Individual Workshop Descriptions
Workshop 1. Introducing
our Literary Community
In this workshop, you will meet the eight teachers who will
guide your experience, and take a look at their communities,
schools, and students. In conversation, the teachers share
the principles that guide their work with literature and students.
Their thoughts are woven into a framework offered by Dr. Judith
Langer, who talks about the ways effective readers interact
with text and the ways teachers can support these learners.
Workshop 2. Encouraging
Introduced by Dr. Langer, this workshop concentrates on discussion
and its importance in helping engaged readers go further in
the text. The featured teachers converse about ways to encourage
whole class and small group discussion, the importance of
asking the right question to provoke thoughtful discussion,
and ways of making the discussion inclusive, folding in both
talkative and reticent students. Their discussion is punctuated
by visits to a variety of classrooms where discussion flourishes.
Some of the texts that are featured in these discussions
include Langston Hughes' short story "Passing,"
The Watsons Go to Birmingham1963 by Christopher
Paul Curtis, Fig Pudding by Robert Fletcher, To
Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Letters From a Slave
Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs by Mary E. Lyons, Holes
by Louis Sachar, the nonfiction text To Be A Slave
by Julius Lester, and the picture book The Lady With a
Ship on Her Head by Deborah Nourse Lattimore.
Workshop 3. Going Further
Since discussion is so central to the growth and development
of a literary community, the third workshop in this series
also concentrates on this activity. Here the teachers talk
about ways to recognize good discussion, adding personal anecdotes
about ways in which they participate in or step out at various
points in the discussion to help students go further in their
understandings of the text. The group also looks at different
stimuli they use to provoke and maintain good discussions
in their classrooms. These principles are illustrated by classroom
footage showing rich and involved student discussion, and
expanded by commentary from Dr. Langer.
Classroom discussion focuses on several novels, including
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer, The Watsons Go
to Birmingham1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, Tears
of a Tiger by Sharon M. Draper, Among the Hidden
by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Necessary Roughness by
Marie G. Lee, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Dangerous
Skies by Suzanne Fisher Staples. Short stories are also
featured, including "Passing" by Langston Hughes
and "Guests in the Promised Land" by Kristin Hunter.
Workshop 4. Diversity in
In this workshop, Dr. Langer and the participating teachers
talk about the importance of choosing rich texts for their
students as a group or as individuals, enumerating various
criteria they have developed for this initial classroom decision.
Supported by commentary from Dr. Langer, the group looks at
the part student interests play in selecting the right text,
building thematic study units using a variety of texts, and
helping students select texts that meet their needs or help
them go further in their experiences with literature.
The group examines a number of texts for consideration, and
classroom visits show activities related to many of them.
These texts include contemporary novels such as Year of
the Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi, The Watsons
Go to Birmingham1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis,
Tears of a Tiger by Sharon M. Draper, The Skin I'm
In by Sharon Flake, Fig Pudding by Robert Fletcher,
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, Gaucho
by Gloria Gonzalez, Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson
Haddix, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, The Outsiders
by S. E. Hinton, Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly
Willis Holt, the Redwall Series by Brian Jacques, Heaven
by Angela Johnson, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Slam
by Walter D. Myers, Somewhere in the Darkness by Walter
D. Myers, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, the
Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling, Crash by Jerry
Spinelli, and Dangerous Skies by Suzanne Fisher Staples.
Classic novels the group talks about include To Kill a
Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck,
and Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth by William
Short stories that get the group's attention include The
Day it Snowed Tortillas: Tales from Spanish New Mexico
by Joe Hayes, "Guests in the Promised Land" by Kristin
Hunter, and Couple of Kooks and Other Stories by Cynthia
Poems by Langston Hughes and Gary Soto are also considered.
Workshop 5. Student Diversity
The varied viewpoints necessary for valuable class discussions
are celebrated in this workshop. The group talks about the
diverse ways in which their students are unique and how their
interactions with literature are shaped in part by their life
experiences, distinctive thoughts, and previous reading experiences.
They examine the value of using the lens of multiple perspectives
to examine a work of literature, and offer suggestions of
ways to encourage each student to contribute to the ongoing
classroom conversation. Dr. Langer validates their comments,
offering her thoughts on involving students' diverse voices
in a way that honors all of their contributions.
Some of the texts that the group talks about include House
on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Why Are All the
Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly
Tatum, Taking Sides by Gary Soto, Freak the Mighty
by Rodman Philbrick, Holes by Louis Sachar, and The
Day it Snowed Tortillas: Tales from Spanish New Mexico
by Joe Hayes.
Workshop 6. Literature,
Art, and Other Disciplines
In this workshop session, the featured teachers explore various
ways in which students can use the fine arts to express their
impressions of a text, and why this kind of activity should
be encouraged to make sure that every voice in the classroom
can be heard. The group also looks at ways to expand meaning
by interweaving literature with other disciplines, including
Dr. Langer offers her thoughts on this integration, explaining
how learners grow cognitively and expand their impressions
of the text by using other means of looking that the fine
arts and other disciplines offer.
Several classroom projects demonstrate how learners expand
their growing interactions with texts as they work in the
fine arts. Their projects are centered on texts such as Freak
the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, The Giver by Lois
Lowry, Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, Thunder Cave
by Roland Smith, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Among
the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Lyddie
by Katherine Paterson, and The Watsons Go to Birmingham1963
by Christopher Paul Curtis.
Workshop 7. Assessment
In a classroom where students are actively engaged in literature,
there is a need to find authentic assessment vehicles that
measure their progress as readers and thinkers. In this workshop,
the featured teachers identify useful criteria-including portfolios
and literature logs-that they have used in both formal and
informal assessments that measure this process. The group
stresses the importance of ongoing assessment, and the worth
of looking at several measures to construct a holistic picture
of a student's progress. Dr. Langer augments their comments
by stressing the importance of measuring how students are
thinking and how they are growing as effective readers. The
group also talks about integrating their evaluation strategies
in the milieu of traditional and high-stakes assessments,
while maintaining an emphasis on the individual growth of
the readers in their classrooms. Dr. Langer explains that
encouraging readers to become more actively engaged in the
text also gives them firm grounding as thinkers and achievers
on tests such as these.
Classroom visits that enhance this workshop specify these
principles, featuring teacher-student conferences, student
projects, and peer assessment.
Workshop 8. Planning and Professional
In order to grow in their careers, teachers need a great
deal of sustenance. In this workshop, the participating teachers
talk about the ways in which they fulfill this need as they
develop individually and as members of a professional community.
The group invites us into their classrooms to look at the
way they have grown professionally, stimulated by their peers,
their membership in professional organizations, and their
willingness to seek out new thinking on literature and teaching
literature. Dr. Langer also describes the personal and professional
benefits of an active professional life.
Cameras follow the featured teachers to professional development
meetings where they interact with their peers, noted educators,
and authors as they find many ways to grow as professionals.
Workshop 9. Starting in
The concluding workshop in this series takes a close look
at the first steps teachers take in getting ready to help
their students become successful and engaged readers. With
classroom visits during the first few days of classes as their
backdrop, the teachers in this session talk about everything-from
classroom arrangement to long-term goals-that enters their
minds as they start another year and plan for success. Dr.
Langer underscores their remarks with advice for teachers
who want to recreate the kinds of classrooms they have seen
featured in this series.
During this workshop, featured teachers invite the audience
into their classrooms as they begin to set the tone for the
year through an assortment of activities focused on literature.
Some of the texts they turn to in these first days include
Holes by Louis Sachar, Gaucho by Gloria Gonzalez,
Little Things are Big by Jesus Colon, and Smoky
Night by Eve Bunting.