An activity that I always use to start the year is ‘Why we Read/Write.’ I like students to really think about the purpose of Language Arts class and the many benefits of learning to read and write effectively.
I started by reading them a children’s book – this year it was Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin. I ask the students to relax, enjoy, and transport themselves back in time to when they were wee and loved to snuggle and read books with their parents.
You’d be surprised – 13-year-olds love to have children’s books read to them. Afterward, I asked what they enjoyed about the book. They loved that it was humorous, colorful, and simple; it brought back many nostalgic memories. Next, I asked them, “When reading this book, what might a small child accidentally learn about?” They were surprised at their own long list: farm animals and the foods they provide us, farm life, vocabulary, letter writing, and negotiating skills. Wow – reading really has many benefits, huh?
Then I passed out a stack of post-its at each table and asked the table groups to write down as many reasons as they could generate for why people read. What they came up with was creative and insightful!
Some of my favorite post-its read:
“To escape your reality”
Then I shared Kelly Gallagher’s 10 Reading Reasons and asked the students to compare their list with his. For the most part, they got all of the reasons besides ‘Reading Helps us To Fight Oppression’ and ‘Reading is Financially Rewarding.’ I challenge the students to name a single job where reading is not required. Bottom line: It can’t be done!
After Reading Reasons, I ask the students to think about why we write. I again distribute post-its, and we repeat the activity on the board. Here are there amazing answers:
My favorites are:
“To let out your feelings”
“To understand things better”
“To capture memories”
Our discussion afterward focused on using writing to sort out our feelings and to communicate and be heard by others. The students also seemed to get the connection between reading and writing, and that they are mutually beneficial.
I was so proud of the students for being positive and enthusiastic throughout this whole activity. I didn’t hear one single student gripe, “I haaaaate reading. Who cares?” Etc. I am so glad we set a positive tone right at the beginning, and I look forward to referencing this great list that we made during the year as we expand our knowledge and skills.
It is a 77-page exciting student-friendly instructional manual and workbook for writing an argumentative paper – perfect for grades 7 – 10. This Common Core Aligned unit addresses writing, reading, and language. These are reading and writing techniques that can be used for cross-curricular writing in Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education… you name it! I have provided professional development at my school for these writing techniques, and the entire staff at my middle school now uses them. It’s great to be on the same page.
By using the instructional workbook, students learn how to read and write argument/persuasive papers step-by-step. The following topics are addressed:
* Argumentative Writing
* The Paper Chain: Overview
* Argument Writing: Flow Chart
* Practice Identifying the Argument
* Effective Argument (word choice)
* Practice Generating an Argument
* Generating your own Argument
* Practice Identifying Claims
* Claims and Supporting Evidence
* Generating Claims: Supporting the Argument
* Practice Identifying Evidence
* Organizing Evidence
* Claims and Supporting Evidence
* Quoting Evidence
* A Search for Evidence
* Collecting Evidence: Internet Search
* Is this Website Credible?
* Practice Determining Credible Evidence
* Homework: Find Your Own Evidence
* Adding a Counterclaim
* Deconstructing a Counterclaim
* Writing a Body Paragraph: Organization
* Reasoning / Links: Explaining Evidence
* The Whole Paper = A TERCon Sandwich
* Citing Sources: Avoiding Plagiarism
* Other Ways to Say ‘Said’
* Bibliography / Works Cited
* Peer Revising
* Peer Revising Sample
* Revision Checklist
* Model/Exemplar Paper
* How to get an Advanced Score
* Sentence Fluency: Appositives
* Why Appositives Are Important
* Appositives Practice
* Commonly Misspelled Words
* Editing Shortcuts and Practice
* Answer Key
My favorite part about the workbook is that it is filled with models, examples, and practice, as well as easy-to-follow visuals and charts. You can print out the manual as a hard copy workbook for students or – as I do in my one-to-one iPad school – email it to my students as an ebook to reference all year.
I am hoping to have this available on iTunes University soon! In the meantime, you can purchase a version from Teachers Pay Teachers here. Happy Teaching!
I set up a new interactive bulletin board today that I am very excited to start in the fall! The idea came from the ‘Life is Better Messy Anyway‘ blog. The Reading Graffiti Board is an interactive board in which each student can post one quote per book that they read. This encourages them to make very thoughtful decisions about THE BEST quote from their book, since they must choose only one. I can see a lot of my students getting very excited to write on the wall deface the classroom. 8th graders think they are so bad 😉
I am also looking forward to using this opportunity to teach my students how to correctly quote a source. I will require the following:
Copy the sentence(s) exactly as they are found in the book
Put “quotes” around the entire sentence/passage
Cite the author and the title of the book
I bought 2 silver sharpies, which I will be keeping in my desk. Students will have to have their quote pre-approved first, and I think this will help eliminate any possible shenanigans. If time permits within the class period, I’d love to invite students to read their quotes out loud and share why they chose it as the best quote. I will encourage students to choose quotes that are though-provoking, dramatic, interesting, and rich with word choice and imagery.
