Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

8 Ways to Incorporate Poetry into Your Day {Poem in Your Pocket Day is Thursday!}

Celebrate Poetry: Ways to incorporate poetry into your day.
Poem in Your Pocket Day is Thursday, April 18th.

Thursday (April 18th) is National Poem in Your Pocket Day, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets ( and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). UPDATED: 2014 "Poem in Your Pocket Day" is Thursday, April 24th. 

It's a day to celebrate poetry and share it with others. But you can celebrate poetry any time. Here are ways to incorporate poetry into your day:

1. As "Poem in Your Pocket" suggests, carry your favorite poem (or poems) with you any day and share it with others. Ask them to share their favorites, as well.

2. Write a poem! If you need help or inspiration, using formula poems can help. Here's a packet that helps you with over 40 formulas: Poetry 9-1-1: First Aid for Writing Poetry.

3. Are you reading a novel in class right now? Which poems do you think would be the characters' favorites? Why? For The Hunger Games fans, check out my post on my Hunger Games Lessons blog that asks  this same question.

4. Not reading a novel? Perhaps you are studying someone famous in history class? If so, ask the same question for historical figures: which poem would be Julius Caesar's favorite? How about Benjamin Franklin or Winston Churchill? Give reasons for why you chose this poem for that particular person.

5. Read a poem. It can be a short poem or long can be any poem. Don't know where to look? Some of my favorite websites for poetry include:
  -Modern American Poetry
  -Poetry Foundation
  -Poetry Archive

6. Discuss it! Poetry means different things to different people; this is one of the beautiful things about poems. Two people can have completely different interpretations of a poem, but both are right. Poems even have the power to take on new meanings when we read them at different times in our lives. Choose a poem or two and read with your friends. Then talk about what it means to each of you. When we discuss how a poem makes us feel, it may help someone else relate to it. It's OK if the poem does not speak to you...keep reading and you will find one that does.

7. Listen to others read their favorite poems. On YouTube, you can watch and listen both famous people and people like you and me share their favorite poems by reading them and telling us why it is their favorite.

8. Record a reading of YOUR favorite poem. You can do a video recording (learn more from the Favorite Poem Project website) or you can do an audio recording and upload it to

Teachers: You can find resources for teaching poetry here. Also, read more about incorporating poetry into your classroom here on this blog, or on my other blog.

And don't forget to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day this Thursday!

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Common Core Journal Prompts: My Resolution to Have My Students Write More

A Year of Journal Prompts by Tracee Orman

The only way to become a better writer is to write more. And contrary to popular belief, practicing this skill does not have to be painful for students.

I love journal prompts. They force the students to think about things they may never think about, but they also give them an opportunity to pour out their inner feelings and thoughts they may never share orally. They are a perfect way for students to practice writing without realizing they are "working" on their writing skills.

I have a bundle of prompts that I use in my classroom throughout the year. They are based on current events, historical events, authors, literature, art, music, sports, weather, science, pop culture, holidays, and more. Some force the students to think about touchy subjects that question their ethics. Some are silly. Some connect with the units we are currently studying. No matter what they are writing, they are practicing critical-thinking skills, as well as writing skills.

I use journal prompts as my go-to resource when we have a little time left over or when I need my students to settle down. There's something calming about the activity. I used to have my students write three or four times per week, but I've found in recent years we haven't had as much time to devote to the activity. One of my New Year's resolutions is to have my students journal more often.

I've linked a couple of free prompts from my "A Year of Journal Prompts" bundle (which is aligned to the Common Core State Standards). You can also download a sample of the prompts for August {here}. The download doesn't have the full-page slides, but it gives you an idea of what kind of prompts I use with my students. I try to give my students 10-15 minutes to complete their responses, which means I expect them to write more than just a few sentences. My bundle contains handouts that give students more direction, but I usually just project the prompt on the board and students write in their notebooks or type on their laptops. For students who are gone, I print the page or email them a screenshot of the prompt.

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A Year of Journal Prompts

Direct link to prompts:

Clip art used in images:

Fonts used in images:

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Common Core Tips: Using Transitional Words in Writing

Use Transitions Anchor Chart
One of the keys to writing is using appropriate transitional words and phrases. For students who struggle with writing a cohesive essay or paper, it is essential that they use words that not only create a natural flow or progression, but link each point together.

Using transitions is also a key aspect in each type of writing in the Common Core State Standards. For example, read the following writing standards for grades 9-10:

For Writing Arguments
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1c Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims. 

For Writing Informative/Explanatory Texts
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2c Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.

For Writing Narratives
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3c Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole.

Each type of writing piece will require certain types of transitions. The narrative transitions will vary from the types of transitions used for clarifying the relationship between claims and counterclaims in argumentatives.
Transitions for Narratives Anchor Chart
The transitions for conveying a sequence and building suspense differ in a narrative from the counterpoints (or counterclaims) transitions in the argumentative chart.
Transitions for Arguments Anchor Chart

To make it easier for you and your students, I've created anchor charts of example transitions that are aligned with the writing standards for transitions for grades 6-12. You can download a free PDF copy in my teacher store here: Common Core Transitional Words Anchor Charts

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Transitions for Informative/Explanatory Anchor Chart

The free download has charts in black/white and in plain text worksheet format, as well.

