Expert-Led Dialogue: Teaching Reading and Writing with The Change Agent!

I hope that everyone here has checked out the wonderful seminar delivered by Cynthia Peters, Editor of The Change Agent last Friday and  announced here in our earlier "Teaching Reading and Writing with The Change Agent" discussion. To access the Webinar and all resources shared, CLICK HERE. Cynthia is also an expert writing teacher, so this provides us with a great opportunity to chat with her about reading and writing practices in general. 
Tomorrow, Thursday the 18  we open this discussion, lasting through Friday, to explore the free resources offered by The Change Agent, which also has a very low subscription to allow even poor programs to benefit from all resources. Cynthia Peters will be joining us to meet the following objectives for this discussion:
1. Explore the free resources available on the Change Agent site.
2. Identify very effective ways of using engaging articles from any source to accelerate the acquisition of reading and writing skills by adults reading at all levels.
3. Examine the process of having adults submit their writings to be included in future issues. 
4. Address all related questions from this membership as posted in this forum.
The Change Agent is one of those pearls that I hope no longer stay hidden in a shell. The publication compiles adult-student writings from a wide variety of sources and publishes those for use in Adult Ed or literacy programs everywhere. The materials are selected by an editing board and tagged for different levels, which is a great asset to instructors everywhere. On the site, you will find ready-to-use, CCR-aligned lesson plans – all oriented toward a multi-level audience. Not sure about how to use reading materials to encourage sound reading and writing practices? This is a good place to start. 
Startup Questions for Cynthia to address to introduce our discussion: (Feel free to add yours!) 
  1. How do instructors of adults most benefit from the free resources on The Change Agent site?
  2. What top reading and writing practices are recommended in the magazine?
  3. How are CCR Standards aligned to articles?
  4. What is the deadline and topic for the next edition?
Tomorrow's prompt will dig even deeper as this dialogue continues. Let's talk! Welcome, Cynthia! 
NOTE: If you are reading this as a guest, you may also participate by joining our LINCS Community and the Reading and Writing Group!
Leecy Wise, Moderator
Reading and Writing CoP


Greetings All, and welcome to our discussion on Teaching Reading and Writing with The Change Agent!   Cynthia Peters will be joining us this afternoon to start addressing some of you comments and the questions posed in today's prompt.   In the meantime, do you want a jolt to get you started today? Open Friday's Webinar session and then on "Playback" or "Download."  Wait for the Table of Contents to populate in a little box to the right (on my screen). Then scroll down to page 1, Time 00:22:44 (not in chronological order). There, you will find the clip to a poem, Some Fine Hair, that was written and recorded by an African-American student. I promise that you will want to just keep playing this moving poem. When you are done, come back here and comment on your experience.   Do you use student writing in your instruction? If so, how. Share some of your practices.   Let's talk! Leecy

Leecy -- thanks so much for pointing people to that poem. I hope everyone can go find it and listen. I'll paste in the text of the poem here, so you can follow along with the audio if you find it. When I played the audio during the webinar, teachers were excited to use it in the classroom -- not just for the content but for the rich audio experience, the chance to hear an authentic voice, the opportunity to practice listening to diverse accents, etc. Let me know if you check it out and what you think.

Some Fiiiine Hair

by Sadonia Feazell

Straight from the bare bottom of my mother’s womb
my hair was very straight and clingy.
My mother thought to herself,
“My baby gonna come out with some fiiiiine hair.”
She could imagine putting it in all types of cute little styles
with ponytails,
running her fingers through her baby’s thin, straight hair.
Weary she would become,
not yet ready to take on the shape and the color that it would
The fist pumping baby has come and the feeling of I will
has now become a teenager
with a different strand of hair—curls and afros,
not to mention the beaded braided kinky now twisted hair.
The world has no choice but to be ready
but the mother thinks she’s got this covered
with all the dyes and perms that will fry her daughter’s hair.
A solution to the madness:
let the hair grow
whatever way it’s going to grow.
Don’t try to tame it like it’s something you’re afraid of.
Love the God given hair that’s thin, thick, straight, curly,
and gray.
I don’t care; this is my hair. And, yes, Momma,
Your baby’s got some fiiiine hair!

