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...
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...
  It’s not the most popular activity in my classroom, but I believe teaching close reading is a vital skill for my students to feel comfortable and confident in their ability to closely read, understand, and analyze a text. If you’re looking to bring your students to the next level in reading comprehension and analysis, read on for tips and tricks. What is close reading? First, it’s important to know that close reading is not a summary of the main points and it’s not a personal response. It’s actually more in-depth than that. When you close read, you should be focused on analysis and interpretation. Students should pick apart the work. This is the time to uncover layers, make inferences, and look for specific textual evidence. It’s more than a reader response. It is understanding what the author is doing. Why were these words chosen? Why described in this way? Why is this interesting (or not)? Notice that, while it is important that students acknowledge the need for tapping into prio...
School is relatively short when you think about the way we slice the day into different periods. Kids get maybe an hour with you a day, and that’s it. And once you factor in the first and last three minutes of class, we just lose more time. However, even though it feels as if we are strapped for time, spending some of this time in the classroom reading will only be beneficial for your students, even if it is a short while. They go home, do the homework you assigned, and then forget about English as they work on the rest of their tasks and take care of their outside responsibilities. But that might be the best reason to have them read during class. Here are four reasons students should read during class 1. They might not do it on their own time. Students these days are so overloaded with extra-curricular activities and responsibilities outside of school that they may not find the time to do the reading you assign for the next class period. By providing them with some time in c...
Whether you just signed your first teaching contract, are a seasoned educator, or you are still working toward your earning your teaching license, it is never too early (or late) to start building your classroom library. In fact, the earlier you start building your classroom library, the easier the task will be. I believe that classroom libraries are an essential part of every single secondary classroom, whether you teach English language arts or not. Teenagers need to have easy access quality, interesting books: books that they will actually want to read. Even if you don’t have an independent reading program attached to your curriculum, it is important for your students to know you value reading and that you have a plethora of books just waiting for them. While the easiest way to build a classroom library would simply be to buy every.single.title.available, that isn’t the most economical way to start your collection, especially if you are just starting your teaching career. ...