“What I Know For Sure: Curriculum for Gifted Students is Misunderstood”

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September 2011 - Virginia Association of Teachers of English, The Needle’s Eye, Volume 31 Issue 3

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“What I Know For Sure: Curriculum for Gifted Students is Misunderstood”

  1. 1. 11 Virginia Association of Teachers of English Volume 31 Issue 3 September 2011 Voices from Our Past…Creating Our Future The Needle’s Eye VATE 42nd Annual Conference 97th Anniversary October 14-16, 2011 Stonewall Jackson Hotel Staunton, Virginia Natural Beauty, “Cutting Edge” Sessions, Shakespeare, Sophisticated Charm, and Down Home Hospitality: 2011 Conference Has It All! By Chuck Miller, VATE Executive Secretary Voices from Our Past…Creating Our Future is the theme of the 2011 VATE annual conference in Staunton, Virginia, October 14-16 at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel. There is still time to register online at www.vate.org, or you may register by printing out the registration form and mailing it in. Either way, it will be a conference to remember and we hope you will be there to participate, see old friends, and relax. On Friday afternoon, we will celebrate the culture of the Valley with a special opening session at The Frontier Culture Museum. Participants will have the opportunity to wander at their leisure around the museum property and view authentic English, German, Irish, and African farmsteads, which have been relocated to the FCM, as well as an early American farmstead. Atthe conclusion of the museum tour, we will gather at the octagonal barn reception area for a wine and cheese social.There we will hear from pioneers of a different sort, as Dr. Delores Brown and Ms. Patricia Godbolt White share theirexperiences as members of the Norfolk 17, the brave young who were the first to cross the color line in previously all-white Norfolk public schools.On Saturday, we will have two of three very timely presentations scheduled for the 2011 conference. At the luncheon,which will serve as our centerpiece meal function this year, Carol Jago, literacy specialist and current NCTE pastpresident, will challenge us to challenge our students, regardless of ability, to aim for high levels of achievement in theclassroom. Her message to us will be one of her first presentations since the publicationof the second edition of her highly acclaimed, And Rigor for All.The second ―cutting edge‖ session on Saturday will feature VATE’s own KathrynErskine, who won the 2010 National Book Award for young readers for her novel,Mockingbird. Kathy also had a new YA novel, The Absolute Value of Mike, come outback in June. In her session, she will not just discuss her own writing, however. She willbe commenting on some of the latest YA titles and providing project ideas andclassroom applications for those books. This session promises to be of great practicalvalue for experienced and novice teachers alike.Our Sunday brunch speaker, New York Times best-selling author Sharyn McCrumb,will hearken back to the Appalachian themes evoked during our Friday event at theFrontier Culture Museum. When she joins us at the VATE conference, she will literally Blackfriars Theater
  2. 2. Needle’s Eye, Volume 31, Issue 3have just stepped off the plane from a whirlwind promotional tour for the latest novel in her Ballad series, The Ballad ofTom Dooley, which just hit the bookstores in August.Shakespeare wrote in Henry V: ―There is occasions and causes why and wherefore in all things,‖ which leads us to onereason that Staunton was chosen as the site for our 2011 conference. The American Shakespeare Center’s faithfulreproduction of Blackfriars Theater is literally next door to our conference hotel, and we are partnering with ASC topresent several events for the Shakespeare aficionados among us. On Saturday morning, we will have the opportunity toattend a workshop presented by ASC actors who will provide practical tips on how to make Shakespeare come alive forour students. There will also be an opportunity for a backstage tour of the theater. Our culminating event at Blackfriarswill be a production of Henry V with a special talkback session with the cast following the performance. Prior to the play,we will have a reception with ―ye olde pub faire‖ and a host bar. Our guest speaker at the reception will be Rena Berlin,the education director for the Virginia Holocaust Museum. Play tickets must be reserved by September 24, so pleaseregister early. After September 24, they will go on sale to the general public. But, Staunton is so much more than just Blackfriars. Our conference hotel is the historic Stonewall Jackson, recently restored to its former grandeur and outfitted with a modern conference center. Our meal functions will be in the beautiful original ballroom where we can ―party like it’s 1924.‖ Downtown Staunton awaits just outside our hotel’s doors, and it is very walkable and visitor- friendly. There are a number of unique specialty shops and boutiques within steps of the hotel. And, there are number of outstanding restaurants within two blocks of the hotel to please even the most discriminating palate. From fine dining to down home cooking to gelato to gourmet pizza, there’s something for every taste. VATE encourages you to explore downtown Staunton when you are not attending conference sessions or meal functions.Though I reside in a town in the Piedmont foothills of the Blue Ridge, I claim the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia as home. Iwas born and raised down the Valley (like the Nile, the Shenandoah flows south to north) in Winchester. And for those ofa certain generation for whom this question matters, I was a city kid and attended Handley, not James Wood, though Ihope that won’t turn away our friends from Frederick County. My son and his fiancée live in the Valley, and my wife and Ioften make the short drive across Afton Mountain to Staunton to socialize, shop, and go out to eat. I am always struck bythe beauty of the Valley, no matter what the season, but especially in the fall. And views such as the one above await you,no matter from which direction you arrive.So, welcome to my ―home,‖ the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, for the 2011 VATE conference. I know you will enjoy yourstay and the beauty and hospitality for which the Valley is known. And what better way to spend your time in the Valleythan with like-minded colleagues who have come together to share ideas and be inspired to return refreshed and renewedto their classrooms? See you in Staunton, October 14-16.New Name and New Format Planned for Needle’s EyeBy Sara Zeek, EditorSay good-bye. The VATE newsletter, Needle’s Eye, will have a new lookfollowing the state conference. Our new name, VATE Voices, suggests ourvision for the newsletter and for VATE: to create a community for language artsteachers in Virginia. While we plan to continue to publish at least two print issueseach year, our new electronic format using Wordpress will make VATE Voicesinteractive and allow members to enter a conversation with others about issuesfacing language arts teachers locally and in the nation. Articles will be publishedon the left side of the page with a sidebar for member input and discussion.Members will receive an email from vatepublications@gmail.com with the link forthe online issue, starting in November following the VATE fall conference.Daniel Woods, editor of the Virginia English Bulletin, and I will present a publication workshop at the annual conferencein Staunton. We hope you will join us. Please continue to email your submissions to me at vatepublications@gmail.comand note in the subject line ―article for VATE Voices.‖ Thanks to everyone who gives their time to submit to ourpublications.
  3. 3. Needle’s Eye, Volume 31, Issue 3George Herring Chews a Book: the downlow(d) on podcasting in English classroomsby George Herring, English Department Chair, Atlee High School in Mechanicsville, VAThis is just a guess, but I think that for as long as English teachers have assigned books, they’ve also assigned bookreports. Over time the assignment evolved. Some brilliant teacher eventually thought, ―Boy, it’s really quite boring to read120 essays on Tom Sawyer. I should have them all write essays on different books.‖ Progress, thy name is Bored Silly!So maybe your students are all writing papers on different books, but what then? Beyond your own classroom, whathappens to those reports? Those lovely, paragraphed nuggets of insight? Who else enjoys them besides you?I am lucky enough to be able to answer that question. I can say from January to August of this year, my students’ bookreviews have been enjoyed 32,512 times. OK, OK…let me stop here. You’ve seen me use ―enjoy‖ twice already. It’s notjust reckless enthusiasm. I generally agree, ―enjoy‖ is not a word I would use to describing reading a book report.However, I can also tell you that 897 people are ―subscribers‖ to my students’ book reports. This means that they areinterested enough in the writing that they want to get their hands on new book reviews as I release them to the public. So,are these people, on some level, deranged? Perhaps. I really can’t comment on the mental state of our fan base. But it’salso an indicator, on some level, that what my students create generate enjoyment.I know all this data because, as you may have guessed from the article’s title, I am involved in podcasting. In fact, I havebeen podcasting in my classroom for three years now. Don’t know what podcasting is? Stop reading this. Go to Wikipedia.Look it up. Go to iTunes. Listen to a sample. A good one…like Grammar Girl. Maybe check out mine. It’s called Chews aBook. I’m not ashamed to promote. OK? We good? Great!To be up front, I do have technology in my background. But I swear, podcastingis super-easy! Just like anything else, regardless of your background, goodimplementation relies on an iterative process. You will learn as you succeed andfail. I know I did. My first year with it was insane! We went, as we like to say in thecountry, hog wild. Without testing our own process, we agreed to review all thesummer reading books for our school (there were around 40 as I recall) so we’dhave an instant audience of over a thousand students (if you included the 8 thgrade classes feeding into our high school…which we did). We built a website.We did three rounds of review through the year to learn the process. I spent mywhole spring break editing podcasts! That is not hyperbole. But in our fervor, littlethings were sacrificed in order to nail a really good review of The Hunger Games.Little things like classroom management. That is hyperbole. Sort of. Is myprincipal going to read this? Dan Moneghan, Class of 2011,In my second year we didn’t try hard enough. I scaled back the program. The website takes a break after recording rough cuts of podcasts.died. Our podcast service provider also died. Well, he went bankrupt, which couldhave been because he died. I don’t know. We weren’t close. Additionally, I thoughtthat, with successful samples, the students could ―run with the project.‖ I was wrong. I watched, helpless, as 60% of ourcompleted reviews that year fell into a category I can only describe as ―stinky.