Blending Versus Balancing

“How can I get everything done that I want to get done? I just need to find balance.”

Have you ever thought that before? I do all the time. I used to stress out about it. I would look at all the things that I had to do, I look at all the time I had available, then try to block out time on a calendar to get it all done. It was a dance of scheduling all kinds of activities.

Certain activities got priority over others, especially the ones that involved work and family. As my kids have gotten older, they have been participating in more activities, and that has added a layer of complexity to each week. When I have tried to take it all in, thinking through my schedule, there were times when it was quite dizzying. Continue reading “Blending Versus Balancing”

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

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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!”

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”

4 Signs Your Development as a Teacher May Be Delayed

Yep. That’s me. Coming from behind. The Professional Development (PD) that I have been offered over the course of my career has been marked by a few hits and many misses. I would like to blame the principal, the site, the district, lawmakers, or anyone but me. In fact, I used to blame them. A lot.

Overtime I began to see that the my lack of development wasn’t my school’s or district’s problem, it was something that I needed to take ownership for. I was an adult who knew how to do learning on his own. But there’s good news! Things are better, and I’m getting caught up. And there has never been a better time for a teacher like me to get answers to the burning questions they have.

Continue reading “4 Signs Your Development as a Teacher May Be Delayed”

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”

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.

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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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