Monthly Archives: August 2011

So…Tough Talk, Tough Texts is finally here!

I’m super excited to report that one crashed hard drive, four editors, and a year behind expected publication date, the book is finally out!

I’ll be talking about it soon on NWP Radio. We record tomorrow, and the show airs on Sept. 8, 4pm (that’s Pacific time, I think.) I’ll be on the show with Katherine Schulten from the New York Times Learning Network, Corey Harbaugh from the Third Coast Writing Project, and Jennifer Lemberg, NY Project Coordinator for the Holocaust Educators Network. We’ll all be talking about the kinds of support students and teachers need to tackle controversial subjects like 9/11.

On that show, I mention some resources that you may want to access if you’re tuning into the show. I talk more about the focus of the book at the end of this message, but here are the resources I mention.

First, here’s the Dailies form, that response tool we used in conjunction with sticky notes to help kids write about and discuss the controversial elements of their book club text, then reflect on their book club interactions using a process we called “meta-talk” (i.e., talk about your talk). I’m including both versions for MS and HS students: Dailies forms

Next comes the booklist.

LIST OF TOUGH TEXTS WE USED:

Tough Texts in Cam’s Sixth-Grade Class

Almond, David. Skellig.

Johnson, Angela. Heaven.

Lowry, Lois. The Giver.

 Lowry, Lois. Gathering Blue.

Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia.

Philbrick, Rodman. The Last Book in the Universe.

Spinelli, Jerry. Loser.

Spinelli, Jerry. Wringer.

Tough Texts in Rebecca’s Tenth-Grade Pre-AP English Class

Alvarez, Julia. In the Time of the Butterflies.

Anderson, M. T. Feed.

Chambers, Aidan. Postcards from No Man’s Land.

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Martel, Yann. Life of Pi.

Paton, Alan. Cry the Beloved Country.

Pullman, Philip. The Golden Compass.

Rosoff, Meg. How I Live Now.

Stratton, Allan. Chanda’s Secrets.

Vijayaraghavan, Vineeta. Motherland.

Tough Texts in Beth’s Multiage High School English Class

Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Anderson, M. T. Feed.

Chbosky, Steven. The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Evslin, Bernard. Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of the Greek Myths.

Green, John. Looking for Alaska.

Mikaelsen, Ben. Touching Spirit Bear.

Porter, Connie. Imani All Mine.

Pritchett, Laura. Sky Bridge.

Salinger, J. D. Catcher in the Rye.

OTHER RESOURCES: On the Heinemann website, you can also find assignment sheets, scoring guides, and other resources for all the culminating projects I discuss in Ch. 6 of the book, “Assessing Civil Discourse: Using 21st-Century Skills to Leave No Text Behind.” Just click on the Companion Resources tab on Heinemann’s page describing the book.

Finally, below is more about the purpose of the book. Listen in to the show if you want to know more!

– Cindy

FOCUS OF THE BOOK: The book is based on the work I’ve done over a number of years with three teacher-researchers from the Colorado State University Writing Project: Cameron Shinn (then a 6th-grade teacher in a rural school), Rebecca Garrett (a 10th-grade pre-AP teacher in an affluent suburban school), and Beth Lewis (teacher of a multi-age English class in an alternative school). Together, we examined how kids engaged in civil discourse on literature containing controversial, but culturally significant topics like race, class, gender, war, religion, drug use, homosexuality, and the like. Our premise was that if kids can have productive conversations about these topics in the classroom, we will increase their chances of doing so beyond the classroom.

In writing the book, I came to believe that this kind of critical reading, writing, and talk just might have the potential to change the world, especially since they certainly don’t have cultural role models who can help them out with this in our world today (case in point: the debt ceiling debacle just last month, and this month, and next month, ad nauseum). Thus the subtitle of the book: Teaching English to Change the World.

I know that writing it changed me. I hope you’ll read it and see if you agree.