‖ Were they OK for a school project? Sure!Would I ever put them on air? No way!Last year, though, we hit the sweet spot. Things clicked. It was like I was coming into work with Survivor’s ―Eye of theTiger‖ playing on the intercom. On second thought, I think that actually happened. A key improvement was that I had ex-students come back and serve as teaching assistants. We found a more reliable podcasting service provider. I’m prettysure that person is alive. We committed to fewer reviews, but we also committed to doing them well.So, if you use metrics to assess progress, here’s a different way to tell the story of the last 3 years: YEAR 1 YEAR 2 YEAR 3 Completed Reviews 150 70 77 Reviews Acceptable for Broadcast 60 15 70So, as they like to say in the city, I’ve been around the block. That is, in truth, what they say about me in the city. But Iactually meant that in relationship to my experience with podcasting. I can give you tips, but you’ve already heard the bestone:
  4. 4. Needle’s Eye, Volume 31, Issue 3Life is IterativeYou have to get comfortable with failure. Know that you will fail. Know that you are taking a long-view. Enjoy it!Get RealYou can make this a classroom project if you want. You can use the cheap microphone in the computer. You can havekids record their voices over the din of ambient classroom noise. You can do that and be lame. Or…you can treat the kidslike the intelligent sources of review that they are! These kids want to be a voice in the chorus. In fact, most of themalready are. Still, they’ve probably never taken themselves seriously either. They never had anyone pushing them for highproduction value. Here are some things I did to help push:  We use royalty free music to help lift the emotion of the review. Go online and check out Imcompetech. Kevin Macleod, the creator, only asks for donations. Please donate. He’s beautiful for doing it the way he does.  We initially used book reviews from Entertainment Weekly as our professional models. Their big reviews are really only 4 paragraphs. Now we use our past productions as models, but EW still helps.  Quality is often only as good as the gear you use. We were lucky enough to get $800, which we used to buy 2 sturdy flash recorders with mixers, professional microphones, XLR cables, and portable drives. To most of you this is gibberish. It’s like listening to an episode of Star Trek. Just collaborate with your Tech Coach or ITRT.  We value our close partnership with our library. The class comes in and works quietly on a few assignments (writer’s workshop, independent reading, etc…) while, in a breakout room, I am working with 4 or 5 students. Every two minute edited recording requires about 10 to 15 minutes of raw production time. So you can reliably get three quality reviews recorded in a 40 minute session. Lesson plan around that metric.  We record opening and closing ―bumpers.‖ This gives the review a professional feel. It is often me doing the intros/outros; however, over time, that is a job I offload to a student.  It is important that the students edit their own product. I bought a class set of flash drives. The drives are numbered and assigned. I can only talk about this with jargon. My apologies. I refer to editing as ―post production.‖ I refer to recording as ―production.‖ I refer to reading and writing as ―pre production.‖ So, at the end of production, each flash drive will contain (1) a rough cut of a review, (2) the intro / outro bumps for that review, and (3) the music choice that will lift up the emotion of the review.  We go to post using a free program: Audacity. This is another opportunity for you to call your lonely Tech Coach, your neglected ITRT.  Have an audience in mind. For me the audience is on iTunes. I really can’t see it any other way. That is the place people go for podcasts. To get onto iTunes I use a provider called Podcast Revolution. They cost $15 a month. The upside is that you can create lots and lots of podcasts through the account, so you can justify the cost to administration by saying you will serve as the hub for anyone that wants to podcast in your school.Workshop, Collaborate, Cross-train, and QAThere has been so many times where the students didn’t do their part that I always…always…worry about the classroomexperience falling to pieces. So my default is to control. As much as we want to track and control the process so that weknow they are all moving in a particular direction, the real deal is in the foggy mess. It’s in the ―let’s see what tomorrowbrings‖ mentality as you work through that fog. Kids are reading different books. The books vary in length and complexity.Kids are writing at different times. Their writing experience is different. They complete and revise at different times. Somekids want constant feedback. Some are afraid to show you anything but their very best. Here are some tips to keep thechaos controlled:  I use the writer’s workshop approach (though I must admit I didn’t call it that until I attended the Central Virginia Writing Project Workshop this summer…amazing!!). We write a number of reviews throughout the year. The kids only need to embrace one of these for the revision process. This revelation has taken me a long time to embrace. The whole ―I wrote it and hate it‖ mentality is very much a part of us. As I mentioned earlier, failure is very much a part of the process. Allow them to hate work that falls short of their intended vision.  I encourage collaboration as much as possible. In the writer’s workshop, the students share evolving drafts. They constrain their revision comments to what is working and what they’d like to see more information about. We avoid the grammar, spelling, word count conversation at all costs. That’s really conversation for the end of the process.
