Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Blog from Ooligan Press

Ooligan Press has launched a new, updated version of the Classroom Publishing blog, available at:

Please check that site for further updates about the new edition of Classroom Publishing, and update your bookmarks.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Youth Voice Organizations Begin Coalition

Phil Costello, director of Youth Communication in Chicago, Illinois has organized a community newspaper for middle and high school students called “New Expressions.” The newspaper is published four times a year, every two months during the school year, and once over the summer, and has a circulation of 284 sites in Chicago with over 46,000 copies. But students who are drawn to writing, but are looking for something in a non-journalistic style can look to another innovation by Phil and Youth Communication. Phil, along with other educators in the Chicagoland area and other surrounding states, have formed the Coalition of Youth Media Partners, a group of youth voice community based organizations. “We’re trying to create some sense of idenity as to how this whole Chicago based youth voice works…Say they’re into poetry, and though this [New Expressions] was more of a creative writing program, and I’ve known about these organizations for years, but we developed a group that meets bi-monthly to create its own identity and a website and other synergistic services and say that we’re about youth voice,” said Phil.

Take a look at Youth Communication's website, and stay tuned for the Coalition of Youth Media’s website. We’re sure that it will be worth watching.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jeffrey Guercio founded a summer institute in Irondequoit, New York around tenth graders, and some eleventh graders who struggled in English or Social Studies the previous year. The institute is committed to having students work on real, ongoing projects for the city of Irondequoit. Since beginning the institute, Jeffrey’s students have worked to develop a new bridge, build a walking trail along deserted train tracks, plan a town square from deserted and run down buildings, and even planning a central library. Here is a clip of one of the projects that appeared on local news:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Professional Development: The National Writing Project

The National Writing Project is a professional development network for teachers whose mission is to improve learning in our nation’s schools by improving the teaching of writing. Their professional development programs promote teacher collaboration as the way to understand how student writing develops writing across grades and subject areas. The National Writing Project currently has over 200 sites in all 50 states and provides professional development to over 100,000 teachers annually.

The centerpiece of the National Writing Project’s teacher training is a summer institute hosted by each of the sites in their network. The individual sites develop their own curriculum while still adhering to the National Writing Project’s philosophy of teachers teaching teachers. Some of these sites, such as the Little Rock Writing Project in Arkansas, have begun to include workshops on student publishing. Paula Kerr, the Coordinator for Youth Programs for the Little Rock Writing Project explains: “One of the reasons we made it a big part of our summer institute is because most teachers don’t publish with their students. We’ve found that once we introduce them to it, they do it.” Shari Williams, a reading specialist and art teacher at Benton High School, as well as the co-director of the Little Rock Writing Project, has led some of the publishing workshops at her site. She agrees that teachers have very little experience with publishing but are very open to the possibilities it creates. “You know how you give teachers ideas, and they just go with them,” said Shari.

One example of how Shari encouraged the teaching of writing across the curriculum came after she led a workshop on bookmaking. A science teacher took what Shari had showed them and created a field journal out of a paper bag. “It folds over and makes pockets so that if you were going out to gather wildflowers you have the pockets that the bag forms, and you would sit down and write about where you found it and what it looks like.”

Another science teacher Shari trained used bookmaking as a way to teach the compare and contrast essay. Students study rocks, and they write down their research in their field book. “It kind of becomes a special place. They are doing some scientific research and writing in their book about rocks. They aren’t writing on a piece of notebook paper, but the teacher is trying make them write a compare and contrast essay.”

Monday, April 7, 2008

An Ethnography of 8th Grade Culture

Excerpt from Classroom Publishing: A Practical Guide to Enhancing Student Literacy:

Sheila Cantlebary a language arts teacher at Wedgewood Middle School in Columbus, Ohio, and Sharon Dorsey, the reading resource teacher, decided to substitute a publishing project for the regular language arts/reading curriculum in one of Sheila’s double-period 8th-grade classes. “We thought that if we were going to have publication as a goal, we should first discuss with the kids what they wanted to write about.”

“We wanted the students to do some sort of ethnography. Some of the samples that we brought in to show the kids were publications like the Foxfire books. We had The Preppy Handbook, The Yuppie Handbook, and The Valley Girl’s Guide To Life. After a lot of class discussion, the kids decided to do a book on their own 8th-grade culture.”

“We first brainstormed for categories that would help focus their research. They came up with eight categories: spare time, clothes and jewelry, books and movies, the slang of that particular school year, note writing, what middle schoolers eat, school rules, and music.” The table of contents hints at the detailed pictures of a distinct culture that await the reader.

Sheila and Sharon made it clear to the students that the book they were writing was theirs, yet they did create a structure, a process, to help the students create their book. The following description of this process is excerpted from a paper that Sheila and Sharon wrote for an Ohio State University course they were taking.

