Trash It or Stash It?

Giggles in the back corner. Whispers in the middle. A shifty glance. Knowing nods in the front.  No, my students are not plotting to mutiny (not today, at least).  "TRASH IT!" They chorus. A sticky note gets crumpled and tossed in the recycling bin on my desk. A few students scribble frantically in their notes.  … Continue reading Trash It or Stash It?

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Get Out of the Kiddie Pool!

This was the mantra repeated by a presenter at one of the first AP conferences I attended. We were examining methods to break students out of shallow analysis. The past few years of teaching AP Lang have convinced me that teaching students to write really comes down to three things: thesis statements, organization, and support. … Continue reading Get Out of the Kiddie Pool!

The Best Professional Reading for English Teachers: Books That Are Shaping My Teaching This Year

Every January, I spend some time going through my professional bookshelf. I find that during the bustle of the school year, I forget some of the ideas and practices I was so excited about implementing this year. Sometimes I even come across ideas from years past that would be helpful to bring back. This week, … Continue reading The Best Professional Reading for English Teachers: Books That Are Shaping My Teaching This Year

New Year, New Unit

It's a snow day today, so this will be a quick post before I get back to playing Feed the Woozle with my toddler. We just headed back to school from winter break, and I am so excited to jump in with my AP kids. For one of my grad school classes last semester, I … Continue reading New Year, New Unit

The Analytical Thesis: A Student Writer’s Frenemy

As the facts change, change your thesis. Don't be a stubborn mule, or you'll get killed. -Barry Sternlicht It's a love-hate relationship: the thesis is essential in analytical writing, but it can be one of the hardest elements for students to master. A couple of years ago, I began reflecting on how I was teaching … Continue reading The Analytical Thesis: A Student Writer’s Frenemy

How to Teach Analysis Like a Boss

In my last post, I made a case against the five paragraph essay as an appropriate analytical structure for high school students. The closed thesis, redundancy, and built-in limitations to critical thinking ultimately hold students back from their best work. If not the five-paragraph essay, then what? I'm going to take you on a tour … Continue reading How to Teach Analysis Like a Boss

Please Stop Teaching the Five-Paragraph Essay for Analysis 

Please stop teaching the five-paragraph essay for analysis. Please, pretty please with a cherry on top!  Let's talk for a moment about the purpose of the five-paragraph essay. Many scholars trace its origins centuries back. Its parallel structure was favored over more meandering approaches. Today, teachers and students value the five-paragraph essay because it's both … Continue reading Please Stop Teaching the Five-Paragraph Essay for Analysis 

A New Standard in My Teaching: A Brief Primer on Standards-Based Grading

Last year, I had the pleasure of partnering with my friend and colleague in a Marzano Research professional development workshop around effective assessment and standards based grading. Our district has been using a flawed version of standards based grading for almost a decade now. I say flawed because we’ve essentially approximated the process by tacking … Continue reading A New Standard in My Teaching: A Brief Primer on Standards-Based Grading

Close Reading With Costa’s Levels of Questioning

Have you ever told your students to find the "deeper meaning" of a text? Or asked them to share their "deeper understanding" of a concept or skill? Then you, like me, are guilty of one of the most common sins of teaching English Language Arts. Here's the problem: most kids have no idea what "deeper … Continue reading Close Reading With Costa’s Levels of Questioning

Friday Discussions

This year, I committed to making student voices a bigger component of every day in my classroom. I'm making sure to build in lots of intentional informal speaking opportunities on a daily basis. I'm holding Socratic Seminars at least once every quarter. In addition, I'm starting a new routine in all of my classes: the … Continue reading Friday Discussions