Middle School Resources

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
February 8, 2014 - Issue #369
Keeping It Short

The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.
                                                                 Vince Lombardi

Last week I visited a sixth-grade class led by Justin Stygles in Norway, Maine. There was lots of marvelous teaching and learning going on, but what caught my eye was a short article about a football controversy. It was the week before the Super Bowl, and the New England Patriots wouldn't be in it because of their loss to the Denver Broncos. The hot topic from the New England loss a week earlier was a statement by their coach Bill Belichick, criticizing a Denver player and accusing him of an illegal hit.
I asked Justin about the article on the wall, as well as an argument anchor chart linked to the article. Justin said, "Oh, that was a fun one. I brought in three short texts the Monday after the game - one from the Boston newspaper, one from the Denver Post, and one from an impartial sports site." He went on to explain how he had the class read all three articles to weigh in on what the correct call should be. Was the play illegal? Was the call justified? The class reviewed video of the play and studied the NFL rulebook, and students brought in other articles to support or refute claims by classmates.
"It was especially fun hearing from students who weren't football fans," said Justin. "At first, they said they wouldn't be able to make a judgment call because they didn't know the game. I told them that put them in the best position to decide, since they would be truly impartial when they read the articles, the rule, and viewed the video." They found their status was elevated because their passion for football or prejudice for a specific team wouldn't get in the way. Students argued their cases in writing, publishing them to the class blog, and Justin tweeted them out to the feeds of Boston and Denver sports sites. It was a week after the assignment, and everyone was still buzzing about it.
Justin's creativity reminded me again of the power of short texts, and the talent teachers have for tapping into student interests to make literacy come alive. Short texts are a hot topic now, because they lend themselves to close reading and strategy work across the curriculum. They are our focus this week - enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy


Free for All

[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Here are three features from the archives with strategies for keeping it short.
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan share their Favorite Short Mentor Texts for Demonstration Lessons:
Who says units of study have to be long? Franki Sibberson has ideas for short units that impart big lessons to students:
In this video quick take, Katie Doherty explains why she finds a timer helpful in her middle school writing workshop for keeping students focused and productive:
The latest book flight from the LitforKids blog is on best friends, with suggestions for texts from preschool through adult readers on the topic:
Katie DiCesare's online course Designing Primary Writing Units with the Common Core in Mind begins early next month. The ten-day course includes three webcasts, personal response from Katie, a DVD, and many print and video resources. For details on registering, click on the link below:


The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
February 1, 2014 - Issue #368
Strength and Weakness

Sometimes you don't realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness.
                                                                 Susan Gale
My father always said, "Everyone's greatest strength is their greatest weakness and their greatest weakness is their greatest strength."  It has taken most of my life to understand the wisdom behind these words. He often used them when I was frustrated with a person or with some aspect of myself. He would try to get me to understand that a person's flaws are typically due to great strengths they possess. I am very detail oriented and organized.  If you want something done well, planned and executed as designed, I am on it. It is this strength that causes me to struggle with the unexpected and be inflexible when plans go awry. 
There was a time when I would get down on myself for the parts of me that I wished were different. Then my father's words started to come to me in moments when I needed them. Rather than criticize my inability to "go with the flow," I celebrated my organizing gifts and used them to deal with those chaotic moments. I may not like chaos, but my strength allows me to handle it.
We are quick to define ourselves and others narrowly. We sort people by static characteristics and often emphasize the negative. Rather than see the weakness, what would happen if we celebrated the inverse strength? The colleague who resists change has strong beliefs.  The leader who is slow to make decisions listens and considers before she acts. The person who never seems to stay on agenda thinks outside the box. If we try to see the strengths in weaknesses we may begin to appreciate varying points of view and collaborate more effectively. 

We can all learn, grow, and change, but we each possess certain qualities that define who we are. I have found myself looking for the strengths in people and trying to understand the behaviors, words, and actions of others by viewing them through the lens of strength. It is amazing how this has shifted my viewpoint and the energy in my relationships.
I have been thinking a lot about how this type of thinking is critical to share with our students. The student who cannot sit still . . . has the potential to be incredibly productive. The student who takes forever to do something . . . is attentive and thoughtful. The student who can take the entire class off-task . . . is a future leader. We need to show our students the potential they have and how to use their strengths and weaknesses to make a difference in their lives, the lives of others, and their world. I hope to continue to learn from the wisdom in these words.
This week we celebrate middle school literacy. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Clare Landrigan
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Clare Landrigan founded Teachers for Teachers with Tammy Mulligan. She spends her days helping educators from New England and beyond do the hard, thoughtful, and rewarding work of improving schools for young readers and writers. You can find Clare and Tammy's latest thinking at the Perspectives blog.

Free for All

[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Here are two features from the archives that explore different facets of middle school literacy.
Maggie Beattie Roberts and Kate Roberts present a step-by-step process for close reading in middle school involving multiple passes through the same text:
Heather Rader considers the cultural divide between teachers and students who are "screenagers" when it comes to texting.  If u r getting LOLed out in ur classroom u might want 2 read this:
Kasey Kiehl at the Middle School Teacher to Coach blog writes about the challenges of modeling thinking for students in Unscrewing Our Thinking Caps:
The Olympics are just around the corner, and Sarah Klim has suggestions for read alouds in a new booklist:
The book Join the Club! takes you inside Katie Doherty Czerwinski's classroom as she designs and leads middle school book clubs, tackling everything from first lessons to dealing with struggling students:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.