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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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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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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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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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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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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