April 25, 2016

On My Bookshelf: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, Book One of the Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer sets the classic tale of Cinderella in a futuristic world of cyborgs and androids. The familiar plot is filled with surprises and twists that will keep you turning pages and eager to read the next book in the series. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth's fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She's a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world's future.

Why I liked it: Cinder is a mix of science fiction and fairy tale. The futuristic genre is not usually my genre and even a few pages into Cinder, I wasn’t sure I was going to keep reading with all the talk about androids and cyborgs. Imagining Iko, Cinder’s trusty sidekick, as a Wall-E like robot helped warm me up.

Cinder, Book One of the Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer sets the classic tale of Cinderella in a futuristic world of cyborgs and androids. The familiar plot is filled with surprises and twists that will keep you turning pages and eager to read the next book in the series. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.

Like the original Cinderella, Cinder lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters. Her stepmother Adri is unkind and uncaring, her eldest stepsister Pearl is self-centered and has little interest in Cinder, but her younger stepsister Peony treats her as a friend and confidante. Cinder’s real parents died long ago and her adoptive father, Adri’s husband is also deceased.

Prince Kai is hosting a ball for all the ladies in the kingdom, but we first meet him at the market where Cinder works repairing androids and other electronics. Kai’s personal android is malfunctioning and seeks Cinder’s help fixing it because of her reputation as an expert. The two’s paths continue to intersect as the novel continues and they develop feelings for each other, but Cinder keeps him at a distance, fearing he will discover that she is cyborg, part human and part robot.

For Kai, more important than the excitement about the ball is his quest to save his father, the emperor, who has been infected by the plague that is sweeping through the city. Cinder’s close relationship with Peony makes it all the more devastating when Peony comes down with the plague shortly before the annual ball. Cinder feels responsible for her stepsister’s infection, fearing she may have brought the disease home with her from the market, where a nearby shopkeeper showed signs of the infection earlier that day.

Adri volunteers Cinder as a test subject for a vaccine for the plague, but it turns out that she is immune. While Cinder is furious with Adri, she also desperately wants to save Peony. The doctor running the trials is a suspicious character; it’s not until the end of the book that you are sure whether you can trust him or not, but he offers to pay Cinder in exchange for studying her.

The ending of the novel leaves you hanging and eager to read the next book in the series.


Classroom application: The novel, Book One of the Lunar Chronicles, could be compared with other Cinderella stories such as The Rough Faced Girl or The Paper Bag Princess or paired with other texts, fiction or nonfiction, that focus on the theme of beauty.


Following reading Cinder, as a writing assignment, students could choose another fairytale to set in the future and analyze how the change in setting would affect the plot.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Cinder 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.

April 24, 2016

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Small Group Instruction

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will focus on small group instruction 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, April 26, our #2ndaryELA chat will focus on small group instruction.

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: Have you tried small group instruction in your ELA classroom? For what purpose? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: How does small group reading/writing fit into your ELA instruction? Do you use reading/writing conferences instead? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: How do you plan your small group lessons? Can you share your lesson template? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: How do you assess students during these lessons or conferences? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: Share any tips, ideas or resources you have for guided 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:

William Shakespeare: 400 Years Later & Teachers Still Love Him

400 years after William Shakespeare's death, his poems and plays are still enjoyed in classrooms around the world. Read on for more about why teachers still love Shakespeare and lesson resources to accompany any of his works.
It has been 400 years since William Shakespeare died, leaving behind plays, poems and sayings that still captivate people the world. Shakespeare, otherwise known as the Bard of Avon, is believed to have died on his birthday, April 23, in his hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1616.

And while Shakespeare may be long dead, his works and words live on. Each year his plays continue to be performed thanks to the beauty of their language and universal themes of love, revenge, sorrow and comedy.

The English language is filled with words, phrases and expressions which originate from or were popularized by Shakespeare, such as "coldhearted" from Anthony and Cleopatra, "lie low" from Much Ado About Nothing, and "all that glitters is not gold" from The Merchant of Venice.

So why do still teachers love Shakespeare?

Presto Plans:
"Since students often feel that Shakespeare isn’t relevant today, my goal when I teach his work is to find ways to relate the plot, characters, and themes to their lives. What I enjoy most about teaching Shakespeare is seeing my students make a personal connection to universal themes (loyalty, ambition, jealousy, betrayal) that emerge in his work. When students can make those connections, the class discussion always becomes far more interesting and engaging, and I know Shakespeare still has a place in today’s classroom."

Room 213:
"I love teaching Shakespeare because not only is he a brilliant writer, but he understood what makes we humans tick. What I enjoy most of all, though, is finding ways to draw students into his plays. Most have preconceived notions and dread when it comes to Shakespeare, but I design my lessons and activities in a way that helps connect the plays to their lives and, that way, it's more interesting and enjoyable for them."

