10%-OFF COUPON CODE for Using Grammar to Improve Writing!


For the entire month of June, you can get 10% off on print copies of Using Grammar to Improve Writing on BookShop with the coupon code UsingGrammar10 here! (Note: This coupon works for every copy you purchase!)

Also: as a reminder, the eBook is only $3.99 on Amazon!!! (PS: You can download the free Kindle app to read the book even if you don’t have a Kindle.) 

More good news:
Print copies will be more widely available–on Amazon and Barnes & Noble–on June 25.
Pre-order your copies TODAY to make sure they are in stock! (This book is “print on demand,” so pre-ordering ensures you’ll receive the book without delay.)

Goodreads Giveaway:
Enter here starting on June 2 for a chance to win a free copy of the book!

Here are some early reviews:

“Don’t let the title scare you. Using Grammar to Improve Writing is a game-changing book focused on a new kind of grammar instruction. ‘Grammar’ is an old word that’s generally scorned. We look back at it and think, Thank goodness we don’t use that anymore. When Sarah Tantillo uses the word, though, she means something very modern: the ability to use forms to capture ideas. This book shines a bright light on how to teach students to craft compelling sentences, effective paragraphs, powerful essays, and profound narratives.”—Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion 2.0, Practice Perfect, and Reading Reconsidered

“FIVE STARS: Sarah Tantillo’s Using Grammar to Improve Writing: Recipes for Action offers refreshing and innovative ways to help students learn grammar painlessly and even with a bit of fun. I appreciated how she uses insights based on second language acquisition to build her programs, and I loved how she transforms the writing process from being one hampered by relentless self-editing to one that is characterized by investigatory processes. Rather than present students with models and rules to memorize, she suggests methods that allow them to discover the right forms through comparison and detection of patterns. I especially liked how her coaching style helps kids easily progress from simple three-word sentences into more complex structures. Her ideas for helping kids catch up to their grade level are sound, and her breakdown of writing and language instruction for teaching by grade levels is fascinating from a linguistic standpoint. And while I’m one of those dinosaurs who actually loves reading grammar books, playing with syntax, and diagramming sentences, I appreciated the fresh and inspirational way in which she looks at grammar and writing. Using Grammar to Improve Writing: Recipes for Action is most highly recommended.”– Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

Thank you all for your support!


Posted in Analyzing the Common Core Standards, Curriculum, ELA Common Core Standards, Grammar, Language Standards, Lesson-planning, Resources, Using Grammar to Improve Writing BOOK, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



Here are three ways to get your copy of Using Grammar to Improve Writing:

  • Amazon eBook HERE. (Only $3.99!!! It’s a steal!!!)
  • Amazon pre-order the paperback HERE. (Still a bargain at $24.99!)
  • BookShop order the paperback HERE. (Ditto)

In a few weeks, the paperback will be more widely available (on Barnes & Noble.com, etc.).

PS—You can help boost the available Amazon inventory of my book by simply clicking on the links above, even if you are not ordering immediately. Showing interest now means there will be more copies in stock when you are ready to order.

PPS—Positive reviews are MUCH appreciated!


Posted in Grammar, Using Grammar to Improve Writing BOOK | Tagged , | Leave a comment


Dear friends,

I am thrilled to inform you that my latest book, Using Grammar to Improve Writing: Recipes for Action, is NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon!!! To order a paperback or eBook, please click HERE. (Please note: The eBook is available today; the print version should be available on Amazon by June 4, I am told.  You can get the print version immediately at BookShop HERE; otherwise, it will be available on Amazon by June 4.)

How we frame grammar instruction matters. If you view it as “fixing incorrect sentences,” you teach it that way. If you view it as “building strong, compelling sentences,” you take a different approach. This book explains a new way to teach grammar—systematically and purposefully—in order to strengthen student writing. It offers detailed guidance on which grammar standards to teach when and how to use grammatical forms to capture ideas. This new approach will enable students to write more efficiently and effectively.

Using Grammar to Improve Writing answers these questions:

  • What should we STOP doing?
  • How can we teach grammar more effectively and integrate it with writing more systematically?
  • How can we help students who are not on grade level?
  • Which other factors affect how well we write?
  • What should we teach, grade by grade, in K-12 ELA?

Though pitched as a grammar instructional manual, this is secretly a book about how to teach students how to write clearly. It should be useful not only to K-12 educators but also to college writing instructors and writers interested in strengthening their practice.

“Don’t let the title scare you. Using Grammar to Improve Writing is a game-changing book focused on a new kind of grammar instruction. “Grammar” is an old word that’s generally scorned. We look back at it and think, Thank goodness we don’t use that anymore. When Sarah Tantillo uses the word, though, she means something very modern: the ability to use forms to capture ideas. This book shines a bright light on how to teach students to craft compelling sentences, effective paragraphs, powerful essays, and profound narratives.”—Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion 2.0, Practice Perfect, and Reading Reconsidered

IF YOU LIKE THIS BOOK, please tell your friends and colleagues. Every little Facebook post or Tweet @SarahTantillo helps!

