The Power of Teachers’ Words

Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

459418871We’ve reached the point in my 8th grade classroom where we’ve modeled, practiced, and established norms that we can use in our workshop classroom. Additionally, I have also conferenced with each student to give them a next step as they continue their reading and writing work. This, however, is not a blog post about effective conferencing, rather it’s about what I’ve learned from conferencing with a particular student. This experience leaves me wondering whether we, as teachers, always realize the effects we have on students?

Kyle sat down to conference with me about his writing. He particularly wanted to discuss one of his poems from the 8th grade CCSS/MAISA Launching Writer’s Workshop unit that focuses on narrative poetry. Anxiety radiated off of him as he explained that he had written nothing that he felt was valuable. With his permission, I looked at his writer’s notebook, and a theme became clear in his writing. He was writing what he thought I wanted. His notebook had seed ideas that mirrored my own modeled topics as well as imitations that stayed in the structure and topic of the original text. I praised Kyle for all of his good work in practicing all of our new class skills. Then, I broke down his next steps for him.

It was apparent that Kyle needed smaller steps than even the workshop curriculum daily sessions offered. So we began with: what story do you want to tell? And later, we discussed: what will be the beginning, middle, and end of that story? Then he was able to write a narrative poem draft. After peer review, he came to me and said that he thought his poem was too long (about 3 handwritten pages). So, again, step-by-step we worked on his poem with ideas like cutting out any repeating words or phrases and details that did not suit his beginning, middle, and end planning. The next day, he came running in to show me that he had cut his poem down to about one page, and he was very happy to tell me that this draft was much better than the previous one.

78745133Amidst these in-class conferences with Kyle, I met Kyle’s mom. She shared a story with me about a 3rd grade teacher who told Kyle that he was not a writer. While I’m not writing this post to place blame, I see that when Kyle sits down to write, he does so with doubt. This doubt may have come from the seed planted by that teacher, but it probably also came from many other writing experiences that perhaps didn’t go as Kyle had hoped. In the end, Kyle had a very successful first writing unit in my classroom, and I hope that he’ll continue to feel excited about writing as we get into argument and informative writing. But this whole episode left me wondering–what effects do we, as teachers, have on students?

This experience with Kyle reminded me of a particularly bad writing experience I had with a college English professor my first semester. The short version is that he told me I couldn’t write and that I could not major in English. This negative experience my first semester was coupled with an excellent grade on a paper in a class taught by a published author. He told me that I had wonderful written ideas and a great depth of thought. I later worked for this professor and even helped him review one of his manuscripts for publication. I am thankful today that these experiences happened in the same semester because I’m not sure I could have moved past the negative professor’s comments. Instead, I decided to work to become a stronger writer. While this work is never over, I feel that I have become a strong writer. I also hope that I’ve given my students the confidence to be successful, independent writers. So, each day I have to consider that the things we say to our students affect them. What conversations will you have with students today?

pic 2Amy Gurney is an 8th grade Language Arts teacher for Bloomfield Hills School District. She was a facilitator for the release of the MAISA units of study. She has studied, researched, and practiced reading and writing workshop through Oakland Schools, The Teacher’s College, and action research projects. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education at Central Michigan University and a Master’s in Educational Administration at Michigan State University.

More Details on Spring 2015 M-STEP Testing


M-Step-Logo_473059_7We have a few more details about the tests that will be given in the spring, including types of tests at each grade level. A batch of sample items is in production now. This sample will be available “shortly” to all schools and will demonstrate the online functions and tools of the M-STEP.

The ELA Spring 2015 M-STEP is a comprehensive ELA model:

·         Grades 3-8: Smarter Balanced content plus Michigan-developed field-test items. This will include a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT), a Classroom Activity, and a Performance Task.

·         Grade 11: Smarter Balanced content plus Michigan-developed field-test items. This will include a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT), a Classroom Activity, and a Performance Task. This is in addition to the ACT plus Writing and Work-Keys.

·         The M-STEP (grades 3-8, 11) will include items from the following Michigan Standards: reading, writing, language, listening.

The most current assessment transition document outlines the details for the M-STEP.  For additional information, click here.

To get up to date news on the state assessments, subscribe to MDE’s Spotlight on Assessment and Accountability Newsletter.

