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Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students

My approach to teaching Shakespeare to ESL students will make it an engaging and accessible experience for teachers and students alike! Teaching Shakespeare to ESL students (English Language Learners/ELLs) is an important consideration, particularly if you’re working in a pull out model. If students are studying Shakespeare in their regular ELA classrooms, teaching Shakespeare to ESL students can level the cultural playing field.  Now, I don’t think Shakespeare is the be-all, end-all of excellent writing. I’m not sure why students study a Shakespeare play every year of high school. However, I think that teaching the same thing to all students with appropriate academic support is the key to making all students feel like a community. Shakespeare isn’t something we should reserve for Honors students. Teaching Shakespeare to ESL students with appropriate supports is key to

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4 Personal Narrative Examples by Latinx Authors

Are you looking for personal narrative examples by Latinx authors? Here are some ideas from the new anthology edited by Saraciea J. Fennell, Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed.  This anthology features 15 stories from the Latinx diaspora. If you’re looking for personal narrative examples, Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed is a rich source of teaching materials. Here are four stories I loved and ideas for integrating them into your Secondary ELA curriculum.  Personal Narrative Examples for High School “A Mi Orden: a Meditation on Dichos” by Elizabeth Acevedo “They were a constellation heavily riddled with teaching me my place.” Author and poet Elizabeth Acevedo strikes again! If you’ve read With the Fire on High or The Poet X, you know Acevedo connects with her teenage readers. Here, Acevedo reflects on one dicho from her grandfather.

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Using Short Stories to Teach Setting

I love using short stories to teach setting! Shorter texts are more approachable to students, and allow you to provide more examples. Short Stories to Teach Setting Setting is one of the earliest literary elements we understand as readers, since we know the difference between the feel of a creepy house in the woods and the warmth of Grandma’s house. Using short stories to teach setting is a great way to move those reading instincts into honed reading skills. Here are two short stories to teach setting that I love: “No Me Dejas” by Mark Oshiro, found on Slate.com  This story takes place inside a futuristic hospital. Our protagonist, Gabriela, is preparing for “the Transfer,” a procedure which will allow her to receive all of her dying grandmother’s memories. During the procedure, she experiences a

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Teaching Peer Feedback in ELA

These activities for teaching peer feedback in ELA will help students learn to give (and receive) constructive criticism. Teaching Peer Feedback in ELA Do you include opportunities for peer feedback in your classroom? If you haven’t done it before or you want to amp up your process, this is your year! Peer feedback is the perfect tool for fostering collaboration and critical thinking in Secondary ELA. I read The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop by Felicia Rose Chavez this summer, and I see so many possibilities for improving the way we have students present their work and receive feedback. I’ll be sharing these throughout the year, but I wanted to start today with talking about peer feedback. One of the biggest “ah-ha” moments for me in reading this book was that feedback should be an active process

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A sepia toned photo of a stack of antique leatherbound books, pink text at the top reads Rethinking the Classics Tips and Resources

Rethinking the Classics in Secondary ELA

Want to include more diverse voices in your ELA classroom, without sacrificing rigor & standards? My “Rethinking the Classics” series was made for you!       Do you feel stuck teaching the “dead white guys” and feel you don’t have a way out? You CAN make your curriculum more inclusive, even if your district mandates the reading lists or your budget confines you to teaching certain texts. I’ve been working with Dr. Sheila Frye (from Teaching Literacy) on a project called “Rethinking the Classics” to help teachers find supplemental texts and curriculum updates. For each title, we identified potential Essential Questions and literary devices that you may want to explore with students. Then, for each of these, we researched supplemental texts and discussion techniques you could include to make your curriculum more diverse. For

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Teaching The Outsiders

Are you teaching The Outsiders? Read this post for tips and projects to help students analyze literary themes.   The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is a staple of many ELA curriculums. It has plenty of literary merit, but very little diversity. You can change that! Today I’ll share resources to help with teaching The Outsiders that work for distance, hybrid, or classroom learning. In this post you’ll find resources to help students understand and analyze themes in The Outsiders. Plus ways to bring in some more, diverse voices. You can find many more ideas in our full Rethinking The Outsiders resource. Resources for teaching The Outsiders with increased flexibility and inclusivity Explore the theme of Self-Expression In this TED Talk, Kaustav Dey, marketing lead for Tommy Hilfiger in India, delivers several interesting examples of people

