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Teaching Argumentative Essay Writing


Get some new ideas for teaching Argumentative Essay writing to your middle school students!  #strategies #ideas #tips


Having been in the classroom for 26 years this year, I have had a lot of experiences with essay writing.  I've been invloved in teaching using various programs, styles and state mandates.  As a result, I've tried A LOT of different methods and experimented with A LOT of different ideas.

However, there are some things that always remain the same.  Like the fact that students need to know basic vocabulary before they be expected to use that vocabulary.  I think far too often, teachers assume students know the definitions, when really they don't.  Good, fundamental writing never changes either. One will always need a thesis, evidence and commentary.  How one puts this all together can be a topic for debate, but overall, what I am sharing here has been the common thread throughout my teaching career.


Teaching Argumentative Essay Writing

1.  I always start with vocabulary for Argumentative Essays.  



We define words like cite, evidence, irrelevant, relevant, claim, opposing claim and so on.  We actually keep a notebook with these terms along with pictures to help us remember them.


I always start with vocabulary when I teach my middle school students how to write an argumentative essay!  #teaching #strategies


Then we practice with the words by playing dominoes. Students really need to have these words committed to memory before moving on to the next phase.  


2.  Next we focus on the structure of the Argumentative Essay.  


At my school, we currently teach text-based essay writing with a counterclaim paragraph.  So that means we have an introduction with a hook (background information), an arch (bridge/transition sentence), and a thesis followed by 2 paragraphs that provide evidence for the claim, 1 counterclaim paragraph and finally a conclusion.

I break down this instruction step-by step and paragraph by paragraph.  We start with reading the prompt, then flipping the prompt, and finally reading and marking the text.  We record all of this in our notebooks too.  

Then as we explore what needs to be in each paragraph, each sentence is broken down into what it must contain and the order in which it must appear.  This is the foundation.  Of course as students become more proficient, they will add in more word choice and voice to demonstrate their maturity.  However, until then, they need a formula to follow.


I teach my middle school students a step-by-step process for writing argumentative essays as a foundation.  #strategies #tips

My formula is:

Introduction =HAT  (Just like you put a hat on the top of your head, you put a hat on the top of your essay.)
Hook (background information about the texts)
Arch (Bridge transition sentence)
Thesis

Body = ACEIT  (Ace it)
Answer with a claim and reason
Cite Evidence
Expalin with Commentary
Ingeminate (fancy word that means to repeat - repeat the cycle fo cite and explain with NEW evidence)
Top it off with a conclusion

Counterclaim = FAUCET (turn it up!)
Feature the other side
Affirm the evidence
Underscore the essay's position
Cite Evidence
Explain with commentary
Top it off with a conclusion

Conclusion = ATT (What's the last thing you grab before you leave home?  You phone, your AT & T!)
Affirm the thesis
Trim the point
The call to action

My notes use this formula and I also have a FREE Word Wall that matches this formula.  This helps my students not only remember key words but also the structure of the essay too!


3.  Finally, we practice!


Some people think practice means writing essay after essay. Nope!  That's too much for the students and W-A-Y too much to grade!  

So, may I first suggest collaborative essay writing?


This is a great way to practice argumentative essay writing without tons of grading!  #teaching #middleschool

This activity requires students to read and mark a text first and then work together to write an essay.  It is task card based and there is one task card for each sentence in the essay.  I put students in groups of 4 and taped a task card to each desk.    

Let's say, for example, that one of the questions asked "What is the best hook for this essay?"  The students would work together to choose the best answer and write the answer out in its entirety on their answer sheet next to the number on the sheet that matched the number on the card.  

When the group was done with all 4 task cards, I moved them to another group of cards.  When the students had filled in every box on the answer sheet, they had an essay!  Now all they had to do was divide it up into separate paragraphs using their organizer.

I used this activity with an all English Language Learner class and as we were completing this activity, all I kept hearing was "Oh!  Now I get it!".  I think this was because looking at the choices and having to talk it out really made them think!

Now that things are clicking, students are hopefully ready for the Essay Challenge!  


Give your middle school students this essay challenge with a reward and they will WANT to practice essay writing!  #teaching #ideas

This challenge requires students to go through each step of the writing process and write most of an argumentative essay.  As they complete each step accurately, they get your initials and one puzzle piece.  

By the end of the designated time (it was 5 days in my class), students earn whatever their assembled puzzle shows.  Some students only earned a few items but other earned the entire puzzle worth of treats!  Our puzzle was of "mud pies" - pudding cups with all kinds of mix-ins - but you could choose any reward!   The students were motivated by the challenge of earning all their puzzle pieces and they were learning at the same time!



