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“I have found that to create meaningful literary experiences in the classroom I need to take into consideration the whole child – her life outside of school, her culture, and her skills and prior knowledge.”

“We need to focus our teaching on student’s lives, skills, and culture in ways that grant them the respect they need to be effective learners. When you know more about your student’s life experiences, you can tailor questions and projects to their frame of reference, use their own experiences as metaphors to engage them, and connect the themes of reading material to similar themes in their own lives.”

“I call this responsive teaching: Understanding what student’s lives are like outside of school; understanding the skills that each student brings to class; and understanding the nuances and differences that shape a student’s culture.”

Joshua Parker

Joshua Parker is the 2012 Maryland Teacher of the Year. He serves the students of Randallstown High School as an English teacher and completed a fellowship to Brazil as a Pearson Global Fellow in 2013. Josh is a member of NNSTOY, the organization ... Full Bio

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  1. Joshua Parker 12 months ago

    Good Morning Everyone!

    I am excited to start our Master Class tomorrow evening. We have a lot to discuss and I am excited to get started; for now – a quote: “We read to know we’re not alone.”

    See you tomorrow evening!

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Get ready for your Workshop. Explore these videos and think about how they apply to your own practice--even before our first online session begins.

In this series of videos, I take workshop participants through a lesson designed to explore how students can have personal and meaningful literacy experiences by connecting text and stories to their lives.

Part One: Introduction

In part one of the workshop, I introduce how to create meaningful literacy experiences for students by using responsive teaching.

Part Two: Exploring Text

In part two of the workshop, I ask participants to explore how text influences audiences and what it helps them be able to do.

Part Three: Deconstructing the Lesson

In part three of the workshop, I engage participants in a roundtable discussion about how I uses responsive teaching to elicit thoughtful moments of sharing.

In this series of videos, I invite students to share personal stories and use those as an entry point for analyzing and discussing two texts, “Hanging Fire” by Audre Lorde and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.

Part One: Sharing Personal Stories

In this video, I ask students to begin by sharing with their neighbor a personal story about a time when they hurt someone’s feelings or their own feelings were hurt. Then I use those stories as entry points to the text.

Part Two: Hanging Fire

In this video, we unpack the poem “Hanging Fire” by Audre Lorde. Beginning with the title, I ask students to think expansively about what it could mean. Then we read the poem aloud focusing on the phrase “and Mama’s in the bedroom with the door closed,” as a way to explore perspective.

Part Three: The Omniscient Perspective

In this video, we read aloud from Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and I ask students to consider the imagery in the text and the omniscient perspective.

Part Four: Colors, Relationships, and Motivations

In this video, I ask students to identify and analyze the use of color in “The Bluest Eye” especially with respect to how colors are associated with individual characters in the story. Then we discuss the motivations and relationships between characters.

Archive of Session One of our Workshop

Thanks for taking part in a great first Session!

So that you can review our Workshop at any time, we’ve posted this archive of Session One. Please feel free to review it as you consider how you can engage students’ personal experiences to support their reading and learning.

When you’re ready, please check out the Driving Questions for Session 2, scheduled for Tuesday, August 29th.

These questions will help to refine your understanding of ways you can do more to engage the whole child in your classroom–her life outside of school, her culture, and her skills and prior knowledge; share and test your ideas for how you can adapt this approach to your own classroom; and get ready to support other teachers as they personalize this practice to serve their students.


Get ready for Session Two of our Workshop.

In the second Workshop session, you have the chance to share and refine your own take on the professional practice introduced in Session One.

You have the chance to ask questions that can refine your understanding and impact your practice; to share and test your ideas for how you can adapt this teaching practice for your own classroom; and to support other teachers participating in the workshop as they personalize this practice to serve their own students.

You have the chance to ask questions and to share ideas, but to make the most of our second Workshop session, please take time in advance to think about your responses to these driving questions:

  • How–in your own words–would you describe the teaching practice presented in Session One? How would you describe the impact this approach could have for your students?
  • What about the teaching practice presented in the first Workshop session seemed most useful to you? What single component or idea seems like it would most strongly resonate with your students? 
  • How do you think your students would respond if this practice was presented to them exactly as described in Session One? Which elements do you think you’d need to change to better serve your students? Which would you be sure to present without modifying?
  • What elements would you add? Do you have resources, materials, or lesson plans you already use to engage your students’ personal experience that you could adapt or incorporate to better personalize this reading-focused practice?
  • What help or support would you need to present this practice in your own classroom?
  • What changes, if any, would you need to make to your school schedule or to your classroom environment for this practice to succeed for your students?