One day, in my first year of teaching high school, I made (as one does in their first year of teaching high school) a huge mistake. I told my students they could use the first person singular in their papers. “Really?” they said, going goggle-eyed and slack-jawed. “We can? We’ve always been told we can’t!” … Continue reading Just Because You Can…
At least a few times per semester at my Esteemed Place of Employment, I will have a conversation with a student in the Writing Lab that goes about like this: “Who’s the audience for this paper?” I ask. “Mr. Johnson,” replies the student, if the student replies.* “Okay. What does it mean to write something … Continue reading What Does it Mean to “Know Your Audience”?
Every so often, my students will ask for my opinion regarding a writing matter on which I have no opinion - and that’s tough, because as anyone close to me can tell you, I have opinions on most things! But since these come up from time to time, and I will continue to resolutely not … Continue reading Five Writing “Controversies” I Will Not Engage
The other day, as I was about to hand back some lit analysis essays my students had written, I asked them a question that had been on my mind for some time: what do you guys have against the word people? I had noticed a pattern across their papers that, when discussing characters in books … Continue reading Build Your Vocabulary (And Then Don’t Use It)
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
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
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