Because Student Voice Promotes Equity in the Classroom

J Scott Baker, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Studies, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, jbaker3 @

Max Holden, Preservice Teacher, UW-La Crosse, holden.max @

Elizabeth Hubing, Preservice Teacher, UW-La Crosse, hubing.elizabe @

Kyle Kolar, Preservice Teacher, UW-La Crosse, kolar.kyle @

Educators in pluralistic classrooms are frustrated, guarded, and exhausted from addressing complicated current events with their students – especially after the 2016 election. Basing classroom assignments on headlines plastered across media is not only difficult but scary; however, in the tumultuous political climate of today’s America, the ability to provide a community where students are free to express their voices reinforces cultural and political literacy and ensures an inclusive classroom environment.  

In my classroom, I utilize the writing of poetry as a mechanism for self-expression, political debate, and controversial conversations. These assignments not only require students to understand current events, but also to explore their opinions of the world around them. While many teachers may shy away from partaking in discussions of these issues, I find that poetry allows students to discover their own voices while simultaneously exploring complex terrains of political discourse. These student-written poetry assignments encourage students to think critically and contextually about current events and how they pertain to their own unique experiences.

“So, what?”
During my years creating high school English, speech, and debate lessons, I always asked myself, “so, what?” What does any topic matter to someone with different lived experiences than mine? Lessons are not worth teaching if they do not allow for students to learn and develop from a position that is meaningful to them. The classroom should be a place where those of all religions, races, and socioeconomic classes can learn through the prism of their own experiences, while being introduced to the viewpoints of others. Poetry pushes students to move beyond regurgitation of facts and figures and into a process of developing their own unique voices.

My students, both in high school and in college, remind me of the poet, Steve Colman: “I wanna hear a poem / I wanna learn something I didn’t know / I wanna say ‘yes’ at the end, / because I’m sick of saying ‘so?’” (Simmons, 2005, p. 3). It is this “so?” feeling that prohibits students from thriving academically in any classroom, while simultaneously and systematically excluding diverse voices from being heard. When students fail to see a personal connection to a lesson or fail to see how a piece of literature matters to them, they stop paying attention, and with good reason. They lose their voice in the classroom, turning their literature studies into meaningless text devoid of the humanity, which we as English teachers want our students to appreciate.

The Difference is Context
In my university multicultural education courses, we focus on social justice conversations that make many educators nervous: race, socio-economics, gender, sexual orientation, religion, citizenship, and ability. These issues scare some K-12 educators, too, since “the phrase ‘teaching for social justice’ may conjure images of facing off against opponents or carrying protest placards while marching in the streets” (Kelly, 2012, p. 151). However, many high school literature pieces commonly studied provide a natural platform for these discussions to take place without feeling forced or even inappropriate. For example, conversations about racism arise organically from Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird or Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying. Why is it we can explore and discuss these societally relevant topics in the context of required readings, but not in current events?

Furthermore, as educators, is it not our job to bridge the context of literature into our students’ lives? If we do not allow students to link today’s events to what we are reading in canonical classics – if we fail to make those connections – we hinder student voices. Poetry focused on current events allows them to discover and understand their position(s) on issues, which leads to increased engagement and ownership of their education and individual beliefs.

The Possibilities of Poetry
Inevitably, every semester a first-year teacher candidate (TC) asks, “why haven’t we ever talked about these things before?” I look around the room at many heads nodding in agreement. While these future educators have studied racism through a historical lens in high school classes, they indicate they have never spoken about systemic oppression and privilege, or had deep discussions about contemporary racism. This suggests a lack of current events discussions and/or correlations with mandated curriculum in their schooling. If students never discuss issues of social justice, identity, and oppression inside the classroom, we are not providing equity for our students who live these issues outside the classroom.

While I have the luxury of including poetic writings in my university classroom, I am aware poetry gets a bad rap in PK-12 classrooms. I know many English educators who do not even like poetry – as it is often rooted in archaic language and texts – burdening educators and students already facing too many curricular demands. My hope is to challenge teachers opposed to curricular-based poetry to reevaluate and attempt current events-based poetic exploration as a platform for social justice and student self-actualization.

In order to promote these values, I ask TCs in my multicultural education classes to write poetry regarding current events, giving them the flexibility to write from their perspective and style. Thomas (2015) offers that “school with less poetry is school with less heart. School with no poetry is school with no heart” (p. 92), and I am consistently encouraging future teachers to find their hearts. Instead of forcing upon them structured argumentative essays, which identify barriers to systemic oppression or analyze the complexities of sexual identity, I ask TCs to write their ideas poetically – which provides them with voice – on a current event or issue.

I find that students produce stronger arguments when they write or speak from their perspectives, not what they think the instructor wants them to regurgitate to earn an “A.” Coates (2015) offers that “poetry aims for an economy of truth … poetry was the processing of my thought until the slag of justification fell away and I was left with the cold steel truths of life” (pp. 21-22). Here among these truths, the emotional underpinning of poetry as human experiences, students learn to make an argument; here among these truths, they find their voices.

Poetic Response to Current Events
During fall of 2017, as part of an ongoing research project to demonstrate this pedagogical strategy, I asked three TCs (who eventually co-authored this article with me) to write two poems each, offering insight into a 2017 current event. I chose TCs who plan to teach secondary English, and I gave them as much latitude in style or subject as they needed, only ensuring they wrote about current events. When they finished their poetry, I asked them to write a response explaining 1) why they selected the issue, and 2) why they felt it would be important for their future students to learn about each current event. As a result, the TC-written poems dove into the political turmoil over Civil War monuments and White supremacy in Charlottesville, the 2017 U.S. immigration ban, and aid for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.  

These poems address complicated, multi-layered issues of politics, belief systems, religion, and perspectives of life. Giving TC-participants the opportunity to express themselves resulted in greater appreciation of difficult discussions that arise in pluralistic classrooms, which in turn creates “open classroom climates that empower students of all ages to engage with complex issues, stand up for their positions, and work to understand differing opinions” (McCafferty-Wright & Knowles, 2016, p. 117). Moreover, I engage these difficult discussions with my college students now, as I did with those in the high school classroom, because student voice promotes equity in the classroom.

Neutrality is Not an Option
Max, in his first year of education courses, explains his rationale for writing the poem, “Somewhere in Charlottesville”:

As a kid, I had heard the stories of racist groups, but I never thought of them as real people. To me, they were ethereal, used only to show the epitome of prejudice. I wrote this poem because I had to wrestle with a new reality. When students learn about current events like Charlottesville, they must learn that neutrality on this issue is not an option. If we do not show students that these monsters are real, we cannot expect them to stand and fight when those same monsters rear their heads.


