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ReadWriteThink Connections: English Journal Vol. 105, No. 3 (January 2016)

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.


Individual Learning through One-on-One Teaching
“I liked your story about you and Paul. I think you should add a little more detail and you should change the end two sentences so it will sound better.”
      Sound familiar? This student response to a peer’s draft is all too typical of the way untrained students give feedback on each other’s drafts during response groups. The PQP technique—Praise–Question–Polish—requires group members to take a turn reading their drafts aloud as the other students follow along with copies. This oral reading helps the writer to hear the piece in another voice and to identify possible changes independently. The responders then react to the piece by writing specific comments guided by questions on the PQP form, which require examples of praiseworthy elements, questions the responders have about the draft, and suggestions for improvement.

Nurturing Caring Relationships through Five Simple Rules
When we intentionally respond to the diverse needs of our students, we are differentiating the product, process, or content of learning according to the learning style, interest, or readiness of our students. In this Strategy Guide, you’ll learn about a number of specific methods that can help you to gain a fuller picture of the interests of your students as well as what your students understand, know, and can demonstrate by doing.

Reimagining the Role of the Reader in the Common Core Standards
In addition to developing background knowledge about allusions and the etymology of key words, in the lesson plan “Sonic Patterns: Exploring Poetic Techniques through Close Reading,” students use an online tool to examine the relationship between the speaker and his father in Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays.” Then students explore how the poet uses consonance, assonance, and alliteration to illustrate this complex relationship. Finally, students use the idea of a composed memory and their knowledge of sonic patterns to draft, revise, and share an original text.

Cultivating Literacy and Relationships with Adolescent Scholars of Color
“Explore Your Reading Self” invites teens and parents to reflect on their reading histories. With an eye toward understanding their feelings about reading, teens will recall their earliest reading experiences up to the most recent ones. Using an online tool, teens will create a graphic map of books they’ve read and rate each reading experience. Was it positive or negative? After thinking, talking, drawing, and writing about reading, your teen will reread a favorite book and choose a fun activity related to it.

Reading and Writing Relationships: Narratives as the Core of the English Classroom
When students make real-world connections between themselves and their community, they can participate in authentic communication activities based on issues that matter to them personally. In this activity, students research a decade in their school’s history, with small groups researching specific topics. Within each group, students take on specific roles, such as archivist, manager, techie, or researcher. Students become active archivists, gathering photos, artifacts, interviews, and stories for a museum exhibit that highlights one decade in their school’s history. The final project can be shared and displayed in your classroom, in the school auditorium, or in the library.

Knowing When to Shut Up: Suggestions for Creating a Collaborative Learning Environment
“Literary Characters on Trial: Combining Persuasion and Literary Analysis” provides a model for having a trial in the classroom. After reading a work of literature as a class, students will brainstorm “crimes” committed by characters from that text. Groups of students will work together to act as the prosecution or defense for the selected characters, while also acting as the jury for other groups. Students will use several sources to research for their case, including the novel and Internet resources. All the while, students will be writing a persuasive piece to complement their trial work.

Partner Learning (Havruta) for Close Reading Comprehension
Shared reading offers rich instructional opportunities as teachers share in the workload while students access the text too. Embedded in the middle of the gradual release of responsibility, shared reading has elements of a read-aloud and guided reading, but it’s most valuable for explicit demonstration opportunities with shared text. Learn more in this strategy guide from

You Are Not a Deficit: Reading Relationships in an Australian New Arrival Program
Young adult literature is dominated by stories of middle-class teens, but many young people face a different set of challenges. Their lives are constrained by poverty, neglect, or abuse. They live in foster care or group homes, in shelters or on the streets. They experience trauma and they struggle to survive. In the podcast “Teens on the Margins,” you’ll hear about an assortment of old and new titles featuring teens who live on the margins of middle-class society—teens whose lives too often go unseen.

Writing as Relationship
The author shares the importance of drafting and dialogue. The lesson plan “Draft Letters: Improving Student Writing through Critical Thinking” shares some other strategies. Draft letters are a simple strategy that asks students to think critically about their writing on a specific assignment before submitting their work to a reader. Students write reflective letters to the teacher, identifying their thoughts on the piece that the teacher is about to read. This lesson explains the strategy and provides models for the project, which can be adapted for any grade level and any writing project. It may be completed only for major assignments or on a more regular basis with all composition that students do.

Reading To Kill a Mockingbird in Community: Relationships and Renewal
An additional idea for teaching To Kill a Mockingbird can be found in the lesson plan “Spend a Day in My Shoes: Exploring the Role of Perspective in Narrative.” In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus explains to Scout that “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” (36). Make this advice more literal by inviting students to imagine spending a day in someone else’s shoes in this writing activity. Students examine a variety of shoes and envision what the owner would look like, such as their appearance, actions, etc. They then write a narrative, telling the story of a day in the shoe owner’s life. While this lesson plan uses the quotation from To Kill a Mockingbird as a springboard and ties nicely to discussions of the novel, it can be completed even if students are not currently reading the book.

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