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|An important note: Most lessons are in text (.txt) format while some are in MS Word format and may not display properly in Firefox or Explorer. I suggest that you save the lesson and then edit or format it in any word processor such as Open Office or MS Word.|
The Biography Assignment
If you're wondering about what to do during the first or second week with a new class, this assignment is perfect (well almost) The whole class will start off in groups, then form pairs, and finally each student will produce a project which involves listening, writing and creative skills. I suggest that you create the groups to stop friends from interviewing each other (which is almost impossible in a small school).
Daily Writing Program
This is a writing program that is perfect for producing large amounts of graded work without a lot of heavy marking. At the same time, the writing program allows you to get to know each student's strengths and weaknesses, supplies an enormous amount of rough work for future polished writing and is also an excellent class management tool. I first used it in a class of 40 de-streamed Gr. 9 students in a portable (enough said about Ontario's education system). I allowed the first fifteen minutes for writing which quieted them all down and got them ready. My co-op student was able to take all of the work away and quickly evaluate it for length and return shortly with everything marked. I usually spent some time going over it later to get the gist of each student's writing. It worked so well that I used the program in Grade 10 and 11 with great results. Eventually, we reduced the writing to three times a week but the students actually objected when I tried to reduce the time even more. After several weeks I had evaluated several hundred pieces of work and generated several polished writing assignments worth ten marks each. All of the students improved over time.
Adaptation of Daily Writing Program
Lynne Reese teaches English at James Island Charter High School in Charleston, South Carolina, in the WE CARE Intervention Program started last year for students at risk of expulsion. She has taken my original Daily Writing Program above and added more topics and increased the number per week to four. The lesson is in MS Word format, which you should be able to open with Wordperfect if necessary. You can download or view the lesson by clicking HERE and Lynne can be reached at LYNN_REESE@charleston.k12.sc.us
Writing Assignment Part Deux
If the first one was successful, here's another handout.
Additional Writing Topics
If you use up the topics above, or you want more to choose from, then take a look at these additional topics. They were thought up by Karen Newirth, an English teacher, and one of her Grade 10 students, Rick Richly, at Marian Baker School in San José, Costa Rica. Karen now teaches at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. and can be reached at email@example.com
Journal Writing Topics
Brad Boeker, who teaches at Metamora Township High School in Metamora, Illinois, describes the journal writing program that he uses in his classes. He has also included an ample supply of journal topics. Please address all comments and questions to Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org
Introductory Autobiography Writing/Art Assignment -- Intermediate
This is a great exercise for the beginning of the school year or semester. It involves art and writing in a nice blend of the creative and applied. You can really get to know your students and their abilities in a quick and fun way. Lynne Reese teaches English at James Island Charter High School in Charleston, South Carolina, and submitted the Adaptation of the Daily Writing Program has also modified this lesson and is making it available in MS Word format which you can read or download by clicking HERE.
First Week Writing
Need some writing for the first week back? Jennifer Manuel of Lafayette High School in Lafayette, Louisiana, has three topics that you can choose from. The students can have some creative writing fun and you can use the assignments to diagnose writing strengths and weaknesses. Jennifer can be reached at email@example.com
Middle School Memory Book
Patricia Kohut teaches 8th Grade English at Houston Middle School in Big Lake, Alaska and she adapted a Senior Memory Book lesson to suit her students. She is kindly sharing it so other middle school teachers don't have to "re-invent the wheel". Patricia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
MS Word format -- click HERE
Text format -- click HERE
A copy of a Senior Memory Book project by Brenda Kukla of Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Georgia, can be found at her web site by clicking HERE.
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Writing Folder Checklist
If you look through a lot of my writing assignments, you will see reference made to filling out the "checklist in your folder". I will explain. Whenever a student writes something in the "daily writing program" or for the folder, the writing is kept in a folder. It is just a legal size file folder which is folded up about 5 cm. or 2 in. at the bottom which creates a pocket on either side to stop stuff sliding out. The checklist is stapled inside and is a record of all of the process writing that the student does including the dates of submission and the marks. The folder NEVER leaves the class (in case a student loses the whole folder) but work is taken out to go home or to the computer lab, and work is put in. This is a "plain text" version of the folder and I am sure that you can embellish it once you get it into a word processing program.