Tracee Orman:
"I love the moment when students hear famous lines spoken that they never realized were penned by Shakespeare. Today in class we covered Marc Antony’s “Cry Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war” quote in Act III of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. After that scene, I showed them the beginning of an episode of Big Bang Theory where Sheldon quotes the phrase after he seeks revenge on the person who hacked his World of Warcraft account and stole his weapons. There are so many great allusions, quotes, parodies, and references to Shakespeare; I love opening their eyes to them. When former students email or post/tag examples or references they come across on my social media pages, it warms my heart to know they not only still remember this play from sophomore year, but they actually understand the reference or allusion."

The Classroom Sparrow:
"The best part about teaching Shakespeare is the level of engagement the plays can bring to a classroom. Most students are not excited about Shakespeare because they have a hard time understanding the language, but once they start reading the first few acts, the students are eager to find out what will happen next. By the end of the unit, students have a better appreciation for Shakespeare in that many of his themes are timeless."

Brynn Allison:
"Reading any of Shakespeare's works is difficult for my students, many of whom read several levels below grade level, but this challenge is what makes teaching Shakespeare so rewarding. My students are incredibly proud of themselves when they begin to read and understand his plays. Acting out key scenes and making connections between the timeless themes in Shakespeare's dramas and real world issues helps to increase students' comprehension. Have students practice insulting each other using Shakespeare's language before reading the first scene in Romeo and Juliet or by conducting a People magazine-like interview of Portia and Calpurnia from Julius Caesar. Activities like these help students to see that world in Shakespeare's plays is not so different from their own."

David Rickert:
400 years after William Shakespeare's death, his poems and plays are still enjoyed in classrooms around the world. Read on for more about why teachers still love Shakespeare and lesson resources to accompany any of his works.
"I love the challenge of teaching Shakespeare to students who are reading it for the first time. I love his plays. They have comedy, tragedy, thrills, chills, and just all around great writing. There are some wonderful metaphors in the plays, and I find myself using them in everyday language without thinking about it."

These six English teachers with a love for Shakespeare are hosting a giveaway in honor of Shakespeare's birthday. One lucky winner will get six great lessons that can be used with ANY Shakespeare play.

So what can you win?

Click on the links below to get a preview and find out how to enter.
*Presto Plans has a lesson on Shakespeare's Language called "What Would Shakespeare Say?"
*Need some room decor? Room 213 is offering a Shakespeare Word Wall and Posters.
*Tracee Orman has a great way to introduce Shakespeare with a Life and Times Power Point.
*The Classroom Sparrow has a handy reference guide with her Shakespeare Mini Book.
*Reach for the stars with Brynn Allison's Astrology Based Characterization Activity.
*David Rickert's Comic Lesson on Iambic Pentameter will introduce students to the way Shakespeare writes.

The raffle will run from Sunday, April 24th to Sunday, May 1st. How do you enter? Simply click the link below and enter your favorite Shakespeare quote. It's that easy.

April 22, 2016

Acknowledge Colleagues During Teacher Appreciation Week: A Simple Way to Spread the Love

Even better than gifts for teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week is the simple recognition of their hard work and efforts. You can spread the love amongst your colleagues and school staff members by encouraging students to write thank you notes. Most of my teaching career was spent in a district where "thank you" was rarely heard, words infrequently uttered by students, their parents, or even our own administration. There were no gifts at Christmas or at the end of the year, and I don't think I even knew there was such a thing as Teacher Appreciation Week.

So you can imagine my surprise during my third year of teaching when I found a handful of notes from students in my mailbox. The notes, some short one-liners, some longer, expressed gratitude for having me as a teacher. Some of the notes simply said "thank you," but others were more specific: "you are always happy and smiling" and "you push me to do better and never make me feel like a failure."

The writing of these notes was a simple act, yet it meant so much to me. The notes were a powerful reminder of the impact even the slightest bit of acknowledgement can have on us. Just like students, teachers (and everyone really) need to hear "thank you" and know that someone has noticed their efforts, their hard work.
Even better than gifts for teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week is the simple recognition of their hard work and efforts. You can spread the love amongst your colleagues and school staff members by encouraging students to write thank you notes.

Later I found out that the notes had been delivered by our science teacher. Each year during Teacher Appreciation Week, she asked students to write notes thanking staff members (other than her). Students could choose to include their name on the notes or remain anonymous.

I loved the idea and carried it with me to each school I've taught at since, encouraging students to thank not just their teachers, but all staff members at school: secretaries, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, recess monitors, the janitorial staff, etc. I try to be as secretive as possible when delivering the notes, whether it is to teachers' mailboxes or classrooms, as part of the joy for me is hearing about teachers' reactions to the notes they receive.

If you would like to do this with your own students for Teacher Appreciation week or any other time of year, you can use index cards, have your students make cards, or find thank you note templates here.

April 18, 2016

On My Bookshelf: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, was written before To Kill A Mockingbird, but focuses on events that taken place later in the life of Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. You'll revisit the beloved characters of To Kill a Mockingbird as they struggle with the racial issues of the 1960s. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch—"Scout"—returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can only be guided by one's own conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision—a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, was written before To Kill A Mockingbird, but focuses on events that taken place later in the life of Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. You'll revisit the beloved characters of To Kill a Mockingbird as they struggle with the racial issues of the 1960s. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.

