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ReadWriteThink Connections: English Journal Vol. 106, No. 6 (July 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


Keeping It Real: Valuing Authenticity in the Writing Classroom
Teenagers are often outspoken and opinionated. Writing reviews of the literature they read gives them a chance to express their ideas while developing style and voice. This lesson uses discussion of student opinions about yesterday’s lunch or a popular TV show to serve as an introduction to the genre of reviews. Students then read and analyze conflicting reviews. After examining samples of movie, music, restaurant, and book reviews, students devise guidelines for writing interesting and informative reviews. They then produce their own reviews of the literature they’re reading in class. Finally, students compare their ideas and their pieces with published reviews of the same piece of literature.

Toward a Readership of “Real” People: A Case for Authentic Writing Opportunities
On a smaller scale than in the article, in this lesson plan, students plan, write, illustrate, and publish their own children’s picture books. First, students review illustrated children’s books to gain an understanding of the creative process and the elements that help make a children’s book successful. Next, students use graphic organizers to brainstorm ideas for the character, setting, and conflict of their own stories. Students then pitch their stories to their peers and use peer feedback as they develop their stories. Students create storyboards to plan the relationship between the illustrations and text. Finally, students use a variety of methods to bind their books in an attractive manner and present their books to their peers.

Art as Text: Seeing beyond the Obvious
In this lesson plan, after looking at an image that tells a story, students brainstorm about the possible events and characters the image illustrates. Students then write from the point of view of one of the characters in the image, sharing the character’s thoughts and feelings, describing the events that led up to the picture, or imagining the events that followed. 

Literature Circles for Adolescent Developmental Readers
While students interact with a range of print, visual, and sound texts, they do not always recognize that these many documents are texts. By creating an inventory of personal texts, students begin to consciously recognize the many literacy demands in contemporary society. Students begin by brainstorming a list of items that combine different ways of expressing ideas, such as a poster or DVD. After the lists are shared, list items are identified as texts
(audio texts, video texts, etc.). Students then create an inventory of significant texts that they have engaged with over a specified period of time, and discuss why it is important to interact with a variety of different types of texts. With this start, they create a working definition of literacy that they refine and explore as they continue their investigation of the texts that they interact with at home, at school, and in other settings.

Building Hopeful Secondary School Writers through Effective Feedback 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 own 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.

Which Helps Writers More, Receiving Peer Feedback or Giving It?
As part of the drafting and revision process for a current literary analysis essay (or another type of argument), students first participate in initial peer review to improve the argument in their essay. Then they inquire into published tips and advice on writing conclusions and analyze sample conclusions with a partner before choosing two strategies they would like to try in their own writing, drafting a conclusion that employs each. After writing two different conclusions and conferring with a peer about them, they choose one and reflect on why they chose it, as well as what they learned about writing conclusions and the writing process more broadly. Though this lesson is framed around an argumentative literary essay, its structure could be easily adapted to other written forms.

Springsteen, Spoken Word, and Social Justice: Engaging Students in Activism through Songs and Poetry
Protest songs serve as a means to combat social ills and cover a wide array of topics, including racism, sexism, poverty, imperialism, environmental degradation, war, and homophobia. This lesson makes a connection to popular culture by asking students to work in pairs to research and analyze contemporary and historic protest songs. After learning about wikis, each pair posts their analysis of the protest songs to a class wiki, adding graphics, photos, and hyperlinks as desired. The class then works together to organize the entries. Finally, students listen to all of the protest songs and add information and comments to each other’s pages. 

Argumentative Writing and the Common Core in the DCPS: A Qualitative Analysis of Student and Teacher Perceptions
In the survey, both teachers and students said they did not want a one-size-fits-all approach to argumentation. This strategy guide provides teachers with strategies for helping students understand the differences between persuasive writing and evidence-based argumentation. Students become familiar with the basic components of an argument and then develop their understanding by analyzing evidence-based arguments about texts. Students then generate evidence-based arguments of texts using a variety of resources.



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