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From the Classroom: Does Anyone Have Any Questions?

by Tricia Ebarvia

For years, whenever my students and I read a novel, I would pass out a study guide with a list of questions for each chapter. By giving students the study guide questions―questions I wrote―I could make sure that students wouldn’t miss anything in their reading. Too often, students would read too quickly and miss details. Requiring students to answer study guide questions was my way of getting them to slow down to notice what they were reading. To get them to see the dots that they could later connect together.

After we finished the novel, the next step would be a writing assignment. On that day, I would pass out a list of essay questions. I often included questions of varying difficulty in order to better differentiate instruction, and students could happily chose whichever essay question was most accessible (or least terrifying). In case none of the questions interested students, I always gave them the option of creating their own essay question (just so long as they reviewed it with me first).

Of course, rarely did students ever take me up on that option. After all, by creating essay questions for them, I had already sent the message that it was the teacher’s questions that mattered, not theirs. And while some students were more than happy to answer my questions―in fact, I think some of them preferred to―what I’ve come to realize that what I needed to focus on was getting students to answer their own questions about the text.  Read more

Writing Resolutions from PAWLP

What's your writing resolution-By Janice Ewing

Most PAWLPers don’t wait until New Year’s to engage in reflection and goal-setting; nevertheless, this time of year especially lends itself to those pursuits. For example, one PAWLPer said, “I firmly resolve to write something every day that is not just a compilation of events, but actual insights of life that I’ve noticed and contemplated.”

Here’s a sampling of some more of our Writing Resolutions, collected at our December Continuity and Leadership meetings: Read more

From the Classroom: Reading Conferences + Building a Professional Reader’s Toolbox

By Brittany Carlino

“Ms. C, I am giving up on post-it notes!” It is a Friday after school and I’m sitting beside Lily*, one of my brightest and most motivated students, and we are giggling about how much we hate when post-it notes stick out of our books too far.

Lily is here for a reading conference. As part of my Honors 9 Literature class, she’s in the midst of our first outside reading assignment where the kids are independently navigating a text and will have to do some writing on it in the end. As the honors kids, they mostly love to read, thus it would be easy to expect they read well. In most cases they do: they comprehend the content and can say interesting things about it. But when it comes to combing through a lengthy, complex novel to write about it with focused, meaningful, positioned points, well, no they can’t. They are 14 after all.  Even for my juniors, this presents challenges.  Read more

Tools of the Trade: Using the Classroom Library as a Tool to Move Students Forward as Independent Readers

By Kelly Virgin

My first year teaching I half filled a little book shelf in the back corner of my classroom with all the YA novels I’d collected throughout college.  A part of me was excited to share these books with my students, but most of me was just happy to clear the totes out of my closet at home.  However, as the year progressed, I soon realized the books were getting about as much use on the shelves as they had received the previous year living under my winter coats. I attributed this to the unimpressive size and slightly outdated contents and vowed to do better.

As years passed, my library grew to include the latest hits and began to take over a larger part of my classroom. I naturally expected my students interactions with it to increase accordingly.  I thought I was doing everything right.  I added bookshelf after bookshelf.  I organized by genre into colorful bins. I tagged the spines of books with color-coded labels.  I created display shelves and rotated best sellers in and out of position.  I dedicated an entire bulletin board to the library and I posted book news, and reviews, and suggestions. I added a magazine section and a children’s book section. I moved in an old comfortable papasan.

Besides increased bickering over who got to sit in the “comfy chair,” I noticed only a little increased interest in my classroom library. Year after year, I amped up my efforts but continued to lament over what I was doing wrong. Then it hit me.   Read more

Teacher to Teacher: Wish List

PAWLP PostBy Janice Ewing

In this season of giving and receiving, of lists and recommendations, I’ve been thinking about teachers, especially new ones, and what they need. So, here’s a wish list for new (and not so new) teachers:

  • Voice: the confidence to share ideas, ask questions, raise doubts about questionable practices and about why things have always been done ‘that way’
  • Agency: the understanding that it is teachers’ day to day and moment to moment decisions, based on knowledge of their students, that move students forward, not following a scripted plan with the goal of raising test scores x number of points for x number of students

Read more

Books on the Blog: Fish in a Tree

Every first Monday, join us on the PAWLP Blog for a digital “book talk.” Today, we have PAWLP Fellow Sarah Burkholder with us to review Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Fish in a Tree.


Review by Sarah Burkholder

“Everyone is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking that it’s stupid.”

Ally Nickerson has lived by one rule throughout her school years: Lie low – when called upon, always respond, “I don’t know.” Now in sixth grade, Ally’s inability to read perpetuates her perception of herself as “slow” and “dumb.” Ally has always had trouble learning and is consistently the target of peer criticism. Acting disruptive is the only way she has been able to cope with these challenges. However, her newest teacher, Mr. Daniels, realizes Ally’s potential and encourages her to embrace her learning differences. With the help of Mr. Daniels and two close friends, Ally recognizes that everyone has their own special talents and abilities, and with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible. In doing so, Ally’s peers begin to appreciate her creativity, imagination, and resiliency. The impact that Mr. Daniels has on Ally’s life is heart-warming and inspiring to read. Read more