Friday, May 20, 2016

Rules for Writing a Novel

During Somerset Maugham's long life, he showed a remarkable understanding of human nature. He wore many hats in his lifetime. He was a doctor, a playwright, a secret agent during WWI, and a writer of short stories and novels.

I was amazed to discover over 800 quotations attributed to him, and found most of them to be quite relevant to the life of anyone who loves to write.

His message in the quotation above is one with which I wholeheartedly agree. There are no rules when it comes to writing a novel or any other creative work. Each writer is unique, and the method s/he uses to complete a work in progress is absolutely the only one that is correct in that moment.

We can all learn new tricks and techniques, and we can all use help, but in the end, it is up to each writer to develop his or her distinctive voice and style.

If you are a writer, you will know exactly what I mean.

Write On!

Thanks for reading,

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Gratitude Booklet Makes a Special Gift

Here's a great idea for a heartfelt gift for for Mother's Day, Father's Day, or any occasion.

 This is a creative writing unit that requires students to research one of their family members or significant friends and create a gratitude booklet. They will enjoy learning more about the history of their family and experience the joy of giving a truly unique and special gift. Students will:

             write interview questions.

             interview family members.

             write a biographical sketch.

             write and edit anecdotes. 

             locate or take photos of the subject of their gratitude booklet.

             compile a gratitude booklet.

             present the completed booklet to their subject as a special gift.

 The booklet can include photos, drawings, a biographical sketch, and testimonial statements from the students and from others who know their subject well.

An example would be that a student interviews his or her mother and then writes a biographical sketch. If possible, they will include old photos and current photos. Then, they would interview their mother's friends and relatives and collect anecdotes and statements from them to include in their booklet. 

 After the booklet is complete, they would present it to their mother on Mother's Day as a priceless gift. I have included sample pages from a gratitude booklet in the product.
This is a free product that is available in my store. 

Click here below to visit my store and download this project.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, March 7, 2016

Internet Bloopers Can Be Entertaining

Internet Bloopers Can Be Entertaining

Have you ever noticed while clicking around on the Internet, how often something really funny pops up on your screen? To me, the humor is even more entertaining when it is unintentional. Often the humor comes from someone using a mixed metaphor or a malapropism.

Click here to learn more about both of those errors and for hints to avoid using them in your writing.

I will be posting more of these on my FaceBook page this month. Click here to join me. Be sure to like my page while you are there.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Preview my Novel

Here's a look at my novel. Click above to read a preview.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hints to Help With Grading Papers

I taught English and creative writing for 35 years, and I don’t even want to calculate how many hours of my life were spent with pen in hand grading papers such as essays, practice assignments, journal entries, short stories, articles, and tests.
Photo of notebooks Grading Scale Chart by Charlene Tess on TeachersPayTeachers

I once piled a huge stack of spiral notebooks on top of my car while I unlocked the car door and then drove off accidentally leaving a trail of spiral notebooks all over the parking lot. Oops!

Although I was never able to escape the grading process, I did learn a few things along the way that made life easier for me. Here are a few hints that might help.

1) Always prepare a rubric to give to the students along with a composition assignment. A thoughtfully prepared rubric will clarify exactly what you are expecting the students to write, and the papers will be better and easier to grade.

2) You don’t have to grade everything. Sometimes, practice papers should be just for practice and not for a grade. Verify that the student did indeed complete the assignment, but don’t grade it. If you wish to assign a grade because the student turned in the completed assignment on time, great! I would often assign a plus sign (if the paper appeared to be complete), a minus sign (if the paper was a half-hearted attempt), or a zero if the paper was not turned in at all.

3) You don’t have to evaluate every element of every paper. If, for example, your students have been working on how to write a thesis statement, just grade the thesis statement and not the whole paper.
4) Have your students peer edit each other’s papers and then revise their compositions before they turn them in to you.

5) Let your students grade each other’s papers whenever the assignment requires short answers or multiple choices. If the students trade and grade while you go over the answers with the entire class, you are providing another chance for students to learn. Immediate feedback is always a good idea.

6) Although you can always use a calculator to determine a student’s numerical grade, it is so much easier to use a grading chart. Laminate one or two and keep a copy wherever you might be likely to grade papers: your desk, your car, your home.
For products that help with all of the hints above, visit my store.

Try a grading scale chart.

Practice writing a thesis statement.

Prepare a rubric.

Good luck with grading your stack of papers.
Thanks for reading,

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Two Day Sale on TpT

Two Day Sale on TpT does not have sales very often, 
but when they do, it's a good one.

Visit the web site on January 20 and 21st and enter the code START16 at checkout. Everything in my store is 28% off including my Simple Steps to Sentence Sense books and bundles. It's a great time to clear out your wish list and save lots of money.

