Gifts for English Teachers cover

10 Gifts for English Teachers

If you’re looking for a gift for Teacher Appreciation Week or for the beloved English teacher in your life, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s a list of ten gifts for English teachers. I’ve chosen a range of items in terms of price, size, and seriousness, so I know you’ll find what you’re looking for. Enjoy!       1. Emoji Stamps How cute are these stamps? These are the sort of gift I LOVE because they are fun AND practical. A teacher could use these to quickly assess bellringers or journal entries, and maybe use a different stamp each day. These could also be used to code certain happenings in a planner or on a calendar. Love them!       This blog uses Amazon Affiliate Links for your convenience. If you decide

Read More »
Teaching Women's History cover

7 Ideas for Effectively Teaching Women’s History & LGBTQ+ Rights in the Classroom

Whether you are looking for teaching tips for Women’s History Month, Pride Month, or just a regular inclusive Tuesday in your classroom, we’ve got resources and suggestions to keep your classroom thriving! Teaching Women’s History When we arrive at March, we finally talk about teaching Women’s History. Even though it’s something we should integrate all year long (like Black History!), we rush to gather lesson plans in the busiest month of the year. Well, here are ideas you can use year-round to get your students talking and thinking. Honestly, I used to wonder what the point was in teaching Women’s History. Didn’t my students understand the accomplishments that women have made and the obstacles they still face? Teaching women’s history out of a sense of celebration of the past is one thing, but there’s much more

Read More »
Teaching Shakespeare with David Rickert cover

Teaching Shakespeare: a Conversation with David Rickert

I love teaching Shakespeare, and I LOVE discovering new and innovative ways to engage students in the material. I’ve talked before about teaching Shakespeare’s language or using abridged versions for in-class productions. I’ve even shared how my 9th graders put on a full production for the middle school! Today, I’m so excited to share about one more way I get my students’ total buy-in – Shakespeare comics! – AND share a conversation with the comics’ creator, David Rickert.   If you don’t know David yet, you are in for a treat! He’s an amazing artist with a keen sense of humor, and he has over twenty years of classroom experience. He’s also a kind and generous guy! We decided to swap some tips for teaching Shakespeare, so let’s get started.     David’s Work  

Read More »
Teaching Argumentative Writing with Adam Ruins Everything cover

Teaching Argumentative Writing with Adam Ruins Everything

So, you’re teaching argumentative writing again, and you’re looking for something to spice up your unit. I have been there! And I have an idea to share!   Even though they LOVE to argue, teens aren’t always excited to write it down. Their eyes glaze over when you say the word “rhetoric”. I’ve talked before about teaching media literacy and even linked to my free Rhetoric Sketch & Learn activity, but what happens after that?     Students learn in all sorts of different ways, and one of those ways is visually. A visual lesson can help students see how to craft their argument and moreover, how they can integrate research into a meaningful product.   What about integrating some pop culture? I’ve talked before about using TV in the ELA classroom, and this is

Read More »
15 YA Books about Sports cover

15 YA Books about Sports

When I say that I give my students time for independent reading or that I believe there’s a book for every kid, people invariably ask me for a list of books about sports. Well, here it is, folks! Here are 15 YA books about sports to engage your most reluctant readers!     1. Swing by Kwame Alexander & Mary Rand Hess (2018) – Basketball Noah and his best friend Walt, aka Swing, plan to make their junior year the best year of their lives. Noah hopes to make the basketball team and maybe, finally!, express his feelings for his childhood friend, Sam. In the midst of their personal dramas, someone has been planting American flags around town and no knows who or why. Then, after witnessing a divisive event in a community they’ve always

Read More »
Poetry Escape Room grades 4-6

Poetry Escape Room for 4th-6th grades

I’ve talked before about using teaching with puzzles and games and using Escape Rooms in ELA, but I thought I’d address using escape rooms in upper elementary. Our 4th, 5th, and 6th graders can definitely benefit from collaboration and critical thinking, which is why I made a Poetry Escape Room for that level. Check it out:     Some things you’ll notice: *There’s a variety of skills tested. This means some “easy wins” for reluctant readers or struggling learners. *Each task is valued in the final Secret Message. This means that students can “divide and conquer” the different tasks and everyone will still have their contributions valued. *A variety of poems are used. This means that you can always spiral learning by revisiting the entire poem later on in the school year. Students can also