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Professional Development Books for Teachers

Need a summer read? These professional development books for teachers cover topics from Shakespeare to standardized testing, and beyond! Ah, summer! A time for relaxation and recharging… …this is also a pretty great time to slow down and hear ourselves think, am I right? That’s why I like to read at least two professional development books for teachers in the summer. I like to sit with my cup of coffee and process the year through the lens of a good book. Here are some books I’ve been learning from over the last couple of years. You can find these books on my affiliate list as Bookshop.org. Using Bookshop, you’ll support the independent bookstore of your choice, and I’ll get a small kickback from every purchase that I use to update and maintain this blog. Win

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New Short Stories for Middle School

No dusty old classics here! There are my favoite new short stories for middle school, and some non-traditional texts to engage and inspire. Are you struggling to get your students excited about reading? Do even your most engaged students zone out when you bring out the reading list of “classics”? Sometimes all students need is a fresh story. Something that feels relevant to them and their peers. We can revitalize our content, without sacrificing our standards. And I’m here to help! Today I’m sharing with you some of my favorite new short stories of middle school and ideas for how to use them, but if you want this type of content for high schoolers, I’ve got you covered too 🙂 Modern Short Stories for Middle School: Short Story: “How to Be Chinese” by Celeste Ng

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A background of various book covers with the a white splotch in the center containing the words (Instead of Harry Potter) Inclusive Middle Grade Fantasy teachnouvelle.com

Inclusive Middle Grade Books for Harry Potter Fans

Caution: magic inside this post! Find books for Harry Potter fans that capture the fun of the Potterverse and provide a more inclusive cast.   I don’t recommend Harry Potter anymore.   If you follow my Instagram, you’ve likely seen me talk about this issue before. Frankly, this isn’t an easy post for me to write. It hurts my heart that something I hold so dear has been tarnished by the actions of its creator. I spent hours of my youth writing Harry Potter fanfiction. My beloved pets – a ginger cat and a big black dog –  are named Crookshanks and Padfoot. My wife Amanda and I even spent part of our honeymoon at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.    But you know what’s more important to me than Harry Potter?

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Teaching Social Justice with Short Stories in Middle School

Short stories are great ways to tackle big issues in easy-to-digest lessons! Here are my tips for teaching social justice with short stories. Short stories can be great foundational texts for conversations about social justice and current events. (More about incorporating current events in the classroom here.) Because they’re short, they can act as common reading before students work on discussion and research. Also, teaching social justice with short stories can help students connect those stories to nonfiction texts like essays and news articles. They can hone in on the relationship between literature, politics, and “the real world.” This makes literature more relevant. And it’s always easier to talk about big issues through the lens of fictional characters. Besides suggestions for contemporary short stories, I’ve added other texts that fit this bill. Giving students a

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A cup of coffee next to a laptop with the text "Romeo & Juliet. Engaging ideas for in-person, hybrid, or digital."

Teaching Romeo & Juliet

How do I teach Romeo & Juliet? Let me count the ways! To me, it’s a timeless classic, but I know that many students struggle to connect with with story. Some students tell me it’s “corny” and “unrealistic.” Sometimes they’re thrown off by Shakespeare’s language. (More on teaching Shakespeare’s language here!) But that doesn’t mean we should just give up on the bard! In this post I’ll give tips for teaching Romeo & Juliet that make it more inclusive, engaging, and relatable to your students. And as a bonus, all of these ideas will work for virtual, hybrid, or in-person learning. (And these are just a few of my Romeo & Juliet ideas, you can find the rest in my full Rethinking the Classics: Romeo & Juliet resource.)     Teaching Romeo & Juliet:   Play

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A stack of books with the overlayed text "Poetry. Engaging ideas for in-person, hybrid, or digital."

