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Comprehensive Bundle: Steinbeck’s The Pearl Activities

Looking for The Pearl activities that excite your students’ creativity and critical thinking skills? The Pearl Unit Bundle will keep your students hooked from start to finish. The Pearl Lesson Plans included in the Bundle Pre-Reading: The Pearl Activities & Unit Calendar Before you begin, The Pearl Activities bundle includes an editable unit calendar. You can expect… ⭐️ Suggested lesson plans designed for 40-50 min. classes ⭐️ A total unit length of 4 ½ weeks (adaptable to be shorter or longer) ⭐️ Minimal homework throughout (homework-free option if unit length is extended) ⭐️ Students will engage in an anticipatory activity that provides resources (2 videos and 2 articles) to conduct research on John Steinbeck and Cortez Pearl. There are SO many benefits to using these activities as your anticipatory set! During: The Pearl Reading Guide

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3 Focused Song Pairings for Teaching the Odyssey

Are you teaching The Odyssey and looking to diversify your unit? Engage your students with contemporary song pairings! How do I start teaching The Odyssey? If you are about to start teaching The Odyssey, you might worry about its lack of diversity. You might also worry that your struggling readers will check out. You are most definitely not alone in your concerns!  Below are three contemporary songs you can use as a part of your introduction to The Odyssey. You can also choose to use these song pairings as an Odyssey activity to reinforce popular themes.  Pair these Odyssey activities with the “Introduction to The Odyssey” Escape Room, which includes all the pre-work students need before they read!  The Odyssey Activities Introduction to The Odyssey Idea Song: “How Far I’ll Go” by Auli’i Cravalho (2:36)

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7 Important Harlem Renaissance Artists to Teach in Secondary ELA

Teaching the Harlem Renaissance is essential for any English class as it provides a wide variety of lessons on culture, artists, poets, and literature. Here are some key Harlem Renaissance artists, facts, and teaching tips to make your lesson planning a breeze. What is the Harlem Renaissance? The Harlem Renaissance was an artistic movement of African American writers, artists, musicians, thinkers. The epicenter of this movement was in Harlem, New York, but its impacts could be felt widely in the Northern cities and across the world.  What was the goal of the Harlem Renaissance? The Harlem Renaissance was also known as the “New Negro Movement.” African American thinkers wanted to remake their image instead of being cast into racial stereotypes created by and for white people. They wanted to use art to change how Black

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Best YA Books of 2022 for the Classroom Library

Looking for the best YA books of 2022? Look no further! These new releases are all great choices for your classroom library. Are you looking for book recommendations for your classroom library? I polled my Instagram followers and got their picks for the best YA books of 2022. You’ll love the variety of stories. Best YA Books of 2022 for the Classroom Library The Getaway by Lamar Giles “Welcome to the funnest spot around . . . Jay is living his best life at Karloff Country, one of the world’s most famous resorts. He’s got his family, his crew, and an incredible after-school job at the property’s main theme park. Life isn’t so great for the rest of the world, but when people come here to vacation, it’s to get away from all that. As

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Free Student Gift for Middle and High School

Are you looking for a free student gift for middle and high school? Do you need something that’s easy on the budget and easy to assemble? Free Student Gift Below! Here are my free holiday bookmarks for students! Just add a Jolly Rancher™ for the pun and you’re good to go! I’ve used these bookmarks for several years because it’s awesome to have an easy student gift for middle and high school. Everyone loves a fun gift, but it’s just not practical to make decorated mugs of hot chocolate for 120 students! When you teach middle and high school, a free student gift is really important. You can print these bookmarks on bright paper or in black & white for an added coloring activity! If you’re interested in other free student gifts, here are other

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6 Fresh Ideas for Analyzing Songs in Secondary ELA

Analyzing songs can help students practice vital ELA skills, and injecting some pop culture into your curriculum can be a great way to get students engaged and excited! If you’re familiar with my blog, you probably know that I LOVE using music in the ELA classroom. I think it’s such a powerful tool. Not just for learning ELA skills, but for building classroom community, and enacting student choice. I also have a new resource (2023) that has 15 lesson plans analyzing pop culture short texts, like songs, TV episodes, short films, and more! Check out the 15 Pop Culture Analysis Activities resource here. In addition to today’s post, you’ll love this free list of songs and how to use them in ELA: Analyzing songs can help students view the familiar through a critical lens It’s

