2 Reasons Students Hate Writing For You

I’m going to be a little vulnerable. Early in my career, the most common result produced from the flow of my writing instruction was students developing an aversion to writing. Students weren’t rewarded unless they conformed to the high-stakes scoring guide and assignment parameters. At the same time, students were engaging in all kinds of low-stakes writing that was rewarding, to them at least: social media and text messaging.

Talking with other teachers over the years showed me that this was a common experience. Most of us struggle to get students motivated to write. And most of us aren’t even asking for students to like the academic writing we assign. We want them to maybe appreciate it or see some small value in how it develops them into better students on their way to college. But that rarely develops in students. Why?

Let’s take a closer look at two reasons students hate writing for you.  Continue reading “2 Reasons Students Hate Writing For You”

Get Your Students to Write Over 20,000 Words This Year

This year, I’m going to get my students to write over 20,000 words. And I’m not even counting the essays they are going to type.

At the start of the year, my students will begin building a Writer’s Notebook. This is a place the will house low-stakes, pressure-free writing, lessons on sentence craft, and a place where they will practice thinking through revision.

Here’s the English teacher math that came up with 20,000+ words:

  • 150 words per page
  • 5 pages of writing a week
  • 15 weeks of writing per semester

Continue reading “Get Your Students to Write Over 20,000 Words This Year”

What’s the 1 Thing I Can Do To Make My 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 did realize it. So I kept looking.

It turns out the answer came in year three of my teaching. I gave it a try then. Several times actually. But because I couldn’t make it work on those trials, I decided that it wasn’t for me and moved on. But now I’m back, and more convinced than ever.

What makes students better writers? The answer is simple: More writing.

That’s it. Make them write more. 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.

Stop! We need to get something cleared up first. When you think of student writing, you think of an assignment that is long and complicated, like an essay, right? Sure, that’s a type of student writing. And if that’s the only kind of writing assignment you give, then you are probably thinking that more of that will just drive you and your students nuts. And you would be correct. Nobody wants students to write more and more essays, especially because someone (you) would have to grade those essays! Continue reading “What’s the 1 Thing I Can Do To Make My Students Better Writers?”

Start Grading Papers Online Right Away: Part 1

After misplacing another student assignment, I was at my wits’ end. I work on a high school campus where teachers don’t have an assigned classroom. That means we move from room to room. Last year, I taught in two different rooms (Some of my colleagues taught in three!). Let me give you a snapshot of what it was like.

I would bring my load with me to each place. In classroom # 1, I would set up and teach for three periods. Then I would strike my workstation, and move it all to a common office all the English teachers shared, and set it up again to work on my prep period. Then I would strike it, move it, and set it up in Classroom # 2. Then I would strike it all and go home, usually setting up again to work on some open items left over from the day.

This was Monday through Friday. No wonder I lost papers! Midyear, I started getting desperate. I had to find a way to collect papers, keep a hold of them, and get the back to the students, all while on the move. I was past the point where I would let my skepticism keep me from trying online grading. So I started looking around. And what I found has forever changed how I will collect and grade essays.

This is a layered process that seems complex from the outside looking in. So I will post it in two parts. Continue reading “Start Grading Papers Online Right Away: Part 1”

The 6 Reasons You Should Grade Student Work Electronically

I’m a big believer in pen and paper. Students should write on paper as often as possible. I resist the prediction that one day screens will replace paper. There are so many cognitive benefits to putting pen to paper for writing that the keyboard will never be able to compete with. But when it comes to assessing student work, especially essays, I am starting to see things differently.

One of the main reasons I am transitioning to grading student work on the computer is because I teach on a campus where no teacher has his or her own classroom. We all rotate. Some of us multiple times because our campus has more students than rooms. There are some arguments that can be made for this way of operating a school, but after teaching there for four years, I can attest that the biggest argument against this operation is losing papers.

When a teacher is misplacing and searching for papers regularly, that person is going to look for any way to reduce the stacks. So I transitioned to grading student essays through certain Google apps, and I really like the results.

Here are the 6 reasons you should grade student work electronically.  Continue reading “The 6 Reasons You Should Grade Student Work Electronically”

5 Ways to Nudge Students to Engage with Outside Reading

Monday’s post gave 4 factors to persuade teachers to start giving outside reading assignments. I am sure, however, that there are still concerns about the average student’s motivation to complete this assignment and avoid the temptation to cut corners by cheating. I share in those concerns.

Over the years, though, I have come up with ways to steer students to complete their outside reading assignment with fidelity. I still have to watch for apathy and student who insist on cutting corners, but I spend far less energy on that element of the assignment than I used to.

Here are 5 ways to nudge students to engage with their outside reading.  Continue reading “5 Ways to Nudge Students to Engage with Outside Reading”