Day 4: 6/4/15: Online Session: What does it mean to teach reading?

Hi everyone,

I really enjoyed our class last night. I love hearing about what you are all learning about in the first few years of classroom teaching!

For tonight’s online session we are focusing on the question: “What does it mean to teach reading?” Admittedly, this is a huge topic. I hope you will be asking it of yourselves for years to come. In order to start the conversation, I’m posting here a few resources for you to take a look at. Below you will find links to each resource.

Key questions to guide your thinking and discussion

  • How can we learn about our students lives and personal interests? How can we leverage that information to support their reading?
  • What are we willing/able to change about the reading practices of our students? Can we re-think what or how they read in ways that make our students feel valued as individuals? In what ways might that shift promote academic achievement?


Please read/watch/listen to Dr. Ernest Morrell’s presentation at the Literacy Summit 2014 (video) and at least 2-3 of the other links provided. and then post a comment in which you a) pose a question that has popped into your mind, b) reflect and/or connect on how the resources relate to your own teaching experience, and/or c) respond to a classmates’ comment or question. These comments and questions will serve as preparation for our Twitter chat tonight from 8-9PM (#hunterlit). If you would like to check out another Twitter chat that already happened, search for #WhatsnewAERA. By typing this hashtag into the search bar in the upper right-hand corner on the Twitter homepage, you will see all of the tweets that were posted using that hashtag.


Everyone please watch:

  • Dr. Ernest Morrell at The Literacy Summit 2014 (video – you should watch the whole speech, but particularly minutes 24-30).

Select 2-3 of the following:


27 thoughts on “Day 4: 6/4/15: Online Session: What does it mean to teach reading?

  1. At my school we have a very strong independent reading culture. The first twenty-five minutes of each school day are dedicated to independent reading. Each scholar is challenged to reach a word count of one million words. As an advisor my goal is to find books across different levels for my students that they will enjoy and will enable them achieve that goal. I was successful finding a couple of YA (young adult) fiction books (Red Rising, Golden Son, and Winger to name a couple) that the students could really dive into. As a reader I have never been interested in graphic novels and unfortunately I did not realize just how much power they would over students. One of my students suggested I read American Born Chinese. After that graphic novels caught on like wildfire. American Born Chinese, Maus, and Boxers all became extremely popular.

    In the “Bridging “Literacies portion of John Lowe’s article I found a particular quote from Shelley Xu to be quite powerful “For example, comics and graphic novels can teach about making inferences, since readers must rely on pictures and just a small amount of text. By helping students transfer this skill, she says, teachers can lessen the challenge of a new book.” So much of reading comprehension is making inferences and preparing for what is to come in the book. Graphic novels help strengthen students ability to make logical inferences.

    I was also particularly fond of a comment Rachael Perkins had on the importance of graphic novels. ““For students who lack the ability to visualize as they read, it provides a graphic sense that approximates what good readers do as they read.” Graphic novels provide weaker readers with an “ace in the hole” no longer do they only have the words to rely on to make visualizations, students can make inferences and draw conclusions from the graphics on the page. This enables weaker readers to grapple with texts that may be above their level more easily.

    By allowing students to read graphic novels, or even incorporating graphic novels into literacy courses students feel as if they are reading a book for them. A book that they are more likely to enjoy. No longer are they forced to struggle to understand the “classics.” Students will now feel more comfortable with what they are reading and this will enable them to be more successful than they have been historically in reading class.

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  2. During our Professional Development day, my staff spent a lot of time discussing what it would take for us to create a supportive environment. It was interesting to see how many of our staff had the fallacy in their minds that because parents do not show up to our school events that they must be bad.
    Hopefully, it is because I have had such a close relationship with my parents that I understand that some of them just really can’t make it due to time or career issues, however, I also have parents that are blind and live in an entirely separate districts who will make time which ever way they can to show up for their child. Others with joint issues who will send someone in their place, anything to show their child that even if they can’t make it, they are valuable enough to accommodate. You know? Then I have parents who complain about their joints or will say they have something better to do and NEVER try to make something work.
    I am beginning to wonder if I hold this logical fallacy to be true because of my experiences with parents or do I use it so much because my staff believes it?

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    • Gregory Michie’s article also led me to have some of these same reflections. Do I find myself sometimes thinking that a parent who isn’t at home to make sure homework gets done is a “bad” parent? What about a parent who doesn’t make sure their kid gets to school on a daily basis or sends their kid to school hungry? Maybe. But I also recognize that I have never stood in these parents’ shoes…how can I really know or understand the depths of their love for their child, or understand how hard they really are trying to build a better life? Hard to know. Probably best to just give everyone the benefit of the doubt, while also coming up with strategies for working around situations where parents are inconsistent or unreliable allies to their child’s teachers.

