The Best ELA Lessons from Addie Williams

What's your best lesson? Is it also your favourite?  What part of  ELA do you enjoy teaching the most?  It seems that I say every unit is my favourite on the day I introduce it to my students! It's hard to pick... and my enthusiasm knows no bounds. I'm thrilled to be linking up with some awesome ELA teachers to learn more about their favourite or best lesson ideas - we can learn so much from each other!  Thanks to Secondary Sara for putting this all together and organizing us!  

I love teaching English and in particular, I love to teach students how to enjoy and improve their writing.  I know that writing can be challenging for students and it's frustrating to grade their essays and paragraphs and see the same errors over and over again.  I also know it can be frustrating for students to constantly lose points for the same errors over and over again as well. 

Make it FunStudents need to write and write often.  The more they write and read other's writing the more comfortable they will be with the writing process.  I try to make writing as fun as I can... I use engaging writing prompts at least once a week.  Try using the writing prompt "Would You Rather?"  Would you rather... live in a bathtub for a week or live on the couch?  Would you rather be Scout or Jem? Would you rather eat a bowl of spiders or a bowl of ants?  Relate your question to the novel you're reading, a holiday or just make up one that's guaranteed to get your students talking. Here's a link to a huge selection of FREE "Would You Rather?" question prompts on TeachersPayTeachers - I have used them with students from 5th-12th grade with great success!

Show Your Students GOOD Writing - It's hard for students to see the errors in their writing... it's challenging for them to see where they are going wrong with their organization, their voice, and their structure... so showing them examples of what you're looking for can be very helpful.  Mentor texts can be found online, can be examples of student work from previous years or examples from another teacher.  Share the mentor texts with students, talk about them, read them, assess them with the same grading rubric you use.  Many of my writing activities include mentor text for students and I ask them to assess the mentor texts using the same grading rubric I use. 

Peer Edit - I believe strongly in the power of Peer Editing.  It allows students to share their writing with others and lets others see what their peers are capable of writing.  Students will learn from each other and perhaps in providing feedback to others, will see how they can improve their own writing. To see how I run peer editing in my classroom, check out this blog post HERE.  Like the mentor texts, I have students assess their peers using the same grading rubric I use to assess their writing.  

Direct the Writing Process - Students need to learn that there is a writing process and that there are steps to ensure writing success.  From the first seeds of a brainstorm to the final edits, students need to be shown and guided and I love showing students their growth after they've followed the process. I require that all students complete all of the steps and I like to check in with them at every step of the way. If we're all working on the same prompt or topic I like to do a group brainstorm and have students share ideas with each other and the class.  I might even provide a topic sentence/thesis to help get them on their way.  Sometimes all the students need is a nudge in the right direction.  I know how long it can take to grade student writing - it can take hours!!! But... the value in providing good feedback can't be overlooked... so I often will look over their rough drafts and spend most of my time on the first page.... it saves me time and I know that the remainder of their work will probably be similar.  With good peer editing, I am hopeful that students will avoid many of the more common writing errors.

Check out my FREE Expository Writing Activity - The Town Times HERE for a look at how I organize a writing activity... it's a small sample of the writing activities included in the pack.  
My most popular resource is my Writing Pack - it includes everything you need to guide students through Narrative, Persuasive, Descriptive and Expository Writing and includes all brainstorming, planning, editing and peer editing activities for writing success.  I have managed to use these activities with students from 5th - 11th grade and have designed them all to be easily differentiated for varying ages and abilities.  Over 50 pages of mentor texts, rubrics, planning pages and more!


Remembrance Day Lesson and Ideas for Middle / High School Students

As Remembrance Day draws near, it can be challenging for students to truly understand the impact that the World Wars had on Canadian families.  I don't think I truly understood the enormity of it all until I stood in a World War II cemetery in Normandy, France.  It wasn't until I stood and read the sweet messages of love that were carved into the gravestones that I could really appreciate the sacrifice of each of the young men.  Although I don't have children of my own, I looked at the high school students I was with on a field trip and tried to imagine sending them off to war and then the heartbreak of finding out that they had died serving their country.  The memory of that moment is etched in my mind forever... and I know that it sticks with my students as well.

Although I can't take every student I teach on a field trip to the battlefields of Normandy I can share my own experiences and photos of my trip with them.  If they say a photo is worth a 1000 words then I will share as many photos with my students as I can.  Here is a resource I have used with my students over the years that I created using photos I took at various memorial sites in France. Combining the photos with quotes makes for a powerful writing exercise for students.  Click the image below to check out the Writing for Remembrance activity in my TpT store - it includes a PowerPoint of each photo with a quote and unique writing paper templates.  Makes a great classroom or hallway display.

There are also many emotional and powerful images available online that will help your students imagine what it was like to fight in years past or to be a member of the Canadian Forces now.  

The Canadian War Museum has an impressive collection of photos you can use as writing prompts in your classroom - click HERE to check out their WWI collection.

For a different spin on things why not show your students examples of Canadian War Art and talk about the difference in seeing a photo versus a painting.  Click HERE to see examples.  
Some questions to ask your students about the art could include - Why did artists feel it was important to capture the images of war?  How does the use of color change your idea of the wars as most photos are black and white?  

For a more modern look at Canada's Armed Forces check out this collection of 

Be sure to check out the official website (full of amazing resources) from Veterans Affairs Canada - they have an incredible library of resources.  Be sure to download the annual poster for your classroom and bookmarks for your students.

Highway of Heroes - Music by the Trews set to powerful images of our Canadian soldiers.

A Pittance of Time - by Terry Kelly - song and video about taking time to remember.  Would be great to use as a discussion start or journal prompt.

History of Aboriginal People in Canada's Military - a look back in time at the important role of Aboriginal people

I hope you and your students take a moment to pause and reflect about what Remembrance Day means to Canadians and the sacrifice that many have given.

Be sure to check out the great posts from more Canadian bloggers - there are some amazing ideas to share.  Big thanks to Two Peas and a Dog for organizing all of us!

Remembrance Day Resources For All Grades
Primary Teaching Resources by Nicole
The Primary Patch
Teacher Talk
Diamond Mom's Treasury of Teaching Resources
That Fun Reading Teacher
Reading With Miss D
Teaching Elementary and Beyond
Dancing into First
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