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Organizing for Middle School

Tara Smith covers all the basics of how to get organized in middle school for the first days of literacy workshops.

The Year’s First Read Aloud

From length to heart, Tara Smith provides seven criteria for selecting the first read aloud of the year that can engage students right from the start.

Getting to the Heart of Theme

Tara Smith shares many strategies for helping her sixth graders get to the heart of understanding themes in literature.

Launching a Historical Fiction Genre Study

Tara Smith finds her sixth graders love historical fiction, but they often lack the background knowledge to understand texts fully. She launches her historical fiction unit with a careful mix of discussion, anchor charts, and shared texts.

Independence in Writing Workshop

What's the difference between a sense of calm purpose in writing workshops and an atmosphere fraught with tension? Tara Smith finds in her sixth-grade classroom it's the structures in place (or missing) for student independence.

Easing into Writing Poetry

Tara Smith describes how she eases her sixth-grade students into writing poetry through careful selection and analysis of mentor poems.

Creating a Culture of Book Love

Tara Smith shares some of her favorite online resources for keeping up with new books, as well as organizing tips for classroom libraries.

Not Just in April: Poetry All Year Long

Tara Smith finds that the 20 minutes she spends on poetry reading, analysis, and response in her sixth-grade classroom each week pay dividends all year long.

Breathing New Life into the Writer’s Notebook

Tara Smith finds her sixth graders have years of experience with writer's notebooks by the time they reach her classroom. How to inspire enthusiasm for a familiar tool? Mix old favorite tasks and lessons with fresh texts and tech-savvy options.

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