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Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice

Edited by Kylene Beers, Robert E. Probst and, Linda Rief

Chapter 1: "The Measure of Our Success" by Kylene Beers

Lewis - Beers offers an inspiring story about a youth whose intelligence is neither recognized or valued. In addition, she also offers the idea that our current system of education is outdated and no longer serves its purpose. "I'm concerned that a hight school diploma means exactly what it used to mean when we now need it to mean something more" (11). She created a chart that outlines the 21st Century thinking that needs to occur for Academic Achievement: Digital-Age Literacy, Inventive Thinking, Effective Communication and High Productivity. These are ideas I know I want to explore more in my own practice.

Halstead-- Kylene was an inspiration as usual and the first chapter reminded me why I teach,I am here for the kids. But this NCLB and AYP stuff is driving me nuts. This first chapter is an inspiration to all who read it and it truly hits home the struggle we teachers face about standards and teaching. How are we to teach for creativity and inspire our students when we are being constantly reminded that we have not met AYP? In addition we are we being reminded that we need to teach to the test and prepare these students for this test. If we are being required to teach these "dead white guys" on our curriculum, then so be it--but lets find a way to make it meaningful for all of our students. I loved Cris Crutchers quote on page 17 in the sidebar, what a thought provoking quote. So how do we as teachers teach the standards, in a safe and thoughtful atmosphere? How can we reach those students who are bright and beautiful, using technology? It is not a fun time to be a teacher right now in an urban school district not making AYP. As a teacher right now I am struggling with my role as a teacher. How do we meet AYP yet inspire our students to be life long learners?

Kylene and others are giving me a lot to think about as usual. I need to keep reading and hopefully it will continue to inspire me and find a way to help my students.

Chapter 1, "The Measure of Our Success," by Kylene Beers
In am struck by Beers' discussion of remedial reading classes and their place in schools. I find it sad that districts are implementing "basal intervention" textbooks when instead this intervention should be a place where students learn to love books, learn to love reading, rather than treated as a punishment for low test scores or poor language arts grades. S.Wolverton

Chapter 2: "Flying Blind" by Chris Crutcher

Lewis - Crutcher tells heart-wrenching stories about adolescents who connect with his texts. More importantly he discusses that the one person for many of these down-trodden readers who is an inspiration to them is a teacher. This is a great inspiring chapter in which he finishes with a profound quote, "Only policy makers and politicians need a bill named that [NCLB] to remind them that leaving kids behind isn't a good idea" (18).

Chapter 4, "The Essence of Understanding," by Ellin Oliver Keene
One of my favorite literacy leaders, Ellin Keene, reminds us to "give language to the processes we use" (p. 33). I find this so important to let students in on the secrets of teaching and learning, to name what we do as readers and writers. S.Wolverton

Chapter 5: Tom Sawyer, Teaching and Talking

Murchie: This chapter is about creating the discussions in the classroom that really get students involved. Many of the examples, from how to get students talking to each other, to how to create literature discussions, were really applicable at almost any grade level. The chapter provides ideas on other ways to have book discussions and even provide "teacher questions" for group discussions and lit circles without "controlling" the discussions.

Chapter 6 and Interlude 2: By Dee Halstead
In chapter 6 the focus of was how times they are changing when it comes to teaching adolescents. We have so many other resources ranging from graphic novels, to on line book discussions, to pod casting. As teachers of adolescents we need to continue to move toward the future and find ways to incorporate all of these new ideas into our daily classroom. I like the ideas of graphic novels. I tried using them in the past with my students and really love them. This generation of students are so graphic oriented whether it be in a book or on the computer that these are great to use to teach a novel. I used one for Great Expectations years ago, and for Romeo and Juliet.

In the Interlude 2 Alfred Tatum again discusses the idea of literacy and the African American male. This intrigues me as so many of my males in my class are not into reading, want to sleep and are quite often bored in my classroom. If I can find a book about gangs, drugs, or fighting they will read it. If I can find magazines on sports they will read it. But it is very difficult to keep their interest for a very long period of time. Tatum offers a lot of insight into the mind of the African American male, he always leaves me wondering WHY?This
Lewis - I agreed about the Tatum article. He gives me food for thought and makes me want to read more. Plus, tailoring a curriculum for my AA males is not really feasible.

