Perhaps one of the most difficult subjects to teach adolescent students is that of war. Middle school is a challenging transition period for many children. Not quite kids but not quite teenagers, these students are just beginning to be exposed to more demanding, adult subjects; both intellectually and emotionally. In Number the Stars , Louis Lowry walks this delicate tightrope with masterful delicacy. She never sugarcoats the horrors of the Second World War, yet she avoids overly distressing imagery and graphic descriptions of violence. Lowry approaches her narrative of war with a teacher's instinct for sound content, proper facts, and a guiding hand. The story's horror and violence do not serve to impoverish her characters nor make them pitiful. Instead, these struggles serve as the soil in which her characters grow and blossom. Annemarie Johansen, a 10-year-old living in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen, Denmark tells the story. The book has a quick and easy-to-read pace, ...
There's nothing students love more than a good, old-fashioned movie day. It's a time to unwind and let their busy brains tune into a familiar storytelling structure, one associated with fun and entertainment. Whether it's a movie day or not, you can still incorporate movies into your curriculum and bring along all the excitement and joy that comes with turning off all the lights and cueing up the projector. Whether you watch the whole movie with a lits of comprehension questions, show clips in class to compare scenes from the text, or turn the entire thing into a personal assignment in which students study the movie and book of their choice, your students will enjoy the chance of pace. To get going, here's a list of ten movies adapted from books that may shock your little film fanatics. This post includes affiliate links. Holes Although your students may only vaguely remember this Disney feature film, Holes was a smash hit, both as a movie and a book. In f...
Helping students become stronger writers is one of my passions. As a high school English teacher, there aren’t many things that are as rewarding as seeing a student grow in their writing abilities. Several years ago, I switched up the way I taught my short story unit at the beginning of the school year, and I saw so much growth in my students. Not only were they understanding the literary devices and connecting with the stories more, but they also became stronger, more confident writers. The secret to this success is a combination of three teaching strategies: short writing assignments, sentence frames, and immediate feedback. When combined, these three teaching strategies provide students with the skills, practice, and reassurance that help them increase their writing efficacy. Short Writing Assignments As we work our way through our short story unit, I assign my students a quick and straightforward three-sentence writing prompt to accompany each story. In their response...
When doing literary analysis with your students, the theme of the story can be one of the most challenging parts to discuss. The theme does not always have a concrete answer like the setting or the main idea does. The theme is subjective, and there can be a handful of themes in just one story. Furthermore, students should know the difference between theme and main idea or motif. For example, a theme should be more than one word. It should be a statement that can apply to many people. So, how do we go about discussing themes in the classroom? The following are some ways you and your students can effectively examine the themes of the stories together. Establish Objective Facts First To make your students begin thinking more about the theme, you need to make sure they have the essential elements down first. Knowing the who (characters), what (main idea), and where (setting) are important for students to start with before moving onto harder literary analysis like theme. For example,...
While some teachers love teaching students grammar principles, it is not everyone’s favorite part of being an English teacher. However, teaching (and learning about) this subject doesn’t have to be as painful as pulling teeth. Here are five ways to make the process more enjoyable for everyone: Be in tune with your students’ oral communication pattern After all, speech and writing are intertwined, and there are generally more opportunities to correct grammar issues in spoken word. Correcting incorrect speech can, under the right circumstances, lead to stronger writing and grammar skills. However, we must keep the following in mind: use mistakes solely as a learning opportunity. We often forget how embarrassing it is to be corrected in front of the class. Instead of addressing the issue to them in a short, curt manner, try addressing the student individually or using it to spark a more extensive conversation. Boost student engagement Students often learn a lot from their peer...
If you teach at a public school, there is one thing for sure: state standardized tests. Despite how you might feel about standardized tests, our public schools rely on test scores as part of their rankings. As a high school English teacher in California, I administer the state test to my juniors yearly. Adding to the pressure students feel during their junior year, it is the only year they take our state test -the CAASPP (which is California’s version of the SBAC). While some of my test prep is more direct, I try to make other test prep in my classroom engaging. Here are some of my favorite activities and lessons for test prep! Nonfiction Reading Test Prep Escape Room When students take state tests, they’ll encounter reading passages and various questions that assess their learning and understanding. This escape room provides students with an opportunity for collaborative, hands-on practice with common state test questions stems. Plus, since it is an escape room activity, stud...
So many students have a hard time finding a connection between their 21st-century lives and the works of William Shakespeare. And while his plays were written more than 400 years ago, his messages are timeless. Here are some ways you can make the Bard more relatable to your students. 1. Dispel the Fear of the Unknown One of the many reasons students dislike Shakespeare is because it is unfamiliar. It can seem strange, ridiculous even, to think someone from the 21st century can even understand someone from 450 years ago, let alone relate to them; and because of this, students will subconsciously distance themselves from the literature before even giving it a try in the first place. To stop this from happening, help students find ways to connect with the situations or characters in the story. For example, Much Ado About Nothing is a play about miscommunication that results in hilarious hijinks. Have students talk about times when miscommunication created a funny situation. Having ...
In the public education setting, timed-writes are a required part of many standardized tests. Rather than try to cloak that reality, embrace it! Show your students that timed writing can be a fun challenge, and develop their expository and analytical prowess by beginning every class with a writing warm-up. These warm-ups should take only five to ten minutes, and you can easily implement them into your daily bell-ringer routine. Here are ten exercises to build your students' writing confidence: 1 Minute Story Get your students in the habit of writing from the word "go." Set the time for 60 seconds and task them with writing a complete short story with a beginning, middle, and end in that time. The first time, many of them will probably find themselves caught up in the pressure or struggle over what to write. That's okay! The more they practice, the better they will become at thinking quickly and excluding any unnecessary information. By the end of the school y...
At its heart, The Sun is Also a Star (affiliate link) is a novel about empathy. Yoon uses an unconventional style in her take on the teenage love story. Instead of a traditional narrative, Yoon jumps back and forth between the perspectives of the two main characters: Daniel, the aspiring poet and Yale-bound son of Korean immigrants. And Natasha, the aspiring scientist and undocumented-immigrant who came to America, from Jamaica, at age nine. Peppered throughout the book are chapters in which a nameless narrator tells us the history of the various characters we encounter as well as the various topics we encounter, such as why Korean-Americans own so many black hair care businesses and the actual science behind falling in love. The novel takes place on Natasha’s last day in America. Due to her father getting a DUI several months earlier, her family is set to be deported that night. In between rushing around New York City looking for a miracle that would allow her to stay in Amer...
Because picture books never really go out of style, and also because big kids love graphic novels, too. This post contains affiliate links. 1. Pashmina , written and illustrated by Nidhi Chanani Priyanka Das' life is full of missing pieces: Her mother is tight-lipped about Pri's absent father, her own family, and most importantly, her native country, India. After discovering a pashmina in an old suitcase, Pri is transported to a strange, beautiful world full of the color that her own life lacks. Follow Pri as she attempts to figure out the secret to her mother's past, to unlock her own heritage. Note: Only Pri's imagined-India is in drawn color! Her day-to-day life is black and white. This is a stunning visual cue that makes reading Chanani's work so fun! Plus, you can analyze the juxtaposition of the author's use of color to tell the story with your students. 2. The Umbrella Academy , written by Gerard Way, illustrated by Gabriel Ba If any of yo...