We Become Better Writers by Becoming Better People

On Writing in a Classroom:

Rhetoric, or the rhetorical moves an author uses to convey or argue a message, are the pinnacle of a middle school writing classroom.

In a classroom, it goes something like this: teacher asks student to explain or argue a position, student constructs a thesis, develops key points, pulls evidence from a text to support the position, and makes connections between the evidence, the key points, and the thesis.

A student who understands the nuances of persuasion recognizes the opposing argument, either discrediting it or arguing it’s invalid. The most persuasive student invokes the rhetorical triangle composed of three appeals to human sensibilities, as devised by Aristotle. This particularly adept middle school student knows how to pull at the reader’s emotional compass with pathos, using anecdotes that display the macro point at a micro level. These students know how to invoke logos, or credible facts and statistics to solidify the foundation of the argument. These students know how to use ethos to question the audience’s values, to tap into the morals of the readers. The rhetoric of the argument is the foundation that holds up the thesis, if and only if, said twelve-year-old was able to construct a valid argument. The ability to construct an argument is contingent on strong reading comprehension, engagement with the articles, vocabulary, and understanding of specificity in language and ideology, and pure syntactic writing ability.

Then, there is the secondary role of grammar. A teacher’s attention is instantly diverted by the mélange of proper nouns left in the world of lower case with all the other commoners, u as texting speak, and commas resting as comma splices.

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Writeography: Writing Prompts for Middle School Students

Writeography is a tool I developed for use in my Language Arts classes. It is a book of writing prompts sorted by units in writing. I use this book as pre-writing for writing assignments, and this is a great book of extra meaningful work for students who are fast finishers. My students in the past have also enjoyed having their own Writeography book, which allows them to collect their thoughts and writings over the course of the year.

Download the collection of over 40 pages of writing prompts here.

Writeography Title Page

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Example Prompts:

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Motivating Students in Middle School Classrooms

Strategies for Motivating Students

Dan Pink says that motivation comes from three distinct facets of human need: mastery, autonomy, and purpose. In thinking about how to motivate students in a middle school classroom, there is also the interplay of social and cognitive development that can severely hamper student desire to expend effort or to pursue mastery in a content area. Carol Dweck and Dan Pink are the eminent scholars who have studied the constructs of motivation. Below is an overview of the theory around motivation and how to implement in a classroom. For more detailed information, this is a PPT (with audio narration on each slide) about student motivation and a paper with detailed research and pragmatic solutions.

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Check out this page for a download of a PPT (with audio) and a straight-forward paper highlighting research about student motivation and easy to implement solutions in your classroom.