Why You Should Teach ELA in Thematic Units






When I first started teaching, I did what lots of ELA teachers do: I started at the beginning and then went from there. In other words, I taught literature chronologically.  What better way for students to understand the comprehensive sweep of literature written in English, right?  Well, it often felt like I was just stringing together a list of texts, and, as happens to many people, I never really got to the stuff that was written in the last 100

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6 Tips For Teaching Shakespeare






Teaching Shakespeare is truly the highlight of the school year for me.  And it’s not only because  I love the Bard so much that I have tattooed a favorite quote on my arm.  It’s also because whether I’m teaching my beloved unit on Twelfth Night or any other play, the Shakespeare unit is a highlight for my students as well.  It wasn’t always that way, and I have learned a lot over the years about how not to teach the

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What Your Students Should Learn From The Crucible 






When you think about what you want students to learn from a powerful unit on The Crucible, think about five years from now.  In other words, if you were to run into these kids in five years what would you want them to remember?  Would you really care if they remember that Mary’s last name is Warren or how many people were accused of witchcraft or if the residents of Salem owned cows or sheep?  If you’re going to spend

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4 Units to Achieve Back-To-School Goals 






As a teacher, you might have just a few goals for the beginning of the school year: set the tone for your classroom; inspire students to work harder; establish rigor and expectations; teach students to think independently.  Oh, and don’t forget win over students by showing them how much fun they’ll be having this year, and, when you teach high school, getting to know over 100 new people as fast as possible. Seems simple, right? Every year, I have tried

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A List of Poems For Every Unit






One resource that I have always wanted as a teacher is a list of poems arranged by theme so I could easily find a great piece to add to any unit.  Well, here’s that list. If you see a link in the title to the poem, that’s because I sell a resource for teaching that poem.  (Think about it as a great choice if it’s nine o’clock on a Wednesday night and you’d rather go to bed than sit up

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14 Questions for Examining Mentor Texts (Of Any Kind)






Once students are comfortable reading and analyzing mentor texts in order to improve their own writing, it’s nice to be able to let them work through a text independently.  Still, they might appreciate some scaffolding or reminders of what to look for.  These fourteen questions will work for just about any kind of writing—from cutting edge journalism to revealing personal essays to experimental poetry.    For a printable version of this handout that you can use tomorrow as well as

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Poem of the Week: American Dreams, Struggle, and Unity






I don’t think that I will ever be able to hear the words “great” and “America” together again without cringing.  And yet, I want to continue the discussion about how we can all achieve the American Dream. I guess that what I most want my students to understand about the place they live is this:  It’s complicated.  It’s not really about whether America was or ever will be great—it’s about looking at what does work and looking even more closely

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Poem Of The Week: Opium Dreams and Author’s Intent






You know you have a good poetry lesson when it grabs students in the first days of school.  One of my favorite and most effective poetry lessons of all time is my two-day lesson on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment.”  It’s a great lesson because I get to employ some of my favorite comprehension strategies, and because I get students writing and thinking about big questions early on.   (You can

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