“Somewhere in Charlottesville”
Somewhere amidst the cosmos,
Through blackness and through eons,
There sits a younger me,
Who is not afraid of demons.

Somewhere beneath the steel gaze,
Of men who fought for tyranny,
Lies a dying woman,
Mowed down before she’d flee.

Somewhere in an echo chamber,
A man hears “Heil” and cheers,
Desperate to spread his message,
And aroused by the world’s fears.

Right here in this moment,
My blood has curdled like milk,
Are these men simply lost and uneducated,
Or monsters frolicking in their filth?

Somewhere in my skull,
My synapses and neurons wage war,
The boogie man has shown his face,
Stepping into daylight from lore.

Now I look toward heaven,
Angst no smile can conceal,
One day that younger me will find,
The monsters he fears are real.

After watching Vice News’ episode “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,”  Max explained that the “poetry assignment pushed me beyond memorization and regurgitation of statistics and into a critical analysis of my beliefs and opinions.” This analysis is felt in the emotional details that shaped his poem.  He furthers, “this process incited me to advocate for the awareness of racism in this country, and the suffering that comes from writing such evils off as dead and gone.”

Who is an American?
In “Lady Liberty’s Change of Heart,” a second-year TC, Kyle, sets the context of his poem:

An executive order at the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency barred people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days, refugees for 120 days, and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely. For a nation often known for providing aid to other countries in times of need, this was a step backward for US diplomacy. Many of the countries included in this ban face war, famine, or even genocide, and an order like this might prevent the escape of many innocent people and families. Many people come to the US with the aspiration of living comfortably and safely – so what sort of message does it send to Muslim citizens when our president says, ‘we don’t want them here’?


“Lady Liberty’s Change of Heart”
Who put a stop sign in Lady Liberty’s hand?
Once, a beacon of hope for those looking for a better life
Escaping famine, war, and genocide
One last chance at survival and prosperity.

What was once a graceful face to welcome the World
Turned sour at the words of a bitter man
Who told her she need not help these people
For they cause more harm than good.

And now she stands in New York Harbor,
Shooing away those desperate souls,
“For they’re too dangerous,” she says,
“We don’t want them here.”

In response to immigration bans, Kyle explains that “Poetry grants us the ability to not only share what we think about current issues but also showcase our passion for a given topic. Anyone can spew out an essay full of facts and statistics, but you’ll never find the same voice or passion that you would find in a poem.”

…And Other Types of Injustices
After writing the poem, “Oh, Mr. President,” a third-year TC, Lizzie, offered that

Political tensions have peaked following the 2016 presidential election, leaving no race or age demographic unmarred by the current societal climate. The White House has attempted damage control, trying to remind the nation through outreach efforts that we are all Americans, and if we stick together, we can achieve anything. However, when Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, these messages did not seem to apply. Youth have empowered many social movements and will continue to do so. Therefore, discussing currents events such as this one are not only relevant but necessary, to keep students informed of who is in need in our country and how we can help.


“Oh, Mr. President”
Oh, Mr. President,
Did you think it was enough?
To bring us lights and cameras
And toss rolls of paper towel into a sea of desperate faces
Devastated by the path of a ruthless Maria
Then hit again by the wake of your disregard.

Oh, Mr. President,
Have you forgotten your purpose?
To protect, love and serve
The people of this “great” nation
Who lost electricity and heartbeats
Lost our faith in the government
Who turned a blind eye.

Oh, Mr. President,
What did you mean?
When you said we
“Threw your budget out of whack”
When you said
“This is nothing compared to Katrina.”

Oh, Mr. President,
Do you find me greedy?
We may need resources but
Your wake requires more damage control
Than that of most other natural disasters.

Oh, Mr. President,
Aren’t you my president, too?
My complexion and compassion
May differ from yours,
But can you really pick and choose?


Lizzie explains how using poetic inquiry changed her perspective: “Had I written about this current event in a paper for a social studies class, I would have read and reread my writing to locate and eliminate any potential tone of bias or distrust.” However, by utilizing poetic inquiry to investigate, Lizzie was able to “reflect… without muting my opinions – my voice –” which led her to “better understand what happened” and, in turn, further investigate “what can be done to prevent such an event in the future.”

Facing Resistance
I admit it: educators might face resistance from students when introducing poetic expression to dive into complicated topics. For many, the mere idea of getting their students to buy into poetry is a daunting task. However, TCs who tell me they are not poetic, “for whom poetry feels inaccessible” (Lahman et al., 2011, p. 894), are the ones who end up surprising themselves most. We start with writing poetry about ourselves; we write a privilege poem that evaluates our own lives before we imagine writing about others. Because “Poetry’s potential to offer a stimulating way of reflecting on our lives and the lives of others is great” (Foster, 2012, p. 753), I stress that poetry is personal and I cannot judge them based on what they submit.  I can only expect sincerity, stressing that process is more important than product. When I build trust with my students, encouraging them to take risks, they produce brilliant works of art. Are all their couplets perfectly rhymed? No. Is every line of poetry perfectly sculpted and shaped? No. Do they find their own voice? Yes.

I embolden them to write what they want, with few limitations and an abundance of encouragement to take risks. This risk-taking accomplishes two goals: 1) it provides students room to fail; and 2) it allows students to say whatever they want about a topic. The power of voice in poetry provides a platform for self-discovery and growth, while opportunities to say what they want fosters independence. These two factors together equalize the classroom, where each student partakes in difficult discussions on complex concerns.

The use of poetry to examine contemporary topics is not unique to my university classroom; these methods can also thrive in middle or high school. First, incorporating current events into a course, alongside mandated curriculum, aligns with expectations of listening and speaking in English language arts standards. Second, asking students to write poetry, rather than a full essay on a current event, allows for student voice to rise on an issue and not take too much time from mandated curriculum. Third, poetic expression encourages students to problematize ideas and concepts beyond the confines of their lived experiences, ultimately pushing them to define their own perspective of the world while still in school.

Practicality in the Classroom
When tackling curriculum, teachers often start with an idea, develop a plan, and negotiate their way through strengths and weaknesses of an activity or unit, and poetry is no different.  Over the last few semesters, I have tried numerous ways to incorporate poetry in my classroom – some have worked exceedingly well, others have not. From those experiences, I offer a few practical suggestions for teachers wanting to use current events-based poetic exploration: 1) start small; 2) use your curriculum to explode a moment; and 3) be careful not to have students speak for – rather learn from – others.  

