I Don't Hate the Five-Paragraph Essay

I Don't Hate the Five-Paragraph Essay

I have been spending some time reading books, blog posts, and other resources on the internet about how to manage giving quality feedback without going insane. It is part of my Paper Problem Series I am working on because I believe that if I can figure out how to maintain the level of feedback I am giving AND not work 15 or more hours on a weekend-I can stay teaching. A lot of the books, articles, and other resources I am looking at bring up (to no surprise) the five-paragraph essay. I cringe whenever I read these parts. I think back to a moment that has happened many times over the past seven years. One of my students will come up to my desk and state: "Mrs. H I have a ton more reasons for my thinking, do I have to narrow it down to three for my essay?” I always die a little on the inside. For the given assignment? Yes, you have to narrow it down. For the real world? Not at all. Another one of my students bit the proverbial dust of the five-paragraph essay form. This happens each year because I would like to admit right away...I teach the five-paragraph essay. 

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Paper Problem Series Post 1: Identify the Problem

Paper Problem Series Post 1: Identify the Problem

I love a good problem. Problems that seem to have impossible solutions seem to be the best puzzles to try to solve in the field of education. Something like getting Math teachers to love writing or eliminating tracking in student schedules or figuring out how to motivate the one student that seems like no strategy, plan, solution, or special team can figure out a plan to help. The problem that I am trying to tackle involves English teachers and how to take in, process, utilize, and implement grading practices/feedback during writing instruction and in the day-to-day ELA classroom. 

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The Reason I Would Leave Teaching

The Reason I Would Leave Teaching

The post is titled "The Reason I Would Leave Teaching" because the reason I am going to discuss is the only and main reason I would ever consider getting a different profession. I could easily go to nonprofit work or even sit behind a desk. I wonder sometimes what it would be like to pee whenever I wanted to or to be able to go on a lunch hour to a spot "around the corner." These are luxuries that teachers don't have. And many reasons that teachers leave do not involve my main reason for contemplating leaving. In fact, I am in love with classroom management. I love tough kids. I see many teachers leave the profession because they are not getting the support when it comes to classroom management or organization. I also see teachers leave due to pay, working conditions, lack of supplies, lack of support from administration, class sizes, etc. Eddie B Comedy offers some amazing jokes about teacher issues and the Michigan Education Association wrote a pretty great article titled "The Disappearing Educator." I often give this article to interns to make sure they know what they are getting into in terms of this profession.

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Second Week of Creative Writing Camp in Review

Second Week of Creative Writing Camp in Review

Creative writing camp got done almost a week ago on June 30. If you remember my last post, Third Coast Writing Project and the McGinnis Reading Center teamed up to do something awesome this summer: reach out to kids to develop skills and have fun with reading and writing at Western Michigan University. The second week was all about the revision of drafts of creative works of fiction. This post will include the goals for the week, show a sample daily breakdown, highlight some amazing pictures/highlights, and show a key peer revision skill called clockwork editing. 

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First Week of Creative Writing Camp in Review

First Week of Creative Writing Camp in Review

The McGinnis Reading Center and Third Coast Writing Project Camp for Young Writers have teamed up this year to put on a MEGA reading and writing camp! We had our first week this past week with Middle Schoolers focusing on WorldBuilding: Taking the Scenic Route. Students started to create the elements of their own worlds focusing on character, setting, plot, and conflict.

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Last Project of the Year: Students Design Their Own ELA Class

Last Project of the Year: Students Design Their Own ELA Class

What is it that students want?

This was the question I asked my sixth graders in an alternative assignment to giving them an end of the year survey. I know some of the usual answers that sometimes we as teachers don't take as seriously (and maybe should) and I also was hopeful of the answers that may seem surprising and shocking. I have included both in this post to start a conversation. 

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Starting Fresh: A Reflection to Start Summer

Starting Fresh: A Reflection to Start Summer

The past week has been a whirlwind of starting to wind down and say goodbye to the 2016-2017 school year. Students finished their Common Growth Assessment writing test and also their last blog post. The final days are both bittersweet and painful. Mainly because everyone wants a break, but also because it isn't any fun to say goodbye. 

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Where Have I Been? Joy Writing With Them (Part 1)

Where Have I Been? Joy Writing With Them (Part 1)

I started to write this post and something distracted me. I looked at my calendar and then back to my blog post. Calendar-blog-calendar-blog. Where did the month of May go? I am amazed at the utter loss of time and also trying to balance that feeling that almost all teachers I know get in the month of May. You know the feeling. We look at each other with empathy. We make jokes. We give words of wisdom on social media and to each other in person. We try to see the light at the end of the tunnel that is summer. However, especially with state testing in May for many of us, it can get difficult to find joy. 

