This is a sponsored post by Listenwise.com. If you haven’t checked out Listenwise.com yet, you and your students are missing out on some fantastic listening-based lessons and activities in the middle school and high school classroom. As a high school English teacher at a public school that participates in annual state standardized tests, I definitely feel the pressure to adequately prepare my students so that they do their best on the test. Not only do state tests contribute to school funding, indexing, and ranking, but in California, a junior’s score on the state test gets printed on their transcript and can affect Cal State college admissions. The stakes are pretty high. There are quite a few ways that I help prepare my students for state testing, and one of them is by focusing on the lowest scoring testing strand: listening. Currently, 22 states have a listening component on their state tests, and not just in California, but throughout the entire nation, students score the ...
If there’s one thing that students of all ages love and find joy in, it’s music. Thanks to technology, streaming services make all kinds of music available to anyone with a smartphone or a laptop. Mixing and matching favorite tracks and creating playlists is a rite of passage to tweens and teens; a marker of their ability to decide what they like and dislike for themselves. So why not incorporate that into your curriculum? Incorporating music into selected reading units can transform and channel that strong sense of individuality and autonomy into excitement for literature and developing critical thinking skills. The key? Playlists, Playlists, Playlists! You’ve probably heard your students discussing their playlists, whether they’re talking about the songs they love, exchanging customized collections as gifts, or ribbing each other about their respective musical guilty pleasures. Siphon that passionate energy and self-driven creativity into classroom assignments using that v...
This post is sponsored by the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. As a high school English teacher, I love helping students learn and strive for their best possible future. One way that high school girls can achieve excellence is by joining the Girl Scouts of the USA. Research shows that Girl Scouts are more likely than non–Girl Scouts to achieve academic excellence. When it comes to teamwork, hands-on learning and reflection, and decision making, Girl Scouts will overachieve. One of the highest honors Girl Scouts can earn is the Gold Award . The 2019 10 National Gold Award Girl Scouts are remarkable girls who are making a positive impact in their communities and in the world. These girls are exemplary role models for our students. And while there are ten girls who earn the honor of the National Gold Award Girl Scout, any high school Girl Scout can earn their Gold Award. Furthermore, any girl in high school may join Girl Scouting for the first time and still be eligible to become a Gol...
Shakespeare, schmakespeare. Or at least, that is what some of our students may think. The Bard may be prolific, but his words are, in fact, not gospel. In fact, quite a few teachers nationwide are ditching the Bard for other titles. You can incorporate some excitement into a school day with a diverse selection of plays that can stand alone or supplement an existing novel unit. Here are five great alternatives to Shakespeare. This post contains affiliate links. O Beautiful by Theresa Rebeck O Beautiful packs in most, if not all, of today’s controversial issues, such as racism, homophobia, abortion, gun control, religion, and aggressive patriotism. The show’s surreal nature lends itself well to blending historical issues with modern ones: Historical figures like Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and even Jesus Christ pop up as characters that interact with everyday teens and doting homemakers. O Beautiful’s straightforward style and young characters make it the perfect supp...
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, is a strikingly unique tale about how we must all eventually grow up and learn to put the fantasies of our childhood to rest. Part of what makes this book so unique is that once our protagonist, Jacob, accepts reality as is, he quickly learns the world is full of far more mystery and wonder than he could have ever imagined. Riggs deploys a trick on the reader one rarely comes across—The big twist is not the shocking finale; instead, it takes place about a quarter of the way through the novel. This catalyzes a fantasy-adventure story, so full of action and suspense; it almost reads like a different book. The first quarter of the novel is a rather sad account of Jacob struggling to comprehend his grandfather’s death. He is diagnosed with acute stress disorder and is made to see a therapist. His relationship with his parents suffers; he loses his only friend after a fight and suffers from horrific nightmares. It’s difficult...
One of the fundamental building blocks of learning is vocabulary. Having a well-rounded and robust vocabulary plays a critical role in students' learning, communication skills, language development, and comprehension. Whenever I plan a new unit, whether it be a literature-based unit or a skills-based unit, I always include vocabulary words to accompany my instruction. When I use Vocabulary.com , I can easily find an existing list that matches my instruction. If such a list doesn't exist, I can modify a current list to meet my specific instructional needs or build my own list. Here is a list of five critical reasons for why teachers should intentionally include vocabulary in every unit. Improves Language Development and Acquisition When students work on improving their vocabulary regularly, they build a stronger vocabulary base. This strong vocabulary base helps improve literacy rates and help students be more successful academically. It is important to include academi...
If there's one thing you can tell your students for sure, it's that the human race is a race of storytellers. From ancient times to legends and folk songs, people have always loved to share stories, especially on special occasions. Halloween, for example, has no shortage of spooky tales to be told, and those stories come in all shapes and sizes. To get your students into the scary spirit, here are ten novels and short stories to read this Halloween season: (Bonus points if they're read aloud in the dark, with a single, flickering flashlight, with spooky music playing in the background.) This post contains affiliate links, which do not affect you at all. However, I may receive a small kickback to help run the cost of this website. Coraline by Neil Gaiman Though Gaiman intended this novella for young children, its unique appeal extends to all ages. After Coraline moves into a creaky old house with her inattentive parents, she sets out to explore her new home and find...
In an earlier blog post , I wrote about the benefits of assigning a collaborative writing assignment in the high school English and middle school ELA classroom. In the post, one of the benefits included less grading. And to be completely honest, that is why I switched up my sophomores' recent short story paragraph about "The Veldt." I was already behind on grading various writing assignments, and so I decided a collaborative paragraph was the way to go. As I switched gears from an individual Jane Schaffer literary analysis paragraph to a collaborative paragraph, I thought about how I could make the activity even more beneficial for my students. It was still early in the school year, and I was still working on writing instruction with my students -primarily on how to properly embed quotes and write thoughtful commentary . So, I decided to have my students color-code each element of the paragraph. This was my way to get students actively thinking about every single pa...
John Green is the Shakespeare of contemporary YA. Actually, he’s more like The Beatles of contemporary YA, everything he writes is a hit. If you teach high school English and are not familiar with his work, you should be—because many of your students have probably read his books or at least seen the films they’re based on. Of course, it’s difficult for teachers to get the funding and permission to incorporate a contemporary novel into the curriculum. Because of that, a novel such as Paper Towns might function best as an option among several books you provide your students to choose from for a lit circle project. Either way, here are two strategies for teaching the novel. While these might function best as full-class lessons/projects, they can be used as jumping-off points for individual assignments as well. The Walt Whitman Focus Paper Towns is a little bit like The Da Vinci Code for teenagers. The novel is a love story/mystery that incorporates popular references (actual...
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...