Lunchtime Conversations

The Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts (PCTELA) used our NCTE Fund Teachers for the Dream Grant this year to work with two young teachers who are excelling in our field. The reflection posted here is from Julianna Balmer – a teaching candidate at West Chester University. The reflection from our second grant recipient will be posted later this month.


“So long as you understand one another, English is English.” This statement came from the lips of an international Ugandan student who is fluent in 3+ languages. I, along with several others, leaned in close to hear the beautiful words Gloria would say next.

I had the honor and privilege of partnering with the Writing Center at my university to plan and create a workshop conference called, “Intercultural Communication & Tutoring”. This workshop conference focused on equipping Writing Center tutors and English and English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers with practical ways to support English Language Learner (ELL) students who enter classrooms and writing centers. Three faculty members from my university presented interactive workshops on: Respecting World Englishes, Working with TOEFL-Trained Writers, and Promoting Self-Direction for ELLs. These sessions were filled with meaningful, relevant content and encouraged active engagement between participants.

After a lunch break (because we needed the fuel to keep learning!), participants took part in “hosted conversations” engaging in the roles of host, participant, bee, or butterfly. Hosts chose a topic and led the conversation. Participants stayed with one host to explore a topic. Bees moved between groups and cross-pollinated discussions. Butterflies moved from session to session, primarily as listeners. Each group used a graphic organizer to take notes (provided) and brought back a “harvest” of highlights from their sessions at the end of the workshop conference. This was a way for participants to network and continue conversations begun during the morning sessions.

This was time well-spent in listening to one another share personal experiences and thoughts regarding intercultural communication and writing. It was during this time that Gloria spoke the words, “So long as you understand one another, English is English.” I was a participant taking part in discussion focused on accents, and was so intrigued by experiences and comments shared. Our discussion ranged from talk about accents as identities, how exposure to accents influences our ability to hear them, and language as a tool. It was rich discussion filled with many “mhmm” and “ohhh!” moments as we exchanged thoughts and encouraged each other to see accents from different perspectives.

Many similar conversations were taking place around the building, and as I listened to tidbits here and there I heard and saw a community of educators who are dedicated to furthering their understanding and support of intercultural learning. I have no doubt that each attendee is making a difference in the lives of their students and colleagues, one word at a time.

Simple lunchtime conversations can become moments where passionate thinkers come together, engage in meaningful conversation, and take those conversations back to their communities for further discussion and implementation. These conversations are worthwhile. These conversations are compelling. These conversations are powerful. What are your lunchtime conversations like?

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Lunchtime Conversations

Intercultural Communication Workshop for Teachers and Tutors of English to Speakers of Other Languages

Intercultural Communication Workshop for Teachers and Tutors of English to Speakers of Other Languages

Saturday February 24, 2018

West Chester University

One of our Fund Teachers for the Dream grant recipients this year has developed a project to enhance writing teachers’ and tutors’ expertise in working with students who speak English as a second language.  This grant is made possible by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

She is hosting the free workshop at West Chester University on Saturday February 24th from 9am – 5pm. We’d love to see a large attendance! Anyone who works with secondary or post-secondary level ESL student writers would certainly benefit from the workshop.

Join students, tutors, administrators, and faculty in a free, interactive workshop that equips attendees with strategies and skills to effectively implement intercultural communication in writing center tutoring. Enjoy building your regional network through professional development.

The workshop is being co-sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association and us, PCTELA.

Find out more by linking to the event page here.

Or register here!

 

 

 

Intercultural Communication Workshop for Teachers and Tutors of English to Speakers of Other Languages

Fund Teachers for the Dream Grant Proposal and Application

Fund Teachers for the Dream Grant Proposal and Application

The Fund Teachers for the Dream grant was again awarded to the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts (PCTELA) by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)! Just like last year, we are using this grant in order to mentor pre-service teaching candidates and new teachers within their first three years of teaching.

Our goal is to select teachers of color who are enthusiastic, academically ­driven, and passionate about this profession! We want to support these teachers in developing and implementing a mentoring opportunity for students so they can grow professionally and share that flare for learning with students across Pennsylvania.

We will be selecting two pre-service teaching candidates and/or new teachers within their first three years of teaching from Pennsylvania to mentor as they develop and enact an activity for students in a “pay it forward” play on professional development.

The teaching candidates and/or new teachers selected for this opportunity will receive:

  • Up to $100 to purchase materials for your proposed activity with students
  • Complimentary registration fee to attend the NCTE Affiliate Leadership Meeting in July 2018
  • Complimentary one ­day registration to the Annual PCTELA Conference in Pittsburgh, PA on October 19-20, 2018
  • Complimentary attendance at our PCTELA Board Dinner on October 19, 2018

See the full details and timeline for more information!

If you’re interested in applying for this fantastic opportunity, please don’t delay! Applications are due by Friday October 20, 2017.

