Interview with Middle School Teacher and Novelist, Ernesto Cisneros
Welcome back to Chalk and Ink: the podcast for teachers who write and writers who teach. Meet middle school teacher and novelist, Ernesto Cisneros. Ernesto is the author of the novel Efren Divided. Ernesto's honesty and hopefulness permeate our entire conversation.
In this episode, Ernesto talks about opening the door to the Latino culture, how his students are a key component to his publishing success and encourages all teachers and students to dream big because the world needs each of our voices to be heard.
It's quite clear that Ernesto has a passion for putting the perfect book into each of his students' hands. One way he does this is by having students fill out recommendation bookmarks for the books they love. After students complete the bookmarks, Ernesto laminates them and inserts them inside the featured book. On the top of the bookmark is a speech bubble that sticks out so that all his students can see that the book is worth reading. You can download a sample bookmark and template below.
Here are some of the most popular books in his classroom:
1. Operation Frog Effect by Sarah Lynn Scheerger
This book is told through eight different perspectives. One perspective is a graphic novel format. Ernesto is currently deconstructing this book to see how the author managed to create eight completely different perspectives.
2. Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Ernesto sums up the National Book Award winner in three words, "Talk about powerful."
3. Gabi a Girl in Pieces byIsabel Quinteros
This is Ernesto's favorite young adult book of all time. He says, "It reads like his older sister's diary," and he assures listeners that he apologized to his older sister a long time ago and she forgave him.
4.Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick your Ass By Meg Medina
I have never read Yaqui but I loved Meg's Merci Suarez Changes Gears which won the Newbery Medal.
Ernesto thinks all middle school classrooms should have the following two anthologies:
Flying Lessons which is a We Need Diverse Books anthology. Ernesto enthusiastically shared that Meg Medina has a short story in this book. She liked the character in her short story so much that she turned the story into her Newbery-winning novel Merci Suarez Changes Gears.
Living Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican In America edited by Margaret Longoria. It publishes in August of 2021.
Interview with Instructional Coach and Children's Book Author, Valerie Bolling
Welcome back to Chalk and Ink: the podcast for teachers who write and writers who teach. Meet instructional coach and children's book author, Valerie Bolling. Valerie is the author of the picture book Let's Dance. Valerie's passion for diversity, inclusion and equity permeates our entire conversation.
In this episode, Valerie talks about the power of weekly critique groups, how being open to feedback will lead to breakthrough moment after breakthrough moment and how we as educators must be willing to look at our own implicit biases and discuss racism with our students.
Children are at the forefront of anything Valerie does as an educator and as a writer. She explains that we encourage students to be the best students they can be by knowing who they are. The same idea shines in her writing. As she creates, she's thinking about how she's going to word something to engage children and keep them interested.
Rather than specific books, Valerie believes all middle school classrooms should have books by the following authorsJacqueline Woodson, Renee Watson, Jason Reynolds, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Samira Ahmed, Elizabeth Acevedo and Angie Thomas.
This year The Project Lit Book Club chapter at my school, which we call The Windows and Mirrors Book Club, read Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson. Some Places More Than Others is exquisite and it's highly accessible for upper elementary readers.
This month our club is discussing Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Yesterday, one of my students, who is also in the book club, excitedly told me that Black Brother, Black Brother is amazing and that even though her brother is two years older and not in book club, he read it, too. This comment made my day because I've never seen this particular student so excited about a book before, and I wouldn't have thought Black Brother, Black Brother would appeal to her so much. It just goes to show how important it is that we get as many different kinds of books into our readers hands as we can because it increases the possibility of igniting their passion for reading.
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