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My post-COVID Follow-Up: Creative Vocabulary Resources

Here they are: the links for “Eight Ways to Explore New Vocabulary Words” Since COVID mixed things up a bit for me personally last week, I’m mixing things up a bit this week. I’ll explain in this quick video. Links: Please leave a comment with all the questions you have! And if you’re wondering about…

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Eight Ways to Explore New Vocabulary Words

Plus free handouts to download “Vocabulary is about precision.” Those are the words of Sheridan Blau, author and Professor of Practice in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. I heard Blau speak at the Writing & Thinking Conference hosted by the Ozarks Writing Project at Missouri State University two years ago. Blau’s concise statement…

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How to get better “One-Word Summaries” from your students

Make these off-limits: the topic and their opinion In the past, after I assigned One-Word Summaries, I would often feel a little let down when I walked around the room, glancing over students’ shoulders as they wrote their paragraphs defending their chosen word. Read my post on the One-Word Summary if you’re unfamiliar with this…

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Exploding a Moment: How I Show Students This Revision Strategy in Action

Seeing is believing with my “before and after” handout First things first: THANK YOU, BARRY LANE! Barry Lane’s video where he retells the story of “Jane Wilson’s poured milk memory” is one of my all-time favorites to introduce my students to the idea of exploding a moment. Exploding a moment is one of Lane’s signature…

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How to get middle schoolers to write 16-page essays

Try “The 8th-Grade Human Rights Dissertation” Want to be impressed by your middle school ELA students? Want to see them rise to the writing occasion? Try this extended writing assignment that I call the 8th-Grade Human Rights Dissertation. Sidenote: Obviously, this is not an assignment for distance learning. It’s designed for a normal full-time schedule…

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High School students walking during class

Try This Low-Stakes Writing Activity: “Take a line for a walk”

It’s a keeper. A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to the 2020 Write-to-Learn Conference sponsored by the Missouri State Council of the Int’. Literacy Association, The Missouri Writing Projects Network, and the Missouri Council of Teachers of English. Even though I attended only one day of the three-day conference, I’m happy with the handful…

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Teaching transitions in writing, part 2

This student-written essay illustrates transition ideas A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how the nonfiction author James Swanson’ transitions from paragraph and from chapter to chapter in his nonfiction narrative Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. The post discussed transitions words (such as therefore, however, in contrast, nonetheless, and others) that we all know and…

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Don’t Give Up on Improving Your Students’ Vocabulary Skills

Stick with your plan; give your lessons time to work I recently designed some daily bell-ringer activities to teach my students some new vocabulary words. To create these on-going brief lessons, I continue to use Vocab Gal’s “Power Words of the Week” from Sadlier’s ELA Blog, and “Vocabulary Words of the Day” from Prestwick House.…

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Teaching transitions in writing, part 1 (updated 6/2021)

Don’t teach just transition words… teach transition ideas as well. Note added on June 5, 2021: I often go back to my previous blog posts and see the details of how I taught a certain book or writing mini-lesson. In fact, I recently did that with this post. In April, I was working with my…

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Ditch the Dictionary

I’m trying these four short vocabulary bell-work tasks to help kids better learn new words I recently signed up to receive weekly email updates from the Sadlier School. As part of the email, I receive a free “Power Word of the Week” email from the Vocab Gal’s blog. I’ve been using these “slides” in my…

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Students draw maps to explore memoir ideas

Drawing can recall forgotten memories If your students struggle with getting memoir topic ideas, read on. A few weeks ago, my junior and senior students wrote memoirs… creative personal narratives about an important memory that taught them an important truth about life, growing up, or the world in general. In the past I’ve always passed…

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Teach high schoolers how to “explode a moment”

Teach descriptive writing with this sure-fire lesson For some reason, young writers seem to want to write as little as possible when describing a scene. I read descriptions as sparse as this example: I shot the ball and it went in and everybody freaked out. However, when kids see the effectiveness of exploding a moment,…

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man in brown leather jacket using binoculars

Focus Your Binoculars and Zoom In

A revision mini-lesson Because it seems my high school students would benefit from learning some revision strategies, I decided to do a search on Teachers Pay Teachers for any revision handouts featuring the work of Barry Lane. I found this one (it’s FREE from Texas ELAR Coach) entitled Writing Strategy: Adding Detail by Zooming In…

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Student writing an AOW assignment

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 Kelly…

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It’s a Wrap! Three Take-Aways from Writer’s Workshop

Lessons learned from Writer’s Workshop On Friday, my seventh- and eighth-graders turned in their final Writer’s Workshop portfolios. In early November, students began choosing eight writing projects from a list of twelve. The list offered a range of projects ranging from poetry to arguments to narratives to informational works. The focus of WW was the…

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a two girls using laptop with classmates

Writer’s Workshop for Middle School

I’m so glad I didn’t give up on what is now one of my favorite activities Since I began teaching seven years ago, I’ve learned that sometimes it may be necessary to try a new technique, a new curriculum unit, or simply a new idea more than once in order to fairly assess its effectiveness.…

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selective focus photography of spark

“Exploding a Moment” with Barry Lane

This year, we wrote out an exploded moment instead of just watching one be narrated in a video. Last Tuesday, I planned an activity for my seventh- and eighth-grade classes that worked so well, I knew I had to share. We exploded a baseball moment. “Exploding a moment “ is what writing teacher Barry Lane…

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They Say I Say

Three Points I Pull from “They Say I Say”

Effective revision strategies I came across this book, They Say I Say (Third Edition, 2015), when my son’s college English composition instructor required it for his freshman-level course. I thumbed through it, read a few chapters, and found some very concise passages written to help students solve probably the number one problem that I see…

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How to teach sentence variety

A mini-lesson from Gary Provost Copy off the paragraph below from writing guru Gary Provost and read it aloud to your students at the beginning of class or as a mini-lesson. Don’t just read it aloud… make sure they follow along on their own copy. It’s more effective that way. You’ll see the light bulbs…

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