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”

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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Getting Students Beyond Superficial Revision

You’re about to get into today’s lesson: revising a first draft. Before you say the words, you can feel the collective groan gathering strength. When you finally come out with it, they are ready to revolt: “Today we’re going to revise your writing assignment!” And there it is.

They complain. They grunt violently. They look for pitchforks and other pointy objects to take up against you. And one student in the corner quietly Snapchats a selfie of an ice bag on her head. It’s clear. They don’t want to do this.

As I see it, a big problem is students think they are done with their writing. In the eyes of each student writer, what they put on paper looks “good enough.” They are done. If they understand it, then there’s nothing to revise. But even when I get them to see that their writing needs further work, all I get from them are superficial changes. They may change a punctuation mark or two and a grammar mistake, but they almost never revise for content and purpose.

Sound familiar?  Continue reading “Getting Students Beyond Superficial Revision”

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”