Thoughtful Learning Blog

Thoughtful Learning Blog

The Thoughtful Learning blog features articles about English language arts, 21st century skills, and social-emotional learning. Insights come from the teachers, writers, and developers at Thoughtful Learning, who have been creating top-notch instructional materials for more than 40 years.

Light bulbs
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It’s finally, mercifully, here—sweet summertime!

You deserve a break. We all do! So take some time to kick up your feet, read a good book, catch up on a favorite TV show, and maybe even sip an icy beverage by the beach.

Once you feel recharged, consider reserving a slice of your summer break for gathering new ideas and inspiration for your writing classroom. You can dive into all kinds of great resources, so we’d like to recommend a few books that have inspired new ideas for our latest K-12 writing resources.

Besides being chock full of ideas for invigorating your ELA curriculum, these books are fun to read. 

Young adult writing in notebook and typing on laptop
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No matter what subject you teach, writing can empower learning. And yet, fitting time-intensive writing assignments into your crowded curriculum may not seem feasible. Here's some good news. Research suggests you don’t need to design lengthy writing projects for your students to benefit from writing as a learning tool. Instead, short bursts of low-stakes writing hold the most learning potential.

Boy writing while holding a mirror
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“The narrative is the first story, the primal story, from which all others come. It is your story.” These thoughts by writer John Rouse speak clearly to the importance of narrative writing. I share them because I, too, feel that narrative writing is a valuable or, dare I say, the most important element in an effective writing program.

Gathering New Words

Words are power. Until you have a word for something, you can't think effectively about it. That's why every discipline has its own specialized vocabulary and why people who study the discipline must learn the vocabulary in order to be conversant.

So, vocabulary-building is as crucial in high school, college, and career as it was when students were first learning to read and write. It helps native speakers and English language learners, alike. You can use any (or all) of these creative word activities to help your students expand their vocabularies and their minds.

Check Writing Assumptions

When we teach writing, our pedagogy includes many built-in assumptions. For example, if we adopt a workshop approach, we make assumptions about choice, collaboration, drafting, conferencing, standards-correlations, student accountability, and so on. Checking those assumptions can help us improve our writing instruction.

A few simple questions can reveal the assumptions in a writing assignment:

Teaching Creativity
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"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

—Albert Einstein

Who needs creative thinking?

Novelists, artists, actors, and composers need to think creatively—sure. But how about rocket scientists? How about Albert Einstein? Absolutely. Everyone needs creative thinking. It works in tandem with critical thinking to allow you to navigate your daily life.

National Novel Writing Month
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

Since its inception in 1999, the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has inspired hundreds of thousands of people to become novelists. Participants sign up at the nonprofit NaNoWriMo.org and track their progress toward writing a 50,000 word novel during November. The organization offers many supports, including encouragement from published novelists.

Since Thoughtful Learning has its own published novelist on staff (J. Robert King), we asked him to offer his advice to aspiring writers.

Creative Writing
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How can we help our students develop writing skills? We can take the rigorous approach, teaching the writing process, academic modes, and integrated grammar. We can also use the creative approach, engaging students' imagination and artistic expression through stories and poems. Unfortunately, the demands of standards-based testing are pushing the creative approach out of many ELA classrooms. Let's not let that happen in ours. Students profit when we make time for both types of instruction, since each approach benefits the other.

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