Browsing Category : Teaching Ideas

Creative Reading Cover

Creative Reading

Spark Imagination with Creative Reading   We spend a LOT of time reading books and watching TV and movies in our household, and one game we love to play is “what if”. What if the ending had been different? The characters had had a stronger motivation? The main conflict had been more believable? This is what I call creative reading.…

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Create a Winning Teaching Portfolio

Teachers, it’s that time of year again. You’ve been handed a piece of paper called an Intent Form and you must decide whether you want to return to your job next year or seek greener pastures. Or, if you’re a student teacher, you’re thinking about where you’ll teach in the fall. Either way, it’s time to dust off your Teaching…

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Tips for Teaching Shakespeare Cover

Tips for Teaching Shakespeare

Teaching Shakespeare: Tips & Tricks   Teaching Shakespeare can be a tricky prospect, but here are some tips to help you and your students get the most out of your unit. Students have very different reactions to Shakespeare based on their experiences and expectations. I want to advocate for teaching Shakespeare through performance, and I’ll be talking more about that…

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Shakespeare in 30

The Team Behind Shakespeare in 30

Introducing Danielle & Michelle, Shakespeare in 30 Creators   So, I recently worked with my friend Michelle to release a collection of plays to use in the ELA Classroom called Shakespeare in 30. Since we collaborated on this project, I thought I’d take the time to talk a bit about us and how we met. It’s weird for an introvert…

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Staged Readings in ELA cover

Staged Readings in ELA – A Play in 5 Days!

Using Staged Readings in ELA   It’s no secret that I love using drama in the ELA classroom, and I’m here today to advocate for using more rehearsed, scripted drama as you teach English. Maybe you’ve avoided this because it has seemed overwhelming. Maybe you think you don’t have enough time. Well, friends, you do! This post will help you…

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What are your favorite teacher things for secondary ELA? Favorite pens? Paper? Books? Laminators? Here's my list. (blog post at

Favorite Teacher Things

WIN Your Teacher Wish List!   What’s on your classroom wishlist? What are your favorite teacher things? Do you fantasize about that perfect set of pens, a classroom library that overflows, or the newest and greatest laminator on the market? Do you scroll through IG, envious of others’ classroom makeovers, or watch Oprah’s favorite things and droll?    Well, this…

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What can you do with five extra minutes in secondary ELA? Here are a few five-minute fillers for keeping your students focused until the bell. (blog post)

5-Minute Filler Activities for ELA

5-Minute Filler Activities for Secondary ELA   Although I’m getting pretty good at gauging time in my classes, sometimes, I end up with five extra minutes. When this happens, it’s really important for me to already have filler activities for ELA ready to go, so that I don’t waste the time. Here are some examples of things that have led…

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Get Students to Write More

Hi, everyone! In my post this week at the Secondary English Coffee Shop, I talk about how to get students to write more, without increasing your workload as a teacher. That’s kind of the dream, right? 🙂 You’ll be able to read more about using shared notebooks, daily journal writing, and even NaNoWriMo to create low-risk opportunities for your students…

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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

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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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. (

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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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

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

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

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

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 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

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

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

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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