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Tips for Students Struggling to Start an Essay

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Jan 30, 2016 11:49:30 PM

When students struggle with vocabulary, note taking, or other straightforward skill, teachers have a full toolbox of suggestions, but when the skill is more nuanced like composition, it gets a little trickier.  So often I have parents ask me in emails, meetings, and phone calls what their students can do to get the ball rolling on an upcoming essay.  I also constantly counsel students in office hours who look at me with lost confusion the week before a literature analysis is due.  It is so hard not to get frustrated when I have painstakingly set up the prompt and systematically gone through the pre-writing and writing steps with students.  However, in my experience, some students actually have the requisite skills to write well, but they need a little tip to take the edge off their writing anxiety. For these students, I offer some of the following little tricks as confidence boosters:

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Topics: Essays, Writing, writing tips

Easy Way to Find Fresh Research Paper Topics

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Oct 20, 2015 11:32:42 PM

When research paper season comes around, I struggle with more than the paper load and the process (which I wrote about here). I also struggle with finding fresh topics.  I am a fan of letting students pick topics within boundaries, but I am decidedly not a fan of reading the same trite selections over and over.  Last week, while I was listening to This American Life in my car, I was struck with how perfect this NPR show is as a farming ground for engaging research topics.

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Topics: Essays, research, research paper, tips, topics, Writing

Teach Students to Organize Research with Scrible

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Apr 29, 2015 12:13:32 AM

I've just finished another round of student research papers and as laborious as the grading can be, the process of curating research is one of the most valuable lessons that I teach students heading into our modern world.  For the rest of their lives at home and work, students will need to solve problems and reach conclusions based on the incredible expanse of information on the internet.  They will need to be able to determine the credibility of sources, understand multiple perspectives, and use resources to form educated responses to their world.  Academic research, including research papers can be one step along the path to digital proficiency. (For tips about research paper assignments, click here.  For more about teaching students to determine source credibility,click here.)

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Topics: Classroom Tech, papers, research, technology, tips, Writing

5 Ways to Use Magazines in the Classroom

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Nov 11, 2014 7:15:32 AM

With a push in the common core to incorporate more informational texts and a teenage audience that is becoming more globally aware than any previous generation, I have found that using high quality magazines in the classroom can help capture young minds in relevant reading and writing.  I especially like The New Yorker, but the same strategies below can be used for Time Magazine, National Geographic, your local newspaper, or many other options.  (Be sure to vet articles carefully and get approval where appropriate.)  Many newspapers and some magazines also have an educator's discount! Below are some ways that I'm using magazines in my classroom.  I'd love to hear your questions, comments, or suggestions below!

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Topics: Common Core, Lesson Planning, Literary Analysis/Reading Strategies, reading, teaching tips, teaching writing, Writing

Constructive Peer Editing: Free Handout Included!

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Oct 21, 2014 7:28:26 AM

Essay writing is such a powerful, necessary skill for students and such a arduous and draining requirement for teachers.  A while ago, I shared a post with tips for getting through the essay stacksand today I want to share another process for peer editing that I use with students during the early part of the school year.  I find it helps improve student writing and saves me time not writing the same comments over and over again!

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Topics: Essays, peer editing, Writing

Teaching Effective Digital Note-Taking

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Jul 1, 2014 8:37:01 AM

 I read this article in The Atlantic recently that discussed a new finding that hand written notes are more effective in student learning than are typed notes.  The article focused on laptops and specifically noted that there may be differences with tablets, but as a teacher in a school that is moving toward a one on one iPad program, I'm interested in thinking about and sharing best practices for helping students take effective digital notes.  Below are my top five tips.  I'd love to hear any questions, comments, or suggestions in the comment section below!

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Topics: Classroom Tech, teaching tips, technology, tips, Writing

Tips for Teaching the Common Core Narrative Writing Standards

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Sep 2, 2013 12:05:02 PM

I love teaching narrative writing to high school students!  I get so busy emphasizing effective argumentation and exposition, that narrative writing always seems like a breath of fresh air and a chance for students to get creative!  Here are my tips for teaching the common core narrative writing standards:

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Topics: Common Core, Writing, writing, writing prompts, writing tips

Teaching Students to Determine Credibility of Online Sources (Free Student Handout!)

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Aug 27, 2013 3:25:56 AM

Two important revolutions have come together to make online source credibility testing an important skill to teach our students:

  • The Common Core emphasizes research and informational texts. 
  • Our students have incredible access to online sources.

Even though most of my students walk around all day with the internet in their pockets, they do not know innately how to determine the credibility of a source for my research paper, infographics, and other assignments.   More alarmingly, they consistently report bad habits including the use of fast information sources that they know are not reliable and the use of copy/paste functions to get homework done in a hurry.  In order to send students into college and into the world with valid research habits, I consciously teach students a checklist to determine the credibility of a source.  I  go through the list with them a few times and make them use it regularly in the hope that they will internalize the information for future use.  Here is my credibility check list:

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Topics: Classroom Tech, Common Core, Essays, Freebie, resources, technology, tips, Writing, writing, writing tips

Teaching the Arch Method to Help Students Analyze Informational Texts

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Jul 23, 2013 3:21:13 AM

As we continue to grow in our common core competencies and take on new informational texts, we need tools to help students read closely and analyze texts that may be outside of their fiction plot structure comfort zone (and ours!).  At a conference many years ago, I picked up a valuable strategy called the arch method, which I believe can do just that.  I learned it from Valerie Stevenson who is a high school English teacher from San Diego, accomplished conference speaker, and incredible fount of knowledge.  Originally, I used it as a way to help AP students answer prose analysis prompts, but with the common core emphasis on informational texts at all levels, I want to show you how it is an appropriate and valuable tool for all of our classes.

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Topics: Common Core, informational texts, Literary Analysis/Reading Strategies, Literature, reading, standards, teaching reading, Writing, writing tips

3 Simple Tips for Teaching the SAT Essay

Posted by Emily Guthrie on Jul 1, 2013 10:05:04 AM

As high school English teachers, we do our best to prepare students to thrive in college (if that is the path they select).  We teach grammar, vocabulary, critical reading, and analytical writing.  We structure our classes to guide and scaffold students then gently move them to independent thought.  But as we work hard to give students the skills needed for higher education, sometimes we neglect the skills students will need to just get in the door of their chosen university.  Here are some tips to help your students prepare for the most updated version of the essay portion of the SAT (updated March 2016):

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Topics: essay, SAT, teaching writing, test prep, Writing

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