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Articles by: Joan Wink

Prairie Pedagogy: Pulling the Past 10 Years Together in One Big Story

Prairie Pedagogy: Pulling the Past 10 Years Together in One Big Story

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

If you read WinkWorld consistently, you are aware that I have been taking books and reading stories to students in a tiny little school on the prairies, Atall School. If you want to read any of those previous posts, just type in Atall or prairie pedagogy into the search bar over on the left of my main page,   On my computer, Chrome works well on the search bar–less so, Firefox and Safari. 

Missy Urbaniak, the teacher at Atall and my cousin, has been gracious and welcoming as I bopped in and out of the class for 10 + years. She is central to this project and is also my co-author.  In addition, I very much appreciate the support and kindness of the families and community, who has allowed me to share stories and photos of their children.  Families, if there is every any photo, which you do not want me to share, please just tell me.  I also wish to thank Wynn Wink who is providing tech support.

This year we hope to write a history of these years at Atall School. Our purpose is to save the stories and maintain the history of prairie pedagogy for the students, families, and community.  I will post selected drafts of these stories first on WinkWorld.

Each of the following years will be organized in this manner.

A Photo

A Story

A Story Book Used in Class

A Glimpse of the History

And, of course, the heart of the book, the students.

Posted below are the school photos from each year which will be highlighted in our history.

Atall School 2012-2013

Atall School 2013-2014

Atall School 2014-2015

Atall School 2015-2016

Atall School 2016-2017

Atall School 2017-2018

Atall School 2018-2019

Atall School 2019-2020

Atall School 2020-2021

Atall School 2021-2022

Atall School 2022-23

Atall School 2023-2024

Oh, how I love these kids!  Now, I also have the joy of following them through their high school years and beyond.




September 26, 2023Read More
GinnyWink#5, A Badger, and Me: Another Ranch Story

GinnyWink#5, A Badger, and Me: Another Ranch Story

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

Some of you may remember the snake story.

Ranch Visitors: Blue Racer Snakes

Others of you may remember the skunk stories: First, there was the dead and rotting skunk in our cistern. Below, I am copying/pasting that story from  my July 3, 2003 newsletter.  This was before our interactive blog.

Skunk in the Cistern
We never put water in the cistern without remembering the time a couple of years ago when a skunk got into the cistern and drowned. We slowly began to notice the smell of skunk in the house and guessed that a skunk was passing through the yard during the night. Throughout
the course of the next few days, the smell increased and eventually seemed to permeate the house. Finally, one Saturday evening while Wink was in the shower, he realized what must have happened, as he smelled skunk in the shower water.  We raced outside and could see a slight opening between the concrete lid of the cistern and the rocks surrounding it.

We lifted the lid, and the horrible smell hit us in the face. From here the story goes straight downhill. We put an 8-foot ladder down into the water, but Wink was too big to get through the opening into the cistern.

I went down the ladder next, and tried to shovel that mass of rotting skunk into a bucket, but I just couldn’t stay down there long enough to finish the ugly task.  Eventually, we  brought the tractor over and hooked a chain to the front-end loader.  I slowly lowered Wink into the cistern as  he held onto the chain hooked to the front-end loader. He could squeeze through the opening of the cistern if both arms were held up above his head.  In this way, we got the skunk out, and then we had to disinfect and clean the cistern.

See the original post.

Second there was the mama skunk and 3 babies, which we caught in one trap.

Still  others of you may know my dear friend, GinnyWink#5, the most precious laborador ever; she follows GinnyWink#1, #2, #3, and #4, who were also precious.

However, GinnyWink#5 and I just had a very scary encounter with a badger.  I did not bother to snap a pix during the scary 5 minutes, so the following photo is courtesy of Wikipedia.

