Writer's Notebook

How to get Started with Mentor Sentences

How to get Started with Mentor Sentences

Mentor sentences are an excellent tool to use in the secondary ELA classroom to model essential skills from grammar to literary devices.  They reinforce quality writing skills from published in authors in a positive way rather than the traditional sentence correction method that modeled negative traits.  

8 Ways to Help Students Break Through Writer’s Block

8 Ways to Help Students Break Through Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is real.  It can be the brick wall that stands between success and failure.  And it can be the force that prevents students from completing writing assignments.

Prompt Sticks Reflection Game: An Interactive Way to Reflect Back on the School Year

Prompt Sticks Reflection Game: An Interactive Way to Reflect Back on the School Year

There are lots of creative ways to facilitate reflection at the end of the school year.  Integrating novelty into any lesson makes it more interesting, and the same concept applies to reflection questions.

Tone Tunes: Using Music to Teach Tone in Poetry

Tone Tunes: Using Music to Teach Tone in Poetry

Being able to decipher the tone of a piece of writing is crucial to being able to decipher the thematic message of a text.  This is absolutely true for analyzing poetry.

The Art of the One-Pager

The Art of the One-Pager

One-pagers are all the rage these days. When students process their learning in this fun visual style, the results are powerful.

National Poetry Month: A WHOLE MONTH of Poetry Activities for Secondary ELA

National Poetry Month:  A WHOLE MONTH of Poetry Activities for Secondary ELA

Love it or hate it, poetry is unavoidable in the secondary ELA classroom.  I, for one, am a HUGE lover of poetry but fully acknowledge that it can be annoyingly cryptic at times.  Reading poetry reminds us that not all texts are meant to be beat "with a hose to find out what [they] really mean" like in the Billy Collins poem "Introduction to Poetry." 

Three Famous Christmas Speeches to Inspire Writing

Three Famous Christmas Speeches to Inspire Writing

It's the "most wonderful time of the year" once again!  Every year, the holiday season inspires new movie ideas, and some of these movies go on to become some of the most beloved films of all time with some of the most well-known movie speeches in film history.

Thanksgiving & Abraham Lincoln: A Rhetorical Analysis Activity

Thanksgiving & Abraham Lincoln:  A Rhetorical Analysis Activity

For Thanksgiving this year, I decided to go back to the roots of our celebrated "Turkey Day" to address the fact that the original Thanksgiving had nothing to do with pilgrims or turkeys at all.

The Logline: A Screenwriting Tool for Text Analysis

The Logline:  A Screenwriting Tool for Text Analysis

In screenwriting (writing for movies and TV), the logline is key to brainstorming story ideas and also selling them or "pitching" them to buyers.  Crafting loglines can help the writer to flesh out new plot ideas before writing the entire script.  It's much easier to revise the logline rather than an entire hundred page script!  

Writing is Recursive, NOT Linear: Free Task Cards Included!

Writing is Recursive, NOT Linear:  Free Task Cards Included!

Writing goes all ways: forwards, backwards, sideways, over there, and over here.  In fact, the only piece of the writing process that occurs at a set point in time is publishing.

Commentary for Literary Analysis:  Four Square Strategy for Success

Commentary for Literary Analysis:  Four Square Strategy for Success

Do you ever see something like this when grading literary analysis essays?

“Frankenstein’s monster says, ‘If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!’”  This shows that the monster wants to cause fear.”

Daily Writing Prompts to Inspire New Ideas

Daily Writing Prompts to Inspire New Ideas

TeachWriting.org has announced a new writing project for the 2017-2018 school year.  This year, the collaborators at TeachWriting are creating DAILY WRITING PROMPTS via their Facebook Page.

20 Prompts for Photo-Inspired Writing in Secondary ELA

20 Prompts for Photo-Inspired Writing in Secondary ELA

Using photography is an excellent way to inspire writing.  Photos can be used to prompt personal narratives, persuasive essays, creative pieces, op-eds, thematic analysis, and more!  

TEN Writing Assignments to Build a Writing Community in the Classroom

TEN Writing Assignments to Build a Writing Community in the Classroom

Creative writing is the art of constructing original ideas by synthesizing literary elements and techniques to communicate an overarching theme about life.  Oftentimes in our English classes, we spend more time on the deconstruction process, analyzing works of art by taking them apart.

ELA Live Series 2017-- PD for English Teachers on Facebook

This fall, a group of English teachers is coming together to share tips, strategies, and lessons for teaching English on the secondary level through Facebook LIVE!  This series will take place from August 1-15, and a different English teacher will broadcast every single day.  