Tips & Resources for Teaching Poetry in Secondary ELA

These tips for teaching poetry in secondary ELA are perfect for National Poetry Month (April), and they’ll help you create engaging lessons year-round. Is there a subject that divides students (and teachers, let’s be honest) more than poetry? Some folx (like me!) find poetry to be magical, moving, and merry, others find it to be confusing, boring, and a chore. While that hurts my heart, I understand. Poetry is a unique and exciting literary experience. A wide range of formats expressing a wide range of emotions. But our students can’t appreciate that if all we focus on is memorizing literary elements. By creating an inclusive, relevant, and approachable poetry unit, we can help more kids to fall in love with poetry as an art form. Over the years I’ve blogged a lot about teaching poetry

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Teaching Symbolism with 3 Short Stories

Do your students struggle to identify instances of symbolism in a text? Yeah, mine too. So today I am sharing some contemporary short stories, plus additional resources, to help you plan a unit on symbolism that is both compelling and memorable. Teaching symbolism with short stories helps students practice their analytical skills. The first way I found to engage my students was to bribe, uh, I mean, reward them with candy. Candy was the perfect way to help my students finally get symbolism. But the biggest positive change I made when teaching symbolism with short stories was to revamp the texts themselves. I was getting burned out on using the same old stories. (And teachers, if you’re getting bored, you can bet your students are too.) Plus, “Masque of the Red Death” and “The Pearl” (a

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5 Powerful Tips for Teaching Social Justice in ELA

Do you want to be teaching social justice in ELA but you don’t know where to start? Check out these tips, resources, and low-prep projects. The title of this post is a bit misleading. Social Justice is part of teaching about our society and culture, and that is our principal work as ELA teachers. Our tools of choice are stories and communication, and we can interweave those in the goals of social justice. What is Social Justice? Social Justice is the acknowledgement of disparities in wealth and opportunities in our society based on race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability and an engagement in the effort to decrease those disparities. Therefore, developing an ad campaign to raise awareness about childhood poverty? Social justice. Writing an argumentative essay about why the town library should be wheelchair accessible?

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Contemporary Short Stories for High School

Struggling to engage your reluctant readers? Check out these contemporary short stories for high school ELA. Are you excited to teach short stories, or does the thought of revisiting “The Lottery” and “The Lady of the Tiger” fill you with intense boredom? Well, if you are tired of using the same old dead White guys, I promise your students are tired of reading them. But don’t despair! There are tons of interesting contemporary YA short stories for high schoolers that you can use instead of (or alongside) the classics. Today I’m going to share a few of my favorites.   Contemporary Short Stories for High School:   Puro Amor by Sandra Cisneros Students may already be familiar with Cisneros’ work from her 1984 novel, The House On Mango Street. And you can expect more lush

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Teaching To Kill A Mockingbird

Are you teaching To Kill a Mockingbird this year? Whether you view it as a treasured classic, or an outdated relic, I have some tips.     Today’s blog post will be a little different. I would typically start by sharing ideas for teaching the novel in question. However, I think To Kill a Mockingbird is ready for a curriculum overhaul. It’s a fictional story sharing the trauma of systemic racism through the eyes of a young White girl. Her father, an immortalized literary hero, didn’t even win the case. Why are we still teaching To Kill a Mockingbird? Why are we holding on to this novel? I recommend NOT teaching To Kill a Mockingbird. Not convinced? Let’s talk about it. While I never connected with TKAM, I know many teachers have fond memories of

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Teaching Irony with Short Stories

Are you looking to revitalize your short story unit? Are your students just not getting irony? I’m here to help! Here are 5 fresh texts for teaching irony with short stories. Sure, “Gift of the Magi” and “The Lottery” are classics for teaching irony, but they offer little in the way of inclusive representation. There is nothing wrong with these stories, but we can serve our students better by including a wider selection of voices and identities. I’m not asking you to stop teaching “The Lottery” or “Gift of the Magi”, but encouraging you to add some more inclusive short stories and supporting materials to your curriculum. Many teachers are working to diversify their curriculum to include more voices. I’ve been working with Dr. Sheila Frye (from Teaching Literacy) on a project called “Rethinking the

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Digital Escape Rooms for ELA

Have you tried any digital escape rooms for ELA? Whether you’re doing virtual, in-person, or hybrid learning, I have a game for you.   Digital Escape Rooms for ELA: Do you LOVE Escape Rooms, but feel like they’re out of reach now? Whether we’re in distance learning, a hybrid classroom, or trying to maintain social distancing in a physical classroom, we can still bring the critical thinking and excitement of an escape room to our lessons. The answer? Digital Escape Rooms for ELA.     Since March, I’ve been working on creating digital versions of my most popular games. Each digital escape room has the same tasks and content as the original paper games, and now has much more flexibility for you, the teacher. Game List: Introduction to Shakespeare Digital Breakout Introduction to The Odyssey

