Showing posts from January, 2013


This past week, I read an excerpt from Karen Hesse's novel Out of the Dustaloud to my seventh graders. The novel is set in the Oklahoma Panhandle during the Great Depression. The novel is written in free verse and told from the point of view of Billi Jo Kelby. It is a beautiful novel, which would make a great read aloud for middle schoolers.
As part of the lesson, I taught four specific genre features: free verse, format, alliteration, and imagery.
Free verse is poetry that does not rhyme and has no rhythm. When read, it has the natural cadence of the spoken word. Free verse is also some of the easiest poetry for students to write.Format is the way that a piece is written. Out of the Dust has lines of varying lengths. This again goes along with the fact that it's written in free verse.Alliteration is the repetition of the initial consonant sound. Students love to play around with this poetic device. It can be both amusing and serious.Imagery is using words that creates a specifi…


Image courtesy of Family Soup
Right after I wrote today's post for Melissa's Musings, I had an idea for a lesson. Why not have my students write  "Dear Abby" letters? Here's the basic premise for the lesson:
The student will choose a character from a story or even a nonfiction piece of writing. For example, the student might choose the Highwayman from the poem of the same name. The character writes a letter to an advice columnist (Dear Melissa in this case):
Dear Melissa,I'm in love with this beautiful woman named Bess. The problem is that we can only meet surreptitiously because her father, a well-known businessman, does not approve of me. You see, I'm a highwayman~I stop carriages and demand that the occupants "Stand and deliver." Bess knows this and loves me in spite of it all. Please help.Loved and Despised in Literature,The HighwaymanNow, the student writes back to the character from the point of view of the advice comumnist:

Loved and Despise…


Friends and colleagues often ask me, "How do you find time to read?" The answer is simple: I just do. Reading is a part of my everyday life; it is my hobby; it's a habit. I would make time for reading if I had to.

There are a few easy rules to follow if you really want to make reading a part of your daily life:

Put reading on your daily schedule. I have to get up for work at a certain time. Laundry and housekeeping are a part of my morning routine. I eat lunch at a certain time, and I check my emails and social media sites at a certain time. I read every night before I go to bed. If you want to know where I'll be at 9:00 each night, just know that by then I'm in bed reading.Turn off the television. When people tell me that they don't have time to read, I'll always reply by asking them if they watch television everyday. Sadly, the answer is always "yes". You can give up one hour of television each day and put your nose in a book. Read in a comforta…


Photo courtesy of The U. S. Army 

My 7th grade English Language Arts team gets together each Wednesday afternoon to develop lesson plans, create formative assessments, analyze data, and sometimes gripe. Some days are more productive than others.

Garmston Wellman has identified seven norms of collaboration that will make your next PLC meeting more productive:

PausingParaphrasingProbing for specificityPutting ideas on the tablePaying attention to self and othersPresuming positive intentionsPursuing a balance between advocacy and inquiry
His ideas are practical and can readily be adapted into any situation. His ideas can also be adapted for use in the classroom.


A graphic organizer is a visual display that is used to depict the relationships between facts, terms, and ideas.
All of this within a reading and writing task. Graphic organizers provide a powerful visual representation of information, which allows the mind to creat patterns from information read. The symbols convey specific information. The purpose is to facilitate learning by projecting a complete picture of all of the facts and ideas. They can be constructed from a number of forms. They are also known by different names:
Knowledge Maps Concept Maps Story Maps Cognitive Organizers Concept Diagrams

Developing readers and writers love graphic organizers because they represent learning in a visual way. Their ability to learn increases dramatically. Teachers need to use different modalities to help these learners. Graphic organizers help students internalize their learning. Graphic organizers help students learn because they allow students to recreate the information in a way that is …


When I began teaching English Language Arts over twenty years ago, I felt I was a teacher of Literature. Literature and grammar dominated the curriculum. Novel studies were routinely incorporated into the classroom routine. Read alouds were all about the most interesting fiction.
While Common Core advocates debunk the myth that nonfiction and informational texts are not replacing the literature taught in the classroom, the fact remains that ELA teachers must become the teachers of informational text. 
I know that I must become a purveyor of nonfiction resources. Instead of bookmarking every resource that I come across in my daily research, I've created a Pinterest board called "Nonfiction Resources". If you've got a Pinterest account, please click on my board and follow for my latest finds for this topic.
You can also subscribe to my page on Facebook to get daily links to articles and blogs that I find interesting.
And of course you can follow me on Twitter.
Enjoy the res…


Today was the first day back after our winter holidays. It wasn't too taxing~while I had developed lesson plans for these two days back, we didn't get to them. I spent part of each class period reviewing some old/new policies and rules. Don't we all seem to forget so soon what we have to do or what we shouldn't do?

After the review, we had our annual Spelling Bee. After twenty-two years with seventh-graders, I'm still amazed at the spelling skills (or lack thereof) of thirteen-year-olds. The ones who can barely keep their grades in the black are some of the ones who can spell the best. Why is that? Spelling is a skill that does take knowledge of our language~so why doesn't that transfer into other areas of my curriculum?

Speaking of curriculum~count down to standardized testing (sort of). I've been looking at the performance indicators and trying to determine which ones need to be taught in depth and which ones can be barely brushed upon. The students are …


I posted this three years ago when I first began blogging. I have had many ups and downs as a writer. My goal three years ago was to read and write a poem everyday. It did make me appreciate poetry so much more.
This poem is pretty basic in its format. It is a classic couplet. Read through the poem several times and write down what you are thinking. Have a personal conversation with the poem. Say something to the poem. Ask the poet a question.

New Year's Day means a new beginning and a time to make some promises to myself. This year I promise to read at least one poem a day and to write at least one poem a day. Tall order? I'll probably have to get up at least an hour earlier if I'm going to meet that order.
Well, in that vein, here is a poem that I read today~
The Year
What can be said in New Year rhymes, That's not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go, We know the dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light, We lie down weeping wit…