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May 23, 2017

Noticeable Shifts in the Big Questions on Students' Minds

This year, I revived a poetry station which I haven't used in three years: bibliomancy. In it, students ask a question, and use a special process involving books to write a poem prophesying the future. Reading the questions they ask always gives me pangs of compassion for my students, who are in the throes of adolescence. What caught my attention this year, though, was a new category of questions I had not seen before--questions about humankind in general, and its future.

March 15, 2017

What Do We Do About the Whole-Class Novel?

The debate around the use of novels in English classes of all age groups is at least twenty years old, but it remains unresolved, continually bubbling up in blog posts and conversations among a wide range of concerned educators: what do we do about the whole class novel? In this post, I analyze the state of current teaching trends with regard to novels, and offer two propositions for moving the debate forward.

January 24, 2017

How to Talk About Sexism in the Classroom

Educators and others who think about social issues--I can use some help: I got into a conversation with students in English class today about sexism, brought up by a pattern (out of the classroom, but among our students) of MS boys making critical comments about girls' bodies. In the course of an energized, basically positive conversation, some boys brought up that girls can be sexist, too. In a moment that I could have handled better, I argued against this, instead of probing further.

January 17, 2017

Understanding Students With Broken Relationships to Reading

Many of our struggling readers did not grow up with a consistent reading ritual at home; instead, they were exposed to books mostly in school. What was that context like for them?

December 28, 2016

When Real Reading Isn't Happening ... Four Ways to Respond

One of the most fundamental routines in an English or any literacy-based classroom is the practice of reading. So what do we do when we give students a reading task, but we see that real reading is not happening? I'm talking about those moments when it seems like we're stuck repeating directions, redirecting off task behavior, and even struggling to stay focused ourselves. Maybe it's just a wonky moment--or maybe it's time to step back, evaluate what's really going on, and change course.

December 20, 2016

Focus on Meaningful Interactions With Students This Holiday Season

"I know from personal experience (growing up Jewish in a non-Jewish community) that school around this time can feel isolating," writes Ariel Sacks.

November 18, 2016

Simple Ways to Hold Students Accountable for Bringing Materials

It's the start of class, and the opening task is to read quietly. "Can I go to my locker to get my book?" a student asks. I give a disapproving look, because she should have her book with her, but I say yes. I have no extra copy to offer, and I don't want her to spend the period unproductive. Another student asks to get her book from her locker. I'm irritated, but I say yes.

November 10, 2016

Election 2016 Feels Like None Other in My Classroom

"If both of your parents are immigrants, do they deport you too, or do you get put into a foster home?" one of my middle school students asked yesterday afternoon. "I've asked this to some other teachers, but I still don't know the answer," she added. It had been on her mind all day. I've taught through four presidential elections. This one feels in no way normal.

November 01, 2016

Five Questions to Ask When Conflict Arises With a Student

What can we do to move forward in the moment when our agenda and a student's agenda seem to clash?

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