Don’t “dis” formulaic writing prompts

Use structure to develop ideas and writer’s voice   I’m pretty proud of the student’s written response in the photo above. It’s written by a seventh-grader who, while being a strong writer, struggles with turning in work, whether assigned as homework or completed during class. He is not doing well in my class “grade-wise”; however,Continue reading “Don’t “dis” formulaic writing prompts”

When students don’t “follow along” in the book

“Following along” may not work for every student I’ve been reading Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson to my seventh-graders and we just finished it on Friday. About every two chapters or so, they’ve written a response to a question I’ve posed to help them comprehend the text as well as think critically about someContinue reading “When students don’t “follow along” in the book”

My number one most effective writing assignment: Gallagher’s AOW

Nothing works better to build writing stamina. If there’s one assignment I would never give up it would be the AOW, the Article of the Week. Gotta have it. Gotta do it. I can’t imagine teaching without it. You may have heard of AOWs. They’re pretty well-known among English teachers. They were developed by KellyContinue reading “My number one most effective writing assignment: Gallagher’s AOW”

How to teach students what “be specific” means

It’s about naming things Be specific! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written that on my students’ essays, poems, and narratives. They know the importance of adding relevant details and crystal clear descriptions to their writing. We talk about it all the time, after all. In fact, “add more detail” and “be moreContinue reading “How to teach students what “be specific” means”

How I actually accomplished something in my classes the week before Christmas break

Students presented their writing contest entries for an end-of-semester critique   The last week before Christmas break was super productive. Oh, don’t get me wrong… we still watched videos late in the week, but we ACCOMPLISHED SO MUCH early in the week with our contest entry presentations that my self-inflicted and totally undeserved teacher guiltContinue reading “How I actually accomplished something in my classes the week before Christmas break”

Outlines have a time and place; a personal essay isn’t one of them.

One of my students is learning that “Discovery is the thing.” Last week, I wrote about Writer’s Workshop and how I am really enjoying it this fall in my middle school language arts classes. I have a few books that I pull ideas from to use for mini-lessons before the kids transition to working onContinue reading “Outlines have a time and place; a personal essay isn’t one of them.”

I’m still using and really, really liking Planbook

Here’s my follow-up post about my online lesson planning I’m still using Planbook! Every day, I can enter my lesson plans for the next day, the next week, the next month, and even the next year. If I like how I did something, I just copy it into the future and voila! it’s done. (ClickContinue reading “I’m still using and really, really liking Planbook”

My one and only complaint with the Missouri Learning Standards

They just seem a little vague. Last week, one of my students came across the term “hyperbole” on a vocabulary assignment. “What does hyperbole mean?” he asked. Wow, I thought. Five years ago, my students knew that term. Why? Because I taught it to them, along with other common figurative language techniques. Why? Because they wereContinue reading “My one and only complaint with the Missouri Learning Standards”

A Poetry Project that Draws Connections Between the Fires at Triangle Waist Co. and World Trade Center

The Essential Questions: How can history inform public policy? How do people prevent past tragedies from reoccurring?   Based on those essential questions (developed with help from our school’s art teacher, Joan Edgmon, by the way), I’m sure that some may think I’ve forgotten that I teach Language Arts. They may even wonder if I’mContinue reading “A Poetry Project that Draws Connections Between the Fires at Triangle Waist Co. and World Trade Center”

The One-Word Summary

It’s one of the most specific and structured assignments my students do. One of my favorite activities to do in my language arts classes is to assign one-word summaries. These quick assignments are an easy way to encourage kids to think deeply about a text, including its theme or gist. I assign one-word summaries forContinue reading “The One-Word Summary”