Why Your Students Should Be Writing Timed Essays






Students working quickly, striving to gather evidence, formulate their own ideas, and shape them into a coherent essay—this is how I like to end all of my thematic units, with a timed essay. Students will never really be able to avoid timed writing—from state tests to the SAT to AP and later college exams, they will be required to write intelligent pieces within a limited time frame. Real writing happens in the revision process, and many people believe that that’s

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Why You Should Teach ELA in Thematic Units






When I first started teaching, I did what lots of ELA teachers do: I started at the beginning and then went from there. In other words, I taught literature chronologically.  What better way for students to understand the comprehensive sweep of literature written in English, right?  Well, it often felt like I was just stringing together a list of texts, and, as happens to many people, I never really got to the stuff that was written in the last 100

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6 Tips For Teaching Shakespeare






Teaching Shakespeare is truly the highlight of the school year for me.  And it’s not only because  I love the Bard so much that I have tattooed a favorite quote on my arm.  It’s also because whether I’m teaching my beloved unit on Twelfth Night or any other play, the Shakespeare unit is a highlight for my students as well.  It wasn’t always that way, and I have learned a lot over the years about how not to teach the

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5 Reasons To Teach With Mentor Texts






Starting a writing unit by examining great examples of the kinds of writing we’ll be doing is one of those ideas that I seem to forget and remember over and over again.  Maybe it’s because I rush through writing plans, anxious to get to the assignment so that students can start working.  Maybe it’s the effort of looking for good examples.  Perhaps it’s the mistake of believing that my explanation is plenty and students shouldn’t need anything more.  Or possibly

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4 Units to Achieve Back-To-School Goals 






As a teacher, you might have just a few goals for the beginning of the school year: set the tone for your classroom; inspire students to work harder; establish rigor and expectations; teach students to think independently.  Oh, and don’t forget win over students by showing them how much fun they’ll be having this year, and, when you teach high school, getting to know over 100 new people as fast as possible. Seems simple, right? Every year, I have tried

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Why Do Teachers Look For Writing Prompts?  (And What They Should Be Looking For Instead)






In doing a little keyword research for my Teachers Pay Teachers products and the guest blog posts that I write in hopes that people will find and buy those products, I have found that an often searched for term is “writing prompts.”  I continue to be almost shocked that people just look for writing prompts, without any tie to content or units of study or texts.  I don’t think, though, that they are simply looking for someone to give them

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How To Teach Writing: My Top Ten List






I’ve recently created a resource that combines all of my writing lesson plans—prompts, creative assignments, units on persuasive essays and personal essays and some just weird fun stuff that I think is pretty innovative. So I have been thinking a little about my philosophies on teaching writing. I remember early on in my career as a teacher, when I realized that I was doing fine with the literature and books, but that I was really lagging behind with the writing

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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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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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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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