• Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Archives
    Archives Contains a list of blog posts that were created previously.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in improving writing

Posted by on in What If?


Thanks to the internet plagiarism is all too easy these days. And with all the pressure students are under – their demanding schedules and an unprecedented fear of failure – it's not unexpected that they would be tempted t take the easy way out.

But do students fully understand plagiarism and its cost to them? Can we help them see that it’s wrong, despite the fact that it’s not plagiarism 1as blatantly harmful as other crimes? Can they come to care about original thought and demonstrating it in their writing?

To answer those questions and others, I invited Laura DeSena, author of Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques, and Barry Gilmore, author of Plagiarism: Why It Happens and How to Prevent It, along with middle school principal Nancy Blair, to Studentcentricity. You can hear the full discussion here.

Following the conversation, Barry contributed this takeaway:

Last modified on

Posted by on in Studentcentricity

kid textingHarvard education specialist Tony Wagner recently identified effective written and oral communication skills as being among the seven key skills necessary for when students leave school. But how do we cultivate effective written communication skills? How do we foster enthusiasm for writing in the age of tweets and texts? Those are some of the questions I asked teachers Amy Conley and David Cutler in an episode of Studentcentricity. Amy uses strategies that align with intrinsic motivation and Carol Dweck’s growth mindset theory. And David talks about the role of criticism in improving students’ writing. You can listen to what they had to say by clicking here.

Following the interview, David and Amy sent me their final thoughts. David wrote:

I would like to reiterate the importance of modeling effective writing in front of students. If done well, this practice not only exemplifies any number of successful writing habits, but it also reassures students that nobody -- not even the teacher -- is a flawless master. Students are then more likely to embrace risk taking and learning from failure, which includes a deeper receptivity to critical feedback.

Amy added:

Students can become self-motivated writers and readers when we explicitly teach growth mindset and goal-setting for mastery, so they can find their purposes and paths for gaining literacy. Trusting them to handle critique and failure is just a part of the process of writing, and modeling that by writing with them in the classroom leads to students who see themselves as writers instead of students doing an assignment.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


Inspired by a project at Smith Magazine Six Word Memoirs are a great tool to use in the classroom. With students feeling the pressure of producing more, turn thae tables on them and have them write less while continuing to use critical thinking skills. Here are some ideas inspired by Six Word Memoirs:



Have students write their life story in six words and use them to introduce each other in new classes. On my first day, students took turns randomly opening the book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure and reading one or two memoirs that piqued their interest. Students then wrote their life story in six words on an index card and the class guessed whose story was whose. I loved getting to know my students better and hearing their stories, and the students felt valued because they were heard. Most of the six word memoirs elicited questions from other students wanting to know more about what was written. Here are some of my favorites from my first day of school:

Last modified on

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


The summer slide is not the latest dance fad among teens, but a term teachers use to describe how students tend to lose information during the summer months. Students are out of the classroom and “free” from the constraints of learning, yet if the goal of education of education is creating life-long learners, summer is not a time to mentally check out. If anything, it’s a time to let  minds run free and focus on areas of interest; something that does not happen during the school year very often.

While parents may be conjuring up pictures of kids sitting at the kitchen table working through SAT practice books or reading Crime and Punishment, I propose a different approach to summer work which I like to call free-range learning. The emphasis here is to let students control what and how they want to learn over the summer and have a more relaxed approach to learning. My own three kids were never the type to grab a book and disappear into their room for hours on end, so I had to come up with way to “trick” them into keeping their minds engaged during the summer. Here are a few suggestions:

Travel or explore your city. Going new places and experiencing new things keeps minds active and fresh. Science shows that exposure to new places is good for your brain, so provide some of these experiences for students over the summer. Attend a local festival, try different ethnic restaurants, spend an afternoon in a new neighborhood, or visit a historical site.

Take up a new hobby. Interested in music? Art? Hiking? Summer is the perfect time to learn how to play the guitar or piano or go to art camp. If you can’t afford lessons, try some online learning forums to see if the hobby is something your child would like to pursue.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

Kids look into the mind’s mirror, see themselves (maybe for the first time), and write about what they find.  How scary is that?  This is “Reflections,” an application of “Music Writing,” which introduced adolescents to the wild world of inner experience via music, and how the mind’s eye, like a giant spotlight, illuminates events as mental image pictures to contemplate.  Contemplation helped kids to examine their inner and outer worlds and gave them organic and real reasons for writing, motivating them from the inside to express their everyday experiences.  

I created Reflections because student contemplations in Music Writing described painful events present in their minds: divorce, death, illness, failures, and negativity.  After practicing Music Writing for two months (see http://www.edutopia.org/blog/music-writing-trigger-creativity-jeffrey-pflaum), I began Reflections, whose aims were to:

  • Locate a past experience and describe it in 100 words or more.
  • Use visualization, reflection, and contemplation to find and re-create the experience.
  • Improve self-awareness, -knowledge, -understanding, -esteem, and -expression.
  • Use discussion to reinforce all the above objectives.


I defined “reflection” by drawing a stick figure looking into a mirror, and said: ”When you see a reflection of yourself in a mirror, you’re looking at yourself.”  I sketched a diagram of the inner eye looking at experiences-as-mind-pictures.  I drew the eye looking at images in a mirror inside the stick figure’s head.  I explained: “You see your self, your experiences, in an imaginary mirror.  Observe your reflection inside the mind.  Use your inner eye to find, visualize, reflect on, and contemplate a past experience.  Then, write about it.”  

Practice oral reflection lesson: 

Last modified on