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The North Carolina English Teachers Association publishes two newsletters  each year. If you have information or articles you would like to submit, please contact Melissa Armbrester, editor.  See CONTACT INFORMATION for Melissa's email address.


For Your Information

  • NCETA’s 2016 Fall Conference will be held at NC Central University in Durham.  See the Home Page for more information.
  • The two NC sites of the National Writing Project have year-round activities that would be of interest to NCETA members.  Please check out their websites for flyers, announcements, and applications.  For more information, visit:


This January, the executive board welcomed several new members. Though many changes may be occurring, the executive board is working hard to make sure that members continue to benefit from all the organization has to offer.



Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, the first in a trilogy by Suzanne Collins, may well be the best post-apocalyptic novel since The Giver.  In many ways, it is even more frightening than Lowry’s story because the plot is based on something we are all too familiar with: reality television. The setting is the nation of Panem, once North America. Twelve districts surround the brutal Capital city, and it is from these districts that one boy and one girl (called Tributes) between the ages of twelve and eighteen are chosen by lottery each year to participate in the Hunger Games. The object of the game is to fight to the death until only one of twenty-four is left alive.  As though that were not chilling enough, the entire “game” is broadcast live across the nation for the pleasure of a viewing audience.

Considered the underdog in the fight is sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen. Katniss becomes a contestant in the game when, on reaping day, she volunteers to take her younger sister Prim’s place, whose name has been drawn to represent district twelve.  Once the games begin, Katniss must call on all of the survival skills she has ever learned, and though staying alive is her goal, she must also juggle decisions of her humanity that she tries desperately not to forsake. This is especially critical to the story given that her society has chosen technology and entertainment over its own humanity.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of The Hunger Games is that it does not require the stretch of imagination we might expect. In fact, certain elements of it are eerily familiar. Even the most macabre of events, bizarre as they appear, also seem surprisingly plausible: the death arenas as historic sites and vacation destinations; reenactments of particularly bloody battles, tours of the catacombs under the arenas where participants are prepared for the games; videos of entire games that are watched again and again. In what is an entirely fantastic story, Collins manages to make us believe in the reality of it. That is a major achievement for an author, and that Collins gets readers to resonate with characters and plot is to her credit. This is one not to be missed. The entire trilogy is now available. Book 2 is called Catching Fire and Book 3 is Mocking Jay. I recommend them all.

Dr.Elaine O'Quinn is a Professor of English Education and Women's Studies at ASU. She  publishes and presents on the topics of girls, Young Adult Literature, and English Education. Her latest essay on PERSEPOLIS is orthcoming this Spring in SIGNAL, a journal of the International Reading Association. Last summer, her work on YAL science fiction as social commentary was published in the ALAN REVIEW.


Idea Exchange: Reality TV Simulation for Research Writing


My First-Year Composition students need to produce better proposals to guide their research over the course of the semester.  To that end, I designed a scaffolding activity using the television show Dragon's Den as a framework for pitching research ideas and used live audience polling as a simple peer-review mechanism to decide which students moved to “The Library” to conduct their research.

Prior to class, students were given a guide basic guide for producing a research proposal and asked to bring a draft of their proposal to class for peer review.  Using their proposals, students were given ten minutes to excerpt and create a convincing two minute pitch for their research project that they would deliver to the class and have "peer reviewed" through live audience polling, which I had previously set up on

Students were reminded that meaningful participation in this activity constituted a "good grade", not quality of the pitch.  After 10 minutes, students were called up to the front of the class in groups of five and each given two minutes to pitch their ideas, attempting to persuade the audience that their research projects were worthy of a time investment.  Using their mobile phones or computers, students texted the keyword response or clicked the corresponding link on the Poll Everywhere site to vote their choice of best research project idea while the results showed immediately in the form of a bar graph chart generated by the live audience polling site which I was showing behind them on the projection screen.

This student-centered evaluation both normed our research-learning community and provided many good examples of acceptable research projects for students struggling with idea generation. For me, this informal assessment in the first stage of the process made plain which students I needed to follow more closely and which were ready to begin work with sources.  For the students, this activity allowed those who struggle to express ideas clearly in writing to use spoken word to captivate an audience and get immediate feedback on the quality of their ideas, not the surface features of their texts.

To read more about the activity and find links to the resources mentioned, check out my blog post here:

Stephanie West-Puckett is a Teaching Instructor for the Department of English at East Carolina University



NCETA would like to give a special thank you to each and every person reading this newsletter. Without you, this organization would not exist. This is why we want all ELA professionals, past, present and future to know that they can look to NCETA as their “Go-To Organization for ELA Professionals”.

The Executive Board has spent the last two years reworking the organization’s constitution to increase efficiency and services for our members, rebuilding NCETA’s website, and restructuring our conference offerings to be both effective and affordable for North Carolina’s ELA professionals.

NCETA is working hard to support ELA teachers statewide, from Manteo to Murphy. Regional directors are the first level contact for members and offer local professional development opportunities for members.

NCETA has openings in several regions and welcomes nominations for these positions. A strong board will lead a strong organization. On page three, readers will find a list of NCETA’s Board of Directors, including information about openings.

If you have any questions about the organization, or how you can play a bigger role, send an email to Executive Director Deanie Dunbar, President Sally Griffin, or one of your regional directors. ~~MA