Interdisciplinary Curriculum: A Union of Disciplines

Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

Lisa Kraiza and her collaborator, Doug Eiland, were part of a year-long interdisciplinary curriculum writing initiative at Oakland Schools focused on research writing.  Explore their interdisciplinary unit about the Civil War and the other completed units from the initiative.


croppedLisa&Doug copy

Lisa Kraiza & Doug Eiland, 8th grade teachers at Oak Park Prepratory Academy

The conversation went a little like this:

“Doug, would you like to write an ELA/Social Studies unit together?”

“Sure, what topic should we do?”

“You pick. I can make ELA work into anything.”

“How about the American Civil War?  The kids really seemed into the brother against brother concept of the event.”

“Great! I can work with that…”

Uh, wait a second, I later thought to myself, I only know the bare bones of the Civil War.  And so it began, the great American journey into cross-curricular unit writing. (I would like to thank my brother-in-arms, Douglass Eiland, for taking a risk and jumping feet first into this adventure.  Our students are lucky to have him as their social studies teacher and a role model.)

Doug and I had this conversation in September of 2013.  We piloted our finished unit in April of 2014.  We decided we wanted the outcome of this unit to be: students can see the connection between two disciplines when learning about a topic and understand the broader scope of the Civil War not as just a bunch of battles that happened a long time ago, but as a period in American history that still has repercussions for us today.  This looked great on paper, but there was one major problem.  I, the ELA teacher, barely knew a speck about the Civil War.  I needed to learn as much as I could so I could feel comfortable teaching my students during this cross-curricular unit.  I had to quickly immerse myself in this time period.  And oh boy, did I ever!

We decided that the essential question underpinning the unit would be: what does it take to survive civil war? Once we had gathered all the information and resources we thought students would need, the question became — what do we do with all this?  How would we remain in this cross-curricular mindset and capture the minds of the students?  The answer: student learning centers.  There is so much to learn and know about the Civil War that it could prove overwhelming for both us as teachers and for the students.  So our plan was to introduce the Civil War in a joint teaching session that involved student learning centers.  We broke the Civil War material down by type of media, resulting in seven different learning centers:

  • Trade Books
  • Photography
  • Poetry
  • Film
  • Trading Cards
  • Political Cartoons
  • Writing
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students learning collaboratively at a learning center

There was a task to complete at each center and students had a recording sheet (click here to see an example).  They would receive a grade in both social studies and ELA for their work.  At the end of the two-day session, students completed an exit ticket to reflect on their introduction to the Civil War.  It was thrilling to see students so engaged and curious.  We received many tickets with “a-has” and “this makes sense.”  After Doug and I high fived each other, we went into our classrooms to answer the students’ questions with our respective lessons.

So now what?  How would Doug and I come together to summatively assess what the students would learn in this unit?  The answer came in the form of a multimedia presentation on a Civil War personality.  Each student was assigned a person on day one of our unit.  These figures from the Civil War came from all walks of life, famous, infamous or long-forgotten.  We had a balance of Northerners, Southerners, military personnel, and folks on the home front.  Students were to present to their peers a study of how their person survived, or did not survive, the Civil War.

We allowed for joint research time, supported students in finding and using sources, and encouraged collaboration.  Students presented to both their ELA and social studies classes and again received double credit.  We had some amazing presentations!  Students became their Civil War personas.  They connected to the war on an emotional level and were able to see that that choices these historical figures made were not as simple as they had once believed.  We saw increased pride and motivation in our students to do a good job.  This wasn’t always the case with traditional “final” projects.  Lastly, students developed a clear vision of how social studies and ELA can live together in their minds.  There were many light bulb moments for our students.

croppedLisawithstudents copyThis experience showed me and Doug that it is imperative for disciplines to collaborate.  Neither of us could have gotten the quality of work the students produced had we done this separately.  For the first time, students were seeing exactly how the skills they learn in their individual classes apply to all classes.  They were developing skills–research skills, presentation skills– not just memorizing facts and figures.

And we learned that it is okay to have students see their teachers try new things.  It is okay to “share the spotlight” and lean on other educators to fill in gaps for us.  True collaboration is honoring what the other person brings to the table, and Doug and I feel that we 100% honor each other as professional educators.  Of course, there are many small items that we will change or revisit in this unit, but the overall meaning and intention of the unit was met with vigor and enthusiasm.

