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.

Celebrating Black History

Inspire your students to explore black history and culture through writing. Present any of these engaging writing prompts in your middle school or high school classroom during Black History Month or beyond. Each activity requires students to inquire about the people, places, events, and issues that have shaped African-American history.

Writing a Historical Dialogue

Mae Jemison

Ask your students to imagine what a conversation would be like between them and a significant African-American contributor to social studies, science, math, or English. What would they ask? What would they want to know?

Present them with the following lists of famous figures and encourage them to choose a person they don't know much about. Then have them research the figure and create a dialogue (written conversation) between themselves and the person. The dialogue should discuss important experiences in the person’s life and work.

Mount Rushmore
Nagel Photography/Shutterstock.com

This Presidents' Day, awaken your students' interest in the past! Help young learners delve into U.S. history by using these exciting activities in your primary classroom.

Presidential Quotes

Start out the month of February with 10 presidential quotes. Put these quotes on display in your classroom and share one a day. You'll be surprised how many have relevancy in your young learners’ lives. On Presidents' Day, have students choose their favorite quote and write what it means to them.

How to Improve Media Literacy

On an average day, American teens spend more time consuming media than attending school. That's the shocking conclusion of a 2015 survey: Teens (ages 13–18) spend an average of 9 hours a day using media while tweens (ages 8–12) spend nearly 6 hours a day. What’s more, these estimates exclude time spent using media for school or homework!

So, how can we help students consume media wisely? How can we teach them to analyze media messages, test them for reliability, and search for bias? These three activities equip students with essential media-literacy skills.

Developing a Growth Mindset

We've all heard defeatist self-talk from students:

  • "I'm terrible at math."
  • "I'll never be a good writer."
  • "I hate history."

Of course, such beliefs make learning these subjects all the more difficult.

But sometimes positive self-talk can also be problematic:

  • "I'm great at math."
  • "I'm a natural-born writer."
  • "I know everything about history."

What's wrong with such statements? Like the negative self-talk, these statements limit learning because they create a fixed mindset.

Using Shared Inquiry in Language Arts

As every teacher knows, learning begins with engagement. Engaged students read thoroughly, write thoughtfully, and grapple with content. But how can we get our students to engage?

Shared inquiry helps students engage. This teaching approach requires a team effort. Instead of imparting knowledge, we work with our students to ask questions, sort through evidence, and draw conclusions. Shared inquiry requires students to communicate, collaborate, solve problems, and think critically and creatively.

Here's how you can use shared inquiry to teach writing, grammar, vocabulary, and reading.

Discover Persuasive Strategies

Instead of telling students what they should do in their writing, let them discover for themselves. Let them read and learn "how they do it." In “Exploring Inquiry as a Teaching Stance in the Writing Workshop,” Katie Wood Ray outlines one way to use shared inquiry in a writing workshop:

This awesome photojournalism project comes from Cindy Smith of Karcher Middle School in Burlington, Wisconsin. Students research a historic spot in their community and create a slide show or digital story that portrays the history of the spot in images and words. You can use this project in your classroom to develop students' thinking, reading, writing, speaking, and literacy skills—all while connecting kids to the community and to history.

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