Why I liked it: The flashbacks in Go Set a Watchman, the scenes from Scout’s childhood, were to me the best parts. Reading about Scout, Jem, and Dill as children was like getting to see old friends again. These scenes were warm and the characters full of life. In contrast, the scenes set in Jean Louise’s present seemed like a vocabulary exercise and the characters distant. The ending of the novel came all too soon. While Atticus congratulated Jean Louise for finally standing up to him, she quickly reconciles with him and I wanted to read more about where their relationship would go from there.


Classroom application: If you choose to have students read the novel as a whole, have them view this novel as a first draft and take on the role of Harper Lee’s editor. Ask them to advise Lee on what aspects of the novel work best and what she should focus her second draft. You can then have them read To Kill A Mockingbird, her “second draft,” to see if she followed their recommendations.


You could also introduce students to the theories that Go Set A Watchman was not actually written by Harper Lee. After reading To Kill A Mockingbird, provide students with excerpts of Go Set A Watchman and ask them to evaluate the style of writing to see if it is consistent between the two works.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Go Set A Watchman 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.

April 17, 2016

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Media Literacy

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will focus on media literacy.
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, April 19, our #2ndaryELA chat will focus on media literacy.

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: Is media literacy a component of your curriculum? Explain what you are required to teach. #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: Why is it important for students to critically evaluate media texts? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: How do you teach this important skill? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: How do we prepare our students for appropriate social media usage (i.e. helping them stay safe online)? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: Share your favorite media literacy lessons, resources, ideas. #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:

April 15, 2016

Research Papers: Choosing Topics, Using Appropriate Sources, Creating Outlines & Avoiding Plagiarism

Research papers. Not sure who shudders more, teachers or students, when they hear those words. Read on for ideas on how to help students choose appropriate, focused topics and find appropriate, reliable sources. You can also find out about different processes for organizing student research and creating outlines as well as various approaches to getting students to paraphrase rather than plagiarize and correctly cite sources.
This #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about writing research papers in the secondary ELA classroom. Middle and High School English Language Arts teachers discussed the types and frequency of research papers written, choosing topics, finding reliable sources, creating an outline, citing sources and paraphrasing versus plagiarism. The highlights are below.

Choosing appropriate, focused sources:
*Topics in the “Room For Debate” section of the NY Times
*Brainstorm and share topics in writing groups and conferences
*Choose the topic for the first research paper for students, for the second allow them to choose a subtopic within a larger topic, gradually releasing them into choosing their own
*Tie student writing into to a current unit of study
*Give students a list of ideas and allow other ideas with approval
*Base research papers on themes in literature circle novels

Finding appropriate, reliable sources:
*Go over the qualities of reliable sources with Schmoop video or this video
*Use your school's databases subscriptions
*provide the sources for the first research paper for students, for the second allow them to also add their own, gradually releasing them into finding all of their own
*Provide links to start initial search
*Partner with media center specialist/librarian
*Model reliable sites and what they look like: lack of ads, web address endings, etc.
*Use the links at the bottom of the Wikipedia articles to find great sources
*Use Google Scholar
*Create a shared Google Doc that students add to as they find great sources

Organizing research and creating an outline
*Have students create an annotated bibliography
*Putting research onto note cards which can easily be grouped and rearranged
*Provide an outline or graphic organizers
*Use Google slides as digital notecards which can also be rearranged
*Create an outline of the information students need, then as sources and information is discovered, assign colors/symbols to help with grouping of ideas

Paraphrasing versus plagiarism
*Practice paraphrasing by reading the text, write a summary without looking, and then putting ideas in bullet points
*Practice paraphrasing with famous quotes, quotes from books and movies, etc.
*With the note card method, have students write research on one side, their own words on the other
*Have students highlight source material in their paper & see the total percentage
*Tell the story of Kavvya Viswanathan as a cautionary tale with examples from her highly publicized plagiarism
*Use stop and write/draw - after 2 minutes of reading, give students one minute to write/draw what they remember without looking back
*Run papers though PaperRater to check grammar and plagiarism or other free plagiarism checkers
*Use Draftback, a Google extension, to create a live-action movie of a paper's creation, character by character.  You see every typing stroke, deletion, and mass paste.

Citing sources
*Use EasyBib online or as a Google Add-On
*For citations @EasyBib is awesome
*Discuss why citations are needed with famous examples

Hope you'll join us next Tuesday April 19th at 8pm EST to talk about teaching media literacy. 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.

April 11, 2016

On My Bookshelf: Our Own Country by Jodi Daynard

In Our Own Country by Jodi Daynard, Eliza is happy with the life she leads as a wealthy merchant's daughter in Boston. But that life is turned upside down as the Revolutionary War begins and she experiences the injustices of slavery. The result is a dramatic transformation for Eliza. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: A love affair tests a new nation’s revolutionary ideals.

In 1770s Boston, a prosperous merchant’s daughter, Eliza Boylston, lives a charmed life—until war breaches the walls of the family estate and forces her to live in a world in which wealth can no longer protect her.

