Begins: November 4, 2019
Ends: June 30, 2020

Literacy, Equity + Remarkable Notes = LEARN: Marginal Syllabus 2019-20

Literacy, Equity + Remarkable Notes = LEARN is a collaborative project of the National Writing Project (NWP), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and Marginal Syllabus which invites both K-12 and post-secondary educators to a year of social reading, collaborative web annotation, and public conversation. Now in its second year, LEARN: Marginal Syllabus 2019-20 kicks off in November and runs through June.

Marginal Syllabus partners include a range of authors, educators, scholars, and learners alongside a publisher, NCTE, who collaboratively engage in curated social reading and writing opportunities that explore the intersections of literacy and equity. As a Marginal Syllabus comprised of eight texts from eleven partner authors, we seek to surface a range of remarkable notes in the margins of these texts, while also centering our discussion on topics and scholarship that often are on the margins of teaching and learning.

This syllabus has been collaboratively organized by its partners and all partner authors have agreed to have their scholarship publicly annotated by participating educators. This project leverages the web annotation platform Hypothesis for open collaboration and dialogue, adding multiple voices to critical conversations about equity, literacy, and learning.

LEARN: 2019-20 Marginal Syllabus

Click on the links below to activate the annotatable version of these readings (posted on the first Monday of each month); connect with us during live events; or browse the event archives.

Dates Article for Annotation Conversation
November Whiteness is a White Problem: Whiteness in English Education

In this piece written for English Education, Samuel Jaye Tanner reflects on problematic and transformative experiences teaching high school that centered race and racial identity in his work with students. He argues that white people in an American context have problems with race that are distinct from the racism people of color experience, and he specifically calls on white English educators to rethink their roles in dismantling white supremacy.

Tanner (2019), “Whiteness is a White Problem: Whiteness in English Education,” English Education

December Miles Morales: Spider Man and Reimagining the Canon for Racial Justice

In an award-winning piece written for English Journal, authors Mario Worlds and Henry “Cody” Miller argue for the inclusion of this new, non-traditional story in secondary English classrooms in order to open conversations among young readers about racism and the school-to-prison pipeline. Worlds’ and Millers’ writing surfaces the importance of rethinking text selection as a means of critiquing racial hierarchy in the curricular canon and dismantling white supremacy.

Worlds and Miller (2019), “Miles Morales: Spider Man and Reimagining the Canon for Racial Justice,” English Journal

January Revising Resistance: A Step Toward Student-Centered Activism

In this Voices from the Middle article, Alex Corbitt describes how he reimagined an elective course in order to situate and support students as activists. Assigned to teach a documentary film class, he proposed to his students that they focus on teen activism, and invited them to co-design the class with him as the year unfolded. This inspirational article describes the ways in which Corbitt helped students design their own learning, study issues of critical importance like racism, and engage in activism.

Corbitt (2019), “Revising Resistance: A Step Toward Student-Centered Activism,” Voices from the Middle

February Praisesongs of Place: Youth Envisioning Space and Place in a Literacy and Songwriting Initiative

Vaughn W. M. Watson and Alecia Beymer write about the after-school Verses Project at Detroit’s Community Music School. This article from RTE describes the multimodal processes of young writers as they compose in a genre the authors describe as “praisesongs of place.”

Watson and Beymer (2019), “Praisesongs of Place: Youth Envisioning Space and Place in a Literacy and Songwriting Initiative,” Research in the Teaching of English

March ‘Untold Stories:’ Cultivating Consequential Writing with a Black Male Student Through a Critical Approach to Metaphor

This award-winning article describes Everett’s development of a consequential literacy pedagogy she employed while engaging Shawn in the composition of metaphor in a way that affirms his experience and identity.

Everett (2018), “‘Untold Stories:’ Cultivating Consequential Writing with a Black Male Student Through a Critical Approach to Metaphor,” Research in the Teaching of English

April Let’s Give Them Something to Talk (And Act!) About: Privilege, Racism, and Oppression in the Middle School Classroom

With a shared interest in social justice literacies and passion for engaging youth in current issues, Ashley Boyd and Jacinda Miller, used the novel All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely to anchor conversations about race and privilege. This piece describes the classroom culture that made this work possible, rich classroom discourse about critical issues, and the creative social action project that resulted.

Boyd and Miller (2020), “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk (And Act!) About: Privilege, Racism, and Oppression in the Middle School Classroom,” Voices from the Middle

May Performative Youth: The Literacy Possibilities of De-essentializing Adolescence

This article details the ways in which one educator, Rachel (a pseudonym), redesigned her AP English curriculum to support students in reading a variety of texts using a “Youth Lens” (Petrone, Sarigianides, & Lewis, 2004). Sophia Sarigianides then examines the effects of enabling students to access these alternative discourses and describes what emerged in the context of one literacy classroom.

Sarigianides (2019), “Performative Youth: The Literacy Possibilities of De-essentializing Adolescence,” English Education

Why Annotate?

“There is then creative reading as well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. Every sentence is doubly significant, and the sense of our author is as broad as the world. (Library of America volume of Emerson’s Essays and Lectures, p. 59)”

Michelle King of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project explores the “whys” of annotation and how a project like the Marginal Syllabus creates an equity ecology; download the Why Annotate? infographic.

Joe Dillon from the Denver Writing Project reviews the 2018-19 LEARN: Marginal Syllabus and considers how each of last year’s readings might support educators.

How It Works

This year’s LEARN: Marginal Syllabus will start the first week of November 2019 and run through June 2020.

Get Started with Hypothesis

Annotation is the act of commenting and/or otherwise marking up a set of texts in order to add to your reading and/or keep track of your thinking. As an open online tool, Hypothesis adds a new dimension to your reading and note-taking, making it publicly available and therefore socially shared.

Using Hypothesis is as easy as clicking on this activated link to the texts shared below. From there you can see and read all public annotations left by others; Join/login to Hypothesis to add your own annotations. You can also use Hypothesis more regularly to annotate other online content; visit the website to learn how. There are also resources for educators for those considering using this in a course or other learning situation.


National Writing Project

The National Writing Project (NWP), the founder of the Educator Innovator Initiative, is a network of educators and dedicated practitioners working together to improve practice with an eye toward young people as producers. The NWP envisions a future where every person is an accomplished writer and maker, not just a passive consumer.

National Council of Teachers of English

Through collaboration and community, shared stories and shared experiences, NCTE supports teachers and their students in classrooms, on college campuses, and in online learning environments.

Marginal Syllabus

The Marginal Syllabus sparks and sustains public conversation about educational equity through collaborative technologies and partnerships.