Iowa Council of Teachers of English

ICTE January 2018 Newsletter


The ICTE Board is pleased to bring you updates, share strategies, highlight book reviews, and serve ELA teachers. Please reach out and let us know what you need! We’re honored to support you.
After careful consideration, we will publish a quarterly newsletter, rather than a monthly update.
Many have expressed interest in more face-to-face connections throughout the year. Which appeals to you most?
Choose one.
Writing Retreat
Book Study
Face to Face on a Specific Topic (SBG/SRG, Reading Strategies, PBL, etc)
ICTE Conference Highlights
The Fall Conference provided the boost of energy many of us needed. The theme, Empowered by Story, United through Words, fit perfectly with our keynote speakers, Christine Dawson and Thomas Newkirk.
Both speakers encouraged teachers to share their stories. Dawson offered a poem, “Fire” by Judy Brown, that provided an important reminder to keep space between the logs to ensure the fire can thrive. Newkirk humbly shared his stories of embarrassment and took us through several slow, close readings we could easily use in our classrooms.
More than 40 presenters shared their knowledge and insights, many of them first time presenters. We were pleased to make some modifications to our SPEAK session, allowing participants more choice.
Mark your calendars for next year’s conference:
October 11th-12th, 2018
Johnston, IA
ICTE Award Winners
Distinguished Service
Darin Johnson
Barb Schubert Award
Zach Hackbarth
Middle School
Teacher of Excellence
Sarah Knute
High School
Teacher of Excellence
Allison Berryhill
Friend of Literacy
Megan Andersen
Past President Award
Jennifer Paulsen
“Yo Teach” Contributors
Back Row from Left:
Nikki Smith, Allison Berryhill, Melanie Baumgartner Wirtz, Brenna Griffin, Wendy Bollhoefer, Sheila Benson, Kirstey Ewald, Missy Springsteen-Haupt, Erin Miller, Haley Moehlis, Maureen Snook, Lauren Petri, Joann Gauge.
Front Row from Left:
Jess Cakrasenjaya and Austin Hall.
Teacher Writings Contributors
Back Row from Left
: Mark Schillerstrom, LeAnn Smith, Darin Johnson, Kristina Moore, Alyse Garcia, Julie Powell, Erin Miller, Joann Gauge, Jim Davis
Front Row from Left:
Jess Cakrasenjaya, Rachelle Lipp, Nikki Smith, Brenna Griffin, Haley Moehlis, Lauren Petri, Libby Roth, Tracy Tensen
Strategy: Using
Teen Ink
to Invite Students to Write Poetry
When I survey my students at the beginning of my Creative Writing course, I often find they have negative connotations about poetry. Their reluctance to write or read poetry often stems from a misunderstanding that a poem must be nearly inscrutable to be worthy of literary merit. One method I’ve found to help students beyond these assumptions is to have them read the poetry of other students their age, which can easily be accessed at t
Teen Ink
publishes a variety of student writing on their website and in print, both of which can be useful for various purposes.
In one of my earliest assignments, I ask students to take a class period to peruse the poems published on
Teen Ink
, and to find three poems they enjoy and one poem they don’t. They usually have no difficulty with this task, and I often hear them commenting passionately to their table-mates about what they’re reading.
Next, I have students copy the URL of these poems, and then spend some time writing brief reflections on why these poems are either enjoyable or uninteresting. This leads naturally into a think-pair-share and large group discussion about what constitutes “strong” versus “weak” poetry. As a class, we will normally come up with a list of five or ten characteristics that most students are looking for in a strong poem. Lists often include relatability, emotional coloring, clear ideas, strong word choice, etc.
I then save this list as a document to share with the rest of the class, and we refer back to it frequently throughout our poetry writing unit. This achieves several purposes. First, I’ve gotten students to start reading poetry without concern about “figuring it out.” Secondly, they see that other people their age have published work worth reading. And finally, we’ve come up with an authentic, student-driven list of goals and pitfalls for the poetry we’ll write for the next few weeks.
I find this basic lesson is adaptable for many other types of writing as well, including short stories, review essays, college essays, and personal narratives. Also, I’ll usuallly have at least a few students who decide to seek publication of their work on the
Teen Ink
site. If nothing else, the lesson often helps break down my students’ hesitations about certain genres of writing in an engaging, authentic way.
Rob Schebel
West Des Moines, Iowa
Food for Thought
A new semester is the perfect time to infuse a breath of fresh air. Thinking about poetry as a way into the lesson?
Consider Clint Smith. Here he shares his ideas about the beauty of poetry.

