Fear of Being Wrong: A Candid Conversation About Calling Out Students

It’s been a while since my last blog post. Welcoming our fourth child into our home has disrupted more than a few of our routines. But I am excited to share this post because you get the chance to listen in on a conversation about what students experience when sitting in our classrooms, waiting to see if the teacher will call on them.

At the opening of spring semester, one of my sophomores wrote an entry in her Writer’s Notebook titled, “The Fear of Being ‘Wrong’.” Shay’s brief 150+ word depiction of what goes through her mind when she shares a wrong answer in a classroom setting was captivating! Shortly after reading it, I asked her if she would let me post it here at Make Them Master It. Not only did she allow me to publish her entry, she also was willing to sit down with me and record a conversation about it. Continue reading “Fear of Being Wrong: A Candid Conversation About Calling Out Students”

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!”

My FREE Online Course: Why You Should Sign Up Today!

ELA teachers, when it comes to writing instruction, I have found no other method, tool, or program that has as much impact as The Writer’s Notebook. Yes, there are great strategies around every corner, many of which you and I are currently using in your classroom. But how would you like to amplify their effect, taking them further than you thought possible?

Here were my top pain points as a writing teacher:

  • Students would learn a writing lesson, but they were not applying it in their writing
  • Students were not transferring writing lessons from one assignment to the next
  • Students didn’t keep their learning organized, which made recall a challenge
  • I never felt like they were writing enough

==> I’M SURE YOUR STORY’S GREAT, BUT I WANT TO SIGN UP FOR THE COURSE RIGHT NOW!! <==

Before I really figured how to use The Writer’s Notebook with my students, my students weren’t retaining my writing lessons at a level that I found satisfying as a teacher. I worked really hard to create engaging lessons that held their interest, assuming that this method would have lasting impact on their writing habits. Although I did find there was incremental improvement in my impact on student achievement, I was still left unsatisfied.  Continue reading “My FREE Online Course: Why You Should Sign Up Today!”

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 furiously flip the book to the spot where I had the epiphany in a desperate search for answers that aren’t there, panic, admit defeat, let the lesson die, sulk, 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”