Stage 1. Choosing a topic for the project
If interest is to be sustained, the topic needs to have student appeal and approval. Motivation is all-important at the middle school level. The topic should be sufficiently broad to generate enough subcategories or spin-off sections to provide work for the entire class. Bring in models of other student publications.

Stage 2. Identifying categories of the topic
Through class discussion, divide the topic into workable categories for individual students or groups of students to develop.

Stage 3. Making a commitment to a category
In order to foster the development of student ownership, students must commit themselves to working on one of the categories of the topic. Students were asked to give a first and second choice for the categories they wanted to develop. At the same time they were asked to choose the student(s) with whom they wanted to work. This was done in writing after a period of consultation among the students. Sharon and I then took the student choices and formed working groups of two to five students. An effort was made to place each student with a friend of his or her choice. Groups were balanced so that a possible leader or organizer was present in each.

Stage 4. Pre-writing discussion
Pre-writing activities provide motivation for students as well as begin their actual thinking about the topic. Our classroom discussions provided language about the topic. Our whole class brain stormed “jot lists” under each of the categories on the chalkboard. File folders were given out to each group. In the groups each student took individual research and writing assignments. Each group had to present its plan for writing to the teacher for final approval.

Stage 5. Researching the categories
Working in groups or individually, students developed a set of questions they wanted answered about their category or subcategory. They determined how to get their answers. Some wrote and administered surveys. Some did interviews outside of school or by phone during class hours. For certain categories, student observation and field notes were the best source of information. The verbal language (slang) group had the teacher help design a form for recording field observations that was regularly used by the whole class to record the unique words or phrases of middle schoolers. The forms were collected each Friday and the findings were verified by the whole class for accuracy of meaning and appropriate contextual information.

Stage 6. Writing the first drafts
Individual students flowed back and forth between writing alone and getting direction or support from their groups to do their drafting. The teacher must serve as facilitator, orchestrating the movement. Sometimes at this stage, it is necessary to teach the whole class to give the students examples or models of what they can do. Classroom lessons in percentages and fractions were necessary for interpreting the surveys. Editing of grammatical and usage features was generally overlooked until the next stage.

Stage 7. Rewriting, revising, and editing
Many students do not comprehend what revision means or entails. So, in teaching about revising, the language arts teacher is developing a whole new concept and a new pattern of behavior for students.

Stage 8. Create a proofing mock-up
Only when they see the mock-up does the realization set in that this product will be read by a real audience of peers. They become aware of how their writing will represent them to the readers, and they become tremendously motivated to locate all the grammatical and usage errors. They recognize the need for additional artwork, catchier titles, and more vivid descriptions. Students see the need for changing the layout in order to emphasize text or artwork. This might be called the final editing phase.

Producing the ethnography worked as an interdisciplinary project. Sheila explains, “They were using math as they computed the results of their survey; they used techniques of the social sciences as they created forms for field notes and surveys, and they learned about the importance of details in writing.” They became experts at detecting boring writing and learned how to spice it with examples from real life, like the student who rewrote her “Jeans” article to include the story of a mother using a coat hanger to zip her daughter’s overly tight jeans.

Sheila says, “While doing a project like this isn’t a panacea for all the ills of the language arts classroom, motivation was much higher in this class than in my other 8th-grade classes. Eventually, when it came down to final publication time, we put in some marathon nights at the school, when the custodian kicked us out at nine or ten. Our best testament to increased interest occurred on the second to the last day of school — the traditional 8th-grade cut day. The typical class on this day had only eight students. But this was the day that Fresh Talk was to be distributed. Our class was in full attendance except for two excused students who came back later to get their copies.”

*Copyright © 1992 by Laurie King & Dennis Stovall. Published by Blue Heron Publishing, Inc. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 28, 2008

History-Media Projects

Excerpt from Classroom Publishing: A Practical Guide to Enhancing Student Literacy:

“In our History-Media class the content is always multi-disciplinary. We examine the periods of American history through the lens of the media. One of our main goals is for students to learn to discover slant and bias in publications. Students also use current journalism styles to produce newspapers and television shows about different periods of American history.”

Many students at Appleton East High School in Appleton, Wisconsin, elect to fulfill their 11th-grade American Literature and U.S. History requirements by taking the History-Media class. This course has an 18-year history of its own and is currently taught by Michael Bergen and two colleagues. The students learn about American history through media: pamphlets, newspapers, and other written sources, as well as newscasts and Hollywood movies. At the same time they learn how information is shaped by the media. The course has been successful, according to Michael, when students see that to understand history or current events, they have to take an active, critical role. They need to figure out how an author of a newspaper article, an editor of a newspaper, or a movie director may be shaping their values and beliefs. He teaches his students to detect the slant in historical sources that purport to be totally “neutral” and unbiased.

