The Best of the Best ELA Lessons from Addie Williams

What's your best lesson? Is it also your favourite?  What part of  ELA do you enjoy teaching the most?  It seems that I say every unit is my favourite on the day I introduce it to my students! It's hard to pick... and my enthusiasm knows no bounds. I'm thrilled to be linking up with some awesome ELA teachers to learn more about their favourite or best lesson ideas - we can learn so much from each other!  Thanks to Secondary Sara for putting this all together and organizing us!  Be sure to hop through all of the posts for a chance to win a gift card to TeachersPayTeachers!!

I love teaching English and in particular I love to teach students how to enjoy and improve their writing.  I know that writing can be challenging for students and it's frustrating to grade their essays and paragraphs and see the same errors over and over again.  I also know it can be frustrating for students to constantly lose points for the same errors over and over again as well. 

Make it FunStudents need to write and write often.  The more they write and read other's writing the more comfortable they will be with the writing process.  I try to make writing as fun as I can... I use engaging writing prompts at least once a week.  Try using the writing prompt "Would You Rather?"  Would you rather... live in a bathtub for a week or live on the couch?  Would you rather be Scout or Jem? Would you rather eat a bowl of spiders or a bowl of ants?  Relate your question to the novel you're reading, a holiday or just make up one that's guaranteed to get your students talking. Here's a link to a huge selection of FREE "Would You Rather?" question prompts on TeachersPayTeachers - I have used them with students from 5th-12th grade with great success!

Show Your Students GOOD Writing - It's hard for students to see the errors in their writing... it's challenging for them to see where they are going wrong with their organization, their voice, and their structure... so showing them examples of what you're looking for can be very helpful.  Mentor texts can be found online, can be examples of student work from previous years or examples from another teacher.  Share the mentor texts with students, talk about them, read them, assess them with the same grading rubric you use.  Many of my writing activities include mentor text for students and I ask them to assess the mentor texts using the same grading rubric I use. 

Peer Edit - I believe strongly in the power of Peer Editing.  It allows students to share their writing with others and lets others see what their peers are capable of writing.  Students will learn from each other and perhaps in providing feedback to others, will see how they can improve their own writing. To see how I run peer editing in my classroom, check out this blog post HERE.  Like the mentor texts, I have students assess their peers using the same grading rubric I use to assess their writing.  

Direct the Writing Process - Students need to learn that there is a writing process and that there are steps to ensure writing success.  From the first seeds of a brainstorm to the final edits, students need to be shown and guided and I love showing students their growth after they've followed the process. I require that all students complete all of the steps and I like to check in with them at every step of the way. If we're all working on the same prompt or topic I like to do a group brainstorm and have students share ideas with each other and the class.  I might even provide a topic sentence/thesis to help get them on their way.  Sometimes all the students need is a nudge in the right direction.  I know how long it can take to grade student writing - it can take hours!!! But... the value in providing good feedback can't be overlooked... so I often will look over their rough drafts and spend most of my time on the first page.... it saves me time and I know that the remainder of their work will probably be similar.  With good peer editing I am hopeful that students will avoid many of the more common writing errors.

Check out my FREE Expository Writing Activity - The Town Times HERE for a look at how I organize a writing activity... it's a small sample of the writing activities included in the pack.  
My most popular resource is my Writing Pack - it includes everything you need to guide students through Narrative, Persuasive, Descriptive and Expository Writing and includes all brainstorming, planning, editing and peer editing activities for writing success.  I have manage to use these activities with students from 5th - 11th grade and have designed them all to be easily differentiated for varying ages and abilities.  Over 50 pages of mentor texts, rubrics, planning pages and more!
Be sure to check out everyone else's favourite lessons - I know I can't wait to see what everyone is sharing! And be sure to enter the draw for one of three $25 gift certificates for TeachersPayTeachers!

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Remembrance Day Lesson and Ideas for Middle / High School Students

As Remembrance Day draws near, it can be challenging for students to truly understand the impact that the World Wars had on Canadian families.  I don't think I truly understood the enormity of it all until I stood in a World War II cemetery in Normandy, France.  It wasn't until I stood and read the sweet messages of love that were carved into the gravestones that I could really appreciate the sacrifice of each of the young men.  Although I don't have children of my own, I looked at the high school students I was with on a field trip and tried to imagine sending them off to war and then the heartbreak of finding out that they had died serving their country.  The memory of that moment is etched in my mind forever... and I know that it sticks with my students as well.

Although I can't take every student I teach on a field trip to the battlefields of Normandy I can share my own experiences and photos of my trip with them.  If they say a photo is worth a 1000 words then I will share as many photos with my students as I can.  Here is a resource I have used with my students over the years that I created using photos I took at various memorial sites in France. Combining the photos with quotes makes for a powerful writing exercise for students.  Click the image below to check out the Writing for Remembrance activity in my TpT store - it includes a PowerPoint of each photo with a quote and unique writing paper templates.  Makes a great classroom or hallway display.

There are also many emotional and powerful images available online that will help your students imagine what it was like to fight in years past or to be a member of the Canadian Forces now.  

