Kelly Gallagher on Writing

By Catherine A. Cardno — February 09, 2012 2 min read
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Education Week Teacher has a new book club discussion scheduled at the end of this month: Kelly Gallagher, author of Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts (Stenhouse, 2011), will be online and answering your questions from Feb. 21-23, 2012. You might know Gallagher’s earlier book, Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It (Stenhouse, 2009). It was a hit with educators for condemning, in his words, “the inane, mind-numbing [reading] practices found in schools.” A high school English teacher in Anaheim, Calif., Gallagher has also served as the English coordinator for his district and an adjunct professor at California State University at Fullerton.

Teacher has pulled together a wealth of information on Gallagher’s Write Like This, including links to Gallagher’s website and Twitter feed, a video trailer for the book, a link to the publisher’s page, and links to related books that might be of interest. Anthony Rebora, the managing editor of Teacher, has also written a short review.

Gallagher’s book, Rebora writes, “argues that writing instruction needs to be reoriented around two interlocking premises.” First, teachers should give students prompts and assignments based on real-world ideas and situations that will engage them and demonstrate to them the value of writing thoughtfully. “As a reader, it’s hard not to be impressed by the cleverness and variety of Gallagher’s short-writing prompts,” Rebora writes. “You get the feeling that students could have fun with these assignments—which of course is a big part of Gallagher’s point.”

The second premise is that teachers should provide students with authentic modeling of how written responses to the prompts can be constructed. Gallagher uses overhead projectors or document cameras to demonstrate the writing process himself, in class. “Mentor texts”—sample texts written by professional writers—are also deconstructed, reflected on, and imitated by the class as part of the assignments.

In the fall of 2010, Gallagher wrote a Commentary for Education Week on school testing (spoiler alert: He’s not a fan), and last April, Rebora published a lengthy Q&A with Gallagher. Judging by the numbers, Gallagher’s got a huge fan base.

If you’re not familiar with the book club, you should check it out. Every couple of months, Teacher selects a new book and invites the author to host an online discussion. The Teacher team offers background for readers to review to help prepare for the discussion (and also to make it easier to participate if you don’t have time to finish the book).

More information about the upcoming discussion with Gallagher, and past book club discussions that have run, can be found on the Teacher book club website.

I hope you’ll have a chance to check out the book and participate in the discussion.

The crucial details:

Kelly Gallagher, Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling & Mentor Texts, (Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers, 2011).

ISBN: 978-1-57110-896-8
Stenhouse’s page: //

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A version of this news article first appeared in the BookMarks blog.