As the chaos of the Revolutionary War tears her family apart, Eliza finds herself drawn to her uncle’s slave, John Watkins. Their love leads to her exile in Braintree, Massachusetts, home to radicals John and Abigail Adams and Eliza’s midwife sister-in-law, Lizzie Boylston. But even as the uprising takes hold, Eliza can’t help but wonder whether a rebel victory will grant her and John the most basic of American rights.

Why I liked it: Our Own Country is centered around the events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War and is set in Massachusetts in the towns of Cambridge, Portsmouth, and Braintree. Besides focusing on the country’s fight for independence, the novel also tackles the issues of slavery and women’s role in society. The lives of famous historical figures, such as John and Abigail Adams, are interwoven with the fictional characters.
In Our Own Country by Jodi Daynard, Eliza is happy with the life she leads as a wealthy merchant's daughter in Boston. But that life is turned upside down as the Revolutionary War begins and she experiences the injustices of slavery. The result is a dramatic transformation for Eliza. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.

Classroom application: The novel is part of a series, one or all of which could be used as companions to a unit on early American history and the Revolutionary War. The novels could also be used in literature circles focused on novels dealing with women's rights and roles in society.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Our Own Country 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.

April 10, 2016

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Research Papers

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will focus on research papers.
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, April 12, our #2ndaryELA chat will focus on research papers.

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 research papers informational or argumentative? How many do your students write each year? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: How do you help students choose appropriate, focused topics? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: How do you help students find appropriate, reliable sources? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: Explain the process you use to organize student research and create an outline. #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: Share your approach to getting students to paraphrase rather than plagiarize and correctly cite sources. #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:

April 8, 2016

Collaborative Poetry: Bring Students' Voices Together Through Group Writing

Incorporate opportunities for collaborative writing in your classroom by using collaborative poetry. Students will first write individually from a character's perspective and then work together as a group to create a communal piece of writing.
This April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, which was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. However, April isn't the only time to celebrate poetry in your classroom. One of my favorite poetry activities to use any time of year are collaborative poems.

Collaborative poems can be created after reading any piece of fiction and even after reading a piece of nonfiction. With fiction, students will write from the point of view of a character.

With nonfiction, the point of view students take on will depend on the text and its topic; it might be a historical figure, an animal, a building, a place, or an event. 

To get students started, you can either assign students to different characters or offer students a choice of characters. Students who are assigned or choose the same character will be in a group together.

Incorporate opportunities for collaborative writing in your classroom by using collaborative poetry. Students will first write individually from a character's perspective and then work together as a group to create a communal piece of writing. I don't explain the group part to students beforehand to avoid friends selecting the same character. It is a nice way to bring students together who don't normally work together. It is also interesting to see which students connect to or have strong reactions to which characters. 


Tip: If you allow students to select a character of choice, you may want to prepare an extra set of lines for character choices that may be less popular (save a copy of these so you can use them year after year). Then groups that end up with only one or two students will still have other ideas to use to create a collaborative poem even if there aren't any other people in their group.

Once students have a character, provide students with a prompt. My prompt is very generic: what would you character want us to know about him/her, his/her life, and the events in the story?

Incorporate opportunities for collaborative writing in your classroom by using collaborative poetry. Students will first write individually from a character's perspective and then work together as a group to create a communal piece of writing. You can also offer starting lines as suggestions, or require students to use some or all of them. Requiring students to use each line at least once allows students to create repetition and may create more unity when students' individual lines are mixed in with their group's lines. The lines that I give students are:
*Write that I...
*Tell them that I...
*When you write my story, say that I...

Besides not mentioning that students will eventually be working in groups, I also don't initially describe this writing activity as a poem. I just ask students to do a quick write or free write from the point of view of the character they chose.

Tip: Tell students to skip a line between each line of their poem; it makes it easier to cut them apart later.

Incorporate opportunities for collaborative writing in your classroom by using collaborative poetry. Students will first write individually from a character's perspective and then work together as a group to create a communal piece of writing. Once students have completed their individual writing and you have placed them in groups based on their character, instruct students to cut apart the lines of their poems and then begin to incorporate their lines with the rest of their group's lines.


You can require that the collaborative poem be a certain number of lines long and/or that a certain number of each student's original lines are included in the collaborative poem. I don't like to set these requirements because students will likely only do what they are required, but some groups may need that structure.

As groups are constructing their new poem, I encourage them to leave out lines that are too similar and allow them to modify lines to improve the flow (i.e. changing verbs to have a consistent tense).
Incorporate opportunities for collaborative writing in your classroom by using collaborative poetry. Students will first write individually from a character's perspective and then work together as a group to create a communal piece of writing.


I also ask students to number the lines of their new poem, so that if this work continues into another class period, they don't have to start all over.

After students have organized their lines and made any necessary changes to wording, I allow them to copy their poem out on large construction paper. I encourage them to play around with the size, color, and placement of their text.

The final step is to create a title for their collaborative poem that reflects its theme. If time allows, I allow students to decorate their poem with related images.

Be prepared to be wowed by the final results!