In my news writing expository presentation (shown below), I give examples of unbiased transitions to use in objective writing pieces. Writing objective summaries is a staple in the Common Core State Standards for writing.
News Writing Example - Objective Transitions

I will be posting a bundle of Common Core writing resources soon, which will include graphic organizers and various exercises. In the meantime, I already have several excellent writing resources that help students through critical phases of the writing process, such as the news writing bundle above and the following resources:

Narrative Writing, Short Stories:

Informative Writing, News Writing:

Writing Style Rules:

Creative Writing, Poetry:
Writing Anchor Chart Common Core

Informative/Explanatory and Argumentative Writing:

Thanks for stopping by my blog. If you find these helpful, feel free to "pin" them and pass them along to other teachers. :)

Writing a Literary Analysis Paper--TED to the Rescue

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If your students are writing a literary analysis paper, this TED video is definitely worth viewing. I was happy to see that it encourages students to write the introduction LAST (otherwise students get stuck on writing that first sentence and take days to move on). It also encourages them to get more creative with their hooks--stop using a rhetorical question or a quote; neither is going to draw the reader in.
  In all, it's excellent advice and the video uses captivating animation to clearly model a good introduction for a literary analysis. Check it out yourself:

Thanks to for the tip!

An English Teacher's Plea to Keep "Said" Alive

Please stop teaching "Said is dead"  Read more:

You've probably seen the pictures on Pinterest proclaiming that "Said is Dead!" with columns of alternative attributions to use for more descriptive writing. I've never understood this. "Said" serves a useful purpose in writing and quoting dialogue.

I wondered why students were being taught not to use it? This certainly was not anything I had learned in any of my writing courses.

I was informed that students are encouraged to use alternatives to make their writing more descriptive. "Show, don't tell!" Hmmm... I encourage my students to "show, don't tell" as well, but I've never focused on the attribution.

Should I? Does it really enhance your writing by using alternative synonyms?

I don't think it does. In fact, I think it can make your writing worse.

I know this may upset many teachers out there who insist that getting rid of "said" makes for better writing, so here are my reasons why you should keep "said" alive:

Please stop teaching "Said is dead"  Read more:

1. Expository/Informative writing must be unbiased, therefore using anything but "said" would be creating a connotation or bias. This is my #1 problem with "said is dead." Many of my journalism students will want to use other words beside "said" (or "says") in their articles. This is a big no-no in journalism.
  Look at the front page of a newspaper and read any of the latest news stories. For every quote the writer will use "said" or "says." (See example, below.) It would be unethical for the writer of a news story to create bias by using words like "demanded," "argued," "gloated," or "whined." If you do see these words in a "news" story, I wouldn't trust the writer or the publication. This is a technique that pundits will use to twist or distort a quote to promote their own opinion. It's also the quickest way to see if a news source is reliable and unbiased: if their writers or newscasters use attributions other than "said," then they are, indeed, biased. It is wrong for someone claiming to be a journalist--whether in print or broadcast--to use biased terminology when reporting the news.

Mrs. Orman's Classroom Using Said in Journalism

Please stop teaching "Said is dead"  Read more:

2. "Said," like any other word, shouldn't be overused; but that doesn't mean it should be replaced. If you find yourself overusing the word "said," instead of replacing it with other words, see if it is even needed at all. For example, author Suzanne Collins demonstrates in The Hunger Games the technique (or rule?) of starting a new paragraph with each new speaker. While in some cases it may be necessary to attribute the quote to a certain speaker, in many cases an attribution can be left off:
The Hunger Games Quote page 160
An example when attribution is not necessary in lines of dialogue.
Another example is one of my all-time favorite quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:
Atticus quote To Kill a Mockingbird

Please stop teaching "Said is dead"  Read more:

3. If your line of dialogue needs improving, changing the attribution isn't the answer. Your quotes should speak for themselves. Getting creative with synonyms for said will not make the dialogue better. In fact, it will probably distract the reader. Try improving the actual dialogue, not the attribution:
Improving dialogue - Mrs. Orman's Classroom

Please stop teaching "Said is dead"  Read more:

4. There's a reason why "said" works in writing: we tend to skip over the word when we're reading it. And that's OK! That is what makes the piece flow. If we begin to muck-up our writing with alternatives to "said," it disrupts that natural flow.

It IS OK to use alternatives to "said" with younger students.
Many children's books will use creative attributions in dialogue, and that's fine. The audience for those works are children who have very short attention spans and crave dramatic effects; using "exclaimed" and "growled" and "whimpered" will work perfectly for that audience. But unless you are having your students only write for their peers aged 2-8, please do their future English teachers a favor and keep "said" alive. Thank you.

Please stop teaching "Said is dead"  Read more:

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Two Holiday Freebies for Download

I just posted two holiday freebies you can download in my teacher store right now!

"The Day After Halloween Creative Writing Activity" 
(or it can be done anytime!)

"Thanksgiving Creative Writing Activity"

Both can be quick bell-ringers or exit slips, or used as journal prompts. They allow your students to be creative, which is always a good thing. And I like that you can use these for upper elementary students through seniors in high school. I know my older students had fun coming up with their responses. :)


Oh, and they ARE aligned with the Common Core Standards.  Bonus!

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