☆ Teacher Favorites: 20 MiddleWeb ELA Articles

Each of these English Language Arts-oriented articles (dating back to 2012) has enjoyed thousands of reads since it was first published at MiddleWeb. We hope you find some helpful ideas and inspiration for the new school year! ~ John & Susan, MiddleWeb co-editors.


Using Socratic Seminars in the Middle Grades
Learn how Socratic Seminars can help students develop effective habits of discussion, explain their ideas, and support them with evidence. Sarah Tantillo, author of The Literacy Cookbook, offers step- by-step tips and resources, with an ELA twist.

The 10-Minute Vocabulary Lesson
Brief encounters with academic vocabulary can add hundreds of words to a student’s collection every year. How to find the time for those short lessons in a busy school day? Marilee Sprenger, author of Vocab Rehab, shares ten 10-minute possibilities in this much-read article.

How to Close-Read the Language of Film
When students are challenged to “close read” a movie, they must not only learn how to deconstruct the story, they must also understand the many techniques that are used by filmmakers to create the total effect, says expert Frank Baker. Teachers can help students see that “close reading” isn’t just about books.

3 Digital Tools to Help Meet ELA Standards
Teaching consultant Mike Fisher, co-author of Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students, homes in on two “upgrades” – technology integration and Common Core alignment. Included: ways to use the cool digital tools Picktochart, Smore and Yapp.

Creating Cross-Curricular Text Sets
Teachers can help students explore important connections across different genres and subjects using “text sets” – collections of books and other media with a common theme. In this MiddleWeb article, teacher educator Amanda Wall details a college assignment creating text sets for fiction and non-fiction.

Teach Kids to Build Their Own Prior Knowledge
Many teachers are frustrated by Common Core directions to ignore prior knowledge when teaching students to analyze texts, says literacy coach Laura Robb, author of Unlocking Complex Texts. She recommends a proactive approach: show students how to do it for themselves. Tips included!

CCSS Secrets: How to Teach Argument vs. Evidence
One of the things students struggle with in just about every subject is distinguishing between argument and evidence. It’s a problem that manifests itself in both reading and writing, says Sarah Tantillo. She shares six steps that can help students strengthen this important Common Core skill.

CommonLit’s Free Texts Help Explore Big Ideas
CommonLit.org is a nonprofit organization building a growing collection of supplemental texts, curated by teachers, for teachers, writes founder Michelle Brown. The free and open resource is cross-curricular and organized around themes and essential questions.

Writing 6-Word Memoirs With a Comics Twist
Kevin Hodgson assumed his students would enjoy writing Six Word Memoirs, particularly within a (free) comics-making site. What he didn’t expect was the level of enthusiasm, as even struggling writers dove into the concept, creating a wide range of (very) short stories.

Turning Reading Strategies into Action Steps
When reading strategies include a series of actionable steps, students can follow them as they learn to master skills. Using the teaching of tying shoes as an analogy, literacy expert Jennifer Serravallo, author of The Reading Strategies Book, offers examples of the kinds of supports teachers can provide to learners as they travel the path to automaticity.

Lesson Idea: Use Technology to Teach Sentence Combining
Technology allows us to record and reflect on the writing process in ways that pencil and paper could not, says digital writing expert Troy Hicks, author of Crafting Digital Writing and (with Jeremy Hyler) Create, Compose, Connect. The MS teacher turned college prof demonstrates with a video demo’ing how we might teach sentence combining.

Close Reading of Advertising Promotes Critical Thinking
Advertising: it’s everywhere. As media literacy educators work to engage students in conversations about commercial marketing, we have to consider the close reading of print and video ads. Expert Frank Baker, author of Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom, provides starting points and resources for teachers.

Making Room for Poetry in Common Core Classrooms
How often do you share poetry with students? Reading interventionist and literacy coach Gwen Flaskamp shows how increasing students’ experience with poetry can build literacy and analytical and social-emotional skills and help meet Common Core standards.

Seven Simple Steps to Better Student Writing
Good writing instruction doesn’t have to be complicated, says literacy consultant Sarah Tantillo. No matter what genre you’re teaching – a paragraph, a timed essay or a full-blown research paper – she recommends these 7 basic steps. Rubric included!

Why We Should Let Students Read Whole Novels
Eighth grade teacher Ariel Sacks says that by teaching novels “whole” she has been able to ignite interest in books, deepen discussions and improve reading comprehension. Sacks, author of Whole Novels for the Whole Class, shares her rationale, her method, and reactions from her urban middle school students.

Skimming: The Overlooked Close Reading Skill
Although skimming might seem to be the opposite of close reading, it is a crucial Common Core skill for pulling information out of a text – and one that’s often overlooked by teachers, says literacy consultant Sarah Tantillo.

The Joys of Reading Aloud Closely
Continuing a long tradition, Mary Tarashuk reads a novel aloud to her fourth graders after lunch. But this past year, in pursuit of “close reading,” she tried out several graphic organizers to help them probe deeper into the dramatic novel Red Kayak.

Our Students Often Learn Better Together
For ELA teacher Cheryl Mizerny, the most effective learning strategy often begins with students working collaboratively in small groups. Mizerny shows how this works during a Grammar, Usage & Mechanics lesson and another on the characteristics of personal narrative.

4 Ways to Motivate Kids to Tackle Complex Text
Seventh grade teacher Kami Spampinato uses four kid-savvy strategies to get her students to “buy in” to reading complex texts. In this post, former MS educator Anne Vilen of Expeditionary Learning summarizes each technique and shares supporting EL videos.

How Our Mock Trial Improved Argument Writing
Urban ELA teacher Mackenzie Grate found mock trials to be the perfect vehicle to encourage reading, teach speaking & listening, and prepare her 6th graders for their first argumentative writing essay. How-to tips, downloads and lessons learned included.

Word Study: How to Rock Greek & Latin Roots
When you think of Greek and Latin roots, you think high student engagement, right? No Read on! ELA teacher Amber Chandler plans to make all those old roots rock this fall as she introduces the concepts of language development and acquisition to her students.


Advice for Teachers Itching to Write Books
Kate Messner was a veteran middle grades teacher when she began to write books for children and often shared work in progress with students as part her teaching process. This article includes advice from 59 Reasons to Write, her new book for educators who yearn to be authors of Young Adult books and other fiction.


MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

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