For more poetry lesson ideas and resources:

April 4, 2016

On My Bookshelf: The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith

In The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith, three women of ancient Rome struggle to find the balance between family, power, and love. Livia, wife of Augustus Caesar wants peace for Rome, Julia, daughter of Augustus Caesar, wants to feel like more than a pawn, and Selene, daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, wants peace for her new family. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: Two years after Emperor Augustus’s bloody defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, he triumphantly returns to Rome. To his only child, Julia, he brings an unlikely companion—Selene, the daughter of the conquered Egyptian queen and her lover.

Under the watchful eye of Augustus’s wife, Livia, Selene struggles to accept her new home among her parents’ enemies. Bound together by kinship and spilled blood, these three women—Livia, Selene, and Julia—navigate the dangerous world of Rome’s ruling elite, their every move a political strategy, their most intimate decisions in the emperor’s hands.

Always suppressing their own desires for the good of Rome, each must fulfill her role. For astute Livia, this means unwavering fidelity to her all-powerful husband; for sensual Julia, surrender to an arranged marriage and denial of her craving for love and the pleasures of the flesh; for orphaned Selene, choosing between loyalty to her family’s killers and her wish for revenge.

Can they survive Rome’s deadly intrigues, or will they be swept away by the perilous currents of the world’s most powerful empire?

Why I liked it: Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and I loved Phyllis T. Smith’s first I Am Livia, a novel told from the point of view of Augustus Caesar’s wife. I liked it so much that I even gave a copy to my mom, the highest form of literary compliment in my world. So imagine my delight when I started reading The Daughters of Palatine Hill and discovered that not only was it also written by Phyllis T. Smith, but it picked up Livia’s story line not long after I Am Livia left off.
In The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith, three women of ancient Rome struggle to find the balance between family, power, and love. Livia, wife of Augustus Caesar wants peace for Rome, Julia, daughter of Augustus Caesar, wants to feel like more than a pawn, and Selene, daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, wants peace for her new family. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
novel,

However, instead of just focusing on Livia, the novel alternates between her, Julia (Augustus Caesar’s daughter from his first marriage), and Selene (the daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony). All three women are well developed and relatable.

Livia continues to guide her husband, known as Tavius by his family and friends, in both his personal and political decisions. She is constantly trying to balance what was best for her family members versus what is best for Rome.

Julia finds happiness in her first marriage, but after her husband’s death she does not find the same happiness in her second or third marriage and begins to look for love in other places. While others disapprove of Julia’s promiscuity, she ignores their judgment and is tired of being used a pawn in her father’s political maneuverings.

Selene pledges her loyalty to Livia when she helps her wed the man she loves and with whom she is expecting a child. This bond pays off later when Selene informs Livia of a plot to overthrow Tavius. Like Livia’s desire for peace in Rome, Selene’s desire for her family’s safety takes precedence over her relationship with her half brother.

Classroom application: This novel would be perfect for reading with or after Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and doing a comparison of men and women’s roles in Roman society.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Daughters of Palatine Hill 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.

April 3, 2016

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Reading Across the Genres

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will focus on reading across the genres.
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, April 5, our #2ndaryELA chat will focus on reading across the genres.

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 require students to read a variety of genres? Explain your thinking. #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: What is your favourite genre to teach? Give an example of a favourite lesson. #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: How do you encourage your students to read a variety of books? What method has been most successful? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: What genres and authors are the most popular among your students? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: Share a great resource, website or tip for teaching different genres. #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:

April 1, 2016

A Poem A Day: 30 Poems for Secondary Students During National Poetry Month (or Any Other Time of Year)

Looking for new poetry for your middle school and high school students? These 30 poems, recommended and tested by secondary ELA teachers in their own classrooms, are sure to engage and inspire your students during National Poetry Month or any time of year.
As an English teacher, I have always loved teaching poetry. I used to confine it to one unit every winter as a way to engage students after winter break, but recently shifted to starting my year with poetry. Why wait to get into the good stuff?

My thinking was confirmed by Edutopia's recent article, 4 Reasons to Start Class With a Poem Each Day, by ninth grade English teacher Brett Vogelsinger. His four reasons are:
1. Poetry is short so you can have a rich discussion after spending very little time reading.
2. Poetry is intense, allowing students to connect with emotions immediately.
3. Poems connect to other readings, both fiction and nonfiction, and can serve as an entry point to themes or ideas in a longer text.
4. Poems inspire writing; their form or ideas can easily be imitated by students.
Vogelsinger's article incorporates a multitude of poem suggestions and ends with a challenge for teachers to try starting their own classes with a poem a day, at least for National Poetry Month.

To help you accept this challenge, either now or at any other point in the school year, I've put together a list of 30 poem recommendations, some from myself and some from other middle and high school English teachers. These are poems that our students love and we hope yours will too.

1. Introduction To Poetry by Billy Collins
I love to start my poetry units with this particular poem because it usually kicks off a great discussion about how students have interacted with poetry in the past.  Sometimes, as teachers, we spend so much time teaching students how to analyze, break down, and decode poetry that we forget to teach them how to appreciate the beauty of the words and the message.
*Recommended by Presto Plans
Looking for new poetry for your middle school and high school students? These 30 poems, recommended and tested by secondary ELA teachers in their own classrooms, are sure to engage and inspire your students during National Poetry Month or any time of year.
2. How to Eat a Poem by Eve Merriam
This poem is short, uses highly accessible language, and is full of imagery. I love to ask students what they think the poet is comparing a poem to and to draw what they imagine (many think of a fruit, but I've also gotten response like a cheese steak). After reading, have students write their own how to poems, either for concrete actions, i.e. how to ride a bike, or for abstract ideas, i.e. how to catch a star.

