How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon is a careful, thought-provoking portrait of the aftermath of a shooting, making it a strong choice for a high school read-aloud and discussion starter. Jack Franklin, white, thinks he’s doing a good deed when he shoots and kills sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson (black) as he leaves a convenience store. But what really happened? We find out in How It Went Down.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon (Book Review)


How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon is a careful, thought-provoking portrait of the aftermath of a shooting, making it a strong choice for a high school read-aloud and discussion starter. Jack Franklin, white, thinks he’s doing a good deed when he shoots and kills sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson (black) as he leaves a convenience store. But what really happened? We…

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Using television in the classroom can be a great way to engage students, while still teaching the standards. Here are 15 TV episodes to use in ELA to teach genre, narrative techniques, characterization, and much more. Blog post from teachnouvelle.com.

15 TV Episodes to Use in ELA


Plot, structure, characterization, allusions, foreshadowing… all of the things we work to teach our students are found in many different mediums. We’re in a Golden Age of quality television, and the English classroom is a great place to introduce students to television with real depth and literary value. Here are 15 TV episodes to use in ELA.   Disclaimer: This…

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The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy is a great addition to your high school classroom library. With a mysterious atmosphere, lyrical prose, and a range of humorous characters, this title is sure to please. Book review from teachnouvelle.com.

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy (Book Review)


Need a new pick for your classroom library? Check out The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy.   After the death of her mother and the drafting of her father to the South Pacific, Aila and her brother go to live with some family friends in the close-knit town of Sterling. Soon enough, Aila has more questions than answers: why can’t she see…

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Here are some of my favorite resources and ideas for teaching short stories in middle school and high school. Teaching short stories can be a great way to build student confidence and endurance with a number of skills. These texts span all genres and are hugely versatile – teach them as a unit or woven in with other texts throughout the year. (blog post)

Teaching Short Stories: Innovate & Engage


You gingerly lift a new arrival off the shelf and flip it open, trailing your finger across the printed page. You imagine yourself sipping an espresso as you thumb through the pages, savoring every plot point and befriending new characters.   …and then someone hands you a worksheet.   Did the bookstore fantasy crash down around you? Yeah, I thought…

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Do you want to host a classroom author chat? It’s a great way to get your students invested in reading and writing. They can see the real-world person behind the work, learn about an author’s craft, and ask their most pressing questions as a reader. (Read more at the blog)

Host a Classroom Author Chat


How would you like to chat with an author whose work you love? Well, your students definitely would, too! Setting up a classroom Author Chat seems like a daunting, impossible task, but I’m here to tell you that it’s TOTALLY POSSIBLE. With a little boldness, you can make your dreams for a classroom Author Chat a reality!   Last year,…

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Here are three tips for grading interactive notebooks quickly and easily, even in a high school ELA classroom. This blog post contains actionable steps you can take today, along with a freebie to focus your grading. (teachnouvelle.com)

Grading Interactive Notebooks


I love using Interactive Notebooks in high school and sharing this love with others. Still, the number one question that I get from teachers is how to manage grading Interactive Notebooks without letting it take over your life. I’m here today to tell you that it is possible, as long as you set yourself up for success. Here are some…

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Using music in the secondary classroom is a great way to engage students, so here are some songs to use in ELA, and some ways to use them. (Blog post)

15 Songs to Use in ELA


Want to expose students to new songs, or make them think about old songs in a completely new way? Using music in the classroom is a great way to engage students, so here are some songs to use in ELA, and some ways to use them.     I’m going to link to the YouTube videos of these songs for…

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Books with unreliable narrators are great additions to your classroom library. It’s easy to find rich examples of unreliable narrators in YA Lit, and here are some tips for discussing these characters with middle school and high school students. (blog post)

Unreliable Narrators in YA Lit


Unreliable narrators in YA Lit abound, and novels with these characters make great additions to your classroom library. Unreliable narrators are voice whose perspectives on a situation are called into questions for any number of reasons. Basically, we as the reader cannot trust the very vehicle through which we are given the story! The unreliable narrator is a popular device…

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Want to find Secondary ELA teachers to connect with on Instagram? These amazing accounts are a great place to get started building your educational community on IG. (Blog post at teachnouvelle.com)

The Best Secondary ELA Instagram Accounts to Follow


It can be isolating being a teacher. Maybe you’re the only one teaching Romeo & Juliet in your building, or maybe you really want to change this year’s spring novel and you have no one to turn to for fresh ideas. Whether you’re looking for classroom management strategies, decorating ideas, book recommendations, or a community that celebrates #feetupFriday, Instagram is…

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Using Escape Rooms in ELA is a great way to promote collaboration, critical thinking, and engagement. Students work together on a variety of tasks to find the necessary keys to escape. Learn more about how to develop and set up a successful escape room for your students.