Let the Union prevail and in the words of the great Abraham Lincoln:

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.”

LisaKraizaLisa Kraiza teachers eighth grade English Language Arts at Oak Park Preparatory Academy.  She is also a member of the Core Leadership Team of the Oakland Writing Project.

Standardized Testing Update

Legislative Updates News

MDE just put out this news release with details about the standardized assessment for spring 2015.


November 13, 2014

LANSING – Michigan’s public schools can begin moving forward in their planning for the online statewide student assessment in the Spring of 2015. The Michigan Department of Education announced today its updated assessment system, called the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP).

“This is great news for our local school districts,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. “They’ve been very anxious to hear what the new assessment will be, as we developed a new test to comply with legislatively-mandated changes.”

The new assessment was required by the state legislature for the Spring 2015 testing period. The legislature also required the Department of Education to re-bid its long-term assessment system that will begin in the Spring of 2016.

The new assessment meets all of the requirements put into law by the legislature; that it be: an online assessment, with a paper-and-pencil option; aligned to the state standards; expanding writing assessments to additional grades; providing an increased number of constructed response test questions so that pupils can demonstrate higher-order skills, such as problem solving and communicating reasoning; and pilot tested before statewide implementation.

M-STEP replaces the 44-year-old MEAP test, which was not online and measured the previous state standards. The Spring 2015 assessment will include Michigan-created content, as well as content developed by the multi-state Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Educators from Michigan public schools helped develop and write test content that will appear on M-STEP.


“The changes in law diverted what the department and local school districts had been developing and preparing for over the past three years,” Flanagan said. “It put schools in some unwelcomed limbo while our experts scrambled to find testing content that met the legislative requirements.”

The assessment for Spring 2015 is a one-year stopgap until the long-term assessment is awarded through the re-bidding process.

M-STEP includes the following assessments:

  •   A Spring summative assessment for grades 3-8
  •   A Michigan Merit Exam (MME) for grade 11, which includes a college entrance exam; a work skills component; and a summative component aligned to Michigan content standards

This will be the first time all statewide assessments will be administered online. To help prepare, nearly 1,900 Michigan schools have performed pilot online testing over the past three and a half years. The state Legislature has invested more than $100 million over the past two years to help get local districts technology-ready for the new assessments. To date, over 80 percent of schools meet the minimum technology requirement for the new assessment.

There still will be a paper-and-pencil option for schools if they believe they are not ready with the minimal technology requirements. Districts have until November 21 to request a waiver to administer the paper/pencil test. Due to the cost concerns of preparing the separate online and paper/pencil formats, and wanting to be the best stewards of public funds, MDE will not entertain change requests beyond that November 21 deadline date.

The entire Michigan Merit Exam for the Spring of 2015 will take longer for local schools to administer due to requirements in state law.


The high school test requires additional time because the college entrance and work skills tests that Michigan currently is contracted to use, do not measure the state’s standards for English language arts and mathematics. The move to more rigorous standards requires additional types of test questions not present on those assessments. As a result, the state is required to provide additional testing to ensure state and federal laws that require measurement of the state’s standards are met.

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has allowed a few states to get a federal flexibility waiver with a future plan to use only a college-entrance exam like ACT. However, USED cannot waive the Michigan law that requires the state assessments be aligned to the state standards.

The majority of schools that are testing online will have greater flexibility and can configure testing, as desired, within the eight-week window the department has provided them. This provides ample opportunity for schools to plan their testing times. There will be eight partial days of testing for the paper/pencil option of the high school test in the spring. This option, which should be used only by those continuing to prepare their buildings for online testing, must continue to be spread in this fashion to assure adequate testing security.

School Accountability

MDE will be working with the USED to update Michigan’s school accountability model used in its flexibility waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These updates would recognize the changes in statewide assessments and improvements in identifying student academic growth and learning.

In these discussions with USED, it will be the Michigan Department of Education’s intent to use the test data from this transitional year for a trial run of a revised accountability system. It is the intent of the Department that the results of the trial run of accountability would be shared with schools and districts for local decision making, but that no consequences would be applied.

The Department encourages local districts to use the data to inform classroom instruction; student and school improvement planning; and local programming decisions.