The Canadian War Museum has an impressive collection of photos you can use as writing prompts in your classroom - click HERE to check out their WWI collection.

For a different spin on things why not show your students examples of Canadian War Art and talk about the difference in seeing a photo versus a painting.  Click HERE to see examples.  
Some questions to ask your students about the art could include - Why did artists feel it was important to capture the images of war?  How does the use of color change your idea of the wars as most photos are black and white?  

For a more modern look at Canada's Armed Forces check out this collection of 

Be sure to check out the official website (full of amazing resources) from Veterans Affairs Canada - they have an incredible library of resources.  Be sure to download the annual poster for your classroom and bookmarks for your students.

Highway of Heroes - Music by the Trews set to powerful images of our Canadian soldiers.

A Pittance of Time - by Terry Kelly - song and video about taking time to remember.  Would be great to use as a discussion start or journal prompt.

History of Aboriginal People in Canada's Military - a look back in time at the important role of Aboriginal people

I hope you and your students take a moment to pause and reflect about what Remembrance Day means to Canadians and the sacrifice that many have given.

Be sure to check out the great posts from more Canadian bloggers - there are some amazing ideas to share.  Big thanks to Two Peas and a Dog for organizing all of us!

Secondary ELA Seasonal Blog Hop: Addie Education Shares Tips & Tricks

If I haven't said it before... I'll say it now... I LOVE Halloween!  I love dressing up, the decor, the season, the fun, the candy corn, the pumpkins... there's nothing I don't LOVE.  So... I'm thrilled to be hooking up with a bunch of fantastic secondary ELA teachers to share some tips and tricks for the Halloween season. 

My high school has a lot of fun with Halloween and the staff and students embrace the holiday fun with a Halloween Dance, costume contest, and of course dressing up!  I love to see what the students and staff can come up with - their creativity knows no bounds! As an English teacher it's the perfect opportunity to incorporate a little spooky fun into our writing activities.  Here are some of the ways I help my students with Halloween themed writing.

Set the Scene Visually
Add some Halloween decor to your classroom - it's cheap and easy to find at your local dollar store and I know my students enjoy seeing a few elements up in my room to help them create a spooky scene.  Fun and funky images and decor can also help spark their imaginations as they write!  You can even have students use your decor as a writing prompt! Why not have them free write and include two of the spooky Halloween elements in your room in their writing. A few Halloween treats also go a long way in motivating students. #iwilldoanythingforcandycorn   My students also love writing on themed paper - lots of free Halloween templates to be found online!  And it's amazing how excited they all get about a Halloween themed pencil from the dollar store!!

Create a Spooky Mood
Play some creepy music while your students work - it's a fun way to get students thinking about how they can set the mood in a story using vibrant and vivid verbs. How can they create the same eerie feeling with their words, that a musician creates with music?  It's easy to find a spooky or eerie playlist on Youtube - here's one to check out -  Halloween Music.  If it's easy to dim the lights or use floor lamps to dimly light your classroom I am sure your students will appreciate it! Or use flashlights to read. I also recently thought of using the "candles" that are lit with batteries as a mood setter too!!  I am fairly certain I can't use real candles at school #accidentwaitingtohappen

Spooky Pictures
Use creepy photos to help students with descriptive writing.  A quick image search on Google will yield some spooky results.  Brainstorming descriptive words can be a fun and helpful writing exercise.  Here's an example you can use!

Spooky Read Aloud
Despite the fact that my students are in high school, they still LOVE to have a short story read to them. I also love to read to's win-win in my classroom!  One of my favourites to read at Halloween is Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" - such a great story and so many elements to chat about with them.  You can also show them this short video of the short story narrated by James Mason (he has THE most perfect voice to tell the tale!)  If you're studying "The Tell-Tale Heart" be sure to check out my accompanying creative newspaper assignment HERE

Halloween Mystery Story Writing Activity
My students have always loved my Halloween Mystery Activity - it's got everything you'll need to help your students generate ideas for a spooky story, activities to help them plan their writing, peer editing guidance, grading rubrics and more! Everything is included so you can get started writing today!  I have it in a traditional paper version and a Google Drive version! Click the images to check them out!! 

I hope you have a spooky, fun and safe Halloween with your families and your students.  Be sure to check out all of the other bloggers who have linked up below. Happy Halloween!  

Secondary Science Giveaway

School is starting up again soon and the secondary science teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers are excited to help you start the new year off right!  We are giving away resources and individual store shopping sprees to give you a boost as you head back to school!  I'm excited to be teaching Earth Science again this year... what about you??

Here's what you can win!
  •  Enter my rafflecopter for a chance to win a $25 or $15 shopping spree in my TpT Store (here's a link to my science specific resources - SCIENCE but you can pick anything if you win!)
  •  Check out each blog linked up at the bottom of this post and enter their individual rafflecopter giveaways.
  • Not only can you win a shopping spree in my TpT store, but we put together one HUGE blog hop giveaway, just for science teachers teaching grades 6-12 science: Four $100 Teachers Pay Teachers gift cards!  Each blog post has a secret code word and a number.  My clue word is 12. PROBLEMS.  The number tells you where the word falls in the secret sentence.  Collect the words from each blog, write them down in number order, and copy the secret sentence into the joint rafflecopter giveaway.  This rafflecopter form is the same on every blog, so you only need to enter once from any one of our blogs!
To enter my Rafflecopter leave a comment about what you're most looking forward to teaching this year, follow my TpT Store, OR follow me on Instagram.

