August 22, 2016

On My Bookshelf: Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a classic novel set in the Great Depression. Two friends, Lennie and George, dream of their own ranch, but can't hold down jobs long enough to get together the money they need to buy one. Just when it seems their dream might be in reach, tragedy strikes. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: They are an unlikely pair: George is "small and quick and dark of face"; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a "family," clinging together in the face of loneliness and alienation.

Laborers in California's dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations of a flirtatious woman, nor predict the consequences of Lennie's unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.

Why I liked it: The classic novel Of Mice and Men is one I first read in high school, but I forgot how tragic the ending is. The plot is simple, but it is impossible not to connect with the characters' plights.

George and Lennie are migrant workers roaming the country side during the Great Depression, trying to stay one step away from the trouble that seems to plague them. Lennie struggles intellectually and has a fixation for powering soft things, whether it's mice, puppies, or girls' dresses. George, who promised Lennie's aunt he would look after him, struggles with this burden.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a classic novel set in the Great Depression. Two friends, Lennie and George, dream of their own ranch, but can't hold down jobs long enough to get together the money they need to buy one. Just when it seems their dream might be in reach, tragedy strikes. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

The two have a dream of eventually having land of their own and with the help of Candy, an older worker at their newest ranch, that dream seems almost possible. Unfortunately, Curley, the boss's son seems to have it out for Lennie and Curley's wife is looking for attention any where she can get it. Lennie puts he and George in danger once again, and George has to make a terrible decision about their friendship.

Classroom application: The novel could be used to focus on any and all literary terms: conflict, setting, characterization, theme, symbolism, foreshadowing, mood, etc.

Because it is short, it is a great choice if you have to do all of your reading in class or if you are trying to build up independent reading stamina with your students.

There are several film versions, one old, two newer ones, and even a film of the play version of the novel. Watching one is the perfect opportunity to practice Common Core standard #7. You can find all of my resources for teaching Of Mice and Men here.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Of Mice and Men for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

August 21, 2016

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat on Tuesday 8/23 Topic: YA Lit in the ELA Classroom

Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven & Kristy, 2 Peas and a Dog host #2ndaryELA on Twitter every Tuesday evening from 8 - 8:30 PM EST. #2ndaryELA is a weekly chat for secondary English Language Arts teachers focused on a topic. Every Sunday, we post the topic and questions on our blogs to allow you to prepare for the upcoming Tuesday evening's chat. Thank you to everyone who joined us last school year and we hope that you will join us again.

New in 2016 is our 2ndaryELA Facebook group, which we would love to have you join even if you aren't on Twitter. 2ndaryELA is a group of middle and high school English Language Arts teachers looking to share ideas and best practices. This group is an extension of our Twitter chat and a place for collaboration, questions, and encouragement. Feel free to post teaching ideas, success stories, resource links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction.

On Tuesday, August 23, our #2ndaryELA chat will focus on young adult literature in the ELA classroom.

The Format:
8:00 Intros: What and where do you teach? Include a link to your blog if you have one. #2ndaryELA
8:05 Q1: Do you include young adult literature in your curriculum or just your classroom library? Explain. #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: What are your students’ favorite young adult titles? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: What titles would you recommend to help diversify a classroom library? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: Where/how do you find new books for your classroom library or to use in your teaching? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: Do you or your students do book talks? What other ways do you share what you are reading? #2ndaryELA

The Directions:
1. Log into Twitter on Tuesday from 8-8:30 PM EST.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #2ndaryELA in the search bar. Make sure to click “All tweets.”
3. Introductions are for the first 5 minutes.
4. Starting at 8:05 (@literarymaven or @2peasandadog) will post questions every 5 minutes using the format Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. and the hashtag #2ndaryELA.
5. Respond to questions using the format A1, A2, A3, etc. with #2ndaryELA.
6. Follow any teachers responding and who are also using #2ndaryELA.
7. Like and respond to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your responses to the questions ahead of time using a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite (but don't forget to use A1, A2, etc. and #2ndaryELA). Links are encouraged, so be sure to use a link shortener like tinyurlbitlygoo.gl or ow.ly Just visit one of those links and paste your long link to shorten it for Twitter. Using images is also encouraged when relevant.

New to chats? Here are the rules:
1. Stay on topic & stay positive!
2. Please do not post or promote paid products unless specifically asked.
3. If you arrive late, try to look through other posts before beginning.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet.
5. Always use our hashtag #2ndaryELA, including in your replies to others.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to public. (Also keep in mind that Twitter is completely public – that means students, parents, and administrators can and will read what you tweet.)