I was outside picking up branches under a  tree on a gorgeous fall day about 30 yards from the house.  I suddenly heard hissing and growling under the next tree about 10 yards away, where the badger and Ginny were running around and around the tree, the badger chasing Ginny. The badger was making horrible rasping, grunting, grating sounds.  I was yelling to get Ginny to come.  She tried to come once, and the badger took a little nip.  Off they went in a circle again.  I was about 10 feet away when I suddenly realized I didn’t have anything for protection.  I ran to the porch where  I remembered Wink had left a 3 foot bolt cutter. I have no idea what I was going to do with it.  Fortunately, when I ran for the porch, Ginny came right behind me.  We watched as the badger was forced to slink away in defeat.

I have since learned about a children’s book about a Canadian boy who was lost in the woods when a mama badger befriended him as he took refuge in the badger hole.  Is there a hint of truth in this story? I do not know, but I intend to read the book.

Incident at Hawk’s Hill (Newbery Honor Book)


September 12, 2023Read More
Henry’s Literacy Development

Henry’s Literacy Development

Hello WinkWorld Readers,

If you are a regular reader of WinkWorld, you know that one of the messages I hope to send is that there is no one way to learn to read. For example, Dawn and Bo learned to read in a totally different way from the way I did. I learned through phonics in 1st grade.  They both read before kindergarten, and I have no idea of how they learned…could it have been all of those books we read during their pre-K years?  Another example of someone learning in a totally different way from how I did was Jonathan, who  puzzled me for years.

I Learned to Read Through Phonics and the Jonathan Story


Wyatt, our oldest grandson, is a third example of not learning  to read through phonics; he was a  sight word  reader with a photographic mind. In the third grade, Wyatt’s mom pulled him out of school for several months because his teacher accepted only one way to learn to read, phonics, which certainly was not his way. As I recall, he laid on the coach and read books for several months before his mom (Dawn) took him back to the little local school.  I remember that no one in the school questioned where he had been.

Click here to read about Wyatt.


Now, it is a ranch kid, Henry, whose literacy development fascinates me. I have written  about him previously, which is posted below.  Henry lives on a near-by ranch, 45 minutes away, and he is now 9-years-old.

Henry is the only child I know who learned to read through The Profit?

What is The Profit?

The Profit is a newsprint circular of several pages filled with information on cattle sales, new and used tractor and machinery and/or parts, various forms of cattle and  other animal feed sales,  and long charts of specific cattle sales from sale barns. Since Henry was 2- and 3-years old, he has loved it when the mail truck delivered The Profit to their ranch mail box. Through the years, I have been fascinated as Henry’s little pointer finger tried to follow the words and make meaning.  I remember the day when he proudly figured out what “weigh-up” cattle sold for at the Phillip Livestock sales barn. Many don’t know what a “weigh-up” cow is, but for Henry, it is compelling reading.

Henry is the only kid I know, who learned to read from The Profit.  He continues to read it now, but I note that he is  expanding his genre to include chapter books. Hank, the Cow Dog is his personal favorite.

Of course, Henry is now a “Just-one-more-chapter-please-kid.”

Below is a previous post I did on Henry and “junk reading.”

Henry Loves “Junk Reading:” Horrors. Nope.


One size does not fit all.  There is NO one way to learn to read.

There are many ways to learn to read.

Even though I learned to read through phonics, that does not mean it is the only way.

And for the Academics Who Follow WinkWorld

Many think that phonics is the ONLY way to learn to read, but there are many ways.  Professor Emeritus, Stephen D. Krashen reminds us (in personal communication, May 20, 2023)

There are too many rules and many are very complicated with numerous exceptions. Children acquire many and probably most phonics rules by reading.

Krashen, S. and McQuillan, J. 202o. The case for acquired phonics. Language Magazine.

August 29, 2023Read More
I Learned to Read Through Phonics and the Jonathan Story

I Learned to Read Through Phonics and the Jonathan Story

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

I have been writing about a cool ranch kid, whom I have been observing.  Henry, now age 9, is the only kid I know who learned to read from ranch circulars (weekly newsprint flyers about tractors, cattle, big tires, fertilizers, etc.)  Before Henry could decode, he would run to grab the newsprint flyer, and his little pointer reading finger would go to work.  I have even seen him get excited “to read” about new credit card offers.

