It is essential for young adults than to see themselves represented authentically in media. This includes seeing themselves on the pages of literature written just for them, seeing themselves on the big screen in dynamic roles, and seeing themselves portrayed positively as powerful and determined protagonists. Our minority students deserve more representation than a dull, flat supporting (and very stereotypically portrayed) character. Whether you teach the titles in class or recommend them for pleasure, here are some YA novels for your high school students, to encourage them to love reading, and to love themselves. Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which do not negatively impact you at all, but may provide me with a small kickback to help me run website. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork Meet 17-year-old Marcelo Sandoval, a Mexican-American teenager with Asperger's syndrome, and the titular character of this brilliant novel. The story takes ...
Depending on the format of your school's Back-to-School Night, planning out your evening meeting parents can be tough. Some schools follow an open house format where parents are free to roam the halls of the campus and pop into their child's classroom at any given point during the evening. Other schools follow a more structured Back-to-School Night format that mimics the day's bell schedule. I've worked at schools that followed both types of formats, and there are pros and cons to each format. My current school follows the school's bell schedule for Back-to-School Night. After the initial presentation at the start of the night, parents go to each of their child's classes for a ten-minutes, and they also have a seven-minute passing period to make it from one class to the next.  To prep the room for Back-to-School Night, I always make sure that I clean up my room, put student work up on the walls, and display the textbooks, close readers, and novels that ...
Musicals aren’t just for the drama club kids anymore. With their knack for blending different genres of music with unusual subject matter, it’s no wonder that musicals’ relevance extends beyond 42nd Street. In fact, a significant number of hit Broadway shows find their origins in classic literature, proven by the much acclaimed Les Mis. I’ve also used a couple of songs from Hamilton when I introduce my rhetorical analysis unit. I have students compare some of the lyrics to the Federalist Papers. Because musicals operate by using music to clearly and concisely tell an exciting story, using Broadway cast recordings to supplement lessons can be an excellent way to encourage enthusiasm and understanding of great literature. Tip: Having students compare and contrast scenes from the novel with songs from the musical adaptation provides a fun, fresh approach to assigned reading! Here are five musicals based off of classic novels: 1. Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 b...
Giving your students a short writing assignment at the beginning of the year is a terrific way to not only access your students’ abilities but also to ease summer-weary teens back into the demands of high school. But before you face a roomful of eyerolls by assigning yet another essay on what everyone did over summer break, here are a few unique writing exercises from Write Screenplays That Sell: The Ackerman Way , by Hal Ackerman. Although the majority of the exercises found in Ackerman’s book are specific to screenwriting, the most interesting ones are quite general. Not only are creative writing exercises a fun way to mix up your students’ assignments but they will also provide you with a unique insight into your students’ imaginations, their likes, their dislikes, and their writing instincts. 1. Verb Replacement In this exercise, Ackerman tells his readers to take the last scene they wrote (or for the English classroom, the last paragraph or so), find the first ten ver...
With a new school year upon us, it’s time to re-energize your teaching practices with some new routines and resources. Here are ten teaching resources and strategies to implement in your classroom this year. Bell Ringers I use the first five to ten minutes of every class period for a do-now, or bell-ringer, activity. The students come into my room, see what the do-now is, and begin working. This provides me with valuable time to take and enter attendance, answer student questions, and check on individual students. I use this free bell-ringer recording sheet and stamp every student’s page every day. This provides me with a chance to have some facetime with every student, even if just for a moment. 1. Sentence Combining Bell-Ringers These bell-ringers are great because they help students improve their writing. I project a slide up on the board, and the students read the cluster of individual sentences and combine them into one grammatically correct, complex sentence. To help sho...
