Showing posts from July, 2012


I teach two ninety-minute blocks of English Language Arts and one forty-five minute class of Writing. In all three classes, I use the Writing Workshop method of teaching writing. Each writing class includes at least twenty minutes of journaling as well as focused mini-lessons. Students write  approximately three focused writing pieces per nine-weeks. In this writing workshop, the student is going to write a  literary analysis~the students purpose is to explain the meaning of a literary text by focusing on one or two elements of literature: plot, character, setting, theme.
When assigning a specific format for writing as well as the focus for a piece, I always begin by giving students the rubric on which I will base their grade. Because my administrator requires that all grades be based on a 100% scale, I break the grades down as follows for this specific assignment:
100%=excellent  This piece has an engaging introduction; it includes an insightful controlling idea, supports the points wi…


German Artillery before Warsaw (LOC), a photo by The Library of Congress on Flickr. Great set of photos from the Library of Congress called "News in the 1910's". Social Studies teachers~how can you use these photos in your classroom?


e.e. cummings's innovative style provoked comment and expanded artistic boundaries in the literary world. Students will be fascinated by the appearance of his poems and his unconventional treatment of words, punctuation, and form.
maggie and milly and molly and may
maggie and milly and molly and may went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang  so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and
milly befriended a stranded star whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and
may came home with a smooth round stone as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) it's always ourselves we find in the sea.

who are you, little i
who are you,little i
(five or six years old) peering from some high
window;at the gold

of November sunset
(and feeling:that if day  has to become night
this is a beautiful way)

old age sticks
old age sticks up Keep Off signs)&


Imagery is used in literature in order to give the reader a virtual picture in his mind~the author might use the five senses to create this image. Notice the imagery in this passage from One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus:
From these cold rocks we can see the camp dogs beginning to slink back into the village to pick among the ruins for scraps of meat. The still frigid morning air bears the odors of roasted meats, spent gunpowder, scorched hides, burnt flesh. There are still dozens of soldiers about in the village so that we are unable to go back down to scavenge with the dogs, perhaps find a scrap of meat for sustenance, a flame of warmth...a blanket...
A good author creates imagery with words~he shows, he doesn't tell. Imagery and mood can affect the way you feel about a work of literature. An author's style, though, is what helps you recognize the writing of a particular author. In literature, style is the way that something is written~it is the way it is said, not what i…


I went to my classroom today to begin to get ready for the new school year~even after twenty years I still feel a tingle of excitement as each year begins. It's like I'm getting a fresh start~a chance to "do it better" this time. I like the whole ritual of moving desks and bookcases, then filling those bookcases up in anticipation of a new group of students reading them. As I left the classroom, I turned for one last look~proud of my handy work. 
When teachers decorate and arrange their classrooms at the beginning of the school year, they're creating a mood for the students. You want your students' (along with their parents) impression of your classroom to be one where learning is taken seriously, but it's okay to be a seventh grader. One teacher described her classroom as a "safe haven"~I like that idea.
When teaching mood in literature, there are three basic learning targets that you (and your students) need to keep in mind: (1) to identify mood…


Elizabeth Gilbert talks about Creative Genius on TED Talks.
What is "creative genius"? Do you have that illusive ability to be creative? What loaded questions these are for the average writer. Perhaps even more so for the average middle school writer. Never have a I ever said about a student, "Wow! This kid is a creative genius!". Now, I've had students who were talented artists and exceptional writers~but, their talents were always within the boundaries of average middle school genius. But then again, I teach regular ed language arts not the gifted.
What does this have to do with mood and style? Mood, imagery, tone, style~that blend of spices that an author uses to make you want to tear through a story; it makes you want to stay up late hungrily turning the pages; you wake up craving those words that set your senses reeling. Does it take a creative genius to create that need in you or has the storyteller seemed to have found the creative genius in himself that w…




The Earth is a Cart Loaded With Dust, a photo by Melissa Reese Etheridge on Flickr.
It is important that students be given the opportunity to write each day. The new Common Core State Standards tell us that students need to be writing for extended periods of time. Corbett Harrison calls it "Sacred Writing Time" and begins each class period with quiet writing time. 

I actually begin my class with twenty-minutes of Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) and then move into twenty-minutes of Silent Sustained Writing (SSW). I like having the students read before they write so that they can use their reading as a "spark" or stimulus (as it's called in the Common Core). My students write in their English Language Arts (ELA) Journals for this time in order to keep their writing and notes organized. All published pieces are written on notebook paper to be handed into me to grade.

Seventh grade CCSS 7.3 states that the student will "write narratives to develop real or imagined…


James Kennedy Moffitt house, 86 Sea View Avenue, Piedmont, California. (LOC), a photo by The Library of Congress on Flickr. How could you use these photos from the LOC in your classroom?


Pantoum, a photo by Melissa Reese Etheridge on Flickr.
Here is another poetry lesson idea. Use this photo (or any photo that suits your fancy) to spark a writing idea. The following poem is by Sasha Steenson; I found this poem on the public web site

Perhaps the universe is an extinguished building with blue banners strung along and the forest, more like a commodity bordering bushes and asphalt.
something else to string our blue banners on. Never was restoration swifter: the leafless trees, the asphalt less splintered and more splendid.
Never was restoration swifter with its mightier solutions,  less splintered and more splendid snipers, dynamiters, and colorful bombs.
We please ourselves with mightier solutions, picnics under blue spruces snipers, dynamiters, colorful bombs the guardians of what we might call "home rights."
At picnics, under blue spruces we clamor after the news and its employees, the guardians of "home rights" "the media&q…