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5 Books from 2020 For Your Classroom Library

What a year 2020 has been, am I right? Well, amid everything, some amazing new books joined the shelves. Here are my top five recommendations for the classroom library.     I know that, as English teachers, we can sometimes have a book-buying problem. I’ve narrowed my picks down to five books that will give you a lot of mileage. I made a list on Bookshop.org so you can easily purchase these books guilt-free. Bookshop.org gives 100% of the profits on every sale to the brick & mortar store of YOUR choice. For example, when I shop there, I choose my local bookstore here in Astoria, OR. You could choose your favorite Indie in your hometown. (I get a small commission of every sale, and I put those pennies right back into maintaining this blog

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Terminus – Digital Breakouts for ELA

Are you looking for new digital breakouts for ELA? Look no further! I’d like to introduce you to my newest game series, Terminus. Terminus is a four-part digital adventure series geared towards 8th and 9th grade students who read below level. This story is a post-pandemic, found-text adventure. Playing as Rania, students work to solve the mystery of the MILSA outbreak by reading letters, memos, manuals, and emails left behind. Behind the game  This game was a labor of love by myself and my wife Amanda Thrasher. Amanda wrote the storyline, and I designed the puzzles. Then, we combined it all with incredible original art by Lily Chan. Amanda began writing Terminus in the summer of 2019 (while I was at the TPT conference!) and finished it later that year. Little did we know that

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Adaptable Resources to Teach 3 Classics During Distance Learning: The Giver, The Great Gatsby, & The Odyssey

Are you going to teach classics during distance learning like The Giver, The Great Gatsby, and/or The Odyssey? Great choice! Here’s how to make your novel unit even more inclusive and engaging. Teaching Classics During Distance Learning? No matter which text you are working with, below we have provided some resources & strategies to make your unit successful and one to remember! The Giver Considered by many to be a modern classic, The Giver is a brilliant choice for middle-schoolers who will instantly connect with the 12-year-old protagonist, Jonas. Today I’ll be sharing some resources and tips to teach The Giver during distance learning, and also how to bring some diverse voices to the conversation. The ideas and resources I am sharing today were all hand-picked with distance learning in mind, but you’ll find many more ideas for teaching The

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Indigenous Texts for Secondary ELA

Many of you have asked for recommendations for Indigenous texts for Secondary ELA to help enrichen your curriculum. Last year, I shared a guest post from Megan Tipler featuring Indigenous Literature for the classroom library. Today, Victoria, the English teacher/Bookstagrammer behind @floury_words shares some incredible texts to incorporate into your curriculum. If you haven’t checked out Victoria’s Instagram account, be sure to follow her. She shares beautiful photos of books and baked goods that will make your day! Before we jump in, I wanted to get personal and acknowledge two things. First of all, I wanted to acknowledge that I am on Clatsop lands. Over the past couple years, I’ve been working intentionally to increase my self-reflection and future impact on Indigenous peoples. In addition to buying from Indigenous educators, writers, and artists, I am

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Latinx YA Books for Your Classroom Library

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month, y’all! We celebrate this every year from September 15th to October 15th, and we can also bring it to our bookshelves. I recommend visiting the National Hispanic Heritage Month website: they have some great resources for teachers. Keep reading for amazing Latinx YA books that you can share with your students to celebrate. While it’s important to celebrate cultural and national heritage during specific festivals or annual events, how inclusive is your classroom library year-round? Books are both windows and mirrors. Can your students see genuine representations of themselves, or “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”? Don’t feel discouraged if your classroom library or curriculum isn’t inclusive, yet. Your students are lucky because they have you to advocate for them and to continue pushing for diversity in the materials that

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15 MORE TV Episodes to Use in ELA

After the popularity of my 2017 post, 15 TV Episodes to Use In ELA, I thought it was time for an update. That was 3 years ago, after all! Tons of exceptional new shows have come out, I’ve discovered shows that are “new to me,” and gotten reacquainted with some old favorites. Using TV episodes in ELA  can be more than just a reward (although that’s okay too!). Television can be a great way to introduce new concepts or review old topics, in an engaging, bite-sized format. Using TV to practice critical writing can be a distance learning asset or as part of a sub-plan. I have a TV Episode Review activity up in my TPT store if you’re looking for something like that 🙂 I also have a new resource (2023) that has 15

