5 Reasons to Read Aloud to Your Students

Five reasons to read aloud to your middle school and high school students.
Parents commonly read to their young children, and teachers of early grade-levels read to their students as well, but teachers seem to drop the practice of reading aloud to their students as they get older.  However, being read to can be a beneficial practice for middle and high school students alike.  Here are five reasons you should read aloud to your students.

1. Engaging Listeners
Minds can easily wander, but reading aloud to your class creates an auditory level of sensory perception that can help students engage with the subject-matter.  Students will all hear the same material at the same time.  No student will be behind or ahead. Additionally, many standardized tests contain listening activities, so reading aloud to your middle school and high school students help prepare them for the test without directly engaging in test-prep activities.

2. Comprehension
Reading out loud to your students will force them to slow down rather than skim through a piece too quickly.  While some students may retain information easily at such a speed, other students may struggle with reading speed and comprehension.  Reading out loud to your students will help equalize the field.

3. Flexibility
An activity such as reading aloud to your students will give you the freedom to integrate discussion into the reading time.  Because you will know that all students will be in the same place in the reading, you can facilitate discussion by pausing in the text to ask students for their responses.  This whole-class close reading exercise is especially helpful when you want to guide students and help prepare them for quizzes or writing prompts.   

4. Reading Your Audience
Students react when you read to them.  You can see what parts of the text surprise, excite, or confuse them.  You can use this gathered information to guide your class discussion, and the students will have a chance to interact directly with the text. Also, this is one of the best parts of reading to students. We became English teachers because we love literature, and sharing these stories with our students is one of the best parts of the job.

5. It’s Fun
Engaging with a text can be fun and exciting for an individual, but reading aloud to your class will create a body of readers all engaging together.  It provides students with a shared experience that you can use in class for future examples. Hearing a story out loud creates an all-new perspective while provoking imagination in the reader and listener alike.  

These resources will help students analyze text in class.

3 More Ways to Improve Student Writing

Grammar rules can often be hard to remember and follow.  A simple grammar lesson can often become frustrating for students as they struggle to comprehend what they are doing wrong. It is sometimes also difficult for them to recognize how to fix their mistakes. However, students often struggle with the same writing problems over and over again. In an earlier post, I wrote about three common mistakes students include in their writing. Here are three more common mistakes and how to help students correct them.

1. Commas
Commas seem to be one of the hardest things for students to use. They either use too little, or they use too many.  Examples of typical incorrect comma usage include comma splices and the lack of a comma after an introductory clause. For example: “Because we had a flat tire we were late to the party.” A comma should follow the word tire, but students often neglect the use of a comma in a sentence like the one above.

A quick way to remind students when to use commas is to have them speak the sentence out loud. A writer can usually place a comma in a sentence where he or she would take a breath. However, this is not foolproof.  The best way to ensure that your students know how to use commas properly is to teach them how to identify the differences between dependent and independent clauses.

2. Who vs. Whom
This is a grammar mistake that frustrates even the best English speakers. Despite the error being frequently made, little attempt is made to correct this mistake because it is seen as unimportant.  However, the proper use of who and whom can round out and improve your students’ writing.  

The correction to this mistake is quite simple. Who is subjective--the doer of the action--while whom is objective--the receiver of the work.  

“Who threw the ball at Billy?”  The pronoun who is used in this sentence because it stands in place of the subject: the one he threw the ball.

“Billy threw the ball at whom?”  Whom is used in this sentence because it takes the place of the direct object: the one the ball was thrown at.

3. Run-on Sentences
It’s easy to get caught in a good thing and keep writing until you get all your feelings out. However, run-on sentences create an error that is not only grammatically incorrect but confusing for the reader as well. Run-on sentences occur when two or more independent clauses are linked with the wrong conjunctive punctuation or no punctuation at all. For example: “You should do your homework you need to improve your grades.” The sentence is incorrect because it contains two independent clauses with no proper conjunction.

