same I encourage them to connect to their reading--this is very exciting.
    As for reading, I whole-heartedly agree that allowing students to choose their own book is essential for engaged reading. I use a "tight/loose" approach...students may choose from the books I provide (usually 6 to 8 choices) and then they are grouped with students who picked the same book (kinda like a book club, but without the wine!). The kids love it and I have noticed a huge peak in reading engagement. They bring me suggestions for books for our next Lit Circle, and even-get this- read books on their own if they didn't get their first pick!
    I am lovin' the Newkirk book!

  10. Echoing Callie’s comments, I have recently encountered a situation where I was shocked by a colleague’s structure of writing and lack of concern for student engagement. The colleague and I were discussing the value of continuing to use a particular text that students repeatedly and consistently say they “hate” because it doesn’t interest them. They hate it so much that many students simply refuse to engage (and my students are not rebels). I brought up my concerns about forcing students to read and then write about something they tell me does not apply to their lives; my colleague replied with, “I don’t really care if they like it or not, they need to learn it and that’s that.” That comment still makes me cringe; it also makes me very sad for those students. Using Newkirk’s argument from chapter 6, if we remove the pleasure from instruction for whatever reason, we are willfully participating in “a misreading of human motivation, human nature.”

    It just doesn’t make sense to me. I wouldn’t teach what I do if I hated it, what makes anyone think that students will engage if they hate it?
    I wholeheartedly agree with Newkirk that students see themselves not only as consumers, but also as producers. I believe that the majority of my students want to learn in my class; but they also believe they should have some choice (control) over their learning. I agree; my colleague doesn’t. They chose what to produce (write) based on what interests them. The students at my school know the basics, as Newkirk puts it, but in an assignment that bores them, there is no desire to hone those skills by exploring with writing. We don’t buy products we don’t need or don’t interest us; why do we expect differently from our students when it comes to writing?

  11. As I was reading these chapters, I wasn’t thinking so much about my own students, as I was thinking about myself as a student. I developed a love for reading in 2nd grade over the Baby-sitter’s Little Sister Series. Since those days, I have never stopped reading. However, my love for reading still revolves around books that have as much academic content as the beloved Baby-sitter’s Club books.
    When I was young, I was always a good student, but for whatever reason, I was “that kid” that refused to read the required reading books for any class--ever. That is, until Mrs. Dunlap in my 10th grade AP English class gave us a choice in the novels we read. Suddenly, I became engaged in the assignments as opposed to just knowing enough about the book to get an A. I still struggle with reading required books, particularly textbooks, but clearly as an adult I am able to force myself to put down Dexter and pick up Words Their Way (sigh).
    Fortunately, I have used my own experiences as a reader (remarkably parallel to Newkirk’s assertions) when teaching my 2nd graders reading skills combined with a passion for reading. I agree with Casey’s comment that primary teachers must instill a passion for reading, helping them get lost in a world where children live in a boxcar, wizards learn witchcraft, and vampires fall in love with non-vampires. However, they must also learn how to read through informational text, possibly of no interest to them, skillfully as well.

  12. On the scale of literacy, Reading has definitely been weighted more heavily that Writing. As a teacher, it is easy to agree with Newkirk's premise that Writing is the "Neglected R" in schools. In elementary school, teachers block out hours of curriculum time for Reading Instruction and try to squeeze in Writing. Newkirk states "schools shortchange the teaching and practice of writing" while the "anxiety about Reading is our national neurosis". Shouldn't we balance the hour or reading instruction with an hour of writing instruction? Without commiting time and expertise to writing instruction, Newkirks asks, has writing been reduced to "error correction" by teachers or "Language Cops" who are looking for errors? That would explain that assumption that teaching literature requires advanced training while writing can be assigned to inexperienced grad students. We all know better! I find that teaching writing is the most challenging part of my job, but by far, the most rewarding!
    As important as the balance of reading and writing in literacy is the idea that there is joy in reading a book that you just can't put down until you finish the last page or the story that was written so eloquently that you cry or chuckle. I find this true in my classroom when my students proudly share a story they wrote, find an author's technique in their reading, or craft a story using techniques from a mentor text. Students need to be exposed to and engaged with "good writing" through reading mentor texts. Then they can experiment with words and create a piece of writing that they can be proud to share. Sadly, Newkirk states that as the students grow older, they read and write less on their own. It attributes this, in part, to the overuse of textbooks (which most teachers are required to use). Don't we all remember drudging through many of those? "It's high time to rewrite this sad narrative, to believe that literacy can be made attractive to all students, that is holds the possibility of engagement and pleasure." That is our challenge!