3. I Am Offering this Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca
Before reading anything by Jimmy Santiago Baca, I like to share some brief biographical information about him with students. He was abandoned by his parents at a young age and at 13 ran away from the orphanage where his grandmother had placed him. He was convicted on drug charges in his early 20s and spent five years in prison. There he learned to read and began writing poetry. I share this information with my students to show them that beauty (like this poem) can come from great hardship and that one doesn't necessarily need a traditional education to become a great writer. This poem is packed with amazing figurative language for students to analyze but also a powerful message about the most meaningful kind of gifts we can give to each other.

4. Mr. Nobody by Anonymous
Not all poetry has to be serious. Have some fun with students as they read about all the trouble that Mr. Nobody causes. I'm sure they can easily create a list of all the mischief he is responsible for in their own homes. Students could write poems about "Somebody," "Anybody," or "Everybody."

5. The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
Talk about playing with language! This is a great poem to use to teach students about the flexibility of language.  The interesting thing about this poem is that students can understand what is happening, even though there are nonsense words like "vorpal" and "uffish." A monster called a "bandersnatch"  will capture your students' imagination.  Lewis Carroll uses portmanteaus to create new words -- a fun challenge for your own students to try.
*Recommended by Marypat at Just Add Students

Looking for new poetry for your middle school and high school students? These 30 poems, recommended and tested by secondary ELA teachers in their own classrooms, are sure to engage and inspire your students during National Poetry Month or any time of year.
6. First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay
This is a poem that I love to let students "chew on." I just give it to them and wait. My students sit with this one a while and I'll assign a freewrite about it. After some minutes to ponder, students have an "ah-ha" reaction to it. Candles are pretty rampant symbols in literature, but I've always loved how Edna St. Vincent Millay subverts our expectations in this poem. Students describe feeling proud, sad, hopeful, and a little disoriented. I love that these four lines pack such a punch!
*Recommended by Danielle Hall @ Nouvelle

7. There is no frigate like a book by Emily Dickinson
I love this poem because it is excellent advice: reading can let you travel where your wallet can't. Dickinson's sparse style a weird punctuation are fun to play with, and let's face it, the word "frigate" is entertaining!
*Recommended by TMC Saunders, Gas Station Cappuccino

8. Women by Alice Walker
Walker's voice is commanding and fierce in this poem though the lines are short and the vocabulary simple. Poems like this one show students that poetry doesn't have to be fancy or complex to carry meaning. After reading, students can analyze the symbols in the poem (the "doors" they battered down and the "mined fields" they crossed). The poem could also easily be incorporated into a unit on Civil Rights.

Looking for new poetry for your middle school and high school students? These 30 poems, recommended and tested by secondary ELA teachers in their own classrooms, are sure to engage and inspire your students during National Poetry Month or any time of year.
9. Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost
If your students read The Outsiders, you know how powerful this little poem is.  If they haven't read it, this poem is still a gem.  As short as it is, this is a powerhouse of meaning about life and death.  Use this poem to teach symbolism and word choice.  A plus for teaching this in the spring when you can look out your classroom window and see nature's first green!
*Recommended by Marypat at Just Add Students

10. Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas
This poem, which also deals with the themes of life and death, is perfect for teaching rhyme scheme and is filled with personification. It's one I can still remember reading in high school. Ask students to imagine that they are at the end of their days and write advice to the young about how to live their lives.

11. A Day by Emily Dickinson
I love this poem for so many reasons!  Anyone who has seen the sun rise or set can relate what is happening in this poem.  Even though we may see the sunrise as an ordinary event, in this poem, the speaker describes it as something extraordinary.   Wonderful metaphors and vivid imagery help readers visualize the speaker's experiences.  I have my students write a "companion" poem that describes something that is ordinary as extraordinary.
*Recommended by Marypat from Just Add Students

12. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
This book is a free verse piece that gives a voice to students' general aversions to poetry (it's "just" for girls, there's "nothing" to write about, poems are confusing and hard to understand, etc.) but then goes on to show that writing and reading poetry is not only enjoyable but can also be a good way to deal with painful emotions and memories.  It's a very powerful read and includes other famous poems along the way but makes them relevant to today's middle schoolers.
*Recommended by Mrs. Spangler in the Middle