However, I have not yet posted the story of Henry as I keep getting interrupted by questions from friends who are relatively new to literacy, and they always ask: “But, Joan, what about phonics?” This caused me to dig out something I wrote about phonics and the “whispering of the juxtaposition” of another fabulous little guy, Jonathan.  This story was published in the first edition (1997) of Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World. This story was  cut from later editions.  I have no idea why, as it was some of my best work. (Apparently, WordPress has no emojis….)

This is sort of like doing your homework for reading about Henry, which is coming soon.


July 5, 2023Read More
Regalia: Woven Into Every Stitch

Regalia: Woven Into Every Stitch

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

As the incomparable Amanda Gorman writes in her poem, “Memorial” (2021, “Call Us What We Carry,”):

When we tell a story

We are living


That would explain why so much great art arises from trauma, nostalgia, or testimony (p.74).

When read that, I immediately called Dawn, our daughter, who was having a particularly challenging day.  I told her to go write, and write she did! 

Hope you enjoy Dawn’s writing as much as I do. I believe that Dawn captures how such beautiful writing can come from pain.

I have written about some of my experiences which Dawn references. See below.

Critical Pedagogy 4th Ed – Pivotal Experiences



May 17, 2023Read More
Back to the Books

Back to the Books

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

I love to share the books I am reading.

South Dakota One Book

The SD Humanities Council select One Book for us all to read each year.

“The Seed Keeper” by Diane Wilson

It tells the story of how the Dakhota women saved seeds for the next season and/or generation.  It is my understanding that the Lakota women did the same thing. The subplot is very much about 1862.  Hidden between the lines is the question: Who owned the land before the homesteaders?

2023 Young Readers One Book

“The Tale of Despereaux” by Kate DiCamillo

Love this book and will  try to  find my old copy somewhere.

“Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus. If you or your kids are interested in STEM/STEAM (a.k.a., science), this is a must read. I highly recommend it for women and all men.


“Remarkably Bright Creatures” by Shelby Van Pelt. Loved this story, which is basically about a woman growing older. However, it is the first book I have ever read where an octopus is one of the narrators. I loved the chapters when the octopus was thinking, observing, reflecting, and speaking.  As a friend told me (Thanks, Cissa) there is a dynamite sentence near the end of the book, which I would love.  And, I did!!  Actually, I whooped when I found it. It pulled the whole book together.

Of course,  I continue to read any book about women and books.

Also, I continue to read any banned  books. It always feels like it is the non-readers who try to ban books from us, readers. It is not working here.

BEST.BOOK of the year (for me)!

Blue: A History of the Color and as Deep  as the Sea and Wide as the Sky” by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond and Illustrated by Daniel Minter

I absolutely loved this gorgeous book.  If you are a teacher of any age group, you will find it filled with history, geography, science, social studies, and art. If you are not in school, it is just pure joy also.

I took a copy over to Atall, a little country school near us (50 mi. away).  And, I also took a copy for Missy Urbaniak, the teacher,  so she could read it to the kids.

I also took some chapter history books and a selection of the new Little Golden books.

Oh, how I love these kids.  Just had to grab a quick hug.











Literacy educators/teachers/librarians always talk about how kids need to see themselves in the books they read.  Me, too. This is why I dug out my Judith Viorst and Mary Pipher books. I seem to find myself on every page of these two stacks of books.



May 3, 2023Read More
SD Board of Regents

SD Board of Regents

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

My six-year term of service as a member of the South Dakota Board of Regents has ended, and the other members of the board, the central staff, and academic leaders of the six universities and two special school gave me a very special “send-off” which I will always  treasure.  During my term of service, I had the opportunity to make incredible memories and friendships which I will carry always in my heart.

The following photos capture the joy which I experienced. Thank you to Elizabeth Varin of Northern State University and Shuree Mortenson, Director of Communications, of the SD Board of Regents.

I must have been pretty happy with whatever was just said.  I love looking at the expressions on the faces of my friends, the academic folks, behind me.

Dr. Erin Fouberg, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dr. Anna Schwan, Dean of School of Business and Interim Dean of School of Education of Northern State University.

Harvey Jewett, Regent Board president from 1997 to 2017.

A  humbling moment…

These are my fellow board members.

I  gave a book as my gift to each board member.  I wrapped each Little Golden  book without  a name tag and  told them that the gifts were similar and different, and if they did not like their book, they could trade. I did notice that Judge Bastian received the book on Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Jeff Partridge received the book on Dolly Parton, so in the end it must be true that the universe takes care of all of us.

You can see that it was a moment which I will treasure forever. Thank you, friends.





April 23, 2023Read More
Post AERA Reflection

Post AERA Reflection


Hi WinkWorld Readers,

We are home from AERA in Chicago. Dawn, our daughter, did such a great reflection on it, that I am simply doing a copy/paste of her blog, DewDrops. We were so fortunate to present with Dr. Nerida Blair from Australia, who shared her Indigenous roots.

Thanks for sharing, Dawn.

I was very happy with how our ideas were received.  My topic was story, and I was able to share 3 of the 4 stories, which were live-linked in the last WinkWorld (see below). Our participants were fabulous: Very engaged and willing to share their own stories.  They came from various universities and had diverse interests.  Fascinating colleagues!  The conversations among us were very animated after our session, also.

If you have a minute, I encourage you to note the work of Dr. Ingrid Anderson from Portland State University on DewDrops.  During our session, I was so intrigued how she drew her understandings as we spoke. 

Below please enjoy Dawn’s reflection of our experience during AERA.



April 19, 2023Read More
AERA 2023, Chicago, April 13 to April 16

AERA 2023, Chicago, April 13 to April 16

Hi WinkWorld Readers,

I have completed my term of six years on the Board of Regents, and now I have one more conference to go, the American Educational Research Association with Dawn and and an a colleague from Australia, Nerida Blair.

Our time/location/ title is posted near the bottom of this WinkWorld.  However, my topic is  easy and fun for me.   I am speaking about The Power of Story. In what follows is a peak into a part of what I will share.

I have never written this before, but one of the problems with growing up mother-less is that you have no stories.  The reason that I love this photo so much is that it makes me wonder: Who put those curls in my hair?  Who  bought that dress?  Where was I going?

I am prepared with 4 short stories: The Chalk, Oh Fudge, Three Perspective, and The Blueberries. I am guessing that I will probably only get time for one or two stories, and I will decide which stories to share based the needs of the audience.  If they are serious experienced researchers, I will probably choose “The Chalk,” as it takes a funny story about a statistics class and leads to a greater discussion of the dominance of quantitative research to more acceptance of qualitative research. During my teaching and researching career, I experienced this transformation in all of the types of research.

The Chalk

I will begin with a brief mention of the significance of old-fashioned blackboards and chalk when I started teaching (Great Valley High School, Malvern, PA, Spanish 1, 2, 3, & 4) in 1966.  Often times in a presentation, I have participants, who have no experience with a blackboard. From here I jump right into the mid-1980s when I was working on  my Ph.D. at TX A&M.

The Chalk story is about a very serious gentleman professor who taught the doctoral level of statistics.  A friend had given me a heads-up and told me to sit front and center and not to take my eyes off the prof, which, of course, I did.  The prof did not allow us to use computers, nor calculators.  We did every weeks’ assignment on yellow legal pad: Pages and pages of yellow legal pad.  He reviewed every single page and returned the pages the following week with corrections.  He spent every class period working out each step of each problem on the blackboard.

