Category Archives: High School

Does Your Writing Assessment Help Writers or Pac-Mans?

Reimagining Writing Assessment Maja Wilson book cover

The following is adapted from Reimaging Writing Assessment: From Scales to Stories by Maja Wilson.

I was mostly disinterested in the Atari that my brother got for Christmas in the late 1970s; the excruciatingly slow back-and-forth of Pong bored me. But when Pac-Man was released in 1982, I was intrigued; fleeing a ghost made sense to me. Still, I was confused by Pac-Man’s motivation when it came all to those wafers. One after another, screen after screen, he just kept gobbling them up.

“Why is Pac-Man always so hungry?” I asked my brother while awaiting my turn at the joystick.

His explanation was offered with an exasperated eye roll, “He isn’t hungry. You get a point for each one.”

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Incorporating Field Research into Writing Instruction

Writing Instruction

Adapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision by Sneed B. Collard III,  and Vicki Spandel

Inexperienced writers often consider research a waste of time. Rather than reading books, watching a documentary, or talking to an expert, they prefer to dive into writing like a penguin chasing a sardine. The problem with this approach is that a writer may dash off a rousing first paragraph only to find she doesn't know enough about her topic to add even one more good line. Thoroughly investigating a topic can solve this problem — and do much, much more. 

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Tom Newkirk on The Emotional Complexities of Teaching

Tom Newkirk Embarrassment book cover

"I'll go first", says Thomas Newkirk in his new book, Embarrassment and the Emotional Underlife of Learning. Through sharing his own stories of frustration and the performative anxieties of teaching, Newkirk sheds light on his emotional journey as an educator. He opens a discussion about the emotional realities of teaching by delving into a newfound discussion space. 

Here, Newkirk discusses how teachers can create this new space with students by giving them time, and how allowing time to listen invites the opportunity to discuss and solve problems more slowly in order to overcome roadblocks within their own work.

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Helping Students Bring Beliefs into Writing

Helping Students Bring Beliefs into Writing

The following is adapted from Poems are Teachers: How Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater


Many texts grow from idea-and-belief-soil. Writers write about what they believe is important, what they believe is wrong, what they long to preserve. Editorial writers, reviewers, and cartoonists lay their beliefs bare on newsprint, greeting sleepy morning readers with coffee and opinion: Where is the hottest new restaurant in town? For whom should I vote? What’s up with concussions in youth sports?

National Public Radio featured a show titled This I Believe for many years, and at the website thisibelieve.org, you will find hundreds of belief essays by people of all ages and walks of life, essays about everything from attending funerals to being kind to the pizza dude.

In her book Writing to Change the World (2007), Mary Pipher asserts, “Writers can inspire a kinder, fairer, more beautiful world, or incite selfishness, stereotyping, and violence. Writers can unite people or divide them”

When we write, we nudge change, and it is our responsibility to think about what kind of writing change agents we wish to be. Which beliefs do we hold dear enough to share?

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Heinemann Fellow Kate Flowers on Battling the Blahs

Battling the Blahs "Like a Boss"

Photo Credit: Brooke Lark


I know why so many teachers leave the profession in their first five years.

The Blahs.

For me, the Blahs come in October.

Unlike August, with her shiny new face, back-to-school clothes, and pristine notebooks, or September with his lenient Labor Day break and PTSA luncheons, October is a bit of a jerk.

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Upcoming Webinar Series: Reading Conferences

"Researchers have calculated that teachers engage in literally thousands of oral interactions with children every day. What we say and the way we say it shapes children's understanding more than any other pedagogical tool we use."

Ellin Keene in To Understand: New Horizons in Reading Comprehension (2008)

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