Friday, October 26, 2012

Writing Thesis Statements

Writing thesis statements strikes fear into many students' hearts. I have developed a way of getting from a broad topic to a thesis statement that makes it much easier.

First, they think of a broad topic they would like to use and write it down. Then, I ask them to come up with as many questions about the topic as they can think of. When that's done, they do some preliminary research or freewriting to come up with an answer to that question. That answer then becomes the controlling idea, and the thesis comes from that.

For example, if my topic is texting and driving, one of my questions is "Is it really that dangerous?" I find out from research that reaction times are similar to drinking and driving. So my thesis statement is my topic, plus my controlling idea and opinion: Texting and driving is as dangerous as drinking and driving, so the penalties should be the same.

I put this idea with a worksheet, along with everything else I use for helping students write good thesis statements (handouts and worksheets, plus a power point) in this new packet. It's in my teacherspayteachers store for only $3.00. Happy writing!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Apostrophe Police

Aargh! I just got done reviewing apostrophe rules with my college class, and I walked up the stairs and  encountered this:

Call me compulsive, call me whatever you want, but I could not leave it alone. I went into the faculty room and said, "Am I a crazy person if I have to fix the poster in the hall?" Lucky for me another English teacher was in there and he not only agreed I had to fix it immediately, but tried to help me find some white-out. I finally tore the corner off my role and taped it in place. We can't have Mondays running amok trying to own everything.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writing Prompt - Videos for College Applications?

This week's writing prompt is about whether students think videos should be part of the college admission's process. Some universities are now accepting videos in lieu of, or in addition to, the traditional written essay component.

I have my students read an article about it, and then watch actual video submissions. The article is here. Links to the videos are embedded in the article, and two are below.

I would think that my students would embrace the idea of using videos instead of writing essays, but surprisingly, they seem to understand the importance of showing communication skills on paper. After a class discussion, I have them write for thirty minutes.

The purpose of this writing prompt in my classroom is to demonstrate competency in incorporating outside sources to back up opinions. Here is the actual assignment:

Please read the article about You Tube college applications and watch the video clips.

Write a one-page opinion piece (about 30 minutes effort) on whether or not you think videos should be part of the college application process and possibly even replace the written essay requirement. Use specific examples from the article and the videos.

Grading criteria:

30 minutes effort
Contains a clear opinion/thesis statement
Specific examples from the article and videos used to back up opinion.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Free Halloween Treat Tags and a Trick

 Halloween is my favorite time to bring treats to my students. These treats, however, come with a trick--I write a Halloween writing prompt on the inside of the tag. I have the students write a descriptive paragraph on topics such as carving a pumpkin, going through a haunted house, or eating Halloween candy.

For the treat, I like to fill clear plastic bags with candied popcorn: Melt 1 bag of candy melts (found at the craft store or anywhere that sells cake or candy supplies) in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, and add to 12 cups of popped popcorn. Stir quickly to coat all the popcorn and let set for about an hour. Break up and mix with a handful of candy corn. Inexpensive, tasty, and easy!

Click on the pictures or here to download the tags.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Commonly Confused Words

For a long time, I've been collecting the words that students most often confuse or misspell so they end up with a different meaning. You'll find the obvious there/their/they're, and also more sophisticated vocabulary such as complement/compliment and precede/proceed. I finally put the list together, along with definitions and sample sentences.

This unit has a lot of flexibility to suit a variety of approaches. What I do is divide the students into groups and supply them with a list of words with worksheets for filling in definitions and sample sentences. Then, each group takes a turn once a week presenting their words to the rest of the group.

Also included are completed worksheets to use as a study guide, in case you want to use it that way.

A teacher who purchased this unit suggested that I also include worksheets with words and definitions, but blanks for sentences so students could come up with their own. I thought this was a great idea, so those are included also.

I made this with high school students in mind, but I've gotten feedback from middle school teachers who use it successfully, as well.