Category: Teaching

Are You Teaching Expository Writing Backwards?

Are You Teaching Expository Writing Backwards?

The value in teaching expository writing lies solely in the exercise of translating writer-oriented writing to reader-oriented writing. Knowing the difference and how to move between the two–that’s a way more important skill that supporting a thesis with three points.

Essay Draft Comments: What Do We Owe Students?

Essay Draft Comments: What Do We Owe Students?

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the whole purpose of written feedback. For one thing, it can be frustrating, spending time on articulating suggestions for improvement, and then watching the student flip to the end of their draft to read the grade. Then put the paper away. Or flat-out chuck it in the trash. Even more …

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Today, You Can Take a Poem through Seven Drafts

Today, You Can Take a Poem through Seven Drafts

I want to offer you something that I developed in my sophomore English class last year. I’m always trying to get my students to revise. Revision is where all the creative decision-making happens in writing. I came up with a method for pushing a freewriting through seven drafts, and into a focused, straightforward expression of …

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Five Ways to Jackhammer through Creative Block

Five Ways to Jackhammer through Creative Block

We all get stuck. And waiting around for inspiration to strike is…well, let’s just say it’s not a winning strategy. We know this. So what can we do about creative block? I’m a teacher, but I’m also a creative professional — a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, who’s dabbled in music, theater, cartooning, and other …

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Two Ways to Keep Your Lessons User-Friendly

Two Ways to Keep Your Lessons User-Friendly

In the education profession, you’re trained to approach lesson planning a certain way. Your key question is, “What’s the objective?” You’re supposed to write lessons around learning objectives — what will the student be able to do at the end of the lesson? But I’ve found that, in practice, the exercise of writing lesson objectives …

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Give your Weltanschauung a Workout

Give your Weltanschauung a Workout

The Pegasus and the Pantograph. Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” And if you teach English like me, you’ve seen your fair share of essays that open with Albert Einstein quotes. The guy is just so quotable. Heck, that quote was a favorite of mine in the seventh grade, and I …

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On Essay Rubrics, Why They are Hell, and How to Design Them Better

On Essay Rubrics, Why They are Hell, and How to Design Them Better

Rubrics are Hell. Essay rubrics. Project rubrics. Oral presentation rubrics. As a social constructivist, I’ve always disliked them. But I can’t escape them. We teachers are actually wedged between rubrics on both sides. We use them on our students’ work, to try and streamline the complex and demanding cognitive process of evaluation. And our administrators …

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Freewriting Works. So Why is it a Tough Sell?

Freewriting Works. So Why is it a Tough Sell?

I’ve been teaching the technique of freewriting to high school students for a dozen years. Peter Elbow invented it. Buy and read his book, Writing without Teachers. The theory in a nutshell is this: you can more efficiently clarify your thinking, invent thesis statements, or whatever, if you warm up your brain by writing some …

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Five-Paragraph Essay, It’s Time for You to Die

Five-Paragraph Essay, It’s Time for You to Die

All-right, five-paragraph essay. You and I have struggled long and hard. In middle school, you rolled up on your Razor kick scooter and, laughing, rubbed my nose on the asphalt. In high school, I fumbled my hand up your shirt and thought I was in love. In college we fought; I’m fuzzy on the details, …

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