Teaching short stories at the beginning of the year

Teaching short stories at the beginning of the year
As much as English teachers love novels, I am beginning to see a decline in how many novels students read each year in the classroom. This post is in no way an argument against the novel. I always look forward to starting and teaching a novel unit to my students. However, to really do a novel justice, it takes time, energy, and a lot of love.  Since novels tend to eat up a lot of instructional time, I typically begin each year with a short story unit.

Short stories are valuable to middle school and high school English teachers, as well as students. When students come back to the classroom after ten weeks of summer break, there is an adjustment period that separates the carefree days of summer and the rigorous demands of school. Rather than having students dive right into a novel like Great Expectations or Wuthering Heights, start them off with a short story unit to re-engage their brains. Here are some other reasons short stories are great segues from summer to school.

1. Keep students engaged
Unfortunately, not all students are avid readers like we hope they are. Some will get bored and defeated by trying to read a novel at the start of the school year. Unless you plan on starting with something simple to get them started, a short story will be more entertaining due to the faster pace of the short story medium.
My Sticky Note Literary Analysis Unit is a great way to keep students engaged as you read short stories at the beginning of the year.
Teaching short stories at the beginning of the year

2. Teach many literary devices
This again has to do with the natural fast-pace of short stories. Short stories demonstrate the literary devices you want students to identify in a  shorter amount of time than compared to reading a novel. Through this, you can have them identify rising action, climax, resolution, and various other moments in the short story. It will help them to recognize these moments in the longer novels later.
My Close Reading units for short stories is a great way to focus on literary devices because I’ve selected key passages from each story that really highlights an element.
Teaching short stories at the beginning of the year

3. Demonstrate character development
Short stories have a much harder time developing characters because of their constricted time frame. The best ones can give you a character to care about that changes during the story despite the limited page numbers. One of my favorite short stories for this is The Seventh Man by Haruki Murakami. In just a few pages, you begin to understand the protagonist's life-long internal conflict, and the audience sympathizes with him greatly.
My Growth Mindset Character Analysis packet is a great tool in helping students see how characters grow in just a short time.

Teaching short stories at the beginning of the year
4. Save instructional time
As stated many times above, the short story does not take nearly as long to read or to analyze as a novel does. You can thoroughly read, analyze, and write about one short story in a week. Any short story you choose to analyze with your class will not detract from your overall lesson plan. In fact, they can enhance your classroom. Typically, I like to choose one or two literary elements to focus on when reading each short story.
My Short Story Teaching Unit will get you started with your short story unit.

Starting the school year with short stories is the perfect way to reintroduce students to the rigorous demands of school. When selecting short stories for your unit, think about including a diverse mix of authors so that your students can widen their worldview and hopefully even relate to some of the characters in which you read.

My Favorite Back-to-School Activities

My Favorite Back-to-School Activities for the ELA classroom
I hope that you had, or are having, the most amazing summer break ever. For me, my break is over because my first day of school is this week. By now the end-of-summer dread is over, and I am excited to be back in the classroom with a fresh batch of students.

Here is a quick list of activities I’ll be using in my classroom this back-to-school season.

Back to School Activities
This back-to-school resource packet has so many great activities and icebreakers for you to use. My favorite activity is the collaborative quilt. Students love contributing their square to the quilt, and it helps brighten your classroom from the first week of school.

Growth Mindset Escape Room
What better way to introduce a growth mindset and encourage collaboration than challenging your students to an escape room activity during the first week of school? This growth mindset escape room includes multiple tasks and challenges for students to unlock as they learn about growth mindset, goal setting, and famous failures.

Email Etiquette
Without fail, students fill our inbox with horribly written emails. It’s a considerable teacher pet peeve and annoyance, but so often we forget that this can be a teachable moment. Last year I taught this email etiquette mini-unit during the first week of school, and it was a complete game-changer. About 99% of the student emails I received were pleasant, polite, and well-formatted.

My Favorite Back-to-School Activities for Secondary ELA
Sentence Combining Bell Ringers
I am a stickler for routines, especially routines that are meaningful and help students become better writers. I highly encourage teachers to include some form of sentence combining in their curriculum because it helps students actively focus on improving their syntax and writing. There are enough sentence combining bell ringers in this resource for the entire school year, and by spending just five minutes a day on combining sentence, your students’ writing will improve exponentially.

Free Back-to-School Student Survey
If there is one thing that you should definitely do the first week of school, you should spend some time getting to know your new students. Here is my FREE back-to-school survey that will help you get to know your new students.

Gearing up to go back to school

Gearing up to go back to school: tips for teachers for the new school year
Where did the summer go? It’s already over, and I go back to school this week. And while I am a little sad that summer is quickly coming to a close, I am eagerly anticipating the new school year and all of the promise it brings.

