Live Blogging #NCTE16 in Atlanta

Saturday, November 19, 2016

As a way of sharing good stuff from the national conference with folks back home, I’d like to set up a bit of a live blog here that I hope to update after each session or two. Please keep the page up and refresh it from time to time. Highlight stuff, make comments, share widely.

I’ll have separate posts for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Just going to write some reflections on Sunday because we’re presenting!

4:15 p.m. Improv Out: Using Drama to Engage Students and Capture Emotions on the Page

Description: Experience the power of improv to spark creative and critical skills in your students’ writing. Occasionally, all students have challenges with the page, and teachers have difficulty scaffolding their efforts. Our workshop employs the joy and rigor of improv to guide teachers through the writing process in a fresh way.

This was a fun session but we were doing improv exercises the whole time so I couldn’t blog about it. Plus, I kept checking the score of the Michigan-Indiana game, which was getting a little too close for comfort.

I think I will use this in gearing up for Reader’s Theater. Also, to make sense of some of the dramatic works we read.

2:45 p.m. Rethinking Literacy Education in the Age Of Mass Incarceration: Literacy Educators and The Dismantling Of The School-To-Prison Pipeline

Description: This session examines preventative, responsive, and restorative literacy learning strategies for dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. Panelists will offer critical ideas for teaching literacy in ways that promise to transform the lived experiences of a diverse range of learners prior to, during, and post detention.

Deborah Appleman, Jamal Cooks, David E. Kirkland, sj Miller speaking

Deborah Appleman, Carleton College

I want my words to… poem: Incarcerated students sharing their writings. Some intense, some funny, some full of laughter and life.

Six words poem: Six words? For this much pain?

Jamal Cooks, Professor at San Francisco State University

I need you to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I come down a day or so early to work with graduate students or high school students.

Prisons are built to hold students with low literacy skills. This is by design. Part of what we need to be able to do. We should have a particular commitment; what does that look like? Not as a silver bullet, but as one way of moving forward.

In this work, it’s kind of on the fly. Maybe something went wrong, maybe they had a bad visit with their parent, maybe their girlfriend is pregnant.

Y’all need to stop f-ing around. How many strikes do you get? Three strikes. You’re going to have one way in and no way out.

Setting goals. Working backward from their dreams. These are the things that are going to help you to succeed.

Dr. David Kirkland, New York University

I’m using this photo finally, Dr. Kirkland (requested it a few months ago!)

The relationship between literacy and incarceration. Schools don’t let me think how I want to think, don’t let me feel how I want to feel.

What is material incarceration? What is the physical incarceration that ensues? What is mental incarceration?

  • From feelings of being devalued to feelings of violence
  • From failing to fatalistic
  • From disadvantaged to depressed
  • From disempowered to disengaged

Current literacy systems deal with symptoms. They won’t learn from us because they’re hungry, they’re hurting. Too often school cultures are dysfunctional. Too often school systems mirror prison.

Can’t just work on dismantling some pipeline…when there is no pipeline. School is prison. Barriers and boundaries that get articulated and reinforced.

How might we be able to construct more hopeful conversation: school to opportunity pipeline. Policing, profiling of our students, families, community members.

We need to reframe the dialogue. Stop praising deficit models in education.

Instead of providing more boxes…

…let’s tear down fences.

Let’s ask: Instead of disengaged writers, how are we disengaging readers?

What are the “bubbles” we’re giving these students? Who are living under carceral systems. We need restorative practices, healing practices.

These students marginalized, criminalized, pathologized. They have been tracked since kindergarten.

2:23 p.m. From Comment to Conversation: Multimodal, Collaborative Feedback in the Writing Process (Continued)— Secondary

Deficit models of working with writers can work against growth mindset.

We want to avoid these two models of feedback:

Students from the FSU Writing Center come in to help her high school students. They FSU students were taken aback when she suggested that they would write comments directly on student work. We never touch the student’s papers. The way the Writing Center does it, the student comes in and elicits feedback. Then they read the paper all the way through. A lot of time, students are able to hear the “clunks” just reading it outloud. With the right guidance, they are able to elicit targeted feedback. The writing process moves away from questions of correctness toward improvement.

