Poem of the Week: American Dreams, Struggle, and Unity






I don’t think that I will ever be able to hear the words “great” and “America” together again without cringing.  And yet, I want to continue the discussion about how we can all achieve the American Dream. I guess that what I most want my students to understand about the place they live is this:  It’s complicated.  It’s not really about whether America was or ever will be great—it’s about looking at what does work and looking even more closely

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How I Designed My Fake News Lessons Plans






I recently created a week-long unit designed to teach students about digital literacy in the age of fake news.  It’s just the kind of unit that I would have loved to have taught when I was in the classroom, but I never would have had the time to do all of the research that is involved.  (See a preview of the entire product by clicking here and then clicking on preview.) There is a lot of content when it comes

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Classroom Management: Why I Love a Good Jigsaw






Students moving around the room, talking to each other, sharing information, and teaching their peers—it’s sort of a teacher’s dream, and it’s what happens when I do a jigsaw activity with my students. I use a jigsaw in three of my content-heavy resources: my Fake News and Digital Literacy Unit, my Growth Mindset Unit, and my Elements of Poetry Unit. The basic idea of a jigsaw is that students learn a piece of the content and then teach that to

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Common Core: 3 Tips for Teaching With Challenging Non-Fiction






Whether I’m assigning an article about the relationship between a fixed mindset and the Enron scandal or I’m requiring students to read an essay about how basketball, race, and dreams are all intertwined, I have a few common goals when I choose challenging non-fiction to incorporate in my lesson plans. I want students to learn how to deal with difficult vocabulary, how to navigate complex sentence structure sentence structure, and most importantly, I want them to learn how to question

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Classroom Management: Why We Freewrite






It’s kind of funny that as a teacher I can relearn the same lessons over and over again—I’ll forget how affective a strategy is or how crucial one step is—until I am brutally reminded when a lesson falls flat or an assignment turns out terribly.  One of the lessons that I learn over and over is how important the freewrite is. Last year I was grading the midterm exams from my junior honors American Literature class, and there was one message that

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Poem Of The Week: Opium Dreams and Author’s Intent






You know you have a good poetry lesson when it grabs students in the first days of school.  One of my favorite and most effective poetry lessons of all time is my two-day lesson on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment.”  It’s a great lesson because I get to employ some of my favorite comprehension strategies, and because I get students writing and thinking about big questions early on.   (You can

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Classroom Management: The Perfect Bellringer






Those first few minutes of a class are always hectic.  Someone needs to go to the bathroom, someone else needs to get their missing work, and someone else needs to show me their newest poem about a fight they had with their mom this weekend and how they incorporated an extended metaphor to explain their pain.   I’m expected to take attendance and submit it electronically ASAP.  Not to mention checking homework, reviewing due dates and upcoming projects and tests.

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Troubleshooting Writing Workshop: Three Common Questions






I have recently created a resource to help teachers who would like to start doing writing workshop with their classes–or for teachers who’d like a little more structure and guidance with the workshops that they have already conducted in class.  It includes 30 pages of handouts, how-to’s, and tips including 11 common writing workshop problems and solutions.  You can check it out here. One of the greatest things about creating resources for other teachers is that I can help them to learn

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Poem Of The Week: Death and Old Age with Shakespeare






Not sure if it is the almost-bare trees outside the window or the dying embers of the warm winter fire in the fireplace that reminded me today of one of my favorite poems to teach.  William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, usually known as “[That Time of Year Thou Mayst In Me Behold],” has been a go-to poem for me for years.  (You can find a ready-to-go lesson plan on this poem by clicking here.) It’s a typical Shakespeare sonnet in many ways: an

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6 Steps For Instilling A Growth Mindset In Your Students






When I first learned about growth mindset, I was fascinated.  It explained so many behaviors and beliefs that I had witnessed over the years. The difference between students who were a burden to teach because of their negative attitude, lack of motivation, or refusal to acknowledge feedback and those who were a pleasure to teach because of their willingness to take on challenges and eagerness to learn and work hard—as soon as I saw the first group as having a

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