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3 Free ELA Worksheets for Middle and High School

These free ELA worksheets will help you engage students in drama, poetry, rhetoric, and more! Perfect for middle AND high school ELA. Teachers, you pour so much of yourselves into your classroom. Your time, your experience, your love, and unfairly, your own money. So today I’m going to share 3 free ELA worksheets that you can use with little-to-prep, and without spending any money! Without any further ado: Free ELA Worksheets for Middle & High School Poetry Bell Ringers  Are you looking for poetry activities that engage and inspire? These poetry warm-ups will totally hook your students during your poetry unit! Each task has a different snippet from a classic poem, so you’ll keep things fresh and fun. The original format for these bell ringers is individual slides, but a free ELA worksheet like this

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Memorable Nonfiction Writing Activities for Secondary ELA

Nothing says nonfiction writing has to be boring, and yet, that’s what many middle school and high school students think. If you’re looking for nonfiction writing activities to engage this crowd, here are some great ideas. Nonfiction Writing Examples Nonfiction writing examples are EVERYWHERE and part of showing students that this isn’t an umbrella term for “boring writing” is showing them engaging examples.  In addition to AMAZING nonfiction texts like Radium Girls by Kate Moore and Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi (both available as young reader editions), you can show students exemplar blog posts, self help articles, and tourism brochures. The sky is truly the limit. I’ve blogged before about my favorite nonfiction books for the ELA classroom. Here are 8 Nonfiction Excerpts Worth Teaching from a post over at the Secondary

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ELA Texts & Resources for Honoring Native American Heritage Month

Looking for text recommendations and engaging resources that you can use during Native American Heritage Month (and year round!), look no further! How many Native American/First Nation voices are present in your curriculum or your classroom library? If you aren’t sure, I have a free tool that allows you to see what’s missing, representation-wise, from your classroom library. Indigenous stories aren’t just underrepresented in schools, they are vastly underrepresented in publishing as well. According to data compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, only 1% of children’s books released in 2018 were written about Indigenous characters. That number deteriorated even further when we looked at how many books were written BY Indigenous authors. Even though there are hundreds of nations and tribal affiliations across Turtle Island – with a variety of diverse experiences, customs, and practices

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6 Tips for Teaching How to Write a Haiku

Fun and easy-to-implement tips and activities to help your your students understand, appreciate, and learn how to write a haiku. I’ve blogged a lot about teaching poetry in Secondary ELA, and today I’m focusing on a specific kind of poem – teaching haiku. Your students probably learned how to write a haiku in lower grades, but I think it’s worth revisiting in middle or high school ELA to help students gain a deeper appreciation. Activities and Ideas for Teaching Haiku Start with a brief history of haiku Evolving from earlier forms of Japanese poetry that featured the alternating 5-7 syllable pattern, the haiku format as we know it has been around for over 400 years! In traditional Japanese haiku, there is more to the art form than just the syllable structure, like the inclusion of

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Why I Love Reader’s Theatre in the ELA Classroom

Reader’s Theatre is a fun, low-stress way for students to learn about drama, practice public speaking, and embrace their creativity. What is Reader’s Theatre? Reader’s Theatre is the lowest-risk way you can bring drama into your ELA classroom. Students have the support of a script, but you encourage them to add vocal inflection and potentially some light blocking. You want to see some emergence of characterization and fluency. Reader’s Theatre, however, doesn’t have to be super-rehearsed. In my classroom, Reader’s Theatre replaces our in-class reading for that day. I try to choose scenes so that we have a mix of RT and reading/discussion days. If you want students to become super familiar with the script and have rehearsed blocking and even costumes, you’re in the realm of a Staged Reading. What does good Reader’s Theatre

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Escape room questions and answers

Top 10 Escape Room Questions and Answers

Do you need escape room questions and answers? Whether you are a student who’s stuck or a teacher who needs more info, this post is for you! Nouvelle ELA Escape Room Questions and Answers Are you considering playing an escape room, and you have questions? Are you currently playing, and stuck on a level? Here are some common questions and answers (FAQs) for Nouvelle ELA escape rooms. Are you a student who’s stuck?  If you’re here because you googled “Nouvelle ELA escape room answers” in the hopes of finding your way out of this classroom task, I strongly encourage you not to try to break the game.  These games are meant to be fun, and your teacher put a lot of work into finding a great game for you. I know it can be frustrating