  13. Will post as soon as I can. My hard drive on my MacBook just crashed.

  14. Growing up I can honestly say that I was an avid rebellious reader. I made it a point to sneak anything and everything that someone else deemed forbidden, off-limits or too "adultish". By third grade I had already worn quite a pathway down traveling up and down the isles of very small children's section in our local library. Even Nancy Drew, and her fiesty courageous self, became repetitive, predictable and down-right boring.

    I remember distinctly wandering through the adult section of the library one day out of shear boredom when a book by Danielle Steel caught my eyes. I took it out without preamble and sat down in the isle to read. By the time the first chapter was through I had met characters that were complex, lusty, and best of all- cussing up a storm when they were passionate or angry. I was enthralled.

    The characters were so real to me that I found myself glancing around nervously to see if anyone else had stumbled upon the greatness of this author and would want to fight me for rights to it. Page after glorious page there were scenes that I may have not been able to fully comprehend but man was I devoted to devouring the written word. I was engaged.

    It wasn't until the library doors were closing and I rushed the book up to the front desk to check out, that I was met with the reality of my chronological age. I still remember the steely disapproving eyes of the balding man that declared that this was an "inappropriate" book for someone my age and I shouldn't be reading things like this- "Did my mother know about this?"

  15. I remember flying past emotions of confusion, shame and right into absolute indignation. Although he didn't allow me to check out that one isolated book- it became my mission to sneak in day after day to read that book hidden in the dark recesses of the library. Eventually, I became bolder and found ways to cover up the jackets of the books I would steal off the shelf and hide behind my binder for homework. By the end of fifth grade I had a vast knowledge base of sex, drugs and rock n' roll.

    When my upper elementary teachers gushed about my reading test scores and reading levels- what I didn't have the words to articulate then- but I do know- is that I was bored to tears with the stupid stories and characters that they kept introducing to me in school but that the sheer amount of rebellious recreational reading I did on my own was a critical foundation to support my academic reading in school. My vocabulary skyrocketed simply because I choose to spend all my time reading. My writing was exceptional for elementary standards- because I saw the printed word in complex ways all the time. I did not just "read"- I was a "reader" consumed by the written word.

    If you were to walk into my classroom tomorrow morning you will see a roomful of fourth graders who argue over books, fight for the right to have it "next", sneak up to five or six complex chapter books inside their desk-hoping no one will notice that three is the limit- often from the teen section in Borders and definitely not predictable, boring texts whose lives don't mirror the ones that they endure daily. I have twenty-eight boys and eight girls who devour the written word this year. I spend a fortune on my classroom library every month. I make sure our books reflect real life which is messy and complex- includes deep rich conflicts that happen in real life- and sometimes a cuss word is thrown in there if the character is really, really upset. After all, isn't that what happens in real life?

  16. Parents are amazed that their children willfully spend their free time reading books now- they can't seem to figure out what happened to them- and why they are always asking to go to this place called Borders? My parents are witnessing the beauty of rebellious readers at work. I've passed on my passion for reading each year to a new generation and I hope like hell that one day they recognize this empowerment and pass it on to their own kids too.

    Newkirk's assertion reminds me that my goal as an educator is to create life-long passionate learners- thereby dispelling the myth that our youth- especially our African-American and Latino youth- are not engaged in school. In my opinion, as educators "we" need to give them real, honest reasons and ways to be engaged.

    I want my students to rebel against this current system- and exceed expectations- beat the norms and every roadblock put in their way. I'm hoping to do this one passionate, consuming rebellious reader/ writer at a time.

  17. In reading Newkirk, I was struck by the importance of giving relevant reading to the students. I think back on the few class novels that the students have read this year. As opposed to the anthology, students would beg to read one more chapter. Groans would ripple through the room when we had to stop for lunch. I agree with Newkirk that, "most readers know that drive to the last page, the way they smell the end, and drop everything to get there." For months, most class discussions revolved around Island of the Blue Dolphins and what they might do if they were the main character stuck on a deserted island. As opposed to a PC textbook, the students and I grappled with whether or not it was right to kill the wild dogs.

    Good, meaningful reading, in turn, led to important writing. Students connected to the text and shared personal details of when they had overcome a hardship or been afraid. Many teachers, however, have not been taught to teach writing. State testing pressure often leads teachers to address the "testable" side of writing (grammar and punctuation). Without the proper tools to teach writing, educators can turn into the grammar police and thus the "vicious circle revolving around the no. 2 pencil" continues.

    I cringed when I read that ETS is promoting a program to digitally "read papers" and give it a score based on word choice and sentence patterns. Writing instruction and grading should not be automatized, without the consideration for reader engagement. The main reason I did so well on short answer tests in high school was that I could add enough "successful essay" words to convince the reader that I knew what I was talking about.

    I want all students to be engaged in their reading and writing. Instead of an automated system where teachers act as "the stern unforgiving father" in writing instruction, I believe in the value of quality meaningful literature in which the teacher and student as partners in the writing process.

  18. What with the all important tests every spring, we as teachers should really be using our time more wisely. We need to have opening the textbooks and being busy a priority over just sitting and reading silently. Busy doing what you say? Does it really matter? I say being busy is always much better than just sitting their and reading. Read-aloud? Definitely out of the question. Better to spend your time teaching the new "reading strategies" your district has just adopted. You don't want kids just sitting their and looking at words. We need to be teaching. That is our job! Why bother having a kid coming to school and just read?. It seems so old fashioned doesn't it? We are in the 21st century- new technology. No time to have kids just sitting and reading their favorite book. What's the learning in that?

  19. As I read Newkirk, the word 'sustained' grabbed my attention. (E.g. 119) Perhaps it's because I can't imagine sustaining much these days, what seems to be an endless list of things to do, get through, accomplish, in my teacher hat and all the others. Do this, now that, next that, usw. That lovely sense of slowed-down time, the time to read and savor, the time to browse in a library (or book store) the time to lean your feet up against the wall and Why does my 8-year-old reading self feel so far away, so distant? Where did she go? What becomes of students who never develop that reading mind?
    I see her echoed throughout these blogs, and agree, with Newkirk and Birkerts (a Luddite hero of mine, I'll confess) that in the measured world of mini- and micro-skills, of measurable "abilities," educational institutions have lost the forest for the proverbial trees. As agents of those institutions, we do have choices.
    Engagement in a world, within a textual fictive world, was articulated by Louse Rosenblatt back in 1949, but often to we encourage or allow our students to choose and visit those worlds? To let them unfold, and learn ow to read to access those unfolding worlds? How often -if ever-do we help them create those worlds? Or is that the draw of video games and avatars and texting, multiple selves/faces/masks? So instant, so effortless, so...passive, even when interactive. In student fiction writing all I see is "to be continued..." and then characters abandoned, up on the shelves of so many mental closets...where's the stamina to push them through a life? To develop a plot, ordinary conflicts to push a three-dimensional character? A writer's imagination?
    As a youngun' I loved Harriet the Spy, her fiction/nonfiction world of observing and recording and sneaking and opining, the first urban blog, albeit a private one, a reader/writer engaged with the world, with and within the lives of others, a marker for us as readers to go out, as if, and observe, and write. Now there's Facebook and texting and sexting and all that, a whole new world of Speech Acts, but are they sustained? Do they leave us vulnerable to fragile relationships? Do they teach relationship or posing? The NYT today had a piece ("Antisocial Networking," I'll post the link below...on just that. (As well as a piece on the narcissistic collection of data on every aspect of our lives) and I wonder how much of the real skills and pleasures of sustained reading and writing are precisely those we cannot measure. The state of reading (121) itself, a state of mind, may be what's a stake.

