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ReadWriteThink Connections: English Journal Vol. 106, No. 5 (May 2017)

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. Each issue of  English Journal includes connections to ReadWriteThink lesson plans and other resources.

—Lisa Storm Fink

Theme: Textual Revolution: Reading and Writing the Word and the World

Debating ELA’s Economic Mission
In this minilesson from, students respond to a hypothetical situation by writing about their position on the subject. After sharing their thoughts with the class, students consider the opposite point of view and write about arguments for that position. They then compare their position with that of their potential audience, looking for areas of overlap. They then revise their arguments, with the audience’s point of view and areas of commonality in mind. Examining the opposing view allows students to better decide how to counter their opponent logically, perhaps finding common ground from which their arguments might grow. Thus, the activity becomes a lesson not only in choosing arguments but also in anticipating audience reaction and adapting to it.

Girls Writing Science: Opening Up Access in a Girls’ Reading and Writing Group
Books about science allow readers to encounter new concepts, ask new questions, and discover what we can learn simply by paying close attention to our surroundings. Tune in to this podcast episode to hear about an array of science books for teens, books that offer up crisp writing and memorable characters while telling a good story. You’ll hear about ecology and climate change, food production, infectious disease, ancient human history, the universe, and our power as humans for both ingenuity and destruction.

How Students Read: Some Thoughts on Why This Matters
Traditionally, teachers have encouraged students to engage with and interpret literature—novels, poems, short stories, and plays. Too often, however, the spoken word is left unanalyzed, even though the spoken word has the potential to alter our space just as much as the written. After gaining skill through analyzing a historic and contemporary speech as a class, students will select a famous speech from a list compiled from several resources and write an essay that identifies and explains the rhetorical strategies that the author deliberately chose while crafting the text to make an effective argument. Their analysis will consider questions such as, What makes the speech an argument? How did the author’s rhetoric evoke a response from the audience? Why are the words still venerated today?

Women in or outside of the Canon: Helping High School Students Investigate the Role of Women in “Literature”
Books for teen girls are a big business, but it’s not always easy to identify titles that depict strong and independent girl characters. Feminist books for teens, celebrated each year on the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer list, highlight the power girls have to chart the course of their own lives. In this podcast episode from, you’ll hear about a variety of feminist books for teens, including works of realistic fiction as well as fantasy, biography, historical fiction, and satire.

But We Don’t Got Nothing: Countering Rural Brain Drain by Forging Authentic Connections through Text
Students thrive in an environment where they are active participants in their learning. In this activity, students listen to My Teacher’s Secret Life, discuss the content, and make predictions about what the teacher and their peers do when they are away from school. After charting both student and teacher activities, the teacher models writing a book of his or her life outside school. Working on their own, students draw glimpses of their personal lives on a planning sheet and use it in the class to create presentations about their lives that they then share with their classmates.

Making Sense of Events in Literature through Rewriting Narrative Events
This lesson from pairs reading and discussion of Tim O’Brien’s story “The Things They Carried” with a letter-writing activity intended to help students develop the empathy needed to be insightful readers and to give students the opportunity to examine the symbolic weights they carry and, in turn, create meaningful, dynamic, and publishable prose. Students begin by listing all the things they carry, both literal and symbolic, and then think about the symbolic weight of these items. Next, after discussing O’Brien’s story and how some of the things listed in the story reveal character, they return to their own lists to add anything they may have forgotten. They next write about three of the most significant weights they carry from their lists, describing the items and their importance to them. Finally, students write a letter to someone with whom they can share the weight of one of these things they carry.

The Cultural Diamond as an English Teacher’s Best Friend
In this lesson plan from, students practice writing effective letters for a variety of real-life situations, such as responding to a prompt on a standardized test, corresponding with distant family members, or communicating with a business. They begin by reviewing the differences between business and friendly letter formats, using examples and a Venn diagram. Next, students write two letters, choosing from a list of prompts that include letters for varying audiences and purposes. After completing drafts and revisions, students complete their final versions using an online tool.

A Principled Revolution in the Teaching of Writing
Writing is also a complex cognitive activity. Research has demonstrated that students improve their writing ability when cognitive strategies are demonstrated for them in clear and explicit ways. Students learn the forms and functions of writing as they observe and participate in writing events directed by knowledgeable writers, particularly when these events are followed by opportunities for independent writing. Instruction that makes writing processes visible to students is key to improving their writing skills. Several excellent instructional frameworks for writing, including modeled, shared, interactive, guided, or independent writing, can provide strong support for students’ successful writing based on the level and type of teacher support that is provided for students. During write-aloud, like think-aloud, teachers verbalize the internal dialog they use as they write a particular type of text, explicitly demonstrating metacognitive processes. Learn more in this strategy guide from

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A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts