PUSD Writing Project - Volume 1 Issue 21 - February 8, 2016

Big image

Dear Trailblazers

This month the district celebrates African-American History Month.

In her TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, Nigerian author & activist, Chimanada Ngozi Adichie talks about how as a young child she would write "exactly the kind of stories that I was reading." Those stories contained children that were white and blue-eyed, ate apples, and drank ginger beer because the stories she had available to her came from Great Britain. Though I have never visited Nigeria, I didn't need Adichie's confirmation that this was not typical of what she saw in her neighborhood.

As teachers of writing, we have the responsibility to nurture the stories of our students and expose them to diverse stories with diverse characters written by diverse authors. However, have we looked at our classroom libraries lately? Do we have diverse stories written by diverse authors for children to read and discover themselves? Do they see authors of color when we do an author study? Do they even know that they can grow up to become an author and tell their stories for others to read?

This year, the Newbery committee recognized The Last Stop on Market Street with the gold medal. This was the first time a book written by a Latino author received the award. To make further history, the book's African-American illustrator took home a Caldecott Honor Medal and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Medal. Voices of Freedom by the African-American writing team of author, Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator, Ekua Holmes won a Sibert Honor Medal for best informational text and two illustrator awards including a Caldecott Honor Medal. All in all the ALA Youth Media Awards , which includes 19 award categories, including the Newbery and Caldecott Awards, recognized over 22 authors and illustrators of color. (Note some of the books won in more than one category but for this purpose were only counted once.) This is a significant improvement from the years when the majority of winners were white. However, we still have a long way to go.

If you have looked at your classroom library and realized it is significantly lacking in diversity, you are not alone. In 2013 the Cooperative Children's Book Center did a survey of the 3600 children's books in print that year. Only 7.5% of those books featured characters of color. The National Council of Teachers of English has created a Position Statement/Resolution on the Need for Diverse Books. You can read it here. The We Need Diverse Books organizers continue to advocate along with other individuals and organizations for diverse books and for publishing to obtain more books from authors of color.

As you celebrate African American History with your students, we encourage you to think about how you can avoid the danger of the single story. Do we only focus on the stories of slavery and civil rights? Or do we share widely the rich history of African Americans? Do the books we share accurately depict both in text and illustrations the stories of the lives of African Americans?

Maybe, just maybe, if we inspire our culturally and racially diverse students to write their stories now, then when they grow up they will believe they can still write their stories for others to read.

Alyson & Jamie

Writing Workshop February Goals

  • To demonstrate your own writing and process as a writer -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- during your minilessons and conferences.
  • To build students' stamina and volume as writers.

Shout Outs

Check out what's happening in workshops across PUSD! Keep sending us photos from your classrooms and schools to share with our community each week.


Ricki Ginsberg's This is my Anti-Lexile, Anti-Reading Level Post

Ricki Ginsberg, an UConn doctoral student in Children's and Young Adult Literature, shares the dangers of relying on lexiles and reading levels in her well thought out post.

SLJ Walking and Talking with....M.T. Anderson

Author, Steve Sheinkin interviews fellow author, M.T. Anderson about narrative nonfiction writing.

Portable Teacher: Getting at the Heart

High School English teacher, Lee Ann Spillane, has a timely writing exercise in her Getting at the Heart blog post to help students develop greater persuasive/argument writing skills. See the link below for directions for the activity.

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2016 Preview

Check out the list of books from the National Association of Teachers of Social Studies.

Authentic Writing Opportunity - Two Writing Teacher's Slice of Life Challenge

Two Writing Teachers' Blog is a favorite of place to go for inspiration on living the Writing Workshop life. One of our goals for February is "to demonstrate our own writing and writing as a process". Two years ago, I challenged myself (Alyson) to join in the March Slice of Life Writing Challenge. It was a fabulous opportunity to grow as a writer and to push myself to write daily. Below are the sign-ups for the Slice of Life Challenge and the Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge. I will be signing up for this year's challenge and hope that a few of you might consider joining in as well. Let me know if you are joining in?

Websites & Blogs Worth Following

Columbia University's Teachers College Reading & Writing Project has a collection of classroom videos on Vimeo that take you inside reading and writing workshops at various grade levels. Check them out here:


Important Dates - Mark Your Calendars!!!


Join us for our FINAL 2015-2016 Trailblazer Writing Lab for the 2015-16 school year. More information to come soon regarding location and specific goals.

April 18, 2016 ~ Writing Lab #4: Student Work & Resource Share

WRITING UNIT PLANNING RELEASE TIME (see calendar invite for details)

February 8, 2016 ~ Wilson & McKinley Grades 6-8 (@ McKinley Room 109)

February 16, 2016 ~ McKinley Grade 3

February 17, 2016 ~ Norma Coombs Grades 1, 2, 4, 5

Note: If you don't see your school or grade level listed, we're likely still working out the details.