I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of my favorite back to school strategies and advice. I’ve organized this blog post into small, manageable sections. Please scroll through to find what will best help you this back-to-season.

The First Day of School
Personally, I do not like even mentioning the word syllabus on the first day of school. Instead, I prefer to create a memorable experience for my students that shows them that they are not alone. I was first introduced to this Post Secret ice-breaker as a college student in my creative writing class. You can check out THIS BLOG POST about my go-to first day of school activity that includes a free PowerPoint.

Setting Expectations
The beginning of the year is crucial for setting the scene, creating classroom culture, and establishing your policies and procedures. In THIS BLOG POST, I discuss what I feel are the most important routines to develop in the first few weeks of school.

Back-to-School Writing
I am a huge believer in having students write the first week of school. Not only does it provide you with a baseline of their abilities, but it also is a great way to help you get to know your new students. In THIS BLOG POST, I share some of my favorite back-to-school writing prompts that you can easily use on the first day or week of school.

My First Six Weeks
I remember my first year of teaching: it was so tough. I didn’t have a plan or a pacing guide -I didn’t even have a textbook for one of my classes. To help ease your back-to-school planning, I share my first six weeks in THIS BLOG POST.

The Most Essential Lessons to Teach
As an educator, I am always trying to improve my teaching craft. In addition to reflecting about what didn’t go so well and how I can improve, I also took some time this summer to think about what I felt were the most essential lessons to teach my students at the beginning of the school year. You can read THIS BLOG POST about the lessons that I think are essential for all ELA students.

I hope that these helpful tips and links help you get ready for the back-to-school season!

5 Book to Movie Adaptations to Share with Your Class

5 Book to Movie Adaptations to Share with Your Class
Teaching films alongside the novels your class reads in the English classroom is a good way for students to make connections to a medium they know well. Whether your class watches the movies in class or at home once they are done reading the books, they will benefit from watching the movies and thinking about what they mean in relation to the novel. Here are five book-to-movie adaptations students may also like to watch:

1. The Great Gatsby (2013)
This is the newest movie on the list, and one of your students may be familiar with. It tells the story in a way that will only further the students’ understandings of the novel itself. The strength of the film lies in the lavishness and the grandeur portrayed in each scene that is found throughout the novel. The music of the film takes a more modern approach that will allow students to place the story within their sense of understanding.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
As the oldest film on this list, students may not be interested in it. But it is a classic for a reason, and once students understand the importance of the story, they will be happy to watch it and see the events of the novel unfold beautifully and humanely. They will be able to fall in love with the characters as they watch them interact and depict the scenes they know and love from the book.

3. Pride and Prejudice (2005)
If your class is reading Pride and Prejudice, the 2005 version of the novel is the movie they should watch. It sticks to the novel pretty well, with changes of course as any adapted movie will have differences, but this movie is both beautiful and reflects the novel well. There are other adaptations of Pride and Prejudice that are fantastic, like the television series version from 1995, but the 2005 version is exceptional. Kiera Knightly is a tremendous Lizzy Bennett, and it will be a refreshing look at the novel for your students.
Teaching Resource: Jane Austen Bell Ringers
5 books to movie adaptations to show your high school English students

4. Romeo + Juliet (1996)
This may be the perfect movie to share with your students if you have just finished reading Romeo and Juliet. The film is set in a modern, modern as in a ‘90s setting, with the dialogue taken straight from the Shakespearean play. This allows the play to be placed in a context the students can grasp. Students will appreciate the familiarity of both the actors and the time period, allowing the story to be seen and understood better than when merely reading a text that was written over 400 years ago.  

5. Hamlet (1996)
This is another piece of William Shakespeare’s work that appeared to be pretty popular in the mid-1990s. This particular adaption of the play is said to be one of the best versions and connects well with the writing. Students will be amazed to watch this incredible play done as a film. If you want to connect Hamlet to more pop culture, assign them Disney's The Lion King to watch as, as this popular animated film is a fairly tame version of Hamlet, but with lions. If they grew up with the film, this bit of information will allow them to understand the play than better before.
Teaching Resource: Shakespeare Bell Ringers

Students will appreciate a homework assignment of watching a movie and especially when they can notice the differences between the films and the novels. Having them write a paper about the differences and what works better in the films versus the novels will also further their understanding of the text and allow them to do some deeper thinking about what they are reading. Teaching films with novels can be greatly beneficial for your class as a whole.

My Favorite Speeches for Rhetorical Analysis

My Favorite Speeches for Rhetorical Analysis
My Favorite Speeches for Rhetorical Analysis
Teaching rhetorical analysis is one of my absolute favorite units to complete with my students. I love teaching my students about rhetorical strategies and devices, analyzing what makes an effective and persuasive argument, and reading critical speeches with my students.
Here is a list of some of my favorite speeches to include in my rhetorical analysis teaching unit.

