Laughing All The Way with The Daring English Teacher

The holiday season is officially here, and I want to make sure that teachers are laughing all the way to winter break. To help make these next few weeks go by quickly, I’m participating in a holiday blog hop and raffle giveaway hosted by The Language Arts Classroom. Keep reading this post for more great ideas and for a chance to win some gift cards!

My entire store will also be on sale on Monday, November 28 and Tuesday, November 29 to help teachers make it until the end of the semester.

As the end of the semester nears, students begin daydreaming about winter vacation, no school, presents, no school, time with family and friends, and no school. It can be very difficult to keep their focus and concentration during this time of year, so I give students some choice with real-life topics that matter to them while maintaining the rigor that my administrators expect!

One thing I like to do at the end of the semester is engage students with a high-interest argument essay. Even though they write a complete argument essay with researched information and supporting evidence, students enjoy this assignment because I give them a variety of highly engaging topics to choose from. Plus, this assignment fits perfectly in the instructional time we have between Thanksgiving and winter break!

Students can choose between anything from cell phones in the classroom, to college tuition prices, to school uniforms, and more. To expedite this process, I include all of the articles for my students so that they do not waste any time sifting through unreliable information. My Argument Essay Unit - Student Choice MEGA Bundle will be 28% off during the sale!
To help breathe some life into this assignment during this time of year, students can work on the assignment in teams of four. Two students on each team write either the pro or the con together. Then, once both sides are written, each team presents their essays in a debate format. Another fun way to add some excitement to an argument essay at the end of the year is to have students present their research with a campaign poster supporting their claim. Since I have access to Chromebooks in the classroom, I like to have students create digital posters and post them to a padlet!

Enter to win a giftcard!
Check out the rest of the blogs in the hop.

Collaborative Rhetorical Analysis Poster Project

Engage students in rigorous rhetorical analysis with a collaborative poster project.
One of the things I love the most about teaching nonfiction texts is teaching rhetorical analysis and watching students get it.

After teaching my students about ethos, pathos, logos, and a variety of rhetorical devices in two different speeches, I wanted to see if they got it on their own, so I assigned a collaborative rhetorical analysis project.
To set up the project, I printed copies of historical and political speeches that we had not reviewed yet: The Space Shuttle Challenger Address, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream, President George W. Bush’s 9/11 Address to the Nation, and JFK’s Ich bin in Berliner. With the exception of I Have a Dream, all of the speeches are about the same length. I printed out enough copies for each group to have one speech each, and then I collated the speeches so that I could hand them out at random. The students did not have a say in which speech they were given.

I gave each student group a piece of chart paper, markers, and a copy of the speech to annotate.

Using my white board, I drew a mock-up, sample poster for the students with my requirements, and explained my expectations. In groups of three, students were to annotate the speeches, for literal and figurative meaning as well as rhetorical devices; identify the speech’s subject, purpose, author, context, and tone; write a 5-8 sentence summary of the speech, and include at least three rhetorical devices on the poster, with explanation.
Engage students in rigorous rhetorical analysis with a collaborative poster project.

The project took two and a half days, and it went better than I could have asked for. I heard dynamic conversations about the various authors’ use of ethos, pathos, logos, repetition, anaphora, alliteration, and allusion. I saw my students annotating their speeches and truly dissecting the text to gain a deeper understanding. I witnessed authentic learning take place.

On the third day of this project, we took half a day to display the posters and complete a gallery walk. For the gallery walk, I asked each student to write down the title and speaker of each speech and then identify one rhetorical device that the speaker used and explain its significance and overall impact on the speech.
Engage students in rigorous rhetorical analysis with a collaborative poster project.
Engage students in rigorous rhetorical analysis with a collaborative poster project.

Engage students in rigorous rhetorical analysis with a collaborative poster project.
One reason why I think the activity exceeded my expectations is because my students were ready to demonstrate their understanding. Prior to this activity, I taught my students this lesson: It covers the three rhetorical appeals and various rhetorical and persuasive strategies. We used Lou Gehrig’s Farewell to Baseball speech as an introductory text.

Another reason why I believe my students did so well with this activity is because I also taught them how to annotate text. Using my Annotating Made Easy lesson, I taught my students how to annotate text in a step-by-step manner. As a class, we broke down the Gettysburg Address and annotated it. After students annotated small chunks of the text, I had them share their annotations with their table partners and then I showed them some of my annotations. This helps build up their confidence in annotating text. We then spent another day analyzing this speech for rhetorical appeals and devices in the same manner.

I definitely suggest walking through two to three speeches as a class before completing this collaborative rhetorical analysis poster project.

This was a new activity in my classroom, and it will be one I continue to use and tweak throughout the years.

Best of the Best Essay Writing Instruction

Best practices for teaching high school and middle school students all about essay writing
Teaching students to write essays well can be a tricky task. It is so simple to assume that our incoming students are equipped with all of the tools necessary for writing various types of essays, but that thinking is not only flawed, it is detrimental for our students.

I remember way back in the day when I was in high school. My teachers simply assigned an essay, gave us a prompt, and set us on our merry way. Perhaps this wasn’t the norm for most people back then, and I surely hope that it wasn’t, but it always left me utterly confused. Our students need direction. Our students need guidance. Our students need step-by-step instruction.

When we assign our students essays, especially in the first semester of the school year, we need to make sure that we provide our students with all of the tools and information they could possibly need to write the best essay they can. And for essay writing, this means over teaching. So many of my students lack the skills needed to write a thorough topic sentence, and this isn't a skill that secondary teachers can just assume all of their students know.

My newest essay writing lesson series, Essay Writing Unit: Teaching Students to Master the Essay, was designed to help teachers break down the essay writing process into a step-by-step, multi-day instructional unit that empowers teachers to improve their essay writing instruction and enables students to feel more confident in their own writing capabilities.

After implementing this lesson series into my own classroom, I truly feel that this essay writing unit is the best of the best when it comes to essay writing instruction in the secondary classroom.
This series breaks down the essay writing process into manageable chunks: mastering the essay outline, the introduction and thesis statement, topic sentences and body paragraphs, the conclusion, and a final essay checklist. Each portion of this lesson series includes a PowerPoint presentation that is semi-editable provide teachers the opportunity to tailor the content to meet the needs of their individual classrooms and supplementary teaching materials and handouts for the students.

This lesson also includes step-by-step instructions and examples for students to use as mentor texts. For example, in the introduction and thesis writing lesson, I've included examples of what good thesis statements should look like. I've also included examples of poorly written thesis statements with explanations as to why each statement isn't so great.

When I teach essay writing to my students, I teach it as a process. We start with breaking down the essay prompt, brainstorming ideas (click here to read about how I facilitate group brainstorming), outlining the essay, drafting the essay, completing peer and self editing (click here to read about five foolproof ways to conduct peer editing in your classroom), and finally publishing and finalizing the essay.
To preview my essay writing teaching style, you can download my Comprehensive Essay Writing Checklist for FREE! I use this checklist in my classroom as a self editing tool for students to complete before they turn in their final drafts.

This blog post is included in a Secondary ELA blog hop hosted by Secondary Sara. In this blog hop other amazing secondary ELA teachers discuss their best of the best lessons. Be sure to check out all of these posts to find engaging ideas, classroom-tested activities, and free resources that you can use in your own classroom!

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