Reading & Literacy Blog

Teaching for the Whole Story

Ariel Sacks (@arielsacks) is a middle school language arts teacher and instructional-support coach. She is the author of Whole Novels for the Whole Class: A Student-Centered Approach. This blog is no longer being updated.

Equity & Diversity Opinion Five Reasons Author Visits Are More Than Just Cool
Reading a book and meeting the author is not just a cool event to shake up the regular school routine--it's a powerful learning opportunity that can affect students academically and personally.
Ariel Sacks, October 31, 2018
9 min read
Professional Development Opinion When Top-Down Professional Development Doesn't Work
My friend is on the cusp of becoming a great teacher. But alongside her process of skill building and identity formation, her school is in the midst of its own identity crisis.
Ariel Sacks, October 16, 2018
4 min read
Teaching Opinion Why We Might Consider Teaching Less This Year
We really don't need to be in the front of the room talking--pointing at a slide, rapidly firing questions at students and cold calling to make sure they are paying attention--in order to be "teaching." We know this, yet we still do it so much of the time. Just take a quick walk through the halls of your school and peek into each classroom. Where is the teacher? Who's talking?
Ariel Sacks, August 8, 2018
3 min read
Teaching Opinion Tips For Selecting a Book For the Whole Class
There is little more difficult than trying to engage a whole class of students in reading a novel that is a poor match for the group. There are things teachers can do to influence the experience in one direction or another, but a great deal rests purely on the book itself...Once we have some possible titles in mind, we need to think through our decisions very carefully, going in with as clear an understanding of what might work really well about the book and what might be challenging or disappointing about it. Below is an excerpt adapted from Whole Novels For the Whole Class: A Student Centered Approach (2014) about five key factors I weigh when I select a book for my whole class to read.
Ariel Sacks, July 26, 2018
5 min read
Equity & Diversity Opinion Why Charter School Teachers Should Care About the Janus Decision
The local union's ability to negotiate a decent deal on behalf of teachers pretty directly pressures charters to fall in line and stay competitive. It that power goes away, charter school teachers who have benefited from this unspoken relationship are likely to feel the difference as much or more than their district counterparts.
Ariel Sacks, June 29, 2018
5 min read
Equity & Diversity Opinion Why School Librarians Are the Literacy Leaders We Need
When we cut school librarians and rely solely on teachers to curate classroom libraries, we open the door to several problems and close the door to other key benefits.
Ariel Sacks, May 29, 2018
7 min read
Reading & Literacy Opinion 10 Tips For Helping Students Open Up to Poetry
Every year I have some students who arrive to my class with a fear or dislike of poetry. Spending some time away from deconstruction of meaning of poems has always worked to put these students at ease and allow them to open up to poetry anew.
Ariel Sacks, April 19, 2018
5 min read
Equity & Diversity Opinion Four Dichotomies in Education Worth Interrogating
Language can be limiting; it can also be liberating. With that in mind, I wanted to look at some of ways we categorize people and ideas in education, and how they might represent false dichotomies that need to be opened up.
Ariel Sacks, April 15, 2018
3 min read
Teaching Opinion Our Students Know More Than We Think
There's a strange power children and adolescents can derive from watching adults be clueless about something they know—it's the role reversal that makes it a novel event.
Ariel Sacks, February 27, 2018
3 min read
Teaching Opinion The Difference One Sentence Makes to a Student
I share these two stories for the chance they offer to think about the power of our words to students. What sentence will you say to a student--intentionally or not--that will stay with them for the rest of their lives? That might, for better or worse, reframe how they see themselves? How do we show students we see them?
Ariel Sacks, February 14, 2018
4 min read
Teaching Opinion For Valentine's Day, Students Can Lead the Way
If we provide structure and support for students to raise their voices and take action, they can astonish us with their capacity—and show us a good time!
Ariel Sacks, January 31, 2018
6 min read
Teaching Profession Opinion Can Educators Do It All?
Now that I've settled in a bit, I'm back to asking the eternal question: can I somehow do it all? Teach, write, lead, parent...and live? The difference is that I used to ask it with the underlying attitude of, "Of course I can!" and then spread myself too thin. Now I ask the same question from a place of, "Probably not, and that's okay; we all have to make choices, but I'll keep asking." This has the feel more of a puzzle than a wall: like when you think you are close to solving a Rubik's Cube, but then you have to actually undo that path in order to see a different one. I don't mind that.
Ariel Sacks, January 26, 2018
3 min read
Assessment Opinion Try a Simple Speaking Assessment to Close the Semester
Around the end of the semester, I like to use a simple speaking activity that accomplishes several things at once.
Ariel Sacks, January 6, 2018
4 min read
Teaching Profession Opinion Top Five Posts of 2017: Teaching for the Whole Story
As 2017 comes to a close, so does another year of blogging--a practice that's been a privilege, a learning tool, and a wonderful challenge for me for almost a decade. My top 5 posts here at Teaching For the Whole Story speak clearly to the direction my blogging has taken--practical, focused on teaching practices, with plenty of reflection... Here's to continuing to find lessons and pathways in 2018 that work on a practical level AND bring us closer to our deepest purposes as educators.
Ariel Sacks, December 31, 2017
6 min read