Using Escape Rooms in ELA


The clock is ticking down and you can’t find the blacklight clue that will lead you to the last key… your friends and family are tossing the drawers and papers again, desperately trying to find the six-digit code for a lock, and the seconds are disappearing fast. Finally, it all comes together, and you open the door with thirty seconds…

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Putting on a class play is a lot of work, but it's hugely rewarding. Here are some tips for a successful show! Read more at teachnouvelle.com.

Class Play: A Successful Show


Now, let’s talk about the best part of doing a class play: the performance! This is the fourth part of my class play series, so be sure to check out the posts on Logistics & Prep, Filling Their Toolkit, and Evaluation Ideas. We had two performances of our class play, and this was a good amount for amateur student actors.…

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Book conferences are a great way to review students’ independent reading without a huge grading burden on the teacher. Check out these tips for quick and enriching book conferences. Blog post by teachnouvelle.com.

Book Conferences: Engaging and Simple


I love independent reading (or student-selected reading), and I love talking about books! It only makes good sense to me, then, to allow my students to show their growth in independent reading through book conferences. Book conferences are an informal conversation between the teacher and student to show completion of and reflection on a novel. I learned a lot from…

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Free End of the Year Gifts for Secondary Students. (resource round-up at teachnouvelle.com)

Student Gifts: Free End of Year Printables for Big Kids


I’ve teamed up with some amazing teachers to bring you free end of year gifts for secondary students. Check out all of the printables below and follow the links to get these resources free on TeachersPayTeachers. You can also check out these resources under the hashtag #EOYGiftsforBigKids! Puzzle Cards by Nouvelle ELA Flip-Flop Cards for Middle and High School by…

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Differentiating the Research Process for all learners is important, especially in ELA. Here are some ideas for creating engaging and accessible research opportunities. More at teachnouvelle.com. Blog post.

Differentiated Research Projects in ELA


If you love the idea of assigning differentiated research projects, but find the actual research process daunting, then this post is for you. Research projects can be a time of joy and exploration for your students, so here are my tips for making this something you can enjoy, too. These projects should be something open and accessible to all learners,…

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Dealing with grief in the classroom can be challenging for a teacher, but having a plan will help you be an effective support for your students. (Blog Post)

Grief in the Classroom


When you sit down to plan your lessons for the day, week, or year, you don’t want to think about what you’ll do if tragedy strikes. Grief and pain are as much a part of our lives as joy and learning, but we don’t like to think about them. However, it’s important that we, as teachers, are prepared to deal…

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Effective rubrics are clear and well-designed, and can help increase feedback to students and decrease grading time. Check out this blog post to figure out which rubric style works for you.

Rubrics 101: Improve Communication and Efficiency


I’ve talked before about why I stopped writing on student papers, but today I want to talk about an important tool I used to be able to do that: rubrics. A rubric is a grid that expresses your expectations for an assignment using concrete, achievable descriptors. The biggest time-saving device you can have in your classroom is a good rubric.…

