My One Word for 2018? It’s simple: Write.
So, here we go. The goal is to publish a weekly blog post, “The Sunday 7,” where I share seven reflections/strategies/activities/book recommendations that I hope educators will find helpful as they head into their classroom Monday morning.
1. What’s your #OneWord2018?
I know there are lots of outstanding #OneWord2018 lesson plans out there, but I kept it pretty simple with my high school students. We brainstormed for a few minutes and helped students decide on just one word. The key is to make sure that these words remain visible for students, and that we take time to revisit our words and goals throughout the semester. Otherwise, these words end up just like most of our resolutions – useless.
2. Another easy & engaging writing activity is the six-word memoir.
Students had fun capturing their mindset/approach to 2018 in exactly six words.
The six-word memoir also works great as a warm-up (Sum up your weekend in six words) or exit ticket (summarize today’s lesson in six words) or independent reading response (describe the main character or central conflict in six words) in any lesson.
3. Don’t underestimate the power of a shared text
I’m obviously a huge fan of choice, but we decided to start the second semester with a shared text – Nic Stone’s Dear Martin – and it has been incredible! Here are a few of the comments I overheard this week as we read aloud the first four chapters:
“I’m gonna finish this book tonight!”
“Wow, I didn’t realize how much we read because we were so into it!” “ I wanna read the next chapter so bad.”
“Can we keep reading?”
“I didn’t think it’d be so much fun to read it together.”
Priceless. (Side note: This is what happens when you let students read books that matter, books that they can see themselves in, books that are relevant and realistic, books that make them laugh and cry and question.)
We also were able to have awesome discussions re: this question: “What makes a good story?
4. #BookSnaps are a game-changer!
Seriously, check out what students came up with in a matter of minutes. After we finished reading, I had students go back through the text and find a page that spoke to them and “annotate” it. Some were so excited with their #BookSnap they went ahead and shared it on their personal Instagram and Snapchat accounts (which has the added benefit of getting their friends excited about reading). NOTE: Since I don’t have Snapchat, students send them to me via email.
5. Another 2018 goal: 10-minute quick writes every class period
With lots of choice and lots of sharing. For example, this week, after reading Dear Martin, I listed the following options on the board:
-Write a “Dear Martin” or “Dear ______” letter
-Write a letter to the author, Nic Stone
-Write your own short story or script
-Write a poem from the point of view of Justyce or one that explores similar themes
-Anything else that you feel like writing!
I then set a timer for 10 minutes and let students go. I sat at an open seat in the middle of the room and joined them. When the timer went off, we stopped and shared. The result? Page after page of INCREDIBLE writing (I’ll be sure to share examples throughout the week on Twitter).
Why? Reading Dear Martin gave students the confidence to write openly about issues they care about (yet another reason reading and writing should always go hand-in-hand). The 10 minutes of complete silence, along with the opportunity to then share their words with others, provided students with the structure, environment and community they crave.
Also, for the teachers out there who spend too much time lesson planning, here’s the first 35 minutes of my block EVERY day: 20 minutes of reading, 10 minutes of writing, 5 minutes of sharing.
6. Mentor sentences are magical
One of the major takeaways from Kelly Gallagher’s workshop earlier this week – “revision should happen at the sentence level first, not the essay level.”
He’s exactly right! And so, we’re going to spend time analyzing mentor sentences, particularly great lines from some of our favorite books. (Shout out to Jared Reck for sharing this idea on Twitter!)
For example, in our analysis of this opening sentence from Dear Martin, we were able to discuss colons, commas/appositive phrases, and vivid words in a matter of minutes. Much more engaging – and effective – than a grammar worksheet…
7. Let high school students sleep!
In our Nashville high schools, the doors open at 6:45. First period starts at 7:05. Due to the cold temperatures this week, we had a couple of two-hour delays, and wow, what a difference it made! My first block, which started at a reasonable 9:05, was livelier than it’s been all year. You could even argue that students were just as productive in five hours (9-2) than the normal seven (we shortened classes and eliminated our RTI block).
All of the research says teenagers need more sleep – let’s make that happen.
Thanks to all of you for reading and sharing! Hope you can join us tonight for our #ProjectLITchat on Twitter. Have a great week!