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Posts from the ‘Key Strategies’ Category

Tools of the Trade: Creating Student Bloggers in 5 Easy-To-Follow Steps

By Kelly Virgin

It is estimated that 2 million blog posts are written everyday. That is over 10 million per week.

The sheer amount of content makes learning about and teaching this writing task daunting. Nevertheless, my students and I faced this challenge head on as we worked together to craft and publish the first of what will hopefully be many posts on our new blog – khscreativewriters.edublogs.org. The following is the step-by-step approach we used to get comfortable and confident with blogging.

Step 1: Write!

Before I introduced the blogging writing task, I wanted students to have a wealth of ideas to pull from for their first posts. So, we spent a few class periods writing to gather ideas. First, we curated expert lists. Students had five minutes to list as many topics they considered themselves “experts” on. After we listed and discussed some of our expertise, we returned to the items and brainstormed types of writing we could do on the different topics. For example, one student who considers himself an expert on backpacking realized he could write a how-to guide or keep a journal of his backpacking trips.

Another list we created Read more

Approaches to Argument in an Era of Alternative Facts

by Tricia Ebarvia

Given the state of today’s political discourse and the complex challenges presented by social media sharing (and over sharing), it’s more important now than ever for teachers to take an active role in helping students navigating the information and misinformation they encounter every day. At this point, many of us might be already familiar with the Stanford study published a few months ago that found that many students cannot discern the difference between stories that are real and those that are not. As the Washington Post reported, “Some 82% of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website.”

And it isn’t just students either. Even well-educated adults fall for fake news stories. Just this morning, on my Facebook feed, a friend posted a news story that turned out to be false (someone in the comments had done a fact check). Unfortunately, too often fake news sites have become adept at posing as legitimate sources. Now, when I see a news story from an unfamiliar source, the first thing I do is try to determine where it’s coming from. As literacy teachers, we can no longer just teach our students the traditional Rs of reading and writing. We need to also teach our students about third R—Rhetoric.

Rhetoric is the study of persuasion, and today, there are plenty of individuals, friends, family, interest groups, politicians, corporations, and any number of organizations trying to persuade our students—to buy this, believe that, do this, don’t do that. Information that seems purely objective can be interpreted (or manipulated) in the service of persuasion. Even the youngest students can (and should) be taught to analyze text to look for biases. Just a few weeks ago, my six-year-old came home and told me about how his class was learning the difference between fact and opinion. Of course, teachers have always done this work, but the times seem to call for more. So how? How can we teach our students be critical thinkers, especially of information that might feed into our own biases?  Read more

From the Classroom: Reimagining Learning Spaces—The Third Teacher

A few years ago, I started to rethink my classroom space. I wondered, What does this room say about me as a teacher, or my students as learners? Is the space working in the best ways it can? Here are 16 ways we can reimagine our learning spaces - with pictures!

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Teacher-to-Teacher: End-of-Year Epiphanies

Adobe Spark (22)

By Janice Ewing

My grad class is small this term, a seminar-like community with lots of conversation and sharing of ideas and experiences. The comfort level among the group is a welcome respite at a time when everyone is striving to fulfill end-of-year requirements and scrambling to reach unmet goals, while keeping up with grad school and family obligations.

Recently, a few of the teachers shared experiences that were unexpectedly positive and rewarding. For example, Anne (names have been changed) teaches in an alternative high school for students who have previously dropped out or taken other detours from the traditional path to graduation. Most, if not all, have had struggles and negative experiences with reading, robbing them of the pleasurable experience of getting caught up in a book. By chance, Anne acquired a large enough collection of Walter Dean Myers’ Monster to accommodate her small class. She had not read the book, but had read reviews and commentaries and it seemed like a great fit for her students. She decided to jump in without reading it ahead, which was not her usual practice. Next issue: a well-meaning colleague pointed out that there were related “packets’ available, which would provide questions, prompts, discussion points, etc. An inner voice told her to forgo the packets, and she listened to it.  Read more

Teacher-to-Teacher: Poetry as Noticing

By Janice Ewing

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Mary Oliver (from “Sometimes”)

These are among my favorite lines from Mary Oliver, and I think that these “instructions” apply to poetry, too.  Once again we find ourselves in April, Poetry Month. Many of us have considered the value of giving poetry its special twelfth of the year, versus reading, writing and enjoying it all the time. This year, I’m feeling a little more mellow about that issue. I’ve come to believe that we can immerse ourselves and our students in poetry through all seasons, and still take the month of April to celebrate it with fun and fanfare. Read more

Reflections from an Author: Why Teachers Must Write (Guest Post)

By Frank Murphy

Recently, Lynne Dorfman wrote a Teacher to Teacher post about using my newest book, Take a Hike Teddy Roosevelt, as a mentor text to help guide the instruction of teachers of young writers.  (Of course, I was, and still am, flattered!!)  Soon after, on a Saturday in January, we co-presented on the same topic for some dedicated members of the Capital Reading Council in Harrisburg, PA.

In a nutshell, I started the event off by sharing the story of how Teddy became so dedicated to environmental conservation; then Lynne went about analyzing how she could use this book as a mentor text for elementary school student writers. (If you’ve never seen Lynne present – she’s like a literary surgeon on Skittles!!).  She focused on many things, from strong verbs to exact nouns.  Even artful sentence fragments!  (I hope she thought that one was artful!)  All of Lynne’s analysis forced me to recollect so much of the writing and rewriting and imagining of writing that I did over the last few years of constructing and crafting this book in collaboration with my editor, Anna Membrino.  It also made me reflect on a recent lesson that I taught to my current sixth grade students that I’ll discuss later.  Read more