Every day, teachers make a difference. In this time when teachers are seen as incompetent and lazy, and when we are being blamed for societal ills and failing students and schools, I wanted to provide some positive affirmation, something beyond that bumper sticker cliché of "If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher." After all, teaching goes beyond the classroom, beyond our instruction, and beyond the love of words.  Continue reading...
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High/low, yes/no, black/white. There's something reassuring about opposites. A lot of vocabulary teaching is done using pairs of opposites, and with good reason: learners really feel they have a handle on a concept if they grasp its antithesis. There are, however, some other concept families that are best learned using three terms — triples — that provide a middle ground which in turn enhances all three concepts.  Continue reading...
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How much is too much? Currently a commercial for AT&T is asking if more is better, and, of course, the little kids sitting in the circle clamor that more is definitely better. In the world of writing prompts, though, more or less becomes one of those debatable things. Be too specific, and a teacher may actually be limiting student creativity. Yet, being too vague might frazzle kids completely.  Continue reading...
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When Snoopy takes out his typewriter and begins to compose a novel atop his doghouse, he always begins with "It was a dark and stormy night..." This phrase — originally appearing in a schmaltzy 19th century British novel — has come to symbolize all that can go wrong with melodramatic writing, especially the clumsy attempts of a writer trying to evoke a dramatic setting within the first sentence of a work of literature.  Continue reading...
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In this interview, Lori Wilfong, author of Vocabulary Strategies That Work — Do This, Not That!, describes some of her pet peeves about traditional vocabulary instruction and gives us some fresh ideas about how teachers can enliven their practice with student-generated definitions, word walls, and word jars.  Continue reading...
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After a trying few weeks, English teacher Michele Dunaway has arrived at some insights about what kids learn in school: "Here are the things schools teach, the things schools and teachers do that can never be addressed or assessed by fill-in-the-bubbles."  Continue reading...
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The new semester is starting, and a colleague proudly announced on Facebook that he is banning laptops, tablets, and cell phones in his classes because students are using them to go on Facebook. Other colleagues, who seem always to be trumpeting their support for the digital revolution on their own Facebooks, promptly "commented" their own plans to institute classroom bans on these attention-sapping devices.  Continue reading...
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