Three Things Thursday (17 Aug)

3things-thursday

Our students have been back in school for two weeks now.  For many other places, they are just going back (or getting ready to go back).  The beginning of school is a time of reflection.  This week’s three things I read worth sharing helped me be more reflective of my practice.

1. Risk-taking in the Writer’s Notebook by Lanny Ball

This is a beautifully written blog on our responsibilities as teachers to take risks in our own writing so that students take risk in their writing.  She talks about how taking risks is where learning happens.

The point here is, if you are a writing workshop teacher, a writer’s notebook is likely a structure you harness in your classroom.  And you likely build language around the value of this tool because you believe it to be instrumental in supporting student writing improvement.  This year, consider being a stand and a model for experimenting and risk-taking in the notebook.

2. Ten Ways to Ditch the Reading Log by Heather Marshall

What I love most about this blog post is that she not only suggests alternative (and authentic) ways to see what kids are reading,  but she also posts pictures and videos of student work.  This is someone who is really doing the work and sharing it with us!

When I read a book that I really enjoy, I want to share it with others. I do not show them my reading log and say, “Hey you should read this, it’s really good.” I want them to read it too, so that we can talk about it.  So I had to ask myself, “Why exactly do I assign students to record pages, titles, summaries, and minutes of reading on a worksheet?” I want them to read, but how is this table with parent signatures making them want to read?

3. The Most Important Thing by John Spence

This is a short TEDTalk.  While he talks about finding success in college and in life, I think there are many implications for finding success as teachers.  We have to be aware and intentional in the choices we make in our professional life as well as our personal life.  And our choices should be focused on honing our craft so we can be the best teachers possible for our students.

The single most important things I’ve learned … you become what you focus on and you become like the people you spend time with.

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Students give advice to us (English teachers)

2016-02-09 10.08.13I’m at the Georgia Council Teachers of English Conference (#gcte16) this weekend (more to come on that next blog post). As I was telling my students yesterday, I was going to be out for a conference, I had an idea. I asked them to write what advice they would give if they were speaking to a room full of English teachers.

That’s it.

It was one of those on the spur-of-the-moment ideas—just meant for me to see what they thought was important. But as I began to read them, I realized the power in what they had to say, and I wanted to share.

Here are a few of their responses for your enjoyment and reflection. (I’ve only edited for clarity or to remove personal information.)

  •  Don’t kill good books by overloading them with assignments.
  • We’re all young people trying to find ourselves. Nothing hurts more than to hear or feel that our opinions don’t matter. Let us know that our opinions count and you’ll be amazed at how many people raise their hands when questions are asked.
  •  English teachers need to know that not all of us have time to read but still love to read.
  •  Some students are introverts, so I think school should be open to different personalities rather than having everything to the advantage of extroverts. I think there should be more ways to showcase your thoughts without having to embarrass yourself.
  •  We sit the whole day listening to teacher after teacher. Most students would like a change in routine. My advice is to not always talk and we listen, change things up a bit.
  •  Reading is amazing and we need more ways to get involved, such as book talks and more time to really enjoy books!
  •  Literature is a blessing. It helps us understand the meanings of life and many students neglect that. Help make literature interesting so students don’t take it for granted.
  •  The books we are forced to read only appeal to a small minority of us dependent upon the book. I hated Of Mice and Men and loved Fahrenheit 451. Other people had different opinions. Since you can’t make everyone happy reading the same material, allow them to pick the book they read. It’s more difficult to grade but it produces better writing because students actually care. Also, let students pick their own writing prompts when analyzing literature. Everyone has unique thinking when they read the text, so they can best come up with an essay displaying their actual thoughts if they’re allowed to. Prompts limit thinking.
  •  Teach by example and give choices.
  •  We don’t come to school knowing how to write a perfec2016-02-09 12.38.21t paper. We need step-by-step guidance and useful tips in order to write successfully.
  •  Allow students to rewrite papers so we can learn from our mistakes.
  • Remember that students have other classes and homework, so don’t give too much homework because they can become overloaded.
  • Sitting in groups everyday helps me brainstorm and ask questions with other students.
  • Writing a paper with a bod prompt is miserable. Choices are good and good choices are great. Writing a paper about a topic you don’t hate is much more enjoyable.
  • Show students that you are willing to put in the same amount of work as you assign your students. I know I would stay up to 5 am if necessary to write a great paper or create a meaningful project if I know the teacher puts in the same effort to grade and give feedback on my work.
  • Give students room to be creative in their writing.
  • I really enjoy learning so sometimes I feel like if we rush through lessons or books the importance of learning is no longer there and it is as though teachers are more concerned with meeting the deadline than actually getting us to learn.
  • We’re not professional writers and you’re going to have to help us.
  • We like to read and write about what we actually want to write and read about. It is no fun being forced on books that bore us.
  • Teach advanced concepts but use simple vocabulary. We want to learn but sometimes it is hard for us to understand.
  • To really teach us it is so important to give us time to get things done. Without time our work won’t be good.
  • Teachers must let students read individual novels more.

Bonus Read:  Amy is always challenging.  Many of the things I try in my classroom are sparked by her honest reflections of her own classroom.  This post titled, “Choice Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Personal Connection: A reflection for a do-over,” is no different.  I think any teacher who has every tried choice or wants to try choice needs to read this.