I will be broadcasting on August 2nd at 9:00pm EST, and I am so excited to share strategies for crafting commentary for literary analysis essays.  This is the one essay skill that is a challenge for both students and teachers.  Hopefully, we can come together to share ideas for how to target this writing skill from the very beginning of the school year! 

Be sure to follow the Bespoke ELA Facebook Page so that you will be alerted when I go LIVE.


Here is the lineup of topics and presenters for the ELA LIVE Series.  Click on each presenter to go directly to that person's Facebook page for their FB LIVE broadcast!  We hope to see you in the comments.

Aug. 1st at 9 pm EST
"Project Based Learning for Secondary English Classrooms" with
Mud & Ink Teaching

Aug. 2nd at 9 pm EST
"Strategies for Writing Commentary for Literary Analysis" with Bespoke ELA

Aug. 3rd at 9 pm EST
"Ideas and Strategies to Incorporate Choice Reading" with Doc Cop

Aug. 4th at 9 pm EST
"Pinpoint the Source of Most Reading Problems in Five Minutes" with Reading Simplified

Aug. 5th at 9 pm EST
"How to Teach Students to Elaborate on their Thinking" with English, Oh My! 

Aug. 6th at 9 pm EST
"How to Run a Book Club" with The Reading and Writing Haven

Aug. 7th at 9 pm EST
"Encourage Independent Reading in Reluctant Learners" with Samson's Shoppe

Aug. 8th at 9 pm EST
"Using Showcase Projects to Increase Engagement" with Spark Creativity

Aug. 9th at 4 pm EST
"How to Publish Student Writing Online and Create E-Portfolios" with Amanda Write Now

Aug. 10th at 9 pm EST
"5 Hidden Gems (books!) that Both Teachers and Students will Love with 2 Lifelong Teachers

Aug. 11th at 9 pm EST
"Starting on the Right Track with Struggling Secondary (Dependent) Learners" with Secondary Urban Legends

Aug. 12th at 9 pm EST
"Back to School Digital Escape Room" with Lit with Lyns

Aug. 13th at 9 pm EST
"Conferring with Student Writers" with Wild Child Designs

Aug. 14th at 9 pm EST
"Giving Meaningful Feedback to Writers" with Read it. Write it. Learn It. 

Aug. 15th at 9 pm EST
"Grammar Manipulations: Holding Language

Meredith is the founder and creator of TeachWriting.org and Bespoke ELA.  She has taught high school English for 10+ years in Dallas, Chicago, and New York City and holds a M.A. in Literature from Northwestern University.  She has always had a connection to the written word-- through songwriting, screenplay writing, and essay writing-- and she enjoys the process of teaching students how to express their ideas.  Meredith enjoys life with her husband, daughter, and sweet pups.

The Worst Essay of Your LIFE: A Unique Approach to Assessing Writing at the Beginning of the School Year

The Worst Essay of Your LIFE: A Unique Approach to Assessing Writing at the Beginning of the School Year

The beginning of the school year is an important time to assess the writing skill levels of new students in our English classes.  One way to do this is to assign a diagnostic essay in order to "diagnose" each student's writing level.

LiveBinders in the Classroom

LiveBinders in the Classroom

LiveBinders.com is a website that enables the user to create virtual three-ring binders of digital files including, but not limited to, YouTube videos, Google docs, DropBox files, images, websites, text files, and much more!

Support for Struggling Writers: How Essay Interviews can HELP!

Support for Struggling Writers:  How Essay Interviews can HELP!

The term “struggling” writer really applies to every single human being.  We have all struggled with writing at some point and will continue to struggle moving forward.  The difference between successful writers and unsuccessful writers (“success” being defined as students who turn in completed essays that convey meaning effectively versus those who do not) lies in being able to work through frustration.  

The Essay Shaping Sheet:  Friend or Foe?

The Essay Shaping Sheet:  Friend or Foe?

Essay shaping sheets are essentially templates for writing that guide students through the writing process.  A shaping sheet can be as small as a sentence template or as large as an entire paragraph or even essay.  But are these tools helpful, or do they ultimately hinder student development?  Well, the million-dollar answer to this question is… it depends.

The Most Important Essay for High School Seniors: The Personal Philosophy Statement

The Most Important Essay for High School Seniors: The Personal Philosophy Statement

Teaching high school seniors makes for an interesting group of students because they've mostly already passed their standardized tests and know their next steps in life-- college, work, military, etc.