Igniting Excitement for Inferences: “The Black Cat” Inferences Challenge!

One of the standards that students struggle to master in 8th grade Language Arts is ELAGSE8RL1: Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. This standard involves abstract thinking, and for 8th graders whose brains are still developing, this … Continue reading Igniting Excitement for Inferences: “The Black Cat” Inferences Challenge!

Scaffolding Student Panel Discussions for Success

Earlier this month, I was inspired to try student panel presentations in my classroom with 8th graders. Due to safety related restrictions, it is near impossible to do many of the face to face discussion strategies I have used in the past, so I wanted to try something that would allow in-person discussion with minimal … Continue reading Scaffolding Student Panel Discussions for Success

Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 3: from Gallery Walk to Collaborative Noticings and Reflections

In my previous two posts, I outlined the activities that were our first points of inquiry into argumentative writing and essays.  In the last post, I shared how I organized a gallery walk (via tables instead of walls) for students to explore a variety of "texts" and to identify the argument.  Students posted their thinking … Continue reading Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 3: from Gallery Walk to Collaborative Noticings and Reflections

Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 2: Arguments in the Wild Analysis Safari

In my last post, I shared how we began to take an inquiry stance to explore what we thought we knew about argumentative writing.  For the next part of our inquiry, I set up a gallery walk of sorts with a variety of different texts that presented an explicit or implicit argument.  We reviewed our … Continue reading Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 2: Arguments in the Wild Analysis Safari

Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 1: Anticipation Guides, Partner/Trio Talk, Everyone Up, and Pop-Up Discussions

Earlier this past week, we formally began our extended argumentative writing unit of study.  As I'm often wont to do, I wanted to find a different way to introduce the unit.  I wanted to get a sense of what students already knew while infusing inquiry into the first few days of learning activities. We began … Continue reading Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 1: Anticipation Guides, Partner/Trio Talk, Everyone Up, and Pop-Up Discussions

ConverSTATIONS with Book Clubs: Cross-Pollinating Thinking Across Texts

We finished our literary nonfiction and memoirs on January 31; I wanted students to have a way to discuss their books and share their thinking across texts.  While I really wanted to do a "Peeling the Fruit" or "Circle of Viewpoints" thinking activity, I didn't feel like my 8th graders were quite ready for this … Continue reading ConverSTATIONS with Book Clubs: Cross-Pollinating Thinking Across Texts

Reading Workout with Literary Nonfiction and Memoir Book Clubs

Inspired by the always innovative Sarah Brown Wessling, I adapted an activity she shared this past December that she calls Reading Workouts for independent reading time.  I made a few modifcations to account for a shorter literacy block of time and the needs of my 8th grade learners, but here is my version that was … Continue reading Reading Workout with Literary Nonfiction and Memoir Book Clubs

Powerful Practice: Read Aloud Reading Partners with Informational Text

One of the simplest but most powerful practices this fall has been read aloud reading partners.  I love the learning structure because it's so versatile and can be used in multiple ways. On a simple level, I used it last week when I lost my voice and needed students to review instructions for an annotation … Continue reading Powerful Practice: Read Aloud Reading Partners with Informational Text

Growing Our Conversation Skills with Socratic Seminar

We are continuing to grow our discussion skills in my 8th grade classes with a variety of conversation strategies.  Prior to Thanksgiving break, we engaged in a Socratic Seminar over a variety of related texts.   If you want to see some additional interesting twists on Socratic Seminar, check out this great blog post. While I've … Continue reading Growing Our Conversation Skills with Socratic Seminar

Accelerating Student Dialogue with Speed Dating Discussions

In recent years, I've been very intentional about integrating student discussion strategies along with the hard academic skills and soft social skills inherent in student conversations for learning.  Our state 8th grade English Language Arts standards also value speaking and listening as well as comprehension and collaboration: ELAGSE8SL1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative … Continue reading Accelerating Student Dialogue with Speed Dating Discussions

Supporting Writers in Progress: Paired Texts Study, Comparing/Contrasting, and Literary Argument Paragraphs