  5. 5. Needle’s Eye, Volume 31, Issue 3  I train students on podcasting with an eye toward cross-training. I pick students purposefully. I’m looking for the kid who can work well with others. I’m looking for the kid that can be frank without being cruel. These students become leaders. They run the technology. They read the bumpers. They offer commentary to students on how to make their reading more effective. They help edit. These students are kind, humane, with-it, and smart. We are a team. We are a family. They know that, as equals, we are going after things that go way beyond the standards of learning. I love them for it, and hope the feeling is mutual.  One of my biggest lessons learned is to build in some redundancies. It’s not just one student and me running quality assurance checks on the final product. This last year I buffered in four students. Four students had the power to say, ―Yo Bobbie, this is crazy! I can’t even hear you over your music. You need to fix it.‖ I pick kids who are tech savvy, or at least passionate. If you want to know why my numbers were so better in year three, this is the reason.PromoteThis sounds self serving. Believe me, the bigger gains from promotion are to be had where it is most important: thestudents who are looking at you. The students love to hear that they are part of something big. I mean, don’t we all! Thepoint is, the more you make your program amazing, the more the students coming into the program will buy into whatevercrazy scheme you’ve hatched. Here are some things I do:  I go to conferences and present. It feels like bragging. It especially felt that way in year two. However, it’s a great chance to promote your brand. Viewership will go up. That comes right back to the classroom. You should have seen their faces when I told them we crossed the 10,000 download threshold last year. When I return to school I get to tell them we’ve crossed 32,000! What effect do you think that has? It’s amazing!  I email my faculty when updates occur. Ninety-eight percent of them probably delete them by now. I am not deterred by my imaginary rejection. I am very careful to mention the student and the book in the email. If a teacher cares about a student, I believe they will take the time to listen to their work. I am constantly amazed by that! Students have no idea how much some of these teachers love them. Their work is a semi-professional product that almost 1,000 people in eight months have come to expect every week. That is important. To them. To all of us.  Whenever I can, I email students when their podcasts are released on iTunes. I get a response back 100% of the time. Facebook is a great resource for this. You don’t have to friend them; you can often just email them through Fb. The students are always gracious and encouraging in their response. Why? Because, despite my flaws, I am passionate in the vision of what this class does…and passion wins the day. Care about what you’re doing. They will remember.Remember, when things go wrong, always refer back to the first step. And don’t forget to subscribe to Chews a Book oniTunes. To download Chews a Book, please visit the iTunes store and search for Chews a Book. . I think you will find itsomething you will…enjoy! George Herring attended the Central Virginia Writing Project SI in 2011 and is a changed man. He has no website and fears for the life of his podcast service provider. In 2010, George was named Hanover County’s Teacher of the Year. You can talk with George when he presents a seminar on podcasting at the Virginia Educational Technology Leadership Conference in Roanoke this November.What I Know for Sure: Curriculum for Gifted Students is MisunderstoodBy Helen Pryor, Ruffner Middle Academy, Norfolk, VAOne of the most complex, perhaps the most researched, and quite possibly the most vague area in education isorganizing programs and curriculums for gifted students, as well as meeting the social and emotional needs of thesestudents during instruction. The main purpose of a gifted program is to provide a structure that will meet their educationalneeds that they do not receive in a regular classroom environment. These opportunities for enrichment serve the purposeof enabling a child to develop to their fullest potential, but the creation of the frameworks for these types of programs aremore difficult than they appear. Specific plans for each student, or cluster of students, is dependent on not only theirassessments, but the types of services which will be made available. The unfortunate reality is that more often than not,
