NCTE 96 Conference Reflections

Session Wrap-Up Reports

Do It Write - Technically Write! Using Computers to Enhance Process Writing

This session, conducted by Phyllis Ayers, Principal Specialist for Secondary English for the Virginia Department of Education, and Jamelle Wilson, English Lead Teacher Specialist for Hanover County Public Schools, highlighted several programs currently available that make use of the computer in the classroom to held teach writing. The first program she showed was WriterUs Helper, developed by William Wresch, and sold by Prentice Hall. WriterUs Helper is a collection of activities designed to help students write and revise their essays and are appropriate for a wide variety of writing assignements. This program has some really exciting features: It also has a section that will analyze student writing--telling them how long each of their sentences is and how many subordinate clauses they have and identifying their transitional expressions and giving additional suggestions. The unfortunate part is that when I and other people asked about it at the Prentice Hall booth, no one seemed to know what we were talking about!

Her second program was the Holt, Rinehart and Winston Writer's Workshop. This program includes descriptions and help in writing different types of essays:

This session was informative and enjoyable. The speakers understood the work of teachers.

Where Have all the Heroes Gone? The Deconstruction and Evolution of Heroes

This session was actually 3 different mini sessions grouped together under the description: "How teachers can help teens understand the role the media plays in hero selection and in defining their personal life values, and a discussion/presentation of the classroom potential for research and writing about TV drama. Roberta Jones, a reading specialist and English teacher from North Harford High School in Pylesville, Maryland, started by defining the six traits of a hero (and I use the masculine pronoun because in her research, she discovered that 9 out of 10 heroes in literature are male): She used a variety of movie clips and music selections to help students recognize the difference between a hero, a celebrity, a role model, and an upstart, including: She pointed out to her students that each culture has its own heroes and that these heroes are based on the values of that culture. And she created a chart of the differences between yesterday's heroes and today's heroes: Neal Andersen, who is with the Association for Media Literacy in Toronto, Canada, continued the discussion basing his remarks on heroes seen in the media. The modern heroes of today's teens are found on their t-shirts: Michael Jordan, Bob Marley, Marilyn Manson. He used the full length animated feature film "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" to discuss heroism and gender representation in the classroom. The point he made is that there are female heroes but these heroines tend to display different qualities than the male. In Batman, one of the ideas Bruce Wayne learns is that he has to have a costume to scare people in order to feel he is a hero. And isn't that what our football team and cheerleaders do at a pep rally to ignite our students? He used a diagram to help students make connections between classical, literary characters and pop media characters. This diagram is based on Joseph Campbell's book, Archetypal Heroes. The third presenter used George, from the Jerry Seinfeld show, as a representative of the antihero. She used clips from the show to point out his characteristics.

Rogge Day Hurwitz

Comments to Sharon Hurwitz