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Why We Love Teaching Sandra Cisneros in Middle School


It’s no secret that we LOVE to incorporate short stories into our middle school ELA curriculum (click here for our favorite short stories), and one of our favorite authors to study with our students is Sandra Cisneros. Below we outline why we think her writing style is so wonderful for meeting our ELA standards and why students enjoy her writing so much (win-win!)

The Poe Poem Our Students LOVE

This is the best Edgar Allan Poe poem to teach to your middle school students! They will absolutely love it!

You know it’s an effective unit when your students continue analyzing and talking about the content long after you have finished your lesson plans! We just never thought it would be a poem from 1849 that our students would become obsessed with and spend recess time wanting to continue discussions and asking their for their parents' thoughts about the poem. And yet, Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” does just that!

10 Must-Teach Short Stories for Your Middle School Students

Top ten short stories to teach to and read with your middle school English language arts class! They are engaging, challenging, and accessible to all students! Definitely a must read blog post!
While we love centering our ELA lessons around a great novel, we’ve recently started incorporating more short stories into our curriculum, and we couldn’t be happier with the results: higher student engagement, increased proficiency in citing and justifying textual evidence, and more complex analysis just to name a few! You can read more about this here.

Organizing ELA Units for the Year

The most effective way to teach ELA in your middle school classroom! Use short stories and poetry to get students analyzing, discussing, and writing about literature! The perfect curriculum and units to use :)

This year, we both made the shift from teaching mostly novel units, to incorporating mini units of short stories and poetry in between each novel, and we couldn’t be happier! Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE teaching novels/plays (The Westing Game (5th grade) and Othello (8th grade) are some of our hands down favorite novels/plays to read with our students, but sometimes novels just take a long time to get through with our kiddos. There’s so much to talk about and write about that two months can fly by, and we’re still on the same text!

Absent Students: What To Do

This is a great blog post that walks you through an easy way to keep track of and organize absent student work in your classroom! Perfect for upper elementary, middle school, and high school!

We like to follow the Boy Scouts’ motto “Be prepared” when it comes to absent students. This means that during the first week of school somewhere between going over our bathroom policy and playing some back to school activities, we address our absent procedures with our students. 

Easy Tips to Prepare for Back to School

3 easy tips and ideas to help you get your middle school classroom ready for back to school!

Between the two of us, we have switched grade levels and schools seven times in our teaching careers! With each transition there is obviously a new curriculum to learn and new expectations for ourselves and our students. We’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if you’re brand new to the teaching field (best job ever, in our opinion!) or switching grades this year after spending several years in one classroom, it’s nice to have a few things set in stone that you won’t have to think about while scrambling to get the rest of your classroom organized.

The Sub Binder: Why It's Important & How to Set One Up

A great blog post that walks you through how to set up an emergency sub binder for your classroom! This one includes emergency substitute lesson plans for your ELA (english, reading, and writing) classroom!

Something that’s proven invaluable for us in our ELA classrooms time and time again has been the emergency sub binder we have sitting on our desks. Even though emergencies are highly unlikely, and we're generally able to get some sort of relevant sub plans together when calling in sick, it's always better to be prepared!

An Anytime Classroom Activity: Balderdash

Balderdash is a great classroom filler to keep students thinking and engaged when you have a few random minutes! Use this with your middle school, high school, or even upper elementary students!

We all have those days when an assembly ends earlier than expected and we have twenty minutes to kill before lunch, or the copier breaks down for the hundredth time, and today’s lesson has to be postponed, or it’s the last week of school and students are getting a bit restless. While D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) is always a wonderful option to fill the time, sometimes it’s nice to switch it up. Enter Balderdash. 

Leads In Narrative Writing: Teach Your Students to Create Stronger Leads!

Use these easy tools to effectively teach leads in narrative writing in your middle school and high school English Language Arts (ELA) classroom!

This week our fifth graders are working on narrative writing. While we’ve read samples, provided brainstorming graphic organizers and outlining handouts, the single most effective strategy has been our discussion on leads. This leads activity that we’ll outline below has made SUCH a difference in our students’ writing because it sets the tone for higher level expectations and requires students to be deliberate with their word choice.

How to Run a Socratic Seminar in Your Classroom

How to set up a socratic seminar in your english language arts classroom! An easy step-by-step guide with free resources!

We have used Socratic Seminars with our third graders all the way up through our twelfth graders to discuss short stories, poetry, and sets of chapters in a novel. While obviously the level of questions change, the setup remains pretty much the same. Here’s how we set up our seminars from start to finish: