Teaching the Research Paper Part 1: Introducing the Research Paper and Preparing Students for the Assignment


There are three things every teacher should do before taking their students to the computer lab to research information for their research papers: teach the difference between reliable and non reliable sources, check to make sure every student has a self-generated research question, and help prepare students with key phrases and words to search. 

Teaching the research paper. High school writing tips for teachers.

Whenever I begin teaching the research paper, I always introduce the story of how I wrote my Master's research paper to my students first. It was a 50 page paper with 50 different sources. 

I don't do this to toot my own horn. I don't do this to scare my students away from a post-secondary education. I don't do this to make the students feel like their research assignment is petty and small. I do this so that I can explain the process of research to them and so that they know I was once in their shoes. 

So how exactly do you write a 50 page research paper that has 50 unique, credible sources? One source at a time. 

When teaching the research paper to my secondary ELA students, I first teach them about research and credible sources. Before students can even begin looking for their sources, they have to know how to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources. Being able to do so is the first step in finding their first reliable source. 

Teaching the research paper. High school writing tips for teachers.
As a rule of thumb, I prefer that my students only use .org, .gov, and .edu sources. I tell them they can use .com sources, but that they have to get my approval first. I also tell my students about Google Scholar and ERIC. Those are both free data bases that students can use to find reliable resources.

Once I feel my students have a firm understanding about the sources they will be looking at, we then dive into the research topic and the students select their own topics related to the main topic. 

One of the key parts of teaching the research paper to students is having them come up with their own self-generated research question. To do this, I encourage students to work collaboratively and talk about their research topics.  They can work in small groups to see what their peers would like to know about that topic. Working in small groups first provides extra support for EL and struggling students. From there, students come up with their own question to answer. There is also a graphic organizer in my Research Paper Writing resource that is especially helpful during this process. 


Teaching the research paper. High school writing tips for teachers.
Once students have a self-generated question, it is time to get students to think about key words and phrases they will use in their search for sources. All too often I see students typing very specific, wordy questions into a search engine. This only creates frustration for the students as well as the teacher. Taking half a class to discuss key words and phrases helps students tremendously and it even speeds up the research process because students are able to find credible sources a lot easier. When teaching key words and phrases to my students, I encourage them to type no more than four words into the search engine. I tell them that they must think of the most important words directly related to their topic. 

To help students think about key words and phrases they can use in the search engine, have them think about hashtags for their research topic. This fun, easy, and engaging strategy will get students thinking about what to research and what is related specifically to their topic.

This blog post is the first post in a series about teaching students about research writing. 

If you are interested in teaching the research paper to your students, check out my Research Paper Writing lesson. This lesson includes an editable PowerPoint presentation, a research paper assignment, and everything you will need to work through the entire research paper writing process with your secondary students.

Read more about research in the classroom with Part 2 which covers research paper topics and Part 3 which covers using Google Apps for research.


8 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month


April is National Poetry Month, and this April is the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. Let’s celebrate poetry in our classrooms with some of these great ideas.

1. Create Acrostic Poem Posters in Class
One of the best ways to decorate your classroom is with colorful student work. Middle school and high school students enjoy seeing their work on display. For this project, there are two kinds of acrostic posters students can create. Either assign or have students sign up for certain poetry terms or famous poets. Once students have their topics, instruct them to create a colorful acrostic poem poster that is informative and colorful. If you choose poetry terms as the topic, the poem must relate to the assigned term. If you decide to have students create posters about famous poets, their poems must relate to their assigned or chosen poet.

2. Request a FREE National Poetry Month Poster for your classroom
Delivery takes 4-6 weeks, but you still might be able to request a free poster for your classroom to wrap up the month’s celebration. 


Make poetry more accessible to your students by teaching them how to annotate it. My Annotating Poetry Made Easy lesson includes an editable PowerPoint presentation that will walk your students through the annotation process step-by-step and even includes an example poem to annotate together as a class. After teaching your students how to annotate poetry, this skill will be easier for them, and they will be able to annotate poetry on their own.


4. Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day – April 21, 2016
Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day with your students. On Wednesday, April 20, instruct students to find, print, and bring their favorite poem to school on Thursday, April 21. They should carry their poem in their pocket. In class on the 21st, hold a fun and informal poetry reading session. Encourage students to read aloud and share their favorite poems with the class. Have your students share what they love about the poem and why it speaks to them.


To get a better understanding of poetry, students need to know the academic language that accompanies poetry. Once students know common poetry terms and can apply their understanding of these terms to poems they encounter, they will be able to read and appreciate poetry on a whole new level. To help students become more acquainted with poetry terms, use my Academic Vocabulary packet with your class. This resource includes 25 common poetry terms that will help your students understand poetry more.

6. Share Your All-Time-Favorite Poem with Your Students
Create a casual atmosphere in your classroom and share your favorite poem with your students. Read it passionately. Tell your students why you love this poem and why it speaks to you.

