Welcome to The Literacy Cookbook

Recipes for Effective Literacy Instruction



Argument vs Evidence-- This page curates my online resources for teaching students how to use “Argument vs. Evidence, Steps 1-6” to write more clearly.  The TLC Blog posts explain the steps, and you can find the needed materials in the Download Zone.

Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin, and we use tests as one way to measure students’ abilities to do both.  In Connecting Reading, Writing, and Test-Prep Instruction, we examine how all three overlap. 

  • In Part I, “MAIN IDEA/ARGUMENT: Finding One vs. Building One,” we consider how to find a main idea/argument (reading and test-taking) vs. how to build a main idea/argument (writing).
  • Part II, “CRITICAL READING AND ROBUST WRITING” provides code words for different types of critical reading questions, strategies for reading fiction and nonfiction, and suggestions for how to create more robust writing.

Effective Topic Sentences
The quest for effective topic sentences reminds me of an old TV commercial—I think it was for tacos—in which people argued, “I like making them!” vs. “I like eating them!”  In the case of topic sentences, you must know how to FIND them before you can WRITE them.  So this section addresses both angles.

Many of us grew up completing grammar exercises in textbooks or correcting sentences as part of the daily class routine.  Now that we’re teaching, we find that those approaches don’t really work with our students.  They might earn 100% on a quiz about dependent clauses, but they struggle to use them in their own writing.  This page provides helpful resources and advice on how to improve your grammar instruction so that students actually apply the lessons to their own writing.  For more information, see the Using Grammar to Improve Writing page!!!

History Writing: DBQ Essays
While it’s true that DBQ (Document-Based Question) essays appear on the NY State Regents and AP History Exams, teachers—esp. history teachers—of EVERY grade should see them as a tremendous tool for teaching both content and critical thinking skills.

Journal Writing can be a great way to develop students' fluency and increase their comfort level with writing.  This page offers guidance in how to establish consistent, productive routines for journal writing and includes links to hundreds of writing prompts.

Journalism Resources
This page includes key resources for teachers and student journalists.  Many thanks to my friend Steve Chiger (former president of GSSPA) for these leads!

Literary Response Paper Guide

What do students need to know and be able to do in order to write an effective literary response paper?  This section provides a guide complete with reading and writing tools.  It also offers information on how to write a poetry explication essay.

Mentor Texts
Looking for models to share with students?  This page provides exemplars of excellent writing!

Narrative Writing
Let's face it.  Stories keep us sane; we read them both for entertainment and in our quest for meaning in this life.  This page offers a quick overview of how to approach narrative writing instruction.

Open-ended Response Writing
No matter what grade or subject you teach, your students will definitely need to know how to write open-ended responses.  This section provides the tools you'll need to support your students!

This page points to PARCC-related resources.

Persuasive Writing
It's probably no surprise that "argument" and "evidence" are mentioned repeatedly throughout the Common Core Standards: virtually everything we do in life and work involves some form of persuasion.
Research Paper Guide

Like any other major undertaking, research papers require extensive planning.  This section provides you with both a teachers’ guide and a students’ guide so that you don’t miss any of the steps

Sociological Writing
Not every writing assignment has to be about a text.  This section provides materials for several engaging sociological writing projects.  I have used them with HS students, but you can adapt them for MS students with more scaffolding. 
Writers’ Workshop
Want to increase student motivation and confidence in writing?  Trying to move students past producing bland prose in a variety of genres?  Wondering how to integrate reading and writing instruction more effectively?  Writers’ Workshop is an instructional model that can transform your classroom. 
Writing 101
Why do we write?  What are we trying to accomplish?  What do students struggle with the most when they write?  This section answers these questions and provides hands-on materials that will make your life easier. 
Writing Rubrics
Writing can take forever to grade.  But it doesn’t have to.  This section offers guidance on how to grade more efficiently with rubrics that work.

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