Friday, October 21, 2016

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween in the Secondary ELA Classroom

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post
I love Halloween. It is my favorite holiday. It often seems to have less push back than more religious holidays though I still try to be mindful of students who wouldn't want to participate at all. That said, there are a few things that I have done or would like to do in the future.

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post1. The poem the Raven. You can never go wrong by following the standards- close reading of poetry is part of all ELA curriculums so why not apply it during the week of Halloween with a creepy story? You can show The Simpson's Tree House of Terror episode that has James Earl Jones read the poem. You may want to have students read it as homework to familiarize themselves with it as it is a longer poem. You can also read it over a few class periods. If you want to get your students up out of their seats and moving you can use these task cards I created and set them up around the room!



5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post2. Edgar Allan Poe has two other poems that I think lend themselves to this spooky time of year. Annabel Lee and The Spirits of the Dead. Generally I think these are great for middle school but they can be a great poetry review for high school as well. I have close reading handouts ready to print and teach if these interest you!


3. What about a costume party based off of whatever novel you're reading at the time? Dress like a metaphor or idiom? Make students bring the textual evidence that shows their costume is accurate!

4. Descriptive writing about fall treats- Describe what apple cider tastes like? Pumpkin Pie? Caramel Apples? Candy?

5. This is also a great time for a narrative unit. Have your students write scary stories! This is a great time to work on multiple plot lines as the CCSS ask for in the higher grade levels. Or, they could write ones for younger students and then take them to elementary schools to read them!

How do you let your secondary students still celebrate the season? Do you think it's important to still let them feel like kids? Leave a comment and let me know!

Oh- and as a special present to you-- here's a FREEBIE- a crossword puzzle all about POE!

5 Ways to Have a Happy Halloween Secondary ELA Style- Blog Post
Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Re-Mixing the Literacy Narrative


Literacy narratives have long been a part of my standard college composition I curriculum. However, this semester I decided to remix that assignment. Instead of the standard literacy narrative my students will be writing a technology narrative.

I've asked them to share a story about a time when technology had an impact on their life. They've been warned to stay away from a story about things like getting a new cell phone. Instead, I'd like them to examine how technology has affected their life.

I'm using three mentor texts for this project:

1. Stepping Out: Living the Fitbit Life by David Sedaris - I love this one because he discusses using a fitbit flex which really isn't a super fancy piece of tech and explores how it changed his daily life.

2. The half of the introduction to: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari - This one is such a great commentary on how cell phones and apps have affected the way we date. There is quite a bit of language in this one. I think I might only use it with advanced Juniors and Seniors and I'd warn parents.

3. Dining with Robots by Ellen Ullman- This is a more scholarly article that I accessed via JSTOR and Ebsco host. In it Ullman discusses her computer programming classes and makes connections. This is a more advanced piece of writing and is more on the serious side of tech.

The students are being asked to consider what the theme of their narrative will be once it is written. My honors section is being expected to imitate the style of one of these three examples.

I'm using my narrative and descriptive writing/dialogue presentations to help prep students for this writing. If you need resources for narratives you can check out my bundle here:


I'm very excited to see how these come out. I don't know about you but I like to mix things or remix things up from time to time!

What types of personal narratives do you have your students write?

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Building Classroom Community

I see my classes, at most, 2x a week for 85 minutes. That means it takes a more specific effort for me to get to know my students and for them to get to know each other. Yet, in a composition classroom in particular it is important that a sense of community is developed.

The first thing I do is on the first day I have them go around the room, tell me their names, their
anticipated majors, and then some fun fact. I try to comment on each of their fun facts or majors to show that I listened, and to draw some connection between us. Having them introduce themselves also helps me with the pronunciation of their names which is very helpful!

The second thing I do is a more continuous effort. Each day as I come into the classroom, log into the computer, and take attendance I ask the class what's new, if they've done anything exciting since the last time I saw them, and I share something about myself. If someone mentioned something previously I will occasionally revisit it. I've had several students say on evaluations that I seem like I care and that I take time to get to know them. I attribute this practice to those comments.

The last thing I do to bond with my students is to walk with some on the way to and from class to have more casual conversations. I keep my office door open and I invite them to come stop and chat. Or, if I see them in the hall I check in with them.

To build the community between them I include a lot of think pair share activities and have them work in groups. I need to work on more of this too. I have a few really big classes this semester and I think it will be more difficult for the students to feel like they know everyone.

I'm also experimenting with a class twitter and instagram account. We'll see how that goes.

Creating community during a block schedule that is set up as an AB format can be more challenging than seeing students every day. However, with a little bit of extra effort it is still possible. What are your favorite techniques?


Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

3 Poems for Halloween

I'm always looking for ways to give a nod to holidays in the secondary and college classroom without overtly celebrating them. So here I've rounded up a few poems that you can use in any English class to "celebrate" Halloween.

British Literature:

The Apparatition- John Donne

When by thy scorn, O murd'ress, I am dead
     And that thou think'st thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feign'd vestal, in worse arms shall see;
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tir'd before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
     Thou call'st for more,
And in false sleep will from thee shrink;
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bath'd in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
     A verier ghost than I.
What I will say I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,
I'had rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threat'nings rest still innocent.

American Literature:

Because I could not stop for Death -Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death-
He kindly stopped for me-
The Carriage held but just Ourselves-
And Immortality.

We slowly drove- He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility-
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –  
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –  
We passed the Setting Sun – 

Or rather – He passed us – 
The Dews drew quivering and chill – 
For only Gossamer, my Gown – 
My Tippet – only Tulle – 

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads 
Were toward Eternity – 
World Literature:

Hallow-E'en, 1915 -Winifred M. Letts (Irish)
Will you come back to us, men of our hearts, to-night 
In the misty close of the brief October day? 
Will you leave the alien graves where you sleep and steal away 
To see the gables and eaves of home grow dark in the evening light? 

O men of the manor and moated hall and farm, 
Come back to-night, treading softly over the grass; 
The dew of the autumn dusk will not betray where you pass; 
The watchful dog may stir in his sleep but he’ll raise no hoarse alarm. 

Then you will stand, not strangers, but wishful to look 
At the kindly lamplight shed from the open door, 
And the fire-lit casement where one, having wept you sore, 
Sits dreaming alone with her sorrow, not heeding her open book. 

Forgotten awhile the weary trenches, the dome 
Of pitiless Eastern sky, in this quiet hour 
When no sound breaks the hush but the chimes from the old church tower, 
And the river’s song at the weir,—ah! then we will welcome you home. 

You will come back to us just as the robin sings 
Nunc Dimittis from the larch to a sun late set 
In purple woodlands; when caught like silver fish in a net 
The stars gleam out through the orchard boughs and the church owl flaps his wings. 

We have no fear of you, silent shadows, who tread 
The leaf-bestrewn paths, the dew-wet lawns. Draw near 
To the glowing fire, the empty chair,—we shall not fear, 
Being but ghosts for the lack of you, ghosts of our well-beloved dead.
Need something ready to go? Check out my Fall Poetry set or my Edgar Allan Poe assignments.