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My Plan to Get Through May State Testing...Alive

My Plan to Get Through May State Testing...Alive

May 1st is Monday. I have laid out my last six weeks of school in calendar printables and I am marking off the days that I actually have instruction. How many days am I actually teaching you ask? ELEVEN. Yes, you heard right. I am only teaching eleven days in the month of May. When June comes that is something different, June is a different beast at the end of the year. I like to take my time to look at May at a glance.

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Using Writing Frames to Help Struggling Writers

Using Writing Frames to Help Struggling Writers

If you haven't picked up on my vibes that I have been throwing out so far...the Achievement Gap is my nemesis. Not the kind that you read about in text books. Not that kind with data...necessarily. The kind where my general English Language Arts students and my advanced English Language Arts students are more than 3 grade levels on average apart from each other in terms of reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. 

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Genre Remix Project: MLA Research Papers Reimagined

Genre Remix Project: MLA Research Papers Reimagined

I finally finished written feedback for the last round of second submission rough drafts of an MLA Research Paper. While I love research papers, the idea of feedback makes me cringe because it is 1.) time-consuming at school 2.) time-consuming at home and 3.) soul-sucking because it forces much needed reflection. I am always thinking about what could have gone...better. I also ALWAYS am thinking about the state of academic writing that contains little creativity and ingenuity. So, the lightbulb went off.

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Using Kahoot to Engage Student Learning

Using Kahoot to Engage Student Learning

Kahoot is a site that creates fun learning games for kids in the classroom. I didn't think much of it when I first heard about it from the social studies teacher on my interdisciplinary team. Now, i'm addicted. Here is how it works: Kids get a technological device (1:1 is key because they need to be able to play) that can be a phone, an iPad, or a chromebook/laptop. However, there are also group/team options. The game site gives a code for the kids to log in with using a numeric password. Then, the fun begins. They get to choose a username and enter the game. If a student chooses an inappropriate username, the teacher can simply click on the name to make it disappear and have the student try again. This is genius. When all the players are loaded in the game, the game begins. 

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Using Flowers to Help Personal Narrative Writing

Using Flowers to Help Personal Narrative Writing

Thus, despite being rainy, I was thinking of ways to use flowers as a guide to help students of writing with personal narrative assignments. It also seems very "springy" of me to do. Not only are flowers beautiful, but their scent and how they seemingly "pop-up" in different aspects of life can help the writer get in tune with themselves. All four of these "flower power" prompts/activities that will be talked about in this post can be used in combination with each other, or they can be used as stand alone assignments to get students talking and writing about their own lives. Remember, identity work is they key to getting to know the writer. Nothing is more powerful than the personal narratives that bind a classroom together. 

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A Day in the Life of a Middle School English Teacher

A Day in the Life of a Middle School English Teacher

My pre-intern is ending his time working in my classroom, and I have asked him this question: "Are you sure you still want to be an English teacher?" I asked him this question with a hint of sarcasm, but also one of seriousness. The Michigan Education Association published an article about "The Disappearing Educator" that I think all teachers and those involved in education should read. Where are we going? The answer is leaving teaching and not choosing to become a teacher in the first place. We have all heard the statistic in education about teachers leaving before they reach five years. I would argue that teachers are in jeopardy well beyond five years. Put us on the endangered species list. 

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Using Where I'm From Poems to Get to Know Your Writing Self

Using Where I'm From Poems to Get to Know Your Writing Self

The only thing I remember of my grandmother is her hands. I was four when she passed away, but I am also said to be just like her. If you hold up her 15-year-old school portrait and my 15 year-old school portrait, they are mirror images. Besides the physical make up of our bodies, we are also said to have the same mannerisms....grit, determination, and being way too stubborn. Our story is many peoples' stories. One of the reasons I love talking about writing is the commonalities we have in being human. Now, I won't ever know my grandmother, but I use the stories that I hear to get to know her on a deeper level. 

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The MLA Post I Have Been Dreading to Write

The MLA Post I Have Been Dreading to Write

This post and I go back. Wayyyy back. I have been dreading to officially write this post because of how strongly I feel about this topic. I'm going to get to the point. Here is the main question: should students be taught MLA or Modern Language Association standards in the secondary classroom? If so, when? How old? Now, before I go making some folks angry about MLA, I want to go on record. I do not care if you teach MLA or APA, but one of them needs to be taught, and I would argue that the sooner the better is the most beneficial when it comes to education and developing young writers. 

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Dystopian World Exemplars...Oh My!

Dystopian World Exemplars...Oh My!

I hope you are ready for some great reading! These authors-to-be took this assignment to a whole other level. By focusing on critical literary elements like plot, character, conflict, and setting, students were able to express themselves creatively. I paired this with a simultaneous academic piece so students could write in both modes: creative and academic. The creative mode focused on them making their own Dystopian World after reading Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. They also did a compare and contrast academic piece focusing on modern American Society vs the Dystopian World setup by Westerfeld in Uglies.  This second piece contained contained cited evidence, formal tone, etc. 

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