Educator and Administrator Evaluations

Schools will be provided student-level growth data for use in teacher and administrator evaluations. Because these educator evaluations are still determined by local school districts, how local districts choose to use the data in the evaluations is up to each district.


For more information on M-STEP, log on to: 

Going Paperless, Part 1: Google Classroom

Literacy & Technology Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

google-classroomAt the end of last year, we found out that our district, West Bloomfield, would be going 1:1 in grades 5-12, with all students having the option to use a district-issued Chromebook, buy their own Chromebook at a discounted price, or use some other device.  As soon as I heard this, I reveled in the fact that I would no longer have to deal with trying to get time in the Media Center or check out the school’s set of iPads for my middle school students.  Research and word processing could be done right in the classroom, which is great and makes my life significantly easier.  That’s about where my ideas about integrating these devices into our daily routines ended, mostly because I just didn’t know how to fully integrate Chromebooks into my daily instruction.

As the summer progressed, and I got to know more about my Chromebook, the idea of having a paperless classroom began to form in my head.  The techie part of me loved the idea because I would no longer have to make copies, everything would be stored in one place, and kids wouldn’t lose their papers.  The reading and writing workshop teacher part of me hesitated with this idea, fearing that something intangible would be lost if kids didn’t use a paper-based writer’s notebook–that something about the process of brainstorming and drafting in a notebook is magical (more to come on this topic in Part 2).

Right before the school year started, Google rolled out Google Classroom, and I anxiously waited for it to be available in our district. After a number of emails with our instructional technology specialist, I was finally given the OK to try it out.  Google Classroom is a course management platform, but its beauty is in its simplicity.  Each class you create is closed to everyone except the teacher, the students and anyone you give the unique class code to, which keeps your students safe and their documents private.  Teachers can create assignments that include Google Docs attachments, web links, and YouTube videos.

Google Classroom homepage showing how a teacher creates an assignment

Google Classroom homepage showing how a teacher creates an assignment

When I create an assignment in Google Classroom, I have various options for how students will receive it; my favorite is to assign each student a unique copy.  This means that instead of me handing out a copy of a graphic organizer, for example, I assign each student his/her own copy.  Google Classroom then attaches each student’s name to the unique copy, allows them to type in whatever is required, then “turn it in.”  Once students turn in the assignment, it is all neatly organized in one place, which lets me see at a glance who is finished and who is not.

Teacher view of an assignment, which shows how many students are finished

Teacher view of an assignment, which shows how many students are finished

When I assign a document using Google Classroom, I am the “owner” of the document, allowing me to see students’ work as it progresses.  I can comment and “conference” with students while they are still working on a piece of writing–whether they are at school or at home.  In the past, I could only see a students’ progress when I had his/her notebook, and if I had a student’s notebook, it meant that student could not be writing.

One of the biggest changes in my classroom has been students’ ability to collaborate with each other and my ability to give quality feedback while students are writing.  One of the best features of Google Docs and Classroom is the ability to share documents and have multiple people working within one document.  Students can easily share their writing with other students and get feedback, a task that is now much easier than it is with traditional notebooks.  Students who are protective of their writing don’t have to worry that someone is going to irrevocably change it, as they can determine what editing permissions the other students have.

Commenting feature in Google Docs.  This is how I give feedback to students with altering their writing.

Commenting feature in Google Docs. This is how I give feedback to students without altering their writing.

This change took some getting used to for students as well because they are not accustomed to me having access to their work all the time.  The first time I had a guest teacher this year, students were working on assignment in Google Classroom, which allowed me to pop into their Google Docs, look at their work, give feedback, and answer questions.  My students have now come to expect that when I am gone, it’s very likely that I’ll be online during their class time, and they use that to their advantage to ask questions and get clarification from me.

Although much of our work has moved to Google Classroom, I do feel myself missing the paper-based writer’s notebook every now and again, and I haven’t totally given up on it yet.  Google Classroom isn’t perfect, but neither is the writer’s notebook.  Going paperless requires a new set of routines and is a journey that my students and I will take together.

