How I Introduced My Class to ChatGPT

ChatGPT is the bot that launched a thousand thought pieces (here is a primer on it, if you somehow haven’t encountered it). The takes I’ve seen have ranged from declarations that it will bring about the death of the college essay and high school English to it being an indispensable tool for realtors or those looking for a raise to prognostications about it shaking white collar work and democracy itself to their foundations. I, too, have guesses, hopes, and fears about ChatGPT and the recent rise of AI, but given the firehose of here-is-what-I-think-ChatGPT-will-do pieces at this moment, I’m not…

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Postcard from NCTE #3: Why I’m Making 2023 the Year of Poetry in My Classes

This is the third and final of my reflections from the NCTE Convention. For the first two, click here and here. “Poems give us something to hold up to the light, to examine from different angles” –Brett Vogelsinger Before winter break, I began my final unit of this quickly waning semester on Living Poets, and, as expected, a handful of students in each class approached me afterwards to tell me the same four words that I’ve heard from scores of students over the course of my career when I start talking about poetry: No offense, but I don’t like poetry. …

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Postcard from NCTE #2: Building Better, Stronger Classroom Communities in 2023

This is the second in a series of postcards of my key takeaways from the National Teacher’s of English Conference in November. It also marks my last post of 2022. I hope all those reading have a good, healthy, and restful break! Regular readers will know that Matt Kay, one of my co-authors of Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Middle and High School ELA, is on my pantheon of great writing teachers. I’m not sure there is a more remarkable and inspirational educator anywhere, and, if given the choice, he is probably the first teacher in the country…

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Letting Them Drive: How to Help Students Through the Beautiful Messiness of the Writing Process

A few weeks ago at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention, I sat next to a teacher from Palmdale, California for an afternoon session. The teacher was buzzing with excitement as he told me the story of how he’d come to be there that day: His district, being local, had an extra ticket for the convention and raffled it off to anyone who threw their name in the hat, and he was the lucky winner. He admitted that he had never heard of the conference before and his expectations were low, as much of the professional…

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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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