I hope some of these ideas help your students experience more success with text-based argumentative essay writing.  They have helped my students earn perfect scores of "10" and many 6, 7 and  8s.  And this was not just my advanced students - my students with special needs and those learning English earned these scores too so I know these ideas work!

Thanks for stopping by!

Plan out your Argumentative Essay Writing Lessons using some or all of these strategies!  #teaching #ideas



Top 5 Ways to Start the Second Semester in Middle School



Be ready for the first day back with your middle school students by using one or all of these ideas to review and set a tone for growth!  #teaching #newsemester


The first day back after a long break can be a tricky one.  Some of the students will be glad to be there, some will not be so happy, and others will be in a daze.  So what's a teacher to do?  Jump right in?

I suggest that you take the first day to review.  Review expectations, past content, and then set the tone for new growth.

Here are 5 of my favorite ways to accomplish these three things!


1.  Review expectations

I like to do this by taking 24 index cards (or if you have 30 students, then 30 index cards) and divide them in half.  The first half are questions about expectations and the second half are the answers.  As students walk in the door, hand them one of these index cards.  After you welcome everyone back and maybe even have students share one or two highlights from their break, then you engage in this review.

Ask all students to stand up.  Tell them that if they have a question, they will need to find the person with the answer that matches and visa versa.  After everyone has found their match, have each partner group share out loud.  Now you have just reviewed all your expectations!  

2 and 3.  Review past content

I like to use a bingo game to do this little job.  In my ELA classes, it's been a review of reading and writing terminology.  Nothing too hard but a way to get back into the swing of things gently. 

Ease your middle school students back into the swing of learning with a review of critical reading and writing terms!  #teaching #newsemester


Another way to do this is by playing a ZAP game with the reading terms.  This take less prep because there are no BINGO cards to copy!  Just divide the class into two teams and go!  I have a free version of this game in my free resource library.  You might want to add in some of your own writing questions.  :)


4 and 5.  Set the tone for the new growth

One of my favorite ways to do this is to read a picture book. I've used The Book of Mistakes, You're Here For A Reason, and this year I think I will use One Plastic Bag by Isatou Ceesay.

Each book sends a powerful message that encourages ideas of moving forward each in its own way.

One Plastic Bag is about a how a group of women took something negative (immense quantities of plastic bags completely taking over the landscape in the Gambia) into something positive by creating items out the bags that they then could sell.  I think we all have something we would like to change and this is a great way to think about how we could turn that negative into a positive!

Plus this book shows the power of creativity and joining together to reach an "impossible" goal.

So after we read the book, we'll look forward and make some plans and goals.  I have a free "Toasting The New Year" goal setting freebie in my resource library and this year, I will be using this nifty little 2020 sheet with the book:

I love reading a great picture book to my middle school students to set a tone for growth in the new semester!  #teaching #backtoschool


I'll also place this in my resource library in an editable PowerPoint format if you'd like to use it too. (You may need to change some of the fonts.)

Well, there you have it!  These are my 5 top ways to start the second semester in middle school classes!  I hope you found something you can use to make your transition back to school a smooth and positive one!

Thanks for stopping by!


Middle School ELA Pacing Guide & Curriculum Map


Plan out your Middle School ELA year with this FREE pacing guide & curriculum map!  #teaching #lessonplanning



As a teacher in her 26th year of teaching ELA at the honors/advanced, general and special needs levels, I have spent a great deal of time and energy figuring out how to balance both reading and writing and differentiate at the same time.

It can be tricky to plan lessons, activities and assessments to ensure that students are taught all the reading and writing standards in the space of a school year.  A school year sounds like a lot of time too - until you start to lay it all out in an outline and have to put in time to review and take standardized tests.  

So my focus has been targeting the fundamental skills with a very step-by-step approach to the standards.  There are skills that have to be taught first - like central idea and close reading - before you can effectively teach text-based essay writing.  So I have taken some time to sketch this all out and am happy to share it with you.

While I do include some links to paid resources, free resources, and even blog posts in my curriculum guide, you can simply use it as an outline to sketch out your year.  I have used this with 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in about 50 minute periods that meet 5 days per week.

I sincerely hope that this helps you plan out your year and gives you a kind of road map to help you get from here to there.  :)  Please click here to get this Pacing Guide.

There are more FREE resources like this in my Resource Library!






Thanks for stopping by!