Let's face it, not every one of our students is going to love English class as much as we did. All our students have different learning styles and interests, and what we pick to teach will not always pique their interest. However, choosing a wide variety of works may be a way to ensure that all your students will get to read at least one work they enjoy. Here are a few book recommendations that hit different categories while still staying in the realm of literature. This post contains affiliate links. 1. Dracula by Bram Stoker You probably weren't expecting the first recommendation to be a classic 19th-century novel, but Dracula is jammed pack with action, suspense, and mystery that will be sure to entice any reader. The novel is like a roller coaster starting with ever-increasing mystery until it reaches the top with the horror revealing the famous Count Dracula only to race back down into the mystery. Students will have no choice but to continue reading to find out w...
It’s that time of the year. Time to pack up your flip-flops, set your alarms once again, and bid a fond farewell to our old friend “summer vacation.” It’s no secret students (and teachers) can have a difficult time transitioning back to a school mindset. However, there is no better way to reactivate those dormant literary analysis skills than with some poems to ring in the new school year! Because poems are shorter than most literary texts or excerpts while still packed full of meaning, reading them in class or for a small homework assignment can help your students dip a figurative toe into the waters of analysis. Here are 10 poems sure to pique the interest of even the most reluctant back-to-schooler: Summer Shower by Emily Dickinson Ah, summer is always gone too soon! Indulge and hold onto it a little longer as Dickinson uses her whimsical imagery to transport you into the whirlwind of delight that comes with dancing through the summer rain. Talk with your students about the s...
It's that time of year again. It's time to head back to the classroom and begin planning for another year with new students. Throughout the years, I've tested several different back-to-school strategies and styles. Through years of experience, I've learned that I have the most success in the classroom when I spend dedicated time with my students at the beginning of the year building relationships, establishing trust, reviewing classroom policies and procedures, and teaching key concepts. From there, I like to teach and review content areas that I focus on throughout the year. Here are some of my favorite go-to resources for the beginning of the school year. The First Days Back-to-School Stations This stations activity is brand new to my classroom this year, and I am so excited to use it. I am especially excited about the tech accounts aspect of it because getting 150+ new students signed up for several different educational technology accounts can be qui...
As a high school English teacher, there are so many different skills and concepts I want to teach my students. Not only do I want them to be well-versed in literature so they can pick up on allusions in pop culture, but I also want them to be able to write across a variety of mediums proficiently.I want them to improve their vocabulary and have a commanding understanding of how language works so that they can effectively communicate in the world. And while I want them to be able to do all of this, I also understand that the vast majority of my students are not going to be literature or English majors in college. And with that said, when my students leave my classroom, I want to be able to provide them with enough guidance and instruction so that they will succeed in the world after they leave high school. As a high school English teacher, I have the opportunity to provide my students with real-world writing instruction. In my classroom, that comes in the form of teaching email e...
There's a lot to be said about technology, cell phones in particular, in the classroom. On the one hand, students can use them as a learning tool -especially in schools that are not 1:1. On the other hand, cell phones are highly distracting and can impede learning if student use is not strictly enforced. I've taught at two different schools, and each had a different policy. My first school had a site-wide cell phone policy. Students were not to use their phones in class. If they did, teachers could confiscate the phone and turn it into the office. Students or parents would then pick up the device after school. It worked, somewhat. You see, it wasn't followed and enforced uniformly on campus. Some teachers allowed student cell phone use (not just for academic purposes), and other teachers did not. Since every single teacher wasn't on board, the policy wasn't effective. Furthermore, students knew that if they put up enough of a fight, nothing would happen. For...
One of the most important things you can teach your students is good literary analysis skills. Your students will be critically reading texts in high school, college, graduate school, and in their careers. It's necessary to cultivate analytical ability as early as possible. Here are six ways to enhance the literary analysis curriculum for all ages. Think Aloud and Model Inquiry The process of literary analysis is fraught with difficulty, even for the most seasoned critic. How can we expect students to "get" literary analysis without seeing it in action? Hint: it's tough.  As such, a reliable way to gain an understanding of the fluid process of close reading and literary analysis is to model it for your students. To do this, analyze a relevant text in front of the class to show your process. It may seem uncomfortable, but don't prepare yourself for this exercise beyond reading the text you're analyzing- you want to give your students an authentic expe...