Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers

SOLSC Day 22: The Best Interest of Students


Slice of Life Small LogoThank you to the ladies at Two Writing Teachers ( for hosting the March Slice of Life Story Challenge!

The Best Interest of Students

I listened to a podcast today where Kelly Gallagher talked about his new book, In the Best Interest of Students. (Of course, I’m waiting for my copy!) In the first minute of the interview, Kelly addressed a problem with the Common Core State Standards, and I agreed. He stated that (for high school) the standards are actually quite good. (There is mention that the lower elementary grade teachers don’t seem to think that CCSS is good because they are not developmentally appropriate; since I am a middle school teacher, I’ll leave that for a different discussion.) This part of the podcast focused on “Lesson 2: Recognize the Standards by themselves are necessary, but insufficient.” Kelly explained: “The problem is, you can write down any standards on a piece of paper, but that doesn’t ensure what happens inside our classrooms when the bell rings.”

The lightbulb switched ON in my brain. Yes! I have my set of standards (although mine are Indiana State Standards) and my teaching plan, but if I don’t connect with the students, if I don’t teach them, and they don’t learn, then those standards mean nothing. One of our classroom walkthrough points for administrators (on teacher evaluation checklists) is that teachers should post the standards in the classroom and refer to them, so students will know what is expected.  I don’t mind. I typed them out and posted them on a bulletin board, and I showed them to the students. But we must not stop there! If my administrator checks that box (“Standards Posted in Classroom” or whatever it says), that doesn’t mean I’ve taught those standards. That doesn’t mean the students are learning them.

Teachers need to show students the purpose of deep learning — why those standards should matter to them. I’m thinking of a simple standard: “Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English: capitalization, punctuation, and spelling…” Just because those words are displayed in my room doesn’t mean I teach them. And how should I teach that standard, anyway? With DOL sentences? Just as I was thinking about that, Jeff Anderson showed up in my Twitter feed. “I call DOLs & their ilk ‘correct alls’ because you get the same result as you would if you took a Correct All.” LOL! No, I don’t use DOLs. They don’t work.  My students can state any error in any sentence, and correct the sentence, in isolation. They do NOT practice capitalization and punctuation in their own writing. Jeff Anderson’s books are still my favorite mentor texts for teaching grammar and writing: Mechanically Inclined and Everyday Editing. If you want your work published, you HAVE to capitalize the “I.” (It takes the place of your name. Names are capitalized because they are very important and specific.) You HAVE to show the reader where your thought ends. (Period) Right? (Question mark) Your voice comes through your writing in the form of punctuation. Do you want to pause? How long? Use a comma, dash, ellipses, depending on the voice and tone you want to convey.

Back to the podcast: Teachers must teach the standards so students will learn (notice how I’m NOT saying, “so students will achieve high scores“). In practice. Every day. Out there in the real world. School is a place for learning and growing; if the “necessary” Common Core State Standards stop at the classroom bulletin board, then they are “insufficient.” And that is not in the “best interest of students.”

(The podcast mentioned is from Ed Talk with Dr. Bob Bravo, Interview with Kelly Gallagher, Monday Night Live, 3/9/2015. You can hear it on ITunes.)


Author: Jennifer Sniadecki

I write about literacy education and my love for reading and writing. My passion is sharing titles I use for school libraries, classroom collaborations, and professional development. My goal is to collaborate, research, and share with other life-long literacy learners. Welcome to my blog!

13 thoughts on “SOLSC Day 22: The Best Interest of Students

  1. Thank you for sharing your learning from the Ed Talk. It’s interesting to read things about middle and high school since I teach elementary school.

  2. This is so true : “…if I don’t connect with the students, if I don’t teach them, and they don’t learn, then those standards mean nothing…”

    The problem in my state right now is that the administrators aren’t really able to look for that connection… it isn’t really on the evaluation.

    I loved how you talked about grammar. We just had a pd session about teaching grammar IN CONTEXT. Very interesting… research showing that there is a lower retention of skill when it is taught in isolation. Lower even than when it is not taught at all! Crazy!

    • Yes, some things teachers do actually HURT the learning. It is crazy. I’m guilty of it, too, at least in the past. Listen to the rest of Kelly’s podcast if you get a chance. It’s so interesting!

  3. Wow–we could have some very long conversations coming out of this post. About the standards. About DOLs. About teaching grammar in context. About deeper learning. About the importance of the standards as a starting block. I will come back to this and link up to the podcast when it’s not 10:49. Thanks for making me think hard this late on a Sunday night.

  4. Thanks for sharing your learning and thinking! This is so true…it’s not enough to just post standards. And it’s not enough to teach a certain standard once or twice, especially in isolation. I love Jeff Anderson’s work as well, and I think it makes much more of a difference in students’ writing than other things I’ve seen or used.

  5. So glad you found the podcast! Wasn’t that good? Thank you for sharing your take-aways and reflection.

  6. Pinning this so I can come back to it. I love Kelly Gallagher. I will have to look up this podcast — thanks for sharing.

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