If you’ve arrived in search of ELA blog posts, welcome! You’ll find a helpful roundup here.
Education is a funny thing. As teachers, we are immersed in what we are doing. We feel shifts in pedagogy, culture, and best practice before they are actually vocalized. It’s somewhat intuitive, but when we come across a blog post that puts a finger on something we’ve been subconsciously sensing, it resonates.
At the end of a decade, it’s important to reflect. Where has education been, and where is it going? Here are ten must-read ELA blog posts. These are articles that highlight needs, trends, and new innovations in teaching…some specific to ELA, and others relevant to the broader educational community.
1. INDEPENDENT READING
Recently, the National Council for Teachers of English released a new position statement about reading. In it, they advocate for quality independent reading. Choice is important! Researchers have shown that independent reading leads to an increased volume of reading, which, in turn, reaps many rewards. Find the statement, helpful core values, and research supporting the position here.
2. SCAFFOLDING STRATEGIES
Instructional scaffolding is an important form of in-class intervention. Students think differently and learn differently. When planning instruction, we need to anticipate misconceptions, have back-up plans ready, and try to predict where scaffolding is needed. This year, I wrote about four essential scaffolding strategies that have made a difference for my students when reading and writing as well as when learning grammar and vocabulary concepts.
3. INSIGHTS FROM STUDENTS
What better place is there to learn about how to improve modern education than from the mouths of students? This post from The New York Times highlights students’ thoughts on current educational trends. What’s working? What’s not? Dive in. You’ll learn about technology, relevance, standardized tests, and other topics for reflective thought.
4. FIRST CHAPTER FRIDAY
First Chapter Friday is not a new concept, but it has, over the past year, really gained some momentum in the secondary classroom. Part of that trend is due to bloggers and Instagrammers who are writing about how they are making it meaningful. Do you share literature with older students? Feel pressed for time? How about taking 10 minutes every Friday to read just the first chapter of a high-interest YA novel? You never know. If you do, it may just fly off the shelves.
5. LITERARY ANALYSIS
Creating a solid literary analysis unit requires backward planning. Find the standards of focus, develop a rubric, create some examples, and then figure out a sensible learning progression. This post underlines the importance of creating a solid game plan when it comes to analytical writing.
6. TRAUMA-BASED EDUCATION
When I talk to teachers from other districts, trauma-based education always surfaces. When I first began learning about this concept, I wanted a list of ways to help students. Turns out, it isn’t really that simple. Students benefit from relationships with teachers who know them and who care, from opportunities to develop responsibility and self efficacy, and from some simple regulation strategies. You can read about how one teacher uses student-survey responses to shape her approach here.
7. WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER
How often do we write the same comments on one paper after another? Working smarter, not harder is definitely a theme among any group of English teachers. In this post, you can read about using pre-populated comments in Google Classroom to streamline feedback. Keep the conversation meaningful by encouraging students to reflect and revise.
8. STUDENT AGENCY
There’s a definite shift toward providing students with more agency in their learning…both to make it more meaningful and to curb teacher burnout. How can we get students to do more of the thinking, to have more ownership, and to increase teacher-student communication? Caitlin Tucker has begun making grades a journey by rethinking assessment, and, in turn, instructional time. She advocates for a blended learning environment that focuses on the standards and teaches students to advocate for themselves. After all, how can students self assess when teachers are doing all the work?
9. GRADING ESSAYS
Grading essays has become quite the topic of discussion. No doubt, teachers are feeling short on time to provide the level of feedback students need…and in a time frame that makes it worthwhile. If you do a simple Google search for “grading faster,” you’ll find a plethora of results. This post, specifically, highlights five specific tips for providing meaningful feedback in a manner that isn’t overwhelming. It’s unique and tech-y. Give it a read.
10. CREATIVE NOTES
Doodling and sketch noting don’t work for everyone, but research has shown that they can be powerful, brain-based approaches to help students retain what they learn. Did you know that they are actually forms of mnemonics? Read about why we need to introduce students to this creative note taking format in this article from Education Week.
11. REAL-WORLD WRITING
Authentic writing experiences are crucial for teens. If they know the work they are doing matters, that someone will read it and care, and that the skills are necessary in life, they’ll probably be hooked. In this article I wrote for Teach Writing, I suggest teaching students email etiquette. The benefits will overflow not only into the future, but also into current correspondence between teachers and students.
12. CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT
Classroom management is much more about building relationships with students than it ever has been before. Restorative practices are preferred, but it’s still important for students to know what to expect when they walk into a classroom. Predictability provides a level of stability many students need. In this two-pronged post, you’ll find suggestions for procedures to keep middle and high school classrooms running efficiently.
13. DIVERSE LITERATURE
If you haven’t been hiding under a rock, you probably noticed the push to modernize the traditional canon. It’s important for us to know our students and to provide them with windows and mirrors in literature. That is, they need to see themselves reflected in the characters and culture of the texts, but they also need an opportunity to be engaged, to grow more empathetic, and to be more knowledgeable about the world around them. This article highlights why students need diverse books and also provides a few concise lists of picture books for mini lessons and YA books for classroom libraries.
14. WORKSHOP APPROACH
Secondary teachers are beginning to adopt more of an elementary mindset when it comes to teaching reading and writing. This shift, in my opinion, is due to the need for more student-driven learning and more emphasis on teacher-student relationships and conferring. Plus, this trend – reading and writing workshop – seems to be working for students of all ages. This post from Edutopia highlights some ideas for meaningful station activities.
15. HOMEWORK DEBATE
Where do you school fall in the homework debate? Our building has been steeped in homework discussions all year. This article from the National Education Association suggests that when we reduce homework amounts, it makes our instructional time more effective. Regardless of whether you assign homework or not, focusing on how our instruction would look different if our assignments were altered leads to many opportunities for reflection and creative brainstorming.
Education is an ever-changing field. Some oppose the change, but I find it refreshing. Change just for change’s sake is futile, but when change is steeped in quality reflection and response to solid research, it’s worth it. After all, when we know better, we can do better.
What educational shifts and trends are on your radar? What articles would you add to this list?