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 […]

That’s Not Fair! Reading Between the Lines

My seventh graders finished reading S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders the week before winter break. The Lexile Framework for Reading puts The Outsiders squarely at a seventh grade reading level, which is perfect for some of my students. For others, it is way to high. To help my struggling readers get through the text, we often listened to the audio version […]

What Kind of Reading is Common Core?

There has been a fair amount of discussion, and a fair amount of worry, about whether the Common Core State Standards discourage the study of literature in the English language arts classroom. Various administrators and consultants are admonishing teachers saying, “You have to teach  more informational materials!” implying that we should stop wasting our time […]

Going for Depth, Not Breadth: Our Transition to the Common Core

My school (and school district) is in the midst of transitioning to the Common Core State Standards. One aspect that we are grabbing onto–with glee!–is the opportunity to go deep into themes and ideas, instead of madly trying to cover the endless terms and details required by our old standards. For the past two years, […]

Simple Annotating Helps Kids Focus on the Text

I first heard about this style of annotating when I was in the Beginning Teacher Support Program (BTSA) almost 13 years ago. I have no idea who invented it–if you do, please let me know. We were asked to read an article about teaching using this system. I remember that it helped my frazzled new-teacher brain […]

Building an Intellectual Community

My dream is for my classroom to be a place where students want to learn, where they are curious and open to new ideas. I want them to be engaged in the class because they are interested–not because I am marking points in my grade book or because they are worried about detention. And while […]

Teaching Writing or Teaching to the Test?

Curtis Sittenfild’s confessional article “Those Who Can’t Teach” in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine made me think about what it means to teach writing. Sittenfild, author of the novel Sisterland, describes an experience she had as a volunteer tutor when she tried–unsuccessfully–to help someone pass the English section of the G.E.D. Exam. When Sittenfild moved away, […]