Read More »
15 Resources for Teaching about Immigration cover

How to navigate the big 3: grief in the classroom, teaching about immigration, & anti-racism affirmations

Grief in the classroom Teaching about immigration Anti-racism in Secondary ELA Grief in the classroom I am not a counselor, but I’m a survivor of tragedy and I’m here today to get very real with you. This post will cover:💛 dealing with loss in a student’s family, 💛 what to do if a student in your school or community dies, 💛 and how to deal with grief in your own life and still be a leader in the classroom. So, let me say this again: I am not a counselor, but I’m going to approach this from the perspective of someone who lost several immediate family members and friends while in school, as well as someone who has lost students. It’s going to be sad at times, but remember that my goal in sharing all of

Read More »
Picture Analysis Teaching Strategy cover

Powerful Picture Analysis Teaching Strategy to Build Text Connections

If your students struggle making deep connections to a text, look no further than this picture analysis teaching strategy. Students analyze each photo as a text. You’ll provide students with necessary domain vocabulary and principles, but they’ll learn to trust their intuition and develop confidence as analysts. Why Photo Analysis? Photo Analysis is a great introduction to analyzing a wider range of texts. Its visual nature pulls your visual learners into the game. Just as students analyze literature for conscientious choices made by authors, they approach each photograph with an eye for conscientious choices made by the photographer. And honestly, I advocate for integrating even more types of text into your curriculum! While we’re here, here are 15 Songs and 15 TV Episodes to Use in ELA. Three Steps to this Picture Analysis Teaching Strategy

Read More »
Science Fiction Poems IG cover

7 Science Fiction Poems for Secondary ELA

Using science fiction poems (or speculative poems) in the classroom can be a great way for students to build a deeper understanding of the genre. Students often have a very narrow understanding of science fiction (limiting it to perhaps one or two television shows or movies), and we can help them extend this. Additionally, this particular genre will show students that poetry isn’t some dusty art form relegated to Shakespeare or Byron. This post includes Amazon Affiliate links. Any revenue that Amazon shares with me will be used for the upkeep of this site. 🙂 Here are some science fiction poems I love using in my secondary ELA class. 1. “Six Haiku” by Karen Anderson The white vapor trail   Scrawls slowly on the sky      Without any squeak. I love Haiku for their brevity, and Karen

Read More »
Real-Life Utopias to Share in the Classroom cov

Teaching The Giver with Real Utopian Societies

Teaching The Giver. The Hunger Games. Matched. Unwind. Feed. Teaching dystopian literature can be a great way to expose students to types of government and societal control. Dystopian novels often begin with something that seems like a utopia, though. Everything seems great before the protagonist sees the strings that control the system. In The Giver, utopian society seems great until Jonas realizes what’s being kept from the community and at what cost. Feed seems like technology for everyone until we meet a character who doesn’t have access. The Hunger Games is obviously terrible right off the bat, so this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but to have dystopian, you must first consider what utopian looks like. When my 8th graders read The Giver, utopian society becomes an excellent research topic for secondary ELA students to research

Read More »
Teaching Shakespeares Language cover

5 Fun & Resourceful Tips for Teaching Shakespeare’s Language including Thou & You

Help students understand and engage with Shakespeare’s Language with these activities on vocabulary, grammar, and rhythm. 1. Thou & You: Rank and Emotion My students know well in advance that I love teaching Shakespeare and drama, so they’re a little surprised when they confront Shakespeare’s language. They always assume I’m some sort of super genius if I can possibly understand that. Who could possibly understand all of those thous and wherefores and yons? Well, I’m not a super genius, but I can teach my students a few tricks to help them feel like geniuses. One of the most important aspects of teaching Shakespeare’s language is helping students understand the meaning of thou and you. Analyzing the use of pronouns in a play can tell students a great deal about the status of characters and about

Read More »
How to Get Books for Your Classroom Library for FREE - An overhead shot of books standing up. There is pink and black text overlayed that says "How to Get Free Books for Your Classroom Library"