Writing Process Record
Lynn Ouelette (check out her Grade 8 Book Project) uses a form to have her students record their writing progress. This is a very "usable" form. Take a look and judge for yourself. Comments should go to Lynn at:email@example.com
The Paragraph -- Topic Development/Samples
I don't know where I got this set of paragraphs from but they are perfect for illustrating the various ways of developing a topic, right from the topic sentence through to the conclusion. Various types of development are illustrated. A logical follow-up would be to assign the writing of a paragraph based upon the models, BUT you may want to look at the evaluation lesson below before rushing off to assign writing.
Paragraph Evaluation -- Samples
A student often labours over a writing assignment and then is shocked to receive a lousy mark. Why was the mark so low? Often, it's anyone's guess. Many students would get better marks if they know how the assignment was going to be evaluated. They might even do better if they understood the marking process. I teach the paragraph development above and then have the students mark the sample paragraphs -- the spelling mistakes are deliberate. We then discuss our often radically different evaluations. Try this and then assign a paragraph to write. I usually have them compare two things by using alternation. Take a look at the writing folder activities for more ideas for paragraph topics.
Marcia Anick, an English Teacher at Woodland Middle School in Duluth, Minnesota, says that "this is a worksheet that I have found very helpful for teaching students the art of paragraph writing. It really helps them make the connection that all supports must relate to the claim/topic sentence." Marcia can be reached at Aaljajmlkk@aol.com
Peer Editing Check Sheet
Lynne Cattafi, who teaches at a private school in New York City, uses this peer evaluation sheet for paragraph writing, though she says that it can be adapted to longer pieces of expository writing. You can send comments to Lynne at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Group Opinion Paragraph
This is a lesson that you can use to teach group dynamics and paragraph writing. The handout is from Lori Koplik of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, and is pretty well self-descriptive. Lori can be reached at email@example.com
The Hamburger Paragraph
You've probably always wanted to eat in class and teach writing at the same time. Steven Charlton is an Education student at the University of North Florida, and he has a lesson where you can teach students how to write a paragraph using a real hamburger. In good pedagogical form, Steven has supplied everything you need including rationale, objectives, instructions and follow-up assignments. You have to supply the hamburger. Have fun and if you want to compliment Steven he's at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Common Errors Diagnostic Exercise
How much do your students know about common errors? Tell them to keep the corrected sheet in the front of their notebooks for reference; depending on the grade level, I tell them that they will be penalized if they ever make one of these errors. Remember, "there" is "here" with a "t" on it , "their" is possessive. Don't use "they're" if "you're" not sure. If the guy at Harvey's can remember what I want on my hamburger, a student can remember the difference between "there" and "their".
The Three Little Pigs Their/They're/There Exercise
This is a pretty funny and creative exercise that Gina Corsun of Herbert Hoover Middle School in Edison, New Jersey sent to me. It ties in nicely with the lesson above. I thought when I read it that I might leave all of the their/there/they're words as blanks and have them fill them in instead. Or you can have them re-write it or merely indicate their corrections on the sheet. An overhead would be ideal for taking up an exercise like this. In any case, read the story because it will brighten your day as you glean educational sites for lessons. If you have any questions, (such as who is Oscar Meyer), e-mail Gina at email@example.com
The Three Little Pigs Their/They're/There Exercise -- Fill in the blanks
Lynn Lau teaches Grade 7 at Fairview High School in Fairview, Alberta, and she has modified the Three Little Pigs Activity above so that it is a fill-in-the-blank activity, and also has adjusted it a bit to suit northern Alberta. Lynn can be reached at LauL@prsd.ab.ca. The activity is available as an MS Word or a text document; click on the version that you would like.
