Classic literature is classic for a reason. There are themes that resonate across generations and timeless characters. The trouble is, students hear those classic titles and freeze up at the prospect of reading something “so old”. Instead of fighting them on it, I have paired modern novels to some of those classic works to help bridge that gap. Read on to see my suggestions for modern pairings to Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  Classic Focus Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of young boys who become deserted on an island. Although they begin with creating rules and organization with no adult help, they eventually collapse into brutality.  When my students begin their study of this novel, I tend to focus on a few major themes that I can mirror in my modern selections. Civilization vs. lawlessness is one of the biggest themes of the novel. It drives most of the instincts of the boys on the island. Loss of innocence is another biggie, as well as the dangers of mob menta...
Even though most secondary ELA students have a plethora of English classes to choose from, at some point or another they probably are reading “classic” literature. And while I love that students can choose to take courses such as Contemporary English or Creative Writing, I still want them to see the power and timelessness of those classic works. Check out some of these tips for teaching these classics to modern readers. 1. Make it fast and friendly We live in a high-speed world. Sometimes I am more concerned with students getting the “gist” of a work rather than reading the entirety of a novel. No matter what I do, some students are just not going to find Victorian-era literature tantalizing. Instead, we might read passages and discuss connotations, or try to mimic writing style, or I’ll have them search for examples that make the novel fit into its genre. Think about what you want students to get out of the experience of reading the novel, play, or collection, and decide if it would b...
You’ve come to the end of another novel or short story. Now what? If you’re looking to spice up your review activities with something fresh, unique, or just plain different than your average paper, read on! Here are ten ways to review a novel or short story. 1. Socratic Seminars Why write when you can discuss? If you’re unfamiliar with a Socratic Seminar , it is a method to understand information by creating a dialogue in class. Students should find deeper understanding and discuss complex ideas. Works that are “heavy” or require your students to really think about issues are perfect for Socratic Seminars. Socratic Seminar for ANY text! 2. Create a Game You can either have students create their own game with various templates they find online, or you can create a game that students will play in order to review. Either way, it’s a fun excuse to host a game day in your classroom and breaks up the monotony of review, papers, and tests. I really like having students create their own games,...
If you haven’t incorporated peer editing into your essay units, you are truly missing out. Anytime I can use positive peer interactions in an assignment I find heightened engagement and a better turnout of essays. Find my top reasons for including peer editing below, and don’t forget to check out my resources. Reasons why you should include peer editing 1. So students can write to a wider audience. When my students write essays that only I will read, they tend to write what they think I will like. Especially when students write later in the year, they’ve “been there done that” with writing for me. Most students know what I’m nitpicky in, possibly what my own biases are (even the most objective teacher may inadvertently share personal opinions from time to time). When they peer edit, they also consider the other students who will be reading the paper. In fact, I usually preface and emphasize that they are writing for the wider audience and NOT to just me. 2. So students are more engaged...
If you aren’t using bell ringers in your secondary ELA classroom - you should. I can’t say enough good things about what bell ringers have done for the routine and structure of my classroom. They do not require much upfront work and preparation once you decide the process you want for bell ringers. And there are so many bell ringers you can find ready-made (check out the end of this post for a couple of my favorites). Here are five reasons you should start your class with a bell ringer. 1. Bring Routine A great benefit to starting class with a bell ringer is how it will bring routine to your day. Class can often start in chaos as students make their way in from the hall, continuing conversations, and shifting into a new subject. I’ll have students who are still amped from a P.E. class, students who just finished a math exam, and students who have snuck in late to the school day. Having a bell ringer ready at the start of each class means my students know what to expect when they come i...
Speak is one of those powerful reads that, unfortunately, many students relate to. If not from personal experiences mirroring the main character, the reality of dealing with trauma and the fallout of PTSD, depression, and other ostracizing events. It becomes a deeply personal and empathetic read, so I make an effort to include it in my reading list throughout the year. Read on for activities and ideas to try in your own classroom. 1. Bookmark Analysis No one thinks about bookmarks. Make use of the usual strips of paper or bits of wrapper that are typically used and give students analysis bookmarks instead. Students will be able to participate in engaging analysis components as they read the novel. It’s fewer worksheets to print out, requires students to jot notes, and is easily accessible right in the book as they read. This bookmark idea is versatile, you can create whatever style and questions or requirements you’d like. If you’re not interested in starting from scratch, I have a nov...
Romeo and Juliet is one of those classic pieces of literature I think everyone has read. Even students who haven’t read the Shakespeare play have probably heard of the story or will relate to the plot as it has been retold in various films and literature. If you need some fresh ideas before you start this unit, read on.  1. Relatable Bell Ringers If you’re going to focus on a Shakespeare play, you must go all in. Immersing students into a unit from start to finish is such a perfect way to help students understand a topic in-depth. Start off each class with these Shakespeare Bell Ringers . Each one includes a famous Shakespearean quote and a quick writing prompt. Students will explore various writing styles based on the quote. 2. Character Focus Help your students identify and organize characters with these graphic organizers . This resource has two sets for almost every character in the play. Students will identify characters as round or flat, static or dynamic, and other basic qualiti...
Animal Farm is such an “easy” read, but it’s also important and packed with themes and civics-related topics to discuss. If you’re looking for new ideas to spice up your Animal Farm lessons, read on. I’m excited to share these 10 activities with you. 1. Group Research Project Instead of having a bunch of independent work for students to complete, get them into groups to share the load of research. This is perfect for switching up the monotony of worksheets and independent work. You can also use this as a differentiated option if you have students who may benefit from tackling research as a group rather than on their own. My group research project includes a final project of 5 paragraph essay with MLA formatting and a PowerPoint presentation. It’s an engaging option to set the historical context before reading Animal Farm OR you can use it as an extension activity after the novel. 2. Vocabulary Study Having a grasp on the vocabulary is an important place to start with novel studies. Bu...