Haley Lewis teaches eighth grade language arts in Cincinnati, Ohio. She loves getting new books into the hands of her students and reading YA novels to recommend to them. Haley is constantly seeking new ways to get her students engaged in reading and writing to help them develop successful literacy skills. She aims to show her students that you never stop growing as a learner. Today, Haley shares about a professional development book that has contributed to her journey as a life-long learner.
In the summer of 2018, as a participant of the Book Love Summer Book Club, I was introduced to 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents. I had heard of the works of Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle and was intrigued right away. As soon as my copy came in the mail, I instantly started devouring the book and all it had to offer. This professional development book gives the reader an insight into how these two famous and prestigious educators go about planning, developing, and implementing “180 days” worth of reading and writing instruction.
What should you expect?
These two master teachers constructed a major collaboration between their two philosophies on teaching, reading, writing, and reflecting. The book was inspired by a teacher’s question, “How do you fit it all in?” In an attempt to choose and prioritize their best practices, they created 180 Days. The book is broken into two main parts: Planning Decisions and Teaching Essential Discourses. The first part takes the reader through the process the pair used to plan a school year of teaching. They begin, as all good teachers of reading and writing should when planning, with their beliefs. These are their non-negotiables. Simply, that students must be daily readers and must write every day more than we could ever read or grade. They will address daily practices, how they map out their units, and how they strive to balance feedback and evaluation.
Part two takes you through the four main discourses they cover in their classrooms–narrative, informational, argument, and multi-genre research projects. They address how they think of the units being put together, how they set up “laps” to cover the different dynamics of each style of writing, and the essential questions they align their work with. They throw in a PLETHORA of videos of conferences, mini-lessons, book clubs, etc. You will walk away feeling ready to revamp your entire curriculum and be changed on the way you look at your reading and writing instruction.
My Takeaways as a Life-long Learner and Educator
Start your planning, instruction, and reflection with your beliefs.
I will never forget something that Beth Rimer, my Ohio Writing Project instructor, told our class about starting with beliefs. Your beliefs are like your compass in teaching. They are there to remind you where your true North is and what you firmly believe in. When we plan our instruction, we should start by reflecting on our true beliefs as teachers. For example, if I strongly believe that kids should be writing every single day in my classroom, then are my lessons reflecting that? Can I put my finger on the segment of my lesson that gives my students that time to write (and not just in response to their reading)? And as all good educators of reading and writing do, Gallagher and Kittle start the book with their beliefs. Their beliefs in the power of models, that choice drives engagement, that reading identity matters, the value of talk, that writing identity matters, etc. They discuss how you will see that in their planning, instruction, and reflection. So as I plan for each year, unit, and week, I have to start out by looking back on my core beliefs? These will help drive a successful year of literacy instruction.
The significance of mentor texts
Students need constant practice in reading like readers and writers. Yes, they are different. This is an invaluable time for our kids to see the craft and moves that writers utilize in order to transfer them into their own writing. The end goal for all of us is that we want our students to be better writers. We want them to be prepared for the future writing tasks they will encounter in adulthood. This means grabbing mentor texts wherever you can find them to get them in the hands of your students whether it be an article, a comic, or an infographic.
Teachers = Models of Writing
We need to be reading, writing, thinking, and reflecting right alongside our students. They need to see us and how we work through the habits of readers, writers, speakers. When these two are doing mini-lessons, they are doing the activity at the same time as their students. They are thinking aloud, revising on the spot, and going through the process with their kids. This is essential to helping our students as learners.
My Classroom Application
I began including time to allow my students to read 10 minutes each day in class. I gave them the element of choice. I redesigned my classroom library and flooded my classroom with diverse and contemporary novels to intrigue them. Conferences were a new thing and enhanced the way I got to look into the reading journey of my students. I attempted a few of the mini-lessons modeled in book to see success in changing up my kids’ writing.
This year I will be starting off with my beliefs. I will communicate those to my students. I will make a better use of my writer’s notebooks in order to have my students writing every single day.
After all has been said and done, this book is essential to my classroom. It can be essential to yours. If you are looking for some voices to guide you or some shoulders to metaphorically stand upon, then check out “180 Days” by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle.
What did you take away from 180 Days? How are you going to change your approach to planning your year? You can comment below or find me on Twitter at @Misslewis313!