One of the wonderful things about poetry is that it doesn’t necessitate that you have to have the answers.”
Book Buzz
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances
by Ruth Emmie Lang
Review by Alyse Garcia
Ruth Emmie Lang’s Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is full of whimsy and wilderness.From the perspectives of multiple characters, we follow the life of the mysteriously magical Weylyn Grey—a boy who was raised by wolves, has a distain for sitting in chairs, and has a curious, unexplained connection to the weather. He moves from place to place, hoping to rejoin society, but after inevitable disasters, Grey always returns to the wild—a place where he will not harm those he begins to love.
In my year of reading, I tended toward emotionally heavy books and found myself worn out. Beasts provided me with the whimsical escape I needed. The title and cover promise an overgrown, fecund tale, and for me, it stayed true: Weylyn befriends animals, tames storms, and harvests the light of fireflies. Lang is able to weave the story of Weylyn Grey’s life through the eyes of many characters—a little boy who meets him as an older man, a foster sister with whom he has a very strong bond, and Mary, the girl he loves. I was completely charmed by Weylyn and the characters who tell his story. They each have their own lives and histories, and yet are all open to the magic that the world holds. Weylyn enters their life when they need him, and when he leaves, they are all changed for the better.
This is one book that I intend to keep and, when I need to escape to a lovely, magical, wild place, I will open it back up and find Weylyn again—that “strange boy, but in a wonderful sort of way.”
Looking for new YA titles? Click

to check out ALAN’s picks for December.

Call for Book Reviews
Cause for Celebration
ICTE received a number of awards at NCTE in St. Louis: Affiliate of Excellence, Website of Excellence, and the Membership Award. Thank you to our members for your enthusiasm and encouragement. It is an honor to serve you!
Many ICTE members gathered in St. Louis at Pi to share our new knowledge, network, and gather with our tribe. Thank you to Brenna Griffin for organizing the event.
Are you interested in presenting at NCTE?
Share Your Voice
ICTE wants to celebrate your perspective, experience, and insight.
Contribute to our
Teacher Writings Page
. Submit pieces to Missy Springsteen-Haupt. For more information, click
Share photos of your classroom. Send them to
Allison Berryhill
[email protected]
Stay tuned for a call for contributions to the Yo Teach Podcast. Listen to past episodes
. Yo Teach is now on iTunes! Check it out!
Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board Members
Erin Miller, President
Haley Moehlis, President Elect
Jennifer Paulsen, Past President and NCTE Liaison
Donna Niday, Executive Director
Mark Schillerstrom, Treasurer
Lauren Petri, Secretary
Austin Hall, Publications Co-Coordinator
Missy Springsteen-Haupt, Publications Co-Coordinator
Darin Johnson, Communications Chair
JoAnn Gage, Advocacy Co-Chair
Melanie Wirtz, Advocacy Co-Chair
Kirstey Ewald, Co-Conference Chair and Professional Organizations Liaison
Nikki Smith, Co-Conference Chair
Brenna Griffin, Conference/Event Coordinator
Jessica Cakrasenjaya, Recognition Coordinator
Allison Berryhill, Social Media Coordinator
Rafael Benitez, Multicultural Outreach


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ICTE January 2018 Newsletter

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