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You Can Teach Writing

By: Linda Aragoni | February 02, 2018

For me, giving feedback to a student who has something to say, no matter how bad the mechanics are, is much easier than giving feedback to a student who has nothing whatsoever to say but spells it correctly. My strategy is to dodge the issue of providing feedback on the writing until I can determine why the student writes empty essays — which is my semi-polite term for writing that sounds like it was written by a moron having a really bad day. In most cases, establishing a relationship with the student provides all the information I need to provide feedback on the student's writing tactfully and supportively.

Empty essay example

Here's a sample of the kind of shallow writing I mean:
There are a lot of places where I can go to be alone and...

Category: Teaching writing 

Tags: feedback 

By: Linda Aragoni | February 03, 2017

Last week a publisher sent me an ad for a new book for teachers which is now on pre-order:
The Reading Strategies Book made the New York Times Best Seller List by making it simpler to match students’ needs to high-quality instruction. Now, in The Writing Strategies Book, Jen Serravallo does the same, collecting 300 of the most effective strategies to share with writers, and grouping them beneath 10 crucial writing goals.
In her introduction, Serravallo explains her purpose:
My aim in this book is to offer my favorite, most useful collection of strategies that span all aspects of the writing process, all genres and modes of writing, and that will work well with students in grades K–8. advertisement for book 300 Writing Strategies

Appealing and practical

I just dipped into The Writin...

By: Linda Aragoni | April 13, 2014

controller in hands of gamerThe kid who hates to write may also be the kid who is enthralled by video games. The games are probably more complicated than writing, but they appeal to kids because, among other things, they give rapid feedback. Anyone attempting to learn a skill wants immediate feedback. Would you learn to knit if you had to wait until the end of the grading period to know if you were correctly applying the directions for knit and purl? I don't think so. The strategies writing teachers teach their least experienced writers should provide feedback apart from any feedback the teachers provide. That maxim is particularly important in what English teachers with self-destructive tendencies call the "pre-writing stage," practically guaranteeing tha...

By: Linda Aragoni | October 13, 2013

Last week, a teacher I know slightly asked me what I've been up to. I said I'd just taken a wonderful course in Data-Driven Journalism that had opened my eyes to all all sorts of new (to-me) ideas and tools. I said the course was so exciting I wanted to take learn more on the topic. The teacher said nothing. Not one word. Absolute silence. I don't think I could have been more shocked or more hurt if the teacher had kicked me. Her silence felt like a total rejection of the value of my learning, my values, and me. If that's a sample of how that teacher responds to students who are learning interesting things outside her classroom, I'm awfully glad I'm not her student.

Category: Teachers 

Tags: teachers, feedback 

By: Linda Aragoni | October 23, 2011

An excerpt from Daniel Kahneman's forthcoming book Thinking, Fast and Slow was published today in the New York Times Magazine under the title "Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence." The article has applications to the current discussion about education.

Daniel Kahneman, emeritus professor of psychology and of public affairs at Princeton University and a winner of the 2002 Noble Prize in Economics, tells about his personal experience evaluating the leadership potential of candidates for army officer training.

The evaluators' rigorous methods consistently failed to select candidates that the commanders at the training school viewed officer material. Despite that regular negative feedback, Kahneman and his colleagues continued to hol...

Category: Uncategorized 

Tags: testing, feedback 

By: Linda Aragoni | September 28, 2011

Overwhelmed by all the material on teaching writing at You-Can-Teach-Writing.com, a man who described himself as "just a dad, concerned for his 8th grade son" asked me how to entice his son to start writing. "Do you have simple worksheets from 1-10 (A to Z) that he can start, practice, and systematically go through to comprehend your writing topics?" he asked. His question is one I get regularly in one form or another and not just from parents. Even those of us who teach writing have days when a simple worksheet sounds awfully appealing. But writing is not a task that can be learned from worksheets. Writing is a complex skill like playing trombone or driving a car or swimming. You don't expect a trombonist to develop...

Category: Teaching writing 

Tags: feedback 

By: Linda Aragoni | August 20, 2011

Whether children should be allowed to fail has been a subject of discussion in the Twittersphere this week. I don't believe children should be allowed to fail, if by that you mean allowing them to drown if they don't master the butterfly stroke. I do believe in allowing trial and error. The errors from such experiences are not failures but feedback. In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi summarizes studies of how people feel when they are engaged in some enjoyable task. The first four of his eight observations of what makes an experience genuinely satisfying — the state he calls flow — have particular  relevance to a discussion of the role of failure in learning:
First, the experience usuall...

Category: Lifelong learning 

Tags: feedback 

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