1. The Gettysburg Address (Abraham Lincoln)
This is usually the first speech that I analyze with my students during our rhetorical analysis unit. I take a couple of days to annotate it and analyze it with my students. This is a great speech to use when introducing rhetorical analyze to students because it is short. You can easily read the speech and analyze it in one class period.
Some notable things to mention in this speech include allusion and parallel structure. To make your analysis more meaningful, point out these devices to students and explain how these devices enhance the meaning of the text.
My Favorite Speeches for Rhetorical Analysis

2. Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Speech (Lou Gehrig)
This speech is one that many of my athletes love to analyze, and it is an excellent exemplar text to teach pathos. And like The Gettysburg Address, it is short. This is another speech that you can read, analyze, and even write about in one class period.
When I use this speech in my class, I have students look for examples of pathos. Mainly, I have them look at word choice, tone, and mood. How does Lou Gehrig’s choice of words affect his tone and the overall mood of the speech?

3. I Have a Dream (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
This speech is one of the most important ones your class could analyze, and most students are most likely familiar with the content of it. This speech is a little longer than the other ones, but as the speech is relatively familiar, the analysis and annotation of it should not take any longer than a couple of days.
In the classroom, it is important to point out the sermonic feel to the speech and also to have your students look for calls to action and pathos. Have your students look for tone, allusions, and word choice to help them notice these rhetoric expressions throughout it.
4. Speech at the March on Washington (Josephine Baker)
This is another important speech that held a lot of importance for the changes that needed to be made in America. The speech is a shorter one, so in the classroom, it will not take as long to analyze it, and students can understand the significance of the use of rhetoric in a shorter amount of time than some other speeches.
When teaching this speech, I like to remind my students to search for devices that portray an excellent example of the pathos that is so present in this speech. Some of these devices could be the mood, repetition, and diction.  

5. Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech (Steve Jobs)
Students will enjoy reading this speech, that both makes excellent use of the rhetoric and also hopefully inspires them through the words Jobs said. The speech is organized in such a way that it is easy to analyze, as each point is explicitly expressed in a specific order. Jobs uses a lot of ethos to express his opinions, especially as it is a commencement speech and he is meant to inspire from his position in society.
In class, it is good to have your students annotate and analyze the speech just as they have done for the others. The organization of the speech will help them to notice the similarities and differences between each point Jobs makes.

6. Space Shuttle Challenger (Ronald Reagan)
This speech represents a strong sense of pathos as a movement to help the American people cope with loss after the deaths of the astronauts aboard the Challenger. It is another speech that is not too long, so it should not take a long time to both analyze and annotate the entire speech.
When teaching this speech in class, be sure to mention how pathos is the driving force behind the speech, through the tone and the diction. How does Reagan use emotion to focus on the astronauts as humans, rather than solely focusing on the tragedy?

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7. The Perils of Indifference (Elie Wiesel)
This speech is a good one to teach because it both makes students question their own lives, but also how the world works. The speech relies on pathos, and a little ethos too, to get the audience to feel the full effect of the tragedy of the Holocaust and what the speaker went through. It is a long speech, so it may take longer for the students to fully grasp all the details that make it such a persuasive speech.
When I teach this speech, I like to have students annotate every place they notice an example of pathos, and then have them explain why in their annotations this makes them feel an emotion. The same with the ethos, and then we can further analyze the rest together.
My Favorite Speeches for Teaching Rhetorical Analysis

8. 9/11 Address to the Nation (George W. Bush)
This speech shows another example of the use of pathos in the midst of a tragedy. The President wanted to show the American people how much he was feeling for those lost in the tragedy of 9/11. It is not a long speech, but the amount of emotion within the words is significant for students to notice.
When teaching this speech, it is essential that students look very closely at each part of it, noticing each piece that reveals tone, mood, and other literary devices. How do the different devices add to the pathos of the speech?

9. We are Virginia Tech (Nikki Giovanni)
This speech is probably the shortest speech on this list but provides one of the most emotional and pathos-filled rhetoric. This describes another tragedy that is spoken about with pathos to give the audience a safe feeling after such an emotional thing. Students can spend time analyzing the different devices that make the piece so strong in its emotion.
In the classroom, make sure your students make a note of the repetition, and what that does for the speech. Does it make the emotion more impactful? How does it make the audience feel like they are a part of something bigger?

10. Woman’s Right to the Suffrage (Susan B. Anthony)
This is another short speech that holds a lot of power within it. A lot of students will enjoy reading this to see how much the country has changed, and how this speech may have some part in influencing this change. It is a great speech to help teach logos in the classroom, and it will not take a long time to analyze.  
Make sure your students notice, and they also understand, the use of allusions within the speech. These allusions help to establish the use of logos, as Anthony wants the use of American historical documents to show how logical her argument is.
My Favorite Speeches for Rhetorical Analysis