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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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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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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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 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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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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