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 scheduleContinue reading “How to get middle schoolers to write 16-page essays”

Watch this Outsiders movie, not that one

The Outsiders: The Complete Novel includes a subplot that the original leaves out If you’re like me, you love The Outsiders and can’t imagine teaching middle school ELA without it. So many kids identify with the Tulsa, Oklahoma greasers and their struggles with socioeconomic class differences, personal identity, and family relationships. Here’s my advice: MakeContinue reading “Watch this Outsiders movie, not that one”

Graphic essays for high school students: A creative way to teach theme

Here’s how I’ve used graphic essays and what I’ll tweak for next time. My junior English classes recently read the short story, “In Another Country” by Ernest Hemingway as a follow-up to reading “The Old Man and the Sea.” Because they had just completed a traditional written thematic analysis of the novel, I opted toContinue reading “Graphic essays for high school students: A creative way to teach theme”

Mentor text: Slice of life writing for high school students

Slice of life essays written by elementary students are everywhere; high school slices are harder to find. Here’s one. Last fall, near the beginning of the school year, I introduced my high school juniors and seniors to slice of life writing. Slices are short narratives that celebrate the ordinary moments in our lives that weContinue reading “Mentor text: Slice of life writing for high school students”

Treasured Object Poems: A favorite poetry activity for all grades

In this post: Treasured Object Poems mentor texts and lesson tips Need a fun poetry activity to use with your students? One that will also hone their sensory language and revision skills? Show them how to write a short free-verse poem about an object they value. Paying tribute to a precious personal item encourages themContinue reading “Treasured Object Poems: A favorite poetry activity for all grades”

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 andContinue reading “Teaching transitions in writing, part 2”

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 myContinue reading “Teaching transitions in writing, part 1 (updated 6/2021)”

NaNoWriMo Nostalgia: NaNoWriMo, my students, and my historical nonfiction project thingy

You gotta start somewhere. Note: I published this post about a year ago when I first attempted an after-school NaNoWriMo program. This year, I have recently moved and am now teaching high school. I hope to eventually host a similar after-school NaNoWriMo program in my new district, but for now, I’ll just look back fondlyContinue reading “NaNoWriMo Nostalgia: NaNoWriMo, my students, and my historical nonfiction project thingy”

Headline poetry for high school students

Watch older students create stunning expressions from everyday language This year, for the first three days of school, I again indulged in headline poetry with my students. It was a new activity for my new high school students and I was glad for that. (I’ve introduced headline poetry to middle schoolers in the past. ClickContinue reading “Headline poetry for high school students”

Use this movie clip to teach high school writers how to “explode a moment”

Plus, here’s a free slow-motion video site to give students more practice 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 theContinue reading “Use this movie clip to teach high school writers how to “explode a moment””