Ron’s #22: Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher

Reading a book or two about teaching is something that is important to me as I keep trying to develop my skills as a teacher. I read another book by Kelly Gallagher a few years ago, so I wanted to read this one. I’m glad I did because it offered many excellent tips in how to help students write better.

His main philosophy stems from these two premises: 1. Teach kids to write in the modes that they will need to write in college and in the real world. 2. Write along with your students.

Gallagher is a seasoned teacher who clearly loves writing and teaching writing. He is a good mentor to have as I try to better equip my students to improve in writing.

Here’s a brief video of Gallagher discussing the book.


Ron’s #1: How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish

Beginning this new year of reading a book a week, I thought a book on reading seemed appropriate. The full title of this book is How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One. I think the simplicity of it is genius, and it sounded compelling enough to read.

The book recounts a story where a writer was asked by a student if he could be a writer. The writer asked, “Well, do you like sentences?” This is akin to a painter liking the smell of paint. We often overlook the simplicity of a sentence for the grandeur goal of a novel or screenplay, but forget the beauty of sentences.

This book is part academic, part of the joy of writing, and part teaching writing, although I’m not sure of the exact divisions. Fish collects and analyzes dozens of famous and not-so-famous sentences to show how and why they work so well. As an English teacher, I loved most of what this book had to offer. I wrote many of his exercises for me to replicate in the classroom.

My two favorite chapters are the ones of first sentences and on last sentences. Fish shows how those excellent opening lines have an “angle of lean,” and they point to something about the story that is to come. I enjoyed hearing his thoughts on some famous opening lines. As for closing lines, there is a good deal on the last line of The Great Gatsby, one of my favorites to teach.

If you are an English teacher, you will enjoy this book. Or if you are a writer. If you like to read, you’d probably find something interesting. If you own more than two video game consoles, well, try something else.

Hear an interview with Stanley Fish on NPR