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.

Open-Education Resources
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You may have noticed a new symbol on some of our resource pages:

Creative Commons License

This is a Creative Commons license. When you see this symbol, you’re free to use, share, and re-purpose the material in your classroom as you see fit. The symbol designates the material as an open-education resource, or OER for short. Open-education resources are part of an emerging content revolution, with the potential for immense impact in the classroom and beyond.

What exactly is OER?

The Hewlett Foundation defines OER as . . .

Teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

With OER, you are no longer beholden to static (and sometimes stale) textbook content. Instead, you can adopt, adapt, and share resources to meet your students’ specific needs. Open content can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed.

NGvozdeva/Shutterstock.com

In this featured lesson plan, Writers Express author and former elementary teacher Ruth Nathan shares a fun way to wrap up a biographical writing unit.

Putting Biographical Knowledge to Work:
“Dates with the Greats” Interview Party

After your students write reports about important people, give them another opportunity to put their knowledge to work! Explain that your class is going to have a “Dates with the Greats” interview party. During this party, students will play the roles of the special people they have written about and will answer interview questions.

Prepare the Party

Ask students to review their biographical writing, individually or with a friend, and jot down questions visitors might ask about their characters. (These questions are simply to have on hand in case the interviewers have trouble asking questions.)

38 Ways Students Can Create Digital Content
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Our students spend a lot of time using screen media but not much time creating digital content. According to Common Sense Media, teens spend only three percent of their time creating new things. With an average of 9 hours a day spent consuming media, teens could accomplish great things if they devoted a larger slice of their digital time to making stuff.

We can encourage our students to become content creators by exposing them to opportunities to write, record, film, build, design, and code using digital media.

Here are 38 ways your students can use screen media to create content. Each idea can be integrated into a classroom lesson, used as a stand-alone project, or featured during genius hour. Inspire your students to . . .

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:

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