Parts of Speech and Elements of Plot Jeopardy Game
Lynne Reese teaches English at James Island Charter High School in Charleston, South Carolina, and has submitted an entertaining Jeopardy game that has been constructed using MS Powerpoint. This is interactive and a student can proceed at his or her own pace and either compete with other students or not. You will need MS Powerpoint to use the game, but you can download a free viewer from the Microsoft site. Lynne can be reached at LYNN_REESE@charleston.k12.sc.us
Parts of Speech Poetry
Andrea Lodge teaches at the Truebright Science Academy Charter School in Philadelphia. She describes this lesson as potentially irritating for the teacher to set up, but one which the students really like. Andrea can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Review of Anything (except a book or movie)
This is another assignment that combines creativity, analysis and application in a format suitable for all grades. Start off discussing a review and then give them examples from Consumer Reports -- pick something offbeat such as toasters or breakfast cereal. Go over how anything can be reviewed, even your dad's car or your dad himself. All you need to do is define what a perfect "one" would be and then compare the thing to be reviewed under certain specific topics, such as appearance, ease of handling and drawbacks. Then give them the sheet about what constitutes a review (see below) and then this assignment. One girl in my Grade 10 class reviewed the word "anything" while another did jogging shoes.
How to Write a Review
How to write the review assigned above.
Writing Assignments, Folder Assignments, and more writing
Due to an overwhelming number of e-mail inquiries, I have decided to put some writing assignments here for your perusal. In Ontario, the writing folder is an essential part of every student's evaluation. The folder involves a series of writing assignments but process must be marked and each student must have the choice of which writing piece, of several, to submit for marking. This accounts for the huge variety of assignments. However, I always try to make the assignments support the concepts that we are studying in class. Thus, they are creative but must demonstrate application of concepts and thinking skills. Take your pick of these; most will work at almost any level except where I have noted. If you have ANY questions, e-mail me for help or advice.
Comparing unlike things, ideas, or viewpoints
A review of the five best or the five worst -- this assignment has generated the most amazing range of responses, depending on the class. I have had the five best T.V. dads as well as the five WORST things about Christmas.
A topic OR a type of writing -- you choose. The concept is simple enough except that teachers of junior grades may want to substitute a fictional diary or something else for the stream of consciousness.
A Description of a person -- I know that this seems old, but I tried to make it really demanding and different. The quote, as I acknowledge, is by Steinbeck and it is truly a work of genius. Have a discussion of the myriad of things that Steinbeck's short description reveals and then let them go. I have had several brilliant pieces about a rock star waiting to be interviewed or perform, a prostitute getting ready to go out (it was very moving and aroused great sympathy for the woman and her condition) and, of course, a contemplative Santa Claus just before the big flight.
An Autobiography -- A few years ago I used to have the students re-write a television sit-com from the view point of one of the characters. This evolved into this assignment, wherein the student writes an autobiography of anything else. One girl wrote about her life as a carrot who was transported from sunny fields to the fridge- she even wrote it on a large orange paper carrot with green leaves sticking out of the top. Another student wrote the autobiography of his little sister -- in crayon on about 25 pieces of coloured construction paper. Let them go wild but don't forget the process leading to a nice piece of polished work.
Open Assignments -- There are two handouts here. These assignments are good for directed students and those kids that just eat up writing assignments. Do not give them to students who have organizational problems or need constant prodding to get going.
A Quick Story Writing/Telling Exercise
This is a short writing exercise which has been submitted by Sue Hallworth who teaches at Newmarket High School (just north of Toronto). Sue has used it as a fifteen minute writing exercise but it has all kinds of potential for follow-up activities, such as students producing art work for their stories or developing story portfolios.
