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On the Shoulders of Giants

Ariel Sacks

September 15, 2014

The Writing Wall: 3 Lessons About Not Giving Up!

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I still had many ideas for posts. I collected them in a list on my phone.  I composed pieces of them in my head while doing other things. The problem was that I utterly lacked the will to do the work of writing them. What was going on?! More generally, how should we respond to “the writing wall” when it presents itself? And what can we learn from these situations?   

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Ariel Sacks

September 3, 2014

Some Innovative Teachers Who Leave Come Back: An Interview With Geneviève DeBose

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Recently, I've been thinking about all of the great teachers who've already made the choice to leave the classroom and become administrators, work in district positions, or join organizations that work on education research and policies. Often, they mention to me how they miss teaching; some say they still identify as teachers at core. Why don't we also advocate for some of these folks to return to the classroom, whether on a full or part time basis? I spoke with Geneviève on the phone about her experiences away from teaching and what led her back. She is definitely one of my edu-heroes right now; in my opinion, we need many more to follow her example.

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Ariel Sacks

August 24, 2014

Are Middle School and High School Students Really That Different? Observations and Advice From MS/HS Teachers

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I’m excited to be making a big move this school year, from being a middle school teacher to a middle school AND high school teacher.  Yep, I’ve taken a new position as the 8th and 9th grade English teacher at a small K-12 school in my neighborhood.  And while 9th grade is not far from 8th, I know that one year makes a big difference in the life of an adolescent.

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Ariel Sacks

August 8, 2014

My Best Posts for Beginning Teachers

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As I browsed the back-to-school posts in my various feeds, I was inspired to do a round-up of my own posts that I think would be most useful to beginning teachers. I’ve focused on practical tips, organization and classroom management ideas, because I think these represent some of the most immediate hurdles and stressors for new teachers, but I also included a few big-idea posts at the end too.

 

Practical/Classroom Management

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Ariel Sacks

June 29, 2014

Teaching Poetry, Whole-Novels Style: Creating An Immersion Experience For Students

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CONCEPT: Just like in whole novel studies, experience is of primary importance in the study of poetry. Too often, students receive the message in their English classes that poetry exists to be analyzed.  They learn terms, strategies and complicated acronyms to remember them--all in the service of solving a “poem-problem” with, what they understand is supposed to be a clear answer.  As a reader, scholar and writer of poetry, I can say with confidence that poems are not built for a formulated analysis and rarely come with clear answers!  I think the vast majority of English teachers would agree with me on this; yet sometimes, in effort to reach standards and keep kids on track, common classroom methods still push students into the understanding that we read poetry to analyze and arrive at a specific outcome.    

If not analysis or a specific outcome, then what characterizes the experience of poetry?

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Ariel Sacks

June 2, 2014

2014 Bammy Awards and What It Means to Be Recognized

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Yesterday, CTQ colleague Renee Moore tweeted a congratulations message to the 2014 Bammy Award Finalists, and tagged me in it, along with several of my favorite teacher-writers, Jose Vilson, Larry Ferlazzo, and Stephen Lazar... and that's when I saw that I, in fact, have been selected as a finalist for a Bammy Award for Middle School Educator of the year!

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Ariel Sacks

May 30, 2014

Masters of Our Own Ships

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In my previous post, I wrote about a valuable practice in reading intruction: reading alongside the students during independent reading.  Often an in-the-moment decision, reading alongside students can be used when the mood in the classroom is just perfect and joining in the reading makes more sense than disturbing students' reading, and other times when the mood is frenetic, and modelling silent reading is more helpful to students than any other measure. 

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Ariel Sacks

May 28, 2014

Under-Rated Teaching Strategy: Read Next To Them!

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It was fifth period, sometime last week (it's late May), and students should have been reading quietly.  Generally, I would be using this time to have conversations with individual students about their reading, check over their reading notes and give some quick feedback, or read aloud with a small group.  But on that day, I hadn't gotten into a groove with any of this. That was because at one table, a group of students had gotten themselves into their own groove of striking up a conversation every time I didn't have my eyes on them.

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