#SOL16: Capital E = Essay

There’s a glow, a rainbow, a light spirit still leaking from my pores and so much fun and learning from #NCTE16 yet to be shared! My top two sessions from the three days are a toss-up.

Poetry?     Essay?      Which will change the world?

At #NCTE16 it was readily apparent that BOTH writing forms are capable of reporting on AND changing the world.  You can read more about poetry in last week’s  “NCTE16:  Incredible Learning” here.

A focus on writing ANYTHING and EVERYTHING will of course have the power to potentially change the world because the pen is mightier than the sword.  The constant focus on assessments and screeners that produce fast yet aliterate readers has created a new tension in schools. What’s the solution for this new breed of readers who do not choose to read and who do not fall in love with the written word? Are they an unconscionable byproduct of too much focus on reading “outcomes/products” (ie, something that can be counted as in words read per minute) and too little focus on the thinking, the joy, and the love of words that result from daily writing in schools – daily writing of their own choice?  How can we regain JOY and LEARNING?  Poetry and Essay tied for first place at #NCTE in bringing JOY to my world and in igniting a quest for more learning.

The Transformative Power of Essay

This panel on Sunday was amazing (and had many noteworthy literacy celebs attending as well).  And NO moans or groans because of the word “essay”.

Essay bomer.jpg

From R to Left:  Katherine Bomer, Allyson Smith,  Corinne Arens and Matthew Harper

Story after story.

Straight from the students.

Student writing examples . . .

pages and pages and pages of writing from individual students!

Students conferencing with teachers in videos.

Students sharing what essay means to them.

Students sharing how their lives have changed.

Teachers sharing how their lives have changed.

An administrator sharing how the district has changed.

Summer week long writing institutes in the district.

Building trust.

Building communities.

Teachers doing the “writing work” expected of students.

The audience laughed.

The audience cried.

The audience applauded vociferously.

Transforming our thoughts, perhaps our future actions . . .

Essay with a capital “E”.

(NO five paragraph essays anywhere!)

Thank you, new friends from Blue Springs, MO!

What evidence of transformation?

Tweet 1:


Tweet 2:


Did you catch the date?  9-15-16

Not waiting for “routines” but beginning the year boldly with essay writing to allow student voice to “spill yourself onto the page”.

And a final piece of evidence . . . Margaret Simon’s post today found here.

The Transformative Power of Essay

Have you read The Journey is Everything?

bomer the journey is everything    Read it. Try writing an essay and then let’s talk!

slice of life

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

Looking for more information?

Previous posts:

#DigiLitSunday:  The Journey is Everything!#DigiLitSunday:  The Journey is Everything!

Literacy Superheroes (I counted FIVE of these essayists + Katherine in the room!)

Photo Essay (another public  essay!)

A Favor – My essay (with a comment from Katherine Bomer – another fangirl moment)

And the common denominator for both poetry and Essay was Katherine Bomer!

No wonder they tied!

20 responses

  1. You’re the third person in a month to recommend Katherine Bomer’s work … guess I need to do something about that ..

    1. It’s an absolutely beautiful book, Kevin, with some really great essays that will literally have you thinking differently about Essays!

  2. OK, heading over to Heinemann NOW to get Katherine Bomer’s new book!! You are so convincing as a poet and essayist! Love your passion and willingness to share good stuff with other teachers!

    1. Sally, this was the session with Ellin and Matt Glover in the front row. OMG, and then the voices of the students. Literally in their own words! ❤ YOU will love the book!

  3. Fran, we wrote today about the same session. Such a great one! I am still feeling the love of everything at NCTE 16 and especially spending time with you!

    1. Margaret,
      Your post captured much of the magic of the session. The words from the students leave me with goosebumps. I can’t wait to see all the authors who give credit to their Blue Springs teachers for their successes in life AND in writing!

      And Margaret, our time together was uplifting! Thanks!

  4. As with the others, Fran, yo have piqued my interest in Katherine Bomer. I am going to ave to check out her work. I always learn so much from your posts. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Katherine was also one of the speakers at the Don Graves Legacy breakfast sponsored by Heinemann on Friday. Such a great treat to hear her a total of THREE times during three days – once a day! What JOYFUL learning!

  5. My staff read Katherine Bomer’s early book and loved it, Fran. I think I won’t be reading this one, but love hearing about your love for it and for her. Fun also to see that Blue Springs, MO. That was my parents’ home after I married.

    1. Linda,
      Definitely “fangirl” times for me! (Many of those at #NCTE16!) I love the fact that Blue Springs is not far from SE Iowa and am looking forward to hearing what Ellin and Matt have been doing in that district as well. So interesting to see the “pairs” that end up working on reading and writing!!!

  6. We loved this book – so powerful. We missed Sunday’s session –thank you for your PD generosity … as always!

    1. You are welcome, Clare!

      Such a great learning environment at #NCTE16. I hated missing your session . . . I’m not sure if I want NCTE to have fewer sessions or if I want them to consider repeating some sessions. I think if they were mapped out – elem., MS, HS and then R, W . . . It’s complicated but I never even made it to the exhibit hall. Too much learning to miss a minute!!! ❤

  7. Wasn’t that an amazing session? I’ll be living off of the wisdom of the book and the presentation for a long, long time.

    1. Tara,
      I think the session should have been live streamed . . . just like your poetry one. I think budgets of time are going to be stretched to the max in the future and we are going to have to be even more creative about how we make sure ALL teachers have the opportunity to engage in quality PD – exactly like this! ❤

  8. There are so many things to reflect on here. Thank you for sharing such powerful resources with us. NCTE is on my bucket list. Must find money for it somewhere! Thank you again for sharing your time and resources with us!

    1. Kendra,
      It’s in St. Louis next year and it will be Thursday through Sunday of the week before Thanksgiving. Being able to put it on the calendar always makes it more real.

      I have a “summer job” to buy books & attend conferences! LOL!

      And I love sharing so you are totally welcome.

  9. I just ordered another copy because I lent it to a teacher and she doesn’t want to give it back–I love when that happens! I also just gave a 4th grader the essay about beans by Katie Wood Ray. If only we could get teachers writing more. I’m percolating a district wide blog….

    1. Melanie,
      I’ve gained more in PD with providing time for teachers to write. It’s hard because time is precious, but if I truly value teachers and believe they should be writing, I HAVE to give them the time!

      With me, it’s usually when I notice the book has been gone so long and I want to reread . . . then it’s time for a second copy!

      It was so good to see you . . . WOW! two weeks ago!

  10. Regaining the JOY in learning is my goal, too, Fran. The job seems easier with you cheering me on! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this session. I LOVE The Journey is Everything. It has made me rethink so much about teaching and my own writing.

    1. JOY has been such a great word this year. I’m going to use it a lot during December as well!

      Such a fabulous book and so amazing to hear the same message from the students in fourth grade. They know what’s quality!!! Hated missing you at #NCTE16! So much learning!

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