  6. 6. Needle’s Eye, Volume 31, Issue 3these plans are seldom comprehensive, and effective personnel and resources are provided on an inconsistent basis.This situation usually leads to decline or loss of abilities within the students, which becomes obvious during assessments;therefore, these structures need to become more stabilized and consistent, particularly in the creation and implementationof the gifted curriculums.Reason would dictate that you would develop the same model for atypical or regular learners at the upper end of theintelligence scale as you would for those at the lower level; however, it is the sublevels that provide the inconsistency inthis reasoning. The curriculums provided require that they are differentiated for the students needs, not only academically,but socially and emotionally as well. This differentiation is normally broken down into three categories: moderately gifted,highly gifted, and profoundly gifted. Moderately gifted students are normally clustered in groups of at least five students inthe regular classroom, and the teacher provides differentiated instruction for them including flexible grouping and higherscaled assessments. Highly and profoundly gifted students have more demanding needs, which requires acceleratedpacing, more advanced resources, and higher level critical thinking lesson plans.In creating the curriculum for these classrooms, the following requirements should be met for maximum academic impact,thus providing an effective, stress-free pace and nurturing environment:  team teaching, with at least one member of the team knowledgeable of gifted needs, and planning the appropriate modifications for the program;  regularly scheduled meetings with gifted students to provide support in meeting the needs for their academic challenges, social interaction, emotional exploration, and growth;  program placement opportunities in higher grade levels in subjects in which the gifted learner is even more accelerated;  extra-curricular, community-based, and service projects that can be accomplished on an independent, small group, or mentorship basis.  lesson plans designed to effectively meet the cognitive needs of the student per Bloom’s taxonomy through instruction and assessment.Although there is some support for gifted programs at the state and national level, many administratorsand teaching professions have argued that whether the current test-driven mentality of the nation isactually ―gifted-friendly.‖ For the last several years, funds for gifted programs have remained mostlystatic, and have declined in some states – even to the point of virtual elimination in the most profoundcases, mostly due to declining student population or issues in successfully identifying gifted students. In Helen Pryor,most cases, high-stakes testing manages to make the minimum requirements the maximum score; Norfolk, VAtherefore, emphasis is on the mastery of only the most ―basic skills.‖ This approach forces a giftedstudent to fit into an environment of ―minimalist education‖ where schools appear to mistake mediocrity for excellence.In retrospect, the question that must be asked is whether or not there is intellectual meaningfulness existing in giftedcurriculums so that every child, whatever the limit or extent of his or her gifts, is challenged and encouraged to pursue thepotential of his or her own possibilities. School boards and administrators are left with the challenge of putting the moneywhere their philosophies are, therefore taking into consideration the need to hire more personnel and the need forupdated gifted materials and resources. Those who teach the gifted will also need to take responsibility for what isrightfully theirs: to accommodate their curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of gifted students, as well asaddressing their social and emotional needs. What Do You Know for Sure?Past President Adria Merritt noted, “Reflection is a powerful tool educators possess. It allows us to question ourinstructional choices as we strive to engage our students in the learning process, while further developing their reading,writing, and critical thinking skills. Reflection often yields surprising results, like much of what we are already doing reallyis working despite the barrage of “new, improved” methods and strategies that overwhelm some practitioners compellingthem to throw out the tried and true for the next best thing. Reflection also pushes us to make simple, yet profoundchanges.” What I Know for Sure is a regular column in Needle’s Eye. We encourage members to reflect on theirclassrooms and beliefs and share their thoughts with us. Please email your contributions to vatepublications@gmail.com.