A major part of Bergen’s History-Media class is student production of media. Students produce newspapers and television newscasts which deal with different periods of American history. One newspaper is called the Columbus Clarion-Republican and is written from an abolitionist point of view. The Clarion, for instance, contains stories describing the hardships of slavery. The tone of articles about the underground railroad approves of its mission and notes the bravery of the conductors.
Another newspaper is called The Richmond Chronicle, and it is written as if it were published in Richmond, Virginia, in January 1866. This southern newspaper is written from the point of view of slave owners. One of the articles in this newspaper criticizes Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Other stories portray slavery as a benign institution that was better for the slaves than life in Africa. Instead of a positive or open-minded article about John Brown, one piece begins: “John Brown was hanged today in Charleston for his many abolitionist murders.” Students learn from their hands-on experience in journalism how world events are shaped by the language and images of the media.

Bergen sees some problems arising in student publishing. “Classroom publishing fits into my philosophy of education: it involves critical thinking, writing, and cooperative learning. But classroom publishing needs to be made more accessible to teachers by making more computers available and by devising less complicated software. Without this support, teachers can end up doing too much work themselves.

“Another problem that faces teachers is that as publishing becomes more common in classes K–12, it can lose some of its novelty and possibly lose some of its effectiveness with the kids. Teachers need to prevent this blunting effect by expanding their publishing curriculum, by getting new ideas.”

*Copyright © 1992 by Laurie King & Dennis Stovall. Published by Blue Heron Publishing, Inc. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Excitement of Contests

Excerpt from Classroom Publishing: A Practical Guide to Enhancing Student Literacy:

Entering writing contests can be a good vehicle for motivating students to do their best writing and revising. There are many kinds of writing competitions, and perhaps the most fruitful ones are those that actually publish students’ work.

Janis Cramer leads her 10th–12th grade creative writing students in Bethany, Oklahoma through a process of writing children’s books, beginning with a critique of children’s books, and culminating with students entering the Landmark contest. The Landmark organization publishes the books of winning students each year. Janis uses Written & Illustrated by… the guide to writing for this contest written by David Melton. Janis finds this guide to be helpful, although she thinks it underestimates the amount of time the different stages will take.

Her students do an excellent job. One year, with 7,500 entries across the nation, she had one student place in the top ten in the oldest age group category and five placed in the top one hundred. “My kids are very competitive with each other, and they also motivate each other in a lot of ways. They cannot stand for someone else to do a better job. On the other hand, they are extremely proud of each other’s product.”

Janis’ interpretation of the Landmark process strikes a careful balance of collaborative and individual work.

1. Critique — Students critique three children’s books. Students use the elementary school library to look for a good, average, and poor book to write about. They look at the art, style, plot, character development, and the book jacket. They do this to sharpen their own writing as well as to develop an eye for what book companies are looking for.

2. Pre-writing: Telling the Story — In their writing groups, the students first tell each other their stories. “It becomes a collaborative effort,” Janis explains, “because they just come up with the basic ideas, and then they get so many new ways to change and add to their stories from their groups.”

3. The Rough Draft — Janis agrees that if students have to write their stories in a short amount of time, they will be more creative. In fact, she has her students write rough drafts in one period! You may wish to keep to this time frame with your students, or you may want to allow them to have more time. When students write their rough drafts, they also draw sketches of their main characters and these are displayed so students can discuss them.

4. Revising — Students work on drafts with their writing groups. They then use the word processor, and revise and edit again, this time with the aid of new editing groups. The next stage is printing the story, cutting, and doing the layout on big sheets of paper. “They read each other’s books and write rave reviews for each other that go on the actual book cover.”

5. Artwork and Binding — “Students must do their own art work, which,” says Janis, “is a problem for some of the kids. This year I’m going to have the art teacher work with them. The books are hardbound, and they use the cardboard that comes off the backs of art tablets. After covering the cardboard with construction paper, they sew their books together with needle and thread.

6. Older Students Read to the Younger Ones — In contrast to other projects involving writing books for children, Janis only has some students go to the elementary school to read their books. The elementary teachers select the books they want read, and it is a special honor for students to be chosen.

7. Celebration — “We have a cookie and punch reception in the library which is filled with family, friends, high school teachers, and elementary school teachers. We make a poster of each kid, taking information and reviews off their book jackets. All the books are spread out on the tables for everyone to look through. The students gain a certain amount of fame, which is good, because my creative writing kids don’t usually get a lot of recognition.”
Some of these Mustang High School students achieve further recognition in the community. The Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English February 1992 newsletter announced that the students were available to go to other schools to read their books and explain how they made them.

*Copyright © 1992 by Laurie King & Dennis Stovall. Published by Blue Heron Publishing, Inc. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.