Teaching the Strong Thesis Statement, Part Three

Well, we took another break, because we went on our winter vacation, and then we chaperoned a four-day school trip.  Such is teacher life. Back to work we get! When last we left our heroes, we were discussing strategies for teaching students to write thesis statements that won’t cause you to beat your head against the … Continue reading Teaching the Strong Thesis Statement, Part Three

Teaching the Strong Thesis Statement, Part Two

After the usual end-of-semester descent into grading hell, we are back with the promised Part Two of our series on thesis statements!  One of my projects with my students this month has been to get them to write shorter introductions, so in the spirit of that exercise, let’s get to the point: 2. Ask questions … Continue reading Teaching the Strong Thesis Statement, Part Two

Teaching the Strong Thesis Statement, Part One

This week, I asked my Facebook readers to suggest a topic for the blog and several people, especially my teacher pals, hit me with a lot of simmering angst about thesis statements and how students can’t write them.  There are dozens of online guides about how to write a good thesis statement, so I’m going … Continue reading Teaching the Strong Thesis Statement, Part One

Getting Squatters Out of Your Sentences

After “commas any time you pause” and “your thesis has no stakes,” this is the piece of writing wisdom I distribute most often to my students: adverbs are not your friends.  During this past week, as I’ve been helping seniors revise college essays in the Writing Lab at my Esteemed Place of Employment, I’ve been … Continue reading Getting Squatters Out of Your Sentences

Writing By Hand Is Good For You

I can take notes faster with my laptop, they tell me.  I can write down everything you say.  I can transfer it onto a Quizlet. I can spellcheck.  Taking notes by hand is slow! Yep.  I know.  You’re one hundred percent correct about all of those things.  And they add up to exactly why I … Continue reading Writing By Hand Is Good For You

Against the Essay Hook

It feels like the most commonly taught wisdom in English classes, especially in the lower grades of high school. “Start your essay with a hook.” Okay.  Interesting.  What’s a hook, exactly? “It’s an engaging opening sentence that grabs the reader’s attention.” Okay, sounds good, if a little vague.  How does it do that? “It gets … Continue reading Against the Essay Hook

Rules for Comma Usage, or Why Reading Out Loud Is the Best

When I began this blog, I decided it was not going to be about grammar.  While I’m actually a big dork who loves grammar and teaching grammar - it’s like a big puzzle that you get to solve over and over! - it’s not that exciting to write about the difference between a gerund and … Continue reading Rules for Comma Usage, or Why Reading Out Loud Is the Best

Paper Prompt: Noticing

It’s a new dawn and a new day for the 2019 - 2020 school year!  I have new groups of students and new classes to teach, and for those lucky enough to be enrolled in my literature seminars, that means new papers to write, coming up fast. I always begin literature seminars by assigning short … Continue reading Paper Prompt: Noticing

How to Know You’re Looking at Bad Writing: One Weird Trick

Back in the 90s, Denis Dutton, editor of the scholarly journal Philosophy and Literature, held a yearly “contest” for bad writing, intended to bring attention to “the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles published in the last few years.”  Anyone who has spent time in even the middle echelons of higher … Continue reading How to Know You’re Looking at Bad Writing: One Weird Trick

Verbs Are The Only Things That Matter

...okay, not quite the only things.  Nouns matter too.  We’ll give them their due later.  But verbs are the most important things. My favorite book to teach, second to none, is Paradise Lost - not just because John Milton (praised be his name) used the English language to create one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful … Continue reading Verbs Are The Only Things That Matter