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      • Leah – I had a lot of the same thoughts as I read this article. When I started teaching, I promised myself I wouldn’t fall into the trap of blaming the parents or believing that the parents “don’t care” about their child’s education. It’s been really hard to maintain that conviction as I had negative interactions with parents. I know that a lot of families have tough circumstances that prevent them from school involvement in the ways we want it, so I don’t find myself burdened with what Michie describes here: “If we believe parents who participate at school in traditional ways — showing up for open houses, volunteering to chaperone field trips — do so because they value their child’s education, then we may also believe that parents who don’t participate in those ways simply don’t care enough to do so.”
        That said, I DO struggle to refrain from judging parents that actively prevent their children from succeeding in school. I have a student whose mother encouraged her daughter to fight with another student in school. I have another student whose behavior was preventing him from passing nearly all his classes, and the mother stopped answering the phone. I have a student whose mother accused me of lying about her daughter cutting class, while at home telling her daughter to just ignore the teachers and administrators that annoy her. I won’t go as far as to say that these parents don’t “care,” but I do think it’s fair to say they are making poor parenting choices.


  3. That question does make me ponder what does it mean to teach reading?
    Parents that care in my opinion will try to get their kids the help that they need even if they cannot provide it unless they themselves were never taught to. I have had parents seek private tutoring for their child to increase their reading potential with no prevail. Is that parent bad? I really enjoyed the article by Shelley Xu. Many of my students really enjoy graphic novels and I have never honestly thought about them in an instructional way. Much like Matthew stated, I found the same quote “For example, comics and graphic novels can teach about making inferences, since readers must rely on pictures and just a small amount of text. By helping students transfer this skill, she says, teachers can lessen the challenge of a new book.” interesting because students do need all of these skills to read mangas and graphic novels! My kids needed a different opportunity to show me that they were experts at these skills versus me trying to force them to show me through a text they can barely comprehend.

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  4. Like Matthew, I read Lowe’s article on “Using comics and graphic novels in the classroom” and agree very much with both assertions of both authors. However, a point of caution that I want to raise is the comparison of graphic novels to books wherein the former is seen as a stepping stone to the latter. Graphic novels represent a unique art form that often requires a different set of skills to comprehend compared to watching a movie or reading a book. There’s a stigma out there graphic novels are lesser than books, but to those that think this I point to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series and Brian K. Vaughn’s Y the Last Man (seriously, check these out). These books tell stories that really ask the reader hard questions about man’s place in the world, and use a mix of literary allusion, illustration and unique story telling that just could not be told through the medium of the traditional novel. I was heartened to see at the end of the piece that the author does touch on the ways graphic novels and comics are able to communicate complex ideas, but I think my word of caution is necessary.

    The portion of Ernest Morrell’s speech from 24-30 minutes focused on the idea of purpose and meaning in literature. In short, he argues that students respond most to literary instruction when the pieces are relevant and meaningful to their own lives. As a math teacher, I can say that Morrell’s point can be extrapolated across curricula: students are tired of math problems about misters and misses who buy 35 watermelons for 7 children, and work with purpose when confronted with problems that illuminate elements of their lives.

    Looking forward to our Twitter chat,


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    • In our PD today, we had lengthy discussions about things to improve on for next year. One recurring theme was how do we motivate students and ensure our instruction is relevant and connected to their lives. I was thinking about this when I read about the Hip Hop Project in the article, “Popular Culture and Critical Media Pedagogy in Secondary Literacy Classrooms”. Some of the teachers at my school have recently tried using Flocabulary and FreshPrep as a vehicle for instruction and review for students preparing for the US History Regents exam. Some students found it to be quite helpful in memorizing facts…and it was certainly a welcome change from the never-ending flashcards and multiple choice practice they’ve been enduring for days. However, I’m not sure if it helped students make a connection between their world and the world of US History and I wonder if there are varying degrees of success in using rap and hip hop in the classroom depending on the teacher using it to deliver the instruction? However, I can see how it might be used as a starting point to help “accelerate academic literacy skills”.

      Our ELA self-contained and co-taught classes used graphic novels this year in all grade levels. Graphic novels were used as a supplement to the original text and an introduction to Romeo and Juliet in 9th grade and the the tenth graders read Maus with enthusiasm. I had a small literacy-focused SETSS class with very reluctant readers across all grade levels, but found that some students who had would read an entire graphic novel (one in particular was “Smile” by Raina Telgemeir) when they were able to select their own book for independent reading. However, sometimes graphic novels are perceived as easier reading, which certainly isn’t the case for many, but some of the special education students are self-conscious (especially in ICT classes) if they are doing noticeably different work than their peers.

      I agreed with Ernest Morell’s comments that students are only motivated when they have an expectation that they will be successful, and found this to be true for many of the students with whom I work. If they have appropriate levels of access to content, which may be through different methods like graphic novels or lyrics, they might experience more success which could improve their confidence.

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      • Cathlin, I like how you address that the tools we use in the classroom are supplements. We are not giving the students easier material to work with, but are rather supplementing other types of text in order to bridge the gaps in students’ learning. This is briefly discussed in the “Using Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom” article and really got me to begin thinking about how I can get students in the classroom to be more aware of the strategies they are building and why they are reading a graphic novel or any text that has been differentiated or supplemented with other texts.

