Oh, Kelly Gallagher! How you have forever changed my teaching for the better.
I have always loved teaching reading and writing, but it wasn't until a colleague introduced me to Readicide four years ago that I was on my way to becoming the teacher I am today.
Yes, Readicide was the beginning, I read it cover to cover and felt like he was speaking right to me. Then came Reading Reasons, which I lovingly shared with all of my students on a mission to spread the importance of reading. Next was Deeper Reading, which pushed me further away from novel packets, worksheets and arts & crafts. This book empowered me to encourage deep book discussions, and caused me to lose my remaining grip on literal questions as the only way to check for understanding.
Finally came Write Like This. Two years ago, I had the absolute pleasure of attending a 3-day writing workshop from my reading/writing hero. I went alone, paid my own way, and soaked up every bit of writing knowledge from Mr. Gallagher himself. When I had the opportunity to meet him and shake his hand, he signed my Write Like This book, with its numerous dog-eared and highlighted pages, chock full of post-its. The funny thing was, just about every lesson he shared, I had engaged my students with wild success. Hearing him share the reasoning behind these writing activities, and watching him talk the talk, was nothing short of amazing. I got a photo with him, which I had made into a framed 8x10 and now proudly display in my classroom (and on my website). My former students returned to my room that fall to see the picture I promised I would have, and I didn't disappoint.
Kelly Gallagher was the reason I joined Twitter (because he said it was the best thing any teacher could do). His forward in Erik Palmer's Well Spoken was the reason I bought that book, which transformed my teaching of speaking and listening. (That's a whole other story!)
Now, I am devouring his latest book, In the Best Interest of Students. The print book will come a bit later, but I'm reading the ebook now. Again, I am wowed by his educational pedagogy that is right on the money. I especially love the way he breaks down what the text says, what the text does and what the text means. I appreciate the lengthy section devoted to sharpening speaking and listening skills, which is a huge focus in my classroom. Also, I love the overall idea that we must stay true to what is best for our students, no matter how strong the pull is away from that.
Although he is preaching to the choir in my case, his words bear repeating to the masses. There's something about the wisdom of Kelly Gallagher that rekindles the belief in my teaching methods. I don't over teach a novel because of him. I move beyond the four corners of a text because of him. I teach students that you get better at reading by writing, and better at writing by reading because of him. I teach the Six Real-World Writing Purposes because of him. My students are the lucky benefactors of Kelly Gallagher's wisdom, but I am the lucky vessel through which they experience it.
Go now. Run. Get your copy of In the Best Interest of Students. You won't regret it!