We Are Not Alone: Teachers, Parents, & Educational Communities Push Back on Testing

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

ExcessiveTesting

 

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Over the past three weeks our focus on high stakes testing (SBAC and PARCC) has examined our personal and professional tensions in our roles as both parents and teacher educators. It is not an exaggeration to say we are deeply concerned over these movements in education and their impacts on children, teachers, and schools. So concerned that we have lost sleep, written letters to administrators, met with colleagues to brainstorm and strategize solutions, Continue reading

To Test or Not to Test, This is Not the Question

By Marie LeJeune & Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

SquarepegAssessment literacy- (Gallagher & Turley): [teachers’] deep understanding of why they assess, when they assess, and how they assess in ways that positively impact student learning. In addition, successful teacher assessors view assessment through an inquiry lens, using varying assessments to learn from and with their students in order to adjust classroom practices accordingly. Together these two qualities—a deep knowledge of assessment and an inquiry approach to assessment — create a particular stance toward assessment. (NCTE, 2013).

For the month of March we have presented reasons for pushing back against high stakes testing, and offered examples of how citizens comprised of teachers, parents, and community organizers are, through grassroots movements, resisting these punitive, and often harmful assessment practices. Continue reading

Field Tested: Educators Speak Back to High Stakes Testing

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

Testing1A boy in Miss Malarkey’s class makes the following observation,

Miss Malarkey is a good teacher. Usually she’s really nice. But a couple of weeks ago she started acting a little weird. She started talking about THE TEST: The Instructional Performance Through Understanding test. I think Miss Malarkey said it was the “I.P.T.U.” test (Finchler, J, 2003).

Last week we talked about the personal toll testing has taken on our children Continue reading

Reading as a Collaborative Act: Sherman Alexie as Mentor

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

Book cover for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThis week, we continue our exploration of authors as mentors—authors whose work and words contribute to our teaching of reading, writing, language, and culture. As we’ve mentioned in past weeks, we are interested in exploring a study of mentor authors whose work informs students as readers and writers but also as global citizens. We are now layering Marie’s framework for Mentor Author Studies with a framework for International Curriculum (Short, 2003).

This week we examine a mentor author study of Sherman Alexie, whose work we have shared with middle and high school students and their teachers. Although Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is his only novel deemed “young adult,” much of Alexie’s work is suitable for secondary study, including many of his poems, essays, short stories and novels. Continue reading

Reading as a Collaborative Act: Interactions with Linda Sue Park

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

Mentor Author: Linda Sue Park

This week, we begin our exploration of some of our favorite authors whom we have looked to as mentors in our classrooms—authors whose work and words contribute to our teaching of reading, writing, language, and culture. Again, we draw upon the framework below for our initial selection of possible mentor authors when we embark upon such study with students. Additionally, we are currently deeply immersed in work with international issues, themes, and literature with both students and teachers in K-12 classrooms. We are now layering <a href="http://wowlit.org/blog/2011/04/04/reading-as-a-collaborative-act-a-framework-for-exploring-author-studies/#more-15955Marie’s Framework for Mentor Author Studies with a Framework for International Curriculum (Short, 2003). In addition to seeking authors who are strong mentors for student writers—we also strive to consider and include issues of personal cultural identity, cross cultural studies, the integration of international experiences and texts, and inquiry into global issues (Short, 2003).
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Reading as a Collaborative Act: A Framework for Exploring Author Studies

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

Author studies are common in many classrooms, but studying mentor authors means that we look at those who write for children and young adults in new ways—not just a study of their work and their life, but an in depth exploration of their craft and writing habits. In What You Know by Heart (2002), Katie Wood Ray reminds us that authors can be co-teachers of literacy experiences. In The Wonder of It All (2007), Nancy Johnson and Cyndi Giorgis explore how authors and illustrators create an ideal partnership for us when teaching—we teach in collaboration–their words layer together with our words to expand meaning in the socio-cultural contexts of our classrooms. This process of studying authors has even more power in the 21st century—in today’s world, authors and illustrators are potentially closer to children and young adults than they have ever been. Students can interact with authors in “real time” via blogs, social networking sites (Facebook, etc.), video and pod casts, websites, and other digital avenues for exploring authors’ craft and their lives as writers and creators.
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Invitations and Negotiations: Reflections on a Month of Mondays

By Marie LeJeune & Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

This month in WOW Currents we explored theoretical intersections and instructional challenges to using multicultural and international children’s literature with students of all ages. We began by creating a framework that articulated the theoretical frames that inform our practice and reflection, and provided examples from our teaching experiences in schools, in “out of school spaces,” and with preservice teachers. We heard from a variety of readers who have pushed us as teachers and researchers, and engaged in discussions with each other on the complexity of teaching literature, and our personal journeys as literacy educators. For this last blog entry we’d like to reflect back and respond to some of the issues raised for us around multicultural and international literature as we wrote for WOW Currents this month. Continue reading

Invitations and Negotiations: Preservice Teacher Education

By Marie LeJeune & Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

As teacher educators we believe we must engage future teachers in the important work of finding quality children’s and adolescent literature students they or their students might not find otherwise. We encourage students to read a wide variety of recent texts and discourage students from using overly popularized texts, not because we necessarily dismiss the quality of these texts, but because we believe that often texts with the richest possibility for critical, social, and intellectual richness may not be a part of the popular mainstream. Furthermore, we want to expose preservice teachers to texts that portray diverse groups that mirror the students with whom they will eventually work.

This week, following our theme of “Invitations and Negotiations,” we use the framework we created week 1 to discuss our beliefs, challenges, and tensions around sharing international and multicultural texts with preservice teachers.

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