Best kept secret at NCTE17: poetry

Were you aware

that for the last very many years,

people who love writing poetry have been getting together

Saturday night at NCTE to read poetry, workshop poetry, and talk about writing?

Going to Fountain of the Muse was the best decision I made today.


In that spirit, I offer today’s reflections in (not the best) poetry (I’ve ever written)



F.28 From Book Love to Book Action with Tricia Ebarvia, Kate Flowers, and Anna Osborn

Joy Kirr tells us to “Just keep tweaking,” and Newkirk’s 5% rule

invites us to change 5% of what we’re doing per year.

That means incremental change.

Movement toward.

Not changing everything at once.

I went to this session

because I’m not totally happy with how independent reading is going in my classroom.


A new acronym–TRtP (toughest reader to please)

Would you rather have a kid fake reading all year long

or reading graphic novel after graphic novel?

Classroom libraries seem key to building readers but

I don’t have my own classroom.

Nor can I be assured of being in the same classrooms from year to year.

It’s impractical to build a classroom library.

Partner with your (likely awesome) school librarian

to get books in students’ hands: pop up library, mobile library carts.

First rule of assessing readers: do no harm.

Ask, “who does the assessment serve?”

Check you biases

that might get in the way of students finding the best books for them.

Make reading an event that students want to be a part of:

classroom read-a-thons for deep immersion with reading,

book club meetings with food.

Be a champion for authentic reading in your classroom.

And spread the good news about independent reading,


in spaces you share with your colleagues.

Or if you have a loud colleague like I do (Jay)

have him do it.

Make authentic reading contagious.



H.40 Authentic, Personalized, and Transformative: Using Writer’s Workshop in the ‘Real World’ with Dawn Finley, Diana Hammond, Dominic Pioter, Gwyndolyn Savens

They had a growing dissatisfaction with rubrics.

They wanted a more meaningful relationship with writing and revision.

They sought to make their work more about individual writers

and less about decisions you have to make in the world of grades.

The moment they said “we write”

and spoke as if it would not be weird

if we had a writer’s notebook with us,

I knew I was among my people.

Driving questions:

How does feedback impact our relationships with students

and their perceptions of themselves as writers?

How can we create a classroom where students can see themselves

as real writers and where there is enough trust to take risks?

Work with students to determine a list of criteria about what makes good writing,

a unique list for each class.


How can we embed opportunities to develop independence and writers’ voices?



I.22: Stop Grading, Start Reflecting: Empower Your Students to Evaluate Their Own Learning

We loved talking with you and thinking about your questions,

which we worked to answer here. (Our slides are here.)

You challenged me to think about what that semester final grade should reflect–

mastery? growth?

My students want it to be about growth.

Every time I’ve asked, they are in consensus.

So I tend to side with my students.

Besides, a semester grade that is about mastery

means I’m essentially ranking and sorting students

for whoever looks at the transcript, right?

I’m not so interested in that business.

Shouldn’t it be about the humans sitting in front of me

and not the ones who might look at a grade at some point in the future?

(But I need to think about this more.)



J.28: Reclaiming Grading, Reclaiming Our Craft: Amy Matthusen, Christina Ponzio

Grading was subverting

what they wanted to be doing in the classroom–

creating readers and writers.

They didn’t want students to walk

out of the room feeling less than

because of a number they’ve given them.

And don’t be afraid to hijack the gradebook

to make it work for you.



(and then there was too much pizza)



Fountain of the muse.

Strangers clustered around a pair of conference tables

in a cavernous room.


Then reading their words.


Then responding with care (thank you).


About our shared journeys to write

and teach

and be who we are.



This entry was posted in #NCTE17, #StopGrading, gradebook, gratitude, making change, not grading, presenting, things made of awesome. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Best kept secret at NCTE17: poetry

  1. Vince says:

    Always love hearing your thoughts on grading / responding to student writing. This entry struck me, too, about risk-taking and authentic reading & writing tasks. My new mantra is “teacher behavior precedes student behavior.” What actions, thinking, modeling has to happen from/by the teacher has to happen to open the door for students to take risks? Is it in how we establish a learning environment? Task development (writing that we ask students to read, respond to, and in asking what kind of writing they’ll produce)? Is it in our modeling of our own thinking, response to readings, writing? How do we plan — or maybe envsison is a better word — for risk-taking to happen in our classrooms? Or is it organic? Thank you!

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