Corona virus journals foster creativity

A reminder that students can still thrive in uncertain times Don’t underestimate your students when it comes to distance learning. Some of them might surprise you and take your assignment to new heights, as my senior student Savannah B. did with her journal (shown in photos). Savannah took my Life in the Time of CoronaContinue reading “Corona virus journals foster creativity”

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”

My “Article of the Week” rubric for middle and high school

Plus rubrics you can tweak  to fit your classroom Last February, I wrote this post about what I consider to be my most effective writing assignment: Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week (AOW). I still use this assignment on a weekly basis, but I’ve added narrative writing to the mix by assigning what I callContinue reading “My “Article of the Week” rubric for middle and high school”

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 PrestwickContinue reading “Don’t give up on improving your students’ vocabulary skills”

Teaching transitions in writing

Don’t teach just transition words… teach transition ideas as well. I taught this book for eight years in my middle school ELA classes. It’s such a ride! Plus, when you read it as a writer, you notice key skills the author James Swanson utilized heavily when he wrote this little gem. For me, teaching transitionsContinue reading “Teaching transitions in writing”

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”

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 myContinue reading “Ditch the Dictionary”

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””

The rubric rub

  Do what the rubric says. And only what the rubric says. And by all means, don’t think too hard.   Last week in my high school Language Arts classes, students spent time planning memoirs that they will begin drafting this week. On Friday, a few girls who had already decided on a memory toContinue reading “The rubric rub”