First, there is no need for curricular redesign to add current events-based poetry into your classroom.  For example, if your class reads Sandra Uwiringiyimana’s How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child, a warm-up would be to ask students to read current periodicals on the country’s complicated discussion(s) regarding border security, refugees, and immigration.  Instructing students to then write a haiku, limerick, or cinquain about what they have read makes a simple assignment. Whether you allow them to read poems aloud in class or not, this task of writing current events-based poems 1) reinforces the link between literature and today’s political climate; 2) prompts students to recall poetic structures; and 3) offers an opportunity for students to express their opinions without spending extensive class time on an assessment.

Second, specificity is key.  I find when students focus on exploding a particular moment, line, phrase, or paragraph in a current event article, instead of trying to encapsulate the entire article into poetic form, they dig deeper into understanding implications of the news.  For example, ask students to correlate Crooks in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and issues of race with an article about Black Lives Matter, or gender inequities associated with Curly’s Wife and the #MeToo movement.  Inspire students to focus on details rather than attempt to solve world problems within the confines of a poem. Specificity, I find in my classroom, promotes both appreciation for others and authentic opportunities for voice.

Moreover, it is important to ensure that students are not speaking for others, rather learning from them.  This “speaking for” mentality could lead to increased frustrations, stereotyping, or even silencing marginalized voices. Rather, use poetry as a means to investigate what others may encounter in their lives.  I have learned from my own poetic explorations that it is not beneficial to have White students speaking as if they are people of color, nor is it helpful for men to speak for women; instead, use poetic forms to explore how current events impact who we are, what we think, and how we perceive the world around us.  Rooting poetry in published current events sources and/or pairing with corresponding curriculum prohibits these missteps from happening.

If our goal is a socially just classroom where every student feels free to express themselves, educators should create frameworks that allow risk and growth. As “creativity begets more creativity” (Felleman-Fattal, 2017, p. 72), students must explore strategies to interact with curriculum in a way that makes sense to them. Poetry addressing current events allows for students to make mistakes – tackling historical lessons of core curriculum – while simultaneously making connections to the realities of today. Equity in the classroom is promoted when sincerity is valued over quality; process, not product, is key; and learners are able to express ideas based on their own experiences, feeling free to explore without judgment.

Coates, T.-N. (2016).
Between the world and me. Toronto: CNIB.

Felleman-Fattal, L. R. (2017). Action research in preservice teachers’ arts-integration pedagogies for social justice teaching and learning. Childhood Education, 93(1), 66-72.

Foster, V. (2012). What if? The use of poetry to promote social justice. Social Work Education, 31(6), 742-755.

Kelly, D. (2012). Teaching for social justice. Our Schools / Our Selves, 21(2), 135-154. Retrieved from the Education Research Complete database. (Accession No. 86208456)

Lahman, M. K., Rodriguez, K. L., Richard, V. M., Geist, M. R., Schendel, R. K., & Graglia, P. E. (2011). (Re)forming research poetry. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(9), 887-896.

McCafferty-Wright, J., & Knowles, R. (2016). Unlocking the civic potential of current events with an open classroom climate. Social Studies Research & Practice, 11(3), 112-121. Retrieved from the Education Research Complete database. (Accession No. 121117280)

Simmons, D. (Ed.). (2003). Russell Simmons def poetry jam on Broadway–and more: The choice collection. New York: Atria.

Thomas, P. L. (2015). In defense of poetry: “Oh my heart”. English Journal, 104(4), 90-92.

Poetry in Motion

Kelly L. Hatch, Associate Professor of Literacy, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, hatchk @


In 2017 I was a Fellow in UWW Program for Community-Based Learning, designed to augment in students a “sense of social responsibility and citizenship skills” and to improve “complexity of understanding, problem analysis, critical thinking and cognitive development” (AACU, 2012, pp. 60-61). Because this program obligated me to integrate community-based learning (CBL) into an existing course, I chose to re-imagine my Children’s Literature curriculum. This is a course required by every pre-service teacher seeking a license from Pre-K through 8th grade, so I have the potential to reach many students each semester.

When I undertook this challenge, I gave tremendous consideration to the notion of developing a transformative curriculum. The word means something different to most people, but I took it at its most basic definition and decided that my curriculum needed to change my students’ minds about something significant. On the first day of class, I asked them to define “literacy.” They generally agreed that it is the ability to read and write. One student added that it should include comprehension. Another suggested that the definition should include speaking.

Of utmost importance to me as a Literacy professor is that pre-service teachers embrace the importance of instructing a diverse population of learners by offering a wide variety of best practice methods and learning spaces. Thus, it is crucial that they broaden their understanding of Literacy, to recognize it as a social practice rather than merely a set of skills (Au, 1993; Heath, 1983; Gee, 1996; Pérez, 1998; Street, 1984). I impress upon them the importance of understanding socio-cultural theories of language and literacy (Cazden, 1988; Cook-Gumperz, 1986; Erickson, 1984; Ferdman, 1991) so they understand that literacy is more than simply being able to “read, write or speak.” In other words, I explain that literacy is more than decoding or encoding, more than being able to handle a set of discrete and technical skills (e.g., knowledge of letters, words, sounds) and more than “possessing” the cognitive capabilities necessary to engage with a text (e.g., attention, motivation, or memory abilities). Instead, the overall context of the situation shapes what it means to be literate, depending upon the type of text, the type of reading or activity expected with that text, and the identity or background of the reader. Finally, I offer that a socio-cultural perspective both emphasizes the social worlds and cultural identities of students and views the act of making meaning as always embedded within a social context, very often within structures of power.

This framework suggests that the ways in which teachers and their students interact is a social practice that affects the nature of the literacy being learned and the ideas about literacy held by the participants. The structure of power in the traditional classroom, for instance, impacts the ways that children develop literacy learning. I offer this lecture to the pre-service teachers in my Children’s Literature course each semester, but I had never demonstrated the possibilities when the structure of power in the classroom is disrupted. I wanted to confound their traditional notions of how and where literacy may be taught and to alter the structure of power in my college classroom. In an effort to extend my pre-service teachers’ classic notions of what it means to engage students in literacy learning, I moved my classroom outdoors onto the Ice Age Trail.

UW-Whitewater rests within the Kettle Moraine Forest and is surrounded by miles of the Ice Age Trail. More than 12,000 years ago, much of Wisconsin was covered by ice, and as that ice receded, it left behind a variety of unique landscape features. The Ice Age Trail, one of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States, is a 1,000-mile footpath that highlights these features as it winds its way throughout the state.

