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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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Introducing Students to the Anatomy of Nonfiction Books (opens in a new window)

Edutopia

August 23, 2021

Today’s high school students, often called “digital natives,” generally feel comfortable navigating the internet or learning a new app. On the other hand, these same students may have less familiarity using physical nonfiction books. Many teachers grew up around books and may not realize that students don’t share the same level of proficiency navigating nonfiction texts.

Students will need to be able to use books for research and academic assignments, especially if they plan on college. By teaching the parts of a book, educators can help students become more efficient at reading nonfiction texts.

John Lewis’s Sequel to His Award-Winning Graphic Memoir, ‘March’ (opens in a new window)

The New York Times

August 19, 2021

Anyone familiar with Lewis’s celebrated “March” trilogy (whose final book is still the only comic to win a National Book Award) knows that graphic novels can handle nuance quite adeptly. Run, Book One, most of which was completed by Lewis and his team of collaborators before he died in the summer of 2020, picks up where “March” left off, with the civil rights movement winning important legislative gains in the 1960s but still very much unfinished in its aims. There’s a timeliness to “Run,” a reminder that the efforts to keep prospective voters from casting their ballots that are so much in the headlines these days are nothing new.

Virtual Learning Was Better for Some Kids. Here’s What Teachers Learned From Them (opens in a new window)

Education Week

August 19, 2021

Kareem Neal, a 24-year veteran educator, noticed something surprising when his school went all virtual last year: Not only did most of the students in his self-contained, special education class navigate the change better than he expected, three of them blossomed academically. All three are on the autism spectrum and have a tough time navigating the social aspects of school. But during virtual instruction, “they were fine with just hours of academic instruction happening at home,” said Neal, who works at Maryvale High School in Phoenix and was an Arizona teacher of the year in 2019. “All of those other things were off their plates, and there was just their work, and they loved it.”

Most students didn’t make much progress—or flailed—in online learning during the pandemic. But a subset who may have struggled with in-person learning in the past—like Neal’s trio of kids—actually thrived. Now many of those students, some of whom have learning and thinking differences or mental health conditions like social anxiety, must return to the traditional classroom, an environment that did not work for them before COVID.

Who Runs The World? Kids. (opens in a new window)

National Public Radio

August 19, 2021

This is the third year that the Student Podcast Challenge has been up and running — it’s headed by our friends over at NPR’s Ed Team. And it’s the first year that the contest has had a category for college students. (Spoiler alert: Those entries were really good.) So this week on the pod, we’re featuring some of our favorite student podcasts about race and identity. We’ll have you moose hunting in Alaska, eating Vietnamese-style crawfish in New Orleans, and gawking over beautiful tattoo art in Illinois. You can listen to all of the finalists — including a bunch that didn’t make the episode.

All-Latina speech team at Santa Ana High School wins top award at nationals (opens in a new window)

Spectrum News (El Segundo, CA)

August 16, 2021

They waited with bated breath, hoping the moment for when all the hard work of practicing and performing their speeches had finally paid off — and it did, despite a global pandemic. “I watched them in their final round as they were competing in front of the computer, and I was just crying just because I was so happy, because I knew what that meant for them,” said Corin Serrano, coach of Santa Ana High School’s speech team. The group of young women accomplished what nobody else who looks like them had been able to achieve, being the first all-Latina team to win a National Speech Schools of Excellence Award — one of only 20 across the U.S. However, doing it all remotely meant no teammates to cheer for you.

Getting to Know Your Students in a Million Words or Less (opens in a new window)

Edutopia

August 13, 2021

How can you learn your students’ strengths, challenges, and passions right at the start of school? Assign a playful report to their parents and guardians—it may be useful all year long. Middle school teacher Cathleen Beachboard gives homework to her students’ families a few weeks before school starts—she asks them to describe their child in a million words or less. The information she gets back allows her to get a jump start on forming relationships with her students that will help them bring their best to the classroom throughout the school year.

Tools That Help English Language Learners Online and In Person (opens in a new window)

KQED Mindshift

August 13, 2021

Heather Bradley is an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher in Silver Spring, Maryland, where she teaches adult ESOL students. When the English proficiency assessment her program uses moved online several years ago, many of its corresponding course materials also went virtual, making her program’s transition to distance learning less difficult materials-wise. Yet towards the end of their first semester of virtual learning, Bradley began encouraging her students to write their notes on paper. The action of writing down new words by hand from the reading, rather than copy-pasting from devices, allowed her students to more thoughtfully consider each term. She found that her students’ applied reading skills improved as a result. The process also eliminated the need to toggle between screens when taking notes. While especially helpful for her students with less digital experience, it also seemed to lessen the technology fatigue of her students overall.

How We Chose the 100 Best YA Books of All Time (opens in a new window)

Time

August 12, 2021

There’s perhaps no category of literature more impactful than YA. These are the books introduced to us at a pivotal point in our lives: when our grasp on the world is changing just as we begin to claim a place in it. Everything during our teen and early adult years is new, strange and intense: our bodies, our relationships, our perspectives on life, love, loss and all that falls in between. In those formative years, we’re lucky to find books that can make us feel less alone, whether they’re assigned at school, handed down by loved ones or recommended by our peers. Which is why, with the help of a panel of leading YA authors, TIME set out to create a definitive list of the 100 Best YA Books of All Time. In his introduction to the project, panelist and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds reflects on the power of books to help young readers understand themselves. “We can become more of who we already are and feel safer within ourselves,” he writes, “simply by meeting characters who call out to us by the names we call ourselves.”

