National Writing Project

Teaching Outside the Box But Inside the Standards: Making Room for Dialogue

Bob Fecho, Michelle Falter, and Xiaoli Hong

List price: $31.95
NWP's Price: $23.95

Many educators feel caught between mandates to meet literacy standards and the desire to respond to individual students' interests, skills, and challenges. Teaching Outside the Box But Inside the Standards illustrates how a dialogical approach to practice will enable teachers to meet the needs of today's diverse student population within a standardized curriculum. Chapters highlight the efforts of four high school teachers to create dialogical classroom space, documenting both the possibilities of and impediments to such an approach to teaching. Drawing on a theoretical framework and rationale for engaged dialogical practice, the authors present and analyze key classroom events that illustrate the productive and restrictive tensions for such work and suggest ways for teachers and schools to implement these ideas, especially for complementing and expanding the Common Core State Standards.

Book Features

  • Examples of teachers using dialogue to engage students, as well as colleagues, administrators, parents, policymakers, and other educational stakeholders.
  • Guidance for teachers in how to differentiate instruction to meet literacy standards.
  • Case studies illustrating how teachers navigate the tension between standardization and student-centered teaching.
  • An exemplary collaborative effort among a university researcher, doctoral students, and high school teachers.
  • The reflections and self-questioning of teachers who write honestly, engagingly, and insightfully about their dialogical practices.


"In an accessible and thought-provoking narrative, these four teacher-researchers and the three teacher educators present an alternative view into the complexity of the classroom."
— From the Foreword by Meenoo Rami, Educator and Author of Thrive: 5 Ways to (re)Invigorate Your Teaching
"Teaching Outside the Box but Inside the Standards is rigorous though poetic, filled with theory and science, but not in the ways we've come to know them. The science and theory of teaching are shaped in the core of story, sketched in lessons well learned. Moreover, each story is offered as an invitation to reach beyond the moment while courageously teaching within it."
David E. Kirkland, director, NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, New York University
About the Authors
  • Bob Fecho is professor of English education at Teachers College, Columbia University. His books include Teaching for the Students: Habits of Heart, Mind, and Practice in the Engaged Classroom and "Is This English?": Race, Language, and Culture in the Classroom which received the James N. Britton award, CEE/NCTE.
  • Michelle Falter and Xiaoli Hong are doctoral candidates at the University of Georgia in the Department of Language and Literacy Education.

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