What Your Students Should Learn From The Crucible 






When you think about what you want students to learn from a powerful unit on The Crucible, think about five years from now.  In other words, if you were to run into these kids in five years what would you want them to remember?  Would you really care if they remember that Mary’s last name is Warren or how many people were accused of witchcraft or if the residents of Salem owned cows or sheep?  If you’re going to spend

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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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My Ideal Argument Essay Unit






My Ideal Argument Essay Unit. I have to admit that I resisted teaching a research based argument essay in my ELA classes for over twelve years.  Each year, I would “forget” or “not get to it” or “sort of do an assignment that fulfills the requirement.”  The requirement, as I understood it, was for students to click around on the internet for a few hours, put some facts together in a new format, and then say where they had gotten

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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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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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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 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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