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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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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Common Core: Challenging Non-Fiction Texts For All Subject Areas






I admit to feeling resentful when I learned that the new Common Core standards would require teachers to incorporate more challenging non-fiction into their lesson plans.  Really?  Wasn’t I doing more than enough already?  But I have since (reluctantly and grudgingly) found some great articles to use in class.  In fact, one of my favorite new lessons revolves around a piece published in the New Yorker about the relationship between the Enron Scandal and fixed mindset. Since I decided to

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