You do not need to be an English or Reading teacher to submit a proposal! We welcome all teachers with a heart for using literacy in the classroom (reading, writing, speaking, and listening standards) at any grade level!

APPLY HERE

 

Fund Teachers for the Dream Grant Proposal and Application

A Poem to Pair with The Awakening

Today my classes finished reading Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and I started class by sharing the poem “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Your students might recognize this poem as the source of the title line for Maya Angelou’s book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

We only talked about the poem for a few minutes, but it led us in to our discussion of Edna and whether or not she could ever be free in her society/time period/marriage.

Sympathy

Paul Laurence Dunbar

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!

When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;   

When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,   

And the river flows like a stream of glass;

When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,   

And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—

I know what the caged bird feels!

 

I know why the caged bird beats his wing

Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;   

For he must fly back to his perch and cling   

When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;

And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars   

And they pulse again with a keener sting—

I know why he beats his wing!

 

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—

When he beats his bars and he would be free;

It is not a carol of joy or glee,

But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,   

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—

I know why the caged bird sings!

A Poem to Pair with The Awakening

A Poem for Today: Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 by William Wordsworth

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty;
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

A Poem for Today: Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 by William Wordsworth

Book Review: Reading Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens

With the recent announcement of two men who thought it might be a good idea to try a Lord of the Flies with all women, book twitter blew up (and not in a good way. c’mon, guys, just use the google). In case everyone forgot, Libba Bray had already done this in 2011 with Beauty Queens (and to be fair, Anabel McDonald did this in 2002 with Be Nice). And so I immediately moved this book up on my TBR list to right now. (I mean, Roxane Gay even got in on the conversation and wrote this hilarious McSweeney’s post about “All Male Movie Remakes.”)

 Libba Bray herself wrote about her struggles with having the book turned in to a movie after it was optioned:

“But even when you do get up to bat, it’s still hard to have those female characters become real people. I saw a script in which every stereotype I tried to subvert in BQ was made real. There was an actual hair-pulling catfight. It’s hard to put into words exactly how I felt at that moment. But try, if you will, to imagine me with lasers coming out of my eyes while my internal organs became as the fires of Mordor. They didn’t get it. And they were legit trying to get it, which made it doubly painful. It wasn’t laziness; it was a fundamental tone deafness. An inability to comprehend and relate to women as real people.”

This article is a must-read, just as the book is. I love a good satire, and I also love a good satire that is a slapstick romp at times. The characters are diverse in many ways, and I identified with more than one of them.  I have now put all Libba Bray’s books on my TBR list.

I read Beauty Queens in two sittings (it would have been one, but I started reading it the weekend after school started at 7:30pm, and you know how that goes, I was asleep with a book on my face by 8:30pm). I laughed out loud, read my husband certain lines, shook my head grimly at times, and at other points wrote down favorite lines.

If I were still teaching The Lord of the Flies I would definitely be doing something to pair Beauty Queens with it, and talk about how books are always social commentary of the time in which they were written. Unfortunately, many of the issues in Beauty Queens are still issues. Also unfortunately for people who also might want to teach with this, there’s lots of language that might be considered inappropriate for schools.

So if you need the kind of book you can sink in to and read non-stop, or if you need a break from all the lesson planning and grading (welcome back to the school year), or if you just want a funny book you can laugh out loud to and then immediately want to force all your friends to read, check out Beauty Queens.

Posted by Kate, PCTELA blog editor

Book Review: Reading Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens

Talking about Tone with Two Poems

Tone is always difficult to talk about with students. First, we have to convince them the poem *has* a tone. Then, we have to ask them to give us words to describe the tone. Finally, we try to have them point to the word(s) in the poem that made them understand the tone.

Here are two poems about the same topic, which might allow those conversations to go a little smoother. By comparing the two poems, the tone of each might more easily come to light.

Just a note, I give my students a list of tone words at the beginning of the year, and it makes it much easier for these conversations at first if they can reference a list rather than have to generate tone words on their own.


Small Frogs Killed on the Highway
James Wright

Still,
I would leap too
Into the light,
If I had the chance.
It is everything, the wet green stalk of the field
On the other side of the road.
They crouch there, too, faltering in terror
And take strange wing. Many
Of the dead never moved, but many
Of the dead are alive forever in the split second
Auto headlights more sudden
Than their drivers know.
The drivers burrow backward into dank pools
Where nothing begets
Nothing.

Across the road, tadpoles are dancing
On the quarter thumbnail
Of the moon. They can’t see,
Not yet.


Birdfoot’s Grampa
Joseph Bruchac

The old man
must have stopped our car
two dozen times to climb out
and gather into his hands
the small toads blinded
by our lights and leaping,
live drops of rain.

The rain was falling,
a mist about his white hair
and I kept saying
you can’t save them all
accept it, get back in
we’ve got places to go.

But, leathery hands full
of wet brown life
knee deep in the summer
roadside grass
he just smiled and said
they have places to go
too.

 

Talking about Tone with Two Poems