My Favorite Lessons of the Fall

I’m not sure about you, but for me, these pre-Thanksgiving November weeks are always some of the hardest times of the school year. The heady energy and optimism of the new year have waned and the cumulative impact of the seemingly endless back-to-school requirements—cookouts and capsule night and conferences—combined with this being the longest stretch without a break, takes a toll. And while nearly everything about this year has been better than the last three school years, I think that those years have left my reserve tanks emptier than before. This is all to say that I am tired. Weary…

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A Quick Guide to Praise, Compliments, and Asset-Focused Instruction

Educators are some of the most positive people I know, and yet studies from the last 40 years have consistently shown that when teachers respond to students, both in person and in writing, they tend to overwhelmingly focus on the negatives and deficits: The praise to criticism/reprimand ratios seen in these and similar studies can at first seem at odds with the positivity that I so often associate with educators and schools. When one looks closer though, it is exactly that positivity that can sometimes lead teachers to rely heavily on criticism and reprimands. The reason for this is that…

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How a Simple Notebook Revolutionized My Ability to Track Student Data

Every night before bed, my wife takes a few minutes to document the ups, downs, advances, and milestones of our children. I have to admit that at first I was somewhat agnostic about the practice. I’ve always had a pretty good memory, so I think at some level I was certain that I would remember how much my daughter loved hummus or the grin my son had the first time he went swinging.   But as the months and years have rolled on, I have found myself enormously grateful time and again for my wife’s foresight because, despite the relative strength…

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How the Volleyball Effect Hurts Deeper Learning (And What to Do About It)

The start of the school year, as it seemingly does every year, has reminded me that schools are often overwhelming places. The pure number of humans and classes and lessons that populate our schools each day is enough to make one’s head spin. Of course, this hustle and bustle isn’t all bad. The energy can be invigorating and inspiring, and there is no doubt that it is part of why I keep coming back to the classroom fall after fall. Still, even for those of us who like the buzz of a school building in full swing, it is worth…

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Starting the Year With a Sea of Stories

A quick note from Matt: Today is the first day of the 2022-2023 school year in Ann Arbor, which means that along with this post, this is the first Monday that I will post my weekly Essay of the Week entries. Check them out here, if you are interested! The title of today’s post is taken from the Salman Rushdie book Haroun and the Sea of Stories, his book that immediately followed the controversy of his book The Satanic Verses. On the surface Haroun seems like a very different kind of book than Rushdie’s previous books, which are very adult…

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Ways to Upgrade Feedback This Year Part 2: Two-Way Flash Feedback

In my first ever video at the start of the week, I discussed the importance of feedback literacy, which is where we teach students how to receive and use feedback. My second video today is a new spin on an old favorite of mine: two-way flash feedback, or the idea that while we should find ways to give quick, meaningful feedback to students, we should also find ways to get quick, meaningful feedback from them too. I also wanted to let you know that these videos are beta tests for my on-demand course on feedback, whose first cohort will begin in a few months.…

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Ways to Upgrade Feedback This Year Part 1: Feedback Literacy

A few weeks ago, I discussed reasons why writing can be scary for a lot of students and adults. Of the reasons that I gave, the one that has always terrified me the most is that writing is an intersection of public and permanent. It our thoughts and ideas and perspective, set in amber for all to see–a timeless monument to our imperfection in a given moment. This fear of writing’s permanence is probably why I love blogging. Unlike other forms of writing, blogging is a living entity. On a blog there is space to discuss and update and footnote.…

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What Should We Do With Writing Formulas and Rules? An Interview with Jennifer Fletcher on Teaching Writing Rhetorically

I was initially hoping to release my first-ever videos this week, but it turns out that video production has a bit of a learning curve and video uploading takes a VERY long time. The videos are nearly ready though, so look for them early next week! Instead, I wanted to share something really special with you: an interview that I have been saving for just the right occasion with Jennifer Fletcher. For those who don’t know Jennifer Fletcher, she is a professor of English at California State University, Monterey Bay and a former high school teacher. Jennifer is also the…

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How I Plan to Regain My Nights and Weekends in the Upcoming School Year

My last post on how to cultivate student writing identities was maybe closer to a novella than a blogpost, so this week I am striving to keep it shorter and simpler. In keeping with the theme of brevity, I want to talk about the ways that I plan to keep the work monster at bay during a year where I know that it will be lurking behind every door. Working 70 hours a week was once a part of my early teaching life, but through reading, learning from others, and experimenting in my own classroom, I eventually got it down…

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