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Each weekday, AdLit gathers interesting news headlines about literacy, middle grade and YA books, best practices in instruction, and other key topics related to middle school and high school teaching and learning.

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‘I wasn’t trying to entertain. I was trying to teach’: How a lesson about the past helped a Detroit teenager find his voice in the classroom (opens in a new window)

Chalkbeat Detroit

July 21, 2021

King Bethel knew he grew up in a divided city, but it wasn’t until six months ago that he discovered one of the reasons why. In social studies class, the Detroit ninth grader (and standout singer) learned about redlining, a government housing policy that discriminated against people based on their race or ethnicity. Inspired by the lesson about redlining, King began to do more research about how the racist policies affected families, including his own. He looked up articles online and re-read class materials. He also learned of a painful chapter in his own family’s history. A few days after the history lesson, King sat at his desk and started working on a speech to submit to a national public speaking competition called Project Soapbox. He wanted to share what he had learned, to use his voice in a different way. “I wasn’t trying to entertain,” he said. “I was trying to teach.”

Students Need Better Connections. To Wi-Fi, Yes, But Also to Teachers (opens in a new window)

Education Week

July 21, 2021

Prior to March 2020, we knew we had a digital divide that prevented too many of our students from accessing their learning from home. Thanks to fundraising by our [school] foundation and partnerships within our community, we have been largely successful in bridging our digital divide. But we also knew that something else was preventing students from remaining connected to their school community: a relationship divide. So, at the same time as we launched a 1:1-device initiative, we also launched a 1:1-student-staff-connection effort. We asked our principals and school teams to ensure that every student have a 1:1 connection with a staff member who would check in with them weekly. It has not been easy, and we have learned many lessons that will shape our 1:1 connection efforts in the coming school year.

How I Use Padlet for Teen Programs (opens in a new window)

School Library Journal

July 21, 2021

Padlet is a free online education tool that I’ve found to be very useful and versatile for my library’s teen programs and clubs. Described as a virtual bulletin board, Padlet allows users to share and view all sorts of content. It is interactive so users can communicate and collaborate in real time, and it is easily customizable. Since Padlet is essentially a corkboard with infinite space—and infinite possibilities—there is so much potential for using Padlet with teens in your library.

Planning for Student Engagement (opens in a new window)

Edutopia

July 21, 2021

Teaching during the pandemic helped some of us teachers evolve to meet the needs of students by making adjustments to how we planned lessons. New instructional strategies emerged around how to deliver and apply content, including modifying traditional approaches, such as the gallery walk, and developing new strategies, like designing memes to demonstrate learning. For the best engagement, teachers need to plan to make sure that students can learn in different formats. At the middle school level it’s especially imperative that we vary how we deliver content to students—how we introduce information, and how students apply, use, and evaluate that information. Here are some planning strategies that will help ensure strong student engagement.

Optimizing Digital Learning for the New School Year (opens in a new window)

Education Week

July 21, 2021

During the pandemic, all kinds of technologies helped save K-12 education from completely collapsing. Zoom and Microsoft Teams empowered educators to deliver live instruction and talk with students face to face virtually, many teachers who previously saw no need to use their learning management systems became regular users of them, and digital devices were distributed in record numbers to students all over the country. The result is that teachers’ and students’ technology skills have leapfrogged to the next level and the tech infrastructure in schools is now far more robust than it ever was before the pandemic. But with the crisis easing and most schools planning to return to full-time in-person instruction in the fall, educators now have to make some very important technology decisions. These stories examine all those questions and provide a roadmap for how schools should approach the use of technology for the 2021-22 school year and beyond.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Censorship (opens in a new window)

The New York Times

July 16, 2021

For as long as there have been books, there have been censors who have tried to keep them away from other people. Today these efforts run the gamut from outright bans to limiting a book’s availability by getting it removed from library shelves or cut from classroom syllabuses. The American Library Association publishes lists of the most frequently banned and challenged books, which, revealingly, contain mostly children’s and young adult titles.“You Can’t Say That,” a collection of interviews conducted by the children’s literature expert Leonard S. Marcus, offers an antidote to the censors, elevating the voices of 13 authors whose books for kids have been challenged. Marcus probes not just what made these works controversial, but also the life paths that led the writers to pursue their subjects, and how they reacted to campaigns to muzzle their work — all of which are sure to interest their young fans, as well as students of free speech.

