February 29, 2016

On My Bookshelf: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

In Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Taylor must serve as fearless leader in her school's annual "war" against the local kids and the visiting Cadets, while trying to put together her puzzle of a past. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: In this lyrical, absorbing, award-winning novel, nothing is as it seems, and every clue leads to more questions.

At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor's the reluctant leader of her school's underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can't avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.

Why I liked it: Jellicoe Road, written by an Australian novelist and originally titled On The Jellicoe Road,  confused me at the start. The novel has two plot lines whose connection eventually becomes clear, but initially I had some difficulty figuring out what was going on in each individually. The plot line set in the past centers as five children who meet after a terrible car crash. Their story is being written, by Hannah, a character in the present plot line, and it soon becomes clear that their "story" is not fictional and has some connection to Hannah's past.
In Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Taylor must serve as fearless leader in her school's annual "war" against the local kids and the visiting Cadets, while trying to put together her puzzle of a past. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.

The present plot line centers around Taylor, who has been attending the boarding school on Jellicoe Road since her mother abandoned her. Hannah has served as a motherly figure for her, but suddenly disappears leaving Taylor on her own to deal with her unexpected new position as student leader of the school. Taylor teeters between exhibiting the persona of a fearless leader and being on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She has too many questions about her past and it doesn't help that Jonah Griggs, the leader of the Cadets and her enemy, is also the boy she ran away with a few years before in an attempt to locate her mother.

Taylor is supported by other strong characters. There's Raffy, another boarder at school who grew up in town. Chaz, Raffy's best friend/potential love interest and leader of the Townies. And Jonah Griggs, who is more than willing to run away with Taylor again. The four characters' interactions are dynamic and filled with humor. While the plot raised as many questions as it revealed answers along the way, it all came together in the end.

Classroom application: If you are adding this to your classroom library, it would be appropriate for high schoolers (some mentions of violence, drug use, abuse, etc. might not be appropriate for middle school). Encourage students to hang in there if they are as confused as I was at the start. They will get caught up in Taylor's saga and the "war between the boarding school students, the "townies," and the Cadets. The novel could be used in literature circles themed around coming of age or as a mentor text for parallel plots (Common Core Literature Standard #5).  

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

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.

The Literary Maven Leaps Into Literature

Looking for new ways to engage your students in literature, especially with classics that might seem old and outdated? In this secondary English Language Arts blog hop, the Literary League showcases resources that can be used with any literary text, time after time, year after year.Here at the Literary League, we’re a group of English teachers who truly love literature (we bet you already figured that part out). Given free time, we can all agree that there’s nothing better than leaping into a good book. But, even as avid readers, we have to admit that those spare minutes tend to be few and far between, especially during the school year, and there are times that we just have to …
  • leap into a book recommended by a friend, a colleague, or especially a student, who is anxiously awaiting our review
  • leap into a new novel we’re teaching, whether or not we’ve had time to fully prepare a complete unit
  • leap into a classic, maybe not one of our favorites, but something we know students need to sit with in order to grow as a reader

For those instances, the Literary League is teaming up to share some of our favorite resources to help you Leap into Literature. These are resources that are not tied to a particular book, but ones that can be used over and over again, both with your favorite novels, as well as with new texts or classic pieces you’re trying to breathe new life into.

Looking for new ways to engage your students in literature, especially with classics that might seem old and outdated? Literary postcards are an activity that can be used with any literary text, at any grade level, time after time, year after year.One activity I use engage my students in literature is creating literary postcards. This activity is
incredibly versatile. It can be done with any grade level and any text, during or after reading. Students first select an important scene from the text to illustrate on the front of their postcard. Then on the back side, they reflect on that event in writing from the perspective of a character of choice.

The writing on the back of the postcard can take a variety of forms. Students can write a postcard from one character to another. They can write a diary entry or interior monologue or even a poem. Students could write a series of postcards from the same chosen character's point of view based on different events in the novel. 