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Pop Culture in ELA Every year, I surprise my students by pulling pop culture into the ELA classroom. They act surprised at first and seem to think that I’m pulling their leg or making fun of them, but that it far from the case. It’s important to use pop culture in ELA because it helps students understand why they’re studying English in the first place. Let’s back up. Why is English class important? There are many possible answers here – teaching students to communicate, helping students explore classics, exposing students to a wide range of stories, etc. I firmly believe that understanding archetypes, language, and form will help students connect to a cultural heritage (or several!) and make them better humans through empathy. If we can walk around in a character’s skin, we are one step closer to understanding another human and thus one step closer to world peace. Yeah, that’s a lot of pressure to put on an ELA teacher. I think that storytelling in any form is a great joy and that words have amazing power. I am obsessed with Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot, but I’m also obsessed with Ke$ha and Avatar: The Last Airbender and anything Kiera Cass has written. We are shaped by the intersections of these stories, and that’s why it’s so important to include pop culture in ELA. Consider this Ke$ha lyric: “Dirt and glitter cover the floor. We pretty and sick. We’re young and we’re bored.” This lyric is so beautiful and evocative to me, and I’ve had this line go through my head while reading E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars as well as Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”. I think students deserve to know that, instead of me pretending that Ke$ha is not a brilliant storyteller just because she’s not in the cultural canon (yet). We need to validate the stories and we need to validate the knowledge. It may take a long time for your 10th graders to connect to Hester Prynne, but they may connect more quickly to Alex Parrish from Quantico or any of the handful of ostracized characters in Gossip Girl. Another great tool for using pop culture in ELA and really honing students’ awareness of any genre is by using tropes. A trope is any overused theme or device, and once you see one, you can’t unsee one. A great source for starting to explore these with (older) students is TV Tropes. For example, consider the trope “Helmets Are Hardly Heroic”: “In any work where a hero wears armor, whether powered or otherwise, the helmet is almost never worn even in combat. In Real Life the helmet is the most important piece of personal armor ever invented besides the shield, since the skull and the brain inside are highly vulnerable to all kinds of weapon blows and projectiles. So why does a character who has access to a helmet rarely use it?” -from TV Tropes First, start by simply proposing the idea to your students and see if they can name some examples from movies and television. Then, use this to segue into a bigger conversation of the role of stories: *Why would directors make this no-helmets choice? *Why does the audience suspend their disbelief (or not)? *What would change if heroes did wear helmets? Lastly, you can use pop culture in ELA very deliberately by using games. I LOVE trivia, so I have an ongoing trivia game to use with my students. You can find this game in my TeachersPayTeachers store. What are your favorite ways to use pop culture in ELA? Leave your ideas in comments and be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter!

Pop Culture in ELA: Infuse Your Lessons


Every year, I surprise my students by using pop culture in ELA. They act surprised at first and seem to think that I’m pulling their leg or making fun of them, but that it far from the case. It’s important to use pop culture in ELA because it helps students understand why they’re studying English in the first place. Let’s…

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Poetry Speed-dating is a great way to hook students' interest in poetry. Plan a day to let them browse and enjoy poetry books. More information and recommendations at the blog post at teachnouvelle.com.

Poetry Speed-Dating


I love poetry, and I always want to share that love of poetry with students. Last year, I decided to add a new element to my poetry unit, Poetry Speed-dating. This simple activity allows students to explore some poetry in a low-stakes way. Set Up Poetry Speed-Dating The set-up is simple. Find a variety of poetry books and anthologies for…

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Teach Public Speaking with small group presentations. Smaller audiences boost speaker confidence, keep audience members engaged and accountable, and improve usage of class time. Blog post.

Teach Public Speaking with Small Group Presentations


Public Speaking is an important skill for middle schoolers and high schoolers to develop, and some of them embrace the opportunity. For others, though, public speaking can be so daunting as to actually cause fear and nausea. How can we help our students develop public speaking and listening skills while still being respectful of their feelings? Small group presentations. Rethinking…

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Make grading easier by only writing on the rubric. By writing focused comments on the rubric, you'll reduce your grading time while still assuring that your students receive valuable feedback. Read more at the blog post.

Make Grading Easier


I used to live in constant dread of my grading load, struggling under the weight of it all. I thought that to be a good teacher, I had to write copious amounts of feedback and notes on my students’ papers. In an effort to make grading easier, I stopped writing on student papers. In this post, I’ll talk about why…

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Help students understand Shakespeare's Language by breaking down the process. Use these engaging activities to introduce the vocabulary, grammar, and rhythms used in his language. Students will also explore Shakespeare's influence on the English language and do some translation. Blog post.

Teaching Shakespeare’s Language


Introducing Shakespeare’s Language Understanding Shakespeare’s Language can seem like a daunting task for students, and many of them give up on a great story because of language that seems too difficult for them. I have always loved Shakespeare’s language (that should have been an early clue that I was bound to be a linguist and an English teacher!), so I…

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How to download product updates for TeachersPayTeachers products. Video blog.

