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Check out my hard copy of The Book On How To Really Teach Writing  which combines The Little Book on How To Teach Creative Writing and The Little Book on How To Teach Expository Writing that are offered as separate digital books on TpT into one book, plus it includes an abbreviated poetry unit, rubrics, writing prompts, the TOOL Box and sooo much more. 

The Book on How to Really Teach Writing

What to say? What to say? Speaking my mind on student directed learning.

Me staring at my empty screen trying to think of what to put on my blog.

Me staring at my empty screen trying to think of what to put on my blog.


I have to say that blogging is not my strong suit.  I love to write curriculum and seem to never run out of ideas, but when it comes to blogging I am often at a  loss.  Today I have decided to just let if flow.

Anyone familiar with me, or uses my curriculum, knows that I believe in student directed interactive language arts materials because I found that students that are involved in all aspects of their learning are much more successful.  I discovered this the first time I passed out my newly developed scoring guide for my students to use to evaluate their weekly creative writing assignment.  They were very receptive and even excited at the idea of grading their own writing.  As I was collecting the finished assignment, my students were commenting on how much more they enjoyed the lesson when they got to grade their own papers.

One student stopped in after class and said, “Mrs. Darling, I never really understood how teachers graded my papers until today, plus I knew exactly what you expected me to do. I get it now and feel like I wrote a much better paper!”

That was all it took to convince me that I was on the right track, and I have not looked back since.

Today’s blog is just me rambling and sipping my coffee.  I hope you all have a great day!




16 Weekly Interactiv11 (1)e Writing Journal Notebook Lessons

Each of these 16 Common Core aligned lessons guides students through the entire writing process with rubrics that explain and provide examples.  Students are allowed to be interactive and independent writers including grading the entire lesson before turning it into the instructor for a final evaluation. The grading rubrics remove any subjectivity and give students the choice to be successful which makes them feel empowered.

Teachers will see their students engaged and challenged as they become willing writers. Teachers will also enjoy the luxury of having more time to spend with their family and friends with less time spent grading.

Hot Off The Press! New CC Aligned, Weekly Interactive Writing Journal Lesson

Hi All, I am so excited to begin posting my latest creations. It takes me a while, but I think they are worth it. I have posted the first one of 16 weekly interactive writing journal lessons.  This is a fun lesson because students write about a vacation disaster. The lesson includes prewriting, rough draft ideas, a rough draft guideline, examples of writing so students see what is being asked, and a grading rubric for each section of the lesson plus a final writing grade when the student finishes.  It is Common Core Aligned for those that need it.

Weekly Interactive Writing Journal Lesson


Plan A Family Holiday Menu and Write a Personal Narrative

Plan a Family Menu

Design A Family Menu

In this fun holiday tradition writing lesson, 6 – 8 grade students will design a family menu after learning menu appropriate vocabulary. Then they will write a personal narrative describing their own family traditions, or a particular story that happened at their family holiday gathering. It can be centered around any holiday or family gathering such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, a birthday, family reunion, or even a wedding.  If you have a student(s) whose family doesn’t celebrate certain holidays, he or she will still be able to do the lesson.  I did this every year in my class and my students often gave it as a gift.

Secondary Smorgasbord Blog Hop is hosted by:

ELA Buffet & Desktop Learning Adventures.


Special Elf, Jewels, Had To Be Combed!!!!


Jewels after she finished combing for lice.

Our granddaughter Lucy’s class had a little problem with lice, so her mother had to do a comb for the little buggers.  When Lucy woke up this morning she discovered that Jewel’s had gone through the process too.

Our daughter stated, “One can’t be too careful when it comes to guarding against lice!”


Lucy said, “Jewels is smart and funny!”