Interlude 2 by Alfred Tatum (Babcock): Tatum discusses the vicious cycle African American male student and teacher engage in relating to educational expectations met or not met. He feels it is a teachers duty to teach not just skill and comprehension but a "literacy legacy" that will help this audience break the "projected identifies" it creates based upon its world experiences outside of school. Because of the failed expectations of both learner and teacher, the student is "under-prepared" for life with a dearth of experiences, both through literature and life. He feels that it is the duty of the teacher to meet the student on a developmental and interest level and to engage him in the literature in such a way that the student leaves the experience with ideas and beliefs that he can relate to in the outside world in a way that might help him break his "projected identity" and lead him to a future with more "promise and possibility."

Chapter 7 Janet Allen
Lewis - WOW. This chapter is wonderful. If any of you know about Janet Allen's work, you know she is very knowledgeable. I enjoy her work for it is theory grounded, but classroom practical...a perfect mix of what I like to read.Check out her ideas for vocab...especially for content area teachers.

Chapter 9 Harvey Daniels
Lewis - Harvey is such a great speaker and his voice comes through so well in this chapter on letter writing as a tool for content and to get to know his students. Very quick read!

Chapter 11: "Teaching Writing from the Inside" by Tom Romano

"Such word work is what writers do. Students learn to work not merely as pupils who write themes. They learn to work as writers." - Romano, p. 176

Lewis - The Connections page (166) has some great websites I'm dying to visit! For sure check this out! I was excited to read Tom Romano as I've seen him speak at NCTE and find him fascinating. Plus, I've read other works of his so I felt like my time would be well spent. This chapter really brings you back to the CRAFT of writing...the joy of to keep that love and spark and share that with our students! How important it is our students see us write and see how much of a labor of love/a process writing truly is. Romano stresses writing more with our students and giving them a window into a world that is so many times left in isolation -- the world of composing.

Chapter 12, "Teach Writing Your Way," by Donald Murray
The editor's sidebar encourages us to "become the same writer we're asking our students to be" (p. 179). Donald Murray gives us the tools to do just that. I love Murray's advice to let our pens write what we have to say. Let one word inform the next until we craft a sentence; let each sentence inform the next. "Writing is thinking" is something I remind my students of daily. Murray inspires me to pick up my pen and follow my thinking. S.Wolverton

Chapter 16: "Building Academic Success with Underachieving Adolescents" by Yvette Jackson and Eric J. Cooper

"We have the ability; now what we need is the will. This means we must be willing t argue against those who believe that some students deserve less because they are less deserving or less able. Without this belief, without a Pedagogy of Confidence, we will continue to lose those seven thousand students each day from our nation's schools. But with it, we will help all students of all colors, of all economic backgrounds, in all locations graduate, prepared for the demands of the world." - Jackson and Cooper, p. 256

Summary D. Halstead
This chapter focused on working with urban adolescents and some strategies to use. It specifically focused on how as teachers we need to motivate the students and help them to make connections to the textbooks and other readings we use in our classrooms. The question that keeps coming up is "how do we motivate students who have no connection to the reading?" These students do not see themselves as learners or as finishing school, yet we need to help them pass the tests and become life long learners. The authors focused on two areas that are key: Zeroing in on the mission and Making it real. In other words we need to focus on what we are teaching and making it real for the students. The authors also gave examples of some strategies we can use, called Thinking Maps. The strategies focus the attention of the reading to making connections for the students. The maps help the students understand why they are reading the selection and then how does it relate to them and their lives.

Casper- The author mentioned starting with high expectations. I personally think that this is key. It is something that we continually talk about at my school. Students tend to perform how we expect them to so if we raise our expectations, then their performance will raise also.
Jarrad- I agree this is one critical step toward getting our students to buy in to the rigor of education and prepare for LIFE.

Chapter 19: "Five things You Need to Know About Literacy Coaching in Middle and High Schools" , by Kathryn Egawa
Jarrad- Especially helpful are the Literacy Coach Graphic on page 297 and the chart on "Coaching Competencies" on page 301.

Afterword, by Nancie Atwell
A legend, Nancie Atwell, reminds us to learn alongside our students and respond to our students' diverse learning needs. I love her last thoughts, "The goal of this superb volume is never a standardized curriculum or a teacher-proof methodology. Rather it speaks to the human, heartening premise that it's teacher knowledge - not intuition, adoption, technology, ritual, or tradition - that will help adolescent students reach their promise as writers and readers," (p. 314). Let us accept her call and be teacher leaders and reflective practitioners as we make educated, professional decisions about what our students need. S.Wolverton