Who Owns the Learning?

Who Owns the Learning?

Reflections

When teaching characterization as an element of literature, a good deal of class discussion focuses on motivation. It is, after all, what drives a character’s actions. Rarely explicit, motivation is inferred by studying a character’s actions and reactions. Based on conflicts, needs, or possible fears, motivation reveals a character’s personality.

So it is with our students.  During one of our faculty PD sessions, we heard that when addressing the barriers to successful inclusion we must consider motivation. I consciously recalled the many times I have referred to a student’s lack of motivation as an explanation for problem behaviors. Upon reflection, I realize that there is no such thing as a lack of motivation.   Motivation exists; it is the nature of the motivation that causes less than desirable results. 

who-owns-the-learningJust as pedagogy evolves and paradigms shift, the climate of learning changes. Today, our students approach learning as task specific and assessment driven; knowledge for knowledge’s sake is no more.  Once an assignment is completed and a grade earned, it is dismissed.  How can there be enlightenment without reflection? Substance without cultivation?  Quality without caring?  It is time to transform the climate; Alan November proffers a way to do so in his book Who Owns the Learning?

The Plan

“The power of purpose and meaningful contribution has been missing from our classrooms and our youth culture for some time.”  [Who Owns the Learning? p.5]

November’s Digital Learning Farm Model restores the value of children as contributors to their own learning, to their classrooms, and to the world. It shifts the responsibility for quality work to the learners. It imbues the students’ learning culture with purpose. (This is motivation!)

Getting Started

Change isn’t easy – in fact, it can be downright scary!  I expect resistance – from the kids and, possibly, the parents.  With administrative support, I can cope with that.  As mentioned, student reflection and self-assessment have, for the most part, been neglected in the last century; yet, these skills can be modeled and practiced until they become habits.  However, as the paradigm morphs from teacher-instructed to student-designed, so does control.  The challenge: to curb my natural instincts to manage and perfect.  No easy task.  My goal: to redirect my talents to empower and reinforce.

Implementation

This poster is often on display in my classroom.

I like the metaphor of a road leading to success – ergo, action in a specific direction leads to a desirable destination.  I like the analogy that said destination is almost always under construction – ultimate results are achieved via building, tearing down, and rebuilding.  I like the inference that obstacles may be encountered along the way, or even that the path may detour.  I like the inherent idea that construction is performed by a crew (team) with a foreman; that every member of the crew has a job to do and a role to play.

The Digital Learning Farm model provides the blueprint that details student jobs and offers techniques for teachers as they assume the roles of mentors and facilitators.

Assessment

In my opinion, assessment is evidential.  The overarching question is, “Evidence of what?”  If my goal as an educator is to promote authentic learning,* then I am looking for evidence of independent thought and applied critical thinking – authentic assessment.**

* Authentic Learning is schooling related to real-life situations—the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens, consumers, or professionals. Advocates complain that what is taught in school has little relationship to anything people do in the world outside of school; efforts to make learning more authentic are intended to overcome that problem. Authentic learning situations require teamwork, problem-solving skills, and the ability to organize and prioritize the tasks needed to complete the project. Students should know what is expected before beginning their work. Consultation with others, including the instructor, is encouraged. The goal is to produce a high-quality solution to a real problem, not to see how much the student can remember.

** Authentic Assessment   realistically measures the knowledge and skills needed for success in adult life. The term is often used as the equivalent of performance assessment, which, rather than asking students to choose a response to a multiple-choice test item, involves having students perform a task, such as serving a volleyball, solving a particular type of mathematics problem, or writing a short business letter. There is a distinction, however.

Specifically, authentic assessments are performance assessments that are not artificial or contrived. Most school tests are necessarily contrived. Writing a letter to an imaginary company only to demonstrate to the teacher that you know how is different from writing a letter to a real person or company in order to achieve a real purpose. One way to make an assessment more authentic is to have students choose the particular task they will use to demonstrate what they have learned. For example, a student might choose to demonstrate her understanding of a unit in chemistry by developing a model that illustrates the problems associated with oil spills. [from a Lexicon of Education Terms] 

In our present school environment and learning climate, grades are expected – by parents, administrators, higher learning institutions and, as I’ve shared, by the students themselves.  In fact, standardized test scores and report cards are used for placement by high school admissions officers.  However, grades and scores of this nature are not authentic assessments of mastery, autonomy, or purpose.  Nor do they reflect an individual student’s learning style or ability to collaborate or skill to communicate – the tests are contrived.  In his book Drive, author Daniel Pink offers his view on assessment:

“…the more we grade creative work, the less of it students will do.”  [Who Owns the Learning? p.26]

Garth Holman (a middle school teacher and collaborator/co-creator with his students for an online wiki world history textbook) weighs in on the legacy of his students’ work as a motivator.