        Of course our students can be and are sensitive about their reading levels, but having a frank and honest conversation about why students are receiving differentiated material could be exactly what they need to feel confident about working with text that is different than others. In class the other day we talked about how we can change the deficits of struggling readers into positive I can statements/goals for students. Let them know that by reading this graphic novel, differentiated text, or supplemental material they will be building those necessary and specific skills that they need in order to improve their reading.


    • Love Neil Gaiman…saw him last year in the UK at a reading he did of the children’s book, “Fortunately the Milk”, to a really large crowd of all adults (with the exception of my sons) who were huge followers of his graphic novels. He was great!

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    • Fred, I agree that we as teachers should be wary of using graphic novels as stepping stones to books. I see graphic novels as analogous to political cartoons and to interpret a political cartoon is definitely much different from interpreting a chunk of text in a book. The Global History and Geography Regents this past January actually used a strip from a graphic novel about Mohandas Gandhi and many of the students were caught a little off guard because they were so used to interpreting small blocks of texts for document-based questions rather than graphic novel strips. I also agree they are valuable, because many of students read Marvel and DC comics, so they would appreciate visualizing history in such a manner.

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    • Fred, I can relate to what Ernest Morrel’s speech too. In the chat I brought up the topic of readings in the ELA regents. It is incredibly frustrating to me as a teacher to see my ESL students struggle with the reading. Some of the readings are so not culturally relevant and also touch on topics that are not aligned to today’s generation. The test itself is stressful as it is and just adding readings that have nothing to do with the ability to write an essay or find the controlling idea is setting many students up for failure, at least with my ESL students. I have very strong students in writing and reading but I know that they have trouble writing a paragraph on a topic that does not relate to them at all such as the differences between watts and light bulbs and what not. I hope that the state makes changes to these tests.

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    • Fred,

      Thank you for your insightful comments on graphic novels. I agree that there is a certain stigma attached to graphic novels that they are “soft” form of reading, and that they lack the rigor and/or depth of traditional books. While I think there is some salience to this critique (and I likely would have fully subscribed to it a few months ago), I have also found that they can provide a highly engaging and sophisticated medium. My ELA class has used a graphic novel of the The Autobiography of Malcolm X in conjunction with reading the book, and I have found that it has provided an invaluable avenue for introducing content from the book. Our class can only handle so much work with the actual text (which has a high lexile level and is very rich), so using the comic for a “do now” or to cover one aspect of the text has allowed us to vary up the ways we deliver the content (not to mention that it is much more manageable for our SPED students).

      I have actually checked out “The Last Man” as well, and I know that the ELL teacher at our school has had great success with it with his students, who he has told me are genuinely fascinated with its plot. So overall, I think Lowe’s article brings up some very legitimate points, and I think teachers are well served in incorporating comics and graphic novels into their instruction.



  5. Marisabel, unfortunately in regards to parents, I often think that it is not because they do not want to, or because they are bad parents -although some of the parents I have seen, thankfully not mine, who join their kids in fights outside of school (#facts) and in all honesty should not have reproduced (sorry!), but instead because they are not informed. Many of my parents do not know their rights or their children’s rights because they did not grew up in this country themselves and do not know what is there to help them. Sadly, teachers, administrators, and other service providers do not take the slight opportunity to educate them. From the cohort I am in I am glad to say that I believe we do. But as an example, one of my students’ mandated three year review was approaching and the school’s psychologist advice the mom that because there were no changes, she could waive the meeting. I want to think she did this because the mom was pregnant, although I am not so sure. The next day happened to be parent teacher conference and this mom always is the first one. We discussed her son’s improvements and difficulties and she mentioned that the psychologist had told her she could wave the meeting as there were no changes to be made. My co-teacher and I were stunned as 1) we were never asked about the child, and 2) there are many changes needed for this IEP. The first thing we said was that he needed counseling (anxiety and social issues) and immediately the mom went down and requested this to be added. It was not that she was careless, but it was that she just did not know and she was putting the faith directly on the school. The IEP was closed without my co-teacher’s or I’s input and now we are having to revise it because there are many services and descriptions that are missing – which would have been obvious had she interviewed the child or conversed with us.

    I think the video of Earnest Morrell is very true in that we cannot teach someone we do not love. I know I spend more times with 70% of my kids that their own parents do because they work the afternoon and night shirts. I know their parents love them and, just as the example above, I know they are counting on me to love them and do my very best in helping them reach their goals. As I mentioned in class I know our parents are often not at home to sit and read with their kids. l know that when they are there they try. Yet, as one of my parents told me, the very few hours they have with their child, they want to enjoy them. They want to go to the park and spent time together on the weekends because it is the only time they get to see their kids and interact with them. Truth be told, I cannot blame them for that.

    Mathew, I believe you make a great point. When reading graphic novels they do have to use their cognitive skills to decipher what the graphic is implying and to some extend this is great practice for comprehension and introducing reading to a child that might be fed up with trying to read and constantly missing the meaning behind an author’s words.

