How to Help Secondary Students with Context Clues

My third grader is a better reader than some of my high school students. He’s had a couple of strong reading teachers in school and gets support at home. (Pro Tip: He has to read me a chapter to get a half hour of screen. Magic.) We’ve all had those…
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How Color Coding Works in Written Analysis

Go buy some stock in Paper Mate because you’re about to bump that bottom line. Red Flair pens and blue Flair pens should be on your list of required classroom supplies and your list for Santa because they are going to change completely the way you teach students to analyze…
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When Instruction HAS to Go Digital

I hate writing this blog post. It’s March 11, 2020, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has plummeted AGAIN over Covid-19 fears. I’m starting to see chatter on social media about schools telling teachers to prep for online instruction. So let’s do that. Some schools are WAY ahead of this…
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The Research Process and How to Teach it in Order

I once had a cat use her litter box and then come sit on a student’s research paper. I drew a little purple arrow to the spot and wrote “Sorry about that.” Part of me thought, Well, that’s what it is anyway, so branding it seems fitting. Adolescents’ research papers…
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5 Fascinating Facts About Susan B. Anthony

When the Susan B. Anthony dollar was issued in 1979, we thought it was the coolest thing to have a dollar coin. The problem was the size; it looked and felt like a quarter. So the first time a woman was ever put on a circulating coin in the US,…
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paraphrasing frustration

Why Students are SO BAD at Paraphrasing

As a side hustle, I train teachers in writing instruction. Over the past three weeks, I have worked with both middle and high school English teachers on synthesizing, and I’ve come to the conclusion that paraphrasing is the single most difficult skill to teach to secondary students. In my last…
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the use of "they" as a singular pronoun

Singular They: Acceptable or Unacceptable?

I’m downright militant about the use of they as a singular pronoun in formal writing. When I started teaching in 1990, I used to tease the grammar queens in our department. They all but whacked kids in the knuckles for using a plural pronoun to refer to one person. It’s…
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The First Week of AP Language

How in the world do we start? There are so many ways to design an AP English Language course, that it’s hard to decide what to do the first week. For some schools, schedules are pretty fluid the first ten days or so, so you may be constantly dropping and…
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5 English Teacher Organization Hacks

No one is busier than an English teacher. While a social studies teacher plows through a linear content-based curriculum and a math teacher can grade a test in five minutes, we’re weaving together multiple skill strands, re-reading a novel every time we teach it, and grading essay upon essay upon…
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Should Teachers Reveal Bias on Political Issues?

Before you read on, take two minutes to study this image. Although students would never see such an image on Question 1 (too emotionally charged), there is value to be had in exposing students to current political cartoons. If you use this one in your classroom, give students time to…
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4 Ways to Teach the Rhetorical Modes

Rhetorical modes. Modes of discourse. Writing genres. These terms are often interchangeable and refer to four main categories—narration, description, argumentation/persuasion, and exposition. Argumentation and persuasion, at least for the AP English Language & Composition course, is a stand-alone set of modes, one that must be taught explicitly and with depth.…
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