“It [the wiki] empowers them [his students] because it lives on.  It lives on after they’ve moved through seventh grade. Now they’re into high school and some kids are approaching college, and their book is still there, and they can see their original text, where it started, and how it’s morphed.  I think that motivates kids.  Daniel Pink has it right when he gives the idea that if you truly get creative work, points don’t matter.  It’s when the work is mundane that the points matter.” [Who Owns the Learning? p.83]

An insight worthy of further reflection . . ..

Teaching Point of View via Podcasting

If you passed by Room 108 lately and wondered about the signs “Recording, Quiet Please”, my 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students were recording podcasts on Garage Band. The assignment was the culminating assessment of my creative writing lesson on author’s point of view and perspective.  What follows is an encapsulated version of the process.
it_computer-2-students-martinLESSON: To Teach the Literary Element – Author’s Point of View

  • OBJECTIVES:
    • Students will learn the various points of view and be able to identify them in literary works.
    • Students will explore how point of view affects a story’s plot.
    • Students will learn to discern the subtle differences between author’s point of view and perspective, and how to employ each in their own creative writing.
  • SET INDUCTION: I love to tell stories, so I began with a 1st person narrative about an awkward situation that involved me and several others. I then asked students to imagine the thoughts and emotions of the other “characters”.  How would the story differ if told from a 3rd person omniscient point of view. Or, better yet, what stories would each of those involved tell in their own 1st person voices?
  • APPLICATION: Each class read a short story from their literature texts* and was asked to identify the author’s point of view.  Students were instructed to imagine how the stories would sound if told from the perspective of a minor character or a personified object. Discussion ensued, and though the repartee was thoughtful and stimulating, I felt I needed something more concrete by which to evaluate. I had recently spoken with 21st century learning specialist Silvia Tolisano about the successful podcasts she was doing with our lower grades and wondered if the same technology could be used as an assessment tool …

*8th: “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe; 7th: “The Foghorn” and “All Summer in a Day”, both by Ray Bradbury; 6th: “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros

  • PODCAST: Using Garage Band, each student recorded a retelling of the story he/she read from a perspective other than that of the original narrator. Students could select a minor character, the protagonist or an inanimate object to tell their tales. In some instances, students were allowed to create characters (a.k.a. the “fly on the wall”), as long as they stayed true to original storylines. After recording the narrations, enhancements (e.g., sound effects, music) were added to the podcasts. [This took longer than I budgeted time for, not anticipating the additional learning curve for editing skills.]
  • ASSESSMENT: The podcasts became the means by which I evaluated whether or not my objectives were met. Each student presented his/her completed podcast to their classmates, preceded by an  introduction  explaining why a particular character/object was chosen. After each presentation, the class as a whole was charged with identifying the author’s point of view.

Note: Though higher level critical thinking and creative imagery were my goals, what transpired produced a whole new skills set in digital storytelling. As a result, I asked my 8th graders to create a generic Podcast Rubric for all grades. Hence, in addition to the lesson’s objectives, students will be assessed on podcast content, technical production, and presentation.

REFLECTION:

  • WHAT WORKED: The majority of the students “got it”. They were able to use perspective and point of view in a creative writing/storytelling scenario. They were enthusiastic, focused (for the most part), and exhibited pride in their work. Peer review was more “critique” than “criticism” – always a plus. And I learned more about podcasting and Garage Band than I ever thought I would – or could!
  • WHAT DIDN’T WORK: Concurrent recording during class time.  There were not enough places to go to record in quiet. Background noise was a problem, and editing often led to volatile frustration. Time was also an issue. I had originally scheduled 5 class periods per grade for this assignment. (I should have known better.) I eventually had to call for all podcasts to be submitted after 3 weeks.
  • WOULD I DO THIS AGAIN? Yes, with tweaking. Now that I know what’s involved, I’ll begin with a definitive rubric that reflects objectives and goals, add a production schedule, and stagger recordings.

The Pedagogy and the Pendulum

Once again, the great pendulum of education’s pedagogy is in full motion – swinging widely to the left and, then, to the right – with no indication of settling in or near the middle. While there may be general agreement that our current methods for educating children in this century are outmoded and in need of change, the rationales and how-to’s for doing so are widely varied and in-depth (aka the Pit), and as far apart as the swath of Poe’s proverbial pendulum. [Please pardon the alliteration.]

It was in this frame of mind that I approached our [faculty’s] PLN summer reading assignment.  My intent was to read and compare all four [suggested] books, looking for consensus among current paradigm shifts – hoping to find a philosophy to adopt as I plan for the coming school year. I completed three of the books (having grossly underestimated time spent in underlining, highlighting, and notating).

Finding common ground, meshing ideologies, and synthesizing a wealth of information proved doable.  The challenges I foresee are practicality and applicability.

School Ning July, 2012

The Great Summer Reading Debate

Cross-posted from my blog on our faculty Ning. 

Christmas in July?  How about Summer Reading in November?  Why not!  I was given the assignment the last week of October – put together the Middle School Summer Reading Program for next year.  Sound reasonable?  I am, after all, the Middle School Language Arts Teacher.  I coordinated summer reading for the Middle School for the last six summers and I have the advantage of collaborating with a terrific team.  Last year, I proposed a school-wide (K-8) commitment to a spiraling summer reading agenda, initiating a discussion forum on our Ning with my blog post, “Does Summer Reading Matter?”  Ah, and, there’s the rub . . .

Here is an excerpt  . . .

Summer Reading Grades 6-8Start Your Summer Reading Early

Does Summer Reading Matter?

Yes!  Researchers call it the  “summer slide” or “summer effect” on student achievement: “The long summer vacation breaks the rhythm of instruction, leads to forgetting, and requires a significant amount of review when students return to school…” (Cooper 2003, 2). Studies have consistently reported that students who do not participate in summer enrichment and learning activities can, during the break, lose roughly 22 percent of the knowledge and skills they gained during the previous school year. The findings have further shown that children who read during their summer vacation retain more of what they have learned and are better prepared for their first day back to school.

1. Maintaining Performance: Reading just six books during the summer has the potential to keep a struggling reader from regressing.

2. Improving Performance: Summer reading can help improve literacy levels, giving children the opportunity to return to school in September with further advanced reading skills.

3. Learning Confidence: It makes sense that a child with good reading skills will have higher confidence to continue with reading activities, both at school and at home.

READWhat Are the Objectives of Summer Reading?

  1. To aid children in becoming  lifelong readers.
  2. To provide the opportunity to expand and enrich each child’s reading repertoire.
  3. To develop the habit of reading.
  4. To challenge students to explore ideas outside their usual experiences.
  5. To foster a love for reading.

MJGDS Middle School Summer Reading Program

All MJGDS Middle School students are expected to participate in a summer enrichment reading program comprised of required reading material and reading response activities with Jewish studies, social studies, and language arts components.

Photo credits: J. Enokson (Wylio)     Karin Dalziel (Wylio)

CHAI Reading:  To develop the habit of reading, and in keeping with Krashen’s injunction that “reading about things that matter to us is the cause of literature language development,” middle school students engage in individualized, independent reading throughout the school year.  The *objective is to read and review two (2) books per month, chai (18) for the year.  Books are of the students’ own choosing within a specified wide range of genres, writing styles, and reading levels.  Book reviews with CHAI-lights (reading response projects) are posted to student blogfolios.

*The goal to read Chai (18) books per school year, in addition to class novel studies and literature textbook selections, is optimum.  Time restraints, calendar changes, and the intensity of correlative activities are extenuating factors. Students are expected to read a minimum of 12 books, while encouraged to reach CHAI.

What Does the Research Say about the Benefits of Summer Reading?

In The Power of Reading, Stephen Krashen reviews research on reading going back over 100 years. He reports that in “study after study the research is consistent on one thing: when students are engaged in free voluntary reading…the benefits are profound.” He concludes that such students will “acquire a large vocabulary, develop the ability to understand and use complex grammatical constructions, develop a good writing style, and become good (but not necessarily perfect) spellers.” In addition, “…their reading comprehension will improve, and they will find difficult, academic-style texts more comprehensible. Their writing style will improve, and they will be better able to write prose in a style that is acceptable to schools, business, and the scientific community.” Perhaps most importantly, these benefits accrue to students no matter what reading material they select. The significant variable is their development of the habit of reading – that it becomes a natural rather than an alien activity for students to pick up and read a book, a magazine, a journal, etc. If this habit develops, there is a far greater likelihood that students will associate reading with pleasure rather than academic obligation.

Experts further attest that reading helps develop a child’s cognitive development, improves social abilities and academic performance, and aids in emotional development.

Academic Benefits of Reading

The MJGDS teaching staff for the upper grades has always maintained an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to academics.  Researchers and professional educators alike concur that well-developed reading skills are requisite for excelling in all other subjects. Year-round exposure to a variety of genres (fiction, nonfiction, folklore, poetry, drama) promotes reading comprehension and fluency, higher level thinking and lifelong learning.

Cognitive Benefits of Reading

A key cognitive benefit of reading literature is the development of reasoning skills.  According to a paper published in The Reading Teacher, characters in Newbery Medal-winning books . . . [confront] cognitive and/or moral dilemmas . . . [so they] must actively move from lower-level to higher-level reasoning over the course of the book. This process models the development of [a reader’s] reasoning skills in a natural and engaging way.

Social Benefits of Reading

Reading literature also aids in social development.  Characters in high-quality books often represent diverse backgrounds, including varying economic means, different races and ethnicities, and unique regions of the country or the world. Exposure to diversity can aid in the development of emotional sensitivity, such as empathy for others and tolerance for differences, thus moving beyond adolescent egocentrism. This change in focus benefits interactions with peers, teachers and parents.

Emotional Benefits of Reading

Quality literature naturally elicits a variety of strong emotions (e.g. rage, euphoria, heartache, fear, love, loss).  Reading offers opportunities to grapple with and process these emotions in a safe setting, without feeling overwhelmed, resulting in a coping mechanism to deal with future real-world situations.

In Conclusion…

The Mott Educational Foundation summarizes the [National] Department of Education’s focus on the development and launch of high quality summer programs that take advantage of time outside of school to help children learn, grow, and develop.

  1. People who say they read more read better (Krashen 2004), therefore the primary purpose of the program is to encourage students to read more.
  2. The program offers students choice because choice is an important element in reading engagement (Schraw et al. 1998).
  3. Student projects accommodate multiple intelligences (Gardner 1993) and thinking styles (Sternberg 1997) as well as options for written work.
  4. Because ” … results suggest that schools can encourage children to read more by also requiring them to complete a short writing activity based on their summer reading activities … .” and that “students who fulfilled teacher requirements by writing about their summer book … are predicted to read more books than their classmates who did not complete these activities,” (Kim 2004b, 185) reading responses include writing activities.
  5. Reading response projects reflect activities students enjoy in their leisure time are grounded in reading response described as the aesthetic stance in transactional theory (Rosenblatt 1978).

Who knew that such a post would generate such impassioned responses?

“How many books are required for summer reading?”

“I agree that students should read during the summer but I think it should be about reading for pleasure.”

“I think summer reading should be voluntary and for pleasure.  As an adult, if I am made to read something it takes all of the pleasure out of the book.”

“I agree about reading should be for pleasure…in K it’s probably a little different…we really need to “encourage” the kids to read or many of them will actually forget how to read over the summer!!  You’re right, Deb…there should be accountability even in the younger grades. Included in our packet will be a reading log (similar to what we do monthly during the school year) so that the parents can write the names and authors of all the books the children read.”

“Personally, I feel that summer is a time for ALL to relax and regroup without a lot of homework.”

“My kids are required to read some fun and some boring stories from their textbooks. Let the summer be the time when they choose the books themselves and read at their own pace.”

“As an adult I love to read.  As a child I didn’t.  I don’t hide this fact from my students. I use myself as a model to instill the fact that a non-reader can easily become a reader AND enjoy it.  Summer reading is homework when we include an assignment.  As a child this is what caused me to dislike reading.  I hated having to ‘report back’ what I had read.”

“I think your statement in your comment below, ‘I have seen reluctant readers become avid readers, and I have seen one-genre-only readers come to love and demand variety in their reading’ is key. Avid readers will always read, but how do we motivate the reluctant reader, the child who really should read (more)? And, yes, summer reading should be all about exploring one’s interests.”

What do you think?  

Sources:

Anderson, R., P. Wilson, and L. Fielding. 1988. Growth in reading and how children spend their time outside of school. Reading Research Quarterly 23: 285-303.

Constantino, R., et al. 1997. Free voluntary reading as a predictor of TOEFL scores. Applied Language Learning 8: 111-18.

Cooper, H. 2003. Summer learning loss: The problem and some solutions. ERIC Digest, May 2003. ED475391, 1-7.

Cooper, H., et al. 1996. The effect of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review, Review of Educational Research 66: 227-68.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. 1991. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: HarperPerennial, 117.

Friedman, Audrey A., and Cataldo, Christina A. “Characters at Crossroads: Reflective Decision Makers in Contemporary Newbery Books.” The Reading Teacher. 2002, 56: 102-112.

Heyns, B. 1978. Summer learning and the effects of schooling. New York: Academic Pr.

Ivey, Gay, and Broaddus, Karen. “Tailoring the Fit: Reading Instruction and Middle School Readers.” The Reading Teacher. 2000, 54: 68-78.

Kim, J. 2004a. Summer reading and the achievement gap. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, April 21.

Krashen, S. 2004. The power of reading: Insights from the research, 2nd ed. Englewood Colo.: Libraries Unlimited.

Studies by the National Summer Learning Association* (originally the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University)

*Anne McGill-Franzen and Richard Allington are education professors at the University of Florida. They can be reached via email at mcgillUFL@aol.com. This article was originally published in the May/June 2003 issue of Instructor.

Because I Say So…

As one component of this summer’s PLN, I am about to read Alan November’s Who Owns The Learning?  and reflect upon it on my school’s Ning – which reminded me of an entry I intended to cross-post here last May.

“Because I Say So…” 

Prologue:  The NING – an online community of teachers and administrators who share thoughts, questions, perspectives, frustrations and successes to support and mentor, challenge, and learn from one another.  At the school where I teach, reflecting on lessons/classroom experiences and posting said reflections on our Ning are strongly encouraged.  What follows is a brief reflection, about my grade 6 Language Arts class, recently posted.

Scenario:  Last Friday.  Grade 6 test prep on poetry elements and terms.  Lyric and narrative poetry, couplets, tercets, quatrains, sonnets, rhyme, rhythm, meter, similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia  – I see wispy tendrils of smoke curling from ears and I sense heads are soon to explode.  A hand goes up.  The student poses the question.  “Why?” she asks, “do I ‘hafta’ know this?  If my sister or somebody reads my poem, she won’t know what kind it is.  No one, but maybe you [Mrs.K] knows this stuff.  I don’t get why I have to.”  [“Because I say so?”]  Several heads nod in assent.  “It’s not like we’re going to become famous poets, or anything,” another student adds, followed by more head nodding. One student responds, “You can’t write poetry if you don’t get what it’s about.” “I never get what poetry is about. Knowing what to call it doesn’t help me.” “HOW do you spell onomatopoeia?!” A wave of murmured conversation undulates through the class.

Options: My turn to respond – back to business as usual [“Because I say so.”] or encourage this discussion?  The cynical, or perhaps, realistic inclination is to view these questions as weapons of mass disruption 🙂 and to steer the lesson back on track.  The other course of action is to mediate an open class discussion and see where it leads.

Epiphany: I choose the latter, because I am having a 21st century moment.  I opt not to acknowledge the “derailers”; instead, I respond to what I see as the deeper question being asked – “Where is the relevance in what you are making me learn?”  In turn, I prompt myself to reconsider the value of this lesson.  Is knowing the characteristics of a cinquain even germane to a 6th grade student’s academic success?   What is my yardstick for measuring the validity of my teaching?

Note to self: tackle these questions during lesson pre-planning.  Fair enough.  But at this time, for this lesson, I opt to ask questions with my students, not of my students.  I am unwilling to return to business as usual, because I know that the answers to both my and my students’ queries can no longer be, “Because they  (the text, the curriculum, state/national standards, H.S./college app.’s, standardized tests) say so.”  Considering the wealth of knowledge and sheer volume of information available at the touch of our fingertips, as well as the myriad of opportunities for lifelong learning,  critical thinking and intellectual curiosity , “because I/it say(s) so…” is archaic and should be obsolete.  And, NOT just because I say so.