You could also select one specific event to focus on, assign students different characters, and then compare the reactions of different characters in students' writing. You could assign students different characters and have them write back and forth to each other. The possibilities are endless. You can read more about this activity and see additional student samples here.
 
You can read about other engaging literature resources from the other Literary Leaguers linked up below and also enter in the rafflecopter below for a chance to win them all.

February 28, 2016

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Using Google in the Classroom

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will focus on using Google in the Classroom.
Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven & Kristy, 2 Peas and a Dog are hosting #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 will 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 week and we hope that you will join us again.





Looking for the recap? Click on the image below.


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, March 1, our #2ndaryELA chat will focus on using Google in the 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: How do you use Google Apps as part of your instruction? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: What is your favorite Google App or feature? How do you use it? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: How have Google Apps changed what and how you teach? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: What is one new Google App, feature, or an activity incorporating a Google App that you want to try? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: What do you do when technology isn't working properly or the internet is down? #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:

February 26, 2016

Grammar: Avoid Boring Lessons & Incorporate It Into The Rest Of Your Curriculum

It can be difficult to get students excited about learning grammar, and even more difficult when you don't feel comfortable teaching it. In this #2ndaryELA Twitter chat, middle and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed approaches to teaching grammar, topics covered, avoiding boring lessons, and incorporating grammar into other aspects of ELA curriculum. Read through the chat for ideas to implement in your own classroom.
This #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about teaching grammar the ELA classroom. Middle and High School English Language Arts teachers discussed approaches to teaching grammar, topics covered, avoiding boring lessons, and incorporating grammar into other aspects of ELA curriculum. The highlights are below.

Grammar topics to cover:
*sometimes you need to start with the basics: nouns, verbs, adjectives
*comma rules and usage
*periodic v. cumulative sent
*parallelism
*sentence types
*punctuation
*subject/verb agreement
*gerunds

How to avoid boring grammar lessons:
*Grammar Tales, a set of funny little rhyming books
*NoRedInk
*Use authentic mentor texts to let students see what grammar looks like in real-world, high-interest, professional writing
*Teach grammar "in the moment," in the context of student's own writing
*M.U.G. Shots as warm ups
*Picture books can show excellent mentor sentences
*Use macaroni noodles to practice commas and apostrophes
*Use Mad Libs to practice parts of speech
*Use funny images and memes
*Short video clips from TED-Ed and Grammar Girl
*Using ProWritingAid and AnalyzeMyWriting http://

Ways to incorporate grammar into other aspects of the ELA curriculum:
*When teaching vocabulary, categorize words into parts of speech to understand how words function
*Use mentor sentences found in students' reading
*When writing poetry, have students brainstorm specific nouns, strong verbs, etc. related to writing topic
*Give each student a part of speech and have them come up with a secret word. Then have them arrange their bodies in sentence form and reveal their words
*Examine literature for the author's message through use of syntax

Other resources:
*Image Grammar : Using Grammatical Structures to Teach Writing
*Sentence Composing for High School: A Worktext on Sentence Variety and Maturity

Hope you'll join us next Tuesday night,  March 1st at 8pm EST to talk about using Google Apps in the classroom. The questions for our next chat will be posted here on Sunday.

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. 

If you missed this most recent chat, scroll down and read the whole thing below.

February 22, 2016

On My Bookshelf: Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards

In Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards, Celestia is vacationing with her socialite family when she meets and falls in love with Peter, a young man working at the hotel as a way out of the coal mines. Their forbidden love is tested and social status matters little when the Johnstown Flood occurs. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: Sixteen-Year-Old Celestia spends every summer with her family at the elite resort at Lake Conemaugh, a shimmering Allegheny Mountain reservoir held in place by an earthen dam. Tired of the society crowd, Celestia prefers to swim and fish with Peter, the hotel’s hired boy. It’s a friendship she must keep secret, and when companionship turns to romance, it’s a love that could get Celestia disowned. These affairs of the heart become all the more wrenching on a single, tragic day in May, 1889. After days of heavy rain, the dam fails, unleashing 20 million tons of water onto Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in the valley below. The town where Peter lives with his father. The town where Celestia has just arrived to join him. This searing novel in poems explores a cross-class romance—and a tragic event in U. S. history.

