Kelly Gallagher’s Books Aren’t as User-Friendly as Teachers Think They Are

Has this ever happened to you when reading one of Kelly Gallagher’s books (or a book by another inspiring teacher-writer)? You read about a practice in his classroom, stare off into the distance, the look of epiphany on your face, and with a raised pointer finger you declare “I must start doing this today,” slam the book shut, and start typing up lesson plans. Now, let’s say you finish those lesson plans, does everything go smoothly in the classroom?

For me, it’s hit and miss. Sometimes the lessons are clear, and I can start using them right away. But some, for me, are complete bombs. The failures usually go like this: I hit an obstacle I did not anticipate, I furiously flip the book to the spot where I had the epiphany in a desperate search for answers that aren’t there. Next, I panic, admit defeat, let the lesson die a quiet death, sulk, and then move on. Continue reading “Kelly Gallagher’s Books Aren’t as User-Friendly as Teachers Think They Are”

Encountering Parents in the Wild

On the first day of Summer, I was up before dawn and off to the local coffee shop. The plan was to go in to the district office at 7:30 am to earn some overtime working with fellow teachers planning next year’s curriculum. But before that, I wanted to get in 90 minutes typing my next book Make Them Score It, the follow up to my first title Make Them Process It.

The plan was to have a quiet, contemplative, and focused morning. That’s not quite what happened. The gentleman sitting next to me, who appeared to be getting an early jump on his work as well, was very friendly, and we started talking. Continue reading “Encountering Parents in the Wild”

School’s Out: Closing the Book on My Thirteenth Year of Teaching

It’s been a while since I have posted. The last time I wrote for Make Them Master It, I was beginning to explore what it would look like to ditch the grade book and go gradeless in the classroom. I was excited to post about what I was learning and get the conversation going here. But then something got in the way: grading essays.

So, the growing education trend I was getting really excited about (going gradeless in the classroom) had to wait until I was done . . . grading? And the assessment that I set myself up for during that time was intense! For catharsis at the time, I even used the Twitter hashtag #AmGrading.

But it was rewarding. More on that some other time. Continue reading “School’s Out: Closing the Book on My Thirteenth Year of Teaching”

3 FREE Tools to Make Writing Assessment Meaningful

Some time ago, I did a few posts (here, here and here) on tools I use for online grading. Since I am in the middle of assessing a big student paper, I thought I would shoot a quick video of how I use in writing assessment.

The three tools are . . .

Continue reading “3 FREE Tools to Make Writing Assessment Meaningful”

What’s the 1 Thing You Can Do To Make Your Students Better Writers?

For the first ten years of my career, this was a question I wrestled with constantly. I purchased my fair share of books and attended more than a few workshops in search of the answer. I DID find it, but I didn’t realize it at the time. Then I kept looking.

The answer came in my third year on the job: Make them write more. That’s it! Make them write everyday. Make them write at the start of a lesson. Make them write at the end of a lesson. Make them write for homework. Write. Write. Write.

How? There are a lot of ways a teacher can do this. For me, the answer came in the form of The Writer’s Notebook.

MTPI Cover Compbook TG (1)

In year three, I gave it a try. And I failed. Several times actually. And because I couldn’t make it work on those trials, I decided to give up and moved on.

But now I’m back! And I am even more convinced that this is the best tool in a writing teacher’s equipment bag.

Continue reading “What’s the 1 Thing You Can Do To Make Your Students Better Writers?”

Low-Stakes Writing: 4 Reasons This Practice Makes Your Students Better Writers

It’s that time of the year when most ELA teachers are looking to get serious about writing instruction. Maybe this is point where you start thinking about assigning a capstone-like writing project. And in the coming months you plan to block out a significant portion of your calendar to get your students ready.

But your beginning to feel a creeping anxiety as the time approaches. You remember all the missteps the students have taken in recent years. And though you have improved your writing instruction over time, the progress your students have made really hasn’t been as quick or as transformative as you had hoped. Continue reading “Low-Stakes Writing: 4 Reasons This Practice Makes Your Students Better Writers”

4 Ways To Beat the Cheat

“This paper doesn’t read like his other writing. It’s good. A little too good.”

If you have read student writing long enough, occasionally you come across a student who takes a big step up in skill and content. When this happens with my students, the first thing I do is search key phrases on Google. Usually, within minutes, I find the website they plagiarized. But on some occasions, I am stumped.

I know their writing, and I know this piece they turned in is not theirs. But the Google machine isn’t finding it no matter how hard I try.

Then I start to wonder.

Continue reading “4 Ways To Beat the Cheat”