    I truly enjoyed reading “Popular Culture and Critical Media Pedagogy in Secondary Literacy Classrooms,” because it allowed students who are not often what teachers consider the “super stars” to go in an study something they might enjoy and realize the impact it has on them, while also being able to provide recommendations to teachers. These recommendations were very thoughtful and, in my own opinion, pertinent to the work we do. Students need to know what they are going to be facing, the inequality, and how much harder they need to work to be successful. Something I discuss with my students is that regardless of the persona the rappers often present themselves with, they are often experts at code switching and knowing what to do in different situations. We have discussed the metaphors in rap music and the high level vocabulary that is often used in these songs – many of them had overlooked this. I do not know if this was the best example to give but we have presented Jay-Z and his almost dual personality when it comes to handling his business and in his music. This has had a positive effect in some of my students in literacy and reading, and I can see them being more aware of the social norms that surround them.

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  6. I’ve struggled all year with the lack of independent reading time in my school (which we are working to change next year), and the fact that so few of my students spend time reading outside of the classroom, despite being told that the “should” or being assigned reading for homework. After month of frustration, I decided to take some time out of instruction and speak to them about the importance of literacy from both an education and also a social justice point of view. I watched as some of my normally passive or apathetic students started to get really animated and outspoken on the topic. Since I had this conversation, I have noticed some of my students reading books in between classes and others even coming to my room during lunch to read. I continued to think about this as I watched Dr. Ernest Morrell’s presentation, as I believe this is such an important awareness to cultivate in our students. Dr. Morrell said two things that really stood out to me. First, that “literacy teaching should be about cultivating voices.” When literacy is about silencing an individual’s voice or devaluing multilingualism, we make people feel as though their voices don’t matter. This made me consider my ELL students and their experiences with literacy, and I wonder whether or not their native language has been valued. This viewpoint also shines such a different light on literacy that I think could be more inspiring to students and teachers alike–that being literate is empowering and gives us a voice in society. I think we just have to be careful that we don’t devalue multilingualism in the process.

    The second statement that stood out to me when he explained that, to motivate people, two things have to happen: we have to have an expectation of success, and we have to value irrelevance, because it may be relevant to someone else. This made me think about my role as an ELA teacher, particularly in the way I express confidence in my students literacy, and also in giving them a choice in what the read and write about in order to promote an interest in and even a love for reading and writing. A big part of what my school is focusing on for next year is promoting high levels of student engagement through culturally relevant topics that require critical thinking and real world interaction. The various social justice and advocacy projects discussed by Dr. Morrell are such great ways to get students engaged in building literacy, while also engaging with real world topics and issues. What also seems great about these projects is that they promote literacy across multiple mediums/forms of communication.

    This ties into the discussion in the article “Popular Culture and Critical Media Pedagogy in Secondary Literacy
    Classrooms” which asserts that the media misrepresents the narrative about urban youth of color, who also happen to be the same population that are systematically denied access to academic literacies. Therefore, it is important that we teach students about the media and these dominant narratives so that they may create their own counter-narratives. The idea very much falls in line with Dr. Morrell’s presentation about using social justice and advocacy as a vehicle to impart literacy skills. I love the idea of this and would really like to find a way to bring this into my classroom next year as a topic for my students to engage with.

    Finally, I was interested by the reading “If a Parent Who Reads to Her Child is ‘Good,’ is One Who Doesn’t ‘Bad?'” While I fully understand and side with what Michie asserts regarding the misconceptions around lack parent involvement in many low-income households, I am still left with the question of “what do we do as teachers?” Understanding is the first step, but this does not change the reality that these students are receiving far less exposure to reading and therefore acquiring less vocabulary than their middle-income peers. How can we, as teachers, attempt to counteract this reality and provide students with the tools and skills they need to become fully literate within the confines of the school day?

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  7. I strongly relate to Gregory Michie’s “If a Parent Who Reads to Her Child is ‘Good,’ is One Who Doesn’t ‘Bad?'” and how society correlates parental involvement with how much they care for their child’s educational process. By definition, my mother, who I found out recently while cleaning out a drawer full of memorabilia from preschool, that she took courses for parents on how to support my educational process and would be labeled as ‘good,’ despite the fact that she had poor English-speaking skills. On the other hand, my father, who at the time was working a hourly-age job as a truck driver, could not be involved and would be labeled as ‘bad.’ My father was our only source of income, so he was trying to support my education by trying to get the money my family needed to fulfill what Maslow would describe as basic needs. I do not think of my father as ‘bad,’ because he was working long hours so that one day, if needed, I would have money to support a college education (on the assumption that I did not get any scholarships). Speaking to parents now, I know that there are so many factors that affect how involved a parent can be involved with their child’s education. Not all parents have the time to read to their child. So the question we as teachers have to ask is, “How can we support out students who are in these situations?”
    In Ernest Morrell’s speech for the 2014 Literacy Summit, he asks, “What do they need from us? How do we need to think differently?” He suggests that we need to think about literacy and how we think about teaching. Teaching is about “life changing” and how we need to teach with love/passion. He states that we cannot teach without love. We as teachers can support our students in these difficult situations by showing them that we care. If they know that we care about their education, they will know that can succeed.

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  8. I was very interested in Lowe’s article about bridging literacy for students through the use of comic books and graphic novels. However, the question that it raised for me is what other ways there are to bridge that gap for our students. What about those kids who are not engaged by graphic novels? How do we engage them in reading and help them to visualize what they read in new ways? I am constantly trying to find ways to get my students to take ownership of their own reading, to make choices of what to read for themselves. And I don’t have answers for this, it is very much a trial and error situation. But it is worth the thought and the effort when I succeed.

    In Morrell’s video, he talks about the importance of the community for learning and the history of the learning community. I think this really is of the utmost importance. I don’t necessarily agree with what he says that you cannot teach someone you don’t love. I certainly don’t love every single one of my students in the obvious sense of love. But I do care deeply for them and I care about their successes and failures, their emotional safety and comfort, and the crazy thoughts that come up every day. And I care very much about the community we create together. It is so important to create a safe space that every one of my students buys into and contributes to. This is how we engage and deepen our thinking and guide each other to new discoveries. That, to me, is what it means to love our students. And that, I think, is what my students’ parents expect of me and other teachers. Learning, even learning to read which is often seen as a solitary activity, is very much about the community working together, even if it’s just cheering each other on.

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  9. The article by Gregorie Michie is a “refreshing” reading. I think that in many of our classes in grad school we focus so much on the students and their failures/successes in the classroom but we barely get to discuss their parents’ role in their education. During my time as a teacher I have heard many colleagues complain about parents not showing up for parent-teacher conferences and even assume that their child is failing due to the lack of interest from the parent in their child’s education. I was in HS not long and my mom was the one who always tried to attend parent-teacher conferences because my dad worked a ridiculous amount of hours. The fact that my dad wasn’t attending parent-teacher conferences didn’t mean that he didn’t care about y education. All the contrary, he has always been very supportive and even paid for part of my college education because he wanted me to succeed. I think this situation applies to many of my students’ parents. Instead of assuming that they don’t care about their children’s education as educators we have to take a step back and think of the possible reasons that impede a parent from being as involved.

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  10. When teaching reading, a teacher must cater to the needs of other students. A teacher must provide multiple levels and different mediums of reading assignments. When a student is actively engaged in reading they will make progress, when a child read’s an article or piece that is on their level, or scaffolded to their level, students have more of an opportunity of succeeding. Many students read better and understand when there are pictures and graphics to follow. Incorporating graphic novels and comics is an excellent way of having students engage in reading, learn vocabulary and create and formulate an image in their head while reading. An incredible way to have students learn how to read is by teaching them to create images about specific situations that they read about. When a child can visualize what they are reading, they are able to develop a better understanding about the material and main idea. Comic books are also engaging and exciting for most students because it is different from the norm. Providing images with reading assignments and having the students use those images to better comprehend an assignment and article. In my own classroom, I see that students are more engaged when they have multiple mediums to read from, when they have choice, and when they are able to formulate and visualize images about the text. An effective classroom runs well when a teacher provides students with skills and

    The one thing that I hear all day from teachers in my school is how parents do not care, or the famous line, “the apple does not fall very far from the tree.” Unfortunately this is true in many students, however, this is not defining characteristics and we must not judge a child based on what their parent brings to the table. Also, some students, even with the right support, may still feel differently about education. This does not mean they will not progress or appreciate education. However, when a child comes from a poor family, or a working class family, that child is simply not given the same opportunities as other students. The problem in NYC and in education overall is that the playing field is not level. Students are not awarded the same opportunities, even though they are in the same classes, same schools, and same neighborhoods, everyone’s home life is different, everyone’s values are different. This makes educating students in an entire classroom as a whole difficult. That is why changing and modifying lessons to suit individual needs is so crucial for a lesson. Some student’s react differently to situations, because of that, each student must be treated differently according to his or her needs.

    My one question is, how should we work with students who have special needs and are part of the working class compared to students who have special needs and have very involved parents? Should we treat them differently? Are there different ways to handle these different children or should they be treated similarly?

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  11. After watching Dr. Ernest Morrell’s video, I was reminded of how important it is to truly be genuine when teaching in the classrooms. The same way you would be genuine when teaching a little sibling how to tie their shoe, we have to show our students that our instruction comes from the heart. During a PD at my school today, we learned that students begin to sense how a teacher is from day 1. They figure out if a teacher is nice, mean, easy-going, strict, honest, funny, and more. A student will sense how much a teacher cares, and that will effect the way they act in that teacher’s classroom for the rest of the school year. Students only learn from people who they know care about them. If I had a chance, I would ask Dr. Morrell how does he suggest we as teachers maintain that same motivation with our most difficult students who seem to never care about learning and progressing to the next grade.

    After listening to the podcast by Dr. John Guthrie, I started to realize how much students struggle in school due to a lack of motivation. Students need to believe they can succeed before even attempting to do some of the complex work presented by common core standards.I think education has evolved so much within the past few years. So many students at my school think of school as torture, and they lack desire to learn. Part of it is our faults as teachers because we need to consistently remind our students of how important it is to learn the concepts and topics we teach in schools. Students also forget the value of reading sometimes. Even when I was young, I remember not being a fan of reading. I can image how heightened that emotion would be if I had a learning disability that made it even harder for me to read. I think encouraging students to read something they are interested in (and is on their level) is a first step to getting struggling readers to love reading.

