Thursday PM 14: 21st Century Girls in the Mix
Attended by Melissa Brooks-Yip

Focus: How might writing instruction support the positive development of girls’ voices and encourage girls’ active participation in their own developing literacy and civic culture?

Writing activity for audience:
After reading excerpts from All about the Girl: Culture, Power and Identity by Fine and Harris
Write on one of the following :
o My prompt- How are the young women you teach positioned and how do they position themselves in the changing postindustrial and postmodern Western world?
I teach in a very small, white, rural town in Michigan. When having students write about their future, many of my girls have this idea that they will “get married and have kids, and then, maybe go to college.” Traditional roles are still a first priority here. I wonder- can a girl not attend college until they fulfill that role? I also see in their writing that some don’t want to be seen as “too smart.” They introduce themselves to me and other readers as “ditzy.” Their overall position, as I see it might be considered traditional but they have a concept of other scenarios available to women, just not them.

Strategies Using Recommended Young Adult Novels and Poetry:
o A coral reading of “Girls Hold up This World” was done by the two presenters. This photo book by Jada Pinkett Smith is diverse, gives a strong message to girls, and is enjoyed by all different grades.

o A “Quaker Reading” was done with lines from Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.
On small, 3X5 cards, participants were given lines from the book and we read “Quaker style” or in any order that “moved” us. Afterward, we created a word bank describing the Stargirl character. This book is a good example of a unique, carefree, sensitive, eccentric, self possessed young female character.

o A writing activity recommended to give girls (or any student) as strong sense of identity and voice was a “This I Believe"

o Reading, Writing, and Rising Up by Linda Christensen is another book recommended for writing activities that encourage social justice and power through writing- particularly the poem “Time Somebody Told Me”

Using Graphic Novels and Story Boards:
o Graphic novels are seen usually as a “boy genre.” We looked at how female, male roles are portrayed in some graphic novels (ie. Sexual portrayal of cat woman, and others with the buxom figure). Are there others that give a realistic view of sex roles? Yes, and are worth checking out.
o Storyboards can be used with students to make their own graphic representations of realistic male and female heroes (doctors, teachers, nurses, parents…) “Comic Life” is good program that has been used.

Sharing Challenges from Local Sites
Participants brainstormed current issues we saw with girls in our classrooms:
o Bullying
o Promiscuity- “Girls Gone Wild”
o Portrayal of themselves online now- through MySpace, Facebook, etc.
o “Friends with Benefits” concept

A wealth of research has been done on this topic, and a lengthy bibliography was provided. I will look for a link online for access.
What would I take back to RCWP from this session?

With all the gender literacy studies being done the last few years, especially on boys (ie. Boy Writers by Ralph Fletcher) this seems appropriate to also look at girls’ literacy. Perhaps gender differences could be addressed in a PD session? (WOW, Tech, HS session?) Specific strategies for girls, such as outlined here, could be shared, as well as those for boys. I think this topic is always on the mind of teachers during reading/writing instruction and it wouldn’t hurt to have a few more tools and information about the differences in learning styles of both genders, and how media and culture play into these differences.