The spring semester is the perfect time to teach grammar. You can easily go through the entire book in a semester, and your students will be involved, make good grades, and enjoy learning grammar. Everything you need is in my books. You will not need to do any advance preparation. Click here to see what teachers are saying about my books.

Hurry! Don't miss this sale.

I hope you have a very successful teaching year in 2016. Let me know if I can help with any grammar or usage questions. You can always email me at or leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, January 16, 2016

HOTS HIgher Order Thinking Skills Are Important

Whenever possible, find a way to promote Higher Order Thinking Skills into your daily lessons.

Students must do more than just memorize and retell information. They have to think about what they have learned and not just play back information like a tape recorder does. 

They will more easily retain the information they learn if they have to use those facts or manipulate them.

Examples of the ways they can reach higher thinking levels are to predict, estimate, define, evaluate, diagram, construct, order, classify, identify, etc.

Encourage your students to think!

Click here to purchase a HOTS Classification Exercise from my store. 

Thanks for reading,

Friday, January 15, 2016

Emergency Substitute Plans Are a Necessity

One of the biggest worries for teachers is what to do when you have an unexpected need to be absent. Sometimes you just don't feel like writing out a lesson plan that incorporates the lessons you have been working on in class. At other times, during a family crisis, you don't have time to think about a lesson plan at all. You have to pack, or go to the hospital, or rush in to help a family member who needs you. 

At such times, I always relied on a folder that I kept in my desk. 

Emergency no prep lesson plans Charlene Tess
I would call a teacher friend at my school and tell them to get the folder out of my drawer and put it on my desktop. In addition to the lessons I had prepared, the folder contained my schedule, my seating charts, notes about my class rules, information about the teachers' lunch room and break room, and any other helpful information I thought a substitute might need.

My go to lesson was a short story that students would read in class and worksheets they would use to analyze the story. In the folder were printed copies of the story and worksheets. You will find that lesson here.

If I had to be absent for more than one day, I had my teacher friend pull out a second folder in which I had prepared a different lesson that could take up to a week to complete. You will find that lesson here.

Short Story Analysis graphic  image

I learned that if you take the time to prepare these two folders at the beginning of the year, they will often be a lifesaver later on. Take a look at all of the fantastic ideas for substitute plans prepared by the Secondary Teachers of These lessons are classroom tested and ready to print and use. Why not download them and get your folders ready? Enjoy!

Thanks for hosting the linkup, Pamela Krantz and Darlene Anne Curran.

product links:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Useful Tools for Readers

Identifying the elements of a novel is a skill that will help your student gain appreciation for the books that they read. Once they are proficient in identifying the elements in this lesson, it will be easy for them to discuss and write about the novels they are assigned or those they choose to read. 

After your students finish reading a novel, this guide will help them identify the following elements:

Plot (Exposition, Complications, Climax, Resolution)
Conflict (s)
Major Characters
Point of View
Narrative Techniques
Frame Story
Letters of a Diary
Satire or Parody
Verbal Irony
Situational Irony
Dramatic Irony

Reading a novel is a rewarding experience, and especially so if one knows what literary techniques the author used to enrich his or her writing. As the student reads, it is helpful to keep a reading reaction journal in which they can take notes to use for future reference.

Click here for a lesson that shows students how to keep a Reading Reaction Journal that will help them remember and analyze what they have read. Teachers can use the journal to evaluate whether or not students are doing a close reading of assigned literary works. 

This is a valuable tool for you and your students, and it is especially useful as a study tool for AP students while reading advanced literary selections. 

Visit my store for more helpful products. 

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Gluten Be Gone

Hints for Newly Diagnosed Celiacs

Although it can take years to become fully familiar with the task of living gluten free, it is possible to quickly learn how to be safe and still eat and live well. I am not a doctor or a medical practitioner of any kind. I am not an expert. I am not a pharmacist. I am not a nutritionist. Always check with a professional if you have a question of any kind.

 The information and resources presented in this book are not intended to replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your doctor for professional medical advice.

 This book is in no way a scientific document. It is a summary of the steps my family took to go gluten free when my grandson was diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of six. I am happy to say, so far we have not had one incident in which he ingested gluten.

 We rarely eat at restaurants, and do not trust them, but we have learned how to eat well at home. It has become second nature to us. I hope this information will help you get started. After a while you will have a system of your own, and this way of life will become second nature to you as well. It is not easy, but it is possible to stay safe, live gluten free, and have a great life.

Click here to find Gluten Be Gone in the Kindle Book Store.. You can read the eBook on any tablet, smart phone, or computer.

I also invite you to take a look at my other books in the Kindle Store and to sign up for my free newsletter here.

Thanks for reading,