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Adaptable Class Novel Study Activities

These class novel study activities will help increase student participation and strengthen their critical analysis! Even if you’ve got the most incredible unit ready for your core novels, having some generic class novel study activities in your pocket is a great idea. I once had three students in my class not allowed to participate in our Speak unit, and I had to come up with something QUICK! Having activities for any high school class novel ready to go will help you weather changes. Class Novel Study Activities I break my activities for high school reading into four verbs: remember, understand, create, and analyze.  Remember What are some basic ways you want students to show that they remember portions of your class novel? The key here is to stay out of the nitty-gritty and focus on

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3 Quick Media Literacy Activities for Secondary ELA

These quick and low-prep media literacy activities will help you improve your student’s critical thinking skills, teach rhetorical analysis and persuasive techniques, and even practice public speaking! To me, teaching media literacy goes hand in hand with teaching Secondary ELA. After all, understanding and interpreting a novel, or analyzing an author’s purpose isn’t so different from critically reading a news article or blog post. Media literacy is especially critical if you’re teaching about current events or exploring topics like immigration or social justice in ELA. I also have a new resource (2023) that has 15 lesson plans analyzing pop culture short texts, like TV episodes, songs, short films, and more! It is a fantastic, standards-aligned resource that builds media literacy skills. Check out the 15 Pop Culture Analysis Activities resource here. What is media literacy? 

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4 Short Stories to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

From sci-fi to fantasy to historical fiction, this list of short stories has something to interest every reader during Hispanic Heritage Month! Happy Hispanic Heritage month, y’all! I LOVE using short stories to help make a curriculum more diverse! Why? Because I think their length makes short stories uniquely helpful for helping students gain insight into new perspectives. A student could read several short stories in the same time as one novel, and being exposed to those different authors and different POVs helps emphasize the diversity within a culture or nationality. (If you are familiar with the amazing TED Talk “The Danger of A Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie you’ll know exactly the point I am making.) There isn’t one singular Latinx story or one universal Hispanic perspective, but many. But of course, there

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Teaching Classic Literature in Secondary ELA

Teaching classic literature doesn’t have to be boring! These tips, lesson plans, and low-prep resources will help engage every student. Does your required reading have even *you* yawning? Chances are your students are getting bored too. I’m here to help! Should classic literature still be taught? With only a few exceptions, my answer is yes! Or more accurately, “yes, and…” I absolutely believe classic literature still has a place in the Secondary ELA classroom, and I think we can make it even more impactful to our students by pairing it with other, modern texts. Many teachers are working to diversify their curriculum to include more voices, and it’s been a big focus for me this year. I’ve been working with Dr. Sheila Frye (from Teaching Literacy) on a project called “Rethinking the Classics” to help

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Creative Reading Response Activities for any Novel

Are you looking for ways to make your independent reading more engaging? Try these reading response activities! Using reading response activities is a great way to give students choice and help them connect to the texts they read. Middle and high school students want to share their opinions in addition to learning to analyze, and these activities can develop both skill sets. Creative Reading Response Activities for Secondary ELA What are reading response activities? Reading response activities ask students to refer to the text as they make an observation, argument, or prediction. These are useful for independent reading activities and class novels because students ground their writing with supporting details from a fiction or nonfiction text. Example reading response prompts: Reading response activities are great informal daily writing. They can be short – perhaps 4-6

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Creating a Museum Exhibit in Your ELA Classroom

Creating a museum exhibit in your middle or high school ELA classroom is easy and fun with these step-by-step tips and ideas. Let’s talk about how to turn a classroom into a museum! Creating a museum exhibit is a great way to provide student choice in any subject area, and Secondary ELA is no exception. A classroom museum project can hit so many standards, all while transforming your classroom for the day.  What does a great classroom museum project accomplish? Any museum project asks students to zoom in on a person, object, or event and showcase it in a way that’s interesting to a passerby. This means that students are researching and curating information. Since they can’t say everything in their museum exhibit, they’ll be selecting the main idea and choosing important supporting details. Sounds