    After reading the article by Gregory Michie, I am left interested and ready to debate that just because you do not read to your child does not mean you are an unfit parent. There are so many parents who want to read to their child, but due to their life and work situations, it can be extremely difficult. For example, my parents moved to America in their mid-20’s and did not know English at all. Now they have gotten a lot better, but still struggle to read and write in English at times. How can I expect them to read books to me and help me with my homework if there was a language barrier? In cases like this, the students must find motivation within to continue keeping up with learning what is being taught in schools, knowing there will not be a lot of academic help coming from home. Michie ended his article by saying that teachers who teach students in poverty tend to assume that all parents care about their students, regardless of what they may or may not be able to provide for them. With that being said, I am left reminded of how challenging life can be for our students sometimes. I am also motivated to remind them that school is important, and that hopefully their hard work in school will lead them to a more happy and successful life in the future.

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  12. I really love the idea of having students create journals at the beginning, middle, and end of the year to inform my teaching. It has helped me get to know my student on a personal and academic level. We can use them to learn about our student’s personal interests, and to inform our lesson style/ reading material. Traditionally, the time wasn’t always given to get to know our students, but now there is such a stress on it. Forming a positive relationship where you show you care about a student can go such long way. Education is changing and now, as the video said, we can incorporate tasks/materials of interest to the student to help better engage them. Instead of changing the students, we are changing the way we teach.
    Changing the way we teach includes these graphic novels that are a hot topic in schools and even on our message board. I find that students are not as intimidated when a graphic novel is involved and they can be especially helpful to English language learners. It needs to be remembered that these are still novels, with a set of characters, climax, story line. As the article mentioned, this can be used to bridge literary gaps the students have. I have not had too much experience working with graphic novels and I am wondering if students have difficulty transitioning between graphic novels and regular text?
    We can get our students reading in class by choosing topics that they are vested in, but what can we do to get them to read at home? It is difficult to say, because without parental support they might lack the ability to self motivate or work through difficult readings on their own. However, in personal experience, parents want to get involved, but have difficulty themselves (this is particularly evident in ESL families). So no, as the Gregory Michie article poses, a parent who isn’t reading at home isn’t necessarily a bad parent; they just don’t have the means to support their child fully. None of this has to do with the ability of the parent. In fact, it can be quite the opposite too, they are working even harder to push their child because they cannot read well themselves. In other cases parents are working and are unable to provide the at home reading support the child needs (just as they cannot afford the after school activities and other areas that the child’s peers participate in. Just as the article mentioned about buying organic food for children, it is not always a feasible option for all parents, the same goes for reading with their children at home, they struggle to provide their child the best opportunity for growth. Practice, practice, and more practice is going to help our students, but we need to stop relying on at home practice, because in these urban schools, kids cannot rely on their at home support. The focus should be on as much in school practice as possible until kids have the ability to practice on their own without motivation or help from their parents, who may or may not be available or able to help. However, how much class time is feasible to set aside for reading each day?

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  13. I was really fascinated by Dr. Ernest Morrell’s presentation at the Literacy Summit 2014. I was especially moved by his statement that we need to make sure we are teaching literacy in a way that is relevant and responsive to the types of communication needs our students and their communities need and want. This is so important for making our students feel like their education is important. Furthermore, as Dr. Morrell emphasizes, the “literacy” needs of a 20th century education will not be the literacy needs for our work when our students grow up and enter the work force. We need to think creatively about what literacy will look like in the future, and how we can use that knowledge to empower our kids to seize justice and knowledge.

    To the same point, I agree with the points made in “Using Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom,” because graphic novels represent an important part of the evolving continuum of literacy that must be taught to and valued. I am interested in thinking about the way this research suggests that we need to adjust the way reading practices and reading standards are assessed. In particular, I agree with many of the posters on tonight’s twitter chat that NYS tests are not culturally or developmentally responsive – we require our kids to show their mastery of literacy skills by reading and responding to often dry, unfamiliar, or antiquated texts, when these are not even the texts or types of literacy that will be important in their future lives and careers.


  14. I really enjoyed the article on graphic novels. I think it is so important in the classroom that we find way to incorporate students interests. Regularly, I see so many of my students come to school with graphic novels. There is so much value both in terms of relationship building and teaching of content in meeting students where their interests lie. If students are engaged and also interested in what we are teaching, then it will be much easier to teach them content. I liked the point in the article that comics and graphic novels have the power to help build complex reading skills. While they can be powerful tools, I wholeheartedly agree that they should be used as a means of bridging literacy experiences done both in school and out of school.