An easy way to fix this is to have the student put a period at all the different independent clauses. This will help them to recognize what is and is not a complete sentence.  After they have mastered sentence structure, they can move on to trying more advanced ways of linking sentences, such as semicolons and conjunctions.

Two Poems to Read in March

“In like a lion, out like a lamb.”  This saying has frequently been used to describe the month of March as harsh winter conditions give way to spring.  While the proverb categorizes the month’s climate, it also sets the scene for two exciting poems to be used in the classroom: William Blake’s “The Lamb” and “The Tyger.”  Here are five reasons students should read “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” in March.

1. An Introduction to William Blake
As two of his most famous poems, “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” can act as excellent tools to introduce students to one of Britain’s most iconic poets.  Students will familiarize themselves with Blake’s writing style and learn to recognize some of his techniques.

2. Corresponding Poems
William Blake is famous for writing two books of poetry: Song of Innocence and Songs of Experience.  The two compilations of poetry are intended to show contrasting views of the human condition.  “The Lamb” is from Songs of Innocence while “The Tyger” hails from Songs of Experience.  While the two are different, they are meant to correspond and interact with one another.  Students will recognize similarities and differences between the two poems.

3. Visual Aid
Blake hand-painted the illustrations for both Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.  Both “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” have corresponding paintings to go along with the text.  Students will gain a visual perspective to help enhance their understanding and appreciation of the two poems.

4. Comprehension
Students who struggle with enjoying and understanding poetry will appreciate how straightforward these two poems are.  The language is fluid and easy to understand.  Additionally, the poems have simple rhyme schemes and relatively consistent meters which will assist in teaching students how to recognize sound and rhythm patterns. To help students read and understand poetry, I like to have my students closely read and annotate each poem.

5. Enjoyment
At the end of the day, “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” are two beautiful poems with rich language and imagery.  Because poetry is meant to be experienced and bring pleasure to the reader, students who walk away with nothing more than two new poems that they enjoy will have already accomplished a great deal.

Resources for Teaching Poetry:

Four Graphic Novels to Use in the Classroom

4 graphic novels to read in the high school English classroom
An existing stigma still surrounds graphic novels in the eyes of students and educators alike. In actuality, educators can use graphic novels as an excellent tool for teaching visual literacy.  Students will appreciate the change of pace as they read a story from a new and invigorating perspective.  Graphic novels can provide a visual aid for students that struggle with comprehension and engaging with works of literature while also being enjoyed by intermediate and advanced readers.  The following are four graphic novels to use in the classroom:

4 graphic novels to read in the high school English classroom
1. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
This graphic novel combines the culture of contemporary America with that of ancient Chinese mythology.  The story provokes a thoughtful analysis of how individuals interact with those around them.  Students will appreciate the humor with which Yang writes, and teachers will be drawn to the relevance of the story’s political and cultural dilemmas.

For additional reading regarding the experiences of immigrants in America, teachers should consider pairing this graphic novel with Gish Jen’s short story “Who’s Irish?”

4 graphic novels to read in the high school English classroom
2. Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman
This graphic novel presents a unique perspective of the Holocaust.  History and literature combine to create a fascinating tale.  The sequel to this book, Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began, can also act as a stand-alone graphic novel.  Both books will encourage discussion about how one interacts with the past.

Elie Wiesel’s Night pairs well with this graphic novel to give students a deeper understanding of how individuals experienced the Holocaust.  For younger readers, teachers should consider integrating Number the Stars by Lois Lowry into their curriculums.

4 graphic novels to read in the high school English classroom
3. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
In this graphic novel, students will learn about the Iranian Revolution through the eyes of a child.  While learning of the importance of a historical event, students have the opportunity to learn about an author’s use of pathos, logos, and ethos as well as other literary techniques.  While provokingly unforgettable, educators should take precaution with this novel due to mature themes and graphic images.

Septembers in Shiraz by Dalia Sofer is a novel that will help teachers expand on the multiple dilemmas of the Iranian Revolution.  This book has a corresponding movie that may be effective in the classroom, but teachers should be aware of its PG-13 rating.  Those looking to focus more on the theme of religious controversy will appreciate novels like I Love, I Hate, I Miss my Sister by Amelie Sarn and The Chosen by Chaim Potok.