In addition to encouraging students to reflect and share their own reading, I hope this is an inspiration to other students who are looking for the next good book to read. I can just see students crowding around the board, reading a really juicy quote, and thinking, “Hey – I’d love to read that!”
To set the example, I started by adding the very first quote. It is from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
If you are interested in the Reading Graffiti banner, you can download it for free here:
A real challenge in middle school is getting an increasingly large group of apathetic students excited about reading. I don’t mean to say ALL of my students – I definitely have some voracious readers – but there is always a hefty, vocal group that seems proud to proclaim indignantly, “I don’t read.” Well, harumpf. What’s a teacher to do with that kind of attitude? I understand that as an English Language Arts teacher, it is my job to get students excited about reading. Confetti, cartwheels, iPhone giveaways – whatever it takes! Okay not really. I’m not a performer, I’m not rich, and I don’t work miracles. I do my best to give students authentic, fun, motivating reasons to pick up a book (aaaaaand actually read/finish it). Of course I have to give a nod to my favorite teacher-author, Kelly Gallagher, who writes about just this topic in his book Reading Reasons. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it!
One of the ways I try to motivate students to read is through my DVD Case / Movie Poster project. It is a project with reading, writing, language, expression, and art – a great way to hit multiple Common Core standards at once. This project has lots of elements that get kids excited: technology, critical thinking, creative writing, photography/images, and the critical elements of publication and display. Here is a glimpse of the final project, which is explained in more detail below:
You are looking at the display cases in the front lobby of our middle school. Each and every student got a chance to have their final DVD case (or movie poster) on display for the entire school. In addition, my students got some one-on-one time with 6th and 7th graders to share their project. They read their summary and review quotes on the back, explained the layout and image choices, and answered any questions their audience had – all in hopes of inspiring the student to go and read the book for themselves.
Here is a closer look at a DVD project:
And a collage of my students’ work:
Students begin by selecting an interesting book (can either be a novel or a biography) that is at their appropriate reading level. I introduce this project about 6-8 weeks ahead of time to get students enough warning to finish the book.
After reading the book, students will write what I call a ‘Review Quote’ (a book teaser summary that discusses the theme/message) to promote the book. To do this, we look at the backs of many books, even visit http://www.rottentomatoes.com and http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews to get a feel for the rich language of a teaser/review.
Next, the students will create either a DVD Case or a Movie Poster to promote the book through images as well as words. They really love this part, and I’m not just saying that. Rarely do I hit the money with a project where every single student is working, but this is it. And everyone is working at his/her own pace and area of expertise – artists, techies, writers; they all find their niche and even help one another.
On the day where I introduce the project, I bring in dozens of DVD covers and movie posters for students to view. We discuss similarities and conventions such as the size of the font, placement, purpose of images, etc.
After introducing the project, I wind up giving students 3-4 more days of in-class work time. Now that students have their own iPads, I may cut down this time and expect them to do more homework. On the 5th day, we do the printing and final touches, such as laminating the movie posters or putting the DVD covers in to the cases (I bought 100 from Amazon for about 25 cents each, totally worth it!). The 6th day is for presentations.
I am excited to do this project with the iPads this year, because students can actually go out and take their own photographs. Their goal is to match the mood of the book through color, layout, font, and images. They really do quite a bit of critical thinking with this project.
One of the only problems I have run into is that if their book has already been made into a movie, some students rely very heavily on the movie images. I had to make a rule outlawing this. The results were great, as this ultimately pushed students to be original and dig deeper into their own interpretation of the book.
Something that I learned last year, and will be repeating this year, is that some students like to make their own movie poster / DVD case from scratch, and others need a template to get started. Here is a template I created in Pages for the DVD Case. Students can ‘drag and drop’ their own images:
The final product can be displayed in your classroom, hallway displays, or as part of a gallery in which you promote the books to other students. The Library Media instructor at our school asked if she could display them in our Library, too!
If you want to purchase and download my DVD case / Movie Poster unit from TpT, the following items are included: * Common Core Standards for grades 8-12 including English Language Arts and Literacy in All Subjects * Suggestions for modifying and differentiating this lesson for students at all levels, from heavy support needed to extension ideas. * Essential Questions * Rubric * Project Description Student Handout * Sample Writing ‘Review Quotes’ with “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry * 2 Sample DVD Cases with “Peak” by Roland Smith, and “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore * 1 Sample Movie Poster * Word Spectrum – ‘interesting’ to ‘boring’ – 65 synonyms students can incorporate into their writing * 5 Pages of detailed lesson plans and teacher tips including guided writing, peer review, modeling, small and whole group discussion.
I loved teaching this unit and collaborating with our school’s Art and 21st Century teachers. We found that this unit hits on a LOT of Common Core Standards and curricular goals, which was a huge plus! By working together, we strengthened student learning and participation. Students have told me that this was their favorite project all year!