PS—If you haven’t already seen them, please check out my other books: The Literacy Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction AND Literacy and the Common Core: Recipes for Actionavailable through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Jossey-Bass/Wiley.


In case you are interested, my consulting services offer:

  • Literacy Coaching (observations and feedback, demo lessons, workshops)
  • Literacy Instruction Needs Analysis Reports
  • Curriculum Development Training and Support
  • Data Analysis and Re-teach Planning
  • Strategic Planning Support

With training on the following topics:

  • The Comprehension Process and 4 Key Critical Reading Skills
  • From Argument vs. Evidence to Effective Writing Instruction
  • Building Robust Vocabulary
  • Close Reading, Parts I and II
  • Using Grammar to Improve Writing
  • PARCC Prep: How to Prepare Students for the Writing Assessments
  • How to Teach with Novels/Narratives
  • Understanding by Design: Developing Effective Unit Plans
  • Designing RPM (Rigorous, Purposeful, Measurable) Objectives
  • Designing Effective Lesson Plans
  • Analyzing the ELA Common Core Standards
  • Scripting the Pitch


For more information, please contact me:

Sarah Tantillo, Ed.D., LLC

Posted in Analyzing the Common Core Standards, Curriculum, ELA Common Core Standards, Grammar, Instruction, Language Standards, Lesson-planning, Paragraph writing, Resources, Using Grammar to Improve Writing BOOK, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reality Check Podcast: My Conversation with Jeanne Allen

Hi, all–

I was recently interviewed by Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Ed Reform, on her podcast, Reality Check.  It was a fascinating conversation!!!  Here’s the link:



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A GREAT RESOURCE: The ELL Teacher’s Toolbox

Lately I seem to keep bumping into people who ask about resources for English Language Learners, so I was excited to get a copy of The ELL Teacher’s Toolbox: Hundreds of Practical Ideas to Support Your Students by Larry Ferlazzo and Kate Hull Sypnieski. Ferlazzo is a teacher who writes a popular education blog at http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/ and he is known for sharing useful information. Sypnieski is a teacher and consultant focused on ELL instruction. Together, they’ve produced something that is VERY handy—not only for ELL students but also for students in general. As they note, “Good ELL teaching is good teaching for everyone!”

This book is chock-full of graphic organizers, templates, and handouts based on 45 different instructional strategies. By “strategies,” they mean things like independent reading, literary conversations, vocabulary, and sequencing. They describe each strategy, explain what they like about it, provide ample supporting research, note Common Core connections, explain how to teach it (including handouts), address what could go wrong, and provide technology connections.

While it is extremely comprehensive (some might say “encyclopedic”), it is also easily accessible. You can dig in anywhere and start using the tools today.

Check it out here!

Posted in ELL students, English Language Learners, ESL instruction, Resources | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

PARCC ELA Prep Checklist

As a former high school English teacher who loves literature and loves to write, I do not believe in doing test prep 24/7. I believe tests are a genre, the same way that drama is a genre and poetry is a genre, etc.—and we should prepare students for them in the same way that we prepare them to analyze a play or write a poem: figure out the key features of the genre, teach students what is required to do well in working with that genre, then give them sufficient practice so that they can confidently tackle that genre in the future.

In the home stretch of PARCC test preparation, here’s a quick diagnostic tool you can use to determine if your students have a clear grasp of some essential strategies that will help them succeed with this genre.

Below is the “student” version. This PARCC ELA PREP CHECKLIST (a free download) includes both the student copy and a suggested answer key.



Directions: For each question, on a scale of 1-10 (1=not confident, 10=very confident), FIRST rate how confident you feel about how to respond. THEN, jot some notes in response. We will discuss each item. AFTER our discussion, rate how confident you feel. See the model.

QUESTION NOTES How confident you feel



How confident you feel



What should you do FIRST when you start a PARCC ELA test? Click forward to the writing prompt, turn the prompt into a question, and write that question on your blank sheet of paper so that you can take notes with that question in mind. 1 10
How do you unpack a Literary Analysis or Research Simulation Task writing prompt and turn it into a question?      
How much time should you spend on 1) reading and taking notes, 2) answering multiple-choice questions, and 3) writing your narrative or essay?      
How/Why can taking notes actually SAVE you time?      
What are some useful test-taking strategies for answering multiple-choice questions?      
What kind of organizer should you create for taking notes on the Literary Analysis Writing Task? What should the notes focus on?      
Why should you put checkmarks next to items in your organizer for the Literary Analysis/Research Simulation Writing Task?      
What is the basic outline structure for a Literary Analysis compare and contrast essay? (2 options)      
What kind of organizer should you create for taking notes on the Research Simulation Writing Task? What should the notes focus on?      
What is the basic outline structure for a Research Simulation compare and contrast essay? (2 options)      
What two things might the Narrative Writing Task ask you to do (after you read the passage)?      
Why is important to pay attention to “DDAT” and “Somebody Wanted But So” when pre-writing for the Narrative Writing Task?


On the Narrative Writing Task, what kinds of compositional risks should you use?      
The box you’re supposed to type in looks really small. Does that mean you should only write two sentences?      
What should you be sure to do before time expires, and why?      

