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Showing posts from October, 2015

Conferences as Data

I presented yesterday at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English's Fall Conference on a question that I'm still working to answer: What counts as data and assessment? It's a question that I still don't have the answer to, a question that isn't answered as easily as the educational de-formers want it to be. No student will ever be reduced to just a number; they are stories. They are works in progress. 
As teachers, we hear a lot about the "triangulation of data." We're told that our assessments should "speak" to each other. And we're often given incredibly large amounts of data that is packaged with an invisible label that reads something like this: This data is reliable, and it's meant to make your job easier. It's instantaneous or nearly so, so you can make nearly immediate change in your instruction. But sometimes what we think we know to be true about students isn't necessarily true about students. Take, for example, p…

When a Student Sings

I absolutely adore my creative writing class. I'm fortunate enough to have a small group of students that are willing to take so many risks in their writing. It might be because I've had half of them before as students. It might be because half of them know each other so well that they hang out outside of school. It might be because we spent a lot of time getting to know each other during the first few weeks of school. There are a lot of mights there, but these students, while diverse, just really seem to understand how important it is to make other writers feel safe and secure.

Each day, we start class with a student-generated writing prompt. I modeled this for the first few days of class, and then I asked students to take them over. They can look at craft, they can develop a "big idea" from a text, or they can even just play a song and let our pens wander. (I'm a little reluctant to admit this, but their prompts are often much better than mine.)

And two days ag…

Social Media and Making Kids Want to Read

A student showed me something very similar to this the other day:


For the past two years, I have watched this phenomenon play out in the halls of my high school when we begin reading John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men in my tenth-grade English classes. Without fail, a student comes into school the day after I've distributed books and says something along the lines of this: "Mr. English, I know what happens. George kills Lennie." They go on to say that the book is now "ruined" and insist that the next few weeks will be absolutely boring for them.

And as a result of this, my challenge for the next few weeks has no longer become about plot, especially for these students. It's an opportunity for me to revisit our essential question again and again and again.

These students know the outcome of the text, even if it wasn't on their own accord. I, however, have an opportunity to push them to think about this question in a deeper way than many of their peers:

W…