From Diving to Radio, Coding to Farming — Nonprofit Awards $165K in Grants to Local Groups Bringing STEM Education to Underserved Kids (opens in a new window)

The 74

August 11, 2021

The national nonprofit Society for Science has awarded 38 organizations a portion of $165,000 in funding as part of the group’s latest STEM Action Grant program. The largest single group of beneficiaries in the history of the grant, this year’s list places a distinct focus on local organizations reaching underrepresented and underserved populations in STEM fields. The 2021 recipient list, the largest since the program’s 2016 inception, spans 21 states. The winning organizations reach a diversity of demographics, including Black and Latino individuals, neurodiverse students, the hearing and visually impaired, refugees, and rural and low-income students. Here’s a sampling of these locally minded groups.

Pandemic has teens feeling worried, unmotivated and disconnected from school (opens in a new window)

The Conversation

August 11, 2021

As a researcher who studies adolescent development, I was interested in whether and how teens’ school stress changed as the pandemic dragged on. So during the fall of 2020, we surveyed adolescents about their academic concerns and the changes they noticed in school social dynamics. The 452 adolescents, aged 11-17, that we surveyed reported that they still worried about how COVID-19 would impact their schoolwork. And concerns about academic motivation were most common. Teens most frequently worried about not being able to motivate themselves to do, or focus on, schoolwork. To alleviate teens’ academic worries, schools can cultivate structure and routine for students as they resume some normalcy. Social connection and communication between students and teachers should be prioritized, including opportunities for students to express their worries early on. Meeting with guidance counselors for support at the outset of the upcoming school year may help students cope with the transition out of the pandemic. To get teens excited about the upcoming school year, parents might encourage them to reconnect over the summer with classmates they may have lost touch with during the pandemic. 

Newark English Teacher’s Innovative Literacy Program Awarded $1,500 (opens in a new window)

Tap Into Newark (NJ)

August 05, 2021

Joicki Floyd, an English teacher at Weequahic High School and a 15-year veteran of the Newark Public Schools District, was selected as the recipient of the 2021 Freedom Through Literacy “Judith’s Award.” The award recognized Floyd’s creativity and impact through her “Y.O.U.T.H.” (You Open Up Then Heal) program, which seeks to transform the lives of inner-city children and their families through reading. Floyd’s program features a variety of learning and engagement opportunities for students to get involved with literacy. Some of the Newark educator’s creative ways to get students interested in literacy have included the use of Socratic seminars and discussion panels with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. 

Eleven Strategies for Facing This Year’s Classroom Challenges (opens in a new window)

Education Week

August 05, 2021

The new question-of-the-week is: What do you think will be some of the challenges for teachers who might be returning to the physical classroom for the first time in a year and a half, and what are your ideas for how they can best handle them? The new school year has already begun for some and will soon kick off for the rest of us. Today’s post offers some advice for all of us on how to face it …

Beginning the Year With an Equity Survey (opens in a new window)

Edutopia

August 05, 2021

The pandemic and remote learning have put equity issues in schools under the spotlight, with new attention being paid to how internet access, home environments, and any number of other factors can affect student engagement and success. I often help the teachers I work with craft survey questions for their students, and this year we’re constructing questions that shed light on equity issues. We will distribute the surveys to students in the first few days of school so that teachers have the information they need from the get-go to address equity concerns in their classrooms, and to signal to their students that the teacher/student relationship is of paramount importance.

Educators, counselors focus on mental health as students return to the classroom (opens in a new window)

PBS NewsHour

August 05, 2021

Educators and counselors are preparing for the start of a school year unlike any other. After more than a year of pandemic restrictions, counselors are focusing on ways to assess and address the long-term social and emotional health of children when they return to the classroom. NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker reports from Fairfield county, Connecticut, in the latest installment of our on-going series “Roads to Recovery.”

How a Simple Presentation Framework Helps Students Learn (opens in a new window)

Edutopia

August 05, 2021

Explaining concepts to their peers helps students shore up their content knowledge and improve their communication skills. One of the best parts of presentations is that they help the presenter to improve their communication skills. The presenter is learning how to give a presentation by doing it. To prepare a presentation, the presenter must know the intricate elements of what they are presenting and the rationale for their importance. In the presentation delivery, the presenter must be articulate and meticulous to ensure that everyone in the audience is able (and willing) to process the information provided. It didn’t take long for me to realize that preparing and delivering presentations could provide a valuable learning opportunity for my students.

Summer School, Reimagined: Tulsa Returns 11K Students to Campuses in July by Putting Fun Before Academics (opens in a new window)

The 74

August 05, 2021

They’re getting their hands dirty growing organic veggies. They’re cracking jokes while gaming on the Wii. They’re sporting medieval armor and waving foam weapons on a grassy battlefield. Just your typical summer vacation shenanigans, but with a twist: It’s all at school. This July, over 11,000 students in Tulsa, Oklahoma — about a third of the district’s total enrollment — have returned to academic buildings for fun-filled programming that explodes the typical conception of summer school. As national leaders including U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona underscore the importance of re-engaging young people this summer on the heels of a year marred by the pandemic, and with billions in federal relief dollars earmarked for summer enrichment activities, Tulsa Public Schools has seized the moment, delivering learning opportunities to students in tandem with community building and joy.

‘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.