Learning from Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle

When I saw that Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher were offering an all day workshop in our area, I went straight to the middle and high school administrators and insisted that they send the entire ELA department.  At first, they asked if I could just go and fill everyone in. “No.” I declared. “Teachers all need to experience Penny and Kelly’s insights and enthusiasm for themselves.” Fortunately, they agreed and my district sent 12 teachers and 1 administrator!

The day was transformative. Teachers left feeling validated and inspired to try a few new things. After the workshop, I created a Google form on which they shared their big takeaways. I’ve listed a few of their ideas (and mine) below:  

Big Takeaways

  • Everyday practices: Read, Write, Study, Create, Share.  Kelly and Penny find time to do each every day, or nearly every day (they were very real about that).
  • Provide time for reading in class! If students are not reading with you, they are unlikely to read without you!
  • Student to student feedback! Teachers are lucky if they get to confer with a student more than once a week. Providing students with time to confer with one another creates more opportunities to receive feedback and engage in writing.
  • The power of connecting students with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Kelly and Penny highlighted many examples of insights their students gained from connecting with one another; Kelly teaches in urban and diverse Anaheim, CA while Penny is in rural New Hampshire.
  • Kids spend way more time developing as writers when they engage in “enjoyable writing“
  • Complex thinking doesn’t require complex texts.
  • Using the term: “Best Draft” rather than “Final Draft”
  • Social Justice Book clubs that incorporate choice and opportunity for exploring themes in fiction and informational texts.
  • The case for good, old fashioned notebooks!  
  • “Teaching is an act of love”- Penny Kittle. Thank you for reminding us, Penny!

Next Steps

The beauty of having the entire ELA department attend this workshop is that all of the teachers carried an excitement and a desire to consider how to engage students as readers and writers back to our district! I see so many possibilities for connecting our 6-8 and 9-12 buildings, one of which, is a study group of Penny and Kelly’s book, 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents. Additionally, I have set up meetings to support individual teacher’s takeaways in their classrooms.

Spending a day learning from two passionate and knowledgeable educators alongside my colleagues, well, it doesn’t get much better than that!


SOL19 #14


10 thoughts on “Learning from Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle”

  1. Your insights reminded me that it is time to take my “180 Days” and place it by my chair to get fresh ideas again. Thank you!

  2. Lucky you, to be there with both of these extraordinary educators! They’ve greatly inspired my own teaching. i love their work and the authenticity behind it – you captured the points so well. Teaching IS an act of love. And, I think, so is writing.

  3. Thanks for summarizations the key takeaways. What a wonderful experience for your team attend.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing these Big Takeaways. We’ve found 180 Days so valuable, and it’s great to hear what was also emphasized at the conference.

  5. I’ve heard Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle at NCTE, and they are both amazing. I love that your school agreed to send so many teachers! You’re so right about teachers needing to experience it themselves. That’s what creates change. I like the takeaway “best draft rather than final draft.” I want to remember that.

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