If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out.
This is hard. I can’t do this. I don’t know what to write.
We’ve all heard variations of this in our classrooms, and I certainly hear them as I work with teenagers. We find the beautiful, well-crafted mentor text that we’re excited about sharing with students. We prepare them and share it. We look at craft elements. We send them off to write. And then the whining starts.
How do we get past it? We get them writing and practicing. We sit beside them and encourage. We pair them up – one who is struggling with one who gets it. We know they just need to get past that hurdle of the insecurities and struggle.
Once they get something on the page and start writing, they often surprise themselves with how good their writing can be. Sometimes they even surprise themselves with how much they enjoyed doing it.
Huh, this is pretty cool. I was feelin’ this.
Teaching and learning is like this much of the time, whether we are the teacher or learner. We go through stages of it’s too hard, to I’ll try it, to I’m getting the feel of it, to realizing we enjoy the work.
As teachers we’re almost always prepared for a little whining or fear when we start a new lesson. Goodness, when we’re planning the lesson ourselves we often experience some whining in our heads and a bit of fear the lesson could flop. But when students discover they are more capable than they thought, as writers trying a new skill or readers trying a new text, they find the surprising fun in challenging work.
That was good. I like doing this.
This is what having high expectations is all about — knowing our students, supporting them, and helping them see what’s possible until the new skills are second nature. Even if the bridge between the fear of the unknown and the new learning involves a little whining.
This week we look at helping middle school students become independent readers and writers. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jillian Heise teaches 7th and 8th grade language arts at the Indian Community School of Milwaukee. She also serves as Chair of the Wisconsin State Reading Association Children’s Literature Committee. Jillian (@heisereads) blogs at Heise Reads and Recommends and Heise Teaches and Writes.
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Katie Baydo-Reed lays down the law for her eighth graders about capitalization and the use of periods, with excellent and hilarious results. This piece will make you laugh out loud at the gaps between the ways teachers and teenagers think:
We continue our classics series, celebrating the most popular features from the first ten years of Choice Literacy. Terry Thompson’s essay Are You Scaffolding or Rescuing? provided seed ideas for his new book, The Construction Zone:
Barbara Blackburn challenges middle school teachers to look closely at their interactions with struggling learners in Do We Really Have High Expectations for All?:
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In Just Reading?, Christy Rush-Levine challenges the notion that there is anything easy or natural about getting young teens to select and read books independently in classrooms:
Speed Dating Books from Carly Ullmer is a fun activity for introducing teens to new books and each other as readers, capitalizing on their interests:
In this week’s video, Katie Doherty circulates among sixth-grade boys in her reading workshop. These quick conferences and conferring tips are the first installment in a two-part series:
Sarah Klim presents A Booklist for Grandparents Day, with many suggestions for read alouds to promote the September 13 event:
In an encore video, Katie Baydo-Reed confers with an eighth grader whose independent reading choices range from realistic fiction to The Hobbit:
That’s all for this week!