Be sure to spread the word to any teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well. We look forward to chatting with you Tuesday evening and in our 2ndaryELA Facebook group!

Get caught up on past chats here:

August 19, 2016

Implementing Stations In A Secondary Classroom: How to Use Them for Reading & Writing

Stations are an excellent opportunities for incorporating movement and collaboration into learning in the classroom. Middle school and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed using stations for reading and writing activities as well as collaborative versus independent station work, assessing student learning, and managing student behavior during station work. Read through the chat for ideas to implement in your own classroom.
This #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about stations, also known as rotations or centers. Middle school and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed using stations for reading and writing activities as well as collaborative versus independent station work, checking for understanding, and managing student behavior during station work.

Read through the chat below for ideas on using stations in conjunction with reading: pre-reading, close reading, analysis of character, or for ideas on using stations in conjunction with writing: brainstorming, editing, revising. You'll find ways to assess student learning such as written reflection, group discussion, or sometimes a simple checklist. You'll also learn how to keep students on task with tips like using a timer, setting clear norms, and circulating the room.

Hope you'll join us next Tuesday August 23rd at 8pm EST to talk about using young adult literature in the classroom. We'd also love for you to join our 2ndaryELA Facebook group (even if you aren't on Twitter).

August 15, 2016

On My Bookshelf: Testimony by Anita Shreve

In Testimony by Anita Shreve, after one night of bad decisions, things are never the same at Avery Academy, a private school in New England. The incident cannot be contained and as a result, students are expelled, relationships and marriages are ruined, and choices are made that can never be undone. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment.

Writing with a pace and intensity surpassing even her own greatest work, Anita Shreve delivers in Testimony a gripping emotional drama with the impact of a thriller. No one more compellingly explores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming innocents, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions.

Why I liked it: After several students tape a night of sexual debauchery, things are never the same at Avery Academy, a private school in New England. The head master discovers the tape and tries, unsuccessfully, to contain the incident. As a result, students are expelled, relationships and marriages are ruined, and choices are made that can never be undone. Besides the students involved and the head master, the novel is narrated by a variety of characters including Avery teachers and students, other staff members, parents, and townspeople and weaves incidents from the past and present as a researcher conducts a study in alcohol and adolescent boys.
In Testimony by Anita Shreve, after one night of bad decisions, things are never the same at Avery Academy, a private school in New England. The incident cannot be contained and as a result, students are expelled, relationships and marriages are ruined, and choices are made that can never be undone. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Because of the weaving of past and present events from the perspective of multiple characters, the plot of Testimony builds in intensity as the terrible things you hope won't happen mostly do. While some of the characters annoyed me at times, especially one love sick teenager, I found it impossible not to be drawn into the drama.

Classroom application: The novel begins with a very graphic description of the students' sex tape, so this may not be appropriate for your classroom, even for the oldest of students. That said, the novel would be a fascinating topic of discussion in a psychology or sociology class and would connect to many real world topics.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Testimony for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

August 14, 2016

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat on Tuesday 8/16 Topic: Learning Stations, Rotations, & Centers

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will focus on learning stations, rotations, and centers.
Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven & Kristy, 2 Peas and a Dog host #2ndaryELA on Twitter every Tuesday evening from 8 - 8:30 PM EST. #2ndaryELA is a weekly chat for secondary English Language Arts teachers focused on a topic. Every Sunday, we post the topic and questions on our blogs to allow you to prepare for the upcoming Tuesday evening's chat. Thank you to everyone who joined us last school year and we hope that you will join us again.

New in 2016 is our 2ndaryELA Facebook group, which we would love to have you join even if you aren't on Twitter. 2ndaryELA is a group of middle and high school English Language Arts teachers looking to share ideas and best practices. This group is an extension of our Twitter chat and a place for collaboration, questions, and encouragement. Feel free to post teaching ideas, success stories, resource links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction.

On Tuesday, August 16, our #2ndaryELA chat will focus on learning stations, rotations, and centers.