Students own the papers, the writing.

Peer response:

  • Shared objectives
  • Writer’s own questions
  • Negotiated modes (sticky notes, on the paper, on another piece of paper)

Also conferences

  • Micro/Mini/The Whole 9
  • Must have ask questions, take notes

Recommends collaboration, community, conferences, mentor texts, etc.

Feedback Friday! Use this as an open-ended time to revisit areas of struggle from earlier in the week.

1:15 p.m. From Comment to Conversation: Multimodal, Collaborative Feedback in the Writing Process — Early Grades, Middle Grades

Description: Writing teachers are always looking for better ways to respond to students’ writing. Presenters will share feedback strategies and resources, including multimodal response tools for written, audio, video, conference, peer, and tutor responses, cross-grade/school literacy discussions, and writing shareouts, as well as classroom materials and samples of student work.

Hearing Nicole Martin, Marie Graham, Amy Mildebrath, and Kathryn Spradlin speak on feedback now.

Feedback is meant to motivate revision. Feedback at the end is much more evaluative than helpful. When I get something at the end, I’m not improving anything.

Early Grades

Starting out with early grades, but this is applicable to all grades. We want to create a culture that is “hungry for feedback.” Feedback is formative.

Peer-to-peer feedback

I like…I wish…What if… graphic organizer: Adding sticky notes to the appropriate column. These can be hung out in the hallway, allowing outsiders to give that feedback.

Four corners feedback protocol graphic organizer:

  • Things that I like the most
  • Things that could be improved
  • Things that I don’t understand
  • New ideas to consider

A revision tool kit with glue sticks and glitter! Can use little dollar store plastic first-aid kit.

Teacher-to-student feedback

  • Using Google Docs comment feature
  • Using sticky notes on student work (more respectful)
  • Having students self-assess on rubric; allow teachers to highlight and give additional feedback on rubric
  • Having students reflect on feedback they received
  • Using Screencastify or Jing
  • Employing an ePortfolio with comments from teachers and parents (Seesaw, Freshgrade)

Middle Grades

Giving the same feedback over and over and over and over again. Your feedback is ending up at the bottom of someone’s locker. Comments aren’t having the desired effect: why isn’t the writing getting better?

I have devoted hours and hours to giving you feedback and you haven’t even read the comments!

Because I’m not traditionally trained (she was a nurse/midwife), I don’t mind using radical methods.

If you have chlamydia and I’m a nurse:

  • If I just give you a pamphlet, you are unlikely to look at it
  • If I highlight or underline it, there’s a better chance you’ll read it
  • If I write your name on the pamphlet, there’s a 95% chance you’ll read it

Showing an example of video feedback she gives. I absolutely agree with her that video feedback is better and easier!

Thoughts: I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I have my big pile of timed writings with me this weekend. I already screencast feedback with papers that they turn through Google Classroom. My thought is I can do this also with handwritten timed writings from the AP English Literature exam. Have them upload it before turning it in. I read the hard copy but write no comments; instead, record audio feedback for them in Seesaw.

12:04 p.m. Kenya Mitchell, University of California, Davis, “Writing at the Crossroads: Supporting Diverse Student Writing in the Digital Realm.”

Focusing on how the synergistic writing we see online doesn’t always get transferred to the classroom. The writing students do outside of the classroom doesn’t always connect with the writing they do inside the classroom. Teachers sometimes think online writing is not for entertainment only, but a critical aspect of learning is play, so we should consider using this to power learning.

Educators may not want to engage in controversial conversations, but by avoiding that, we are not allowing students to develop their discourse.
  • Model publishing work online. So many benefits.
  • Publication is immediate
  • Immediate response from an authentic audience
  • Room for experimentation
  • Low stakes writing

Break away from assignments supporting the paper-based, white monoculture.


  • Mimicry until mastery: not unlike derivative poetry
  • Peer critique
  • Multiple opportunities for revision
  • Reactions from an authentic audience
  • Audiences comprised of people from diverse backgrounds
  • Results in a writing “churn”

I like this word churn. How many students actually churn in their writing assignments?

