Students Need to See Writing as a Process

I just had 170 students revise a piece of writing, and none of them complained about it. Let me qualify that. None of them groaned aloud obnoxiously, as if the assignment was causing them physical pain. For the most part, they completed their second draft with ease and some even expressed a mild delight that they made their writing a little better. A few voluntarily asked me for suggestions about how to word certain phrases. A few students expressed grave concern that they had exceeded the word limit (the accidentally wrote more than they were required).

This is a dramatic contrast to how my former students used to behave when they were presented with the notion that their writing needed to be fixed. Typically, the mere suggestion that they were not yet done with a piece of writing was met with sneers of derision. I had to drag them a long through what they thought was an agonizing process of revisiting a piece of writing they believed they had completed.

Not this time. Actually, not in recent memory.

What, you may ask, has made the difference?

Continue reading “Students Need to See Writing as a Process”

Teaching Revision: The One Change You Need to Make Right Away

My students used to scoff, sneer, or ignore my efforts to make them revise their writing. And almost every one of my attempts at getting students to take a second look at their own writing usually ended in discouragement.

For me, not too long ago, lightening struck. I made a change. I started to get my students to approach revision in a fresh way, and their attitudes completely changed. They spent real, invested time making their writing better. They stopped complaining about revision. And, wouldn’t you know it, their drafts got better. Many students even started inquiring, on their own, how to adjust their first draft writing to avoid making their usual first draft mistakes.

What did I do? The answer was surprisingly simple. Actually, anyone can do it. And it only requires a little extra energy to make it happen in your classroom. All you have to do is change one little thing and prepare for dramatic results. Continue reading “Teaching Revision: The One Change You Need to Make Right Away”

For Outside Reading, My Nudgiest Nudge Yet!

In a previous post about my top Outside Reading nudges, I said I was going to try and use a reading progress chart. I am beta testing it right now, and I am excited about the results that I am getting!

You see two things in the photo at the top of the post. One, the public sign up sheet where students declare a commitment to read a certain title for their outside reading assignment. Two, the Outside Reading Progress Chart — it’s the one that looks like the bar graph.

On day one of posting the progress chart, students were already saying the kinds of thing I was hoping to hear:

Continue reading “For Outside Reading, My Nudgiest Nudge Yet!”

3 Rules and Guidelines for the Writer’s Notebook

The centerpiece of writing instruction in my classroom is the Writer’s Notebook. And that begins with the students getting a composition book at the store at the start of the school year.

More specifically, I make them get a 100 page composition book. Not 70, not 80. 100. Since I have the students do a lot of writing, and a fairly decent amount of writing about writing, they need quite a bit of space for their words. I also want them to feel comfortable with all of the composing they will be doing, so I make sure to tell them to get wide-ruled–college-ruled is too tight, and doesn’t allow room for students to take notes in planning their revisions.

I also make sure that the Writer’s Notebook stays simple. One of the key features of the the notebook is that the writing is low-stakes. I will never put pressure on my students to write according to a rubric or scoring guide. They just need to write. Thus, I only give them 3 rules and guidelines. Continue reading “3 Rules and Guidelines for the Writer’s Notebook”

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!”