Welcome to the Heinemann PD Professional Learning Community Series. This month, we discuss building lifelong literacy habits for all, from honoring the work of our smallest readers to our reflecting on our own practices as adults.
“I want kids to write about what they care about, but so much of what they care about feels brainless and superficial to me.”
– Chapter 12, The Unstoppable Writing Teacher
M. Colleen Cruz speaks honestly about her feelings in the opening of chapter twelve. “Pop Culture doesn’t always reflect our strongest hopes for our students,” she writes. Yet, she proceeds by sharing her realizations about how it became a point of connection and engagement for her students.
“[S]tudents can easily hide behind these topics when they could be writing about something more important. They can turn the spotlight away from themselves and instead turn it toward someone else’s story, game, or song. Since we are in the business of helping students to find their authentic voices and to use writing to help broadcast those voices, there is something particularly irksome when students choose to use that time to instead write about someone else’s work. Especially work that so often feels shallow and inconsequential at best, degrading and violent at worst” (p. 118).
Colleen's advice? Open lessons with a pop culture reference or analogy, or use pop culture texts for practice texts to teach tricky concepts like grammar, structure, or meaning.
Consider your own resistance to welcoming pop culture into your classroom. Which pieces might serve as a springboard for learning? Click below to read Chapter 12 from her book The Unstoppable Writing Teacher (2015). Have a Digital Library subscription? Login to find a full digital copy of this book.
Join M. Colleen Cruz for a 2-part webinar on May 9th and May 23rd titled "Unstoppable Teaching: Strategies for Making Writing Irresistible" and learn to invite kid culture into hard-to-teach topics—like grammar—and more. Sign up here!
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Online: Learn about all of the webinars offered this spring, with M. Colleen Cruz, Fountas and Pinnell–trained consultants, and more, by clicking here.
Off-Site: One-Day Workshops are scheduled around the country with Harvey "Smokey" Daniels, Lucy Calkins, and more! View the list by clicking here and see who is coming to your area.
On-Site: View possibilities for customized seminars, consulting authors and speakers, and residencies available to you by clicking here.
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In addition to being the author of The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, M. Colleen Cruz is the author of several other titles for teachers, including Independent Writing and A Quick Guide to Helping Struggling Writers, as well as the author of the young adult novel Border Crossing, a Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award Finalist. Colleen was a classroom teacher in general education and inclusive settings before joining the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, where she is Senior Lead Staff Developer. Colleen presently supports schools, teachers, and their students nationally and internationally as a literacy consultant. (photo credit: Nadine Baldasare)
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