Mentor Texts and Sentences with #2ndaryELA

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

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about using mentor texts and sentences in the classroom.

The Directions:
1. Log into Twitter on Tuesday 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 @2peasandadog) 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, so be sure to use a link shortener like tinyurlbitlygoo.gl or ow.ly Just visit one of those links and paste your long link to shorten it for Twitter. 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 Tuesday evening and in our 2ndaryELA Facebook group!

Get caught up on past chats here:

Teaching Poetry in Middle School


Find out how I teach middle school students to interpret words and phrases using poetry. #teachingpoetry


Do you get moans and groans when you talk about teaching poetry with your middle school students?  I do and it's generally because they say that they don't "get" it.  

That's when I say "What if I could teach you a poetry interpretation secret?"  Of course, they all want to know the secret so I tell them that I have a simple 4-step process to help them "get" all poetry!  

Bonus - it's all based on standard R.CCR.4:  Interpret Words and Phrases!

Introducing the Poetry Unit

I first like to start with an overview using a picture book.  For this standard, I have chosen "Owl Moon".  This book is rich with word choice and connotation which makes the imagery amazing.  We discuss this book as if we are book reviewers and I gently introduce them to my process.

Then, it's time to dig into the vocabulary.  I use the test item specifications for my state and the standard itself to derive my list of vocabulary.

Teaching poetry vocabulary in your middle school classroom?  Help your students learn the definitions to understand questions about poetry.  #wordwork

I like to play some games after we go over the words and have posted all the cards to the word wall.  I make dominoes and have partners work together just to complete the game at first.  Then I hold competitions to see which partners can do it in the shortest time.  


The Lesson

Next, it's time for the meat of the unit and I use a PowerPoint and notes.  The notes I use are a blend of traditional two-column notes and visual/interactive notes.  I think of it as the left brain advantage of structure combined with the right brain benefit of visuals to get the best of both worlds!  I call these notes Pixanotes.

Teach your middle school students a 4 step process for interpreting words and phrases in poetry with these structured picture notes!  #interactivenotebooks


They help students see interpreting words and phrases as a process and how the ideas of denotation, connotation, and tone are connected.  Plus since I make these notes in 4 versions with varying degrees of scaffolding, I have differentiated the content so everyone can "get" it.

As we go through the notes with a PowerPoint, we will use the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley for the examples for each of the steps.  This is the "I do" portion of the lesson as I walk them through using the process one time together as a class.

After the notes, it's time to practice with these ideas.  I like to give students a choice for increased engagement and will use a "Processing Menu".  This menu will ask students to apply what they have leaned with a new poem "O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman.  Students will choose between creating a one-pager on the poem or changing the word choice in the poem to change the tone.  Since the menu has two choices, it allows for some differentiation of process! This is the "we do" portion of the lesson as I do allow students to work with partners if they choose.

Use a processing menu to help your middle school students practice the steps to interpreting words and phrases in poetry!  #poetrylessons


The Assessment & Follow-up

After the practice, there will be a quiz based on another poem "I Hear America Singing" by Walt Whitman.

Students who earn an 80% or better, will be given an "Enrichment Menu" where they will choose between writing their own poem or studying a new poem of their choice.  

Students who earned less than an 80% will be given an "Enhancement Menu" for re-teaching that includes the choice of watching a video review and then creating their own video, PowerPoint, or poster explaining how to interpret words and phrases or there's an option of using their notes to explain each question on the quiz.  

What do you do with your middle school students after a poetry quiz?  Re-Teach and Enrich - using Menus! #differentiation #teaching


In the end, each student will have a menu as follow-up from the quiz and each student will create a product.  So now I will have differentiated products too!  

This will take me at least two weeks to complete, but will be a great opportunity to look closely at poetry and focus in on the standard with various activities.

Ready to try this unit?  I have everything all prepped and ready to go!  The full unit even comes with editable lesson plans and a day-by-day script - including discussion questions!



Or if you want just one part of the unit, check out these:

Teach your Middle School students how to examine word choices for connotation and tone with the poem "Invictus", a PowerPoint and structured visual notes called Pixanotes® #poetrylessons Teach your Middle School students the key vocabulary associated with interpreting words and phrases: impact, word choice, tone, mood, effect, establishes, emphasize, repetition, figurative language, denotation, connotation, stanza, excerpt, allusion, analogy. #poetry #poetrylessons         Help your Middle School students practice what they know about R.CCR.4:  Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone. #poetrylessons #projectbasedlearning


Thanks for stopping by!




