Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Using the Writing of Child Leaders to Inspire Today's Youth

“As a 12 year old, I can have my ideas change the world by having a loud and proud voice.”
                                                                                                                                      Sajida, 6th grade

Using the Writing of Child Leaders to Inspire Today's Youth
by Dr. Rose Reissman

As part of my work as the director of the Writing Center, a program that improves literacy skills through learning projects, products, and student portfolios as well as student publishing and real audience feedback, I worked with a class of Sixth graders taught by Amanda Xavier at DITMAS Intermediate School in Brooklyn, NY. Ms. Xavier and I engaged the students in a successful and moving activity inspired by the book “Dear World- A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for peace”,  written by eight year old Syrian girl, Bana  Alabed  and her mother who escaped Aleppo in 2016.

Ms. Xavier’s class learned about the efforts of  young Bana Alabed to alert the world to the bombing of civilian families in Aleppo in 2016 by its government. They were inspired by the tweets she used to acco mplish this. Sitting in their classroom in Brooklyn, these 11 and 12 year olds, were moved to understand that Bana’s tweets in particular and the fact that she, unlike other child writers alerting the world to injustice and inhumanity, was able to immediately see by her twitter feed that her message was being heard.

Leveraging additional resources I found online, they also heard Bana’s story by viewing  the CNN interview she did in 2017 
https://youtu.be/MRWhZzl.5K ,  https://youtu.be/Pqwrb65ALtg , and  https://youtu.be/ttDRvOxwBMo .

Inspired by the l visual and vocal presence of this child who alerted the world to the plight  of Aleppo’s innocent citizens,  including families with children, who were bombed in their apartment buildings, my students were ready to react and take action.
I took some of the tweets reproduced in the book, typed them onto a sheet left spaces and asked kids to react as older peers to each tweet. I suggested that the students respond with mock tweets that they would really have liked to send to Bana, had they been her Twitter followers at the time, or with a poem that expresses their thoughts and feelings about the messages carried by her tweets.

Our extensions of this activity are still in progress and we intend to publish our aggregated text responses as a ‘Tweet Poem’ as well as record them in our own voices, this week.

Below are some of the items created by the Ditmas students. Some answered her tweets with their own mock tweet responses:

Emmanuela, for instance, reacted to Bana’s tweet about children’s childhoods being stolen with

And In reaction to tBana’s tweet about missing school

“Start your own!/W/the knowledge you’ve got.”
In reaction to Bana’s tweet  “Please save us now”  Emmanuela responded

“We’ll try w/everything we can.”

Sadnila reacted  to Bana’s tweet that begs  “Please do not steal from children their childhood”,  with
“Childhood cannot be taken only ruined.”
As Bana tweeted – “Speaking  for the children of Aleppo, I demand peace for us- #Stand with Aleppo.”

And Sadnila responded
“Speaking will not help-we must SCREAM!”

Some students did not tweet responses to Bana’s words, but rather produced poems which expressed their reactions  as peers and as citizens of the world. The following are a few examples:

Anvar T.
We are just children.

We do not want to die.

We want to live.

Please do not ruin children's lives.

They want peace.

We are just children.

We are innocent.

We are just saving out lives.

Why kill us the children?

We want to go to school.

Let us go.

We are just children.

Samiha  M. (class 680)

Why is this happening to us???

I am ONLY a child.

So are my brothers,

Why is this happening to us?

Why do I have to live with fear everyday.

I miss my friends and other family.

I am so tired.

I wish this were a dream- a bad nightmare.

This has stolen so much of my childhood.

Nafzia B (class 660)

We are the children of Aleppo

Imagine going to bed

Thinking you might awake with a battered head.

Never experiencing “good times.”

Think about all your crimes.

We are not armed.

Yet we are being harmed.

We are the children of Aleppo.


Save us from this war.

We just want the regular “more.”

Let us go back to school.

Save us from these murdering adult fools.

We have empathy for others.

Why does there need to be a war?

We want peace.

Leave us alone to be children.

We are the children of Aleppo.

Brian M. (class 680)

Children do not want to die

They deserve to live.

They did not do anything.

They want peace.

Children should not live through war.

Children should go to school.

Children should be saved.

Children do not deserve to die.

Obviously, Bana’s  tweets , digital presence and her published memoir represent the voice of only one very appealing, poised and charismatic child caught in violence and danger not of her making.  What  impact can her words and presence, and that of other young leaders like Malala, Zlateh and Anne Frank have on 21st century students seated in classrooms like the one I worked with Ms Xaviers class in?  Why should teachers,  focused on curricula goals and data driven scores,  and project accountability, bring these  child voices via social network, digital media and print to their students ?  Perhaps sums up the impact best: “As a 12 year old, I can have my ideas change the world by having a loud and proud voice.”  Is this not the ultimate ideal for every teacher to inculcate?  Is not using one's voice - in writing and in speech, at the core of our country’s constitutional values? 

I have included the ‘template” I used to work on this project with these students, below. Please make good use of it.

Dr. Rose Reissman
is the founder of the Writing Institute, now replicated in 200 schools including the Manchester Charter Middle School in Pittsburgh. She is a featured author in New York State Union Teachers Educators Voice 2016 and was filmed discussing ESL student leadership literary strategies developed at Ditmas IS 62, a Brooklyn public intermediate school. roshchaya@gmail.com


This  is my letter to the world

Write your own short tweet for twitter to post on Bana Alabed Account .   These are her comments.  What other writers you studied with Mr. Nolan or read might have said the same thing?  One writer’s  first name started with a Z.  Another writer’s initials are A. F.