The Change Agent has about 15 free lesson packets. I put these together to mark our 20th anniversary. I dug through issues of The Change Agent and came up with creative ways to group articles into interesting lesson packets. Then I created activities for those articles aligned with the College and Career Readiness Standards. Check out all the packets, but particularly the first one:

I noticed that one of our writers, Timothy Lovett, had written three articles for us and that it was fun to track how his writing developed over time and what he was willing to share about himself. If you start at the beginning of the packet, you'll see he writes in a kind of light-hearted way about his job in a Hallmark warehouse. Then he shares a very humorous piece about being an enthusiastic meat-eater. He uses an extended metaphor about going "hunting" for his meat at the supermarket. Finally, he shares a much more somber piece called "Day One" about his first day in prison. His previous bios. did not include the fact that he had been in prison when he wrote those pieces. By the time his third piece is published, he shares this about himself.

The activities give students a chance to dig deep into Timothy's writing -- for meaning and for style and for structure. The idea is that students will be hooked by the engaging content and by the fact that the articles are written by a peer in adult learning, and that from this platform, there will be more of a willingness to do the work on basic skills.

If you have a chance to look at the packet, I'd love to know what you think of the writing. Which article do you think might be most interesting to your students? What activities look helpful? Are there additional activities you would try?


Cynthia, thank you for the valuable comments and suggestions you shared in response to yesterday's topic! I know that people are reading your responses because we have 114 views to date. Hopefully, we'll have a few responses from members today on this critical area of adult instruction.

Today, let's focus on practice, as we reflect on the following questions:

1. In creating the lesson plans and activities that accompany articles, what major reading and writing challenges  do you address  to help adults prepare to pass HSE exams or enter college? I know that The Change Agent activities assist students with finding main ideas and details in articles. What other skills are emphasized in the activities that support academic development through different articles? NOTE: Those of you reading this are encouraged to drop in and comment on challenges that you hope are addressed when you select reading content for your students!

2. How do you correlate articles with CCR Standards? Do you think that instructors should share those standards with students?

Thank you Cynthia and participants here in advance for sharing your ideas! Leecy




Thanks for your questions, Leecy. For now, let me focus in on #2.

If you go to this link and scroll down, you'll see a chart that lists groups of standards in the first column. In the second column, I re-write that group of standards into "everyday English." In the third column, there is a list of page numbers where you can find activities aligned to that group of standards.

Below I have copied and pasted the 4 groups of Reading anchor standards, so you can see what I'm talking about without having to go to the link.

I thought it would be helpful to teachers to have these groupings. It strikes me that some of the standards don't seem all that different from each other. So I grouped them in what felt like a logical way and pointed teachers directly to pages in the magazine that address those standards.

I have heard from teachers that it's helpful to have this kind of accessible "shortcut" so that they can check their teaching against the standards and have resources right at their fingertips for filling in on certain standards. Let me know what you think!



Anchor Standards In Everyday English TCA Excerpts Key Ideas and Details (R.CCR.1-3) What does the text say? What does it not say? What does it mean? How can you prove it? pp. 3, 6-7, 10, 16, 23, 37, 44, 46, 47, 52-53 Craft & Structure (R.CCR.4-6) How does author use language to commu-nicate? How is the text organized? Who wrote this and how/why does that matter? pp. 22-23 Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (R.CCR.7-9) How does this connect with other sources? Does it measure up? Is it valid? pp. 36, 42-43, 45, 50-51 Range and Level of Text Complexity (R.CCR.10) Can students read widely and deeply from a broad range of high-quality texts? pp. 8-9, 24-25

Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing all of the insights and resources offered by The Change Agent, along with your helpful comments on different aspects of how reading can improve the writing skills of adult learners! Thanks to all of you who viewed the comments share in this forum. I hope that you have gained tips on how to accelerate the acquisition of skills among your adult leaners. 

I hope that this discussion continues in the following days, weeks, and months, blossoming from the seeds that were sown in this ground to date. Thanks to all! Leecy