Greater Expectations by Robin Turner is an excellent resource for secondary Writing Workshop teachers. As a high school teacher, he shares real life experiences, authentic teaching points, superb advice, and high quality rubrics and units. The subtitle of the book is Teaching Academic Literacy to Underrepresented Students. He offers practical, wise advice for preparing this group of students for higher education; however, don’t be turned away if you aren’t an urban teacher . . . Robin’s down to earth ideas are useful for any classroom.
I was drawn into the book on the first page with a narrative of how Robin entered college. But when I saw the wording he used for the scoring guide of his first assignment, I was hooked. The holistic score of the paper would yield: excellent writing; very good writing; good writing; potentially good writing, and required rewrite. What a positive way to label different scores.
Developing a strong sense of community is the backbone of his classroom. He writes,
The need to belong is so strong in this digitized generation that to facilitate a sense of community, or familia, can be a powerful motivating force for adolescents. In my class I try never to lose sight of the students who otherwise would get lost and be forgotten in the classroom — too often, such a student is the underrepresented student — and instead, I actively work to draw those students into the mainstream of the class (31).
He also says,
The most important thing I have learned is to be interested in my students. I have found that if I start with that, everything else falls into place (32).
And . . .
One final note: the creation of community in an English classroom needs to be infused with a sense of purpose.
The following chapters give a peek into his units, including the lessons and rubrics he uses for each project. I also appreciated that he dedicated an entire chapter to reflection. He acknowledges the need for students to reflect throughout their learning, not just at the end of a project, and he gives practical ways to encourage reflection.
I’m anxious to try out some of the strategies Robin shares in his book Greater Expectations and thought you may interested in it as well. Let me know if you’ve read this book (or are planning to read it) and some of your thoughts.