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Easy Prompts to Improve Writing Skills in 5 Minutes

Yes, you can improve writing skills in five minutes! I’ll share some tips and a FREE resource to get you started.  How these prompts improve writing skills These journal prompts have students respond to a wide variety of topics and build confidence, endurance, creativity, and enthusiasm for daily writing. Designed to be completed in five minutes or less, these journal prompts are perfect for middle school bell ringers or exit tickets. Want to enjoy a week’s worth of these prompts for ✨FREE✨? You can access the downloadable freebie in the product preview section of the resource!  The full resource includes:  These low-stakes, short journal writing prompts will boost struggling writers’ stamina and confidence. Each prompt asks about personal experiences, meaning there’s no “right or wrong” answer.  Middle school writing prompts with pictures Including writing prompts

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Teaching with Music – My 4 Favorite Broadway Songs for ELA

Teaching with music is a great tool for engaging students, and the Broadway canon has so much great material to choose from. Here are my 4 favorites for ELA. I think that by providing our students with a wider variety of texts we can engage every student in the classroom, and music is a big part of my teaching toolbox. Check out my posts 15 Songs and 15 More Songs for even more ideas. Today I want to talk about one specific genre of music: Broadway showtunes. With the popularity of recent musicals like Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and tick, tick, BOOM, musical theatre is growing in relevance to teens and tweens. Let’s use that interest to help them engage with their Secondary ELA lessons 🙂 Teaching with Music – Broadway songs “My Shot” from

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Teacher tips for making your own worksheets, color coding your classroom, having emergency sub plans, and succeeding as the new teacher. An image of a brightly colored and organized classroom with orange school desks.

4 Easy Tips for Making Your Own Worksheets, Color Coding Your Classroom, Succeeding as the New Teacher, and Having Emergency Sub Plans

Are you making your own worksheets this school year? Are you starting at a new school site or entirely new to the teaching profession? Are you feeling the tickle in your throat and planning your sub plans just in case? No matter what brought you here, we’ve got tons of helpful easy-to-implement advice on color coding your classroom, succeeding as the new teacher, having emergency sub plans, and making your own worksheets (that are cute, too)! Making Your Own Worksheets Have you ever wondered how to make cute worksheets like the ones you find on TeachersPayTeachers? Even if you don’t want to know how to be a TpT seller, you can still make your own worksheets for your classroom. Here are 4 easy-to-follow tips: Don’t design worksheets using Microsoft Word Most of the worksheets that

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7 Contemporary Poems by Black Authors for Secondary ELA

These contemporary poems by Black authors will help diversify your poetry unit, help students process current events, and even help engage reluctant poetry readers. Listen y’all, I’m not hating on the classics! Groundbreaking and hugely influential Black poets like Gwendolyn Brooks, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, etc. all deserve a place in the ELA curriculum. However, it’s not enough for us to only teach the classics, especially when it comes to poetry. It’s easy for students to feel like poetry is “boring” or irrelevant, so today, I’m sharing seven contemporary poems by Black authors to help your students connect with the voices and experiences of their peers, not their grandparents. Contemporary Poems by Black Authors: “In This Place (An American Lyric)” by Amanda Gorman “There’s a place where this poem dwells— it is

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9 Summer Bucket List Ideas for ELA Teachers

It’s summertime, and that (hopefully!) means rest and relaxation! Here are nine things for every English teacher’s summer bucket list. These suggestions include some super fun and super enriching activities. Summer Bucket List for Teachers – 9 Ideas What are your summer goals? For me and my wife, Amanda, our summer is all booked up spending time with the newest addition to our family. Maybe you, too, have your summer all planned out. But if you’re stuck in a rut, or having analysis paralysis, here are 9 ideas to get you started 🙂 Grow your teaching toolbox Read a book for professional development. And no, it need not focus on reading strategies or teaching writing! For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood by Christopher Emdin is a critical look at how we relate to our

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9 Tips to Encourage Independent Reading with Simplified & Successful Book Conferences