Celebrate the Season and Learn at the Same Time!

Lesson Plan ideas for teaching the play version of  A Christmas Carol in your middle school classroom!  #printables #activities #ideas



I absolutely love the holiday season!  And my students seem to get excited at this time of the year too.  So to keep them focused and learning, I have to find a way to weave in some celebration too!

This is what I do:  I read the play version of "A Christmas Carol".  It was in our old textbooks, but now that textbooks have been replaced by the laptop, I print out a copy from this online source.

Before Reading A Christmas Carol

Before we read, we play a little "Fact or Fiction".  I put 22 "facts" or "fictions" about the time period in which the play was written into manila folders.  Then I play a game with my class like "Deal or No Deal", where the contestant has to choose a numbered folder and determine of what it inside is fact or fiction.  If the contestant is right, he/she gets to hold he folder.  If the contestant is wrong, then he/she sits down and the folder holder is the new contestant.  The person with the most folders is the winner!  But really everyone wins because now they know what the times were like when this play was written.








During Reading of A Christmas Carol

Next, we read the play scene by scene.  After we read each scene we have a discussion, complete some Cornell notes and a plot diagram.

Then we watch the scene we just read from The Muppets Christmas Carol and compare/contrast it to the play.  

When we finish reading, we might take an assessment, write a compare/contrast essay or even complete an escape room.  It all depends what standards I think my students need more time working on.




After reading A Christmas Carol

There have been years where my students took a multiple chice assessment on the play because they needed more practice with analysis standards.  Other years, students have written a compare/contrast essay because we needed more writing practice. 

However, the last time I read this with my students, I created an escape game for the final "assessment" for my students.  (I actually used it as my formal observation!)  It had 3 puzzles all based on how Dickens used and altered history in "A Christmas Carol".  The students worked together in collaborative groups to solve the puzzles and it literally took full involvement from every member of the group to get the puzzles solved.  As a result, I received at least 2 "innovating" ratings on my observation!  

This particular escape game can be played using paper and enetering codes into one digital device like a smartphone or tablet.  Or it can be completely done online!  

When I first created this, it was all on paper.  But since it was so popular with the students, I revised it to match our 1:1 digital enviornment at school.




If you are reading the play version of "A Christmas Carol" with your students this year, I hope some of these ideas are useful to you so you can celebrate the season and still keep the learning going at the same time!

Thanks for stopping by!  

P.S.  Get 40% off the above resources in my store or 25% off on Teachers Pay Teachers on Monday, December 2, 2019 with code:  CYBER19


Mentor Sentences in Middle School


Mentor Sentences are not just for Elementary students!  Find out how I use them with grade-level texts in my Middle School classroom! #grammar #notebook


Have you ever taken a look at Mentor Sentences and wondered if they would work in Middle School?

I remember finding out about them from a video on YouTube and trying them out with my special needs English class.  The idea was to read a picture book and then pull out a model sentence.  Each day students would do something specific with that sentence in terms of grammar or writing conventions.  One day might be to notice the adjectives for example.  At the end of the week, the challenge was to re-write the sentence with new adjectives.  The activities were short, "do-able" activities that left my students feeling successful.  

So then I thought, how could I take this concept up a notch to begin to expose my students to longer, grade-level texts?  

Soon, I was looking for nonfiction texts since most of our classwork was fiction.  I longed to find texts that celebrated the season but still kept us learning.  This way we could stay focused on those key concepts, yet still have some fun.  The trouble was, I was struggling to find the "right" texts.  So I wrote my own.

What I did was create longer nonfiction texts and pull out a different sentence for each week of the month.  Then each day, I would ask a different question about things we had been learning.  Questions like:
"What is the complete subject and complete predicate of the sentence?"
"What is being compared in this sentence?"
"What do you notice about the sentence's punctuation?"
"What is the tone of the sentence?"

They were perfect for bell work!

On Fridays, I put together a little quiz of all the items we had reviewed that week.  For some students, these weekly quizzes were the first time they had scored well on an assessment for quite some time.

The students actually began to not only learn about various grammar concepts and writing conventions, but they were learning about topics such as perseverance, the history of the Poinsettia and more!  It was fun to hear them talk about these topics with interest.

In this way, mentor sentences were much more than just good models, they were causing my students to learn more about the topic as well as various grammar and writing concepts.  

Want to try them with your own class?  I have one set for each month of the school year, but here's my student's favorite about Walt Disney and perseverance:






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Thanks for stopping by!


Nonfiction and Real World Connections with #2ndaryELA

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Sunday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about nonfiction and real-world connections.
Brynn Allison,  The Literary Maven, & Lisa Spangler, Mrs. Spangler in the Middle, host #2ndaryELA on Twitter every Sunday evening from 8 - 8:30 PM EST. #2ndaryELA is a weekly chat for secondary English Language Arts teachers focused on a topic. Every Friday, we post the topic and questions on our blogs to allow you to prepare for the upcoming Sunday evening's chat. Thank you to everyone who joined us last year and we hope that you will join us again.

We'd also love for you to join our 2ndaryELA Facebook group, even if you aren't on Twitter. 2ndaryELA is a group of middle and high school English Language Arts teachers looking to share ideas and best practices. This group is an extension of our Twitter chat and a place for collaboration, questions, and encouragement. Feel free to post teaching ideas, success stories, resource links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction.

On Sunday, November 17, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about nonfiction and real-world connections.

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Sunday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about nonfiction and real-world connections.

The Directions:
1. Log into Twitter on Sunday from 8-8:30 PM EST.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #2ndaryELA in the search bar. Make sure to click “Latest.”
3. Introductions are for the first 5 minutes.
4. Starting at 8:05 (@literarymaven or @spanglermiddle) will post questions every 5 minutes using the format Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. and the hashtag #2ndaryELA.
5. Respond to questions using the format A1, A2, A3, etc. with #2ndaryELA.
6. Follow any teachers responding and who are also using #2ndaryELA.
7. Like and respond to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your responses to the questions ahead of time using a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite (but don't forget to use A1, A2, etc. and #2ndaryELA). Links are encouraged as well as using images is also encouraged when relevant.

New to chats? Here are the rules:
1. Stay on topic & stay positive!
2. Please do not post or promote paid products unless specifically asked.
3. If you arrive late, try to look through other posts before beginning.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet.
5. Always use our hashtag #2ndaryELA, including in your replies to others.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to public. (Also keep in mind that Twitter is completely public – that means students, parents, and administrators can and will read what you tweet.)

You can also check out a quick video tutorial in this blog post.

Be sure to spread the word to any teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well. We look forward to chatting with you Sunday evening and in our 2ndaryELA Facebook group!

Get caught up on past chats here:

Movement in the Classroom with #2ndaryELA

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Sunday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about movement in the classroom.
Brynn Allison,  The Literary Maven, & Lisa Spangler, Mrs. Spangler in the Middle, host #2ndaryELA on Twitter every Sunday evening from 8 - 8:30 PM EST. #2ndaryELA is a weekly chat for secondary English Language Arts teachers focused on a topic. Every Friday, we post the topic and questions on our blogs to allow you to prepare for the upcoming Sunday evening's chat. Thank you to everyone who joined us last year and we hope that you will join us again.

We'd also love for you to join our 2ndaryELA Facebook group, even if you aren't on Twitter. 2ndaryELA is a group of middle and high school English Language Arts teachers looking to share ideas and best practices. This group is an extension of our Twitter chat and a place for collaboration, questions, and encouragement. Feel free to post teaching ideas, success stories, resource links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction.

On Sunday, November 10, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about movement in the classroom.

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Sunday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about movement in the classroom.

The Directions:
1. Log into Twitter on Sunday from 8-8:30 PM EST.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #2ndaryELA in the search bar. Make sure to click “Latest.”
3. Introductions are for the first 5 minutes.
4. Starting at 8:05 (@literarymaven or @spanglermiddle) will post questions every 5 minutes using the format Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. and the hashtag #2ndaryELA.
5. Respond to questions using the format A1, A2, A3, etc. with #2ndaryELA.
6. Follow any teachers responding and who are also using #2ndaryELA.
7. Like and respond to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your responses to the questions ahead of time using a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite (but don't forget to use A1, A2, etc. and #2ndaryELA). Links are encouraged as well as using images is also encouraged when relevant.

New to chats? Here are the rules:
1. Stay on topic & stay positive!
2. Please do not post or promote paid products unless specifically asked.
3. If you arrive late, try to look through other posts before beginning.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet.
5. Always use our hashtag #2ndaryELA, including in your replies to others.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to public. (Also keep in mind that Twitter is completely public – that means students, parents, and administrators can and will read what you tweet.)

You can also check out a quick video tutorial in this blog post.

Be sure to spread the word to any teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well. We look forward to chatting with you Sunday evening and in our 2ndaryELA Facebook group!

Get caught up on past chats here: