Words of Wisdom from Kelly Gallagher

Sep 19, 2012 by

I know that many of you read my website and blogposts because you have attended one or more of my seminars.  If you have participated in any of my writing seminars, you know how strongly I feel about the use of mentor texts and teacher modeling in our writing instruction.  Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to hear someone else preach this message.  I attended a whole day workshop taught by Kelly Gallagher.  The text for the workshop was his newest book Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts.  I felt like shouting, “Amen!” all day as he reaffirmed this strong belief of mine.

I took pages and pages of notes.  As I was reviewing them today, I decided to share just a few of these affirmations.  Here they are in no particular order:

We need to recognize that there is a big difference between assigning writing and teaching writing.
Start by telling kids why they need to learn to write.
When kids see value in something, they are much more willing to buy into it.
What makes good great?

Practice.  In The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells readers about the 10,000 Hour Rule—that is, the key to success in any field is an investment in time and hard work—about 10,000 hours of practice.  He reminds us that “experts are made, not born.”  This practice must be deliberate and include areas in which we are not already comfortable.  How do kids become great writers?  By practicing…a lot.

Students should be writing 4 times more than we can grade.  If we can grade everything kids are writing, they aren’t writing enough.  Not even close.
Kids have to create lots of bad writing before good writing emerges.
What is proven to make kids better writers?

      1. modeling
      2. conferring
Grading doesn’t make writing better.
We need to be writing in front of our students.  It’s important for kids to see teachers struggle with writing…because writing is a struggle.
If we want kids to write, we have to take them swimming in the genre first.  Start by wading before taking them to the deep end.
Jon Scieszka says kids need lots of “stupid” reading.  Kelly says they need lots of “stupid” writing, too.  Give kids opportunities to play around with language and have fun with silly topics (wading in the pool before taking them to the deep end).
Revision makes writing better.  Editing makes it correct.  Who cares if it is correct if it is terrible writing? (This doesn’t mean editing isn’t important—just that it doesn’t take the place of or have a higher status than revision).
Teach kids to run their drafts under the “RADaR”.  This is an acronym for the four ways to revise a piece of writing.

    1. Replace
    2. Add
    3. Delete
    4. Reorder

I could go on, but I will stop here for today.  I plan to comment on a few of his topics in more depth in subsequent posts but wanted to give you these few thoughts to reflect on today.  If you ever have the chance to attend one of Kelly seminars, I highly recommend that you do.  This was my third time hearing him and it never gets old.

But, even if you don’t have the opportunity to hear him in person, he has written a number of phenomenal books that take you step-by-step through what he teaches.  If you are looking for practical ideas, explicit instructions, and inspiration, you don’t need to look any further than Write Like This.  It is packed with examples of his own writing and the writing of his students.  It is guaranteed to raise the quality of your writing instruction and just as importantly, get your students turned on to writing.

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