WOW Currents

Hello, Dear Ferdinand! Of Bulls, Flowers and a Banned Book

By Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University, Monmouth, OR

September is the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom’s “Banned Books” month, when we celebrate books that at one time or another have been challenged and/or censored. These books are often removed from the shelves of school and public libraries because an individual or organization found them to be politically, morally or religiously offensive and problematic. This year, Banned Book Week runs from September 24-30, which coincides with a special exhibit at Worlds of Words–Hello, Dear Enemy!
Ferdinand Continue reading

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

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University



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

Global Inquiry and Content Teaching through the “Stories of a Discipline”: Math

By Melanie Landon-Hays and Tracy L. Smiles

MathPaperFirst, a confession. As “literacy people” we are not particularly fond of math. Cultural models are the story lines, or theories that belong to socioculturally defined groups of people (Holland & Quinn, 1987; Strauss & Quinn, 1998; Gee, 1998). We, who identify as “literacy people,” cannot deny the storylines we internalized about math: it is difficult to understand, comes easier for people who are predisposed with mathematical talent, is irrelevant, a set of skills we will rarely use in the real world. Continue reading

Reading as a Collaborative Act: Sherman Alexie as Mentor

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

This 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="’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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