  20. Here's the link to the NYT piece:

  21. I wanted to add to what I said at one this morning when, after a long battle with technology, I triumphed in finally figuring out how to blog. In my twisted delirium, my sarcastic voice spewed from the keyboard. Now, with the sun setting and the glare no longer blinding the monitor or me, I wanted to write some other thoughts and ideas. First, I think that teaching all subjects, not just writing or reading, have become increasingly challenging due to a number reasons. One in particular, is that students no longer blindly listen to what we teacher have to say. If they don't see the validity in a lesson or are not connected to it somehow, it can be difficult for a student to be engaged or to get them to buy-in. Reading and writing is an extension of this idea. When students work with text, especially (I've noticed)ones made for "intervention," The success rate seems to plummet. The text is artificial, often feeling out of touch and disconnected with that student's world. To get kids to read as they get older, especially boys, we need to be connecting them to authentic writing, pieces that have a voice from someone who wrote from the heart, not from the paycheck. The last thing we should be doing with students who don't read is letting their limited exposure to text be that of the artificial kind. For my boys in my class it includes a lot of blood, guts, glory, and an occasional flatulent. But that's o.k. if that's what gets them to read and write.

    The other idea I wanted to express is the value of silent reading. It's disturbing to me that many districts and schools frown upon students sitting and just reading. They seem to feel it is not a good use of time in the classroom. That couldn't be any further from the truth. Many of my students do not have a quiet place to read at home. For some, the school is the only place they have that opportunity. Taking away their last vestige of reading hope by taking away silent reading can be perilous to a struggling reader. How can they learn those ever-so-important literacy skills that are compulsory for being a successful student if they have never been given a chance to fall in love with words. In relationships, passion comes before the commitment. Literacy is no different. If there is no passion between a student and words how can we ever expect a commitment to try to learn those literary skills.

    I'm not trying to oversimplify why students start to drift away from text: There are a number of reasons, many out of our hands. But having authentic text and giving the students a chance to bond with that text before we ask of a commitment to the strategies is something we as educators have the power to control.

  22. This first chapter caught my attention with a quote from Don Graves, "our anxiety about reading is a national neurosis." Wow, that's powerful and so true. What is our obession with reading? Yeah, it is highly important to be a great reader, but not at the expensive of other areas of education. I always wondered why there was such an emphasis on reading during my credential program and now I feel like I know how that started. It would have been great to be exposed to some of Graves think during this time. Now it is coming all after the fact, but better late than never. To be honest I had one class about writing in my credential program. This I can say is far from enough. Its like Newkirk said in chapter 3 "writing is a minor part of the equation." "It is an after thought." I think we can all agree that we are working hard to change this in our own classrooms.

  23. There are so many interesting and insightful comments here--which in my mind makes reading the book even more compelling, not for what Newkirk has to say, but for what you are all saying in response to him.

    When I think of issues of parity between reading and writing, I am most concerned for both the lack of time devoted to and the lack of pleasure associated with writing. Writing IS complex--in my opinion, that is its beauty. You can't test writing with bubbled in answers and scoring actual writing is wonderfully messy and subjective, even with rubrics and other scoring guides.