College level students found that their writing improved. Other students found their grades diminished. Some times that relates to the deskilling of students in the classroom. Level of vocabulary comes down, complexity of sentences come down, diversity and complexity of subject matter comes down. Limited flexibility, tone policing. Administrators told students to tone it down.

Connects to my beliefs from Daniel Pink: autonomy breeds mastery!

Allow flexibility, autonomy. Give them the opportunity to experiment with online platforms, even the ones they’re most comfortable with.

Also felt the need to get out of the classroom, due to all the associations with that environment.

11:00 a.m. Literacy Instruction with Digital Media: Collaboration, Diversity, Advocacy

Description: This panel shares four classroom research projects: a student research project on social media movements such as #blacklivesmatter, an upper-division college multimedia assignment asking students to cite each other’s projects, a Writing through Media course using maker media, and research about teaching diverse undergraduate students using digital media.

Warm Up: Juxtaposing an image of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Lives Matter Facebook page:

67% of 18–24 were using social media to engage in political activity. Social media has the potential to strengthen young people’s participation in social or political activity.

In an essay prompt, Professor Michelle Crooks asks students to reflect on the success of multiple movements that have had a strong social media presence. Did it lead to small change or significant change? Why?

Unit starts by reading The Atlantic article “Small Change” by Malcolm Gladwell, which argues that social media-driven movements have not had anywhere near the scope of movements that predated social media. Also they look at Summer Harlow’s scholarly article, Social media and social movements: Facebook and an online Guatemalan justice movement that moved offline, which argues the opposite.

I would argue that the Civil Rights Movement was an early beneficiary of the media explosion. Television, telephone, photography, film, mass media.

Literacies are not static; the emerge, change, and accumulate around us. 
 — Richard J. Selfe and Cynthia

Rochelle Gold from USC talking. The need for collaboration in academia. Students created texts that linked to other students’ texts. In the interest of deemphasizing technology, professors created online text versions, hyperlinking between student work.

Moved to a user-friendly author platform, iBooks (Apple product). They created online projects curating their essays into an ibook. Also incorporating some multi-modal elements in their compositions. Some logistical issues with the Apple product.

Focus on the content, not the technology. That reminds me a little of my previous session (see below), in that I spent so much time trying to figure out the technology when, by that point, I had already demonstrated the language arts standard already. At the same time, multi-modal literacy is related to language arts.

We are moving from a print culture to a digital culture. This is as major as the shift from an oral culture to a print culture!

Post-literacy = electracy!

The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. — David Orr

We can’t call ourselves advocates as teachers, unless we give them the means to make knowledge, not just be passive consumers. Using Google My Maps and Aurasma to overwrite, hyperlink, draw on text.

9:30 a.m. Advocating for English Classrooms as Artful Maker-Spaces

Description: Out of a context of career- and college-ready initiatives and emphases on STEM learning, this session presents ways to advocate for craft and making in an English and art collaboration. Participants will be invited to design books hacked with paper circuits and find their place as makers.

Have to get this out of the way: my camera is dead and I lost my charger. That means low-quality pictures awkwardly snapped from my Chromebook.

Here’s my first one of the day:

Looking a little rough

I’ve been pretty interested in maker-spaces generally, but I have trouble envisioning what role they might play in a language arts clasroom.

A language arts teacher, Charles Youngs, collaborating with an art teacher, Kent Wallisch. Charles guides students through storyboarding, drafting, etc. Ken walks students through concepts like negative space, movement, etc.

We’re going to give it a try. Instead of making a children’s book, we’re making a lighted greeting card. Raw materials:

Card stock, copper tape, battery, binder clip, diode

The goal is to draw something that the light diode will light up from within. I made it so the right eye in my drawing will light up. This is the really new age card I made. The quote is from Albert Camus of course:

Quote from “The Artist and His Time”

It’s not working. We’re looking into it maybe being a bad diode. Still some good troubleshooting and problem solving.

Fail forward

At the same time, I walk away wondering would this be rather low on Bloom’s taxonomy from a literacy/language arts perspective. Spending all this time trying to get a diode to work may be good general problem solving skills, but how does all this frustration connect with the aims of the language arts classroom. I guess bringing in those other STEAM disciplines is a relevant goal.

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