Why I liked it: Three Rivers Rising is written in verse form, not my usual read, but I was surprised at how easily the narrative flowed, moving fluidly between the different perspectives in the novel. The central character in the novel, Celestia, and her sister, Estrella, have both fallen in love with the "wrong" men, in Celestia's case it is because he is "the help," but in Estrella's case it is because he is a rake, likely to cause her ruin. Other voices in the novel include Peter, Celestia's love interest, Kate, a young "old maid" training to be a nurse, and Maura, a young mother whose husband works on the rail road. All of the characters' fates become intertwined when the South Fork Dam fails and disaster strikes. Despite its poetic form, the novel is based on the real events of the Johnstown Flood in 1889 and even includes an appearance from Clara Barton, the nurse who founded the Red Cross.
In Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards, Celestia is vacationing with her socialite family when she meets and falls in love with Peter, a young man working at the hotel as a way out of the coal mines. Their forbidden love is tested and social status matters little when the Johnstown Flood occurs. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Classroom application: Since the novel is centered around a historical event, it would be easy to incorporate nonfiction connections. Primary sources like survivor testimony and photographs would help bring the story to life. The Johnstown Flood was the first non-combat relief effort of the Red Cross, so students could research the history and evolution of the organization. Students could also examine the expectations for women during the late 1800s/early 1900s and compare that to modern standards.

Natural disasters are another fascinating research topic for students. Particularly relevant would be Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levee system in New Orleans. Students could research survivors of that disaster and write poetry from their perspectives. Spike Lee's documentary, When the Levees Broke would be an excellent starting point.

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

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.

February 21, 2016

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Grammar

Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven & Kristy, 2 Peas and a Dog are hosting #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 will 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 week and we hope that you will join us again.





Looking for the recap? Click on the image below.


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, February 23, our #2ndaryELA chat will focus on teaching grammar.
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 define grammar? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: What was your experience as a student learning grammar? Does that affect how you teach it? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: What grammar topics do you cover at your grade level? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: How do you avoid boring grammar lessons? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: How can teachers incorporate grammar into other aspects of ELA curriculum? #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:

February 15, 2016

On My Bookshelf: Folly by Marthe Jocelyn

In Folly by Marthe Jocelyn, two plucky youngsters navigate Victorian London. James, an orphan, must survive the cold, unfeeling Foundling Hospital and Mary, pushed out of her home by a jealous stepmother, must learn the ins and outs of household employment. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: Three fates intertwine in this moving and passionate love story set in Victorian London.

Mary Finn: country girl, maid to a lord in London

Caden Tucker: liar, scoundrel, and heart's delight

James Nelligan: age six, tossed into a herd of boys

When Mary Finn falls into the arms of handsome Caden Tucker, their frolic changes the course of her life. What possesses her? She's been a girl of common sense until now. Mary's tale alternates with that of young James Nelligan, a new boy in an enormous foundling home.

In Folly, Marthe Jocelyn's breathtaking command of language, detail, and character brings Victorian London to life on every page, while the deep emotions that illuminate this fascinating novel about life-changing moments are as current as today's news.

In Folly by Marthe Jocelyn, two plucky youngsters navigate Victorian London. James, an orphan, must survive the cold, unfeeling Foundling Hospital and Mary, pushed out of her home by a jealous stepmother, must learn the ins and outs of household employment. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.Why I liked it: Folly falls into my favorite genres to read, young adult literature and historical fiction. The novel is set in the late 1800s in England, much of it taking place in London, and the dialogue is so well written that you can hear the twangy London accents of the characters. The novel has two separate plot lines that come together in the end in a way that was completely unexpected to me. Had I been paying closer attention to the dates that begin every chapter I might not have been so surprised.

Both the characters and the plot would remind you of a Charles Dickens novel. James is essentially an orphan, abandoned by his mother as an infant, raised by a loving foster mother until the age of six, then deposited at the Foundling Hospital, a sort of large scale orphanage and just one step up from the infamous poorhouses/workhouses of the city. Mary Finn is part of a large family, whose mother died while giving birth to the last sibling, leaving Mary to cook and clean and care for them all until her father remarries. Her new stepmother quickly sends her out of the house and off to work. Jealousy strikes again when the older maid in the house where Mary is employed misinterprets the identity of Mary's love interest. Both Mary and James are plucky characters, always trying to make the best of their miserable situations.


Classroom application: This would be an appropriate addition to a high school classroom library (there are some scenes that would be a little sexy for middle school). The novel could be used in a genre study of historical fiction or as a starting point for a research project on the history of the foster care system.

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

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.

February 14, 2016

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Inclusion in the ELA Classroom

Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven & Kristy, 2 Peas and a Dog are hosting #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 will 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 week and we hope that you will join us again.





Looking for the recap? Click on the image below.



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, February 16, our #2ndaryELA chat will focus on inclusion 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: What does inclusion look like in your classroom? In your school? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: How do you keep track of and document your SPED students' accommodations? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: What do you do to differentiate your reading and writing lessons to meet your SPED students' needs?
8:20 Q4: Share your biggest teaching win (or frustration) with inclusion. #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: Share your best teaching strategies and resources for an inclusive classroom. #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:

February 13, 2016

Test Prep Strategies: Tips To Prepare Students For The Format & Content

While most teachers don't look forward to testing any more than students do, all teachers want their students to be prepared. In this #2ndaryELA Twitter chat, middle and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed standardized testing, preparing students for the content and format, and tips for dealing with students with test anxiety. Read through the chat for ideas to implement in your own classroom.
This #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about test prep strategies for the ELA classroom. Middle and High School English Language Arts teachers discussed standardized testing, preparing students for the content and format, and tips for dealing with students with test anxiety. The highlights are below.

Prepare students for the content:
*make sure lessons are aligned with the standards
*explicitly teach test taking skills like the Bump It Up strategy
*constantly review & reinforce literary terms
*teach students how to break down difficult vocabulary
*read challenging texts
*have students evaluate and score anchor essays
*use what you're already reading independently as content for test prep. It doesn't ALWAYS have to be boring passages.
*look at questions stems, read and annotate text then answer questions

Prepare students for the format:
*if your test is computerized, practice with different types of testing formats: drag and drop, drop down menu, etc. and be sure students know how to use tools like the highlighter or the tiny 2 at the top to indicate a hidden 2nd text
*use released tests to practice
*make sure students know how many questions, passages, writing prompts to expect
*practice the vocabulary that will be used on the test
*teach process of elimination and how to navigate "tricky" wording
*mark tests for evidence of answers
*if your test is timed, give a practice test with not enough time so students can practice being rushed
*use the rubric the state will score writing on throughout the year so students will be comfortable with expectations

Easy test anxiety:
* don't let students see you stressed; if you have confidence in your students, they will have confidence in themselves
*use a fake, humorous test to get students to loosen up
*teach relaxation strategies like using the Calm app for meditation
*use funny videos like Pixar shorts to review literary terms
*watch a Ted Talk on body language and practice poses that relieve anxiety
*print off last year's scores, then after talking about goals for this year, have each student put their old score through a shredder
*make test prep unique with bright colors & celebrity pictures for different sections
*address anxiety through individual conferences

Helpful resources:
*Tips for making exam review fun
*Released test samples for high school from PA with rationale for answers and writing anchors
*Create a "Do What" chart for responding to writing prompts
*AP Lit Help offers resources and a 30 day countdown to the exam
*Use Kelly Gallagher's article of the week as nonfiction practice with response questions
*WritingFix has a vast amount of resources for K-12 teachers using the 6+1 Writing Traits
Hope you'll join us next Tuesday night,  February 16th at 8pm EST to talk about inclusion in the classroom. The questions for our next chat will be posted here on Sunday.

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. 

If you missed this most recent chat, scroll down and read the whole thing below.

February 8, 2016

On My Bookshelf: Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is book one in a series about life in a very realistic post-apocalyptic world. An asteroid has knocked the moon closer to Earth causing all sorts of natural disasters. Miranda, the main character, and her family must make difficult choices about survival with no end to the disaster in sight. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: I guess I always felt even if the world came to an end, McDonald’s still would be open.

High school sophomore Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to Earth, like "one marble hits another." The result is catastrophic. How can her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis are wiping out the coasts, earthquakes are rocking the continents, and volcanic ash is blocking out the sun? As August turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in a year’s worth of journal entries, this heart-pounding story chronicles Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world. An extraordinary series debut! Susan Beth Pfeffer has written three companion novels to Life As We Knew It, including The Dead and the Gone, This World We Live In, and The Shade of the Moon.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is book one in a series about life in a very realistic post-apocalyptic world. An asteroid has knocked the moon closer to Earth causing all sorts of natural disasters. Miranda, the main character, and her family must make difficult choices about survival with no end to the disaster in sight. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.Why I liked it: Life As We Knew It is set in my home state, Pennsylvania, so the mentions of places familiar to me helped draw me in right away. Like The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the setting is a post-apocalyptic one, the shift of the moon has environmental repercussions, but the world is otherwise normal; no vampires or any other mythical creatures in this one. Miranda's family struggles to maintain their physical and mental health without knowing when the disaster will end. I don't know enough about science and space to know if this kind of event could really happen or if its effects are accurately portrayed, but the author certainly made it all believable. During reading, I often found myself thinking what I would do and impressed by the wherewithal of Miranda's family, particularly her mother. Actions that Miranda thinks are slightly crazy at the start of the novel turn out to be what helps her family hold out until help arrives. I am looking forward to reading the other novels in this series.

Classroom application: Life as We Knew It is definitely worth adding to your classroom library for middle or high school students. The fact that it is part of a series is also a plus; if you can get a reluctant reader to read one, he/she will want to read them all. This novel would be a perfect choice for literature circles themed around natural disasters, real or imagined.

Cross-disciplinary connections could also be made with science while reading Life As We Knew It. Students could research the effects of the moon on Earth (tides, plate-tectonics, stability on its axis, etc.) and how being closer to or farther from the moon would impact life on Earth. Other possible research topics would be natural disasters throughout history and the asteroids/meteors that have actually landed on Earth.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Life as We Knew It for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

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.

February 7, 2016

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Test Prep Strategies

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will focus on test prep strategies.
Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven & Kristy, 2 Peas and a Dog are hosting #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 will 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 week and we hope that you will join us again.





Looking for the recap? Click on the image below.





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, February 9, our #2ndaryELA chat will focus on test preparation strategies.

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: Are your students required to take standardized tests? How many/often? What time of year? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: How do you help students prepare for the content on high stakes tests including the SAT, ACT, and AP exams? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: How do you help students prepare for the format of high stakes tests including the SAT, ACT, and AP exams? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: Do you have students that suffer from test anxiety? How do you help students de-stress before or during testing? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: -Share a test preparation resource that you find invaluable (book, article, blog post, type of technology, etc.) #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 tinyurl, bitly, goo.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:

February 5, 2016

Got Test Stress? 5 Ideas for Easing Student Anxiety

Are your students stressed out about an upcoming test? Here are five ideas on how to ease their anxiety and leave them feeling calm and confident instead.
Testing is stressful for teachers, but even more so for students, especially as more and more states require "exit exams" or include proficiency on standardized tests as a graduation requirement. It's a lot of pressure at such a young age, so it's no wonder you've got students biting their nails and on the verge of tears as testing season approaches.

The best way for students to be at ease with testing is for them to feel prepared. I recently wrote about nine effective ways to prepare students for standardized testing, but there are also times when you need to step back and give your students a break. Here are five ideas on how to do just that.

