Trying Out Mastery Grading

What I Was Thinking Pretty much anyone who has been teaching a long time has figured out that traditional grading systems don’t work. Last spring, during my nineteenth year teaching 7th and 8th grade English, I decided to do something about it. Without getting too deep into my disillusionment with traditional letter grades, I’ll just […]

4 EASY Digital Tools for Starters and Exit Tickets

When it comes to entry routines—whether we call them starters, bell ringers, or do nows—I have tried every system you can think of. Now that my students have iPads, there are even more options. Over the past year, I’ve experimented quite a bit with different digital tools for formative assessment and engagement.  This blog will […]

Hopes, Fears, and Expectations for the First Day of School

The other day on Twitter I ran across a statement: “Any teacher who spends the first day on class rules really wants one more day of summer.” Well, it said something like that—I can’t find it now. Even though I agree with the sentiment, I have been guilty of doing just that, for years. For the past […]

Getting Started with Reading-Writing Workshop

This year I’m experimenting with a workshop approach to reading and writing instruction. In my mind, this means three things: Student choice in what they read and what they write. Time for students to read and write in class. Authentic writing tasks—Students write for real audiences and purposes. Logistically, trying a workshop approach means I’ve had to make major shifts […]

Redesigning Learning Spaces for Twenty-First Century Students

It’s the year 2015, so why are we still talking about innovating for the twenty-first century? I mean, it’s been fifteen years already. Maybe it’s because we are still teaching in rooms built for the industrial model approach to education. Desks are still mostly in rows. The teacher mostly talks for way too long and usually […]

Group Work: How, and More Importantly, Why?

Yes, group work is here to stay. I know, students dread it, and I suspect that most teachers do too. Having worked with seventh graders for many years, I can solemnly say that for each group assignment, there will be a group problem. Happily, I just finished some research about teamwork and it turns out that conflict is […]

Teachers Are Writers Too

Sometimes if feels a little risky to write with my students. It’s hard. And messy. And sometimes the topics are a little more personal than I would normally share with students. And there are so many other things I have to do! Take attendance, talk to the kid who was absent yesterday, check my email. […]