Download TpT Product Updates


How to Download TeachersPayTeachers Product Updates Do you have a resource that you purchased two or three years ago on TeachersPayTeachers? Are you wondering if there’s a product update that you could download? The teacher-author may have fixed some typos or even made major changes like adding several pages of activities! TeachersPayTeachers does not send out an email every time…

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Persuasive Techniques and Media Literacy


Persuasive Techniques & Critical Thinking I’ve taught persuasive techniques every year, but it feels more necessary than ever for our students to develop media literacy. Can they judge the worth (and truth) of the information presented to them? Can they identify how a speaker could be manipulating their emotions and instincts? I’ve teamed up with a group of teacher-authors from…

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Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "What is Your Life's Blueprint?" speech urges us to stand up and get going! This speech is perfect for motivating middle school and high school students (and teachers, too!) to take action and choose a direction for their lives. Blog post from teachnouvelle.com.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Taking Action


Teaching & Learning with Martin Luther King Jr. If you need a motivational, reflective activity, you’ve come to the right place. One of my favorite ways to challenge my students to set goals is to listen to inspirational speakers. This is an excellent opportunity to use Martin Luther King Jr.’s classic “What is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech to get students…

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Using puzzles and games in high school ELA is a great way to develop a growth mindset, challenge both sides of the brain, and encourage collaboration and critical thinking. Discover three ways to challenge your students at teachnouvelle.com.

Using Puzzles in High School ELA


Using puzzles and games in the high school classroom is a great way to build collaboration, critical thinking, and a growth mindset. Puzzles can be particularly powerful in the ELA classroom because they allow students to approach words logically, mathematically, and visually, creating cross-brain connections. Okay, so it’s true: I love puzzles! I’m excellent at some types (jigsaw puzzles) and…

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It can be challenging to keep students focused and engaged before the Winter Break, but these five tips will help you succeed! Save yourself stress and fatigue and check out these tricks today. Blog post includes a holiday gift freebie!

5 Tips for Teaching before Winter Break


Tips to Save Your Sanity Before Winter Break Teaching in the weeks leading up to Winter Break can be a challenge, you can save your sanity by following a few key tips. It can be hard to keep students’ attention before the holidays: they’re tired, we’re tired, and we all just want to push through. Plus, with various “treats” throughout…

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Using Interactive Notebooks to teach class novels can be rigorous and engaging, even for middle and high school. Here are some tips and tricks for setting up your novel units. Read more at teachnouvelle.com

Teach a Class Novel with Interactive Notebooks


Do you love the idea of Interactive Notebooks but are unsure of how to use them to teach class novels? Stay tuned for my best tips and tricks for designing rigorous and engaging class novel units. I am a huge proponent of using Interactive Student Notebooks (ISNs, INBs, INs) in high school. I love them for the ease of structuring…

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Expose your secondary students to a wide range of classic poetry using these engaging bellringers! Students create and analyze, finding fun and meaning in each of these thirty class poems.

Use Bellringers to Help Students Love Poetry


It can be tough to get students engaged with poetry, but I have found a solution! Poetry Bellringers. I created this resource as a way to share several classic poems with students in a short amount of time.  There’s no over-analysis here – each activity is short and targeted. Also, since each activity is a Bellringer, or happens within the first…

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A Writer's Workshop model can be a great way to engage students in the writing and revising process. Writing a short story will help students strengthen their understanding of the elements of fiction, develop analytical skills, and give helpful peer feedback.

Writer’s Workshop: Short Stories in High School


Last fall, I did a Writer’s Workshop with my 9th graders to help them write their own short stories. We did this as part of our Dystopian unit, but the process works with any genre. In this post, I’ll cover the Writer’s Workshop process in my classroom, how I manage the reading load, and things I am still trying to…

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Whether you are a first-year teacher, a military spouse, or a veteran teacher moving to a new job, being the new teacher in a school can be intimidating. Check out this blog post for tips to succeed as the new teacher on the block. From teachnouvelle.com.

Succeed as the New Teacher


Rockin’ It as the New Teacher Whether you are a first-year teacher, a military spouse who’s always on the move, or a veteran teacher switching districts, there are times when it’s necessary to be a new teacher in a building. Here are some tips for new teachers that I’ve learned after five years of teaching in as many schools. Through…

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