Archive for September, 2012

Writing is an exercise in allowing the reader to enter your soul, those secret places that find themselves splayed across a page for you to experience, connect with, and perhaps leave with something. A good writer will make you stop in your tracks, suddenly hungry for where the words will take you and you the willing traveler. It is an art form that is beautiful and raw, poignant and entertaining.  Where else can one’s life momentarily go on hiatus and merge with the character you realize is a mirror image of yourself, or someone from your past whose memory still haunts you.  Years ago it was the pen that moved my fingers, then the clack, clack of keys with a cigarette balanced beside me and a glass of cheap wine.  Oh how the fingers dance now in the Indian Summer of my life as I weave my tale.


Here is a quick example of some wonderful tips that are good to share with your students; especially good for constructed response questions.  I would photocopy this and give each student a copy to keep in their binders.

English III



Chronological Order/Join Paragraphs

Additionally After Afterwards also
Always As soon Before Earlier
Eventually finally first In addition
In conclusion Last later Meanwhile
Next Next week Not long after Now
Preceding Prior to Second Soon
Then To conclude Tomorrow until
when While    

Spatial Order/Locators

Above Adjacent to among Behind
Below Beyond farther In front
In the middle Lowest Nearby Nearest
Next to On the left On the right Opposite
outside There Under underneath


Also As though As well as By comparison
Compared to Either…or In addition to In the same way
Likely Likewise Neither…nor outside
Similarly Than    


Although As opposed to But By contrast
Conversely Despite Either Even though
However If In spite of Instead
neither Nevertheless Rather than Still

Cause and Effect Result

Accordingly As a consequence As a result Because
Because of Brought about Consequently Because of
For this reason Give rise to If…then Made possible
Obviously Owing to Since So
therefore This results in thus  

Additional Facts/Joining Paragraphs

Additionally again Also And
Another Besides Finally First
Further Furthermore In addition Initially
last Next Summing up To begin with


All of this means In brief In other words To close
To finish To repeat To summarize  

Specific Examples

A few of these are especially For example In particular
notably Specifically    


absolutely basically certainly essentially
In fact indeed Of course positively
surely Unquestionably    

Introducing Details

As evidence For example For instance In fact
In support of this      

Concluding Phrases

above In any case In short To be sure
Without a doubt As noted In any event In summation
To sum up obviously As one can see In brief
undoubtedly For the reasons In other words On the whole

Supporting Opinion

Again Also Besides Equally important
Finally First Further Furthermore
In addition In the first place Last Likewise
Moreover Next second similarly

English III


LIKE (unless used as a legit simile)















One of the resources I found through the National Writing Project is the book by Hank Kellner, “Write What You See.”  I used this in 6th grade, and it most certainly could be used in a much larger grade span.  The book comes with a DVD of more than 100 photos, each page detailed with open ended questions, possible word choices and really provide students with that visual “hook” that encourages their creativity.  It was very successful in the classroom, students LOVED thinking about the pictures, groaned when they had to stop writing, and loved to share at the end.  For our students who are immersed in a digital society, this is a perfect fit over the plethora of writing prompts out there that confines a writer’s imagination and creativity.

This morning I posted a picture I took early this morning of a little field mouse and a hunk of swiss cheese (See Stories From Everyday Life). What student wouldn’t look at that picture and not come up with a story beginning?  Of course I should tell you that this particular field mouse was captured by Felix the cat, who then chased it around Mom’s kitchen, who made me scream and spill my coffee down myself, who was then chased by one cat, one woman in pajamas and one woman fresh from the shower.  Eventually he was whisked outside to the front steps. All the while we chased him, I was pleading with him “Choose Life!”  “Choose Life!”  We thought it only fitting that the poor little fella be compensated with a piece of baby swiss for surviving the ordeal.  So you see it is true, a picture can say a thousand words!  If you aren’t lucky enough to have the book I recommended, I have found some great photos on the web, and have created my own tips for students.

Happy Writing from USM!!

Stories From Everyday Life

This little field mouse, after a harrowing escape from Felix the cat was compensated with a piece of Baby Swiss in honor of his surviving the ordeal

Buy a bigger pencil sharpener

Well, it has been 8 days since I naively switched to a third grade classroom and it has been a wild ride!  Learning how to take blank paper, an 8 year old mind, and produce something that resembles quality writing is a task that is not for the weak.  Buy a bigger, better pencil sharpener, roll up your sleeves and let’s get started!

One of my favorite new books is “After the End” by Barry Lane.  If you haven’t read this one, make sure you google it, or run to your nearest book seller.  It is informative, fun, and most importantly…real.  Teachers, with their mounting demands for assessments, assessments, assessments rarely have time to curl up with a good trade book.  In fact, some of the best ideas are often found while waiting in line at the copier in the morning so trust me on this; Barry Lane will provide you with some fantastic ideas for making writing valuable to your students, fun for all of you, and is easily adaptable to different grade levels.

here is a thought that I know we can all agree on…

The ideal writing assignment engages not only the mind and emotions of the writer, but is transferred to the reader as well.  There is room for creativity, for testing out words, and is not prescribed.  Writing for students becomes difficult when their minds are worried about spelling, grammar, paragraphing, complete sentences, etc. The ideal writing assignment simply asks students to first, let that inner conversation they have with themselves flow onto the paper or the keyboard easily. It is like learning to read; if a student is focused on sounding out words, they become lost in the depth and meaning of what the book is sharing with them.  Once that obstacle is taken away, it opens up the world.

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