The Stenhouse Blog

Raising Student Voice with Stenhouse Authors

Posted by admin on Nov 26, 2018 1:33:46 PM

Last week, authors, educators, and presenters came to Houston, TX from all over the country to celebrate students’ voices and the impact they make on the world. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual conference offered a variety of dynamic presentations and workshops that showed us how we can raise student voice in our own classrooms through meaningful conversations, reflective mentor texts, and imaginative writing, empowering them to take an ownership of their learning that they can carry with them year after year.

“We have to start saying a whole lot less if we want our students to start saying a whole lot more,” Kari Yates, co-author of To Know and Nurture a Reader

Stenhouse authors brought thoughtful, actionable ideas to NCTE that showed teachers how they can raise students’ voices in their own classrooms. Here are a few examples.

Tough Conversations Are…Tough

Matthew R. Kay, author of Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom, along with two other presenters, kicked of the conference with a powerful presentation, “Talking Race: Pushing Past the Superficial to the Conversations Our Students Need.” In this energetic presentation where passionate teachers spilled onto the floor finding whatever small patch of space they could, Kay encouraged them to have the tough conversations. “You cannot packet or activity your way into better race conversations,” said Kay. “The tough conversations are tough.” He explained that giving your students a safe place to have uncomfortable conversations about race will only enable them to take pride in their own voices and start to understand that they can impact the world through their words, verbal or written.

The Power of Conversation in Grammar Instruction

At an in-booth mini-session, Jeff Anderson and Whitney La Rocca, authors of Patterns of Power: Inviting Young Writers into the Conventions of Language, showed teachers that grammar instruction doesn’t have to be about worksheets and correcting what is wrong. Grammar instruction can happen through meaningful conversations about authentic literature. “What if we create a world where readers and writers are in awe of language, linger within a text, and draw on possibilities and inspiration for their writing?” Said Anderson. This short, lively, and humor-filled session delivered the clear message that teachers can communicate the conventions of language by guiding conversations that cover meaning making, discovery, effect, and purpose–something you can’t do with a worksheet.

Let Students Lead the Way to Better Responsive Teaching

Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, authors of Who’s Doing the Work? Lesson Sets along with Kari Yates and Christina Nosek, authors of To Know and Nurture a Readerdelivered an inspiring presentation called “Responsive Teaching: The Courage to Follow the Lead of the Reader” in which they showed teachers the importance of knowing your students well in order to know how to respond. “We can’t be responsive teachers until we really know what’s going on with our students,” according to Yates who went on to give tips and recommendations on ways teachers can trust students to take the lead, “expertly teaching us about their reading lives.” They reminded teachers that taking time to get to know your students better through meaningful conferences and reading their writing is worth it to become a better responsive teacher. Burkins reminded us that “Being responsive is about seeing students, understanding and responding based on the love and expertise of the teacher.”

This was only a sample of the inspiring and motivational presentations that happen at these national conferences. If, however, you’re unable to attend, you can go to and discover the many books and classroom resources that will enhance your professional learning in the comfort of your own home.

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