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:
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:
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 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:
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:
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.
As it becomes more common for schools to allow or require students to have laptops, tablets, or other devices for school use, teachers have the monumental task of researching, testing, and implementing the flood of applications on the market. Today, I want to share with you Evernote, which is one of my favorite school apps that can be used across the curriculum to help students organize resources and study effectively. Evernote is not specifically designed for students, but it is an amazing tool that they can use to transition from a successful high school career to a successfully organized college life and beyond. Check out the video tutorial below and be sure to leave me a question or comment sharing your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by!
Cause and Effect essays explore why things happen (causes) and what happens as a result (effects). These essays give reasons and explanations for behaviors, events, or circumstances. It is important that your presentation is factual and believable, and that in your thesis statement you explain whether you will be discussing causes, effects, or sometimes both.