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!


  1. Using mentor texts has been a game changer for me. I agree that it's so much easier for them to evaluate writing when it's not their own. Process is key too. Thanks for sharing your tips and ideas!

  2. Using mentor texts really allows students to get critical without the fear of hurting anyone's feelings. I love your ideas for writing, especially the "Would You Rather?" prompts. Thanks, Addie!

  3. Good ideas! Thanks for sharing. I like the Would you rather ideas, and especially relating them to the current work. I always feel like tying it in helps keep a task from feeling like busy-work.

  4. I couldn't agree more.
    When I worked in the teacher credentialing program we had "cave time" where they just reflected on their week. For new interns time to breath and think was fun! Your blog is beautiful. Do you mind if I asked who did the art work? Great post, thank you so much. K

    1. Thanks Kimberly! My friend who sells under the name "Mae Hates Mondays" did my avatar - she has a shop on TpT and does custom desgins - and I designed my blog header and blog.


  5. Wow, what a great list of tips for helping students become stronger writers. I completely agree with you! Incorporating strong and weak writing samples makes it so much easier for students to be able to identify what good writing looks like and gives them a basis to compare their own writing. Thank you so much for sharing, Addie! :)

  6. The mentor texts - they have changed the way I teach! My students write well when they understand what I expect and what they are capable of writing.

    Your bathroom - couch question, hilarious. :)

  7. The free resource is amazing! Thank you for sharing. I really like how you scaffold your writing for students!

  8. I completely agree with you about the importance of teaching all of the steps in the writing process! Good writing doesn't usually make an appearance in a first draft or just pop out of a student's head. It takes working and reworking a draft to perfect it. I tell my students that I once heard Poet Laureate Rita Dove say about her writing process that she "loves the 20th draft." Imagine what students would say if we required even half as many drafts!

    Also, thank you for the amazing Town Times free resource linked to your post. I plan to use it with "The Lottery" the next time I teach it. It's awesome!

  9. Thanks for sharing the "Would You Rather" prompts! I'm teaching TKAM right now and plan to use your idea, "Would you rather be Scout or Jem?" this week! I know my students will love this creative approach to writing.

  10. I am all about making it fun! "Would you rather" is a great way to do this - thanks!


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