Looking for new poetry for your middle school and high school students? These 30 poems, recommended and tested by secondary ELA teachers in their own classrooms, are sure to engage and inspire your students during National Poetry Month or any time of year.13. Love That Boy by Walter Dean Myers
One of the novels I LOVE to read with my 6th graders is Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.  Upon first look this appears to be a very simple novel, but with a journaling assignment from the teacher's perspective and poetry analysis, this is the perfect novel to share with 6th graders.  One of the poems that we analyze during this read is "Love That Boy" by Walter Dean Myers.  I adore sharing this poem because I have two boys of my own that I treasure, but also because it incorporates simile, metaphor, repetition, and rhyme in a way that is relatable to my students.  In the poem Walter Dean Myers is writing about his boy and the traits and ideals he loves about him.  My challenge is for my students to reflect on the poet's words to identify: one simile, explain why so much repetition was utilized, identify rhyming words and their purpose, and the meaning of the two metaphors, "He got long roads to walk down before the setting sun." and "He'll be a long stride walker." Once we have analyzed the poem, I find that my students are inspired to write their own "Love That..." poem that incorporates a topic they LOVE and feel moved to write about.  This student poem includes: simile, metaphor, repetition, and rhyme.  The students can't wait to share their own work, but hear the poems created by their peers that connect to Walter Dean Myers' incredible writing.
*Recommended by Erin Beers from Mrs. Beers: A Language Arts Classroom

14. Musee des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden
When tackling challenging poems like this one, I like to use the pre-reading strategy modeled in this video where students focus first on individual words from the poems, looking for patterns, before examining the poem as a whole. You'll be amazed at the meaning students are able to draw out of the poem before they see it in it's entirety. The other reason I love this poem is because of its connections to art, much of it focusing on Pieter Brueghel's painting of The Fall of Icarus. Have students match lines of the poem to aspects in the painting.

15. Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by William Carlos Williams
As a comparison to Musee des Beaux Arts, or for an easier read on the same topic, use this William Carlos Williams poem. It also focuses on Pieter Brueghel's painting of The Fall of Icarus. I like to show students how other artists have painted or drawn the same scene and then have students write a poem based on their favorite painting or drawing.
Looking for new poetry for your middle school and high school students? These 30 poems, recommended and tested by secondary ELA teachers in their own classrooms, are sure to engage and inspire your students during National Poetry Month or any time of year.
16. The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert W. Service
This poem is set in the Alaskan/Canadian snowy wilderness. First off, it's a super interesting poem that includes a dying person, supernatural encounters, the hazardous terrain, and survival...Students love this stuff. It also allows an easy study of rhyme scheme and meter because it so skillfully follows its own pattern. It allows easy integration of non-fiction resources about the Northwest Territories and the Yukon and gold mining hazards. It's a short poem that lends itself to a 2-4 day engaging study.
*Recommended by Jonathan Stephens, Created for Learning

17. Hope is the thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson
This is such a beautiful poem.  I never get tired of it!  It is poem for teaching extended metaphor and imagery.  The poem is easy for students to understand and relate to, yet the theme is complex enough to challenge their thinking about abstract terms.  How do you describe hope?
*Recommended by Marypat at Just Add Students

18. Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I teach transcendentalism we delve into the glorious essays. Emerson's "Self Reliance" and Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience." These are fantastic texts to really analyze, and compare to modern songs or news articles. However, my favorite is to show students a different side of Emerson. Rather than start with the essay, we start by the poem of the same name, "Self Reliance." We get into the ideas of transcendentalism and introduce students to the style of Emerson. We can annotate the heck out of it in less than a class since it is so short. We can also bring in non-fiction to analyze why he would have included the date and to use quotes of him discussing compasses as a source to support their opinions of the symbols.  Once they really understand the poem, students use their own figurative language to write their own poems about the voice inside them. Once I started teaching this poem BEFORE the essay I found students enjoyed the essay more and really understood the skills I wanted them to use when annotating AND the ideas of the transcendental movement. With so many influences in their life I enjoy having students focus on listening to their inner voices and doing what they know to be right instead of what others tell them is correct.
*Recommended by Carissa, The mELTing Teacher

19. To Look at Any Thing by John Moffitt
“To Look at Any Thing,” by John Moffitt, is a short poem that works its magic with students! It opens their eyes to the idea that just giving something a quick glance is never enough to make a judgement or call yourself experienced.  The speaker’s voice is commanding: “You must look at it long,” “You must enter in,” “You must take your time.” I love the poet’s use of repetition here, by which he insists that we actually become what we see and step into the nuances within. Besides repetition, we find imagery, metaphor, and alliteration. I use this poem as the opener in a packet of poems I have titled Perspectives. I ask students to discuss how this poem might relate to other topics beyond the examples of nature the poem contains. As a reflection, students write their thoughts on how they interpret the message of the poem. Is it purely about nature, or is the poet addressing our perspective on other things as well?
*Recommended by Joy Sexton

Looking for new poetry for your middle school and high school students? These 30 poems, recommended and tested by secondary ELA teachers in their own classrooms, are sure to engage and inspire your students during National Poetry Month or any time of year.20. Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson 
The twist at the end of this poem should lead to interesting conversation about how we perceive others. How could a man like Richard Cory, who "we thought that he was everything / To make us wish that we were in his place," go home "one calm summer night...and put a bullet through his head?" The poem could be used as an entry point to a unit on depression and other mental health issues.

