Starting Up is NOT My Favorite

As a teacher, setting up the year has to be one of the worst parts of the job. I mean it. I don’t like it. At. All.

I like that point in the year when things are already moving. I think it would be nice if I could have some sort of assistant, maybe a clone, who started up the year for me, and then right when everything was running smoothly, I come in and get to the part of teaching I like most.

Think about it. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could walk into your classroom and . . .

  • The seating charts were made,
  • The grade books were set up with a few assignments entered,
  • You already know all your students’ names, and
  • The students already know all your quirky procedures?

Continue reading “Starting Up is NOT My Favorite”

Tired in My Bones

Yesterday was the first day of school. I was ready. It went very well. My students had a good time. Even though it was good, I’m tired. So tired.

I even had quite a bit of coffee. It didn’t matter. I’m. Just. Tired.

I wanted to have something more profound to say. Something insightful. Something inspiring.

All that comes to mind is, “I’m tired in my bones.”

How about you? How did the first day of school in Fall 2017 go? Share in the comment section below.

Want Your Students to Read More? Make Them Sign Up!

Last year I set out to solve the riddle of how to get students to do more independent reading. I was convinced that if they were able to choose their books and if they stuck with that book long enough, they would enjoy reading. I don’t know to what extent my students would claim they enjoyed their reading, but I did find some great ways to nudge them to do more of it.

In today’s post I will share with you the top nudge in getting students to complete more independent reading. And the tip comes from the psychological effect of signing your name.

Continue reading “Want Your Students to Read More? Make Them Sign Up!”

Let’s Do This!

It’s time to start. Today is the first day I report back to the school site for the 2017-2018 school year. And I am pumped!

At the same time, I am a bit of a mess. I am writing this post with no where to sit because my wife and I decided that the first day I report back to work was a great time to get the flooring done for the entire downstairs of our house. Okay, I decided. She said, “Are you sure,” many times. My response was, “It’s already going to be chaotic starting back up, we might as well add another layer.”

I don’t know if that bring-it-on kind of thinking is healthy, but I do know that it causes me to look at circumstances differently. I know that I will have students this year that live inside of chaos. They have true hardships that go way beyond my circumstances, and so me adding a pinch of the chaotic to my week is a reminder of that.

Also, I find that when the pressure is dialed up a little bit more, I get a little better. I get more focused. In my head, I have to cut out anything that is less than essential. This helps me keep my eyes on what matters most. And at the start of the school year, that’s what I need.

It’s also a drill for when things get really tough. I don’t know what surprises lie in wait for me, but I want to be ready. I want to be in shape. This brings to mind one of my favorite films from the 90s, Crimson Tide. The movie takes place on a nuclear powered submarine and is a battle of the wills between the captain, played by Gene Hackman, and the first officer, played by Denzel Washington. Early on in the film, a kitchen fire erupts, which you could imagine is pretty frightening when your stuck inside a traveling underwater tube that recirculates all its air, even the smoky kind. As soon as the report of the fire reaches the bridge, Hackman’s character decides that it’s the time to take his crew through an Emergency Action Message drill.

Eventually, the crew makes it through the drill and gets the fire out, but it was hectic and costly. Washington’s character was befuddled: why would you run a drill when there was fire!? Hackman explains that it better simulates the conditions of war, and that’s what they’re training for. Drills by themselves can be carried out without requiring a lot of focus or energy because they aren’t real. But add in a little chaos and it will cause you to choose, to focus.

Rather than lament friction and a little chaos, I try to embrace it, learn from it. There is opportunity in it. I want to practice, right now, how to find my strength in the midst uncertain circumstances. I want to be able to plod on when things are tough. I need to take every opportunity to prepare for hard times because there is no guarantee I will avoid them. But most importantly, I want to be strong enough to find the joy amidst the chaos because good things are happening. Even when its confusing and painful, good things can come out the other side.

In that spirit, let the school year begin! Bring on the hard work begin. I am looking forward to it.

Let’s do this!

 

How to Find Great Lesson Ideas: Don’t Use Pinterest!

Pinterest used to be my go-to app to find great lesson ideas. Now, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great lessons pinned there. But when I’m looking to do something innovative, then I’m in the market for FREE. And I used to find that on Pinterest. But, it seems, the days of people pinning helpful websites out of the goodness of their heart are gone. At least this is my experience in the education space. Now, I see Pinterest as platform to advertise crafty projects, some of which are not easy on the budget.

In the last few years, when I have plugged in keywords for a lesson idea, clicked ‘search’ and eagerly awaited the app to assemble all the search optimized pins, I would be hopeful I could find a quick solution. Eventually I found that I was giving up my searches after the top 5 pins would all direct me to Teachers Pay Teachers.

