Last month, I attended a conference with Kelly Gallagher as the speaker. First of all, if you don’t know how much Kelly is #TeachingGoals, you better get hip! Secondly, he teaches at one of my former high schools. After only one semester, I opted to transfer because, at the age of 15, I recognized that I was not learning anything. When you have a love of learning and you’re deprived of it, it’s like corporal punishment. Knowing how great of a teacher Kelly G. is, and how much I hated that school, I’m glad there is some good coming out of the classroom.
Anyway, throughout his hour-long segment, Kelly gave the teachers a few tips. Here are a few quotes, and reflections, I jotted down:
As teachers, we really want to put a grade and measurement on everything so we can adjust instruction and all that jazz. Although most teachers spiral our instruction of the standards so students can see them throughout the school year, we also put grades on them, whether they are formative or summative, when they don’t fit our standards. Personally, I was taught that receiving a C meant I was average, and according to my mother, “I didn’t raise you to be average.” As a result, my expectations are higher than most people’s. Though I hold my students to a high standard, but I also recognize that grades can be very damaging at any level. As a former creative, I even reflect on how much my creative writing professor’s grading affected me. Despite being told by all of my peers, I completely shut down and began to hate writing. The same happens with our students. We can’t completely avoid giving them writing or grading, so I changed my way of commenting. I make it a point to identify at least two positives in their writing before giving them an area of focus.
This year, I am teaching 7th grade and a 7th grade Honors ELA class. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve noticed that my Honors class is my loudest and most talkative. After Kelly said this, I reflected on my own practice. My Honors students know they are intelligent. They can skate by simply by using context clues and skim reading because they grasp concepts a lot easier. Therefore, they tend to not close read as much as my Core classes. I still struggle with giving them more rigorous work, so I give them more writing assignments where they have to provide text evidence for their answers, as a method to getting them to close read. I’m still willing to learn so, if you have any tips, shoot them my way. Lol.
This quote hit home for me. I expect so much from my students’ writing, but I didn’t give them many opportunities to write creatively nor did they have a real-life model of what it takes to write well (or horribly, also). Kelly gave us many methods he uses to get his students to write, include my favorite, 100-word stories. One hour after leaving the conference, I went to the website (100wordstory.org) to get ideas. The next week after the conference, I implemented my first #WritingWednesday. I gave my students the following directions:
Directions: Write 100 words about one of your identities OR something school-related. (Over time, Ms. Beard will allow you to be more creative.) Your story must include the words “We dig” at least five times. Your story must be exactly 100 words. In order to check how many words you have, highlight your text below the line, select “Tools,” then select “Word count.” If you go over 100 words, begin removing words or changing your sentences to make it fit. If you are under 100 words, see where you can add more details or descriptions. Start writing below the line.
These are the responses I received:
They were absolutely amazing! As my students wrote, I wrote alongside them. In each and every period, they saw me writing. When I was done with each one, I put it on the projector. Some were funny. Some were HORRIBLE. I was proud of some of mine. As they wrote, I walked around and conferenced with at least two students each time, just giving them grammatical tips or word choice. By the end of the first week, I put them on the wall anonymously. Some students were proud, mortified, surprised. Their classmates didn’t know who wrote them, but the ones who were proud gladly told them it was theirs. Since I’ve been doing this weekly (sometimes, multiple times a week), I’ve noticed students becoming more aware of their word choice and details they add. I’ve also noticed that I feel more creative in my writing. I don’t ever grade these assignments (my students don’t know that, though), but it helps me to help students who are in different stages of their writing. Also, it’s less intimidating than throwing an essay or rubric in front of them and expecting them to follow it.
Here are a few more quotes from other speakers in the conference:
Anyway, if you ever get the chance to attend a Write to Literacy conference, please do so. It just may save your students’ creativity. If you can’t attend, at least purchase Kelly Gallagher’s books, Readicide or Write Like This.
*This may sound like an advertisement, but it’s not. I just really enjoy Kelly Gallagher’s books. Lol.