In order to help my pre-service teachers understand, utilize, and value this outdoor classroom, I partnered with Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail Alliance, the non-profit organization that builds and maintains this vital resource. Through this partnership, my students learned from botanists, geologists, conservationists, erosion experts, and a variety of multi-generational outdoor enthusiasts as they learned how to build and maintain the trail, as well as how to utilize the trail as an outdoor classroom. This trail can be accessed throughout the state, so it is very likely that they will have access to this most amazing outdoor classroom whether they remain in this community or move across the state.


In exchange for this educational windfall, my students each devoted 15 hours of service to the Alliance. Some completed a weekend-long boardwalk-building project alongside hundreds of other volunteers. A small group, dubbing themselves the Trailblazers, hiked several miles of the Whitewater segment with an Alliance sponsor and painted blazes on trees to mark the trail. Others worked on an erosion project on the trail just beyond our campus. Several led Tyke Hikes for children around the community.

Finally, each created a multi-disciplinary literacy unit to be shared with the Alliance’s education outreach program, which reaches teachers, parents, and students interested in working on the trail with young learners. These multi-disciplinary units were rooted in literature and spanned the content areas of Math, Science, Social Studies, History, Art, and Health.

The pre-service teachers in this CBL course explored the Ice Age Trail as an outdoor classroom for an entire semester and created lessons that integrated literacy across all disciplines. Their understanding and use of Children’s and Young Adult literature provided the framework, and their experience of learning in this non-traditional space informed their lessons, as they began to imagine different ways of reaching children. It seemed that, while they have each learned about the importance of implementing best practices and the necessity of differentiating their instruction, they struggled with the idea of putting the theories learned in the classroom into practice. I suggest that this was due, in large part, to their limited definition of literacy. When they began to understand that the learning spaces and methods that they choose for young learners will help to shape a socio-cultural context for their students’ understanding (Pérez, 1998, p. 5), they started to imagine ways in which they could offer experiences that recognized the background knowledge and social/cultural identities that children bring to a learning activity. Slowly, they began to fully understand that literacy learning happens, not just by reading and writing, but also through conversations, interactions, and relationships with teachers and peers. When the they began creating the multi-disciplinary literacy units that would eventually be shared throughout the community, I could see in their work a transformation from a traditional to a more holistic view of literacy.


I titled one of the activities Poetry in Motion (see Appendix A for the assignment guidelines). We met for class at a walking bridge on a segment of the Trail near our campus, where I read excerpts from Jane Yolen’s poetry. We discussed the idea of having elementary age students collect Small Moments or images to use as writing prompts for poetry, and I explained that they would practice this themselves in order to understand how they might use this type of activity with their own students. I offered two different options for the assignment. First, I gave each pre-service teacher a Small Moments journal, made simply by folding four lunch bags in half and securing them at the binding with twine. I used small Velcro circles to close the open ends of the bags to create pockets for little treasures, and I printed a label for the cover of each. I explained that students could collect Small Moments by finding artifacts along the trail to put inside the pockets, or they could write about these moments in the journal. The other option was to capture the moment in a photo. Afterwards, they dispersed along the trail to hike and write poems about their Small Moments (see Appendix B).

By re-imagining my Children’s Literature curriculum, I learned what may happen when the power structure in a collegiate classroom is disrupted. It was not, as every teacher may secretly fear, anarchy or chaos. It was the first truly collaborative experience that I have had with students. When we moved our classroom onto the trail, students who were typically quiet suddenly came to life. We sauntered along chatting and laughing, and, at a point, I don’t believe an observer would have been able to distinguish the professor from the student. We were just a bunch of individuals hiking, writing, reading poetry, and laughing.


Au, K. H.-P. (1993). Literacy instruction in multicultural settings. Fort Worth: Harcourt.

Cazden, C. B. (1988). Classroom discourse: The language of teaching and learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Cook-Gumperz, J. (1986). The social construction of literacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

A crucible moment: College learning and democracy’s future. (2012). Retrieved from Association of American Colleges and Universities website:

Erickson, F. (1984). School literacy, reasoning, and civility: An anthropologist’s perspective. Review of Educational Research, 54(4), 525-546. Retrieved from ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ313056)

Ferdman, B. M. (1991). Literacy and cultural identity. In M. Minami & B. P. Kennedy (Eds.), Language issues in literacy and bilingual/multicultural education (pp. 347-390). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Gee, J. P. (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses (2nd ed.). London: Taylor and Francis.

Heath, S. B. (1983). Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pérez, B. (Ed.). (1998). Sociocultural contexts of language and literacy. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Street, B. V. (1984). Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Appendix A. Assignment Guidelines
The following poems will comprise our “Poetry in Motion” curriculum. The idea behind this study is that students will complete a variety of poetry activities while they enjoy the beauty of the universe … outdoors. The use of the outdoor “classroom” offers us an opportunity to flip the classroom: students who typically do not excel in a traditional learning space may thrive here. Our hope is to offer students opportunities to observe and enjoy the nature around them and to leverage the power of poetry to describe it.

We shall begin with Haiku, because it is a very easy form for children to understand and create. Haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry. Haiku poems consist of 3 lines. The first and last lines have 5 syllables and the middle line has 7 syllables. The lines rarely rhyme.

Here’s a Haiku to help you remember:

I am first with five
Then seven in the middle–
Five again to end.

Palm trees shoot so high
Mountains reaching to the sky
Sun on my face…sigh


Sonnets are far more complex; however, because they offer a rigid rhyme scheme, they are sometimes fairly easy to create. Students think of a topic and then simply follow the scheme. Sonnet comes from the Italian sonetto, which means “a little sound or song.” Traditionally, the sonnet is a fourteen-line poem. Two sonnet forms provide the models from which all other sonnets are formed: the Petrarchan and the Shakespearean. The second major type of sonnet, the Shakespearean or English sonnet, tends to be easier for students to create as it has three quatrains and a couplet and follows this rhyme scheme: abab, cdcd, efef, gg. The couplet offers students a chance to be clever as it plays a pivotal role, usually arriving in the form of a conclusion, amplification, or even refutation of the previous three stanzas.



Free Verse
is a perennial favorite because of its complete lack of rules. It is a literary device that can be defined as poetry free from limitations of regular meter or rhythm and does not rhyme with fixed forms. While they do not follow regular rhyme scheme rules, they do provide artistic expression. In this way, poets can give their own shape to their poems. However, free verse still allows poets to use alliteration, rhyme, cadences, or rhythms to get the effects that they consider are suitable for the piece.

Odes are really fun for students, because they are intended to be quite solemn and serious, but when written for an object (like a pickle), they may suddenly become quite hilarious. Ode comes from the Greek aeidein, meaning “to sing or chant,” and belongs to the long and varied tradition of lyric poetry. Originally accompanied by music and dance, and later reserved by the Romantic poets to convey their strongest sentiments, the ode can be generalized as a formal address to an event, a person, or a thing not present.

Concrete poems take the shape of the thing, place, or action about which they are written. These are fun for children as their poems are naturally illustrated as they are created. You may offer students the option of finding their forms (pictures/clip art) online and then creating their poems onto the framework. This type of poetry has been used for thousands of years, since the ancient Greeks began to enhance the meanings of their poetry by arranging their characters in visually pleasing ways back in the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BC.

Illustrative Poems solve one of the biggest problems that writers have as they set out to create a poem … coming up with an idea. Students may simply “caption” a picture that they have taken on the trail. This caption may be joined with others to form a poem, or perhaps the young writer will add to the caption as inspiration strikes.

Winter closed its icy doors,
allowing joy only to the hearty.


When I grow up
I will be graceful, funny and smart.

I will always be happy,
because I followed my heart.
I didn’t listen to friends
who said I was weird.
I didn’t run away
from the things that I feared.
I will stand up for the weak
and give them a voice.
I will be a great leader
if given the choice.
But for now…
I will glide.
I will stop, spin and start.
Living each moment, everyday,
with a smile in my heart.

I Am
poems express who you are by sharing personal characteristics and qualities. There are a couple different types. The first is a formulaic type, basically a fill-in-the-blank poem. There is also the free verse version where the author takes the basic idea of the I Am poem and runs with it. Either is just dandy, as long as the poets represents themselves. A fun twist is to create I Am poems to describe famous people in history. Students can have fun guessing who is being described in the poem.

We will practice the strategy of collecting Small Moments as inspiration for our poems. I have created journals for this activity and will share them at the trail. Students will each receive a journal to collect their moments, or they may take pictures of the moments they wish to capture. Students will then use the collected moments as a starting point for a poem.


Appendix B. Student Writing

“Home of the One Thousand Heart Beats”woods.jpg

Light filters through the citadel
And through her song, she does compel.
The traveler to walk through her domain
A place touched by wind, snow, and rain.
He must be surefooted-
To walk through the city wick and wooded.

He is on mission true
To escape the gray, and find the blue
To clear his lungs of fog, the smog, and the black hazardous emission,
To walk the trespasser’s walk of careful contrition
He walks and walks, trying to hear the sound
Of all that is around
The sound of just one
Just one of those one thousand heartbeats to pound.

His feet crunch
On the carpet of a million shreds.
Of green life once known to touch the endless blue
He thinks he is almost through
The honking, hollering, and the hullabaloo.
He has almost shrugged the tangled threads
That hold him to the flashing lights
The endless sights
The concrete elites
And escaped to the home of one thousand heartbeats.

The muck underneath
The blue above.
The sparrow, the songbird, and the dove.
Soar above the scurrying rat, the scuffling mouse, and the scavenging squirrel
The wolf, the fox, and the deer from their dens unfurl
As spring’s warmth seeps into the branch and touches the leaf
The wind whispers through the trees
And hears and sees
The life among the death
The light in the dark
The evil in the good
All in this small wood
This small park
That holds its breath
And the one thousand heartbeats
That the traveler has yet to hear

The traveler begins to fear
All that he cannot hear.
Has he been so long in the noise and commotion
That the sound of his own heartbeat has become a forgotten notion.

Then he begins to hear-
The pounding, the thumping, so loud and clear.
Just one of the one thousand heartbeats that reside here.


The sweet trickle as the water flows,
The radiant glow from below,
Even the stones have a home
in the bed of the water’s foam,
It is like a marvelous dream,
When studying the ways of the stream.


Ice Age Trail Poem
Crisp dews reflect yellow hues

I can feel the sun shining through me
The grass shifts under my toes
As I walk the path guided by thousands before me


bugs fly in my eye
this hill seems to touch the sky,
mud seeps into my shoes
lost in the woods, we don’t know whose.


Wander somewhere not far from home,
a separate history to us unknown.
Ice came and went but left a path,
for us to learn from, for it was made to last.
The sights and sounds of the forest
are there to amaze and never bore us.
Rain or shine, hot or cold,
explore the trail to see what it holds.


Lots of trees.
Very quiet all the time.
Grass, leaves, weeds, vines.
Green is everywhere.
No cars, no trucks.
Lots of trees.


Who am I?
I am tall

and change colors in the fall.
When the wind blows,
I do not shrink.
Instead I grow.
The rain does not scare me.
Instead it feeds thee.


Between the Evergreens,
birds chatter through the day.
Children run full of life.
Air is light, roaming free.
Life moves a bit slower.
I want to spend more days
between the evergreens.


Rain patters
wind blows
leaves whistle
Rivers flow
Sun shines
We know
It’s mother nature
putting on a show.


The trees so tall, they touch the sky 
branches sway, as birds fly by 
I wonder how the world would look
if nature wasn’t forsook


Trees are brown
Trees are green
This is the calmest place
I have ever seen
The sun is glistening
through the trees
just feeling the breeze


H owling of the wind making the
I ncus, Malleus and Stapes working to
K eep up with the sounds.
I  see the leave twisting and turning.
N eedles softly covering the path.
G reen ferns turning red and
T rees casting shadows.
H eart pumping and muscles straining.
E yes ever watchful for the elusive woodland creature.
I mprints of the Earth
C arefully setting into the soul.
E arth, sky, air, and water
A geless in its purity
G ently soothing my spirit.
E nergy coming to me egging me on.
T aking a breath feeling the burn in my lungs.
R eleasing my worries and fears.
A llowing the peace and tranquility to come
I nto my mind
L earning to love the wilderness and accepting its gifts.

Oh the trees
How green they are
They are so big and tall
They sway left and right
If only people would look up to see their beauty
Go ahead and get lost
Because there is no cost
To witness the beauty
Of what the outdoors has to offer




“We Are Not All the Same”: Strengthening Teacher-Student Relationships through Online Classroom Dialogue

Robyn Seglem, Illinois State University, rseglem @

Antero Garcia, Stanford Graduate School of Education, antero.garcia @


In the January 2016 issue of English Journal, Golden and Womack reminded us that the importance of relationships is often overlooked in these times of massive reform, particularly when working with minoritized youth. Through our work with preservice teachers, we strive to instill the importance of relationships within future teachers on a daily basis, emphasizing, as Golden and Womack urge, the importance of abandoning a deficit model of instruction. For Antero, this mission is personal because of the years he spent working with high school youth who dealt with inequitable schooling conditions on a daily basis. And for Robyn, who works with teacher candidates with little experience working with youth of color, it can be a challenge to demonstrate how to foster relationships with students they see as having little in common with them. As former teachers, we know that teachers and students must lead organic change from within schools. Thus, we asked ourselves how we could we shift our teacher candidates from being enactors of the status quo to advocates for youth from all backgrounds and experiences. Realistically, we knew that, by ourselves, we could not accomplish this through one or two college courses. Yet, we also knew that if we could assist in the development of authentic relationships between white preservice teachers and youth of color, we could begin to plant the seeds of future advocacy.

This article looks at how teachers and students can guide change from within classrooms by recontextualizing the cultural experiences and relationships at the core of learning and growth in today’s public schools. Whereas “classroom management” tends to be the focus for how new teachers must “control” kids, we focus our efforts to transform English teachers’ classrooms through utilizing online tools for humanizing purposes. Building on a study of our work with high school students and preservice teachers, we consider how reflection on the dynamics between these two groups and an evolution in how we build relationships in classrooms can better drive a revolution in the academic needs of students and the cultural awareness of teachers.

Connecting Teachers and Hearing Students
As literacy educators, we began our work by examining the potential of media to connect two groups who lived thousands of miles apart. With a class of sophomores who attended school in the South Central Los Angeles high school, where Antero had previously taught, and a cohort of preservice teachers studying how to teach in suburban Central Illinois, we wanted to explore whether we could tap into the potential of the digital world to unite the two disparate groups, helping them to reflect upon their individual realities and construct an educational experience leading to a impactful shared reality. Acknowledging the Discourse in which classroom exchanges typically commence (Gee, 1990), we wanted both teachers and students to reflect critically on the cultural role that language plays in defining the identities enacted in classrooms. Not simply making transparent the language practices necessary for participation in schools (Delpit, 1988), we wanted teachers to hear and validate the diverse Englishes” that students fluidly speak (Garcia & Seglem, 2018; Kirkland, 2010).

Just as importantly, we recognized that language–both typed and spoken–evolves over time. The cultural practices imbued within how youth communicate online including uses of emojis, abbreviations, and creative deviations from “standard” English reflect the youth popular culture that is often too absent from our classrooms (Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008; Ladson-Billings, 1995).

Alongside bringing in youth popular culture mindfully as to not simply appropriate youth-focused tools, our project was also focused on considering how the uses of technology can do more to “sustain” cultural identity within classrooms (Paris & Alim, 2014). While there are extensive studies on digital literacies within classrooms (Lankshear & Knobel, 2003), our emphasis was on exploring how high school students and teachers could use these tools to communicate and build relationships. Even as recent research by Turkle (2012, 2015) highlights how technology may be further isolating individuals and negatively affecting relationships, we wondered if these same tools could guide strengthened relationships and vibrant language practices within classrooms. In short, we believe that if high school students want to be understood and respected by teachers who may come from very different cultural backgrounds, learning how to communicate within the continually evolving textual spaces of online dialogue is an important first step.

Building Virtual Meeting Spaces
Pairing one to two high school students in South Central Los Angeles with one preservice teacher in Central Illinois, we had the two very distant (geographically and culturally) groups meet online weekly in chat rooms. Importantly, though the Los Angeles City Council officially renamed the area “South Los Angeles” more than a decade ago (Gold & Braxton, 2003), the students and local school community continued to refer to the area as “South Central” because the historic identity of the space remained important. While students were able to receive one-on-one feedback on their writing and work within an English class, our larger goal was to open up space for the kinds of reflection, textual exploration, and relationship building that comes with groups meeting each other through tools different from those frequently used. Traditional teacher-student power relationships were no longer possible when high school students were driving conversation, doing so in the language practices they were comfortable with, and– later –even conducting mock job interviews with the preservice teachers. Our revolution for learning and relationships in schools is built on recognizing the skills, expertise, and identities of the students in our classrooms.

Though we had more than a dozen different chat rooms running throughout the semester (approximately one for each preservice teacher), we are focusing on two of them to explore more deeply the textual exchanges that occurred. Looking at these two transcripts of conversations that transpired over the course of the Fall semester, we share several transcript exchanges to look at how language and identity intermix and shape relational understanding. In particular, we are interested in how the language practices within these chat rooms mediated identity and power relationships between the preservice teachers and high school students (Garcia & Seglem, 2018). Participants’ uses of intertextuality and digital language practices like emoticons facilitated nuanced persona building that affected the kinds of exchanges that occurred between youth and adults. Below we look at exchanges within our chat room transcripts as means for reflecting on academic learning, evolving what relationships can look like in classrooms, and fomenting a humanizing revolution.

Using Literature to Reflect Upon the Larger World
The first transcript we share demonstrates how the chat rooms built inroads for utilizing literature to reflect upon the world and the realities youth face on a daily basis. As was typically the case in each discussion, the high school students and the preservice teachers paid close attention to language practices–in this case on the choices made by Alexie (1998) in his essay “Superman and Me.” Yet, while high schoolers Luis and Michael began the conversation focusing on Alexie’s essay, their discussion eventually evolved into a conversation that focused on the boys’ experiences in school. Through their reflection, they were able to share with Jill, their preservice teacher partner, their personal experiences of often not being heard in a school dominated by white teachers; the online environment created space for marginalized voices–those of youth and particularly youth of color–to be centered and understood:

Jill, Michael, & Luis, December 5

1. Luis: Hello. Good Morning. Today we are going to talk about the Biographical essay of Sherman Alexie.”Superman and Me.”

2. Jill: Very good, do you have thoughts to start our conversation about the essay?

3. Michael: cool..

4. Michael: “at the same time i was seeing the world in paragraphs”

5. Luis: What do You think or feel about that quote, Jill?

6. Jill: Could I ask which paragraph this quote came from?

7. Michael: the start of the 4th paragraph

8. Jill: I can see both sides… sometimes things come to us in a single thought, or paragraph and other times I feel like I see the world as a bunch of random words… what do you think on my thought?

9. Luis: I think that’s what Sherman Alexie thinks too.

The dynamics of this conversation are interesting. It is evident that the boys were mimicking the language of school. In Turn 1, we see Luis address his “class” by stating the objective of the day, with Michael following up in Turn 4 by providing a specific reference to the text, highlighting the importance of using Alexie’s words to dig into the meaning of the essay. The two high school students shifted into language that mimics a teaching identity: “Today we are going to talk about” finds the students in the formal register that was beyond their typical banter with Jill. It is clear these youth have experienced this type of approach to instruction in the past, and Luis underscores their intent by explicitly asking Jill her opinion. His use of her first name is notable because they often address her more formally like they would a teacher, making the teacher persona even more evident in this dialogue. He furthers this persona by affirming Jill’s thoughts in Turn 9, responding to Jill’s request about their evaluation of her performance by stating “I think that’s what Sherman Alexie thinks too.” This layered approach to language highlights the unspoken, tacit knowledge these two high school students fluidly possess: they shift into traditionally authoritative language repertoires while also knowing how to usurp such practices when delivered by Jill. Conscious of the traditional scripts of schooling and varied language practices, Luis and Michael command the academic space in ways that traditional schooling often stifles.

Continuing the transcript from above, Jill, Michael, and Luis interrogate Alexie’s ideas about the paragraphs of the world, with Jill ultimately asking them to reflect on “What kind of actions or decisions in our lives make for a solid, flowing paragraph?” Luis responds: “Decisions that affect our life’s outcomes. School is one of them. College. Work. Stuff like that.” His answer prompts Jill to ask what they plan to do after high school, and Michael states he would likely go to work because he doubts he’d “last in college.” The excerpt that follows demonstrates why Michael feels this way:

Jill, Michael, & Luis Example 2, December 5 Continued

27. Jill: I think that you would do great in college!! You are always very insightful and contribute great thoughts in this class!

28. Michael: hehe thank you i can do good in every class but math ._. i haven’t been learning much math since 7th grade i always have a teacher that can’

29. Michael: cant’ control their class due to immaturity amongst kids

30. Jill: Your right, we are not all the same… how do the teachers at your school encourage you in your decisions?

31. Jill: Is that teacher not able to control their class because they have low expectations of you? Why are the kids immature in their class?

32. Michael: well the kids don’t take the class seriously. students are always being sent out it just gets worst over time..

33. Jill: What do you think would solve the problem?

34. Jill: There was a time that a teacher told me that I was dumb and the only reason I was doing well in her class was because I work hard.

35. Michael: if people were to take the class seriously . I mean kids just mess around the teacher just allows it and doesn’t do a thing to stop it

36. Jill: What do you do to help the situation and do your part to learn in class?

37. Michael: I don’t do anything to disturb class because i actually want to learn due to not learning much math these last few years

38. Michael: Stay in my seat and I’m quiet

39. Jill: Your decision to learn will take you far… both of you make decisions which will help you in the future.

Within the partnership between Jill, Luis and Michael, Jill consistently projects the most stable persona–that of teacher. Whether through rephrasing a question (“Can you be more specific with your personal anecdote”), redirecting the conversation (“tell me again, what is your position… and your 3 claims?”), or asking for clarification (What do you mean by “run tardy?”), Jill returns to more formal teacher practices throughout the partnership. At the same time, as Turn 27 indicates, Jill is obviously trying to build a relationship with Luis and Michael, and she appears to genuinely care about what they have to say. Noting an opportunity for a personal connection, Jill takes a break from the discussion over Alexie’s essay in order to affirm Michael as a student. Her willingness to do this suggests growth in their relationship because rather than staying on the task at hand, she seems to recognize the importance of connecting with her students and affirming their self-worth. In particular, as we look at this example in relation to the weeks of dialogue in which Jill tends to focus solely on the academic task at hand, the flexibility she exudes here is a significant shift from how she typically spoke with Michael and Luis. Jill ultimately invites the youth to reflect upon how the essay relates to their own lives, providing inroads to developing cultural understanding.

Evolving ELA Classrooms through New Language Practices
Reviewing the language choices in the online space above, we must consider how the kinds of words, phrases, and symbols that the youth utilize reflect how they perform characteristics of their identity. For example, Michael and Luis, making the unhappy-looking emoticon >.< speak informally. Their language is transgressive within the traditional space of schools. Likewise, lol engendered Jill into the youth-endorsed language practices, whether she wanted to participate in this language or not. It is important to recognize that such emoticons and abbreviations were initially a source of confusion for Jill. Throughout the semester, Jill did not type or send any emoticon or lol-like abbreviations, despite the fact that Michael and Luis used both in every single transcript. Neither the students or the future teacher seemed willing to concede the ground of their language practices for the dialogue.

Yet even within this exchange and the advice that followed–”Even when the situation is not how we would like it to be, we can learn from it”–Jill continues to adopt the formal language practices she associates with the Discourse (Gee, 1990) of teachers. Further she seems to accept Michael’s assertion that the disruptive class was the fault of his peers, rather than the teacher’s ability to manage the classroom. In affirming Michael’s view, Jill misses out on an opportunity to engage in culturally responsive practices that explore how a mismatch between teachers’ and students’ experiences can result in situations such as the one described by Michael. In contrast, the following excerpt reveals the diversity of language practices with which Antoine and Vincent communicate while also identifying differences in beliefs and worldviews that arose during the holiday season. Precisely because of shared language practices, these exchanges highlight how different worldviews can be understood and negotiated between youth and adults.

Prior to the conversation below, Antoine explained that he is vegan, and they both noted how very different their Thanksgiving experiences were. From there, we can see how a willingness to move forward and laugh through their differences allows Antoine to sustain an environment for powerful exchange:

Antoine & Vincent, November 28

1. Antoine: what did you do on black friday?

2. Vincent: I WENT SHOPING

3. Antoine: does all caps mean you are yelling? why are you yelling at me? hahaha! where did you shop? what did you buy?

4. Vincent: ahaha no im not yelling at u tf?? aha its more like saying something in exciment i baught cloths

5. Antoine: what’s “tf” mean? i did not go out on black friday. i was scared.

6. Vincent: aha it means the fuck lmfao (x scared of what?? O.o

7. Antoine: hahahaha!!! that’s hilarious. i know what “lmfao” means. hahaha!

8. Antoine: i was scared of shopping.

9. Vincent: tf y r u scared of shoping?????? O.o thats not normal in my neighbor hood

10. Antoine: i just don’t like consumerism. it scares me.

11. Vincent: what dose consumerism mean??

Unlike most classroom dialogue, both Antoine and Vincent slip comfortably between using acronyms, emoticons, and a lackadaisical approach to capitalization. In Turn 2, we can see the playful nature of Vincent capitalizing a sentence and how they both draw and explore the different intentions of capitalizing the statement. The meaning of textual “talk”–what could be naturally inferred in a face-to-face context–is instead discussed, clarified, and utilized for strengthening the relationship between the two chat room participants.

Antoine was humored by Marco’s language choices. Rather than ignoring or questioning Marco’s language, he declares that it was hilarious and often laughed digitally: hahaha! Building trust, Antoine encourages Vincent to comfortably explain the expletive-laden meaning behind the tf abbreviation. Accepting Vincent’s cursing, lack of capitalization, use of abbreviations, emoticons, and exclamation and question marks, Antoine’s engagement in the chat room highlights a willingness to understand difference that guides the new teacher’s future practice. Even though Vincent and Antoine have markedly different experiences, their shared language practices offer a familiarity to learn and meaningfully dialogue.

In addition to making the space informal so that Antoine can inquire about tf, we also see Vincent asking about consumerism–a conversation that continues into a discussion of wealth, Marxism, and the interests of individuals that Vincent knows in the South Central community. A rich narrative emerges as a result of how textual changes in online space create familiarity even when these two participants are pretty different otherwise: in addition to age, location, and ethnicity, the transcript highlights different ideological stances. With a foundation for exploring cultural meaning and identity in online spaces, relationships helped evolve the possibilities of learning and engagement within the classroom.

Revolutionizing Relationships through Talk and Reflection
Even though Jill did not share the same rapport with her students as Antoine did with Vincent, she still created a safe chat space for the boys to feel comfortable enough to interact playfully and faux-antagonistically. The shifts in power in the classroom evolved gradually across the semester. Looking at both of these groups–and the rest of the high school students and preservice teachers that they worked alongside–it is important to consider how the collective literacy efforts developed (in collaboration between student and adult in online spaces) was highlighting one way to consider revolutionizing the possibilities of English classrooms today: revolution through relationships.

Further, we must consider that these changes happened within the traditionally out-of-school digital space of virtual environments. In fact, had we not developed this virtualized school-based learning context, these relationships would not have been possible. For instance, consider how ideologically different Antoine and Vincent were in their dialogue. Antoine’s ideology was quite different from Vincent’s own perspective of the world. However, by having a conversation grounded in student-developed social language and shifting power dynamics in these spaces, these two individuals were able to build common understanding and support Vincent’s academic growth. The chatroom also created a needed distance for some high school students to speak up within their partners; by not seeing their partners, high school students in this class gained the confidence to be heard.

Fairclough (1995) notes that power can be understood “both in terms of asymmetries between participants in discourse events, and in terms of unequal capacity to control how texts are produced, distributed, and consumed (and hence the shapes of texts) in particular sociocultural contexts” (pp. 1-2). Radically reinventing the possibilities of the English classroom requires significantly understanding how existing power structures can be reshaped and renegotiated. Considering the needs of high school students in today’s politically polarized society, we must question how technology in schools is fostering powerful learning and meaningful relationships. By realigning a more balanced approach to how students and teachers participate in and produce discourse and language within their classrooms, we see new English practices that more fully incorporate our students’ humanity, dignity, and growing voices.


Alexie, S. (1998, April 19). The joy of reading and writing: Superman and me. Los Angeles Times, p. 110.

Delpit, L. D. (1988). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people’s children. Harvard Educational Review, 58(3), 280-298. Retrieved from America: History & Life database. (Accession No. 19700856)

Duncan-Andrade, J. M. R., & Morrell, E. (2008). The art of critical pedagogy: Possibilities for moving from theory to practice in urban schools. New York: Peter Lang.

Fairclough, N. (1995). Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language. New York: Longman.

Garcia, A., & Seglem, R. (2018). “DUDE UR GUNNA BE A GREAT TEACHER YO”: Cultivating diverse Englishes through chatroom discussions between preservice teachers and urban high school youth. Reading and Writing Quarterly.

Gee, J. P. (1990). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses. London: Routledge.

Golden, N. A., & Womack, E. (2016). Cultivating literacy and relationships with adolescent scholars of color. English Journal, 105(3), 36-42. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database. (Accession No. 112596050)

Kirkland, D. E. (2010). English(es) in urban contexts: Politics, pluralism, and possibilities. English Education, 42(3), 293-306. Retrieved from ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ880910)

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2004). New literacies: Changing knowledge and classroom learning. Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Paris, D., & Alim, H. S. (2014). What are we seeking to sustain through culturally sustaining pedagogy? A loving critique forward. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 85-100. Retrieved from ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ1034292)

Turkle, S. (2012). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books.

Turkle, S. (2015). Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age. New York: Penguin.

Storying Our Journey: Conversations about the Literary Canon and Course Development in Secondary English Education

Elsie Olan, Assistant Professor and Secondary English Language Arts Coordinator – College of Education and Human Performance, University of Central Florida, elsie.olan @

elsie olan pic

Kia Richmond, Professor and Director of English Education,  English Department, Northern Michigan University, krichmon @

kia jane richmond pic

Abstract. Olan and Richmond present preservice English teachers’ stories about having little experience with canonical texts they are asked to teach in their field experiences.
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Practice-Based Instruction in English Teacher Education: Teaching Novice Teachers to Lead Class Discussions

Amanda Stearns-Pfeiffer, English Department, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan,

Abstract. This article describes a yearlong investigation of how explicit, focused instruction in facilitating classroom discussion, combined with approximations of (and peer/instructor feedback on) this practice, impact the way(s) preservice English teachers learn to discuss literature with secondary students.

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Rigor, Young Adult Literature, and Socioeconomics: An Analysis of High School Literacy Teachers’ Text Choices from National Survey Data

Ashley S Boyd, Washington State University, ashley.boyd @
Janine J Darragh, University of Idaho, janined @

Abstract. Boyd and Darragh report on a national survey administered to secondary English teachers to explore the factors that influenced their text selections and to examine how those factors varied according to socioeconomic considerations.

The authors would like to thank Chad Gotch for his contributions to the design of the survey utilized in this research and for his insights into analysis. In addition, they would like to thank Kathleen M. D. Malley for providing statistical consultation and offering insightful feedback on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

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Doing Multigenre Inquiry: Lessons Learned from Beginning Secondary Teacher Candidates’ Multigenre Inquiry Projects

Jim R. Carlson, Assistant Professor of Educational Studies and specialist in literacy studies, teacher inquiry, and teacher identity at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, describes his inaugural experience with implementing a multigenre inquiry project into his coursework in a secondary teacher education program. Continue reading