Free-sliding into NCTE

My friend and colleague, Rick Kreinbring and I have been working on our presentation for the November NCTE convention in Houston. Yes, we know we’re not typical (in this and other ways 😉 but we know how we work; we need time to think, then reel in our thoughts.

In line with the theme of this year’s convention, amplifying student voice, we’ve called our presentation “Can you hear me now: Blogging to become public thinkers.” Our blurb

“If my voice is clear, my message powerful, my delivery flawless
” goes a Verizon ad. Teachers who want students to attempt this, need to teach them to connect brains to words, thoughts to voices. Two teachers demonstrate and discuss challenges of bringing familiar traditions of rhetoric into the digital world.

3D triangle hovering in space

We admit it: we are shameless about our devotion to the good ole’ rhetorical triangle. We’re also completely convinced that the digital world, in this case, blogging, offers the perfect place to have students grapple with all kinds of challenges with aspects of said triangle.

What’s really exciting to us, though, is how blogging asks kids to tackle the hard work of developing a public persona that reflects their identities as thinkers.

We’ve been thinking about this subject for several years now; we’ve done a couple of presentations in online writing conferences (find a 2017 session here). This morning, we spent the first hour of our Facetime meeting talking about my new bicycle, the air quality in Portland, amazing old buildings of Detroit, the annual Diner en Blanc flash mob dinner party, how we use libraries.

We realized we didn’t really want to work, not because we’re lazy bums, but because we’re done. We’ve gotten out all the ideas, we’ve discarded the stupid stuff, we’ve determined what we want to keep. We’ve got a crazy collection of possible slides in our Google slide deck. So here’s our next assignment for ourselves, due in a couple of weeks.

We’re going to free-slide. The rules are simple. We add any slides from former presentations that we think are relevant. We fiddle with the order. We move any slides we don’t think belong to the end of the deck. We use the comments feature to say why we added, or did whatever else. Anything goes– we’re free-sliding. Kind of like freewriting, except with a slide deck.

Actually, this is the second iteration of free-sliding. We started our planning with talking. And talking. And making notes. Talking some more. Our notes started turning into a book. So after we realized we could create an online course about this, we returned to our presentation.

We each created subheadings we thought might make a skeleton to hang a presentation on. But we didn’t sped much time on that– we realized we needed to just start making slides.

Since that initial jumble of slides, we’ve stripped our thinking down. We’re ready to free-slide some more. Or maybe this is a first pass at drafting the real deal.

I love this process. And I think we’re going to have a really cool NCTE session.


Silhouette of head; bakground of sunset; lightbulb in head.

Image CC0 via




Slice of Life is the weekly Story Challenge on Two Writing Teachers. Come write along with us!

6 responses to “Free-sliding into NCTE”

  1. Jennifer Laffin says:

    What a fun look into your presentation prep! Student blogging is a hot, hot, hot topic right now. I like it because it is a great way for students to write authentically — in both purpose and audience. I’ll be at NCTE too and would love to catch your presentation to see where your free-sliding leads you!

    • Karen says:

      We’d love to see you!

      One challenge about blogging, I think, is determining what or who initiates a post. Seems like authentic writing needs to be self-initiated. The next question becomes how do we, as teachers, set up blogging structures that foster self-initiated posting? And the challenges continue….

  2. Karen, you are not alone or weird in your summer planning. Chris Kervina and I are once again organizing a round table session for NCTE. We have 13 table hosts in our session, and I’ve been pestering them to post their table plan on a Google doc I created. We’ll soon get going on our transitions, which we spent oodles of time working on last year.

    Do let me know the time of your session. As a fan of Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle, I’m intrigued by your session and will plan to attend.

    • Karen says:

      Wow! Thirteen table hosts! That’s a lot of cats to herd. We’re on Friday at 3:30 pm. Tell me when *your* session is, please.

  3. You are not alone! I appreciate your devotion to the rhetorical triangle and the connections you will make to how blogging allowing writers to play in that space. Sounds like another thoughtful session! Your free-sliding brought me to some work we are doing with a deck on embedded performance assessments for faculty. In my new role, I work on a team whose aim is to envision future alignment and to create tools to support the learning and work teachers and administrators need to do just that across four divisions: pre-school, elementary, middle and high. I am only a few weeks in with the team, but in creating our initial slide decks for this year’s school goals, our team is doing quite a bit of free-sliding. It has been interesting to stay open to ideas and to gather feedback from a variety of folks on campus as we think and iterate. Our team, like yours, does a lot of noodling and talking around ideas and our lives. Thank you for sharing your rich creative processes! Looking forward to seeing you at NCTE too!

    • Karen says:

      It’s a process of co-thinking, with the digital slides being like notecards. You and your team have a big job ahead of you. Asking colleagues across all levels of the school for their thoughts makes this co-thinking process a huge, but exciting, challenge. Just think of all that synthesizing! Thanks for reading. I look forward to seeing you in November.

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