|180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher & Penny Kittle (p. 87)|
I will definitely be re-reading this book so chock full of meaty ideas and examples for teaching secondary English language arts: research, theory, stories, and examples of teacher and student work, planning charts, mentor text lists, and lessons. However, I won’t be re-reading it until I’ve finished watching all of the 43 videos included—videos from 30 seconds to 40 minutes long of the 2 master teachers who wrote the book and their students doing the things described in the book—book talks, mini-lessons, book clubs, reading and writing conferences, and writing beside mentor texts, to name just a few that I’m finding really helpful.
As a secondary English teacher, I have been a fan of both Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle since I discovered their books about the art and craft of teaching secondary English language arts about 7 years ago, so a collaboration of the 2 was really exciting to me. As always, there was plenty of good specific ideas to support reading/writing workshop. And what a privilege to get to see these 2 experienced teachers at work, sharing their planning, process, successes, and slip-ups as they planned and then executed a year of teaching in their 2 classrooms on opposite coasts of the US. That these 2, with 31 years of experience each, continue to develop their teaching inspires me to keep trying new things myself.
Some of the things 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents helped me think about include how to have students do more reading and more writing; how to more consistently use mentor texts, mini-lessons, and quick writing; and how to conduct even better writing conferences. New practices I want to try include book clubs, a writer's notebook, and a multigenre research project.
This book originated in response to the perennial English teacher question, “How do you fit it all in?” I started asking that question the day I walked into my first classroom 30+ years ago and to find a stack of 6th grade books: spelling, vocabulary, grammar, writing, literature anthology, plus several novels. And I had 45 minutes for 180 days, minus field trips, assemblies, testing, weather cancellations, and more to get it all in. Given how many times the authors had been asked this question, they decided to sit down together to hash out exactly what the “all” is they’re committed to fitting in, and what doing that would look like. The book is divided into 2 parts: planning decisions (start with beliefs, establish daily practices, map a year of reading, map a year of writing, and balancing feedback and evaluations) and teaching essential discourses (narrative, informational, argument, and multigenre research projects).
Here’s a list of planning beliefs that resonated with me from the beginning (85-93):
- Start with the finish line in mind (What exactly do I want my students to be and do by the end of the year? )
- Plan the teaching that threads through every unit
- Plan to change your plans
- Plan to reteach
- Plan to study your teaching
I am really looking forward to the opportunity to incorporate Gallagher and Kittle’s “finish line” vision into mine, to use that vision to refine the teaching that threads through all my units, then as I teach, to change my plans, reteach, and study my teaching.
But first I have to finish watching all those videos.