4 graphic novels to read in the high school English classroom
4. Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History by Trevor R. Getz and Liz Clarke
The first half of this graphic novel includes the retelling of a wrongfully enslaved woman.  While the story is fascinating and empowering, the second half of the book consists of primary sources, historical context, and reading guides.  Students will learn how to analyze and discuss literature from multiple perspectives.  Additionally, there are discussion questions included in both editions of this book for students and teachers alike.  

While this graphic novel easily stands alone thanks to its extensive additional content, poems such as “On Being Brought from Africa to America” by Phillis Wheatley can expand on the idea of enslaving individuals.  Additionally, Cinque of the Amistad and the Slave Trade in World History shows another historical narrative of fighting against one’s enslavement.
4 graphic novels to read in the high school English classroom

Rhetorical Analysis with a PAPA Square

Rhetorical analysis art project for middle school and high school students
My favorite teaching unit is my research and rhetorical analysis unit. I love providing my students with the knowledge and resources they need to critically read and analyze text, know why it is powerful, and understand how the author crafted it. I feel that truly understanding the language and the text, primarily through rhetorical analysis, is something that makes all of my students critical thinkers.

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Rhetorical analysis art project for middle school and high school students
When I first teach rhetorical analysis, I spend a couple of days on direct instruction. I use a PowerPoint to review various elements: what it is; what ethos, pathos, and logos are; and what schemes and tropes are. I also provide my students with examples of each.

Then I move on to more guided practice. As a class, we analyze a speech together. My students work individually, then in partners, and then in small groups to analyze and annotate the speech. Then we discuss it together as a class. This activity gives students an opportunity to examine the text individually, and then learn from their peers. When we finally go over the speech together as a class, students gain confidence in their rhetorical analysis skills because our classroom discussion affirms their analysis. I do this a couple of times with my students before sending them out on their own to rhetorically analyze a text.

One project that I love assigning as part of my rhetorical analysis unit is the Artistic PAPA Square analysis project. For this assignment, students select a source and analyze it using the PAPA method. (I complete this as part of an argumentative research unit. Students choose one of their sources that they’ve read for their research paper to use for this project). They also identify examples of rhetorical appeals and strategies and explain their impact on the text or audience, and the students also write a rhetorical precis on the piece. You can visit this blog post to learn more about the rhetorical precis.
Rhetorical analysis art project for middle school and high school students

The PAPA method is similar to SOAPStone. Students analyze the purpose, argument, persona, and audience of the text. The purpose is the author’s purpose. Why did the author write this piece? The argument is the central argument of the article. What is the author arguing or trying to prove? The persona is the author’s persona. How does the author develop his or her persona in the piece? Why is this author a credible and authoritative subject to deliver and write such an article? The audience is who the text is intended for. Who was the author trying to reach with this piece?

For this assignment, I provide my students with colorful 12x12 inch card stock. I encourage them to add artistic elements that represent their topic. For example, they should select colors, symbols, and even fonts that are symbolic of their subject. I then provide my students with several days in class to carefully analyze their source and work on their Artistic PAPA Squares. For example, one class period I have them focus on the PAPA analysis. During another class period, I ask them to focus on rhetorical appeals and strategies. On another day I will have my students work on writing their precis. Finally, I usually give them one class period to work on assembling the project. I bring in colorful paper, glue, rulers, and other supplies. This is a pretty fun day in class.
Rhetorical analysis art project for middle school and high school students
Once the projects are turned in, I grade them using a rubric and then post them up in the classroom. These projects add color to any classroom wall, and students, as well as administrators, love seeing student work displayed in the classroom.

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I hope you and your students enjoy this rhetorical analysis project. As always, I would love to see pictures of your students’ work. You can share photos with me on Instagram (@thedaringenglishteacher) and Twitter (@daringenglish).