Poetry for the Reluctant Poet

In honor of National Poetry Month, here’s a poetry lesson that can inspire writers of all ages.

On Valentine’s Day, a day when emotions are heightened in high school, for better or worse, I trotted out an assignment that would invite students to have fun writing poetry. These were ninth graders—generally willing to play along when I call something fun even if they don’t think it is—but I did my best to present them with options they’d find inherently appealing. They even laughed politely when I joked that if they wanted, they could write their poem on colored paper and cut it out in a heart shape.[...] Read More

Using Literacy for Advocacy

In honor of Advocacy Month, the Writers Who Care blog has invited educators to talk about literacy and advocacy by posting a 90-second video on Flipgrid. My students decided to tweak their prompt to reflect on how we use literacy for advocacy.

Here is the video response from my classroom.

From Of Mice and Men to Advocacy

After students finished reading Of Mice and Men, I challenged them to investigate a contemporary issue raised by the classic text. Students researched and wrote about issues such as sexism, racism, ageism, and ableism. Then, they researched advocacy organizations that aligned to their arguments. Some students reached out to their advocacy groups to learn how to get involved.[...] Read More

Students’ Writing Goes Viral

The search for an assignment that makes second-semester seniors want to read more is like the hunt for a unicorn—a noble quest that’s likely to fail.

But this year, my students and I captured the unicorn with a project that invited them to research the benefits of reading and share their findings with a global audience.

Over 1000 people read my seniors’ writing over a three-day period this month. And after the assignment’s conclusion, several students reported that they read more now than ever before.[...] Read More

Guest Speaker Offers a New Perspective on Mental Disability

Last month, three of my classes were treated to a visit by our Student Assistance Counselor, Mr. Jason Grabelsky, a social worker whose role is to offer students support and counseling.

Fiction Helps Us Confront Discomfort

Though I’ve taught Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men for nearly ten years, I’ve never been comfortable with how my students talk about one of the main characters, Lennie, who is cognitively impaired.

Steinbeck introduces Lennie in a comic fashion—he gulps water from a pond so excitedly that he dunks his head underwater, “hat and all” (p. 3)—so it’s natural that students are amused by his childlike behavior. Students often ask if Lennie is “all there in the head,” “stupid,” or “special.” My students were doing exactly as I’d trained them to do: reading closely and analyzing the character’s words and actions. But I had not equipped them with the appropriate language to talk about Lennie’s deficiencies in a sensitive way.[...] Read More

Fun with Infographics: Gearing up for the NCTE Convention

I leave tomorrow for the Annual Convention for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). With the excitement building on Twitter, I came across a post that inspired me to do some digital writing. English educator and author Kylene Beers (@KyleneBeers) created an infographic to announce her presentation schedule for the conference.

Inspired by her post, I used Adobe Illustrator to create an infographic (pictured below) to share my presentation schedule, and shared it on Twitter. To create the graphic, I used a “snipping tool” to take screenshots of the presentation schedule, and then added my own call-out boxes, graphics, and text.[...] Read More