Judith Darling, President of Razzle Dazzle Learning CompanyI have often been asked, “Why did you become a middle school teacher?”  I would reply that as a middle school teachers  I appreciated that age student for their honesty, humor and desire to learn how to be more grown up.  It is a painful time for children because they are learning how to become responsible and independent adults with proper manners, a good sense of humor, and a sense of individuality that will carry them through life, which seemed to be something I could relate to.  I just knew I wanted to be a part of that teaching community.

Middle school aged children require educators that have a special kind of personality which is impervious to harsh comments about their hair, appearance and lifestyle in general.  Teachers and parents must have a quirky sense of humor that carries them through the constant critique of “all knowing” middle schoolers who ban together in their search for an identity and independence.  They must be able to guide students toward developing their own sense of style, toward becoming independent learners, toward understanding  differences in beliefs and views; and toward becoming ready to successfully move on to high school, college, and adulthood.  It is a daunting task for sure, but one I loved considering the nature of the little beasts!

I discovered that middle school children need tons of guidance and strict boundaries, but want to feel like they are making decisions themselves.  This is a tricky tight rope to walk for teachers and parents.  I learned there were times when I needed to take the heat so a student could save face, and other times when a student would surprise me and show a real sense of maturity by stepping up and owning the problem or difficulty.

During all the years I taught middle school I can honestly say that I looked forward to almost every day in the classroom.  Life was not dull, I got honest feedback, students were always surprising me, I got to laugh often every day and I knew it was a place that was good for me.

Check out my TpT store to find ways to make teaching writing so much easier and fun for students and teachers.

See you there!


FREE Holiday Creative Writing Lesson

Holiday Creative-Writing-Plans01_02

Click on the picture to go to my TpT store and download my Free Holiday Lesson.

Here is a FREE HOLIDAY WRITING LESSON. In this lesson students think of something they really want, then write a story about why they want it, what they have to do to get it, and what they will do with it once they have it. It is interactive because they brainstorm, write in paragraphs, edit, and grade their own paper before turning it in. The lesson includes:

1. Instructions on how to use the lesson plan
2. The writing process steps for teaching the plan
3. An Idea Organizer that taps into the students personal bank of knowledge
4. A paragraph organizer that guides the student’s through writing the introduction, body, and conclusion
5. Two scoring guides (one includes the six traits of writing) so students know what the expectations are, how they will be evaluated, and allows them to grade their own papers before turning it in for the final teacher evaluation.
6. An art/drawing worksheet to go along with the lesson

TEACHING WRITING – Why use a grading rubric?

Teaching writing is subjective!  So much so that almost every teacher grades essays and students writing different from anyone else, and how they do it can vary from assignment to assignment. What is needed is a scoring rubric that is student and teacher friendly and evens the playing field for all students.  It needs to be shown to the students before any writing is done, so the students know exactly what the expectations are and how they will be evaluated.  Students should also edit and grade their own assignments before turning them in for teacher evaluation.  This allows the student to actually choose the grade they which to make on any given writing assignment.  The rubric should allow students to be held accountable, but not be so stringent that it overwhelms them.

I have said many times and will say it many more.  The only way children learn to write is by writing all the time.  The more they write the better they become.  Taking the stress off of writing by providing a usable scoring rubric, allows students to succeed and feel empowered.  Their success and empowerment translates into the desire to write more.

An added bonus is that it significantly cuts down on grading time for the teacher. 

My writing curriculum does just that.  It makes teaching writing stress free and joyful for students and teachers.  If you are interested in making your teaching life easier, drop by my TpT store and take a look.  All of my products are student directed, and I offer free lessons so you can see if they will work for you.

The picture is of my granddaughters doing their writing homework.  They LOVE it that their grandmother writes fun and interesting writing and language arts lessons that they can grade themselves.



This was the view I was privileged to see each day on my way to teach middle school.  It was glorious and I never tired of it.  I miss the beauty, our friends, the great vegetable they grown in the Matanuska Valley, and the beautiful little town of Palmer.  I do not miss the cold!

A beautiful morning in Palmer, AK