    Both Judy and Mark M brought up interesting ideas about unstructured writing or "free" writing. In Mark's comments I wonder if students have learned that when they turn unstructured writing in to a teacher they need to make it look and sound like "school writing" since it is an assignment. I know I have had professors who say they want my honest opinion or feedback, but really they were looking for something else. Students have a lot of practice in "being schooled." I also wonder how many students have opportunities in school for sustained writing just for the sheer pleasure of it. It takes practice, in my experience, for students to figure out how to write without a prompt or assignment for their own pleasure and exploration--and that they may or may not share with anyone at all.

    Thanks, Mark D for adding to your comments, you bring up so many good points about time and space for what we value within the school day. Home isn't always a place that works for reading, writing, and other schoolwork. There are so many assumptions about what home is--and what parents "should" do with regards to education that doesn't take into consideration the realities of the lives of our students.

    Can't wait to dive into the next chapters--and hear what you are all thinking about them!

  24. MacBook is finally humming along so I'll throw in a few thoughts.

    I was yelling "Yes! Yes!" as I read Newkirk's argument against the anthology textbooks we are forced to use (particularly at a district like mine that is "P.I." - program improvement). Teaching the textbook last year for the first time, I was not as familiar with the stories as I am now, but I immediately recognized that the textbook selected only a few entries from "Dear Mr. Henshaw." Yet, we had a complete class set of the novel itself. I opted to take the time to read the entire book and while it's not particularly challenging, it led to several interesting conversations in my class about divorced parents and how painful it is to have one parent choose a different spouse, as the father does in the book.

    I'm very fortunate to work at an elementary school where the principal schedules a 45-minute period every day for "Extended Learning Time" when some students are in ELD. My fifth grade team uses our Extended time to read a variety of novels and I have found myself gravitating toward historical fiction that dovetails with our history, but also explores social justice issues. I used "Number the Stars" for the first time this year and while they are fifth graders and I was selective about what I taught about the Holocaust, my students were very engaged in the book. Now I'm reading "The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas" to them.

    A couple of reflections on other posts: I am impressed with Kane's much-coveted classroom library. I taught middle school for many years and I've been reminded often that a 10-year-old is not able to handle the things a 12 or 13-year-old can. As a result, I think I've been buying "safe" selections for the classroom library, and some of my advanced readers are turned off by them. Thanks, Kane - I'm heading to the teen section of the book store.

  25. As I started my first year teaching, I approached writing with as much trepidation as my students did. My credential program had completely excluded "how to teach writing". I learned at least 50-100 strategies about teaching reading but never once was writing approached...and now I was suppose to know what to do. I remember keeping our writing time to barely 30 minutes and LOVED the days when it was just skipped over because of more important things. It was not only the neglected "r" it was the forgotten one.

    I loved how Newkirk stated, as others have pointed out, that students need to be consumers and producers. I believe that by showing our students the reading/writing connection, they will not only learn that they can successfully accomplish both, but they actually enjoy doing it. Many teachers avoid longer writing periods as I did, due to the lack of engagement. Starting and completing those sustained periods of writing seemed impossible, but I have found that this year, due to making that reading/writing connection, I can actually start my 4th graders writing at 9:00 and we will be frantically putting our writing away at 10:35, after we realize that we are 5 minutes late to recess. This year we are celebrating the beauty of our language and all the it can accomplish and we are enjoying it! My students are learning that they can create reactions and emotions from their readers with their writing.

    I completely agree that as teachers we need to move away from being "error cops". Some of my colleagues have been so focused on correcting errors that their students are afraid to try anything new because they know it will result in more red pen. I have found that I have not had to be as much of an "error cop" this year. By showing my students the connection between reading and writing, my students have been studying how punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence or can control how a reader reads a story as we read in class. My favorite moments are when a student comes to me and says, "Ms. Chance I love how this sounds." This leads into a conversation about why do you like it? How did the author create that feeling? They are writing down sentences they liked in their writing notebooks and using then to guide their own writing. Even better, they are learning not to be afraid to try something that they saw...even if they are not quite sure how to use it. I have learned to use these errors not so much as "I caught you" or "look what you did wrong", but more as a celebration of "look what you tried" and showing how they can use it correctly.