JScreenshot 2014-09-26 at 12.44.07 PMianna Taylor is an ELA and Title 1 teacher at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield.  She is a member of the AVID Site Team and Continuous School Improvement Team at her school, among other things.  She is also a MiELA Network Summer Institute facilitator and member of the OWP Core Leadership Team.  Jianna earned her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.  She also writes reviews of children’s books and young adult novels for the magazine Library Media Connection.

My Army of High School Readers Goes Into Battle

Notes from the Classroom

So about a month ago, I imagined my Army of Book Nerds.  I was going to train my tenth grade students to go out into the world as ferocious, voracious readers. I had a list of awesome things I was doing: shared Goodreads accounts, bulletin boards of suggested titles, a book room meticulously organized by subject and student interest.  Today, sitting at my desk listening to Patty Smyth belt out “The Warrior,”  this is what I’ve got:

smallbulletin board

I took the book recommendations down on October 1 to force myself to replace them with new ones.  It’s November 4. Guess I’ll shoot for new recommendations bi-monthly?


smallbook room

Welcome to my meticulously organized book room.
We’re not even going to talk about the disaster that was the Goodreads accounts.
School is messy. Teaching is overwhelming.  Some teachers manage to keep it all organized and keep all the balls in the air while they juggle grading and planning and new initiatives and parent phone calls. I’m not that teacher.

But, I’m not calling my army defeated  just yet.

Last night I received the following email from one of my reluctant readers who I had previously had no success with matching to a book.


I just have to say that I’m about 92 pages into “Little Brother,” and this is the best book I have ever read! Thank you for assigning me to this book.



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My book room may be messy, but check out how many of my books are being read!




And look how engrossed they are in their books!




Slowly but surely, I am beginning to establish a community of readers in my room.  We read every single day with no exceptions. It’s only ten minutes, but I refuse to compromise that time.


And, I think it’s important that kids know that I love to read.  These are all the books I’ve read since school started.

smallmy books

Ten minutes at the beginning of every class, every day means I’ve been able to power through quite a few books in two months. I talk about them as I’m reading; some of the books have since been read by students.

 After a quick survey of my classes, I learned:

  • 71% of my students identify themselves as readers–people who genuinely enjoy reading.
  • 16% of students identified themselves as new readers! They’ve never thought of themselves as readers before this year, but they’re starting to enjoy it. That’s huge. One wrote a note on the bottom of the survey:  “Keep introducing new material without taking no as an answer (p.s. thank you for that).”

But that leaves 29% of my kids who still do not enjoy reading. Of those, two thirds said they can’t find good books that interest them. The other third simply said “no time.”  I need to target those kids and help them find the right books. And, I need to continue building time into my class for independent reading.  What’s the point of soldiering on through a complicated whole class text if student are not willing to read on their own? What I’ve learned: Slow down. Find the right books. Give students time to read those books.

Because the students all need time. 55% of my “readers” say they never have time to read anymore. If they aren’t given time in class, they simply don’t do it–even though they love it! I asked for suggestions and they gave comments on their surveys like:

  • “Create more hours in the day.”
  • “No homework–just reading!”
  • “Tell my swim coach I need time to read.”

They’re busy. I’m busy. That’s why most of my plans fell by the wayside.  But reading doesn’t need to be a complicated set of plans and initiatives. We will keep marching along, and hopefully I’ll keep picking up new readers along the way.

Hattie profileHattie Maguire is an English teacher and Content Area Leader at Novi High School. She is spending her fourteenth year in the classroom teaching AP English Language and Composition, English 10, Debate, and Practical Public Speaking.  She is a National Board Certified Teacher who earned her BS in English and MA in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University.


Teacher as Director & Coach

Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

In a previous post, I wrote about the unnaturalness of acting, how awkward I felt, and what a poor actor I was. I mentioned how important I think it is for teachers to write alongside their students so we can feel the frustration and vulnerability that comes with doing something unnatural, like writing or acting. My recent experience being directed made me think about what it is like to be taught. In the interest of full disclosure, I also coached soccer for a long time and played very poorly, so awkwardness and unnaturalness is something I’ve been on both sides of.