Literature Circles with #2ndaryELA

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about literature circles.
Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven, & Lisa Spangler, Mrs. Spangler in the Middle, host #2ndaryELA on Twitter every Tuesday evening from 8 - 8:30 PM EST. #2ndaryELA is a weekly chat for secondary English Language Arts teachers focused on a topic. Every Sunday, we post the topic and questions on our blogs to allow you to prepare for the upcoming Tuesday evening's chat. Thank you to everyone who joined us last week 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 Tuesday, March 26, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about literature circles.

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about literature circles.

The Directions:
1. Log into Twitter on Tuesday 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 @2peasandadog) 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, so be sure to use a link shortener like tinyurlbitlygoo.gl or ow.ly Just visit one of those links and paste your long link to shorten it for Twitter. 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 Tuesday evening and in our 2ndaryELA Facebook group!

Get caught up on past chats here:

Close Reading and Annotation Strategies



Find some new strategies to teach close reading and annotation to your middle and high school students from your #2ndaryELA friends! #teaching

Do you use close reading in your language arts classes?  It has recently become a district initiative where I teach so getting some new strategies for close reading and annotation was something I really needed this year!  Fortunately, the #2ndaryELA nation came together on Twitter to share some ideas and this is what they shared:



Q1: What is your definition of close reading? How do you explain it to students?
Replying to 
A1 To me close reading is looking closely at a section of a text for a specific purpose
A1: Close reading is... -Reading to learn -Taking notes -Reading multiple times -Having a specific purpose
A1: This is our district wide initiative and they say it is reading text multiple times for various kinds of meaning.
A1 con't: We read the first time for "gist", the second time to annotate for key words, key ideas, evidence, the third time for text dependent Qs.
A1: Close reading is a thoughtful interpretation and understanding of a brief passage of text. I explain close reading to my students as a step by step process to breaking down a text.
Q2: What is your process for teaching text annotation?
A2: I teach it step-by-step with a full on modeling lesson. Then I have Ss do one part on their own with a new text. Then Ss do 2 parts on their own with another new text. Then SS do all 3 parts on their own with yet another text.
A2 con't: I made bookmark that have the code we use for annotation that I contact papered to the desks too.
A2: I create a step by step process. 1. underline important terms 2. circle definitions/meanings 3. write key words/definitions in margins 4. Star important details+ add why in the margin. We use a lot of color and highlighter tools. I always model the first time.
A2: It really depends on what I want them to get out of the text. Sometimes we're reading a text that does not require close attention to vocabulary, but requires a lot of inferring about character traits. What never changes is clearly stating a purpose for the Ss.
A2 cont.: The beauty of Edji is I can state the purpose, model reading for a given purpose, then let them practice together, and finally have them practice individually quickly and without a lot of prep or transitions. It's also easy to backup when needed
Q3: How often and for what purposes do you use close reading and text annotation?
A3: As a ELA/SS teacher we read texts to determine main idea AND to determine how British and American viewpoints on the Boston Tea Party might be different. Ultimately, it needs to be a text worth reading and thinking about for an extended period of time.
A3: We use it just about every time we read a new text in class that we'll be studying.
A3: Anytime we read a new text! My SPED students need all the practice to break down a text together so they can then do independent work later. If they don’t understand the text they’ll simply shut down.
Q4: How do you select your text dependent questions?
A4: Our questions are based on whatever standard we are teaching through that text. For example we were studying POV so all the TDQ were on POV.
A4: Our questions are based on whatever standard we are teaching through the particular text. For example we were studying rhyme recently so all the questions were on rhyme.
A4: The text dependent Qs ensure Ss are focusing on the right things, be that a skill or a paragraph. We do almost all of our close reading in Edji. I often give Ss a question & they locate the piece of text that would serve as an answer; kinda like Jeopardy.
A4 cont.: Ex. at the top of the text I might write, "How do you know the Big Bad Wolf is bad?" The Ss know to look for a passage in the text to answer this Q. When they find it, they highlight "he huffed and puffed and blew the house down" and put the Q as a comment
Q5: Share your best resources for close reading and text annotation.
A5: Teachers frequently tell us Edji is the best close reading tool they've ever used. It's collaborative and updates in real-time like Google Docs, but like Notability, students can also work individually. Ts can quickly adjust instruction w/ Edji.
A5: All I have to share right now are my bookmarks as I just completed my formal obs. and will be blogging about that soon. They will be added to the Google Drive in the FB group. Join us! :)
A5: For annotating, my favorite tool is Google Docs and I have worked with showing my students tools in Word. For close reading, we use USA TestPrep a great deal.
I hope you found some new strategies for close reading and annotation here! I recently had my formal observation using close reading and you will able to read all about that on this blog soon! Until then, I hope you'll have a look around and stay a while. Maybe you'd even like to join the Teacher Troop!


Thanks for stopping by!