All-School Read: Building Community & Promoting Understanding

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In the spring of 2017, our middle school experienced an eruption of racist slurs and hate speech, from swastikas drawn on the cheeks of unsuspecting students at lunch, to “KKK” mysteriously appearing on the Google image linked with our school’s website. And we were not the only ones. Newspaper headlines highlighting intolerance at schools were popping up all over the country.

Our school community felt broken, and we knew we needed to do something. One idea kept coming up: an all-school read, where every student, teacher, and staff member reads the same book at the same time. We already knew that stories help readers develop empathy. Having everyone read the same story at the same time seemed the perfect opportunity to build school community and promote understanding.

With only a couple months left in the school year, we set our sights on the fall of 2017.

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Reach Your Students With Poetry (No, Really!)

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April is National Poetry Month, and unfortunately, poetry has a bit of an optics problem.

It’s hard! It’s confusing! It’s boring! I don’t get it!

Sound familiar?

Fear not, there are actually super-engaging ways to dazzle your students with the wonders of poetry — and reach even your most struggling or reluctant students. So this year, be bold. Branch out from the tried and true poetry classics and inspire your students with these engaging forms of poetry that will spark curiosity for all types of learners.

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Tch Talks 25: Sarah Kay and Project VOICE

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Can teachers use spoken word poetry as a tool for literacy, empowerment, engagement, education, and community building across content areas?

Poet, performer, and educator Sarah Kay says absolutely, YES! Sarah is a founder and co-director of Project VOICE, an organization that uses spoken word poetry to entertain, educate, and inspire. Through Project VOICE, Sarah is dedicated to promoting empowerment, improving literacy, and encouraging empathy and creative collaboration in classrooms and communities around the world.

On this episode of Tch Talks, Sarah discusses the origin story of Project VOICE, her own introduction to spoken word poetry, and her work as a poet, an educator, and a bestselling author. Whether speaking from her heart or from her head, Sarah believes that spoken word poetry can be an important educational tool that will have a lasting positive impact on your students’ motivation, creativity, self-esteem, agency, and their desire to share their own stories and listen to the stories of others. Listen in to find out more.

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How YA Novels Help Teachers Build Empathy

Tchers' Voice : Great ideas from passionate educators just like you

We walk through our classroom doors and want to relate to our students. We want to understand their challenges, thought processes, motivations, and fears.

But how do we develop empathy for our students who may struggle with challenges we never experienced?

How can we understand their reactions, fears, and priorities if their childhood or adolescence is so incredibly different from our own or the one we’re creating for our children?

Good teachers understand that practicing and growing empathy makes us great teachers.

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Scholar Activism: Learning from Our Classroom Walls

What does it mean to be a Scholar-Activist?

Tch Laureate Geneviève Debose Akinnagbe teaches ELA at Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists (BSSWA) in New York City, a secondary school where teachers refer to their students as Scholar-Activists. She’s developed a unit on Scholar Activism for her middle school students to give them a better idea of what that title means and the honor it carries.

So far, we’ve explored the following questions:

In this post, Geneviève shares how she uses the physical space in her classroom as a learning tool.

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Bullying and the Beauty of Books: 7 Resources for Your Classroom

Bullying and the Beauty of Books

As a teacher-librarian, I spend most of my days answering questions, teaching research, and helping students find good books. It’s the best job in the world.

Last spring, it seemed not a day went by when I wasn’t asked about the book Thirteen Reasons Why. With the premiere of the Netflix series, parents and teachers wanted to talk about their concerns with the show. Students wanted to get their hands on the book on which the series was based. Jay Asher’s book was not the first, nor would it be the last, to address bullying and the effects it can have on victims, bystanders, and the bullies themselves.

The beauty of books, more so than television shows, is that they can help us develop empathy or allow us to see inside a character’s head for awhile. Kids who are bullied may feel a little less alone if they read about a character being bullied in a book. Kids who are bystanders or bullies may be motivated to change, even just a little, if they see themselves mirrored in a paragraph or two.

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Banned Books Week: More Than The Freedom To Read

Banned Books Week

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Banned Books Week (Sept. 24 – Sept. 30) was founded in 1982 by the American Library Association and Amnesty International to celebrate the freedom to read through highlighting banned or challenged works, and the authors who have been persecuted for writing them.

For school librarians, Banned Books Week has evolved into an awareness campaign that provides information about attempts to prevent students from accessing a variety of books and websites that could have a meaningful impact on their education.

Books featured during Banned Books Week have been scrutinized for a variety of reasons, including racist or offensive language, sexual content, or political views that challenge the establishment of the time.

  • The Harry Potter series, a staple of many school classrooms and a favorite of even the most reluctant readers, offended some Christians because of its use of sorcery and witchcraft.
  • Classic children’s author Roald Dahl has faced international bans of The Witches over claims of misogyny.
  • Controversy stirs around William Stieg’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble for the depiction of animals wearing clothing, including pigs dressed as policemen.

The list of challenged books, and the reasons for their status, is as long and varied as the number of communities in which these books appear. Defenders of these works, including school librarians, provide several reasons why access to these books should not be restricted for our students.

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