5 Ways to Nudge Students to Engage with Outside Reading

My previous post gave 4 factors to persuade teachers to start giving outside reading assignments. I am sure, however, that you still have concerns about your students’ motivation to complete an assignment like this while avoiding the temptation to cut corners and cheat. I share in those concerns.

Over the years, though, I have come up with ways to steer students to complete their outside reading assignment faithfully. I still have to guard against apathy and students who insist on cutting corners instead of doing the work, but I have drastically reduced the amount of energy I spend on keeping watch over this behavior. And I would like to share these tips with you! Continue reading “5 Ways to Nudge Students to Engage with Outside Reading”

The Transformative Power of the Writer’s Notebook

Over the course of this past academic year, I tasked my students with writing 150 entries–at least 150 words per entry–in their Writer’s Notebooks. I assigned specific topics, theme-weeks, story starters, and a lot of free writing over the span of those entries. I collected their work every three weeks (calling these due dates “checkpoints”), checked up on their writing, and gave it right back so they could keep going.

For the final checkpoint, I was burnt out and recently spent almost all my energy grading big inquiry-based argumentative essays and co-creating a live action role playing game inspired by Fahrenheit 451 (This will definitely be a post later on). I didn’t plan anything special for their final submission, so it was unassigned free-writing. But I received quite a gift from a few of my students! On their final entries, many of my students decided to treat it like a yearbook and leave me notes of appreciation, some thanking me for making them do all that writing.

Don’t take it from me, let’s hear from Robert:
Continue reading “The Transformative Power of the Writer’s Notebook”

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”

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”