What Letter Would You Give This Number?

First semester in my district came to a close yesterday. All my students’ grades have been shipped to the front office. Though there is a sense of satisfaction in closing the book on first semester, for me that feeling is mingled with malaise.

Everything I planned, taught, assessed and scored, all those hours communicating with students and parents has been distilled down into one letter. Think about that. A, B, C, D, or F. It all comes down to one of these options.

And this is a powerful letter! One will open doors for students. Another will close them. Continue reading “What Letter Would You Give This Number?”

English Teacher Math

Here’s a pic showing how I convert a 6×6 rubric:

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It makes sense if you don’t think about it.

To me, grading is maddening. Trying to take Language Arts, turn it into a number, and then that number turns into a letter. That letter, to certain degree, presents which opportunities are available to my students and which ones aren’t.

How do you handle grades?

Make Them Process It

Let me introduce you to your step-by-step guide to get your students to write more while you grade less.

MTPI Uncover New value no TG

Founded on the Writer’s Notebook practice introduced in Kelly Gallagher’s Teaching Adolescent Writers and Aimee Buckner’s Notebook Know How, and drawing on over decade of teaching experience, I present a convenient way to set up and run the Writer’s Notebook in the secondary classroom.

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To start, you will find tips about how to:

  • Prompt student writing,
  • Coach students to generate their own topics, and
  • Create ways to keep writing fresh for the entire school year.

But more than just providing a teacher’s guide for prompting students to fill a notebook with first-draft writing, you will walk through a step-by-step guide to help students:

  • Plan for revision,
  • Compose markedly improved second drafts,
  • Host conversations about their improved writing,
  • Add style to their writing through grammar instruction, and
  • Master the mental moves necessary to produce better drafts.

Out of Jeffery’s failures and successes over the past 13 years, he has put together a straightforward, “no nonsense” approach to teaching writing with The Writer’s Notebook.

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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!”