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...
Giving your students a short writing assignment at the beginning of the year is a terrific way to not only access your students’ abilities but also to ease summer-weary teens back into the demands of high school. But before you face a roomful of eyerolls by assigning yet another essay on what everyone did over summer break, here are a few unique writing exercises from Write Screenplays That Sell: The Ackerman Way , by Hal Ackerman. Although the majority of the exercises found in Ackerman’s book are specific to screenwriting, the most interesting ones are quite general. Not only are creative writing exercises a fun way to mix up your students’ assignments but they will also provide you with a unique insight into your students’ imaginations, their likes, their dislikes, and their writing instincts. 1. Verb Replacement In this exercise, Ackerman tells his readers to take the last scene they wrote (or for the English classroom, the last paragraph or so), find the first ten ver...