Monday, March 30, 2009

Powerful NCTE DOCUMENTS--Ways to Start Thoughtful Conversations

I agree wholeheartedly with Bud the Teacher who recently said of the National Council of Teacher of English (via Twitter) "They're on fire."  I have to say that I have been especially proud to be part of NCTE these last several months. They have published some amazing work and seem to be taking a stand to support the kind of education that all students deserve.  I see lots of potential in these documents--they can all be used to start conversations with colleagues and to begin to examine the way we are doing things in schools. If you haven't had time to really dig into the newest documents, I would highly recommend reading them and finding time to talk to colleagues. The focus on literacy as it relates to 21st Century is key to my personal thinking about learning in classrooms. I worry that too many of these conversations are about the "bling" of the technology rather than the bigger concepts behind this thinking. These NCTE documents can generate great discussions in schools. They've also provided me an anchor for my own personal reflection.

In February, NCTE adopted "The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies". The definition is one that goes beyond tools of the 21st century and helps me define my role in these changing times.

In November, the Executive Committee adopted 21ST CENTURY CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT FRAMEWORK. I was part of the group that worked on this and learned so much in the process. I see it as a great document for reflection--questions to ask myself about my teaching. I can also envision using it with staff--How are we doing? What are our strengths? What are our goals? etc.

A position statement that I continue to go back to when thinking about 21st Century literacy is the NCTE BELIEFS ABOUT THE TEACHING OF WRITING. As the genres in our students' world expand, the beliefs about writing stand true. The kinds of writing they produce may be different but the process remains.

If you have not had a chance to WRITING IN THE 21ST CENTURY by Kathleen Blake Yancey, it is a great piece that came from her closing address at the November Convention. It is a key piece if about the historical changes in writing and what that means for us today.

Two more important documents--worth reading and thinking about are THE GENTEEL UNTEACHING OF AMERICA'S POOR by Kylene Beers and WRITING BETWEEN THE LINES-AND EVERYWHERE ELSE. In the first piece, Kylene brings up issues that we can't ignore as teachers. A hard piece that is so necessary. The second discusses the differences between in-school and out-of-school writing.

Finally, keep your eye open for news and information on the NCTE sponsored NATIONAL DAY ON WRITING in October 2009. What does it mean to be a writer today and how can we support this idea in our communities? This will be a huge day and a day that all of us are invited to participate in. You can get the word out with this information.

For me, these documents all go together. They help me define and revise my own thinking. They've also invited lots of great conversations with friends and colleagues who have read them. They are where so much of our thinking is and have helped us move forward. I hope they do the same for you. Each one stands on its own as an important piece of thinking. Together, they can give us a vision of where we can go as literacy educators.


  1. This looks like a great set of articles. Today I am exhausted since it is the first day back after spring break and I am getting back into my routine, but I definitely want to read them later this week. Thanks for pointing them out with the links.

    I have considered becoming a member of NCTE before. I have been a member of IRA for a few years now. If you have a chance could you give me some feedback on the benefits of being a NCTE member? Thanks!

  2. I have been a member of NCTE for 20ish years. It has been my anchor professional organization. For me, the people I've learned from all of my professional life are key people in the organization. I believe in what NCTE stands for, love the journals, enjoy the convention each year and am currently thrilled at all they are putting out there as a support for our work. If you aren't sure, spend some time on the NCTE website. For me, it is a perfect match--my professional beliefs and what I need to grow. I think that's the case for lots of people. Hope that helps!


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