How one district went all-in on a tutoring program to catch kids up (opens in a new window)

Hechinger Report

July 16, 2021

As schools launch summer programs and plan for the fall, they’re left with a tremendous responsibility (and a windfall of federal money) to try to fill in the gaps for students who have spent a year trying to learn through a computer screen. Researchers and educators are considering various methods to fill these gaps, including small-group instruction, extended school hours and summer programs. But, while the results of research on what might work to catch kids up is not always clear-cut, many education experts point to tutoring as a tried-and-true method. Guilford County Schools turned to tutors early in the pandemic to confront unfinished learning. The district, with 126 schools (including two virtual academies) and nearly 70,000 K-12 students, created an ambitious districtwide tutoring program using a combination of graduate, undergraduate and high school students to serve as math tutors. Now, over the next few months, the district hopes to expand their program to include English language arts and other subject areas and plans to continue it for at least the next several years.

Body Language in Middle Grade Lit (opens in a new window)

The New York Times

July 16, 2021

When I was a middle school student in the 1980s, a girl in my class presented a book report on Judy Blume’s “Blubber.” As the only fat kid in my class, I wouldn’t have been caught dead reading a book with that title.  The stories we tell about weight and body image have improved since I was in middle school, but not nearly enough. Still, three new middle grade books reflect some of the positive changes that have occurred over the past decade. While authors today are still writing about painful experiences related to weight and body image, these new stories are influenced by the work fat activists have done, and they show us a glimmer of hope and liberation.

‘Other Words For Home’ Is A Middle-Grade Immigrant Story That Adult Readers Will Enjoy, Too (opens in a new window)

KMUW (Wichita, KS)

July 14, 2021

Other Words for Home is a middle-grade debut from Jasmine Warga. It’s the story of Jude, a young girl living in a tourist town on the coastline of Syria. When the Arab Spring erupts, she leaves her father and older brother behind and moves with her mother to Cincinnati to live with relatives. Jude struggles to find her identity, wanting so badly to fit in with American classmates but not wanting to forget her home country, language, food or culture. The novel is written in free-verse and deals with some difficult topics, including anti-Arab harassment. Fans of Jacqueline Woodson or Kwame Alexander will appreciate its structure and its stark, poetic power. Mostly, though, this is a book about resilience and hope.

Zaila Avant-garde Makes Spelling History, and Other Moments From the Bee (opens in a new window)

The New York Times

July 14, 2021

Zaila, a 14-year-old from Harvey, La., won on the word “Murraya.” She became the first Black American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee in almost 100 years of contests. The victory gave an extra polish to Zaila’s already remarkable résumé: Not only has she competed in spelling bees for two years, she already holds three Guinness world records for dribbling, bouncing and juggling basketballs. All before the ninth grade. She t[said] that she hoped to see more African American students “doing well in the Scripps Spelling Bee” in a few years. The bee, she said, was a “gate-opener to being interested in education.”

Three Chicago teens, one pandemic year: How COVID-19 widened education gaps for boys of color (opens in a new window)

Chalkbeat Chicago

July 01, 2021

In Chicago and across the country, there is growing evidence that this year has hit Black and Latino boys harder than other students. Amid rising gun violence, a national reckoning over race, bitter school reopening battles and a deadly virus that took the heaviest toll on Black and Latino communities, the year has tested not only these teens, but also the school systems that have historically failed many of them. It has severed precarious ties to school, derailed college plans and pried gaping academic disparities even wider. But in this moment of upheaval, educators and advocates also see a chance to rethink how schools serve boys of color.

Can patriotism and criticism coexist in social studies? (opens in a new window)

The Hechinger Report

June 08, 2021

As Chris Tims, a high school teacher in Waterloo, Iowa, sees it, history education is about teaching students to synthesize diverse perspectives on the nation’s complicated past. It’s why Tims includes articles from “The 1619 Project” — a New York Times look at the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans — in the curricula for his classes.

The Awkward, Exciting, and Uncertain Transitions to Middle School, High School, and College (opens in a new window)

Education Week

June 08, 2021

From 5th graders in California, to 8th graders in Hawaii, and high school seniors in Florida and Alabama, students at key transition points in their education are facing change with the conclusion of the school year. In this three-part video series, students reflect on their experiences during this pandemic school year, on what they’ve learned about themselves and others through the challenges, and on what they’re hoping the next level of their education will look like.

Distance Learning Tools That Teachers and Students Hope Become the Norm (opens in a new window)

KQED Mindshift

June 08, 2021

When distance learning necessitated a reliance on technology, many teachers began experimenting with digital tools. From the student perspective, experiences were mixed. Some appreciated the new opportunities created by these technologies, especially in contrast to some limitations of in-person learning. Others chose to return to more analog methods, determining what worked best from the prior world and consciously choosing to keep some of the newer tools acquired during remote teaching.