Teach blank verse and iambic pentameter to your students and have them write their own creations. In my Teachers Pay Teacher store, I have a FREE blank verse writing project that you can use in your classroom. This is a fun way to get to know your students’ interests, especially if you allow your students to choose their own topics. Once your students complete their blank verse poem posters, you can display them on your classroom wall for a colorful display. When I taught blank verse to my students during our Romeo and Juliet unit, I taught blank verse using THIS PowerPoint presentation and lesson material. They then created blank verse poem posters and they are still displayed in my classroom. It’s a perfect decoration for National Poetry Month.

8. Participate in the National High School Poetry Contest
Persuade your students to write and enter an original poem in the National High School Poetry contest. Applicants must be current high school students, and their poems need to be 20 lines or less.
For more poetry teaching ideas and resources, check out my Teaching Poetry board on Pinterest. It’s filled with great poetry resources for middle school and high school teachers.

Growth Mindset Writing Prompts

This is the third blog post in a series of posts about creating and establish a growth mindset in the classroom. Read the first post about creating a growth mindset here.

Growth mindset writing prompts for secondary students.

Growth Mindset Writing Prompts

A big component of fostering a growth mindset in the classroom is regularly discussing grit and determination, learning from mistakes, and pushing through challenges.
In addition to the Growth Mindset Bell Ringers that I use in my classroom, I will also have student develop a growth mindset through free writing and journaling. If you are looking for more growth mindset activities, check out the activities and resources at the end of this post. 

Here are some growth mindset writing prompts to get you and your students started.

1.       Do you believe that you have a fixed or a growth mindset? Explain.

2.       Write about one of the biggest mistakes you’ve ever made. What important lessons did you learn from that mistake? How did making that mistake help improve who you are today.

3.       Write about a time when you accomplished something that you didn’t think you could. What did you learn from the experience?

4.       Write about one of your long-term goals in life. What is the goal and what are you doing each day to make sure you accomplish that goal?

5.       Many times we doubt ourselves and don’t believe in ourselves. Why do you think this is so? What can you do to believe in yourself?


 Establishing a growth mindset in your classroom can help your students tremendously. After focusing on fostering a growth mindset in my own classroom, I've seen a lot of improvement with my struggling students who sometimes get overlooked. 
Embracing a growth mindset in the secondary classroom.
To create a growth mindset in my own classroom, I've done a few things. First, I start each week with a growth mindset bellringer. These bellringers are a great way to begin the week on a positive note. Each bell ringer includes an inspirational quote about success, hard work, failure, or determination and a brief writing prompt. Check out my Growth Mindset Bell Ringers HERE.


Embracing a growth mindset in the secondary classroom.
In addition to my Growth Mindset Bell Ringers, I also like to incorporate various growth mindset activities and resources into my secondary English classroom. First, I like to have students take a growth mindset quiz. This quiz allows students to assess themselves to determine where their mindset it. This allows students to be more open to changing their mindset. Then, I incorporate resources such as growth mindset oriented exit slips and assignment reflections into my weekly and daily routines. Finally, I integrate growth mindset activities into my curriculum. I include vocabulary that focuses on growth mindset, group activities that require students to analyze various types of thinking, and writing prompts that helps students embrace learning as a process. 

All of these resources are available in my Growth Mindset Activities and Resources for the Secondary Classroom activity resource. 
All of these resources are available in my Growth Mindset Activities and Resources for the Secondary Classroom activity resource.
All of these resources are available in my Growth Mindset Activities and Resources for the Secondary Classroom activity resource.



How do you incorporate a growth mindset into your classroom?

Practicing Growth Mindset

This is the second blog post in a series of posts about creating and establish a growth mindset in the classroom. Read the first post about creating a growth mindset here.


I’ll admit it. I’ve made mistakes as an educator. Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made include being too stubborn and too strict. Neither of these helped me practice a growth mindset in my classroom.

As a new teacher, I was pretty stubborn. I did not accept late work. I did not allow test retakes. I did not provide students a needed opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Instead, I forced their mistake to be their end result. I wasn’t helping anyone.

Luckily, this did not last long. As I gained more experience as an educator, I naturally adopted more of a growth mindset before I even knew it was a “thing” in education. The end result was magical. Student tried harder, learned more, and strived to make me see their own successes.

Here are some simple things I do in the classroom to practice a growth mindset.

1. Allow students to retake tests. Sometimes it takes receiving a bad grade on a test ignite a fire in a student. As educators, we shouldn’t stifle that passion to learn and grow. Instead, we should provide an opportunity for it to burn brightly. This means allowing students the opportunity to retake a test and learn from their previous failures and mistakes.

2. Accept late work, but find out why it is late. Fear of failure is a great deterrent. When fear of failure is combined with an already shaky teenage confidence, it can result in a student completing his or her work. Sometimes a student might need a little more re-teaching so that they have the confidence and knowledge needed to complete and turn in an assignment. Accept student late work, but figure out why it is late.

3. Conduct regular self-assessments and reflections. Periodically, go back and have students reflect on their learning, assignments, or tests. Reflecting on their effort, struggles, and achievement will really help students focus on maintaining a growth mindset.

I included two different reflection assignments in my Growth Mindset Activities and Resources for the Secondary Classroom packet. You can check out this packet here.