What Does It Mean to Fit In?

 Using the NEA Big Read Literature in the Classroom

Professional Development Workshop

Timespan: 7 hours (6 hours of PD)

Provider: Poughkeepsie Public Library District Big Read

Audience: Educators grades 6-12

Date: Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Start/End: 8:45 am – 4:00 pm, lunch and breaks provided

Location: Wappingers Central School District Offices, 25 Corporate Drive, Hopewell

Cost: No fee

Attendance documentation provided for those with in-service approval from their district.

Register: online here and/or your district’s My Learning Plan

What does it mean to fit in? In this workshop, educators will gain concrete curricular resources, pedagogical strategies, and proven approaches to conversations exploring personal identity, family, culture, assimilation, and (mis)communication with students using one or both of the 2018 NEA Big Read literature selections: Celeste Ng’s novel Everything I Never Told You (Gr.9-12) and Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel American Born Chinese (Gr.6-12). Educators will gain practice in teaching graphic novels and memoirs, as well as concrete approaches to facilitating difficult but necessary conversations about belonging and isolation. By the end of the day, all participants will be able to:

  • Teach close reading/critical analysis of Ng and/or Yang’s work (text-based and graphics-based)
  • Create spaces which foster critical conversations that facilitate personal growth and social responsibility
  • Create classroom guidelines for facilitating challenging conversations about self, family, identity, roles and expectations, stereotypes, perception (how other people see students vs. how they see themselves), and other important topics
  • Lead students through literacy-rich media production projects using readily available technology (such as Smartphones)

Lunch will be provided. All participants receive a copy of their respective focus books free of charge. There is no fee to attend this workshop.

The Big Read is an annual ‘community read program’ coordinated by the Poughkeepsie Library District and runs October 13-November 17, 2018. The NEA Big Read is designed to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.


  1. Introduction and overview of The NEA Big Read by Coordinator Jewel Ratzlaff and Keynote on the literature and the authors by local scholar. Roundtable discussions led by peers from Hudson Valley school districts. Educators split up into groups according to which book they’d be teaching to brainstorm and workshop approaches to teaching the literature. Facilitators include:
  • Kerri Bohringer on using graphic novels to teach ENL and ELL and TESOL, specifically Yang’s graphic novel American Born Chinese
  • Michael Panzer on teaching graphic novels for understanding ethnicity
  • Jamie Devlin – examining Ng’s Everything I Never Told You with 6-word memoir
  • Sarah Hoop – using this literature for empowerment
  • Short Video Clip: Celeste Ng – growing up Chinese American

Lunch Break – full lunch provided on site


2. The Art Effect offers hands-on media literacy and media-making workshops modeling project-based learning activities for middle and high school classrooms on stereotypes about Asians, the role of images in assimilation, integration, etc:

  • Make your own graphic novel – participants read passages from the literature, decide on the main theme of the passage, then learn illustration and sequential art 101 to design and create a five-panel visual sequence that adapts their chosen passage into an original visual re-telling.
  • Style and empathy – participants read passages from the literature, analyze and interpret them to understand the character portrayals and literary devices, then write a short story (in which they employ the same literary devices) that endeavors to make the audience sympathize with two “unlikeable” characters.
  • iPhone filmmaking – participants script, film, and edit PSAs about stereotypes, using their Smartphones every step of the way.
  • From Memories to Memoirs – participants identify the literary devices of memoir at work in the Big Read texts, then consider questions of how their identity is shaped in relation to their family by writing a mini-memoir about a family outing.

Culminating debrief/processing session:

  • Short Video Clip: What About those Stereotypes in our Heads?!
  • Reflecting on ‘What Does It Mean to Fit In?’ in the Classroom, the Family, and the World with presenter Wendy Maragh Taylor, Campus Life & Diversity, Vassar College; Individual and Family Clinician.