Tag Archives: professional learning

Great Minds Thinking Alike

A couple months ago I mentioned the English Companion Ning. That group is now nearing 10,000 members, and I encourage you more than ever to get involved!

For those of you who don’t know much about Nings, here’s a quick Q and A from member Jennifer Ansbach.

What’s a Ning?
A ning is a closed social network, like a Myspace or Facebook with a restricted membership. You have a profile, a blog, and participate in forums and send/receive messages.

What is the English Companion Ning?
Started one year ago this week by English teaching guru Jim Burke, the English Companion Ning is a place to share resources, ask questions, and participate in online, self-directed professional development.

Why should I join?
Jim Burke has leveraged his author and professional connections to bring some of the leaders in English education to the ning. Members include not only Jim Burke but current NCTE president and author Carol Jago, outgoing NCTE president and author Kylene Beers, and others who publish about best practices. Each month there is a professional book club, with an online discussion led by the author. Past books included Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide and Tom Newkirk’s Holding on to Good Ideas in Times of Bad Ones. This month’s book club on improving student writing features Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them.

There are forums devoted to specific topics, with people posting their handouts, lesson plans, and strategies. In addition, there is a place to seek help for questions or for support. Yesterday someone asked what to do when your urban students admit they think you are a pushover. Within a few hours, several people had offered solid advice and resources. Earlier this year, a teacher posted about celebrating with his student teacher, putting her in her car, and having a truck kill her instantly around the corner. That teacher found a place to share his grief and also received help and ideas for putting together a fitting tribute to the young woman (his students had written letters to her that he hadn’t given to her–he crafted a eulogy of the students’ own words about what she meant to them).

It’s free to join. Just sign up on englishcompanion.ning.com. Jim Burke pays the $25 a month to keep it running and does not accept any advertising on the site. I am not a paid promoter. This week, as the ECNing celebrates its first birthday, it has 9,700 members and Jim is hoping to reach 10,000 this week. He asked us to make sure our colleagues are aware of the ning and what it has to offer.

Thanks, Jennifer! Well articulated. This ning is perfect for those of us engaged in the sometimes lonely business of teaching Reading and Language Arts!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Resources, Recommended Sites

In Search of the Novel

In Search of the Novel is a series of 8 one hour videos produced by Annenberg Media. From the series introduction:

Discover creative strategies for bringing novels to life for middle and high school students with this workshop, featuring the words and works of 10 novelists, including Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, J. K. Rowling, and Toni Morrison. Within the framework of real classroom practice, the workshop offers interviews with contemporary authors, literary critics, teachers, and students, as well as film clips from adaptations of the novels featured. In Search of the Novel poses basic questions that can help you examine the genre from multiple perspectives and bring it to life for your students.

If you’re a teacher serious about implementing an engaging experience with novels, this free on-line resource is a must-see. As a first time user you are required to sign up, but that’s it. You can then view the videos at your leisure with no software or video player downloads needed.

You also have the option to purchase the series on DVD or VHS with learning guides. This would make a great topic for a professional study group at the middle or high school level.

A synopsis of the individual workshops is listed below:

Workshop 1. Who Owns the Novel?
(illustrating how each reader makes a novel his or her own, depending on the reader’s culture, class, generation, gender, and personality)

Workshop 2. What’s the Story?
(how an author spins a story and why it is the most important aspect of the novel)

Workshop 3. Are Novels Real?
(must a novel bear some likeness to reality?)

Workshop 4. Where Do Novels Come From?
(the genesis of characters, plot, themes, and interpretation from the novelist’s point of view)

Workshop 5. Why Do I Have To Read This Book?
(the workshop’s ten novels are examined to see why they appear on recommended reading lists; also reasons for reading)

Workshop 6. What’s in It for Me?
(ways to help students respond to novels on deeply personal levels)

Workshop 7. Who Am I in This Story?
(examining the complex ways readers identify with characters in a novel)

Workshop 8. Am I Getting Through?
(teachers examine their effectiveness in helping students comprehend and appreciate novels; teachers also discuss and demonstrate strategies for evaluation)

9 and 10. Authors’ Notes
(contemporary authors — including Orson Scott Card, Horton Foote, Ernest Gaines, Arthur Golden, Daniel Keyes, Katherine Paterson, J. K. Rowling, and Leslie Marmon Silko — reveal even more of their own writing process)

In Search of the Novel is a little-known gem which you’ll come to treasure!

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Resources, Recommended Sites

Story’s Privileged Status

“I have read that the mind treats stories differently than other types of information. It seems obvious that people like listening to stories, but it’s not obvious how to use that in the classroom. Is it really true that stories are somehow “special” and, if so, how can teachers capitalize on that fact?”

The answer to this question is well worth a read for any teacher desiring to put the power of story into their daily instruction. Cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham addresses the topic of story in his excellent article The Privileged Status of Story, one of his many Ask the Cognitive Scientist columns at the AFT’s American Educator.

Daniel first defines story using four features commonly agreed upon by professional storytellers (playwrights, screenwriters, and novelists). These features (sometimes called the 4 Cs) are Causality, Conflict, Complications, and Character. Even if a teacher chooses not to tell “stories” in the traditional sense, employing just one of these features can have a profound impact on every lesson, helping to create learning that is interesting, memorable, and easier to comprehend.

Although his role is to point out the theory and research behind the well-deserved status of story, Willingham writes like a practitioner, offering suggestions which are practical and simple to implement. For you fans of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, this article is a concise, highly accessible how-to guide for putting story to work in your instruction.

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles, Recommended Resources

A Professional Learning Community (Made Easy)

You’re reading this post at the old How to Teach a Novel site. Continue reading this post or the most recent post at the new site.

Most of us who are psyched about teaching can muster enoenglish companionugh enthusiasm to get us through the most trying times. But it’s comforting and enlightening to dialogue with like-minded individuals once in a while, and the Internet lets you reach out across the nation and the world to do that.

If you haven’t already found it, I suggest you get hooked up with The English Companion Ning. Tons of blogs, forums, and groups for seeking and sharing ideas, sites, and resources. I dare you to spend just ten minutes there and not come away with a new link, lesson, or at least a laugh. If you’re looking for an approach for a lesson or suggestions for a novel unit, this is a great place to get in touch with professional practitioners like yourself. Jim Burke does some good work!

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Resources, Recommended Sites