Diversifying Your ELA Curriculum in 2022

By Sharon Kunde

In addition to resting and recharging, the weeks leading up to the New Year are a perfect time for reflecting on our practices as educators. This year, I encourage ELA teachers to consider the diversity of the authors and works represented in their syllabi. Teachers who seek greater diversity when planning an English Language Arts syllabus may face a number of hurdles, including lack of time in an already jam-packed curriculum, difficulty in choosing between an abundance of options, or a lack of knowledge of what options there may be. Below, I explore a list of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth century poems by African American authors that can easily be included in existing secondary classroom syllabi, or that could form the backbone of a more involved unit-long or semester-long course of study.

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How to Partner With Your Local Library

By Jonna Kuskey

Our high school, like many across the nation, has eliminated its library. To fill this void, our English department has worked intensely over the past several years to obtain books for our classroom libraries by applying for grants, writing numerous Donors Choose projects, asking teachers and friends to donate books, and scouring the bookshelves of secondhand stores. Still, we have a fraction of the books that our old school library housed, so we put our heads together to brainstorm solutions to this problem. We realized we were ignoring the most obvious solution, one that was free, easy, and right under our noses: our local public library.

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16 Books for National Native American Heritage Month

By Kasey Short

November is National Native American Heritage Month, and as the month approaches I am considering how literature has the power to broaden my students’ understanding and appreciation of Native cultures and traditions. Whether your students delve into fiction written by Indigenous authors or discover nonfictional accounts of Native history and figures, all students’ learning can be enriched by exposure to Native American cultures. The books below represent a range of Indigenous experiences and include short story anthologies, poetry, novels, picture books, and nonfiction. As an 8th grade teacher, I am always looking for middle grade and young adult books to recommend to my students, but I have included books across the K-12 range. My 8th grade students enjoy having picture books read aloud to them and those I have listed below are not only suitable for elementary classrooms but also offer opportunities for deeper conversations with older students. I also include at the article’s end some free online resources that provide further insight, information, and suggestions for effectively engaging students with National Native American Heritage Month.

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Teaching Email Skills to Students While Keeping Parents in the Loop

By Mary M. McConnaha

For so many people connected to education, last school year felt isolating and stressful. Even in schools like mine where teachers and students were in-person or at least hybrid for much of the year, it was easy to feel disconnected. Parents felt confused and concerned about the work being done at home, and they often had to juggle work and homeschooling. Teachers’ workloads more than doubled, as they coped with rebuilding classrooms completely online, teaching the same content to two groups, and worrying about their own health and safety when very little was known. It was a year of stress like none other. 

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20 Books to Celebrate Pride Month

by Kasey Short

All educators help shape their students’ worldview–and self-image–with the narratives they hold space for in their curriculum. As an English teacher, I am especially aware of the stories and perspectives I validate through the books I assign and recommend to my students. This Pride Month, I have been considering how I use literature to broaden my students’ understanding of gender expression and sexuality. Though I teach 8th grade English and so am primarily interested in young adult novels, I’ve accumulated a list of some wonderful LGBTQ+ books across the K-12 range!

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Three Poetry Final Projects for National Poetry Month

By Sharon Kunde

Marianne Moore argued that good poetry fashions “imaginary gardens with real toads in them”: worlds created of words in which toadlike reality crouches and springs on us, eliciting clenched hands, dilated eyes, “hair that can rise/if it must” (24, 5-6). Like good poetry, good pedagogy invites students into the world of ideas and allows them to create useful, authentic experiences and artifacts with those ideas.

While poems are easy to integrate into units on longer prose works, I strongly recommend devoting an entire unit (or more!) to poetry. In honor of National Poetry Month, here are some suggestions for final projects around which you can build an engaging poetry unit.

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The Power of Teaching Contemporary Poetry

By Melissa Smith

Imagine my student’s surprise when Elizabeth Acevedo complimented her analysis of her poem , or when Nate Marshall tweeted that a student’s blog on his poem was “dope” and “fresh.” Students feel recognized and validated, and these interactions are one of the most rewarding benefits to teaching living poets.

The #TeachLivingPoets movement started as a simple hashtag—a way for me to share my favorite poems and ways to teach them on social media. In 2017, after Skyping with poet R. A. Villanueva, whose poems we had read in class, my students begged me to set up another call; they wanted more. We ended up Skyping with him three times and the reaction I saw in my students was pure teaching gold. They were enthralled. They wrote guitar songs set to his poems. They wrote poems responding to his poems. They were excited—about poetry! The following year, social media interaction and Skype video calls quickly morphed into poetry readings and classroom visits.

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Why Bellringer Activities Are More Important Than Ever

By Mary McConnaha

Since moving to virtual, hybrid, or socially distanced in-person learning, many of us have had to adapt our tried-and-true classroom procedures to fit these new environments. As a middle school English teacher, I have always enjoyed engaging with my students through my “bellringers”—activities I’ve established for the first few minutes of class while my students get settled. Though it took some trial and error, I’ve found ways to continue these traditions via hybrid and online learning. What’s more, I’ve found it to be more important than ever to engage with and uplift my students through these small routines. Here, I’ll share my favorite ways to kick off my English class, whether in-person or online.

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The Unexpected Benefits of Teaching Virtually

By Danielle McAuliffe

The absence of bells and the cacophony of announcements in the morning is replaced with an unusual, peaceful quiet in the virtual high school. There are no loitering students in the halls, no calls to cover classes, no broken copy machines or parking problems. The usual hustle and bustle of what we associate with school is gone, and we are left with, well, time. Uninterrupted time to prepare for the day has become the new normal for both students and teachers. And I don’t mind it—in fact, I enjoy teaching remotely.

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Quick Reference Guides from Norton Books in Education

As schools resume classes this month, teachers and students are engaging in online learning to an unprecedented degree.  To help educators meet that challenge, Norton Books in Education has recruited experts in remote instruction to address the nuts and bolts of teaching online.  The practical tips below are excerpted from five Quick Reference Guides to be released this fall:

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