Teaching Tuesday: #metoo Literature Circle Books


I am in the struggle zone, and I’d love your help. Next semester, I am teaching a co-taught college course with a history professor. Students will be examining several social movements and forms of collective action. The history professor is in charge of the historical background and currency of each social movement, and I am in charge of the stories within the movement. Students will then go on to explore a different social movement of their choosing and read a YA text that relates to the movement. I am VERY excited. 

For three weeks, we will be considering the #metoo movement. For whatever reason, I seem to read more books related to issues of race, immigration, sexuality, etc. than books about sexual assault. I’ve created a list of the books I am considering, and admittedly, I’ve only read half of them. Now that I know it is a weak spot, I am going to fix it. However, I’d love your help in narrowing this list to the books that you recommend that I read first. 

These are the books that I’ve read and plan to include because they offer a lot of opportunities for discussion:

  1. McCullough, J. (2018). Blood water paint. New York, NY: Dutton.
  2. Reed, A. (2017). The nowhere girls. New York, NY: Simon Pulse.

(Also, excerpts from Kelly Jensen’s Here We Are.)

I need to decide on three more titles. Listed below are the books that I want to read in the next three weeks to see if they will work well within a discussion of the social movement. I am looking for books that are very well-written and that will give much fodder for discussion:

  1. Anderson, L. H. (2019). Shout. New York, NY: Penguin.
  2. Blake, A. H. (2018). Girl made of stars. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  3. Hartzler, A. (2015). What we saw. New York, NY: HarperTeen
  4. Kiely, B. (2018). Tradition. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry.
  5. Mathieu, J. (2017). Moxie. New York, NY: Roaring Brook.
  6. Russo, M. (2016). If I was your girl. New York, NY: Flatiron.

I have all of these books on my nightstand, so access isn’t an issue. I plan to read them all within the next couple of months, but I’d love your advice of which I should read first! If I am missing a great book, please let me know. I’d like it to be a book published within the last 3-4 years because students tend to have read books older than that range.

Feel free to message me if commenting isn’t your jam. 😉 Thank you in advance!

Teaching Tuesday: Teacher Action Research


I’ve always loved teacher action research. When I was teaching high school, I applied for a grant to get a laptop in my classroom to integrate technology into my YAL class. I had so much fun exploring the ways this laptop changed my instruction and the learning environment, and I was lucky to have an article published in The ALAN Review. I became more interested in research and engaged with my former college advisor to conduct another study a couple of years later. This kind of research is wildly exciting for me. (I am a dork! I admit it!)

This semester, I am teaching a graduate class called Investigating Classroom Literacies. The students in the class range from preservice teachers to inservice teachers. They are a phenomenal group of students, and I have loved working with them. We are reading two books. One is a textbook that introduces traditional qualitative research, and another is a teacher action research book.

It’s been fun to introduce traditional qualitative research designs to the students, and we’ve had fun playing with their research topics and how they fit into different research designs. That said, we are aiming to be more practical. The idea is that they will see research as more accessible, so we’ve looked carefully at teacher action research and how it differs in its ease of implementation.

Each student has picked a different topic to explore in their classrooms. Generally (so I don’t give away their specific ideas), they are looking at: using tools to help students with anxiety, examining differences in gender perceptions of leadership, mindfulness practices in ELA, flexible vs. teacher-selected grouping, college student responses to identity-based activities, and teacher preparation for health-related issues. Their topics are much more specific than these, but I am genuinely excited by the range in their interests within English Education.

The students have workshopped their research questions with the entire group, and they are currently writing their literature reviews. I am very much looking forward to talking about data collection and analysis next. Yahoo! I have the best job in the universe!

Do you do teacher action research formally or informally in your classroom? What is your favorite part about it?

Teaching Tuesday: Parenting in the Age of School Lotteries and School Choice



I’ve seen school lotteries on television. Often, videos show large crowds in front of a bingo-like machine. The person behind a counter pulls names, and this determines whether the students are admitted into the schools. As a teacher, I watched these lotteries with amazement. Children’s futures were determined by these random drawings. When I moved to a city, I didn’t consider that this kind of a lottery had the potential to become my reality. I need to be fair in this statement. The schools in my district are very different from each other (they are branded in different ways and have different educational priorities), but they are all good schools.

Some of the lotteries that I watched on television were for schools with drastically different funding. The children in the crowd talked in interviews about the differences in educational outcomes and college admittances between their home schools and these schools with the lotteries. The lottery schools were fully funded, beautiful buildings with great technology. The home schools reported not having funding for paper. I’ve worked in a low-funded school. I know that the students and teachers in low-funded schools are incredible. But money matters (to a small degree), and I would be sitting in the crowd right alongside these parents.

When we bought a house, we looked at the elementary schools. We decided to hold off on the middle and high schools. I was seeking an elementary school that reflected my educational philosophies. This meant that I actually didn’t go with the schools that were ranked highest on the “School Digger”-like websites. Instead, I read about the schools and learned more about how they operated. Most of the schools that are highest “ranked” in our city are core knowledge schools. I am not a big believer in this paradigm (thank goodness, because the cost of the houses exceeded our means). There were many schools we were interested in that were school-choice only. In other words, it didn’t matter where I lived in town. These schools were lottery-based. The bilingual immersion school I was eyeing had a 7-12% acceptance rate each year. So I tried to manage my expectations. There were several schools that fit my priorities as a parent, and we looked for houses in these areas. I recognize that this is a huge privilege to be able to select houses based on schools. Surprisingly, I was looking at many schools that may have been low on others’ priority list. As an educator, I have strong opinions about how an elementary school should operate. For me, the school branding was actually more important to me than the right house. Also, the cost of houses pushed us out of certain elementary school zones, and I was okay with that.

We bought a house in the school zone of a small, well-regarded elementary school. It is not the name that comes up often in conversations (it isn’t a core knowledge school, for example). Also, it is much smaller than the others. The kindergarten classrooms feature two full-day classes and one half-day class. This is much smaller to other schools which may have seven or more kindergarten classrooms. I liked it because I felt like the small size would help benefit my kids and help me know the teachers better. The only drawback was that the diversity of the school was lower than I wanted (a huge issue in our city). But we spend significant time with our community, and our kids have diverse friend groups. We also decided we would try to choice into the bilingual immersion schools.

A year before I enrolled my son into kindergarten, I learned that our school had a lottery for kindergarten. To be fair, the children are all guaranteed a first grade spot. Driving him to a different kindergarten school would not be a huge deal. So we filled out choice applications in case he didn’t get into the school by the lottery. We talked with other neighbors and lamented that they wouldn’t be together if some of them didn’t get into the school by lottery. In the end, our school had low enrollment, so every neighborhood kid got into the school. In fact, I don’t believe any of the schools in town needed to host a lottery this year. The “school choice” system didn’t offer much choice. Many parents I know put five schools down and didn’t get into any of the schools that they desired. It seems that moving into the neighborhood of the school is the only almost-guarantee that you might get into the school (pending lottery).

All of this background is to share the reality that parents can try to do everything possible, but they still cannot choose a school for their children. In our case, again, it wasn’t a big deal if he didn’t get into the school we preferred. There were other good options. This isn’t the case for all children, though. Most notably, our city is a wealthier city. Any school is going to be a fine choice. Yet, for other students in other districts, these lotteries are incredibly significant and entail vastly different class sizes and funding levels. I wonder how we can live in a country that audibly promotes education but doesn’t allow parents to choose what kind of education they want for their children. I’d love to eliminate the need for school lotteries, but I recognize that I might just be dreaming.

Call for Middle and High School Teachers


Do you teach a young adult literature course, or do you integrate YAL in your classroom?

I am currently working on a book project that explores the different ways in which middle and high school teachers structure their YAL courses (elective or required). I am also looking at how teachers infuse YAL into their regular education courses. I’ve seen great classroom designs and course projects, and I am looking for others. I’d love to capture them and acknowledge the great work happening in classrooms. If you might be interested in being included in the book, please send me an email at ricki[DOT]ginsberg[AT]colostate.edu or message me on Facebook! Participation would involve the sharing of a course project, classroom activity/activities, and/or course syllabus.

If you know someone who might be interested, please share this post with them. Thank you! 


We Are Away at the NCTE Convention and ALAN Workshop!


Hello, dear friends! We are both away at the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Annual Convention and ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE) Workshop! We can’t wait to see many of you there and those who aren’t, we’ll miss you! We will be sure to put up an IMWAYR post next Monday for folks to link up, and then we will return on Monday, November 26! See you then!

Native November is Coming…



Native November is coming. This means that the Natives are (sometimes) celebrated as living people instead of people of the past. November is a good month in that it recognizes the cultures as alive and well. Like Black History month and other months, it is great that schools dedicate a month to consider the cultures. But Native Americans live every day, so it shouldn’t be relegated to just one month.

November is a scary month for parents of little ones. It comes with the risk that your child might have to participate in a Thanksgiving play with paper/fluorescent feathers. They will be asked to run across the stage doing the “Indian call” by chanting and hitting their mouth with a flat hand. The pilgrims will walk with grace across the stage (with no sign that they intend to steal the Natives’ land, of course). They will sit down to a nice feast, and everyone will feel happy about that nice time in history when they go to eat their Thanksgiving dinners. (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy eating on Thanksgiving as much as the next guy, but I recognize the holiday for what it is. Cultural genocide is a real thing.)

As November approaches, we should think carefully about the ways in which we honor Natives all year long. I always get anxious as November approaches because it brings difficult memories of my own schooling. We should think about representation and whether we willingly cheer on a team that uses a Native slur as its team name or a cartoonish representation of a Native person. We should think about the literature we teach and the ideologies we value. What are your thoughts about Native November?