monkey see, monkey do – great advice!

Sunday’s Teacherswrite! featured a reflection from Jenn at Fountain Reflection. She wrote about her three epiphanies related to teaching writing in the classroom. They stem from her experience writing at an institute where she realized how intimidating it is to share writing and just how difficult the writing process can be. Her third revelation really struck a chord for me.

I’ve been struggling to get my students to turn in solid writing. Sometimes completed work is so far from what I was looking for that I struggle to grade it. “Answer the following question in a well-developed paragraph…” especially coming from the social studies teacher, can baffle students.

“Does she know about capital letters?” I imagine them asking. They are always shocked and alarmed when it turns out I do.

“Wait, you’re not the English teacher. That’s English not geography. Why do we have to spell right in here?”

I actually feel apologetic when I tell them my original degree was in English. The group moan echoes down the hallway, but the writing still does not get better.

So it’s within this context that I am inspired by Jenn’s experience. She explained that teaching writing was her weakness because she wasn’t truly teaching writing; “I was telling students what to do, then correcting them when it wasn’t done correctly. I wasn’t modeling that writing is a difficult process. I wasn’t modeling what good writing should look like from beginning to end.”

Understanding how important it is for students to see the teacher doing and modeling the target task is clearly a better way to teach. Just telling them what to do inevitably leaves questions and anxiety in the minds of even the most intuitive students. Frequently, I’ve had them come in to show me work they are nervous to turn into another teacher, wondering, “Do you think this is good enough? I’m not really sure what she wants.” A clear model would give them the framework for success and cut down on the hours of correcting work that does not meet expectations.

My idea journal is filling with ideas… if you want to read more visit: Teach Mentor Texts


Charlie in the Library

  Quick-Write assignment is in:


We’re going to the library? She can’t be serious. It’s summer vacation. I have been free for a total of 18 minutes and she is already making me go to the library. Isn’t there some law that says they have to give you the weekend off from any kind of learning. I know she wants me to read this summer. It’s all she’s been talking about, but really this is too much.

I mean a kid needs a break. Especially because I’m not into books. I’ve got lots of other things to think about. Like the reminder on my iPod going off. Guess it’s time to feed my cyber dragons.

I wonder if that’s a good enough reason to stay in the car.  It’s probably not; especially if Jo and Amy are going in. This is just the sort of thing they love. Ugh! They bug me.

You have to understand, It’s so annoying enough to have older siblings, but it’s worse when they’re twins. Jo is the oldest. Mom always has time for him. She takes him running every morning to get ready for her half marathon. He’s going out for the middle school cross-country team in the fall. I don’t like running, but they could at least ask me. I might want to go. Well, no I wouldn’t, but it would be cool if she would do something like that with me.

Don’t even get me started with my big sister Amy. Everyone thinks she’s perfect. They’re always saying stuff like, “Thank you Amy, at least we can count on you to keep your room clean.” Seriously, what about taking laundry down a flight of stairs makes her so likable. I don’t get it and it’s just going to worse tonight when they open the report cards. “Oh look Amy straight A’s again! Good for you!”

I’m going to be sick.

This place is empty. Nobody else has a mother who makes they go straight to the library on the way home from the last day of school. I can prove it – look around – we could park anywhere.

“Okay, when we get into the Library I want you guys to be on best behavior; no running around, no swimming in the water fountain, nobody leaves the Kid’s section without me. Amy would you keep an eye on Gretta?”

“I’ll watch her,” I suggest, thinking that watching my little sister has to be better than what is about to happen.

“No way, Charlie,” mom answers, “you and I are on a mission. We have eighty-four days until school starts again and you have to get reading if you have any chance to survive the 3rd grade.”

“She’s right,” pipes in Jo, “That third grade teacher is a monster. She terrorizes little kids who don’t like to read.”

“That’s mean. I like her,” says Miss Perfect. “She makes you read a lot, but it’s great, she has such interesting books and there’s shelves of them all over her room. Third grade was so much fun. Don’t listen to Jo. You’re going to love it.”

No, really, I’m not I think and before I get a chance to say anything out loud Mom is agreeing with me. “He’s not going to love it unless he loves books and that’s what we are going to work on. There’s no harm in getting started right away – especially since Charlie is gifted and talented in his ability to get under my radar. Not this time, no Sir, this summer is going to be different…”

I stop listening. I think I’ve heard most of this speech before.  We walk into the main doors and Jo heads straight to the section called YA. Amy takes Gretta to the picture books.

“Okay, Charlie, let’s do it. Let’s find some books that you are going to love.”

Books I’m going to love? There’s a word for that – oxymoron or something. Yea moron, that’s what I feel like as I follow my mom past the librarian.


Assignment #4 from Teachers Write!

A student walks into the library/media center at lunchtime.  What is she/he thinking?  Worried about?  Dreading?  Hoping or wishing for? What are the risks/stakes for him/her? Show us in a paragraph or two.