As an actor I struggled, but I was got better. I gained a little confidence as I got past just remembering the lines and where to go. I started thinking about other things, like how to deliver rather than remember the line. How did that happen, I wondered? I watched the same thing happen to my castmates. They were getting better too. I started to pay attention to the director. He was teaching us to do something so awkward and unnatural that we were actually forgetting natural things, like how to walk. (I’m glad I only had to cross the stage once. #stumbles) Watching him direct novice actors showed me ways to teach novice writers.  Here’s what I learned:

450296197Recognize and acknowledge students’ difficulty and the effort. “I know this is hard, and I can see you’re…” It’s unnatural and hard to go from being an excellent talker to being a deliberate writer. Putting myself in the role of learner reminded me of that.

Use different approaches.  This is where coaching or directing skills come in handy. Look for what works and what doesn’t, and build on the good stuff, no matter how small. Coaches also know when to sort the groups by ability, work one on one, and when to step back and let someone struggle. Our director did the same things, taking one of us aside while the others worked, or sometimes stepping back and letting us muddle through a scene until we found our groove and got a taste of what it felt like to get it right.

To the struggling actor: “If you want to make this funny, try picking out one person in the audience and talking to her…” or “When you say that line think about your own child’s birthday…” or “Memorizing long stretches of dialogue is hard. Try writing the lines on note cards, and walk around as you read them.”  We don’t all learn the same way, so my teaching has to have multiple points of entry.

Not everything works for every person. Actors, writers, and players are all different. They think differently, see things differently, and need different ways to move their audience.

When you get lost, keep the end in mind. “Where do you want to be at the end of the scene? How are you going to get there?” Writing is about purpose. How best to achieve it? As a teacher it’s easy to get bogged down in things that aren’t going well. The grammar is wrong. I haven’t really explained how to transition without being mechanical. The same thing happens to coaches and directors but if you can see where you want to end up, it’s likely you’ll find ways to get there.

Always leave space for epiphany, creativity, and happy accidents. This is connected to the above thought in that sometimes we get where we wanted to be, but we don’t know how. Writers need to be okay with trusting their instincts, especially if the end result is good. Praise the end result–nice goal, great paragraph, hilarious scene–and find out what went right.

Things don’t always go right.  When I was coaching I used to tell my players, “You’re going to make 100’s of mistakes this season. (Thanks, coach.) I don’t care about the mistake (A lie). I care about what you do next.” I got the same advice from my director and it had the same effect on me as it had on my players. I was scared, but relieved. I knew I’d feel the mistakes, but I also knew I had to keep going and make it better.   

Do not just tell your students what you want; model it. This seems to be a key move in giving good feedback as well. I ask my students to rewrite weak parts of their partner’s writing so the partner can see how it’s done, or how it might be done. In truth, this was always a struggle for me as a coach. As a player, I aspired to one day be…mediocre, and I’m not the best writer but modeling isn’t always about the only way to do something. In writing, it’s also about giving an option for another way to do something.

158997850Never forget your audience.  Like much of what I learned, this applies to students and teachers. It’s all about moving your audience. This goes for writers, actors and teachers. I think of those long-winded professors I had in college. Droning on, oblivious to the blanks stares, they might as well have been talking to a mirror. (Any teacher who thinks that a lecture is a good way to teach should be forced to actually sit through one.) It’s not about the director, or the actor, or the writer. It’s about getting that audience where they need to be. As a teacher, I think about the purpose–where I want to be–but I try to listen to my audience; find out what works for them and use that to reach the purpose.

I thought about a lot of this while we were rehearsing and learning Our Town. It was good to be on the other side of the relationship: learning something new, working with people with different learning styles, an unfamiliar text.  There were no lectures. Talks? Yep. Listening? Check. But lectures? There wasn’t one and yet we still learned. I say take every lecturer and turn him into a coach, or a good director, after we make him sit through a lecture. Teach him the skills that directors and coaches have to master. Teachers should coach something, or direct, and they need to learn to play something or act.

Finally, gentle reader, this my last play related post. I promise, I’m over it.

RICKRick Kreinbring teaches English at Avondale High School in Auburn Hills, Michigan. His current assignments include teaching AP Language and Composition and AP Literature and Composition. He is a member of a statewide research project through the Michigan Teachers as Researchers Collaborative partnered with the MSU Writing in Digital Environments Program, which concentrates on improving student writing and peer feedback. Rick has presented at the National Advanced Placement Convention and the National Council of Teachers of English Conference. He is in his twenty-third year of teaching and makes his home in Huntington Woods.