As you might image, chalk dust flew in every  direction. Finally one day, when we were all bleary-eyed with statistics and chalk dust, and I am sure that I was the only student still keeping an eye on him, this highly-respected prof was writing on the chalk board and quietly popped an entire new stick of chalk into his mouth and chewed it and swallowed it. He continued to solve the problem on the board.  My friend had told me that he would do it, and he did.  To my absolute delight!   I turned around and looked all around the class, and I could not find one other student (of the 50 students) who saw him eat that chalk.  I do remember a small twinkle in his eye  as class continued.

Two Perspectives

Oh, Fudge

Three Perspectives (Dayna’s story)

The Blueberries by Jamie Vollmer

I think Vollmer’s story helps us understand why a school is not a business.

Why a School Is Not a Business


TITLE of symposium

Education Research through Indigenous Frameworks, Story, and Scholarly Personal Narrative in Pursuit of Multiple Truths


April 13, 2023, Thursday

2:50 to 4:20 CDT

Chicago Marriott Downtown

4th Floor Armitage Avenue Ballroom







April 10, 2023Read More
Books 2023, January

Books 2023, January

Hi WinkWorld Readers,

Happy New Year to us all! Let’s keep on reading this year.  In this WinkWorld, I will share a bit about some of  the books, which I have enjoyed in the last 3 months.

Atall School

Reading with these students is my joy. I learn about so many good  books from the students.  Atall, as many of you know, is a small rural K-8 school on the isolated prairies of South Dakota.

Atal School

Missy Urbaniak is the teacher and my cousin.  Here she is holding the new Donalyn Miller/Colby Sharp book about building a classroom library.

Missy Urbaniak

Books For Kiddos, Tweens, Teens, and Me

The stack of books below are some of the books discussed at Atall.

First, C.S. Lewis: This was the book which the kids found on their desks, when school began in the fall.  Missy is a fabulous Read-Aloud reader, and the kids are mesmerized when she reads.  Second, the younger students will read “The Lemonade War” by Jacqueline Davies.  In the story one student is “word smart,” and another is “number smart,” which took several of us back to Multiple Intelligences. We had a wide-ranging conversation which involved scholars from several states.  Eventually, this discussion led me back to a former student, whom I had not heard from in years.  She now has her doctorate, and we have our first ZOOM scheduled.  All because the Atall kids will be reading this novel.  The third book in this stack below is a page-turner historical novel, “Words on Fire” by Jennifer A. Nielsen about the resistance of  the Lithuanians, when the Russian army marched into Lithuania.  A heart-breaking story of trying to save books written in Lithuanian in order to save the language, culture, and identity of being Lithuanian. I know the students will understand and respect the Ukranians more when they read this book. Fourth, “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett was a new copy with new cover, which Missy gifted me. Finally, “The Christmas Pig” by J.K. Rowling entertained us all.

Books for kids, tween, teens, and me

What’s Whole about Whole Language?

Recently, I have had the joy of ZOOMING with a group of professionals connected to the University of AZ, as we re-read Ken Goodman’s ideas on whole language. 

Book Cover: What's Whole About Whole Language
Book Cover: Whole Language 21st Century

Hearing Carole Edelsky do Close Reading of the text is pure pleasure.  Carole, as many of you know, is  the author of “With Literacy and Justice for All.”

Adelberto M. Guerrero

Cuando mis Hijos sean Grandes
Surprising my favorite professor

I had the pleasure of surprising my favorite prof ever, when he was honored for his book, “Cuando Mis Hijos Sean Grandes.” This pix is dear Profe Beto and his daughter.

Mary Pipher Books

A Life in Light

If you have been following, WinkWorld, you know that I am a great fan of Pipher; I think I have read all of her books.  I made the mistake of talking about her to a group of readers, so now next week I have to share about this book.  Oh dear, I have not touched it since last November.

Mary Pipher books

Books Waiting for Me to Dive In

Demon Copperhead
The Woman in the Library

Rethinking the Education of Multilingual Learners



January 5, 2023Read More