“Who Made That?” A Writing Project from KG

Another wriWMT_07_RubiksCube_Rightting project idea from Kelly Gallagher that my reading group highlighted in our presentation of his book In the Best Interest of Students. Students do a mini-research project in which they research how an object, product, invention, etc. was created or became popularized. I love this idea for 9th graders, who need to be introduced to formal research in a small, manageable way. It also allows endless options for personal choice. The mentor text comes from the New York Times Magazine.

6 Things You Should Know About

6 Things You Should Know About

This writing idea came from KG’s In the Best Interest of Students, which I’m reading this month. I can see using it at the beginning of a school year for students to introduce themselves to a class (“6 Things You Should Know About John Vasquez”) or for practice writing to explain (“6 Things You Should Know About Competitive Swimming”). I also like the idea of allowing students to play with layout and images, much like the ESPN Magazine itself does here (as the mentor text).

Those little things that make a huge difference

This year, I designed end-of-year surveys for both my general 9th and 10th grade classes. I do this for several reasons: 1) I want students to understand that I do really value their feedback about what we cover in the course 2) I want them to reflect a bit on how they have grown over the year and what they struggled with 3) I want them to consider what factors helped them through those struggles and 4) I’m curious about how much they actually read of the assigned books.
But an added bonus I hadn’t expected was that several students wrote very nice comments to me, usually in the “Anything else you want me to know?” section and I was truly touched by them. I have a shoebox full of nice notes given to me by students over the last three years and I think it’s important for teachers to keep these mementos to remind us on bad days of why we do this very challenging job. So here are a few of the highlights from the 2015-16 school year, mostly from my 9th graders:
“Thanks for helping everyone in your class.”
“You did a great job teaching and I want to thank you for that.”
“You are a great teacher and I enjoyed this class!”
“You are an awesome teacher and if I had you next year I’d be glad to be in your class.”
“you are a wonderful teacher”
“This year was hard for me, considering I had surgery and I’m glad you didn’t give up on me.”
“Thanks for being the best teacher. I learned a lot from the class and you.”
“I really enjoyed having Ms. ____ as my teacher and I felt that I really connected with her. She helped me improve my writing a lot more than other teachers have. She also made class enjoyable and seemed to actually care about my overall success.”

Answer to the question posed to repeating sophomores about what made a difference this year if they were passing now and had earlier failed: “I would say that the teacher helped me tremendously. Ms. ____ made it so much more fun and easy to learn. The classroom environment was great almost everyday, and I really enjoyed it.”

I’d encourage all teachers to keep a record or repository of the things students write or say that we can point to when answering the question, “Why do I teach?”

Quote: Motivation

“Students’ belief in their ability to learn to read proficiently, and to set specific, short-term goals for an assignment motivates them to work hard, become involved in an assignment and successfully complete it.” –Laura Robb, from Teaching Reading in the Middle School, Scholastic, 2000, p. 19, based on research from Schunk and Zimmerman