  7. 7. Needle’s Eye, Volume 31, Issue 3 Poetry Society of Virginia Announces Poetry Contest By Judi Bragg, President, Poetry Society of Virginia From Dr Seuss to Shakespeare, from Taylor Swift to Billy Collins, poetry is all around us whether we recognize it or not. Very young children love poetry for its rhyme and rhythm, but it’s often difficult to reach older students with the value of something so important, so elaborate, and so subject tochange. ―I don’t get poetry,‖ is the refrain in high school classrooms when poetry is introduced as the lesson for the day.Fortunately, there are outside resources available to come to the teacher’s rescue.One of these resources is the Poetry Society of Virginia, and one of its promising programs is the annual Student PoetryContest. Cash awards are available in several categories, covering first grade through college, and winners are invited toattend the Society’s Awards Presentation to read their poems before an appreciative audience. The contest opens inNovember, and the entry deadline is always January 19, Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. Brochures are available to provideentry guidelines and other details.Appreciation of poetry is extremely difficult to teach, yet even in this math-and-science, high-technology age, it is a highlyimportant skill for development of a well-rounded, well-educated life. Learning to find, or arrange, ―the right words in theright order‖ is an ability which carries over to studies in communications, psychology, advertising, religion, philosophy andlaw, and knowledge of a civilization’s poetry is vital to understanding its history and anthropology. Reading and writingpoetry can delight, fulfill, and educate an individual for a lifetime; poetry can create bonds and bridges among its followers,regardless of age, gender, race, religion, socioeconomic standing or physical limitations.We are hoping more Virginia students will participate in the contest, learn the pleasure of ―playing with words,‖ and beable to step up to the lectern at our next Awards Presentation in April 2012. Please visit us on the web at www.poetrysocietyofvirginia.org for more information. Virginia Writing Project News Funding Cuts Threaten Future Programs for Local Educators By KaaVonia Hinton-Johnson, Director, Tidewater Writing ProjectThe Virginia Writing Project has offered teacher professional development programs for rural, urban, and suburbanteachers for over thirty years. In the past, each site in Virginia (along with the host institution and other agencies) hasmatched financial support from the U.S. Department of Education to conduct these institutes. Now, the sharp loss infederal support for the NWP will put pressure on local sites to replace this funding in future years. The Virginia WritingProject is actively working with the NWP and home universities to seek alternate funding to continue this important work.As the over 3,000 of teachers who attended National Writing Project (NWP) professional development institutes thissummer start school this fall, they will be returning with new ideas and strategies to help students improve their writing.They will also be better connected to a professional community—and therefore better equipped to teach their studentshow to write in this digital age.Enthusiastic teacher-leaders from all grade levels and disciplines attended professional development institutes held at 200university-based Writing Project sites across the country. In spite of this success, the future looks uncertain given thedeep cuts in federal support for these and other important literacy investments."Thousands of teachers will return toschool this fall with more than their batteries recharged," said Dr. Sharon J. Washington, NWP Executive Director. "Theseeducators have enhanced their knowledge of theory, research, and practice to help students become better writers andlearners. Going forward, without financial support from the U.S. Department of Education that local communities had beenrequired to match, it will be very difficult for NWP to continue to provide the funding for these summer institutes."Virginia Writing Project teachers are not only taking new ideas and strategies back to school: theyre also returning to theirschools with resources from a network of national colleagues from pre-kindergarten through university, across content,discipline, and state lines. These professional relationships will be maintained through online professional conversations,using tools like Twitter, Facebook, Nings, and blogs, which are important tools for teachers and their students in the digitalage.