For the record, I think Teachers Pay Teachers is a great space for what it does, but I want to go there on my own terms. Not be redirected through Pinterest.

So, if Pinterest is out, what should we do instead? Fortunately, I have hack to share with you.

Continue reading “How to Find Great Lesson Ideas: Don’t Use Pinterest!”

3 Reasons to Get the FREE Preview of My Book, Right Now

I couldn’t wait. Make Them Process It isn’t done yet. I still have to send it to an editor, but I just couldn’t hold back any longer. I want you to see what’s in there. There is some really good, practical stuff I want to get into your hands before the full release of the book. Consider it a back to school gift!

All summer long I have been putting my energy into writing a book that solves many challenges inevitably come with writing instruction:

  • Getting students to generate their own writing topics
  • Teaching grammar using a method that really sticks
  • Taking students beyond surface-level revision
  • Assessing multiple student drafts lightning quick
  • Developing a mature voice in young writers and
  • Celebrating the quality work students are completing in your classroom

I know many teachers who are looking for ways to streamline their writing instruction into a unified whole. They want to take all those discrete skills and put them all together in one place. I’m not going to say that Make Them Process It is the final answer, but it is at least several steps in that direction.

Here are 3 reasons why you should download this free preview, right now.

1. It is flexible and accommodatingMake Them Process It is not curriculum or a list of assignments. Instead, it is a how-to guide for getting maximum power out of a student composition book. Rather than disrupt your carefully planned instruction, I want to use this book as a way to come alongside you and offer support ongoing.

As you are thinking through how to deliver highly effective writing lessons, Make Them Process It can help you consider your academic year as whole, get your students to generate a lot more writing, teach your students how to revise their work at a deeper level, and help them integrate those grammar and craft lessons into their writing.

Please, keep doing what you’re doing. I don’t want you to change your lesson plans. But let Make Them Process It help you figure out how to organize everything that’s good about your teaching to uncover value in ways you have yet to consider.

2. You get ongoing support. I don’t like the idea of creating a product, convincing people to buy it, thanking the customers for their purchase, and then walking away. That doesn’t sit well with me.

Instead, I want to hear from you. I want to help you figure out how to make the teaching of writing effective and engaging for you and your students. I don’t want you to buy my book and then disappear into your classroom. I want to hear about your struggles and offer help where I can.

In 2007, I first heard about the Writer’s Notebook in a keynote address from Kelly Gallagher. I was convinced! I got started with the notebook right away, but shortly after launch, it fell out of use. I did this a few more times, eventually walking away. It took another keynote address from Kelly Gallagher several years later, with him still holding up that notebook, for me to give it another try. But this time, I was determined–I was going to get students to fill up that notebook!

And I did it too. I got through that year; it was hard. I wanted to quit more than once. I got confused, discouraged, and stuck. Several times I wanted to cry out for help, but I didn’t know who, if anyone, was listening. So, I soldiered on, made it through, and it turned out to be a rewarding experience. But if I had support at the time I needed it, I am convinced I could have taken all my efforts even further.

That’s what I want to give you. Even if you’re a pro writing teacher, I am convinced I have new value to offer you in Make Them Process It. And if your taking the plunge for the first time and need to call out for help at key moments, you should have someone there to walk with you. I’m here.

3. It won’t be free for long. In a few short weeks, the full version of Make Them Process It will be ready for release and this offer might be off the table. I don’t want you to miss out.

Pick up your free preview of the book after taking a brief survey. This is the only thing I am going ask from you in taking me up on this offer: five minutes of your time. When you click “submit” at the end of the survey, you will get access to the preview copy of the book. Take the survey and claim your free preview copy of Make Them Master It, right now!

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Share this offer with others who are looking for these solutions. Click on the social media buttons below to tell your friends.

Stick around for a discussion too: What is your #1 single biggest challenge in getting your students to integrate your lessons into their writing assignments? Answer in the comment section below.

My Top 3 Apps to Get Through the Whole School Year

If you’re anything like me, daily organization is a challenge. Additionally, I am also challenged with consistency–being able to stick with something for an entire year. I tend to get excited about an idea I want to put into my classroom right away. I am full of enthusiasm when I launch the idea, but then it eventually falls out of focus. It usually ends with the next big exciting idea that comes along, and the cycle starts all over again.

Thankfully, I have found a few FREE mobile apps that have really been a remarkable help at keeping me organized and focused through an entire school year. Apps I can trust to really help me, deliver long-term, broad use, and are user-friendly.

Now, I wouldn’t describe myself as a technophile teacher. You won’t walk into my classroom and see blinking tech hanging off my body with my students pointing their phones at me as part of a lesson. But the easy-to-use tech I’m about to tell you about can be downloaded to your mobile phone and easily integrated into the flow of your day. 

Continue reading “My Top 3 Apps to Get Through the Whole School Year”