The Format:
8:00 Intros: What and where do you teach? Include a link to your blog if you have one. #2ndaryELA
8:05 Q1: How do you use learning stations/rotations/centers in connection with reading? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: How do you use learning stations/rotations/centers in connection with writing? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: Are the activities in your learning stations/rotations/centers usually independent or collaborative? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: Is there always a tangible product in your learning stations/rotations/centers? How do you hold students accountable for their work? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: How do you manage student behavior during learning stations/rotations/centers? #2ndaryELA

The Directions:
1. Log into Twitter on Tuesday from 8-8:30 PM EST.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #2ndaryELA in the search bar. Make sure to click “All tweets.”
3. Introductions are for the first 5 minutes.
4. Starting at 8:05 (@literarymaven or @2peasandadog) will post questions every 5 minutes using the format Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. and the hashtag #2ndaryELA.
5. Respond to questions using the format A1, A2, A3, etc. with #2ndaryELA.
6. Follow any teachers responding and who are also using #2ndaryELA.
7. Like and respond to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your responses to the questions ahead of time using a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite (but don't forget to use A1, A2, etc. and #2ndaryELA). Links are encouraged, so be sure to use a link shortener like tinyurlbitlygoo.gl or ow.ly Just visit one of those links and paste your long link to shorten it for Twitter. Using images is also encouraged when relevant.

New to chats? Here are the rules:
1. Stay on topic & stay positive!
2. Please do not post or promote paid products unless specifically asked.
3. If you arrive late, try to look through other posts before beginning.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet.
5. Always use our hashtag #2ndaryELA, including in your replies to others.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to public. (Also keep in mind that Twitter is completely public – that means students, parents, and administrators can and will read what you tweet.)

Be sure to spread the word to any teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well. We look forward to chatting with you Tuesday evening and in our 2ndaryELA Facebook group!

Get caught up on past chats here:

August 12, 2016

Setting Up a Secondary ELA Classroom: Ideas for Seating Arrangement, Decor & Displaying Student Work

During the school year, your classroom is a second home to you and students. You want it to be functional but also comfortable and welcoming. Middle school and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed their classrooms: seating arrangements, decorations, organization of materials and supplies, and student work displays. Teachers also shared pictures of their classrooms and ones that inspire them. Read through the chat for ideas to implement in your own classroom.
This #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about preparing for setting up the classroom. Middle school and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed seating arrangements, classroom decorations, organization of materials, and displaying student work. Teachers also shared pictures of their classrooms and ones that inspire them.

Read through the chat below for ideas on flexible seating options, arranging your desks, decorating, and showcasing evidence of student learning. You'll find ways to keep clutter to a minimum and have student supplies easily accessible. You'll also get to peek inside other teachers' classrooms to see it all in action.

Hope you'll join us next Tuesday August 16th at 8pm EST to talk about learning stations, rotations, and centers. We'd also love for you to join our 2ndaryELA Facebook group (even if you aren't on Twitter). 2ndaryELA is a group of middle and high school English Language Arts teachers looking to share ideas and best practices. This group is an extension of our Twitter chat and a place for collaboration, questions, and encouragement. Feel free to post teaching ideas, success stories, resource links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction. 

August 8, 2016

On My Bookshelf: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is set in Amsterdam in the late 1600s where wealth and religion are prominent. Young and just married Nella finds her new husband distant and his household uncomfortable. Then curious things start happening in the cabinet-sized dollhouse given to Nella as a wedding present that may reveal some of the secrets of her new home. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion—a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

”There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .“

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is set in Amsterdam in the late 1600s where wealth and religion are prominent. Young and just married Nella finds her new husband distant and his household uncomfortable. Then curious things start happening in the cabinet-sized dollhouse given to Nella as a wedding present that may reveal some of the secrets of her new home. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Why I liked it: Nella is eighteen and finds herself married to an older man; her family has a good name but is almost destitute due to her deceased father's debt. When she arrives at her new home in the city, she finds her husband, a merchant, is not there to welcome her, but instead his unmarried sister, his Moor man servant, and a maid about her own age. Nella struggles to find her place in this household of secrets and strange relationships. Her husband gives her a gift of a miniature house, but the craftsman who provides her with furnishings seems to have the ability to see the future, though Nella may not always understand it.

The Miniaturist is full of complex characters with even more complex relationships. No one is without flaws, but as you come to know more about the five main characters of the Brandt household, you empathize with them all and can't help but want everything to turn out okay. In the end it is not all okay, which is another reason I liked the novel. The ending is far from neat or predictable.

Classroom application: The novel is set in 17th-century Amsterdam so there are historical connections. The cabinet house in the story is a real object, now a museum artifact. Students who prefer historical fiction will gravitate toward this read.

However, the religion of the time is heavily referenced, so it is book you might not want to assign if you know religion is a hot issue with your students and/or parents. Similarly, homosexuality (considered sodomy in that time period) is also an issue in the book, so you may not find it appropriate for your classroom library.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Miniaturist for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.