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ReadWriteThink Connections: English Journal Vol. 105, No. 2 (November 2015)

ReadWriteThink, created by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Literacy Association (ILA), provides free instructional practices and digital resources that support effective reading and language arts instruction for all learners. Most articles in English Journal include connections to ReadWriteThink lesson plans and other resources.


Lights, Camera, Write: How Scene Writing Can Help Students Write in Multiple Genres
This lesson invites students to use their understanding of modern experiences with digital technologies to make active meaning of an older text, such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, by asking students to create their own modern interpretation of specific events from the drama. Students first brainstorm a list of technologies they use,and then imagine what would happen if Romeo and Juliet were set in a modern-day world and that technology was available to the characters. Students work in small groups to create technology profiles for characters in the play and then discuss their ideas with the class. Next, students select from a variety of projects in which they reimagine a scene from the play with modern technology incorporated. Finally, students share their projects with the class and discuss why they made the choices of scene and technology that they did.

Photos as Witness: Teaching Visual Literacy for Research and Social Action
Found notes and photographs can provide inspiration for pieces of creative writing. After reviewing a sample story written from a found note and image, students search the Web for found images and notes that they find interesting. They then sketch the found image and label the parts they identify. They select one character from the image and write questions about how that character relates to other elements in the image. Next, students imagine what would happen if the character they identified in the image found the note they selected. They then write an interview with the character from their image or a description of the image from the character’s point of view. Students use an online tool to further develop the character they identified and to map the setting and conflict for a short story. Finally, students draft a short story based on the character, conflict, and setting they created.

Connected Reading Is the Heart of Research
As stated in the article, students learn about the purposes and techniques of annotation by examining text closely and critically. In this lesson plan from, students study sample annotations and identify the purposes annotation can se rve. Students then practice annotation through a careful reading of a story excerpt, usingspecific guidelines and writing as many annotations as possible. Students then work in pairs to peer review their annotations, practice using footnotes and PowerPoint to present annotations, and reflect on how creating annotations can change a reader’s perspective through personal connection with text.

Revolutionizing Inquiry in Urban English Classrooms: Pursuing Voice and Justice through Youth Participatory Action Research
The article describes how students can use photojournalism as part of their action research project. In this resource from, students explore both facts and feelings about a topic and make self–text–world connections as they prepare a presentation using word-processing and presentation software. Students select photos from websites or from ones they have taken that demonstrate their content understanding and communicate their feelings on the topic. They write and record a two-minute descriptive or persuasive script and pair the script with the photos using presentation software. Students and teacher assess the effectiveness of the presentation using the rubric and handouts provided.

Trespasser No More: Students as Columnists
In the article, students write their own Dear Andy/Andi columns. In this lesson plan from, students read and analyze the advice given in Mary Schmich’s 1997 Chicago Tribune column “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young,” which inspired the popular recording “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann. Exploring the column and its recording, students focus on both content and style through the following central questions: What advice is being given? To whom is it given? How good is this advice? Using similar analytical techniques, students then explore the advice that Polonius gives to Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Based on this exploration, students write their own advice poems as a final activity.

Keeping the Mic On: Emboldening Voices through Discussion-Based Inquiry
In this lesson from, students analyze their schooling experiences by imagining what their education would be like if service-learning was a requirement for graduation. They engage in a preliminary classroom debate—either agreeing with the proposed change in curriculum, opposing it, or taking a middle-ground stance—before they have all of the facts. From here, students research service-learning and work in groups to prepare informed debates. At the end of this lesson, students reflect on the implications of making uninformed vs. informed arguments as well as what it takes to build a strong, successful argument.

Venturing More Than a Guess: Self-Actualization through Literary Seminar and Research
In this lesson from, students observe the characteristics of effective small-group discussions through video examples or a “fishbowl” technique. In subsequent discussions, they are encouraged to interact with one another in a productive and respectful manner, with a focus on the value of exchanging meaningful compliments. Through targeted self-reflection, students set goals for improving their participation in productive discussions and take responsibility for monitoring their progress. Although this lesson is recommended for middle school students, it could also be used effectively with both younger and older students.

Preparing Our Close Readers for the New Literacies
Research suggests that online reading requires a different set of skills and strategies than offline reading. These different skills and strategies are required because online reading is frequently information seeking, guided by the reader (rather than the teacher) and nonlinear (readers follow a series of hyperlinks and navigate through multiple windows rather than reading something from beginning to end). The skills required for successful online reading are the ability to formulate appropriate questions; locate reliable information; and evaluate, synthesize, and communicate that information.
    Additionally, because online reading occurs within rapidly changing technology that may or may not be familiar to teachers, and that students are frequently engaged with outside of school, lessons that build on students’ prior knowledge of these technologies can and should be employed. In this Strategy Guide you will learn how online reading differs from offline reading and strategies to build and reinforce the skills that online reading requires.

Putting Research Center Stage: Performance-Driven Student Inquiry
After taking a virtual tour of the Globe Theatre in Elizabethan London, students use graphic organizers to compare attending a performance at the Globe to attending a current professional production (such as a play on Broadway) or to viewing a movie at a local theater. They discuss the similarities and differences in the theaters and imagine what types of products might have been advertised in Elizabethan time, if the Globe showed commercials before the play like modern movie theaters do. They then work collaboratively in small groups to create a commercial advertisement geared toward an Elizabethan audience to promote one of today’s products or conveniences. This activity helps students better understand the Elizabethan times and Elizabethan theater audiences, as well as persuasive advertising techniques.

Dodging the "R" Word: Research as a Tacit Process
This lesson is intended to expand on students’ basic persuasive speaking and research skills. First, students research a local, state, national, or international issue of personal interest. During five class sessions, students use multiple online news sources to research up-to-date information that helps them form and communicate their opinions about the issue; practice working with podcasting tools; and create and share a two-minute persuasive podcast in class. Note that, depending on your classroom plans, this lesson may have cross-curricular applications (e.g., in the areas of social studies, science, and economics).

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