Knowing how to research is an important skill for our students, but it can seem overwhelming and tedious when students first see a research assignment. When it comes to teaching students how to research and how to write a research paper, it is definitely a process. Teaching research paper writing takes time. Check out some of my favorite tips for teaching research in secondary ELA.  1. Teach well-thought-out research questions. This is one of the first skills to focus on because it sets the tone for the whole project. Students either need to be given the research questions, or they should have some sort of teacher-check to make sure they are keeping to the topic. Questions that are too broad will leave them sifting through too much information, and questions that are too narrow will make it hard for them to find sources and do their research. You can assist students by walking them through a short process of evaluating their topic and completing some preliminary research.  2. Teach the...
  It’s not the most popular activity in my classroom, but I believe teaching close reading is a vital skill for my students to feel comfortable and confident in their ability to closely read, understand, and analyze a text. If you’re looking to bring your students to the next level in reading comprehension and analysis, read on for tips and tricks. What is close reading? First, it’s important to know that close reading is not a summary of the main points and it’s not a personal response. It’s actually more in-depth than that. When you close read, you should be focused on analysis and interpretation. Students should pick apart the work. This is the time to uncover layers, make inferences, and look for specific textual evidence. It’s more than a reader response. It is understanding what the author is doing. Why were these words chosen? Why described in this way? Why is this interesting (or not)? Notice that, while it is important that students acknowledge the need for tapping into prio...
  You probably won’t get very far in teaching without hearing about a plethora of sticky note activities. It might even seem overwhelming because you can use sticky notes for just about anything. What are the best practices for using sticky notes, especially when you’re teaching older students? Read on to see my suggestions. 1. Use them conscientiously There are two points to consider - how to get ahold of them, and what to do with them when you’re done. Buy in bulk for the best bang for your buck. But if you are tight in the supply budget and it’s part of your school culture to provide supply lists to students, consider having students contribute to a class stock of sticky notes or have them bring their own supply. The other thing to consider is how to dispose of sticky notes. There’s a myth that sticky notes can’t be recycled. While some types of sticky notes are harder to recycle (like those with fluorescent dyes), and not all recycling centers take “mixed paper”, I recommend consid...
When it comes to reading nonfiction, my students tend to get bleary-eyed and hard-of-hearing. It’s like they instantly think of their history textbooks and informational articles and they decide before they even know the topic that they aren’t going to like it. For many students, nonfiction is like the vegetable of literature, but it doesn’t have to be this way. This is why I work hard to make sure I have a variety of activities to engage my students. Read about some of my favorites below. 1. Fact vs Opinion This super easy activity simply involves you presenting the topic of study and having students create a class list of information. Students share what they know (or think) they know about the subject. You can then assign a pre-reading activity separating fact from fiction, or have students revisit the list after reading. 2. Learn to Annotate Annotating is such an important skill because your students learn to engage with the text. It also has shown to improve retention, and helps i...
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 o...
As an English teacher, I believe that every single high school student needs to know how to annotate text meaningfully and effectively in order to gain a deeper understanding. Close reading is an essential part of the English language arts, and it is also essential to many other academic disciples as well. Teaching students to properly annotate text is something can be challenging, but my step-by-step text annotation lesson makes this process much more manageable for students and teachers. Check this lesson out HERE or at the bottom of the post. As we step into the digital world and as schools slowly transition to 1:1, teachers have to find new ways to have students demonstrate their mastery of a skill. Recently, I stumbled upon a Google Chrome app that makes annotating text on an electronic device easy peasy: Xodo. Xodo is a free Google Chrome app that allows students to annotate directly on the screen. They can draw arrows and type in comments. It is a dream! Simply...
With the new school year on the horizon, many teachers across the nation, myself included, are preparing for the back-to-school season. The first few days back to school after summer break are always a bit chaotic: students’ schedules are changing, the new year’s routine is beginning, and teachers and students are getting to know one another. Once the ice-breakers and getting to know you activities of the first week back to school are over, I like to teach my students a quick lesson on annotating text before diving into our short story unit. There are two reasons why I start the school year with teaching annotation: one, I find it to be a very useful skill that helps students in all areas of the school; two, I want all of my students on the same page (or at least the same chapter) when it comes to reading text; and three, knowing how to annotate text is part of the common core curriculum. Also, I like to teach this in the beginning so that students don’t highlight an entir...