Earlier this month, we composed our first literary argument paragraph, a stepping stone to an extended piece of writing we'll do in early November as part of our work from the writing unit, The Literary Essay:  Analyzing Craft and Theme. Part 1:  Introducing and Immersing Ourselves in a Paired TextLet me start by backing up … Continue reading Supporting Writers in Progress: Paired Texts Study, Comparing/Contrasting, and Literary Argument Paragraphs

Exploring Characterization in “Raymond’s Run” with Playlist Stations

After our reading of "Raymond's Run", I wanted to find a way to engage students in thinking about character that would also get them up and moving since they had been sitting and doing some quiet thinking/reading work for a few days.  I decided to craft a new playlist station activity with a focus on … Continue reading Exploring Characterization in “Raymond’s Run” with Playlist Stations

Putting Students in the Driver’s Seat: Read Aloud Reading Partners

Reading partners is not a new concept; many literacy experts have written about this concept and offered best practices for implementing them into classroom life, including Smokey Daniels.  Though I don't implement them as much as I'd like to or probably should, I do love watching students in action when time and opportunity present themselves … Continue reading Putting Students in the Driver’s Seat: Read Aloud Reading Partners

Getting Ready for a Short Story with Pre-Reading Learning Stations

As you know, I love trying new learning activities and strategies.  I'm teaching a formal short story unit this year for the first time in years, and I wanted to do something fun and meaningful to kick off our first whole class story study.  This summer I purchased this bundle of awesome activities from "Write … Continue reading Getting Ready for a Short Story with Pre-Reading Learning Stations

Finding a Path into Poetry with Annotations, FSLL Charts, and Poetry Chats

Last week  (April 17) we began our exploration of poetry with an inquiry-oriented warm-up.  I presented students two documents: An annotated copy of "Alone" by Maya Angelou (annotations by me) A FSLL (Feelings, Story, Language, and Lines) that I had completed for "Alone" by Maya Angelou. Students could work alone or with a partner to … Continue reading Finding a Path into Poetry with Annotations, FSLL Charts, and Poetry Chats

Next Steps for Thinking About Theme, Central Topics, and Social Issues: Pop-Up Book Club Meetings

In my last post, I shared how we used a Lucy Calkins learning structure to think about more deeply about theme, central ideas/topics, and social issues.  Yesterday, I did two variations on some "pop-up" book club meetings to help students think through these elements. Variation #1, Periods 1 and 4 On Monday evening,  I compiled … Continue reading Next Steps for Thinking About Theme, Central Topics, and Social Issues: Pop-Up Book Club Meetings

Argumentative Writing March Madness with Post-It Note Reading, Think Tank Conversations, 11×14 Reasons and Evidence Mapping + Essay Drafting

The last five weeks have been a whirlwind here between district third quarter benchmark testing and next steps into argumentative writing, the culminating activities of the front-loading skill work we did in February (see previous blog posts, please).  I'd like to share our journey of reading, writing, and thinking with you by outlining the major … Continue reading Argumentative Writing March Madness with Post-It Note Reading, Think Tank Conversations, 11×14 Reasons and Evidence Mapping + Essay Drafting

Extending and Applying Our Inquiry Work with Kernel Essays: Next Steps

In my last post, I shared how I'm frontloading our argumentative writing unit with an emphasis on key concepts and text structure as we explored mentor texts and applied Gretchen Bernabei's kernel essay strategy to help students organize ideas.  In this post, I'll share how we extended that work and how students had opportunities to … Continue reading Extending and Applying Our Inquiry Work with Kernel Essays: Next Steps

Inquiring into Argumentative Writing: Deconstructing Text Structure with Kernel Essays

Last week we moved from our exploration of features of argumentative writing to text structure.  On Wednesday, we began with the following writing activity using these images I projected onto the board with the LCD projector and these prompts: Once students had time to think and write, we came together for whole class discussion to … Continue reading Inquiring into Argumentative Writing: Deconstructing Text Structure with Kernel Essays

Counterclaim Station Throwdown

After introducing claim statements with a task card walk last Wednesday, we then began inquiring into counterclaims and rebuttals on Thursday and Friday.   I decided to do station rotations as our learning activity, and after a little tweaking with my first two classes, I polished the learning structure for my final two groups. We began … Continue reading Counterclaim Station Throwdown