If you win my Rafflecopter here are some of my favourite science resources in my store!

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How to Encourage Students to Do Their Best Work

Are you tired of students asking you if their work is "good enough"? Or asking what grade they would receive if they turned their work in "even if it's not all done?". Or students asking why they received a poor mark because they "did it"? After a few years of teaching I came up with an easy way to explain it using a PIZZA ANALOGY. I knew my students could relate to pizza!!

So I started talking about their work in terms of a pizza and lo and behold they totally 'got it'! Here's how it works... I ask my students to imagine that their assignment is to make me a pizza. Seems simple enough right? Just make a pizza and turn it into me. However, once we start to delve into it a little more my students realize that there were several options available when making the pizza. They could simply turn in a basic cheese pizza or they could turn in a deluxe pizza and even throw in a soda for a little extra. We talk about how the person who makes a deluxe pizza (with the soda!) has done more work, put in more effort and gone beyond the basics! We even talk about the fact that some students would not even get their pizza finished in time or would have only gathered the ingredients... but not put the pizza together. It does not take long for them to realize that I'm relating their effort in class to the number of toppings they put on their pizza!

I created a series of posters to help students relate their work effort to the toppings on a pizza and the posters have made a huge difference in my class and how my students talk about their work. They often come in to the class and ask each other where they are on the pizza rubric and I hear them talking about how many toppings they included! Or where they are on the rubric... "Dude, I made a deluxe pizza, my project is totally topped up!". I often have to turn away and have a little giggle... to hear my high school students (mostly boys) talking like this just puts a smile on my face!

 The nice thing about the pizza rubric is that it works for any assignment and any subject - I teach a variety of classes (ELA, SS, and Science) and have used it successfully in all subject areas! In fact, many other teachers have my school are using it too and so the students have really bought into it. It's a great way to introduce a Growth Mindset and the idea that putting forth their best effort will yield good results. I often ask the students to self assess their work before turning it in and explain to me where they think they should be on the rubric. Here's the link to the poster set in my TpT store - I hope you find this as helpful in your classroom as I've found it in mine!

End of the Year - Calming the Chaos

The countdown is on for THE END OF THE YEAR and it still seems so far away!  I am in session until June 30th this year... I can do it... I can do it!!  Thrilled to be joining into this Calming the Chaos Blog Hop hosted by 2 Peas and a Dog!  Not only is there a great blog hop, but you can ENTER TO WIN A $60 GIFT CERTIFICATE TO TPT!!  (Contest is now over)

We've had some spectacular spring weather in Vancouver, Canada where I live and it's made my students much more "squirelly" than usual... the clear skies and beckoning city beaches make sitting in a classroom more challenging.

Here are a few fun and easy tips to help you make it through the chaos that always comes with the final weeks of the school year.

Ask for Feedback - I know this can be a scary thought... but I give my kids a chance to evaluate me and my teaching for the year with a quick survey.  I used to use a print version, but kids were hesitant to write things because I am so familiar with their writing.  Last year I used SurveyMonkey (free online survey tool) to get feedback... it was great! Kids loved the chance to go online and were more comfortable sharing their ideas anonymously.

Have Fun - Yup... it's true... it's the time of year when my students are stressed about final tests, graduation, final projects and more.  Take a few minutes to play a review game, watch a funny YouTube video, or just talk about summer plans.  My students LOVE to play Kahoot!  - it's free and students get to use their phones /devices!  What a blast we have!!

End of Year Literacy Activities - I often need quick, educational, and engaging activities for those awkward last few days of school... so I created a pack of ready to use activities for the end of the year! Click HERE to check it out!  Here's a sample page!

Teachers Supporting Fort McMurray Fire Relief Fund

If you're like me, you watched the devastating wildfires sweep through the community of Fort McMurray, Alberta in disbelief.  The entire community of 90,000 people had to be evacuated... most people had only a few minutes to flee the flames.  Over 2,400 homes have been lost and those that still have a home, have no idea when they will be allowed to go back.   When the fires swept through the town on May 3rd, teachers stepped into high gear, many of them fleeing the fire with students in their own cars.  There is a ton of rebuilding to do (reports suggest that schools suffered extensive damage in the fire and one secondary school under construction was lost)... and the school year has ended abruptly - about 8 weeks earlier than usual.

A group of Canadian teacher authors has decided to donate all of our TeachersPayTeachers earning from Monday, May 16th to the Canadian Red Cross who is spearheading the relief efforts.  All money donated to the Red Cross will be matched by the Canadian Government and the Province of Alberta. Check out the full list of participating TpT authors linked up below!  Thanks to Room 213 for the great graphics and organizing all of us in this fundraising effort!

If you wish to donate to the Canadian Red Cross directly here is the LINK.

If you are looking for a way to talk about the wildfires with your students Light Up Learning Labs has this FREE resource.  

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