Category Archives: Professional Development

Professional Resource Review: REFLECT AND WRITE and WRITE WHAT YOU SEE

KellnerPDResourcesAwhile back I mentioned Henry “Hank” Kellner’s fictional work. Kellner is a retired, conservative, English professor.  Shortly after the post, Kellner contacted me and offered two professional resources for review. I had a little time to play around with these at the end of the last school year , and I am very impressed with the quality of the resources.

The first one you see pictured to the right is called Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing. I like how the book is designed. Each page includes a poem, a photo related to the poem, a quote at the bottom related to the poem, and keywords that are in the poem. This gives a student a lot to pull from if they often struggle with getting started in their writing. In addition, the poems in the book are short, so that they don’t consume a lot of class time when working with them. Reflect and Write can be used to feed both quick-writes and longer writing projects.

I love this resource! I had the ability to try out one of the activities out of the book toward the end of the year. I was very impressed with my student’s engagement and quality of writing. Even some of my students that often didn’t care much about writing, or any work for that matter, showed great interest in the writing activity.

Reflect and Write also includes a CD with all of the pages, so you can easily display them on a projector that is connected to a computer. The book is recommended for grades 7-12, and I would agree that this is accurate.

The second book pictured is called Write What You See: 99 Photos to Inspire Writing. Every page includes one black and white photograph, a quote, and ideas for writing or possible opening lines. Some pages include possible key words that tie into the photos as well.

I did not get to work with this resource at the end of the year. A colleague of mine, someone who has taught for 20+ years, borrowed the book. He left an activity for a planned absence using the multiple pictures from the book. Those that teach know what can happen when you leave writing for a substitute. The report from the sub (she was a retired librarian) when he returned was that she had never seen students so engaged in a writing activity. This teacher reported to me that the writing that was left behind was surprisingly good, and that he was going to buy the book to use in his classroom next year.

Write What You See also includes a CD with copies of the pages in the book. If you are looking for a resource that will get your reluctant writers to engage, this may be a book worth purchasing.

If you teach English at the secondary level, I highly recommend these two writing resources. I have linked the titles of each book to their Amazon page. Go pick up a copy of these and give them a try in your classroom this coming school year.



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Book Review: THE MOTIVATED STUDENT by Bob Sullo

motivatedRating: 4/5 Stars

Suggested Audience: Any level of teacher

This was another book that was recommended to me by a colleague. I really enjoyed this book. As I mentioned in my review of Drive by Daniel Pink, I have seen some struggles with some of my students with regards to motivation. After reading Pink’s book and now this, I am becoming more and more convinced that systems of extrinsic motivation are limited and can only accomplish so much. This book helped me see motivation in the classroom in a completely different mindset. Motivation is not something you do to your students.

“Your job as a teacher is not to take responsibility for students’ lives by “motivating them”; your job as a teacher is to structure the classroom so that students will be motivated to learn as much as possible.”

The Motivated Student is a short read, only 165 pages, but it accomplishes a lot in that short distance. I love the way Sullo set this book up. The chapters are short. Most of them feature a classroom observation of a teacher that does something either wrong or right, a debrief from the students in that classroom, and then a debrief of the teacher. After that, Sullo will give a bit of commentary and then closes the chapter with a bulleted list of ways to move your classroom in that direction. It’s not about wholesale change, but it is about small changes that will make your classroom more motivating.

The first three chapters examine the extrinsic model of classroom motivation (fear, coercion, and external rewards). These chapters could potentially be eye opening for many teachers if they choose to read it with an open mind. Chapter four is the only chapter that is theory based and looks at the concepts of “internal control psychology” and how they apply to education. This psychological model is then the foundation for chapters 5-13. Chapter fourteen is about writing what is essentially a professional mission statement.

This is one of those books that you keep on the shelf by your desk and open back up every once in awhile when things aren’t going exactly right with your kiddos. Motivation is often an issue I hear many of my colleagues complain about. I have little doubt it is similar in other schools around the country. Sullo’s book offers teachers a chance to look at student motivation from a different perspective. Consider picking up a copy, and see if you can unlock the enthusiasm for learning in your classroom.

Andrew Palmer is co-founder of Conservative Teachers of America. He is a father, a husband, and a middle school educator from Missouri. He can be reached at [email protected]


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Rating: 4/5 Stars

Suggested Audience: Teachers, administrators, anyone interested in business

One of the problems I see with many students is low motivation. There are days that it can become downright aggravating. A colleague of mine recently recommended a couple of books to me that had been recommended to her on this topic. This was the first book of the two that I read, and it has been a book I had wanted to read for some time because I had heard it mentioned on some of the business leadership podcasts that I listen to.

The body of the book itself is only 145 pages, so it’s a pretty easy read for anyone that may want to give it a try. There is some additional 85 pages in what Pink calls the Type I toolkit. The book is simple in its construction, but fairly profound in its implication.

This is one of those books that really stretch your thinking a little bit. Pink argues that societies have operating systems. Continuing with the technical analogy he establishes that humans started with Motivation 1.0 which was pretty much survival. Motivation 2.0 came along and moved society forward greatly. It was based primarily on external rewards and punishment (carrots and sticks). We have come to a point in societal evolution that we need a new operating system that is based on more.

Pink argues in the book that carrots and sticks do work effectively for rule-based, routine tasks. This is one of the reasons Motivation 2.0 has worked so well. Much of the Industrial Revolution until the Information Age needed compensation based upon this type of approach. When you are making a bunch of widgets, you pay more for more widgets.

The challenge that lies ahead of us now is that the economy that we are heading into is far more complex and calls for a system that approaches motivation differently. Pink argues that Motivation 2.0 was best suited for what he terms Type X behavior (extrinsic) and Motivation 3.0 needs Type I behavior (intrinsic). Type I behavior is focused more on the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself. I’d argue he is right on this point. You see a definite need and more people who want to pursue purpose as opposed to wage.

There are three elements necessary for Type I behavior in business (I think this part of the book translates well to the classroom, too.) The first is autonomy. Individuals require autonomy over task, time, team, and technique. Throughout this part of the book he sites some interesting anecdotes from companies who have applied this to their companies.

The second element is mastery. “Mastery begins with “flow”–optimal experiences when the challenges we face are exquisitely matched to our abilities.” One of the most refreshing parts of this section was the emphasis he put on the importance of grit and persistence. Mastery is not easy! We live in a society that seems to value instant gratification. Well, important newsflash, anything worth mastering requires hard work even on the most mundane components.

The final element is purpose. Instead of focusing on profit maximization, businesses should instead focus on purpose maximization. A direct benefit of this purpose motive may actually be the fulfillment of  the profit motive. Personally, I think this an outstanding point and there are several companies that I can think of that are becoming highly successful because of this approach. In a sense, what Pink is arguing here is that capitalism needs a purpose driven soul to function.

I think the most significant thing I pulled from this book is that the argument in Drive is why standardization of education is not going to do anything to improve education in this country. Common Core will fail in the end because it is the last gasp of Motivation 2.0 in education. Sadly, we will have to endure the pain of its failure before people realize it. But then again, it may be the only way we move education forward to the point where it matches the emerging economy we actually need to prepare kids for.

As I said above, this book really makes you think a little bit. It has really made me think about lesson planning and what I ask of my students especially with regards to autonomy and purpose. Have you read it? What do you think of Pink’s argument in the context of education?


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