I always seem to have students who believe that effective writing is verbose. If they exceed the page minimum, they expect a high grade. These students tend to applaud themselves for the hard work on essay assignments, and it can be very difficult to convince them that their style of writing is actually quite lazy. As English teachers, we try to teach students that writing should be precise and concise. In order for students to accomplish this goal, they must have an extensive vocabulary and clear command of syntax. In short, we teach the adage:
No matter which standards you are currently in alignment with, argument writing is an incredibly important mainstay of English curricula. Arguments can take many forms, and sometimes it is fun to mix up the writing assignments to inspire students to use their creativity and have a little fun (especially during fourth quarter)! Today I want to share a writing assignment that fell into my lap recently and turned out to be a great experience for my secondary students. Last week, I was reading the New Yorker and I came across this article that described a couple's first dinner in the form of a recipe. I thought that it was an interesting social commentary that teenagers could easily relate to (even though the article is geared toward young adults). So, I decided to mix up the argument writing for the week to include an assignment modeled after this article. We read the article together and discussed the elements of style, content, and convention that were employed as well as the arguments, both explicit and implicit. A couple of the reasons I liked this assignment were:
During this time of year, the research paper dominates the English department in my school. We slog through the sometimes painful and sometimes engaging process of finding credible sources, creating a documented argument, and using MLA format. I wrote about teaching research papers in this earlier post if you want to know more. Today I want to share a quick tip for creating sheltered research and argument papers without a ton of background work for the teacher. By sheltered research, I just mean that teachers provide the sources for students to synthesize as opposed to students being open to all possible sources. I find that these assignments are ideal for preparing students to do longer, more independent and scholarly research papers later.
Plagiarism is easy in today's world. Not only do students have access to online writing, which they can easily copy and paste, they can also hire work out to a paid plagiarizer. Many students have no idea of the consequences! In this post, I want to address the problem of plagiarism and offer a simple solution, in the form of a class activity.
I've recently had an ah-ha moment about teaching writing at all levels using anchor papers. Anchor papers are basically a set of papers that each represent the characteristics of a particular grade range. For example, given a writing prompt about Native American mythology, I could have a set of anchor papers in which 1-2 papers are solid As, 1-2 papers are solid Bs, 1-2 papers are solid Cs, 1-2 papers are solid Ds, and 1-2 papers are Fs. When we are finished with our literature unit on Native American mythology, I can have students write on the prompt with a clear rubric. When the papers are complete, I can give students the unmarked anchor papers to categorize and grade based on the rubric. After we have discussed which papers received which grades and for what reasons, students can self-assess their own papers with clarity. Then I could use a similar rubric with the next paper on Puritan literature, allowing students to self-assess without anchor papers before they turn it in for my grading.
The kind folks over at Grammarly recently let me try out their service with my high school English classes. The service offers to help students continue to develop writing skills through automated instructional feedback in grammar and word choice, as well as plagiarism tracking. I tried out the teacher/student version, which you can learn more about at Grammarly.com/edu. Check out the video tutorial below and the pros and cons list. Please let me know if you have questions or comments and remember to check back weekly for more teacher tips, tutorials, and tirades. ;)
At my school, 3rd quarter in the English department means one thing: research paper time. We do our best to build on the process every year so that seniors graduate with confidence and a working knowledge of writing research papers and I do think that in this case departmental support is important to effective teaching. Whether you are just starting the daunting task of planning the paper or are looking for a fresh take, I highly recommend the research paper resource product from Simply Novel, which can be purchased as part of the Essay Architect Essay Writing System or separately from TeachersPayTeachers. This Common Core Standards Based (ELA: Writing) product on teaching research papers is full of everything you need to help students grasp the concept of completing research, plagiarism, organizing their sources, using source information, MLA format, deciphering credible Internet sources, and more! In addition to the notes, handouts, and activities included in that resource, I would like to share a couple of my tips for teaching the research paper.
For me, grading essays is one of the most challenging aspects of teaching high school English (see my top 10 here). I don't have a problem with deciphering handwriting or subjectively evaluating a written piece. I have a problem with the incredibly long hours I dedicate to the (sometimes thankless) sport of essay grading. I teach 1 advanced placement and 4 college prep English classes, which average 30 students per class. I know that many teachers have it far worse than I do, but I have to work very hard to keep my head above the essay-filled water! While we're talking essays, you should totally check out Simply Novel's Essay Architect Writing System. Here are some of the tips I have gathered along the way to make the essay grading a little more manageable:
I'm excited today to share Collaborize Classroom, one of my favorite online resources for students and teachers. Collaborize Classroom is an online discussion board that is safe, private, and geared especially toward secondary classrooms. I use this site to deepen classroom discussion, teach online communication skills, get my grading done faster, and ensure inclusive student participation. It is also a great way to improve student writing and brainstorm before essay assignments. This video blog will briefly describe setting up the site and feature my favorite parts of this system from a teacher perspective. If you have questions, or suggestions, we'd love to hear about them in the comment section below. Thanks!
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: