Guilty as charged. I can recall numerous times when I asked a student, “Are you ready to publish your writing?” I swiftly sent them off to rewrite, type, or illustrate their work. That writing was then retired to a class bulletin board, or even worse— my desk. Done. That was the end of that piece. It now belonged to me. Lee Heffernan has shown me the error of my ways.
Lee’s book speaks to the idea of student empowerment, accountability, meaningful writing, revision, and publishing. Her work essentially shows us how to move students from fake writing (writing that is just for the teacher) to writing that has purpose and passion. Lee manages to marry process and product in a way that will inevitably set a new standard for writing instruction for teachers everywhere. Her work breaks ground with tenets that shift our writing instructional norms and inspires students.
Adapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision: A Professional Writer Shares Strategies, Tips, and Lessons by Sneed B. Collard and Vicki Spandel
Have you ever watched a film that you enjoyed, but afterward had trouble describing— or, worse yet, never thought about again? Unfortunately, many Hollywood movies fall into this category.
They seem well-constructed and crackle with gee-whiz action, yet leave the audience empty and disappointed. Most often, the problem boils down to one issue: there’s no person or thing in the movie that we actually care about. Instead of being character driven, these movies are plot-driven. They are defined by events instead of characters that we actually identify with.
In The Stories of Science, authors Janet MacNeil, Mark Goldberg, and Melissa London describe how many of the elements of good science stories are meant to grab and hold the attention of the audience. (After all, what value is a story with no audience?) As they put it "In the movie The Never Ending Story, a boy reads a magical book and finds himself falling into the fantasy world described by the author. This is exactly what we want the audience to do when they read, hear, or see science stories."
In the book, the authors point to several strategies are used to lure readers into a story (and keep them there). Here are the four essential elements of engaging science stories:
Remember the scene in the movie Alien where the baby alien bursts out of the crew member’s chest cavity? The same horror we felt watching that monster erupt onto the screen is what many students experience when facing revision. Really, who can blame them? They just finished sweating over a writing assignment—and that was hard enough. Now you want them to go back and revisit that very same piece? Have you lost your mind?
“Visible Thinking has a double goal: on the one hand, to cultivate students’ thinking skills and dispositions, and, on the other, to deepen content learning. By thinking dispositions, we mean curiosity, concern for truth and understanding, a creative mindset, not just being skilled but also alert to thinking and learning opportunities and eager to take them.” (visiblethinkingpz.org)
Too often, I have been guilty of repeating my old story as a teacher—the story where I play the lecturer or spoon-feeder of information, and students take down notes ferociously without processing or sharing their understanding, curiosity, or emotional responses. Weeks later, on a test, I find out what they understood or didn’t.
From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.—Cesar Chavez
After a long day of teaching I walk around the classroom picking up pencils and scraps of paper. Some pieces of paper have scribble notes that make me smile. Students exchange jokes or attempt to create meaningful emojis. Other times the scribbles make me stop, wonder, and worry. One note shows two stick-figure drawings with one image’s face scratched out. Other scraps of paper have words like “I don’t like . . .” What did I miss today? How will I handle this?