This past school year was a great one. With every school year that passes, I like to take a moment and reflect on activities that were successful in the classroom and really think about why they worked. Here are nine of my top activities from this previous school year. SWIFT Poetry Analysis Collaborative Poster Projects As a way to have my students practice their poetry analysis skills while also building their self-efficacy, my students worked on these collaborative posters. Using the acronym SWIFT (structure/symbolism, word choice, imagery, figurative language, and theme and tone), my students analyzed a variety of poems about a similar subject. Not only did the read and annotate the poems, but they also identified each of the SWIFT elements, provided a quote, and explained how each element impacted the poem.  Once students complete the poetry analysis posters, we spent some time in class conducting informal presentations. Student groups presented the posters. I completed th...
Writing on standardized tests can be hard for students. Most tests try to give a broad enough prompt to get a variety of responses back. There is also a lot of pressure associated with standardized tests, and the writing portions are no different. But how do we prepare students for this type of stressful situation that can yield so many results? Here are a few suggestions as to how to ease your students into writing under pressure. 1. Understand the prompts.  Old prompts for whatever test you are preparing your students for, whether it is the SAT, the ACT, or state-standardized tests, are released online after a certain amount of time has passed. You can look these over with your class and talk about ways to tackle the requirements listed. These prompts also typically ask for students to use personal experience, lessons from the classroom, and novels they have read as examples. Showing these examples will better prepare students for the test. Part of this particular point is a...
Plays are great literary works to utilize in your classroom. Students will enjoy the faster pace of reading them even acting out the scenes. Many high school classrooms solely read Shakespearean plays, but it can also be exciting and educational to read a variety of dramas and playwrights that come from all different backgrounds. Here are five different dramas to read in your classroom that aren't from the Bard. This post contains affiliate links. 1. Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (1947) This play is considered one of the greatest plays of the 20th century. The characters are iconic, as are specific lines, i.e. “Stella!” and this makes the play a memorable study for your students. You can discuss with your class the specifics of the play that make it so significant to study, such as the setting of New Orleans, or the themes that revolve around the topics of mental illness, gender, sexuality, and control. Since there was a movie produced in 1951, your class can ...
In this video, I outline the three things you should do when teaching rhetorical analysis to your middle school ELA or high school English Students. The two resources I mention in this video are linked below: Understanding Rhetorical Appeals Sticky Note Rhetorical Analysis Unit Additional resources for teaching rhetorical analysis: Rhetorical Analysis with a PAPA Square 15 Rhetorical Analysis Questions to Ask Your Students My Favorite Speeches for Rhetorical Analysis ...
When you teach seniors in high school, you have the chance to really direct them in a way that will mentally prepare them for college writing. Even if your students are not going to major in English in college, there will still be plenty of writing, and you can help them achieve great things in their future. Here are five ways to help your students prepare for the significant amount of writing they will do in college: 1. Assign research papers Research is a major part of college writing, and if you can slowly introduce the concept of researching in your classroom, it can be very beneficial for your students. Introduce educational articles relating to whatever text your class is reading at the moment; whether it is Jane Eyre or Macbeth, there will be articles to discuss that provide both a deeper understanding of the novel and also a way into creating a research-based environment in the classroom. Assign a paper in which the students use these readings to talk about an essential pa...
“In this quote…” “As stated in the quote…” “This shows…” Students use these common commentary starters in their writing when they write about and add analytical thought to their writing. And while it’s essential that students include quotes and write about their selected quotes in their essays, teachers (especially at the high school level) should dissuade students from including phrases like, "this shows," and "in this quote" in their writing. When we teach students to use phrases like, “this quote shows” or “as stated in the quote” after embedding quotes in their writing rather than pushing them to think of an alternate, more complex statement, we limit students’ ability to grow as writers. Furthermore, this type of writing also lends itself to a more stifled and formulaic writing style. It’s time to push our students to reach beyond the “this shows” and the “in this quote” phrases to help them become stronger writers. One way I do this in my classroom i...
A great way to introduce writing and reading poetry to your students is through teaching a persona poetry unit. Persona poetry is when a poet makes the speaker of the poem someone other than the self. Popular persona poems often involve characters from popular culture, mythology, or history. Students tend to engage more in persona poetry because they recognize the characters and are excited to see them represented in a new format. It is smart for teachers to assign a persona poem as the first poetry assignment because it is usually easier for students to step into another person’s shoes than expressing their own personal experiences. Listed below are a few examples of persona poems and prompts students can work on relating to them: “Hulk Smash!” by Greg Santos - This is a humorous take on Hulk fraternizing in everyday life. You can have students analyze the use of syntax to convey Hulk’s personality. Students can write their own take on a superhero interacting in the human wor...
One way to encourage and promote a genuine love of writing for our students is by encouraging all of our students to publish their writing. There are countless online literary journals dedicated to promoting high school students’ writing. The possibility of getting published (or even paid for a published submission) is an excellent motivator for students to keep the pen moving. You can also integrate some of the writing prompts into your classroom routine through related writing prompts or free-write sessions into your class time. For some students, submitting work to publications may improve their confidence in their writing abilities and teach them how to edit their work. For other students, it may give them the boost that they need. By writing for a literary journal, students will learn how to look at their words through their audience’s eyes, a skill much desired in the workplace. One way to incorporate writing for a literary journal in your classroom is to assign students a ...
Teaching poetry is probably one of the hardest tasks as an English teacher. So many high school students come in with a negative preconception of poetry rooted from years of being taught to treat poems like dissections. It also doesn’t help that most of the poetry taught in school is decades old and therefore harder for students to make connections. Spoken word, a relatively new genre focused on oratory recitation, is poetry for the modern age. The performance element to the art form makes it easier for students to become engaged with the material. Most spoken word focuses on current issues which makes it more relevant. Students are also much more enthused to watch a video than to sit down and annotate a poem. However, it is important to teach poetry annotation also. Incorporating spoken word into your poetry curriculum might convert students into poetry lovers. Here are some videos to get your students started on spoken word and some exercises to kickstart students into thinkin...
Getting students engaged in a poetry unit can be a challenge. Here are some fun projects to incorporate in your classroom to help spark students’ creativity and boost their learning potential. Blackout Poetry Do you have old books or short stories collecting dust on the bookshelves of your classroom? Repurpose them into beautiful works of poetic art. To do this, give each student some colored markers and a page of text. Using the concepts they learn in class, have your students create a poem from the words that already exist on the page. Each student should read his or her page, scanning the text for significant words, phrases, or ideas that could be in a poem. Have them circle these words or short phrases, and on a separate sheet of paper, write them out in the order they appear in the text. Students should now be able to create a poem using these words they pulled out of the page. Remind them that the order the words appear in the text is how they must be in the poem they’re ...
April is National Poetry Month, and while it is essential to add in poetry throughout the entire school year, teachers usually place more emphasis on poetry during this Spring month. Here is a look at how I am getting ready to focus on poetry in my classroom. 1. Annotating Poetry One of the first lessons I teach my students is my Annotating Poetry Made Easy lesson. This mini-unit helps students learn how to read poetry and begins to help students establish a format for annotating poetry for analysis. In this mini unit, I use William Wordsworth’s poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, and I include step-by-step annotating instruction that you can complete as a class. I always find it beneficial to annotate with students so that they can learn how to do it and increase their confidence in their annotating abilities. Annotating Poetry Made Easy 2. Analyzing Poetry Once my students have a solid foundation about how to read and annotate poetry, I then move on to teaching my st...