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. Whether you are trying out reading conferences for the first time, or you are looking for ways to make them more effective, I can help! What makes a good reading conference? Obviously, the main goal of a reading conference is to assess the students’ comprehension of their book choice, but I think a successful reading conference should also strengthen your relationship with the student.  In order to make effective book recommendations to them in the future, it might help to

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8 Captivating Novels in Verse for Secondary ELA Students

Whether you’re hosting a lit circle or adding to your classroom library, these novels in verse will be a big hit with your secondary ELA students. I love incorporating verse novels into the classroom! The fact that they have compelling stories, and easy-to-connect with characters makes verse novels an ideal choice for reluctant poetry readers. Students that aren’t typically interested in poetry, but who are interested in the story, can grow to appreciate the writing style. Keeping a few verse novels in your classroom library is also a great way to let students explore poetry in a “no pressure” setting. In this post, I’ll share some novels in verse for middle and high school ELA, plus some extension/enrichment activities that you can use to accompany the books. If you want to pick up any of

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10 Inspirational Writing Quotes for High School Students

These inspirational writing quotes will help energize the young writers in your classroom, and get them excited to write! Writing Quotes for High School Students There are many ways to inspire young writers, from providing them with a diverse classroom library to letting them collaborate with their peers in a writer’s workshop. It’s also vital to let them learn from the best by introducing them to quotes about writing from the experts. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy my favorite inspirational writing quotes 🙂 “Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.” —Philip José Farmer So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”  -Virginia

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Best Short Stories to Teach American Lit - A photo of a library shelf filled with books, at the top of the image there is a white border with pink text that reads "New Short Stories for American Lit"

5 Best Short Stories to Teach American Lit

Change it up with these 5 NEW best short stories to teach American Lit in middle & high school ELA. Best of all? These 5 stories are all available online for FREE! Today I’m sharing five new short stories for middle and high school ELA, and more specifically, new short stories for teaching American Lit. You might notice that four out of five of these stories are written by women, and four out of five stories are also written by people of color. That’s not a coincidence. Too often, American Lit curriculums are populated by DWG’s (dead White guys), with only token representation of other communities. There is a time and place for the classics, to be sure, but many students will be more engaged by texts that are relevant and relatable to them. I

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Using Procedural Writing to Build a Healthy Classroom Community

It might seem like an unusual combo, but I love using procedural writing to build classroom community. Intrigued? Let me show you how! Teaching procedural writing is a great way to build student writing skills AND develop a strong classroom community. The “how-to” format allows students to become the experts, and you can sit back and enjoy.  Note: If you’re looking for nonfiction writing activities in a different format, check out this post on teaching personal narrative writing 🙂 What is a procedural format? You can basically break procedural writing into an introduction, steps in a process, and a conclusion. It is easy to engage students in the procedural format because there are TONS of engaging examples out there: makeup tutorials, crafting TikToks, and video game walkthroughs. If your students are on the internet at

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Using Music In the Classroom to Boost Engagement

Using music in the classroom has countless benefits. This post has song suggestions, teaching tips, ready-to-use resources, and much more! How does music connect with ELA? Think about your favorite song. How many elements of literature are present in the lyrics? Rhyme and meter are obviously connections, but many of my favorite songs also utilize characterization, symbolism, irony (no, not THAT song about irony), metaphor, and figurative language. Even instrumental music can be related to ELA concepts! Many students might be familiar with “Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev, a piece that is commonly used to introduce children to the different instruments of the orchestra. The characters of the story are represented by different instruments (e.g. the Wolf is represented by the french horn, the hunters by timpani, and my personal favorite, the duck

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5 Short Stories to Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in Secondary ELA

May is AAPI Heritage Month, so to celebrate, here are 5 short stories that will help your students connect with and appreciate AAPI cultures. Danielle here, I’m so happy to share this guest post by Joan Sung, a writer, and educator. Follow her on IG @joansungwriter and check out her cultural competency course aimed to support K-12 educators in better serving Asian American students! Joan has some great short story recommendations for celebrating AAPI Heritage Month in your classroom, and I have some tips for how to make sure your curriculum is inclusive, year-round. Maybe you’re already working toward creating an inclusive classroom library, here’s a free tool to find any representation gaps in the collection. You can also check out my always-growing, mega list of diverse texts for Secondary ELA. Okay, that’s enough from

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