My Most Important Pedagogical Change of the Year: Encouraging Real Reflection

This is my third year as a gardener. The first was trial and a lot of error. The second was passable. But this year, my garden is pacing nearly a month ahead of last year, despite a colder than average spring. The reason for my increase in yields and growth? Fall preparation.

In my first two years, I stopped when my garden stopped, leaving the dead and dried plant husks to weather the cold and snowy months. But last fall I decided to properly ready my beds for the harsh Michigan winter. With the new school year blossoming, I didn’t exactly have the time to spend in a garden that was no longer producing, but I knew the old gardening adage that fall preparation equaled spring success, and I really wanted a more successful year three. So I found the time to pull plants, install cover crops, and nourish the soil, and this year I couldn’t believe it as my little shoots stormed out of the ground and into the sky.

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The view from my garden Continue reading “My Most Important Pedagogical Change of the Year: Encouraging Real Reflection”

How to Introduce Our Students to Authentic Audiences

A Note from Matt: If you have time, check out my Edutopia post this week on teaching grammar in context. There are few changes I’ve made in my class over the years that have been more impactful than ditching grammar worksheets in favor of embedding grammar instruction into the reading and writing already happening in class. 

I was working with some teachers in Ohio recently, and during our session we looked at what I believe are three of the most interesting meta-studies concerning teaching writing in recent history: NCTE/NWP/WPA’s Framework for Success in Post Secondary Writing, Writing Next by Stephen Graham and Dolores Perin, and the NCTE’s most recent position statement on teaching writing. Each of these studies serves as a thoughtful and informative meditation on how to develop young writers, but what strikes me most about them is that they all come to wildly different conclusions; the Framework focuses almost exclusively on habits of mind and process as the keys to developing young writers, Writing Next argues that direct teaching of specific skills is how we move writers forward, and the NCTE Position Statement takes a more holistic approach, making a case for the importance of a wide array of factors, ranging from technology to assessing writing.

In fact, beyond each giving a nod to the importance of process, there is actually only one common suggestion they share: All three identify writing regularly for a wide range of purposes, in a wide range of genres, and to a wide range of audiences as being essential for strong writing development. Continue reading “How to Introduce Our Students to Authentic Audiences”