For more information on PARCC, see the TLC “PARCC Prep” page.

PS: Please feel free to comment (or Email me at sarahtantillo@literacycookbook.com) if you have any questions, thoughts, or suggestions!

PPS: Thanks to Anibal Garcia at Queen City Academy CS for inspiring this post, and thanks to Dominy Alderman at HoLa CS for her input.

PPPS: This Blog post originally ran in 2016; I’m reposting it as a reminder.

Posted in Assessment(s), PARCC, Resources, Test Prep, TLC Website Resources | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

An Argument for “Quote Lasagna”

Although I’ve been a longtime proponent of teaching “quote sandwiches” to help students write effective paragraphs (see HERE and most recently HERE), lately I’ve begun to notice that students who use this approach (context, quote/evidence, explanation) seem to overemphasize the “quote” part, often to the detriment of the explanation. They seem to believe that the evidence is the most important part, possibly because of the name “QUOTE sandwich”—i.e., it’s not “EXPLANATION sandwich.” Either they skimp on the explanation or the explanation does not actually explain how the evidence supports their argument. As a result, their paragraphs feel disjointed.

While conducting writing conferences with students recently, I’ve found that when I ask them to simply explain their ideas, they can do so pretty easily. If I then ask them to explain how the evidence supports their ideas, sometimes they can and sometimes they can’t. Some are clearly struggling with Argument vs. Evidence Step 2.5 (“Given arguments, select the most relevant evidence to support them.”). As long as they find SOMETHING, they think they can drop it in. After all, it’s a QUOTE, and that’s what a quote sandwich needs, right?

So now I’d like to propose a new metaphor: “quote lasagna.” As any lasagna fan knows, the recipe calls for MULTIPLE LAYERS of pasta, sauce, meat, veggies, and various cheeses. While most chefs adhere to that general principle, there is not one correct way to make lasagna. The goal is to create something yummy by blending these ingredients, layer upon layer, in a way that makes sense (I think we can all agree that five layers of noodles without anything else in between would be silly).

How does this idea translate to paragraph writing? Effective paragraphs BLEND evidence and explanation. As long as you provide enough context so that we know what you’re talking about, there is not one right way to sequence what you want to say. Sometimes you need to explain BEFORE you provide details. Students who believe they are only allowed to provide evidence FIRST might struggle to explain not because they’ve picked weak/irrelevant evidence but because they feel constricted by the “rule” that the evidence should be between the context and the explanation.

I think using the metaphor of layers and blended ingredients might free students to start with explanation if they need to. With a slightly less rigid structure, they might write more clearly and coherently.

Let me know what you think.

Posted in Argument, Context, Evidence, Explanation, Literacy and the Common Core BOOK, Open-ended Response Writing, Paragraph writing, Quote Lasagna, Quote Sandwiches, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PARCC Releases 2017 Items!

Apparently PARCC recently released 2017 ELA materials. To be honest, I’m not sure when they did this because I have not received their newsletter in months (in fact, I’m not sure they still send out newsletters). So I found out today by happy accident.


I have already updated the following files (which feature all of the released prompts) on my TLC “PARCC Prep” page, and you can find them in the Download Zone*:

  • PARCC Narrative Writing Prompts 2-22-18
  • PARCC Literary Analysis Writing Prompts 2-22-18
  • PARCC Research Simulation Writing Prompts 2-22-18

*If you would like to subscribe to the TLC Website for 50% off, go HERE and enter this code: TLCBOOK50 (Note: ALL CAPS). There are more than 1,200 files full of practical tools available to download, and at 50% off, it’s only $25 for a full year’s access. Plus, it takes less than a minute to sign up.

Thanks again for your support!



Posted in Assessment(s), Literary Analysis Writing, Narrative Writing, PARCC, Research Writing, TLC Website Resources, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Please help me present…


I’ve submitted a proposal to the 2018 National Charter Schools Conference, and I need your vote to help me secure a slot to present! IT ONLY TAKES 30 SECONDS AND WILL MEAN A LOT TO ME.

To vote, visit the official NCSC18 Session Selector here: http://bit.ly/2BQQ9rP

You can search for my session, “17 Ways to Combat Learned Helplessness in Classrooms,” or find me by name. You can only vote for me once. Voting is open now through February 28.

Please let me know if you have any questions and thanks for your support!



Posted in Combatting learned helplessness, Professional Development | Tagged , | 4 Comments

ANNOUNCING: New TLC “Argument vs Evidence” page!

I’ve just launched a new page on the TLC Website: Argument vs Evidence“!

This page curates my online resources for teaching students how to use “Argument vs. Evidence, Steps 1-6” to write more clearly. The TLC Blog posts explain the steps, and you can find the needed materials in the Download Zone.

PS: For additional information, please check out my books:

Posted in Argument, ELA Common Core Standards, Evidence, Explanation, Literacy and the Common Core BOOK, Literary Analysis Writing, Paragraph writing, Research Writing, The Literacy Cookbook BOOK, TLC Website Resources, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment