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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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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How I Teach My End-of-the-Year Poetry Project






The last few days before summer vacation can be a slow painful countdown—or they can be an opportunity to try something new, get students working independently, and give teachers a break.  It’s not that teachers are sick of their students (okay, maybe just a little bit) it’s that we’re all ready for something a little bit different.  For me, that sometimes means finishing off the term with an engaging poetry unit.   My End Of The Year Poetry Unit is

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A List of Poems For Every Unit






One resource that I have always wanted as a teacher is a list of poems arranged by theme so I could easily find a great piece to add to any unit.  Well, here’s that list. If you see a link in the title to the poem, that’s because I sell a resource for teaching that poem.  (Think about it as a great choice if it’s nine o’clock on a Wednesday night and you’d rather go to bed than sit up

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How To Teach Poetry






How To Teach Poetry April is National Poetry Month, and while I could happily spend hours analyzing a poem with a group of seventeen-year-olds, I know that not everyone feels that way. Poetry is not always an easy sell.  Students might not have much experience with poetry, or they don’t like it, or they think that it’s going to be too hard.  But by the end of my introductory unit, I have won (almost) all of them over.  They look

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14 Questions for Examining Mentor Texts (Of Any Kind)






Once students are comfortable reading and analyzing mentor texts in order to improve their own writing, it’s nice to be able to let them work through a text independently.  Still, they might appreciate some scaffolding or reminders of what to look for.  These fourteen questions will work for just about any kind of writing—from cutting edge journalism to revealing personal essays to experimental poetry.    For a printable version of this handout that you can use tomorrow as well as

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5 Ideas For Fun And Meaningful Creative Writing In The Secondary Classroom






At the beginning of the school year when I let students ask me anything they wanted, I invariably got the question “Will we be doing any creative writing in this class?”  Usually, the kid who asked the question felt that they had not been given enough opportunities for creative writing in their other English classes.  I think that many teachers have good intentions to give their students opportunities to be creative and experiment with different forms, but after all of

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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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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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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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