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NCTE: High School Readers and Writers

I woke up early on a SATURDAY, so that I could listen to Jeff Wilhelm, author of You Gotta BE the Book and Reading Don't Fix No Chevys and Penny Kittle, author of Write Beside Them. Both Jeff and Penny work with high school students and they had powerful words to share with us this morning about what high school boys need from us.

Jeff shared this Social Contract between teachers and students.

A teacher should:

  • Try to get to know me personally.
  • Care about me and recognize me as an individual.
  • Attend to my interests in some way.
  • Help me learn and work to make sure I have learned.
  • Be passionate, committed, work hard, and know your stuff.

When talking to kids, Jeff found that students believed that their elementary teachers kept this social contract, but students felt that their secondary teachers reneged.


Penny described her new work with high school seniors-- digital composition. Penny's students create persuasive videos about topics that interest them like development in their town or the importance of sports to the school. Digital composition combines technology skills and the ability to craft arguments.

Penny showed a video where her students shared how little they read and how they have learned to fake reading throughout high school. What do Penny's students, both boys and girls, believe motivates them to read? Students identify choice in reading material and encouragement to find books that they enjoy as the main reasons they read more in Kittle's class.

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