In fact Bana uses a quote from another writer whose work you may have also read. 
Or just react in a single short line of emotion or ideas to Bana’s comments
I just want to live without  fear.
Please do not steal from children their childhood.
We are not armed.  Why do you kill us?
Speaking for the children of Aleppo, I demand peace for us.  #StandwithAleppo
I am sick now. The war started again,  Please pray for me, dear world.

I miss going to school so much.
Please save us now.

How can you as an 11 or 12 year old  have your ideas for changing the world for the better heard by peers and adults?  Did you do so this year with Ms. Xavier?  How? Hint videos are digital messages to the world.  Author a DEAR WORLD message telling your global adult and child readers how to change for the good.

Dear World #Write4Rights-Rites2Change

Dear World
Look at each other and at animals with empathy.
Reach out to talk, to help and to care.
Let hope shine on and yield  solutions.
From tragedy go forward to find new futures.
Treasure connections .
Focus on closing gaps to bind together,
Treasure the sun, the planet and its life.
Value dialogue over martial strife.
Believe in your power to help just one other person or situation.
Imagine all coming together with that help just  one goal destination.
Use the force of life and strength within you and yours to combat evil and natural disasters.
Move forward each day knowing each good deed layers a bright day that can stretch into ongoing progress toward peace, participation and positive power.
Marshall your words and deeds together we can address all needs.
Look, listen and do for others
Make a joyous future shine through.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


 Chicago,  June 24 – 27

Please make note of and join us at the 3 following exciting events:

1- Literacy PLN Conference Session (1 hour):
Technology-Based Literacy Resources and Practices With Special Promise
Monday, June 25, 8:30–9:30 am CDT (Central Daylight Time)
Building/Room: McCormick Place W176abc

What's new, exciting and inspiring in literacy instruction? Members of the ISTE Literacy PLN and invited guests will present emerging technology-based resources and practices with high potential to improve and transform learning and teaching. Leave this session with ideas, insights and resources ready to impact your classroom and practice.

This will be a fast paced, hour-long event in which educational experts from the Literacy Network’s 2018 Short List of Inspiring Literacy Instruction Resources will present their resources. (See list, below) Find out the story behind these resources, how teachers can best use them with students, and how teachers can acquire them (the presentation will highlight any free opportunities for access or elements the providers make available). There’s an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback to the panel of experts, too.

Resources Presented Will Include:

- Actively Learn        https://www.activelylearn.com/ 

- Fluency Tutor        

- Writable                
                                 "Teachers talk about Writable": https://vimeo.com/273383341
                                  Edsurge article by Dr. Troy Hicks

Classroom Inc.      

2-EdTech Literacy Playground
Literacy Network Playground Where Literacy & Coding and Makerspace Collide
Tuesday, June 26, 10:30 am–12:30 pm CDT (Central Daylight Time)
Building/Room: McCormick Place Posters; Level 3, Skyline Ballroom Pre-function, Table 1, Table 2, and Table 3
a)    Coding Literacy: How Hands-on Coding is Impacting Reading and Writing
Get the tools and strategies to use coding for communication and tangible learning to drive student engagement. Play with and learn about robotics, Marbotics Magic Phonics, Osmo Words, KUBO Language Pack, and Cubetto Logic Tiles.
b)   Using Scratch Jr. for Reading and Writing Instruction: Ideas to Meet and Support the Standards in Literacy with Computer Coding
There are many ways to embed computer coding, specifically Scratch Jr., into reading and writing instruction to support the elementary literacy standards.   See samples of how students use Scratch Jr. for reading comprehension strategies such as Summarizing, Parts of a story, Visualizing, Cause/Effect and Book Clubs. Watch student engagement increase when students are allowed to demonstrate their understanding through computer coding.
c)    Ozobots for Phonics and Phonemic Awareness
Check out a cross curricular activity that blurs the boundaries between coding and Phonics. Students will code Ozobots to "trace" their words that either they write or that are written for them. The coding will make the Ozobot perform differently when it hits the selected blend, vowel, silent e etc. This coding will allow students to see a visual representation of phonic skills that they will be learning in the classroom.
d)   Build a Better Book: Storytelling Through "Making"
The Build a Better Book project connects young Makers with a real-world need: the dearth of tactile or multimodal books for children who are blind or visually impaired. We will share how we connect low- and high-tech Maker technologies - including 3D printing, laser and craft cutters, electronics and craft materials - with storytelling and composition to develop literacy skills across a range of grade levels. Explore student-designed projects and learn how to get involved.
e)    Activate, Support, and Reveal student thinking while reading with Actively Learn
Actively Learn is a digital reading platform built to help teachers and students promote literacy and learning. By allowing  teachers to adapt instruction to their students' needs, support them while they construct meaning in the text, and help them understand where students struggle, this tech tools  is extremely robust and never expires. Learn how to adapt this platform to the diverse readers in your classroom.
f)     Making in Language Arts with Wixie & Other STEM Tools
Students need (and want) to practice reading and writing in real-world situations. Creative digital tools let students demonstrate understanding and share ideas by creating products they see in the world around them and sharing them with an audience beyond the classroom. Explore sample projects and instructional supports for literacy tasks that connect to the stories students are reading, develop thinking skills with informational products, build skills in the 3Rs and 4Cs, and yes, demonstrate comprehension.

3-Literacy Network Social Gathering Co-Sponsored by Actively Learn:
Immerse Yourself in Literacy
Monday 6/25 5:30- 7PM CT
*Attendance is limited
Join the ISTE Literacy PLN and Actively Learn for a great night out to connect and socialize with other ISTE Literacy PLN members. On Monday 6/25, we will be meeting at Reggie’s (Bar and Restaurant) for drinks, appetizers, raffles, and games.

Reserve your ticket through Eventbrite (click on the link, below or copy and paste this url in your browser):