How to Get Books for Your Classroom Library for FREE

Build a Classroom Library with FREE Books! Want to know how to get books for your classroom for FREE? If you want to add new releases to your classroom library without breaking the bank, you’ve come to the right place. It can be a challenge keeping up with new books and is it really worth investing in titles before you even know if your students will like them? In this post, I’ll share how to get books for your classroom library for FREE. How to get Books for Your Classroom for FREE For two years I co-hosted the YA Café Podcast, a weekly roundtable discussion of new books. Since we released our episodes the Thursday after the books are published, it’s obvious that we weren’t reading at super-speed and producing an episode in two days. Nope! Our

Read More »
15 Diverse YA Thrillers blog post cover

15 YA Thrillers for the Classroom Library

YATeens love YA thrillers, and I’m constantly getting asked for recommendations of good young adult books with suspense, mystery, and light horror.   Here are some diverse YA thrillers that you might consider adding to your high school classroom library. As always, please preview these titles for yourself because what flies in my school may not fly in yours. I’ve made an effort to include titles highlighting diverse characters, authors, and stories. Please let me know your additional recommendations in comments. 🙂   Happy reading!   This post uses Amazon Affiliate Links for your convenience. If you decide to purchase this book, please consider doing so through our affiliate links. Your support makes this blog possible.   *As I Descended – Robin Talley This is a Macbeth retelling y’all, and I LOVE it. We have power

Read More »
11 If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say Leila Sales cover

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales

  We take a look at online shaming and Leila Sales’ new novel, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say. Join us this week on the YA Cafe. (transcript)   In today’s episode…   In Leila Sales’ newest novel, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Winter Halperin gets caught up in a storm of online shaming after she posts a racist comment about the winner of the National Spelling Bee. She tries to defend herself, tries to apologize, claims she can’t be racist because she “has black friends”… it’s a whole thing. But when her college acceptance is rescinded and her future put on hold, she is forced to reckon with her actions. These Show Notes use Amazon Affiliate Links for your convenience. If you decide to purchase this book, please consider

Read More »
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. Strong readers do this all the time. Passionate readers and viewers claim any story as their own and imagine the possibilities of twisting and molding characters to be more intriguing or more exciting or more heart-wrenching. It’s the joy after the ending. You may not have been the teen who wrote fan fiction, but you do this when you wonder what it would have been like if the girl hadn’t opened the basement door and gone down the stairs. Our

Read More »

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 Portfolio.     Last year, I wrote about teaching portfolios on the Secondary English Coffee Shop blog. The post is still as relevant as ever, so go give it a read.   Here are my biggest tips. A Teaching Portfolio should:   1. Showcase your philosophy. Every inch of your portfolio should show what you’re about. In addition to writing your actual philosophy, we sure that it shines through the lesson plans you choose to

Read More »
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 in the next few weeks. Today, I want to talk about how to approach an unmarked script.     If you give students any script outside of their literature anthology (like a play from my Shakespeare in 30 collection, for example), it’s likely going to be unmarked. This means that there likely won’t be any direction for staging or voice. This is one of the joys and challenges of teaching Shakespeare: it’s so versatile! Here

Read More »
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 blogger to really talk about herself, versus talking about the thing she usually talks about, you know? But I figured I owed it to you to give you some background and let you know why we’re the experts we profess to be.   About Me   I developed a love of drama in middle school and cultivated my skills in high school in Oregon. I was lucky enough to attend a high school with a

Read More »
Teaching the Harlem Renaissance with Intention Blog Post Cover

Teaching the Harlem Renaissance

Teaching the Harlem Renaissance (and Black History) with Intention Are you teaching the Harlem Renaissance? It can be tempting to gloss over the struggle and conflict and just stick with the jazz. This would be doing your students a huge disservice, however. This week on the Secondary English Coffee Shop Blog, I wrote about keeping your unit sensitive and intentional.     Here are my biggest tips. When teaching Black History, teachers should:   1. Acknowledge the hard road to the Harlem Renaissance As English teachers, it’s easy to focus on the teaching the Harlem Renaissance as just a series of awesome products [poems, art, literature]. Leave it to the Social Studies teachers to talk about the justice issues leading up to the art, right? Wrong. When teaching the Harlem Renaissance, it’s important to recognize

Read More »
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 produce a play in five days. The answer is producing staged readings in ELA.   I’ve written before about my experiences producing a class play. I talked about casting, rehearsing, and evaluating the experience. The whole thing took about six weeks, and it was AWESOME. I’ve also talked about using Improv and how that benefit almost any teaching unit.   But what happens in between?   What if you want to spend a week putting together a class