  8. 8. Needle’s Eye, Volume 31, Issue 3Join us in supporting the NWP and all Virginia writing project sites. Contact your representatives to let them know yourfeelings about continuing to support literacy in the U.S.Contact Kaa Hinton-Johnson at khintonj@odu.edu to share information about Virginia Writing Project activities with VATE.Working for Real Educational Reform: The Future of the Northern Virginia Writing ProjectBy Paul Rogers, Director, Northern Virginia Writing Project ,George Mason UniversityStanding in the baking heat at the recent Save our Schools March inWashington D.C, my two year old daughter Estella (who was latheredin sun screen, wearing a pink sun hat, and playing with a cold bottle ofwater) looked up at me and said, ―Hot, Hot, Hot!‖ I had to laugh. Notonly was the temperature near 100 degrees, but the rhetoric from thepodium was scalding too. At the rally before the march, speaker afterspeaker (including Alfie Kohn, Barry Lane, Matt Damon, LindaDarling-Hammond, and many more) came to the podium making thecase for the profession of teaching and public schools. PedroNoguera, a champion for teachers and professor at NYU said it best,―After over 10 years of No Child Left Behind … all the internationalindicators show that we are falling further and further behind, and thatis because we are using testing in the most destroying way everimagined.‖ As we all know to well, the erroneous conflation of high stakes testing with learning has led to many destructiveconsequences, not the least of which has been corruption and cheating, an increase in high school drop out rates in urbanareas around the U.S., extremely high attrition rates among new teachers, and a wide-spread demoralization of teachersacross the country.In spite of these pressures, and the loss of federal support for the almost 200 sites National Writing Project, here at theNorthern Virginia Writing Project we remain committed to our mission of improving writing instruction, writing practice, andlearning at all educational levels; to developing teacher leaders across the disciplines and elevating their professionalstanding; and providing support for young writers and their families. In late June our site leadership gathered for anAdvanced Summer Institute to reaffirm our roots and plan for the future. What clearly emerged from our conversationsand work was the belief that the need for Writing Project style professional development has never been greater, but ourcapacity to deliver that professional development has never been stronger.As we push forward our professional development work in schools and expand our work with young writers, our priority ison nurturing our network of amazing Teacher Consultants throughout Northern Virginia. Because everything in ourexperience as teachers suggests that true educational reform takes place when one teacher-leader does great work at thelocal level. We are also writing grants, talking with our contacts in Richmond, and reaching out to our colleagues in theother sites of the Virginia Writing Project, but supporting these teacher-leaders is the heart of our mission. If the relentlesspressure on teachers continues, the value and need for professional networks like VATE and the National Writing Projectwill only increase. There is no doubt we need each other now more than ever! We celebrate all that the teachersassociated with VATE are doing to support their students and each other, and we look forward to working together withyou in fostering real educational reform.Central Virginia Writing Project Summer Institute at UVABy Jane Hansen, Director, CVWPThe Central Virginia Writing Project is excited about our Summer and Fall 2011 endeavors. We held a great 4-weekSummer Institute at UVA for 17 teachers, a one-week Institute in Hanover for 22 Hanover teachers, and a one-weekYoung Authors Camp for rising 3rd-5th graders at St. Christophers in Richmond. Plus, two of us attended the ELLworkshop in Cleveland sponsored by NWP, and are working to strengthen our work with local ELL teachers throughoutthis year. Also, some of us are engaged in other professional development efforts in a few school divisions during 2011-12. This fall our Leadership Team is busy recruiting 20 teachers for our next summers Institute, we are hosting aTeachers as Writers Retreat this fall, and we look forward to a daylong workshop for teachers of grades 3-5 on October 6sponsored with the Virginia School University Partnership. Finally, a small contingent of us looks forward to the NWPannual fall meeting in Chicago. Our new website, which is still under construction, is at www.cvwp.org.
  9. 9. Needle’s Eye, Volume 31, Issue 3VATE Announces Our First Literacy ExplosionBy Adria Merritt, VATE Past PresidentThe Literacy Explosion, which will be held in the spring, encourages and rewards Virginia students excellence in reading,writing, speaking, presenting, filming, drawing, and acting. It is a language arts festival designed to celebrate and promotethe integration of literacy and 21st century learning skills. The categories showcase students expression and expertise intheir use of language, communication, and digital media. All Virginia students in grades K-12 are invited to participate inthis opportunity to share their language arts talents and abilities. Competition Information  The Virginia Literacy Explosion is a statewide competition for students in grades K-12.  Participants receive awards for outstanding products in eight categories related to language arts.  The competition will be held at Landstown High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia on Saturday, March 17, 2012. How to Enter Your Students  Registration forms may be downloaded and printed from www.vate.org. o School Registration Form (due January 30) o Student Registration Form (due February 15th)  There is a $5 per student OR a $30 per school entry fee (whichever is less), payable to: Virginia Association of Teachers of English.  Mail your school registration and fee by January 30 or your student registrations by February 15 to: Adria F. Merritt, Literary Explosion Chair Crittenden Middle School 6158 Jefferson Avenue Newport News, VA 23605 Event Schedule  Check-in: 8:30-9:15  Set up: 9:15-9:45  Judges Meeting: 9:15-9:45  Explosion Showcase and Judging: 9:45-11:45  Break/Snacks: 11:45-12:20  Award Winning Showcase and Presentation of Awards: 12:20-1:15 Awards 1. First, second and third place medals will be awarded in each category. 2. The school with the most students entered will receive a Highest Participation Award. Contest Categories  Click on the description of each event to view a copy of the scoring rubric.  Each entry will be scored using the project scoring rubric and the participant’s interview.  Students may submit entries individually or as part of a collaborative team.*Both fiction and nonfiction texts may be used to create the products. Texts may include, but are not limited to narratives,plays, poems, essays, informational texts, and students’ original writing.
  10. 10. Needle’s Eye, Volume 31, Issue 3 1. BOOK COVERS  Entrants will design a book cover for a text of his/her choice with the intent to entice readers or market the text. The cover must be created using desktop publishing.  Entrants will participate in an interview. 2. BOOK TRAILER  Entrants will prepare a video trailer of his/her chosen text. The trailer should be at least two minutes in length, but no more than four minutes long. The trailer must be a positive presentation of the subject. The trailers purpose to persuade the audience to read the text. The trailer must contain original footage and should not contain music from a motion picture soundtrack, if applicable.  Entrants will participate in an interview. 3. PHOTO ESSAY  Photo essays will depict themes/main ideas or scenes/essential details from a text. Essays should have a minimum of six original photographs and may include quotes or phrases taken from the represented text.  Entrants will participate in an interview 4. GLOG IT!  Entrants must use Glogster to depict essential components, including but not limited to theme/main idea, organizational structure, text features, viewpoint, and writer’s craft.  Entrants will participate in an interview. 5. PICTURE PERFECT  Entrants must create an image that captures the essence of a text. Entries must be students’ original digital artwork.  Entrants will participate in an interview. 6. THE NEXT CHAPTER  Entrants will use video tools like Animoto or Photostory to creatively tell what might happen if the text continues.  Entrants will participate in an interview. 7. PODCAST  Entrants create a podcast that creatively interprets the text. Ideas include, but are not limited to having a radio interview of the author or a debate about an idea that is presented in the text.  Entrants will participate in an interview. 8. SCENE IT  Entrants will pick a pivotal scene from a text to dramatize. Record the scene using digital technology. Props, musical instruments, prerecorded music, costumes, or any other objects of any kind may be used. Performances may be no longer than five minutes.  Entrants will participate in an interview Check www.vate.org in November for entry forms, rubrics, and interview questions.
  11. 11. Needle’s Eye, Volume 31, Issue 3 Call for Manuscripts Virginia English Bulletin Fall / Winter 2011, Vol 61, #2 Great Teaching Ideas Call for Manuscripts Virginia English Bulletin GREAT TEACHING IDEASThe Virginia English Bulletin invites you to submit articles of two to ten pages describing great teaching ideas. Chosensubmissions will be featured in our great teaching ideas column, which appears in each fall and spring issue of the VEB.No one teacher possesses all the knowledge required to teach the ever widening range of topics and students that weface from year to year. Yet there is a solution. We can learn from each other. This column asks you to share with fellowteachers the activities, materials, or assignments that have worked for you and your students. By sharing ideas andborrowing ideas teachers work together to develop repertoires of strategies that work. We invite your submissions.Virginia English Bulletin is a fully refereed journal. In addition to publishing full length articles on English language artsteaching and learning, we feature teaching ideas in our Great Teaching ideas column. Deadline: October 1, 2011 (November 15th for conference presenters)Authors should submit their articles electronically as e-mail attachments, preferably Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect;however, other formats and word processing programs are acceptable. We do not accept simultaneous submissions.Please include your mailing address, as well as a short biographical sketch including the name of your school,position, courses taught, and a brief statement about your professional life; also include a statement ofsubmission noting that the work has not been submitted elsewhere simultaneously for publication.Send to drwoods@radford.edu, for the attention of Daniel Woods, Radford University, P.O. Box 6935, Radford,Virginia 24142. The editor reserves the right to modify manuscripts to fit length and language considerations. Pleaseinclude ―VEB Submission‖ in the ―Subject‖ line of your e-mail. Alternately, interested individuals may call the Editor at540.831.5097. The Needle’s Eye Editor, Sara Zeek 801 Douglas St. Please contact Chuck Miller at cmillercrz@gmail.com Clifton Forge, VA. 24422 to update your email and post office address so that Email: vatepublications@gmail.com you will not miss a publication or announcement. Phone: 540-862-2581 (home) The Virginia Association of Teachers of English is Encourage others to join VATE online at www.vate.org. committed to enhancing the quality of the teaching of English and language arts in the Commonwealth.

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