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How to get UNSTUCK in Rhetorical Analysis

You’ve been there: Your student mopes up to your desk for a rhetorical analysis writing conference, and the graphic organizer section for commentary is blank. Blankety blank blank. Nuthin’. The student is frustrated. You’re frustrated. You can’t steer a ship that’s not moving, right? Here’s the deal: Students get stuck…
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TEENAGERS ARGUING WITH TONE

3 Engaging Ways to Introduce Tone Analysis

Tone is my favorite thing to teach in the whole rhetorical analysis process. Because tone carries meaning, it’s the end-all, be-all. Miss the tone, miss the meaning. I spend two to three block class periods right at the beginning of first semester helping high school students wrap their heads around…
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pencil on paper

The Why and How of a Baseline Writing Assignment

Why get a baseline? The teacher needs to know students’ strengths and weaknesses for content planning. The teacher needs to know students’ strengths and weaknesses for logistical planning (pairs, groups, etc.). The baseline will serve as a point of comparison to show growth at the end of the term. The…
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man on tightrope teaching Donald Trump's rhetoric

The Tightrope of Teaching Donald Trump’s Rhetoric

The first time I read the transcript of his July 3 2020 address at Mount Rushmore, I was struck by Donald Trump’s rhetoric, specifically his ignorance of the history of that region. On my second reading, though, I decided that it was sugar coating or white washing, not ignorance. On…
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How to Help Secondary Students with Context Clues

My third grader is a better reader than some of my high school students. He’s had a couple of strong reading teachers in school and gets support at home. (Pro Tip: He has to read me a chapter to get a half hour of screen. Magic.) We’ve all had those…
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How Color Coding Works in Written Analysis

Go buy some stock in Paper Mate because you’re about to bump that bottom line. Red Flair pens and blue Flair pens should be on your list of required classroom supplies and your list for Santa because they are going to change completely the way you teach students to analyze…
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When Instruction HAS to Go Digital

I hate writing this blog post. It’s March 11, 2020, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has plummeted AGAIN over Covid-19 fears. I’m starting to see chatter on social media about schools telling teachers to prep for online instruction. So let’s do that. Some schools are WAY ahead of this…
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The Research Process and How to Teach it in Order

I once had a cat use her litter box and then come sit on a student’s research paper. I drew a little purple arrow to the spot and wrote “Sorry about that.” Part of me thought, Well, that’s what it is anyway, so branding it seems fitting. Adolescents’ research papers…
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5 Fascinating Facts About Susan B. Anthony

When the Susan B. Anthony dollar was issued in 1979, we thought it was the coolest thing to have a dollar coin. The problem was the size; it looked and felt like a quarter. So the first time a woman was ever put on a circulating coin in the US,…
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paraphrasing frustration

Why Students are SO BAD at Paraphrasing

As a side hustle, I train teachers in writing instruction. Over the past three weeks, I have worked with both middle and high school English teachers on synthesizing, and I’ve come to the conclusion that paraphrasing is the single most difficult skill to teach to secondary students. In my last…
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the use of "they" as a singular pronoun

Singular They: Acceptable or Unacceptable?

I’m downright militant about the use of they as a singular pronoun in formal writing. When I started teaching in 1990, I used to tease the grammar queens in our department. They all but whacked kids in the knuckles for using a plural pronoun to refer to one person. It’s…
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