Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Handout on How to Take Notes on Fiction

  1. Summarize important chapters/scenes/sections of the text.
  2. Write down all vocabulary words that you do not know.  Look up the definitions and write them down.
  3. Write down any questions you have about what you are reading, i.e., things that you don’t understand. Ask your teacher in class about confusing sections.  Be sure you have written down the page numbers for confusing sections in the text.
  4. Write down good examples of figurative language—similes, metaphors, personification.  Quote; provide the page number.  Elaborate on the effectiveness of the figurative language.
  5. Write down which sections/aspects of the text you liked best.  Provide page numbers. Explain why you liked those sections.
  6. Write down which sections/aspects of the text you liked least.  Provide page numbers. Explain why you did not prefer those sections.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Rubric for a Literary Analysis Essay

  • Analysis means explaining (with textual evidence, i.e., quotes) how an author effectively renders/shows/establishes a particular literary aspect.  For example, theme, mood, characterization, conflict.  Before you begin to write the essay, you have to figure out what larger aspect of the text you will be analyzing. (Sometimes your teacher will assign a specific literary aspect for you to analyze; other times, you will have to choose that literary aspect on your own.)  As you are reading the text, you need to find excellent examples (quotes) that will support that larger literary aspect.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

FSA Item Stems Worksheet

The information in this document was excerpted from the Draft of Grades 9-10 English Language Arts Item Specifications that is posted on the Florida Department of Education website. A few of the Item Stems were created by me. You may find it useful to have students use the sample Item Stems to create questions for what they are reading in class.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Likeable Links

It's always great to refer students to excellent essays on the writing process.  Check out the following link:


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Writing Process and Ways to Streamline the Grading of Essays

Every English teacher struggles with ways to make the grading and commenting on student papers easier. Some of the techniques that have worked for me are as follows:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Text-Dependent Questions/Analysis, Webb's Depth of Knowledge, and Deeper Learning

Check out these links for guides to creating text-dependent questions, as well as explanations of Webb's Depth of Knowledge and the Deeper Learning Initiative. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Novel: Molly Bonamici

"Molly is cold and her rather cynical attitude may not make her an instantly likable lead character, but she will win readers over bit by bit with her intelligent and firm approach. The writing is consistently compelling, and sometimes serves as observations on the human condition. Anyone who has ever been an adolescent on the brink of adulthood will find a lot to relate to in Molly’s struggles to get an anchor in her life and her edginess to move ahead. Alternatively, I can relate more to the adult Molly. The change in her perspectives toward life in general is easily relevant and thought-provoking, and I absolutely love the big, hidden twist in the plot. Simply put, Molly Bonamici is a solid read from Mulhern and highly recommended."
--Readers' Favorite

Kirkus Reviewshttps://www.kirkusreviews.com/search/?q=molly+bonamici&t=all or https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/james-mulhern/molly-bonamici/

The illustration is a modern interpretation of the cover of Daniel Defoe's classic edition of his novel, Moll Flanders, one of several literary works alluded to within the text. One does not have to be "literary," however, to enjoy Molly Bonamici as a contemporary psychological thriller/mystery. Please be aware that the book contains adult content and graphic violence.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ways to Prepare Students for New Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) and Other Rigorous Exams

  • Teaching to the test. Yes, teaching to the test. I know that this may seem like anathema to many educators, but from a pragmatic point of view it works. For example, in the the new Common Core Florida Standards Assessment that we will be preparing students for (whatever its format), we do know that high-level critical thinking skills will be emphasized. We need to give students concrete, specific explanations of what these skills mean (in language and through analogies that they can understand), as well as explicit step-by-step directives on how to understand/use each skill in both reading and writing. Students will never understand the skills of evaluation, analysis, synthesis, and argumentation unless we teach in ways that are specific, concrete, and directed.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Brainstorming/Planning Strategies for Answering the FSA ELA Writing Prompt (The Prewriting Process)

I teach the following strategies to my students:


Brainstorming/Planning Strategies for Answering the FSA ELA Writing Prompt—
Note Taking While You Read and Highlight

Know that this prompt requires you to plan and revise. You will be given a sheet of paper to take notes. All good writing requires planning. Below are some suggestions for the reading, note-taking, and planning process:
  1. As stated in the previous handouts on how to write the essays, you must keep the key words of the prompt and the exact task foremost in your mind while you read the different texts. Highlight the key words in the prompt before you begin reading the passage set.

Argumentative Essay Rubric--Peer Editing, Preparation for Argumentative Essay Prompt--Florida Standards Assessment (FSA)

The following rubric/peer editing directions may be helpful for the new Florida Standards Assessment (Writing--March 2015)

1. Does the writer have a strong introductory paragraph with a clear thesis/argument/claim?
2. Does the writer provide excellent examples within the body paragraphs to support the 
    main argument/claim?

Monday, February 29, 2016

FSA (Florida Standards Assessments) Argumentative Essay Prompt Based on Texts--Strategies for Responding

Writing Prompt:
(from the Florida Department of Education website)

It’s no secret that sometimes great discoveries come as a result of really big mistakes. But are they always worth the problems they cause? Sometimes the mistakes lead to greatness, and sometimes they lead to disaster. Are mistakes key to making discoveries?

Strategies for Writing an Informational Essay Based on a Prompt with Accompanying Texts (Practice for Florida Standards Assessment--Writing)

Informational Essay Based on Prompt with Accompanying Texts

Definition of an Informational Essay: An informational essay informs, conveys, imparts, or communicates factual unbiased knowledge to an audience (gives no opinion; think "just the facts). 

If you are asked to write an informational essay based on the knowledge supplied in texts, you should follow the directions below. Notice what I have highlighted in the prompt section and in the texts themselves:

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Pointers for New SAT (2016) Reading Test

Use this handout to improve metacognition and familiarity with Reading Test question types. The information provided below is appropriate for any standardized Reading Assessment, as most such tests utilize the same question types.

The SAT Reading Test 2016

(Information in this document was excerpted and adapted from The Official SAT Study Guide of the College Board, 2015.)

Consider purchasing The Official SAT Study Guide for March 2016 and beyond. The book is an excellent resource. It is available through the College Board Store or Amazon.com.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Available at Amazon.com--A Guide to Accompany Collections Textbook, Grade Nine: In-Depth Analyses of Essays with Questions and Analytical Reading Strategies

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Excerpts from an Excellent Book

The following quotations are taken from That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Two new publications. Available at Amazon.com and soon BN.com. Both books are particularly helpful for the AP English Language and Composition teacher, in addition to other English teachers, as we try to utilize new methods for teaching essay writing, and analysis in particular (both writing and reading).

All proceeds are donated to a student scholarship.

Thank you.

Monday, February 15, 2016

"Link Think" Lesson/Unit Plan--Transcendentalists/Romantics

James Mulhern---Lesson/Unit Plan--American Romanticism/Transcendentalism
Advanced Placement English Language and Composition

Synthesis Activity: “Link Think”

Reading, Discussion, and Writing Activities—Analyses of Seminal U.S. Texts—Walden by Thoreau, Nature and Self-Reliance by Emerson.

Poetry Explication—Romantic texts.  Analysis of Famous Art.  Links to Quotes from Other Course Selections.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

FSA Informative/Explanatory Writing Rubric

The Peer Editing Rubric below was adapted from the rubric on the Florida DOE website.


Florida Standards Assessment Informative/Explanatory Writing Rubric

For each of the following, answer yes or no. Also point out to your peer the sections of the essay that could be improved. Suggest ideas for improvement.