Professional Book Review: 180 Days – Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents

For those of you who know me, you would not be surprised that I have already read, annotated, and “post-it noted” Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher’s latest professional development book on reading/writing workshop, 180 Days – Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents.  If you haven’t already ordered this book, stop reading this post and GO BUY IT NOW!

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Why am I pushing this book so much?  There hasn’t been a book written by these two educators that I haven’t found worthwhile and this one does not disappoint. Gallagher and Kittle take us through a year in their classrooms sharing practical ideas on how they incorporate both reading and writing workshop into their daily lessons.  They are brutally honest in their reflections (Consider This…) that they blend into each chapter. The authors have also included online resources and videos for teachers to follow along with as they read each chapter.  The videos are raw and honest and give you examples of how they modeled, taught, and conferred with students. Plus they share their own struggles and mistakes along the way.  They show us that they are real This is one that I will return to and reference over and over again as I plan with teachers for many years to come.

How is the book set up?  180 Days is divided into two sections:  Planning Decisions and Teaching Essential Discourses.  In the Planning Decisions section, the authors share their beliefs and philosophies, how they set up the structure and routines of their class, their yearlong plan for reading and writing, and finally their views on grading and feedback.  If you have read Kittle’s books Book Love or Write Beside Them, you will delve deeper into her updated views on both reading and writing in the classroom. Gallagher is a more traditional English teacher and Kittle pushes him to try some very innovative reading practices in his classroom.  In this book, the authors take more time to discuss the idea of using book clubs in their classes as an alternative to independent reading and whole class novels for a small portion of the school year.  This is a topic neither have previously discussed in their work.  I appreciate this edition because I do see the importance of students discussing a longer piece of work together.  As with all of their books, you will find simple resources that can be adapted to your class tomorrow.

The second section, Teaching Essential Discourses, focuses on narrative, informational, and argumentative writing, plus multigenre research.  Each chapter includes how they designed each writing unit, their reflections on challenges they faced when implementing it, and specific mentor texts that you can use to teach specific skills and writing techniques with your students.  The authors also include student examples of how students mimicked the work of writers in this world.  While the main focus of this section is on teaching students how to write these discourses, Gallagher and Kittle also weave reading skills and strategies into their mentor text examples that they share with us.  They emphasize the importance that reading and writing go hand in hand and show us ways to do this with our students.  Again, there are LOADS of resources and strategies in this book for high school English teachers at all levels.

I am so grateful that I work in an English department that encourages teachers to go against the grain and do what is right for students. We believe in creating a culture of readers and writers in our classes and throughout our school.  We read books, both professional and personal, and share with each other.  We collaborate and plan together, we problem solve, we question, and we push each other.  We could not do these things without the work of Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Linda Rief, Donald Graves, Tom Romano, Kylene Beers, Robert Probst, etc – these amazing educators who have challenged our beliefs and pushed us to to think outside the box to meet the needs of all of our students.

As I stated at the beginning of this review, I can’t recommend this book enough.  It is worth every penny that you will spend.  Just go buy it today!

 

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