Questions and comments can be directed to Sue at email@example.com
Turning Art and Photographs Into Writing
Do you have some old photos or calendar pictures lying around? Perhaps you know of some good antique stores with old photo albums. These two lessons can help you turn them into writing projects. These are writing activities with strong interactive and role-playing components. The lessons were submitted by Leilani Kesner who teaches senior English at Scottsboro High School in Scottsboro, Alabama. She is also on the Board of Directors of Alabama A & M University's National Writing Project and has served as a contributing writer for Holt, Rinehart, and Winston's composition textbook series. But, she says, she is happiest in the classroom. Contact her at:
Tall Tales and Urban Legends
Suanna Wingfield of Ouachita High School in Arkansas has her students use antique photos which she has collected. Using a work sheet and a series of smaller assignments the students create a tall tale or urban legend. Click on the title for the text lesson. Suanna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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There is a great deal of controversy about the value of formal grammar instruction. Unfortunately, trying to write without an understanding of what a sentence is and what accepted usage is all about, is often like trying to paint without an understanding of colour theory. These lessons are just a few that I have taught, but they are at the core of my whole formal writing instruction. The handouts emphasize the need to understand what is a complete sentence, what are the major punctuation and structural errors, what is a smooth sentence, and the necessity of clarity in your writing. All of the handouts will require teacher instruction so don't just use one of them for busy work. Each should be part of a unified approach to teaching how to avoid errors and write more clearly.
The Clause (or what's a sentence fragment?)
Sentence Fragment/Comma Splice Identification
Sentence Errors Review Sheet
Error Correction -- identify and correct
Pronoun and Sentence Errors (senior)
Signal Words Paragraph Exercise
Cindy Godby uses this lesson to teach and illustrate the concept of "signal words" which are "words that an author uses to signal a transition in the order of events or details in a paragraph." Cindy Godby is an instructor of adult basic education at Seminole Community College in Sanford, Florida and teaches reading and writing to adults between the ages of 16 and 70. She can be reached at email@example.com
Etymology on the Internet
Etymology is the study of where words come from. (Did you know that?) This lesson uses the Internet to complete an etymology quiz, research word origins, and make up a quiz. All of the websites are accessed from one web site. The author of the lesson is Mrs. G and you can visit her website of lesson plans and links; the site is called, appropriately, Mrs. G's English Links.
Parts of Speech
Learning parts of speech can become a highly creative exercise if you use this lesson sent in by Sharon Stewart who teaches in Whitianga, New Zealand. Sharon says that she also uses it for mythology. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Writing for Different Audiences
This is a letter writing assignment which has students telling a version of an incident to several different audiences. Suanna Rens, who teaches in Donaldson, Arkansas, says that the lesson takes about two 45 minute periods; it could probably be adapted for almost any grade.
Suanna is at SuannaKay@aol.com
The Million Dollar Assignment
What would you do if you had one million dollars? What if you had to spend it in one day? What if you had to use the classifieds to do it? This is the premise of a tremendous writing exercise by Kim Thornley who teaches at Timberland High School in St. Stephen, SC. Kim has supplied the lesson and numerous follow up activities. You can reach her at email@example.com
Grandma's Writing -- pen pal assignment
This is another great writing exercise from Kim Thornley (see above) and involves students having real pen pals at a local old age residence. This is an exercise with enormous potential for almost any grade.
99 Ways, X-Files, Ghost Stories and War
Trine Meyer Vogsland teaches English as a second language in Norway and has supplied several novel and creative ideas to encourage writing among all levels of students. She has over 12 ways to use 99 Ways to Love Your Child as well as three ideas on another page. Trine says that she would love to hear from teachers who use the lessons and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Trine also has some excellent lessons using contemporary music on the Poetry Page.
Gender Issues Journal Writing
This is a series of challenging journal topics for senior students which explores gender issues from a contemporary and historical perspective. Noeline Laccetti is the Head of English at St. Martin's S.S. in Mississauga, Ontario and comments or questions can be addressed to her at email@example.com
Meditation Walks for Writing
Kate Seitz, with the great last name, of Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin, New Jersey, invites you to look at and try this activity which she "devised last year as a way to "trick" my students into writing." I liked it because it also requires the students to work individually and reflect upon what they have done. Kate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Add-On Story
Jennifer Swanson teaches grades 10-12 at Corwith-Wesley-LuVerne High School in Corwith, Iowa. She says that "the joy of this assignment is watching the students giggle as they skim over the progress of the story". If you could use some joy in your class, then perhaps you should try this activity. Send compliments and comments to Jennifer at email@example.com
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The Joke and the Paragraph
Michael Jursic is a recent grad of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and he teaches at Ryerson Community School in Inner City Toronto. Try this lesson to teach the parts of a paragraph and the class will learn something and get a good chuckle at the same time. Who said education can't be fun? Mike's at firstname.lastname@example.org
"It's Your Theme Song"
Aimee Arreygue, an English teacher at Fullerton High School in Fullerton, California, devised this lesson as an end of year project for her class of 30-35 students, of all ability levels. It's flexible enough that you could probably use it at any time during the term. Aimee can be reached at email@example.com
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What is Canadian?
Kate Woods lives in Fort Frances which is right on the Ontario-Minnesota border and just north of the sign in northern Minnesota that I'm standing beside on the Home page. This is a week-long assignment (and rubric) that she carried out with her English Media class at the end of a unit about "Representation in Media". She has supplied the lesson, the rubric and two pictures which you can get by clicking on the links below. Kate is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org
Writing a Lifeline
John McKellar has a fine lesson in the poetry section and this lesson incorporates poetry as a starting point for groups of students writing and presenting a lifeline using various media and writing styles. John has submitted a description of the lesson along with a list of suitable poems and some of his own. John teaches at West Redcar Comprehensive School, an 11-16 mixed comp., in Redcar, County Cleveland in the North East of England and can be reached at email@example.com
Pardon Me, Your Modifier is Dangling
This lesson is also entitled A Creative Way to Teach Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers. It has been submitted by Melanie LaFleur who teaches at
Stanley High School in and she has not only included the lesson and instructions, but a huge list of sentences which display the often hilarious and confusing effects of misplaced and dangling modifiers. Melanie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org-- the lesson is available in two formats: Logansport, LA
The Memoir Unit
As the name suggests, this is a unit of ten lessons which is as much literature study as writing assignments and a review and practice of writing terms and structures. It has been submitted by Jeremy Glazer who teaches in Miami, Florida. The unit is quite adaptable and can be modified to suit your needs. Jeremy has included very complete instructions. He can be reached at email@example.com
Contemporary Issues Vocabulary List
After 35 years of teaching English at Petaluma High School in Petaluma, California, Mark Reischling decided to retire. However, before he did, he submitted the list which was the vocabulary requirement in his Contemporary Issues class. Mark got his students to develop their voice in written and oral language "by making the topics so meaty they jumped on it/them." Take and look and you can reach Mark with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
Parts of a Paragraph
Mylissa Poppe, who teaches at Bishop Reding Secondary in Milton, Ontario, says that this lesson is "a great way to get students thinking about the parts of a paragraph and to give tactile learners an interesting way of putting things into perspective." It can be used at any level and works well as a competition. She has included the instructions and a sample paragraph to get you started. The lesson is in two formats:
Student Declaration of Independence
This is a "persuasive document to persuade faculty and administration to listen and take action in regards to your complaints" which has been submitted by Cathy Poston, who teaches at Liberty Union High School in Baltimore, Ohio. It is a fairly demanding writing exercise which Cathy uses in her American Literature course. Cathy can be reached at email@example.com
Marianne Garrigan has developed several great lessons and the first five are based on errors that she saw in her students' writing. Each lesson defines the topic and then tests the student's knowledge with a very thorough exercise. Marianne teaches language arts to a mix of high school and young adult students at the Haney Technical Center in Panama City, Florida and if you have questions or a compliment she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please Note: All of these lessons are in MS Word Format.
. The SELF Pronouns -- Reflexive Pronouns
Subject Verb Agreement
Non-Standard English Errors
Buzz Words in the News
Beginning and Ending an Essay
Time Capsule -- Cumulative Group Assignment (MS Word format)
Suzanne Meyer teaches at New Hanover High School in Wilmington, North Carolina and she has submitted this lesson that she uses in her Grade Nine Intro to English Class. The students create a time capsule as a cumulative group project after finishing their reading assignment. The nature of the lesson makes it perfect for students who may struggle with reading comprehension and text strategies. You can reach Suzanne at Suzanne Meyer <email@example.com>
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Bugs? Comments? Submit a lesson?