The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Friday, March 24, 2017

Rejected--With Lots of Feedback, and Back-of-the Book Blurb #53

I recently submitted an article to NCTE's (National Council of Teachers of English) journal for middle school teachers. (It was my first time to submit to them.) It was an article about doing NaNoWriMo with my students. The piece was not accepted, but look at the incredible feedback I got: 

Reviewer #1: I enjoyed reading this article. The challenge of writing everyday with a word count goal is one I think I would have a hard time meeting. And, I would really like to know more about your students' response to the challenge. I have a few suggestions for revisions that I think would make your piece richer and more useful for other teachers.

First, it's a little hard to know whose story this is. I think it may be really yours and the students'. To give it more depth, I think you need to provide more detail about some very important parts of the story. I would shorten up the beginning 3 paragraphs so you can get to the experience with your sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. I would also get more quickly to the NaNoWriMo unit. Making these revisions would give you more space to explore how you and the students learned about writing, the choices you made as writers, and what you and students learned about composing in a more detailed way. For example, I'm one of those people who had to look up the Tulsa riots to remind myself about the circumstances, and you addressed how reading about it or looking old newspapers gave you new ideas for not only your writing but also as a catalyst you shared with your students. And, I wondered about the students: Did your conversations with them provide new ways of thinking about their own writing? How? The sample comments from your students are a good start. 

The experience with NaNoWriMo was intended to help students become more fluent and confident writers not so driven by form. That you shared the experience with them is a practice that has long been held as important to the teaching of writing. This challenge added a new twist, I think, to the concept in that it was not only daily but also focused on writing a significant amount every day. I'm not quite sure yet about the significance of what you learned about yourself as a writer or "how tightly-knit [your] community had become."

I'll end with a couple of last thoughts. You have a really pleasant writing voice. You hold yourself up to a writer's mirror and assess yourself with honesty and hope. What you need to do now is hone this story and make every word count--you don't have that many to use! 

Reviewer #2: I think it would be powerful to start the article with what you were noticing in your classroom with your current students. Try beginning with paragraph 3 on page 1. Starting with your own Nano experience and then moving in to comparing your old and new school distracts from the point of this article: what happens when teachers write with their students. Focusing in on this experience from the beginning will strengthen your point. I found the first two paragraphs distracting and am not sure how they support the overall idea.

I'd also like more explicit reflection on how a teacher writing with students changed the experience for the students. I love that you used student voices. The quotes are powerful. But now expand on those. If I, or any teacher, am going to try this out in my own room I need to know why I should. In the abstract you ask how writing with students might impact the teacher...but I'm wondering if you might talk more about how it impacts students.

The article as a whole is mostly narrative. I would encourage you to weave in some research on teachers as writers. More reflection and more explicit explanation about how each interaction with a student caused a change in his/her thinking about writing might be another thing to try. You talk about moving around the room, sitting by different writers, and give snippets of conversations you had. How did that kind of teaching, as opposed to not writing with them, change the students view/understanding of writing?

Wow! Of course, I'm disappointed they didn't fall in love with it and snap it up. However, I am so appreciative of the feedback. Maybe I'll get closer to an acceptance the next time I submit to them.

And now, onto this week's book blurb :

Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your book. You choose the genre. An informational book on historic neon signs? A crime story about gamblers in a flashy desert city? You decide.

Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Blurbs are those enticing bits that prod you into buying the book. Sometimes they're on the back cover of the book. Sometimes they're on the inside front cover. What they always try to do is lure you into purchasing the book.

Lisa Ricard Claro was the original creator of this writing challenge. However, she's been busy for the last few years. She's gotten published a three-novel series, and currently, is taking over the Korean children's book market. Watch out! She has sharp elbows and even sharper ideas. If you get in her way when she's on a writing roll (or if she step in her path when she's on her way to see the movie Beauty and the Beast) she might just jab you with those deadly elbows.

Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. Also, link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is. And then, check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.

Here's the book cover, along with my blurb:

photo by pixabay
Viva Las Vegas

Elvis Presley’s alive. He’s not a hunka-hunka burnin’ love anymore but he does eat hunks of bread, deep-fried and still burnin’ hot. He might choose to wear :blue suede shoes but why bother? He can’t see his feet these days. And when he dances in his own kitchen, alone, his belly jiggles so much, it resembles a milk shake that’s getting all shook up in the blender.

When he goes shopping (which he does rarely), people have a little less conversation and make a lot more snide remarks. Don’t be cruel, he insists inside his head… but he never says it out loud.

He doesn’t live out loud, either. Elvis is forced to wear disguises and live like a recluse.

Presley decides enough is enough. He’s 82 now, people were fooled into thinking he died almost forty years ago, so it’s time to reveal the truth…

… in Las Vegas. (150 words)

And here is next week's photo, if you would like to let your ideas percolate:

photo by pixabay

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Today's Young People

There's lots of talk about the youth of today. How they're self-centered. How they're shallow.

However, do we challenge them enough? Do we give them opportunities to think of others? Do ensure they have the guidance and the chance to do something selfless?

My middle-schoolers are working on resolutions for Civitas. Civitas is an organization here in St. Louis that--every year--hosts several mock-general assemblies of the United Nations. Earlier in the school year students did research, chose a country, and then studied what problems they're grappling with.

Our resolutions
All 20 resolutions from my students cannot be discussed, as there will be two other schools meeting on the same day as we do. Therefore, two resolutions have been chosen: Ghana's resolution and Australia's resolution. (Go to the link right under the photo--from last year--to see the resolutions that are "live" so far.)

The students will present the resolution. The representatives from the other countries will take notes, and then have a chance to voice their concerns and suggestions. Then, each one will be voted on.

This is a free program, and has gotten my students so excited about real world problems. Who knows? Some day, they might actually become a member of the United Nations...