The Five-Paragraph-Theme Blues and Writing for Real

by Michelle Tremmel Mr. C is the reason I became an English teacher.  Smart, charismatic, funny, and caring, he inspired students over a long career with a passion for and knowledge of American and British literature.  However, one feature of his teaching—the five-paragraph theme—was a mistake even in the hands of an otherwise brilliant teacher.…

The Problem with Graphic Organizers

by Anny Fritzen Case Teachers have long used graphic organizers and other instructional strategies designed to demystify and teach more complex literacy practices. Functioning similarly to a ladder, they are intended to help students progress step-by-step towards the learning goal until they are able to master the targeted skill or new understanding independently. Examples of…

A picture of a hat with Trump written on it sitting on top of a t-shirt that says Hillary for President. Alongside these items are two books: Teaching Arguments and Everything's an Argument, as well as a calendar that has "teaching argument" written in the Monday slot

Platforms, Politics, and Possibilities: An Approach to Teaching Argument in an Election Year

by Sara Hoeve Early last week my husband and I attended the annual Open House at my daughter’s high school. After the parents had settled into the small, metal desks, the English teacher began to review the units she had planned for the year: Narrative writing, Dystopian texts, Shakespeare drama, Argument… The moment the teacher…

A female student is pictured sleeping on top of her notebook at a table with other school supplies scattered across the top

Color Outside the Lines

by Sheila Cooperman Writing, for me, used to be like the old-fashioned rules of coloring: “Stay inside the lines.” It was next to impossible. I tried, failed, and swore to do better next time. But next time rarely came, because I knew that to express myself effectively, to make the most of what I needed…

Picture of a shopping list with a jar of JIF peanut butter

Lessons on Writing from a Clueless Shopper

by Jonathan Bush I’m a pretty good teacher of writing, but I’ll freely admit that I am one of the world’s worst grocery shoppers. I am easily distracted. I often have an interest in unique and useless items, and I’m apt to buy things that are often close to what we need, rather than the…

Photo of a notebook with red writing

What do students think about the five-paragraph essay?

by Jennifer P. Gray, Ph.D. Do you ever wonder what students think about the writing assignments they do for school? Lately, I am hearing about how assignments fit into Common Core areas or how assignments match up with general education requirements, and I’m curious about the students’ perspectives. What do the students think about our…

A girl sits at a computer and works on an assignment

“I’ve Got Better Writing to Do.”

By Tim Dewar My older daughter has written her first five-paragraph essay for school. In the language of the Common Core, and since she is in fourth grade, it was an opinion piece.  The topic? Should students have more or less homework? She argued for less with a tone best described as “Duh” by a…