  15. Though only able to watch from the start to the 45min mark, I found Dr. Mitchell’s lecture interesting and inspirational. Mitchell is selective with his words choice and in doing so, he is able to convey powerful messages and drop literary jewels on his audience. I was rather intrigued by the the idea of developing powerful readers and writers through critical community engagement.
    In this lecture Mitchell prompts educators to consider this: under what context is it powerful and necessary to become a good reader? He informs us that when we are able to find that context, then we will no longer have to worry about creating powerful readers and writers because it becomes necessary and the inevitable. Thanks to this video I was reintroduced to the idea of connecting literacy with social movement. We need to get our students engaged in literacy by making genuine connections to issues that matter to these children. In order to feel invested and confident students in their abilities,
    students need access to content and teaching practices that consider their needs, not what their teachers have been trained to do think they need. We need to sit back and ask ourselves what kind if education do our young people need and hoe do we develop literate identities? Mitchell goes on to inform us that when literacy becomes “the end” and not the means it is no longer effective. According to the lecture, we need to create more opportunities for positive motivation that invites others into our literacy movement.
    What I appreciate most was the reminder that literacy teaching is about cultivating your own voice to say things that matter to you. It is about creating a voice of your own. Mitchell suggests initiating the creation of this culture by simply asking students what they believe in. This video inspired me to seek out non-traditional ways to incorporate more reading and writing into my Math classroom. If I were to attempt the “What I Believe In” writing prompt with my students, I question how this could be executed effectively and successfully. Would one set aside a couple times per week for activities such as this one?


  16. Tonight, I chose to read “Using Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom” (The Council Chronicle, Sept. 05) and Gregory Michie’s If a Parent Who Reads to Her Child is “Good,” is One Who Doesn’t “Bad?”

    I completely agree that comics and graphic novels are a very great way to inspire student’s curiosity and interest in reading. I know a student who hated reading books with only words and used to refuse to do his homework for ELA because he didn’t want to read the book. Once the ELA teachers started the comics/graphic novel unit, however, he was on task all the time and would not put down the books. The parents told the ELA teachers that he was still reading even when he got home until very late at night. It is amazing to see how a change of “scene” can influence and change a student’s opinion about a class so strongly and rapidly. I also remember that even in college, when I took a class about Holocaust, the first texts we were required to read were Maus I & Maus II, wonderful graphic novels that told the cruel story of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust with mice characters. It was a well drawn/written graphic novel series which captivated us and inspired our curiosity to want to learn more about the topic, and it also served as a rough source of background knowledge before we started reading the historical texts such as diary entries and journal articles on the topic. But we were hooked and we wanted to know more. Therefore, I believe that graphic novels and comics definitely are very important and can be very beneficial in a secondary classroom, be it to introduce students to a social studies topic, or to help them become readers.

    The article by Gregory Michie reminded me that I should not make assumptions about people’s lives. Sometimes I do find myself making the same assumptions with my co-teacher. We talk about a child’s performance or poor behavior in the classroom, and we talk about our interaction with their parent(s), and we label the parent(s) as careless or selfish or something worse. But I didn’t come from where they come from. I don’t really know where they are coming from sometimes. I think only when I really know what the child and the child’s family are going through in life then can I make assumptions about a situation, and it is NEVER okay to judge.

    The article also reminded me of my own childhood. I grew up with just my mother and we were very poor. I grew up with no books in the tiny apartment that we lived in, and my mother never read to me. But she would always take me to the house of a friend of hers and there they had a huge library in their home. I would stay there for the whole day and read the whole time until it was night and time to go home. I would request to go to the bookstore and sit there to read the whole day until I had to go home to finish school work. If a teacher had asked me questions such as, “does your mother ever read to you?” the answer would have been “no” and my mother would have been labeled a bad parent. But in reality, she was doing all she could to find those academic resources for me so that I wouldn’t fall behind those kids who had more than I did. I am really glad that I am reminded of this experience and I am going to try harder not to make assumptions about my students’ parents, or, as Michie said, assume the best.


  17. When thinking about how we can re-think literacy teaching to be able to make our students feel more valued as individuals, I gravitate towards may different thoughts. The first being that to be an effective educator, we need to connect to our students and really understand who they are. Dr. Ernest Morrell, in his speech at the literacy summit said, “you cannot teach who you do not love.” This is a profound statement and something I truly believe in. I see educators on a daily basis, lack the love and caring that they need for the students they teach in order to make the impact they need to or should be making. And I have to admit, I have those moments myself as well. In the end, I know that I have not become the best teacher that I can be for those students yet because of my inability to love them in those moments when they’re straight up MEAN to me or other students, or they’re defiant, or they’re completely non-compliant, they’re rude, they’re cursing, they’re doing whatever it is that 6th, 7th, or 8th graders do when they’re mad and they’re showing me hatred. But that is my fault. I need to build the unconditional love needed and deserved by every student, no matter how polite (or not) they are, no matter how well they follow directions, etc. And I have confidence in myself; I will indeed get there, because I do LOVE kids. It’s the angry moments I have with them that I don’t always love.

