Taking on the task of teaching The Odyssey is a massive undertaking. One might even say it’s an epic undertaking. Although a popular Greek tale with tons of films and visual renditions, getting through the text can look overwhelming to students. That’s why I love keeping a list of interactive and engaging activities handy to help break up the monotony of reading through a long text and help students keep track of important details. 1. Character Analysis Activities There are a multitude of characters to track and understand can become a long list that is hard to track. Give students a character analysis activity to help visualize relationships, keep track of important characters, and study later. I have a Character Analysis Interactive Notebook activity ( this one is digital), and a Character Graphic Organizer (each character has 2 organizers). Top it off with an analysis essay that you can find here .  2. Comic Strip  A fun way to unleash artistic creativity, have students create co...
Knowing how to research is an important skill for our students, but it can seem overwhelming and tedious when students first see a research assignment. When it comes to teaching students how to research and how to write a research paper, it is definitely a process. Teaching research paper writing takes time. Check out some of my favorite tips for teaching research in secondary ELA.  1. Teach well-thought-out research questions. This is one of the first skills to focus on because it sets the tone for the whole project. Students either need to be given the research questions, or they should have some sort of teacher-check to make sure they are keeping to the topic. Questions that are too broad will leave them sifting through too much information, and questions that are too narrow will make it hard for them to find sources and do their research. You can assist students by walking them through a short process of evaluating their topic and completing some preliminary research.  2. Teach the...
Shakespeare has been gone for 400 years and yet we still insist on keeping him in our classroom. Mention Shakespeare, and I can guarantee teens immediately put up a front. Breaking through that initial abrasiveness can sometimes become a hurdle - but pointing out Shakespeare’s relevancy is a great start to a study. Below are some quick thoughts you might consider sharing with students, as well as several resources you can use while teaching Shakespeare. Shakespeare influenced our language. You can find so many references in our English language directly from Shakespeare’s work. If your students have ever been tongue-tied or hoodwinked, they’re quoting Shakespeare. There is a definitive record of Shakespeare being identified as the sole user or the first user of many common words and phrases. Your students might enjoy focusing on phrases they do recognize instead of worrying about what seems confusing. Shakespeare's themes are timeless. If you cut the language that feels outdated to...
It’s the not-so-favorite time of year - state testing. And while students may agonize and teachers may groan at the thought of another year of standardized testing in the midst of whatever this new normal is, it’s up to us to prepare our students the best we can. Here are six ideas to help you prep for the test prep season. 1. Get organized This applies to you as well as your students. Think about your game plan. What are you going to accomplish? “Prep for state testing” is too broad a statement. Think about specific tasks, specific knowledge your students need. Think about how you’ll organize your students and how much time you will need. Don’t add more stress to the situation by going in at the last minute with packets you found on the internet but didn’t have time to vet. Be methodical in what you plan. If you’ve waited until the final hour, focus on one or two main test prep areas: writing with evidence or focusing on listening skills. 2. Try something fun Students don’t need endl...
When it comes to reading nonfiction, my students tend to get bleary-eyed and hard-of-hearing. It’s like they instantly think of their history textbooks and informational articles and they decide before they even know the topic that they aren’t going to like it. For many students, nonfiction is like the vegetable of literature, but it doesn’t have to be this way. This is why I work hard to make sure I have a variety of activities to engage my students. Read about some of my favorites below. 1. Fact vs Opinion This super easy activity simply involves you presenting the topic of study and having students create a class list of information. Students share what they know (or think) they know about the subject. You can then assign a pre-reading activity separating fact from fiction, or have students revisit the list after reading. 2. Learn to Annotate Annotating is such an important skill because your students learn to engage with the text. It also has shown to improve retention, and helps i...