March 27, 2015

What is 21st Century Writing, Anyway?

Print Friendly

Every six to eight years, education reinvents itself, usually focusing on the exact opposite of the most recent reinvention. Of late, influenced by the roll out of the Common Core State Standards, writing’s reinvention has focused on making arguments and writing informational pieces. Conversations about the nuances of this type of writing–persuasive vs. argument, citing evidence, the role of emotion/voice, etc.–abound, and experts have weighed in heavily. All of this discussion, revolves around an interest in making students “college and career” ready. But what does this mean, anyway? In reality, however, even those of us who are considered literacy “experts” can only imagine the role of writing in the careers of future.

The authors of the Common Core made much of the role that informational reading and writing plays in the work world. They based their insights on analysis of the materials that people read (past tense, which means it’s already obsolete) on their jobs, many of which were governmental. These jobs, however, or at least the way they are performed, are already obsolete, as manuals are already being replaced with video orientations and printed material in general is already moving from text-based to image-based.

Consider the following text, which most of us have heard many times:

“Welcome aboard and thanks for flying with us. We’re committed to making your flight safe and comfortable. So, before we depart, we will be showing a brief safety presentation. This information can help you if there is an emergency, so it’s important to pay close attention, even if you are a frequent flyer.

All carry-on items should now be stored securely, either in an overhead bin or under the seat in front of you, and all aisles, exits, and bulkhead areas should be clear. Your mobile phone and other electronic devices should be turned off. Once air born, we’ll let you know when you can use approved, electronic devices. But note that some items, such as phones, may not be used in flight at any time. You’ll find a list of approved electronic devices in the in-flight information section of Sky magazine.  …”

This traditional text conveys the necessary information for not dying during a plane crash, but how well does it consider the audience? Now, consider this current version of Delta’s safety “speech.”

Now, which of these two types of writing is more interesting to “read?” Which do you think better communicates how to stay safe in a crash? Which way would you like your loved ones to get their flight safety information?

And about the writing … . Which version do you think was more interesting to write? And which do you think was more fun to write? And, which do you think was more difficult to write? Which do you think better reflects 21st century writing.

When Delta first wrote its safety text (example 1), no one could have imagined the later, video option, just as we can’t imagine the ways people will read and write on their jobs in 20, 30, 50 years. What we do know is that, in the coming decades, people will have more and more ways of communicating ideas, and their jobs will likely involve keeping up with these possibilities, knowing their audience, and selecting the best way to communicate to that audience.




Giving Students Authentic Reasons to Read

Print Friendly

In a post titled Sending Children Off to Do Big Things, we wrote about how exposing children to picture book biographies can help them better understand the connection between mindset, passion, and effort. In this post, we introduced readers to the Heart, Head, Hands and Feet Lesson from Reading Wellness which utilizes the following graphic organizer:

Student HHHF

Since sharing this post, as well as some of our favorite titles for Heart, Head, Hands and Feet in a post titled They Grew Up Reading and Writingwe have heard from several readers by way of email and recently, a school media coordinator from North Carolina shared these reflections with us about using Heart, Head, Hands and Feet with a teacher beginning a unit on biography looking to “push” her students. This teacher reported exciting results which made us wonder how this lesson has gone for others who have tried this with their students.  We’d love to see pictures of your graphic organizers and hear stories from the classroom if you have them.  If you’re not familiar with this lesson, you can find more information about it in this document as well a more comprehensive list of titles that work well with this lesson.


Looking forward to hearing from you!











Hot off the Press: Downloadable READING WELLNESS Study Guide

Print Friendly

Reading Wellness Study Guide

After many requests for a Reading Wellness study guide, we are very excited to share with you the results of our efforts. We really wanted the finished product to support your close reading of the text, so we didn’t simply do a paint-by-numbers routine, but rather tried to make the study guide a complement to the book. In addition to the usual elements of a study guide, such as discussion questions and quotes from the book, this guide includes a number of non-traditional options, such as an anticipation guide, magnetic poetry, a Mad Lib, and more. In an effort to stay true to the philosophy of Reading Wellness, the study guide also includes opportunities to practice wellness, such as reminders to breathe, stretch, and appreciate.

Because we wanted to get this study guide into your hands as quickly as possible, we have it available now in draft form (download below). Over the next few weeks, it will go through the editing and publishing process with Stenhouse. In the meantime, please bear with us if you encounter formatting or other editorial issues. We will let you know when the more polished version is available from Stenhouse.


Download a copy of the study guide for Reading Wellness.