If you haven’t incorporated peer editing into your essay units, you are truly missing out. Anytime I can use positive peer interactions in an assignment I find heightened engagement and a better turnout of essays. Find my top reasons for including peer editing below, and don’t forget to check out my resources. Reasons why you should include peer editing 1. So students can write to a wider audience. When my students write essays that only I will read, they tend to write what they think I will like. Especially when students write later in the year, they’ve “been there done that” with writing for me. Most students know what I’m nitpicky in, possibly what my own biases are (even the most objective teacher may inadvertently share personal opinions from time to time). When they peer edit, they also consider the other students who will be reading the paper. In fact, I usually preface and emphasize that they are writing for the wider audience and NOT to just me. 2. So students are more engaged...
When it comes to engaging middle school ELA and high school English students, I’ve noticed a pretty consistent trend: teens like to color, doodle, and create. As much as some teens might moan and groan about coloring, it's actually quite therapeutic, and it helps many disengaged students focus on the lesson, assignment, or assessment. However, when it comes to coloring in the classroom, all coloring-type assignments are not created equally and should not be used synonymously. In fact, sketch notes and doodle notes, mind maps, and one-pagers all have their own distinct place and purpose in the classroom. And when used effectively, these activities and assignments help unlock students’ creativity and analysis skills. Before diving into the different coloring activities, it is important to have the materials you need to successfully facilitate these assignments in the classroom. There have been quite a few times when I walked into my classroom at the start of a school day not planning...
If you aren’t using bell ringers in your secondary ELA classroom - you should. I can’t say enough good things about what bell ringers have done for the routine and structure of my classroom. They do not require much upfront work and preparation once you decide the process you want for bell ringers. And there are so many bell ringers you can find ready-made (check out the end of this post for a couple of my favorites). Here are five reasons you should start your class with a bell ringer. 1. Bring Routine A great benefit to starting class with a bell ringer is how it will bring routine to your day. Class can often start in chaos as students make their way in from the hall, continuing conversations, and shifting into a new subject. I’ll have students who are still amped from a P.E. class, students who just finished a math exam, and students who have snuck in late to the school day. Having a bell ringer ready at the start of each class means my students know what to expect when they come i...
Planning a short story unit can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. Here is a look at how I plan my short story unit. HINT: It requires backward planning! When I teach short stories, I like to use this close reading unit that follows along with these four steps.  Step 1: Start with a story. Select a story you want to read, and then select all of the stories you want to read. Your short story unit doesn't have to have tons of stories to make an impact. I usually include 4-5 stories. Step 2: Plan out your literary elements. Map out the strongest literary elements from each story and plan to focus on just those elements as you read each story. You'll want to select no more than three at the very most. In this phase of planning, try to make sure there isn't a huge amount of overlap. Yes, you can include the same element twice. However, in each story? That's too much! Instead, spread them out over the series of stories you select. Short Story Close Reading Unit Step ...
At the start of a new school year, I like to assign my students a personal statement as one of the first writing assignments of the year. However, I don’t just assign this to my students and set them free. Instead, I use this personal statement teaching unit to take time to teach my students all about personal statement writing. Teaching students, especially juniors and seniors, how to write a meaningful and effective personal statement is essential. Our high school students need to know how to highlight their strengths and write positively about themselves in an authentic and professional manner. It usually always happens like this. I’ll assign the personal statement in August. Students write their personal statements. And then in October or November when students start putting together their college essays, I remind them of their personal statements. And bingo! They have a stellar first draft of their college essay. personal statement teaching unit When I teach personal statement wr...
Lord of the Flies is one of those novels that offer a lot of punch in its brevity. There are deep themes on innocence, building civilizations, and the dangers of mob mentality. If you’re needing some ideas to refresh your lesson plans, read on. 1. Lord of the Flies Self-Grading Quizzes Self-grading quizzes via Google Forms are seriously a game-changer. Setting it up is a great way to quickly assess if students are keeping up with the reading or to assess comprehension. Students can immediately see their grades and you can collect real-time data. My digital chapter quizzes for Lord of the Flies includes a quiz for each chapter, the option to print, and the ability to adjust the point value to fit your class structure. 2. Lord of the Flies Mask Project Students can create masks to symbolically represent Jack (alluding to his face paint). It’s a way for students to dig deeper into the text and think about how they would symbolically represent Jack. You can go as in-depth as you are able,...
Speak is one of those powerful reads that, unfortunately, many students relate to. If not from personal experiences mirroring the main character, the reality of dealing with trauma and the fallout of PTSD, depression, and other ostracizing events. It becomes a deeply personal and empathetic read, so I make an effort to include it in my reading list throughout the year. Read on for activities and ideas to try in your own classroom. 1. Bookmark Analysis No one thinks about bookmarks. Make use of the usual strips of paper or bits of wrapper that are typically used and give students analysis bookmarks instead. Students will be able to participate in engaging analysis components as they read the novel. It’s fewer worksheets to print out, requires students to jot notes, and is easily accessible right in the book as they read. This bookmark idea is versatile, you can create whatever style and questions or requirements you’d like. If you’re not interested in starting from scratch, I have a nov...
The beginning of a new school year can be hectic for journalism teachers who are tasked with simultaneously teaching new journalism students who don’t have any journalism experience while also planning and publishing content for the school newspaper. If your class is anything like mine, it is a mix of returning and new students. This year, I only have three returning students, so it is almost like I am starting entirely from scratch. Here are the first five activities and lessons I am focusing on to help jumpstart my journalism class. 1. Staff Interview Activity One of the very first assignments I have my students do is partner up with a fellow staff member that they don’t know and interview them. This activity works on two things: first, it helps the class get to know one another. Secondly, it helps students proactive their interviewing skills in a low-stakes environment. For this activity, I have students come up with 10 interview questions, interview one another and do a quick write...
Romeo and Juliet is one of those classic pieces of literature I think everyone has read. Even students who haven’t read the Shakespeare play have probably heard of the story or will relate to the plot as it has been retold in various films and literature. If you need some fresh ideas before you start this unit, read on.  1. Relatable Bell Ringers If you’re going to focus on a Shakespeare play, you must go all in. Immersing students into a unit from start to finish is such a perfect way to help students understand a topic in-depth. Start off each class with these Shakespeare Bell Ringers . Each one includes a famous Shakespearean quote and a quick writing prompt. Students will explore various writing styles based on the quote. 2. Character Focus Help your students identify and organize characters with these graphic organizers . This resource has two sets for almost every character in the play. Students will identify characters as round or flat, static or dynamic, and other basic qualiti...