21. How to Write the Great American Indian Novel by Sherman Alexie 
Alexie's poem also deal with how we judge other people, specifically stereotyping American Indians, but could serve as the beginning of an examination of how the "other" (anyone not white) is portrayed in literature, film, music, etc. Have students compare the poem to Disney's "Pocahontas" or the recent remake of "The Lone Ranger" featuring Johnny Depp, and then move on to other cultures' current depictions in the media, i.e. Black and Asian stereotypes in the TV series "Rush Hour."

22. Hanging Fire by Audre Lorde
While all teenagers can relate to many of the speaker's woes, this poem resonates most deeply with my African American female students. The repeated line, "and momma's in the bedroom with the door closed," reflects the impasse many teenage girls feel in their relationships with their mothers. Reading this poem can lead to rich discussion of students' fears, large and small, as well as their relationships with parents.

23. Daddy by Sylvia Plath
Like "Hanging Fire," Plath's poem deals with a strained relationship with a parent. This one is a bit darker and uses allusions to Hitler, World War II, and the Holocaust to convey the speaker's perceptions of her father and feelings about how he treated her. The poem could lead to discussions about abusive relationships, both physical and mental, and the long lasting effects they can have on children.

24. The Secret Heart by Robert Coffin
This tender poem addresses a child's perceptions of his father.  It's a wonderful poem to teach imagery and symbolism.  It can be difficult for students to initially grasp what is happening in the poem, but they can almost act out the events of the poem to help them "see" what the speaker sees.  This poem shows how poetry can be used as a tool for the speaker to reflect on life.
*Recommended by Marypat at Just Add Students

25. Abuelito Who by Sandra Cisneros
This poem, an ode to the speaker's grandfather, is full of both love and sadness. Allow students to identify the shift in the poem and discuss the images created by the figurative language. Students may have different interpretations about what has happened to the grandfather by the end of the poem (he is very sick versus he has died), but as we all have loved ones who are old or failing, it is sure to tug on some heartstrings. The poem is the perfect lead in to writing about loved ones or getting creative with figurative language.


Looking for new poetry for your middle school and high school students? These 30 poems, recommended and tested by secondary ELA teachers in their own classrooms, are sure to engage and inspire your students during National Poetry Month or any time of year.
26. Where I'm From by George Ella Lyons
For the past three years, I've used this poem during the first few weeks of school to teach the process of close reading, introduce how word choice creates mood and tone and to help build a cohesive culture in my classroom. This is always the first text we read, and I enjoy the poem because the theme is accessible, but the images are such that students really have to read closely to truly get it. I have students spend a day analyzing the poem, and writing about the picture of childhood it paints for the reader. We then spend a day or two creating our own versions of "Where I'm From" poems, workshopping them with three sets of partners and then presenting them to the class. My students are always pleasantly surprised that they have more in common with their classmates than they initially realized, and I've found this poem to be a great way to get students excited about analyzing, writing, and sharing poetry.
*Recommended by Sara Nelson, GritGrindTeach

27. Ego-Tripping (there may be a reason) by Nikki Giovanni
This poem is all about how "bad" the poet thinks she is and is full of allusions to the reasons why being black and female is so great. You may want to have students listen to a reading of the poem by the poet to truly give it justice. After reading, have students identify, and if needed research, some of the references in the poem. They can also write their own poems using allusions to show how "bad" they are.

28. Naming Myself by Barbara Kingsolver
Although the lifestyles of teens may change over generations, their search for a better understanding of themselves remains the same no matter the year. Their constant search for identity makes Barbara Kingsolver’s poem, “Naming Myself,” a compelling read in the secondary English classroom. The poem’s themes about family, heritage, and individuality engage students and help them pose questions that are relevant to their lives: What is the meaning of a name? Why do women take their husband’s names? Is it acceptable to marry someone from a different ethnicity? No doubt, this sophisticated poem will captivate your students and provide a meaningful learning experience.
*Recommended by Kim Patrick, OCBeachTeacher

29. Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare
If you want to recognize Shakespeare's 400th birthday, this sonnet is a great way to do so.  I love this sonnet because it sounds like a teen wrote it!  By teaching the sonnet form, you will address rhythm, rhyme, iambic pentameter, couplets, quatrains, and the turn.  While these are all very technical aspects of poetry, the approachable nature of this poem makes it fairly easy to understand, so teaching the form is easy to do...and, of course, who doesn't need a little more Shakespeare??!!
*Recommended by Marypat at Just Add Students

Looking for new poetry for your middle school and high school students? These 30 poems, recommended and tested by secondary ELA teachers in their own classrooms, are sure to engage and inspire your students during National Poetry Month or any time of year.
30. [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] by e. e. cummings
Perfect for comparison with the uplifting power of love described in Shakespeare's "Sonnet 29," this poem also shows students that the "rules" of poetry are meant to be broken. cummings plays with punctuation, ignores capitalization, and breaks lines where ever he darn well pleases, and yet his poem is still a thing of beauty. Use this poem to encourage your students to abandon any ideas they might have about what poetry should look or sound like.

Get daily reminders of these poems during National Poetry month this April by following @theliterarymaven on Instagram. You can also view all of the poem images in this slideshow.

For more poetry lesson ideas and resources: