Having students begin class with a daily journal is a great way for students to begin the class quietly, while working on their independent writing skills. You can vary the topic based on what you are reading in class or current events, It also gives you a chance to comment on students' ideas, which you'll find can be pretty lengthy when you touch on a subject they are interested in.
This is an outstanding source of strategies for how to get students writing in your classroom through modeled brainstorming. The author also gives an extensive list of ideas for how to get your kids' pens moving, which is often the hardest part of being an ELA teacher. One of the best parts is it reassures you that test-based writing is not the "end all, be all" of a child's writing curriculum.
Author David Finkle is an experienced middle school teacher, as well as part-time comic and cartoonist. This thoughtful, and fun, collection of strategies will take your students from the process of planning, to execution, to revising and editing an essay. He also focuses on students' word choice, which is an often overlooked skill. If students can articulate why they chose one word over another, they are executing "author's purpose", which is an increasingly popular question on state assessment
An excellent strategy for students to remember on assessments that require specific, text-based examples. A quick,yet thorough explanation of an acronym that kids will easily remember and can be reminded of when writing structured short responses.
Getting middle school students to use their phones and iPads for anything besides Snapchat and messaging is a miracle. Learn how to create a QR code where you can program a quick writing prompt for students to complete as they enter or exit the room.
For younger students, the color-coded Step Up system makes organizing paragraphs, and then essays, a breeze. For middle school students who still struggle with organization and content, Step Up can be a lifesaver. The easy to learn system allows students to self-monitor their progress using highlighters, stickers, and other color-coded tools to finally "see" the organization and structure criticisms their teachers have been making.