National Writing Project

Many Ways English Teachers Can Improve Their Craft

Publication: Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo, a blog on Education Week
Date: February 24, 2013

Summary: Larry Ferlazzo poses the question, "How can English teachers best improve their craft?" Educators Penny Kittle and Carol Jago, past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, discuss how teachers can help their students become better writers and readers.


Excerpt from Article

Response from Penny Kittle
It isn't enough to recognize good writing when you see it. It isn't enough to break essays into parts and become a master of rubric or trait scoring. We must write. We teach writers how to work beyond the inevitable despair of clunky language and incoherent arguments because we've worked on our own. Recently. If English teachers don't write, we might draft lesson plans that don't help writers, like asking students to write essay introductions first. I don't. Sometimes I don't even recognize the argument I'm writing until I've written (badly) about an idea for a while. My notebooks are filled with unfinished thinking, rambling, sketches, and then suddenly, phrases that make sense. Once in awhile I draft an essay that requires few revisions—it might even have an introduction—but this experience is too rare to count on. We all need practice studying excellent models of writing and then time to play with words and ideas in order to become confident, flexible writers. . . .

Response from Carol Jago
In too many schools, teachers have stopped assigning homework reading altogether, principally because students have stopped doing it. This is the path to perdition for literature study. If a teacher reads aloud Lord of the Flies to a class of tenth graders, the only person in the room becoming a better reader is the teacher. I sometimes hear the excuse that there aren't enough copies of the books to send home with students. In many one-to-one laptop or e-reader programs the machines must remain at school. This is educational malpractice. Students need to develop the self-discipline and stamina necessary to read for extended periods of time on their own. How else will they be ready for college? The amount of reading required in college can be up to eight times greater than what students are reading in high school.

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Read "Many Ways English Teachers Can Improve Their Craft" at Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo, an Education Week blog .

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