    Gregory Michie writes about a very interesting popular idea—if a implies b, then non-a must imply a non-b. Specifically, in the lives of our students, that we tend to believe that parents who don’t participate in school activities, and who don’t show up for parent teacher conferences, or come to see their child perform in sports events or school plays, that they don’t care about their children. He writes that this is “a recipe for misunderstanding when it comes to working respectfully with low-income students and families.” I am completely and totally guilty of this thought. I have been of a theory that parents who care and want to show their love, find a way. Whatever it is, and maybe it’s not always visible to the teacher, they find a way. Maybe they read to their student in bed every single night, or they spend the weekend taking them to explore New York or to visit family members and spend time together. However, in lots of cases, I know that’s not happening. And maybe, some how it is a misunderstanding which is a terrible jumping off point. Still, what I’m most surprised about in his article is that “many teachers” are starting off at a much more optimistic standpoint wherein they believe that “every parent cares, that every parent wants good things for their child, that every parent values education—even if they don’t all show it in the same way.”

    But if we’re being realists, don’t we know that that’s not always true? That there are *many* parents who don’t care the way they should (the way we want them to), that there are *many* parents, whether they’re of low-income families or not, who don’t parent the way *we* want them to or the way that *we* would.

    I guess the underlying question for me is, when is it appropriate to take the realist point of view and when is it necessary for us to be optimistic as all hell to keep us dedicated and thinking all parents have the best of intentions (aka to keep our heads above water)?


  18. Gregory Michie’s “If a Parent Who Reads to Her Child is ‘Good,’ is One Who Doesn’t ‘Bad?'” prompted me to reflect on the way I have perceived parents throughout the year. At parent teacher conferences at the beginning of the year, I was assigned to facilitate for Justin, a high achieving student with an incredible attitude towards school. I remember telling his mother that Justin was a role model for the rest of his class and that she should be very proud of him and all of his efforts. I told her that I wished more students were like Justin, a compliment that I consider pretty high on the totem pole. I was shocked when she responded with a mere nod. I felt bad for Justin, thinking he must feel like she did not care about his accomplishments in school – more Or less projecting my own constructs on his experience. This was one of my first conferences and I was sad to find that many other parents responded in similar ways. I even became so accustomed to this sort of response that when a parent, Angel’s mother, hugged him after hearing of his success, I was completely and pleasantly surprised. Thinking back to these interactions after reading this article have made me think about how my perceptions of parental support. Not every parent is going to support their child in the same way my parents showed their support to me. And neither method is better than the other. As I think about it more, I am even considering the fact that there may have been a language barrier at play because I have seen Justin’s mom at other times, with her older daughter, and the daughter always translates what I say. Reflecting on this experience has really highlighted how it’s so easy to judge, even when you aim to be aware of and avoid such tendencies.
    Like Rachel, I am really interested in what we do as teachers if we notice (yet never judge) that students are reading less at home. I think the key here is motivation, as simple or challenging as that may be. I think the hardest thing to do as a teacher of literacy or any subject, is to get students invested. It’s hard not to expect students to want it for themselves, but sometimes they don’t see success as a possibility. This therefore ties to Dr. Ernest Morell’s presentation. Students coming from low-income families might not just receive less exposure, but might have lower expectations of success if they do not see their parents succeeding in the literacy objectives they are learning. I think this emphasizes the need to show students what they are capable of and build up to challenges, if cultural responsiveness and student success is to be achieved.


  19. I found that several of the readings for this session closely relate to Chimimanda Adichie’s idea of the single story, showing how that idea might be applicable to several different aspects of education. In class, we discussed applying the idea of “The Danger of a Single Story” to the way we teach by trying to encourage our students to seek out the multiple stories of the people, places, and cultures that we study. We also discussed resisting the temptation to think of our students in terms of a single story.

    I think Dr. Michie raises an equally important point: Just as we should not tell ourselves only a single story of our students, we should not tell ourselves only a single story of their parents. Perhaps the most frequent topic of conversation among teachers at my school is our student population’s non-caring, incompetent parents. Whether its because they don’t attend parent-teacher conferences, don’t read to their children, or don’t force their children to come to school every day, parents are blamed for student underperformance more than anyone else. To be clear, parents cannot be absolved of blame for their children’s failure in school in all cases, and the point is not that parenting should not be considered a factor that influences student success. Rather, the problem is that when we blame parents we often only tell a single story. We usually focus on what they don’t do, often without knowing whether what we’re saying is true; we rarely focus on all of the things they do for their children; and we almost never ask ourselves why they parent their children in the way that they do. That said, I’m not sure that Michie’s approach–relying only on opposite, optimistic assumptions about students’ parents–is the right answer, either. Rather, I think we need to approach our students with genuine curiosity about their lives and their relationships with their parents, never making assumptions in either direction, and instead seeking to come as close to realizing the truth of the situation as we can.

    Morrell and Duncan-Andrade make another interesting point that can be related to Adichie’s talk: One of our primary roles as teachers must be to enable students to see and tell multiple stories of themselves and their own cultures. As Morrell and Duncan-Andrade point out, new media often portrays low-income and minority communities as one-dimensional. Only by teaching students to challenge the media’s portrayal of themselves and their cultures and empowering them to be self-defining can we overcome students’ tendencies to identify themselves and those around them with a single story.


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