Read More »
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 to needing filler activities:  *A fire drill disrupts class, and we return with only five minutes until the bell *Joey didn’t show up for his presentation slot, but no one else is ready to present today *We lost power, and can’t watch the video I’d planned on. What can you do with five minutes? Here’s a short list. Filler Activities for ELA that Build Skills Play an Improv Game Early in the year, I teach my

Read More »
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. Psst, hey you! I have a new blog post that features 15 MORE TV Episodes to Use in ELA, check it out 🙂 Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links to episodes available on Amazon. Where applicable, I have pointed out the availability of these episodes on other streaming platforms. If you decide to purchase an episode through one of these links, the affiliate benefits will go to maintenance of this site AND towards providing you with more great

Read More »
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 so. If we really want to help students love reading, we need to stop crushing them with comprehension worksheets. There’s a time and a place for those, sure, but we can think of more innovative ways to ignite a love of reading. (Note: This post does not contain affiliate links. I trust these bloggers and collaborate with them regularly. This post does contain a few links to my products on TeachersPayTeachers.) Teaching Short Stories Teaching short stories

Read More »
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 tips for making grading Interactive Notebooks easier and faster. Watch the video: Read about Planning Novel Units for Interactive Notebooks Decide when you’ll grade. I like to collect my notebooks at least once per unit, and twice if it’s a particularly intensive or long unit. I decided never to take Interactive Notebooks home, so that means I need to grade in class or at school sometime. The easiest time to grade is during a unit

Read More »
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 your convenience, but please know that I do not always show music videos in my class. Most of the time, students just listen to the music. Music videos can be distracting, and sometimes inappropriate. Does it go without saying to always preview songs & their videos for content before sharing them? (Just covering myself here, folks!) Update: Thanks everyone for all the comments and shares! Since this subject resonated so much with y’all I made a sequel

Read More »
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 to spare! I’ve been obsessed with Escape Rooms ever since my family first tried one at Christmas, and I’ve been looking for ways to bring this experience to the ELA classroom ever since. Read on to find out how I make and use Escape Rooms in ELA, and how you can design your own. Game Speak An Escape Room or Breakout Box are two versions of a collaborative puzzle game. Players work through a series

Read More »
Free End of the Year Gifts for Secondary Students. (resource round-up at

Seasonal Teacher Tips & 13 Free End of Year Gifts for Students

I’ve teamed up with some amazing teachers to bring you 13 free end of year gifts for secondary students. Bonus! I’ve also dished out some seasonal teaching tips and gift ideas for teachers in this post. 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! Free Student Gifts Teacher Gift Ideas Tips for Teaching Before Winter Break Summer Bucket List Ideas for Teachers Free Student Gifts Flip-Flop Cards for Middle and High School by The Reading and Writing Haven Want Five? Cards by B’s Book Love Playdough Printable by Language Arts Classroom Reward Bookmarks by The Daring English Teacher Bookworm Gift Tags by Musings from the Middle School Words of Wisdom Cards by The Creative Classroom Write On! EOY Cards by Doc Cop EOY Infographic by Lit with Lyns Cute Pencil Holders:

Read More »
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, so differentiation is really important. Depending on the school, much of the onus of research can fall on the English teacher. Students may be required to write a certain number of pages of a research paper each year, and you may have little to no support from other departments. I certainly hope that you teach in a paradise where you do amazing cross-curricular projects. If you don’t, though, you can still incorporate meaningful research projects

Read More »
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. Here’s why a rubric is important: *Clear expectations for students *Fair grading for teachers *Streamlined feedback Make a clear and concrete rubric for everything you do in your classroom, and give it to your students up front. Let them know how the points are going to shake down, and they will have more ownership over the grade they receive. Overview of Rubrics There are three main types of rubrics, so let’s quickly make sure we’re

Read More »
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 students to browse. You can collect anthologies from the library, set up stations with access to various poetry websites you like, or have students bring in books of poetry from home. If students have a favorite poem from childhood (perhaps something from Where the Sidewalk Ends), this can be a wonderful place to start.       Allow students to browse. It really is that simple. I remind students to write down the names of

Read More »