Power and Portfolios: Best Practices for High School Classrooms / Edition 1

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Overview

Portfolios are a driving force in student motivation and growth. Some are so stunning that they are the very models of what writing-reading workshops set out to do-to engender in students confidence in their own abilities and to inspire them to become sophisticated users of language. But how do you set up such a workshop and how can you achieve such remarkable results?

For many years, Jim Mahoney has conducted workshops on the workshop approach to middle and senior high school teachers. Now he has written about the day-to-day practices of the writer's and reader's workshop, explaining the theory and the nitty-gritty details of putting together a portfolio in a way that goes beyond being a mere recipe. From his first chapter on the sharing of power to subsequent chapters building on Nancie Atwell's principles of time, ownership, and response, Jim shows how to structure and run a classroom with portfolios as the centerpiece.

And Jim truly practices what he preaches-when he asks his high school students to write, he writes alongside them or in front of them, using a transparency and letting them see the tentative moves, corrections, and adjustments a writer makes. Literary letters, essays, stories, poems-any and all genres are grist for the mill of producing what Jim calls "a writing state of mind." His success in promoting this state is apparent in the many compelling student samples integrated throughout his text.

If you are interested in making the move from a teacher-directed classroom to a student-centered one, in learning from and with your students, and in sharing the joys and the power of reading and writing, you find no better guide than Jim Mahoney and his Power and Portfolios.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA
One of the biggest challenges for English literature and composition teachers is encouraging student interest and involvement in the classroom. Far too often, students become disenchanted by flat, state assignments that have little meaning or interest for them. Teachers who are tired of the same old predictable assignments might be quite interested in this compilation of great and usable ideas by seasoned English teacher Mahoney. He has established his reputation delivering workshops on the portfolio approach. Now, for those who have never heard him speak, he compiles his ideas into one easy-to-follow manual. Mahoney starts with the assumption that students learn best in a student-centered, workshop-type classroom. Building from this assumption, he takes his reader through the steps in establishing this approach, covering topics such as introducing the portfolio, sample assignments, peer and self-reflection activities, and grading the portfolio. He also reflects on the role of the portfolio in enhancing reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Mahoney has used this technique successfully for many years and is a strong, almost evangelical, advocate of the value of the writing portfolio. For any teacher who has ever considered adopting this approach but was not quite sure how to begin, this book will be manna from heaven. Mahoney writes clearly and enthusiastically; his instructions are detailed and supported by frequent examples from portfolios produced by his own students. In short, this book is all one needs to revolutionize a composition or literature class. Index. Illus. Biblio. Further Reading. 2002, Heinemann, 170p,
— Vivian Howard
KLIATT
Mahoney's credentials include 38 years of teaching experience and the presentation of over 100 workshops. As James Strickland states in the Foreword, Mahoney's purpose is "to offer a convincing introduction to anyone who's new to the workshop concept, and to extend a renewed overture to teachers who have been reluctant to try workshops again." Mahoney credits the work of Nancy Atwell as inspiration for his own. He looks at the issue of power in the classroom and concludes that power relates to time, ownership, and response. His experience suggests that it is necessary for the teacher to rethink these power issues so that "English teachers can engage students in authentic writing and reading experiences." To that end, Mahoney explains in detail exactly what a portfolio contains, including a dedication and a table of contents. He even offers specific instructions on helping students create a cover for their portfolios. In describing a writing workshop, his philosophy becomes clear: "There is no such thing as too much praise." In order to write more effectively, students need to be encouraged to continue to write. He places comments on papers, writes letters to the students or has conferences. He does not place grades on papers, believing that "the absence of grades allowed us to experiment, to take risks..." He intersperses writing workshops with "mini-lessons." Mahoney applies the power transfer to his reading workshops as well. Students do not read only the classics or traditionally taught texts. Rather, he encourages his students to read books that offer "connections to their lives, to their larger worlds, and to things they were learning in other classes." He emphasizes the importanceof maintaining a library within the classroom and of allowing the students to determine what they will read. Tests are out and "literary letters" are in as appropriate ways of determining what the student has learned. Again, portfolios are used as a means of helping the students evaluate their own learning. Throughout the text, Mahoney offers examples from the work of more than 50 different students. The work that his students produced is the best evidence of the effectiveness of his teaching strategies. However, many questions remain. In the last chapter, Mahoney raises one of the most significant questions himself: "Are students able to take on the challenging texts of demanding college reading lists as a result of the workshop experience?" His answer is a somewhat disturbing "I'm not always sure." There is no question that Mahoney is a dynamic and dedicated teacher who has used the workshop approach with great success. However, his enthusiasm for his ideas leaves the impression that this is the only way to teach effectively. Mahoney does not address with much detail the many potential problems associated with such an approach. How does it fit into the overall curriculum design of a particular department, school, district, or state? How do you deal with parents who question the approach? What do you do with students who aren't engaged by the idea of all that is involved in a portfolio? If you are an English teacher who wants to try the workshop approach, this book will definitely give you the boost you need. KLIATT Codes: P—Recommended. 2002, Heinemann, 180p. bibliog. index., Pucci
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780867095296
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 2/5/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

A former teacher and English department chair, Jim Mahoney has retired several times, having been called back to serve for one more season at different schools. He currently works with school districts on curriculum and staff development. The recipient of New York State English Council's Teacher of Excellence and Programs of Excellence awards, plus two CLASS awards for curriculum design, he has also been awarded three NEH Fellowships. He encourages readers to write to him at campyhits@aol.com.
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Table of Contents

Trying to Figure Things Out

The Portfolio - Starting Off

The Nitty-Gritty Details

A Writing State of Mind

Magic Words

My Reading Classroom

Literature and Literary Letters

Figuring Out Evaluation

Making Sense of High-Stakes Testing

Food For the Mind and Soul

Final Thoughts

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