1. Administer this "fake" humorous test. Set up your desks in rows or your usual testing formation. As students walk in the door, hand them their "test." Make announcements such as "you may only use a number 3 pencil," "there is absolutely no talking," and "this is a test" in your most serious teacher voice. You are bound to get questions like, "when did you tell us we were having a test?" or "what do I do if I don't have a number 3 pencil?" Do your best to brush off these questions and remain serious (this is a challenge for me). Tell students to begin their tests. After a sufficient level of murmurs and giggles has built up as students realize that this is not actually a test, explain to students that this is just a joke and ask them to generate their own ridiculous test questions on the reverse side.

2. Create a YouTube playlist of Pixar short films or you can check out mine here. Most are less than five minutes long, hilarious or touching, and perfect for reviewing literary terms. You can use this plot mountain diagram to review terms like exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, setting, characters, mood, and conflict.

3. Use Kahoot! or do another game-like review. You can check out my Kahoot! reviewing literary terms here and play it with your class. The site has tons of other free, teacher-created Kahoot! games you can search through and play.

4. Hand out peppermints to your students and read an article like this one about the stimulating and soothing effects of peppermint on your brain.

5. Have students write motivational notes to themselves discussing the test taking strategies they will use to be successful and how they will calm down if they start to get stressed out. They likely won't be allowed to have their notes out during testing, but they can read over them just before the test to help ease last minute anxiety.

For more assessment ideas and resources:



Have other ideas for relieving students' test stress? Share them in the comments below. Best of luck to you and your students!

February 1, 2016

On My Bookshelf: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

In The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Tana thinks she is infected with vampirism, so not wanting to pose a threat to her family, she heads to Coldtown, a quarantined city for vampires and the Cold, those infected by vampires. Tana is accompanied by her definitely infected ex-boyfriend, Aidan, and Gavriel, a centuries old vampire and adventures ensue. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: Coldtown was dangerous, Tana knew. A glamorous cage, a prison for the damned and anyone who wanted to party with them.

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. And once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Why I liked it: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is young adult literature, but definitely falls outside my usual reading genre. This was my first "vampire" book (gasp! no I haven't even read the Twilight series), but despite that, I couldn't put the book down. I thought I would just read a few chapters before going to bed one night and hours later it was 1:30 am, I was finished up the book, and feeling a bit jumpy anytime I heard a noise outside.

The novel's setting would be considered apocalyptic because of the outbreak of vampires, but otherwise its a normal world, similar to the TV series The Leftovers. Fans of The Walking Dead would also like this book, but society hasn't deteriorated quite as much as TWD, only in "coldtowns," the quarantined areas where vampires live.

In The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Tana thinks she is infected with vampirism, so not wanting to pose a threat to her family, she heads to Coldtown, a quarantined city for vampires and the Cold, those infected by vampires. Tana is accompanied by her definitely infected ex-boyfriend, Aidan, and Gavriel, a centuries old vampire and adventures ensue. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
The main character, Tana, is impossible not to like. She is fearless, strong, and always does the "right" thing, but is still a teenage girl susceptible to crushing on boys; the boy she falls for just happens to be Gavriel, the Thorn of Istra, a centuries old, big shot vampire who hunts down other vampires. As the novel progresses, it is revealed that Tana's mother became infected with vampirism and went after Tana when she was a little girl. Tana's father saved her by killing her mother/his wife. In the present, Tana fears she may also be infected, but is determined not to turn out like her mother. She goes to Coldtown to wait out the "incubation" period, knowing that her father will be afraid to have her at home, but then gets caught up in Gavriel's plan for revenge. Then Tana's sister follows her into Coldtown and Tana must save Gavriel, her sister, and herself.

Classroom application: This is a novel I would definitely add to my classroom library and would be appropriate for upper middle school and high school students. The romance aspect might be a turnoff to some of your male students, but I think there is more than enough action in the plot to balance out the romance elements. It could be used in literature circles themed around the genre of fantasy or dystopia.

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


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.