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Inclusive YA Retellings for the Classroom Library

I recently finished Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron and it got me thinking about using inclusive YA retellings in Secondary ELA. Retellings (or “reimaginings,” as I like to think of them) involve taking any story and giving it a new spin. This provides the reader a novel (hah!) way to connect with the material. We know that retellings stretch as far back as Shakespeare (he based Romeo and Juliet on a poem by Arthur Brooke). So let’s dig in… why are retellings so important to our collective conscience?     Cinderella is Dead is set in a Dystopian fantasy future in which the Cinderella story as we know it has been weaponized against women to bring them into submission. Our LGBTQ+ heroine will not be attending the ball, business as usual. It’s 200 years

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50+ Captivating & Diverse Texts for Secondary ELA

Hey y’all! Are you looking for diverse texts for secondary ELA? Do you want to grow your classroom library or find suggestions for a lit circle? Look no further! I’ve written a lot of YA book reviews and created a lot of book “round-up” lists over the years, so I thought it would be helpful to compile my many recommendations here.  Each list, unless otherwise specified, features a range of authors and protagonists, including BIPOC, queer, neuro-divergent voices. And a final word about diversity and inclusion: no “one text” is going to develop your students’ empathy and thirst for justice.  Instead, be sure to include a variety of voices throughout your shelves and curriculum, all year long. Be sure to bookmark this list of diverse texts for secondary ELA as it will continually grow* 🙂

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Current Events in the Classroom

You can help your students see beyond the headlines! In this post, nine other teachers and I share our favorite tips for teaching current events.     Current Events in the Classroom When we have to devote so much time to teaching the test, I know how tough it is to consider adding anything new, like teaching current events, into your routine. As tough as it is, it’s worth it! Our students might sometimes seem far from adults to us, but in a few years, they’ll be driving, voting, working, and hopefully fully autonomous members of society. We can help them prepare for adulthood by helping them to understand our ever-changing world.   …But you don’t have to take it from me I asked some of my #teachergram friends for their take on teaching current

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Teaching The Odyssey with an Interactive Escape Room

Take a look inside my completely updated and redesigned Odyssey interactive escape room. New art, new hints, and a brand new digital platform for teaching the Odyssey. Have you played my Odyssey Escape Room? In this interactive adventure, students play as Telemachus, trying to solve Eumaeus’ puzzle and get access to Odysseus’ famed bow. It’s an introduction to the Greek gods and goddesses, the characters in The Odyssey, and life and customs on Ithaca.  Since I first shared this resource in 2017, it has been in constant evolution, improving for the better based on amazing feedback from students and teachers. One teacher told me that her class needed hints, so she set herself up as the Oracle at Delphi. I worked this into an update in late 2018, adding four hints in verse for the

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2019 Book Recommendation Round-Up

With the decade drawing to a close, it’s time to reflect on the great books released in 2019! Here are my favorite YA book recommendations of 2019:   2019 YA Book Recommendations Round-Up:   As I write this, it’s the end of 2019 and the holiday season has begun. Whether you’re looking for last-minute reads to hit your reading goal or shopping for the booklovers on your list, I’ve got you covered. Here are YA book recommendations for every reader! Please note that not all these recommendations are a good fit for middle school readers. 🙂 Enjoy!   The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee    Y’all, I love Stacey Lee. To me, her books are like curling up with a warm cup of tea, you just sink into the story. But The Downstairs Girl isn’t

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Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz

This week we’re chatting about Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz, a heartwarming #ownvoices tale of two chronically ill teens who don’t die at the end! (Transcript)   In today’s episode… Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz Isabel is sick. Not “Make-a-Wish” sick, though. Isabel has Rheumatoid Arthritis, the kind of sick that hurts her every single day and requires constant treatments, but isn’t going to kill her. Her friends and family, although they care about her, sometimes forget that she’s sick at all. After all, Isabel is dealing with it so well, and works hard to never be an imposition on their lives. Sasha’s world is different. He’s sick, too, with Gaucher disease, but he and his family are open and unapologetic about his life and struggles. When the two meet during

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