10 Bright Ideas from Teacher-Author Teams

We love MiddleWeb articles that team a school-based teacher and a school-focused author/consultant who share classroom strategies they’ve been developing together.

The teachers are clearly restless to improve. And in every case, the author/consultants are former classroom teachers whose knowledge of and curiosity about effective practices have drawn them into research and professional development roles.

We’ve selected 10 examples from our trove of guest articles. Most of these pairs fall into the broad category of literacy and English Language Arts. But you’ll also find one math and two history contributions. We’d love to have more team-up articles from across the curriculum. Write for us.

How to Nurture a Passion for Reading Nonfiction

What can we do to encourage kids to choose nonfiction more frequently for personal enjoyment? Teacher Cate Gerard and consultant Sunday Cummins share what Cate discovered when interviewing middle graders about their reading habits and recommend class and virtual strategies and resources.

Writing Teachers Are Coaches, Not Umpires

Umpires focus on the correctness of the game. Coaches concentrate on the growth of their players. Teacher Courtney Rejent and consultant Patty McGee show how to shift the focus from correcting writing to helping students develop good writing strategies through coaching.

Tools to Help Writers Explain Good Evidence

Literacy consultant Sarah Tantillo and teacher Jamison Fort share his engaging multi-day lesson that helps student writers sort through multiple claims in the case of Sandra the Orangutan and identify the best evidence to support arguments. Graphic organizer included!

Help Students Make Sense of Multiple Sources

When your students read, view, and listen to multiple sources on a topic or issue, do they tackle each source in a silo? Teacher Martha Polley and consultant Sunday Cummins break down Martha’s dive into helping students think across history sources and synthesize what they find to deepen their understanding.

Conferring: A Powerful Tool Across Disciplines

Unlike quick teacher check-ins, teaching conferences allow for a deep conversation with a student in just 5 or 6 minutes. And they’re not just for ELA teachers and balanced literacy. Middle school instructional coach Katie McGrath (a member of consultant Gravity Goldberg’s coaching co-op) shares step by step conferring tips to target learning in any content area.

4 Vocab Steps Help Kids Grasp Information Text

Understanding concept words like ‘innovative’ can help students to make sense of complex sources. Britany Harris and Sunday Cummins share a four-step process to introduce a few new vocabulary words before reading an information text and then focus on them as kids read, talk and write.

Help Students Explain Their Ideas in Writing

Consultant Sarah Tantillo worked with 8th grade teacher Bianca Licata to analyze students’ difficulty in effectively explaining how evidence supports arguments in their writing. After they identified causes and potential solutions, Licata tested their ideas in class.

Use Talk about Texts to Grow Conversation Skills

Are students who increasingly communicate through bits of digital text missing the chance to develop live conversation skills? In her middle grades classroom, Nancy Costanzo has crafted strategies to help kids both deepen their understanding and become skilled conversationalists. Nancy has worked closely with consultant Patty McGee (who introduced Nancy to us).

Honing Our Questions to Deepen History Learning

To foster social studies students who are more curious, collaborative and invested, Katie McGrath worked with a district team and professional consultants to hone essential questions and develop a process of “micro-progression” that leads each student to understanding. Steps and examples for history class included!

Picture Books: Perfect for Middle Schoolers

Students at ages 9-13 still want to hear their teachers read aloud, want to sit on the rug, want to engage in stories. Teacher Jennifer Sniadecki and teacher education professor Jason DeHart share evidence that picture books are also an effective way to teach figurative language and other ELA standards.


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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