Still Kicking and Screaming?

It’s not what you think. I entered the world of 21st century learning willingly. Of course, in the beginning, I was reluctant; I admit that. Now, thanks to some amazing mentors, I thirst for what tomorrow may bring. I embrace what technology has to offer as a means for differentiated instruction. I experiment with 21st century tools. I challenge traditional attitudes about learning. I no longer send, I share. I am cognizant of thinking globally. I get the buzz words. I understand the need to move beyond basic literacy. I even own a smart phone. So, why am I still kicking and screaming?
I find such behavior a perfectly reasonable reaction to passion and frustration. Though my enthusiasm for a 21st century curriculum knows no bounds, I am held hostage by the yoke of inadequate assessments, backward beliefs and misunderstandings, outdated practices, unreasonable expectations (often my own), apathetic students, and parental roadblocks.
The only way this little fish can keep from drowning in a large, stagnant pond is by kicking and screaming.fish-bird-fishbowl 1/24/11

Image licensed under Creative Commons
http://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/4041547465/

What An Impact A Post Makes…

Last year, the Jewish Museum of Florida sponsored a state-wide essay contest, “A Military Portrait”, to complement a new exhibit, “Florida Jews in the Military”. The exhibit explored “the sacrifices and accomplishments of Florida’s Jews in every conflict from the Seminole Wars to the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the battles of the 21st century.” The writing contest was open to all middle school and high school students in Florida, the essays to focus on the accomplishments of someone they knew or had researched who had served in the military.

The writing contest seemed tailor-made for my 7th grade language arts class, encompassing research skills, interviewing, expository writing, personal narration and reflection. Every student in the class participated, and I submitted the best essays to the Jewish Museum of Florida for judging. Rachel, one of my 7th grade students, wrote about a fallen soldier, Major Stuart A. Wolfer, killed during a rocket attack in Iraq. Her essay placed 3rd in the state. She traveled to Miami to accept her award, and while attending the reception at the museum, she happened to meet a soldier who was with Major Wolfer when he died. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and when she returned home, I asked her to blog about her trip.

I have always encouraged my students to embrace the power in words, and sharing increases that word power exponentially. There is a certain vulnerability in sharing your writing on a blog. It’s not easy to put yourself out there for the world to read; as a relatively new blogger myself, I spend countless hours editing and re-editing before I have the courage to publish. How, then, should I motivate my students to take the risk and blog? I knew they would be inspired if they could experience the impact that just one post can make. So, I shared Rachel’s story, hoping that it would merit some thoughtful comments, and the amazing happened. The family and friends of the fallen soldier, having received Google alerts re: Rachel’s post, made contact with her via our blog. And, like a stone skipping on the water, the ripple effect began.

Coincidentally, I found out about the museum’s writing contest as we were evaluating 7th grade projects for the Day School’s biennial Jewish History Fair. The essays became springboards for power-point presentations about the veterans each student chose to honor. The power-points, having been looped, were continuously projected on a large screen. The American flag and Israeli flag, and a poster display explaining the project flanked the screen. A small viewing gallery of chairs completed the set-up. As Fair visitors filed past, it was heartening to see how many took a seat and stayed awhile. The slides were powerful, bringing tears to some eyes, inspiring hushed and respectful conversation, continually drawing others to the exhibit. I observed my students answering questions and engaging guests in conversation, pride in their accomplishments evident.
https://docs.google.com/present/embed?id=dd6w33x3_160cw2cktgb

The ripple grew as Silvia Tolisano, Langwitches, referred to Rachel’s essay in her blog post “What Have You Got To Lose?”. And continues still…

Recently, I had the pleasure of being asked by Rachel, now an 8th grader, to critique an essay she wrote as a requisite for acceptance to a high school honors/IB program. It is a good essay – reflective, self-confident; written in her own voice, it captures her hopefulness and enthusiasm. She wants to be a writer, to quote “an extraordinary writer”, and she believes she will. She cites her experience writing an award-winning essay, a life-changing experience when she shared it on our classroom blog. What an impact a post makes…