December 29, 2017

Teaching Literary Elements: Irony

Irony is one of my favorite literary elements to teach. Who doesn't love a good plot twist? I love challenging students to find their own examples of irony from songs, films, and books. Whether you are teaching the types of irony as new concepts for your students, diving in deeper, or just reviewing the basics, read on to find activities and resources that will benefit all levels of students.
Irony is one of my favorite literary elements to teach. Who doesn't love a good plot twist? I love challenging students to find their own examples of irony from songs, films, and books. Whether you are teaching the types of irony as new concepts for your students, diving in deeper, or just reviewing the basics, you'll find activities and resources below that will benefit all levels of students.

Terms to Teach
At the start of my teaching career, I taught primarily ninth grade students at an urban, Title 1 high school. My students came from a variety of K-8 schools, which meant they came with varying English Language Arts experiences. To ensure that all of my students started high school with a strong foundation in the literary elements, I found it best to give direct instruction followed by ample opportunities to apply terms and practice skills.

During my direct instruction, I introduced students to the following terms: irony, verbal irony, situational irony, and dramatic irony. While I wouldn't have students take notes on sarcasm and coincidence, I would review how those are different from verbal irony and situational irony. Many of my students were unaccustomed to taking notes so I provided them with a guided note taking template. This three column sheet provided a structured space for the term, definition, and examples. This note taking PowerPoint has clear, concise definitions and examples plus built in guided and independent practice.

Activities for Reinforcement
Before applying these newly learned terms to a short story or novel, I like to give my students opportunities to practice using shorter texts or media. For irony, using short video clips provides great visual reinforcement. I have collected examples of verbal irony, situational irony, and dramatic irony in this playlist. I play a few and have students identify the type of irony in the clip and explain what makes it ironic.

Another way I reinforce the types of irony is by using a menu of activities based on Bloom's Taxonomy. Students choose activities from four different section of the menu: knowledge and comprehension, application and analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Students examine short text examples of different types of irony and can use their knowledge to complete tasks such as creating a cartoon illustrating one of the types of irony.

Texts to Read
There are so many great short stories that have irony in them. "The Sniper" by Liam O'Flaherty is one I often use because  I’m always looking for texts that will draw in my reluctant male readers. Anything with war, guns, or a little violence ups the appealing factor immediately. “The Sniper” is set in the 1920s during the Irish revolution. A sniper is stationed on a rooftop contemplating how he will get down before the light of dawn exposes him. I often use this text when teaching irony because of its unexpected ending.

Irony is one of my favorite literary elements to teach. Who doesn't love a good plot twist? I love challenging students to find their own examples of irony from songs, films, and books. Whether you are teaching the types of irony as new concepts for your students, diving in deeper, or just reviewing the basics, read on to find activities and resources that will benefit all levels of students.

“The Interlopers” by Saki is another short story that is sure to hook reluctant readers. It is set at night and focuses on a long-standing turf war. The two main characters are out in the forest, the disputed territory, hunting each other, but as the two men meet, a tree falls and traps both of them beneath it. The twist at the end of the story makes it another great text to use for teaching irony.

Irony is one of my favorite literary elements to teach. Who doesn't love a good plot twist? I love challenging students to find their own examples of irony from songs, films, and books. Whether you are teaching the types of irony as new concepts for your students, diving in deeper, or just reviewing the basics, read on to find activities and resources that will benefit all levels of students.

I often teach irony right before the holidays, which makes "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry another excellent short story to use because of its message about giving and thinking of others. The story is set on Christmas Eve as a young, newly married couple, Jim and Della, struggles to find gifts that are worthy of each other. Both end up giving up what they treasure most to buy a gift for their loved one, but the twist at the end of the story makes their gifts worthless. The Onion recently published this satirical piece that would be a great pairing with the short story.

Irony is one of my favorite literary elements to teach. Who doesn't love a good plot twist? I love challenging students to find their own examples of irony from songs, films, and books. Whether you are teaching the types of irony as new concepts for your students, diving in deeper, or just reviewing the basics, read on to find activities and resources that will benefit all levels of students.


Fictional short stories are great, but I like to use nonfiction when teaching irony as well. No matter how much time has passed since its sinking, the Titanic continues to be a topic that fascinates students. "RMS Titanic" by Hanson Baldwin was written 22 years after the ship's sinking and extensive research done by Baldwin, but still contains inaccuracies when compared to the knowledge we have today, which creates the instances of irony. 

Creative Application
Once students seem comfortable with the terms or if students need a challenge, I introduce students to a digital breakout, "Isn't It Ironic?" for additional practice. A digital breakout is an online scavenger hunt-like game where players use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open a series of locks.

Irony is one of my favorite literary elements to teach. Who doesn't love a good plot twist? I love challenging students to find their own examples of irony from songs, films, and books. Whether you are teaching the types of irony as new concepts for your students, diving in deeper, or just reviewing the basics, read on to find activities and resources that will benefit all levels of students.

In this breakout, students have been given a copy of the lyrics to Alanis Morissette's song "Ironic" to analyze, but even after looking back at their notes, they are puzzled. They don't see a single example of irony in the song. They have to interact with a variety of text and media to find the lyrics that unlock the five locks, and then they can be certain that they understand irony better than Alanis Morissette.

In addition to needing content knowledge to successfully complete the game, breakouts require students to think critically, communicate, collaborate, and use creativity. I also love breakouts because they provide students with many opportunities to fail and try again. Every unsuccessful attempt to open a lock forces them to reexamine their information and their thinking.

Assessment
While many of the activities described above allow students to show their understanding of skills and terms, as a summative assessment I use a set of text-based assessments, each with a reading passage, 7 multiple choice questions, and a short written response question to assess my students’ knowledge of irony. 

Irony is one of my favorite literary elements to teach. Who doesn't love a good plot twist? I love challenging students to find their own examples of irony from songs, films, and books. Whether you are teaching the types of irony as new concepts for your students, diving in deeper, or just reviewing the basics, read on to find activities and resources that will benefit all levels of students.


The variety of passages and text complexity levels allows me to retest students as needed and make accommodations for struggling readers. The variety was also helpful in the years that I had classes whose eyes tended to wander during quizzes or tests.

You can find all of my resources for teaching irony here.

December 18, 2017

On My Bookshelf: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

The main characters in Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson suffer from two different eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia, as well as depression and cutting. The depiction of both girls and the diseases they struggle with was incredibly realistic and accurate. It's not a book for the faint hearted as it takes you inside the mind of Lia (anorexic) and she struggles with the death of her former best friend, Cassie (bulimic). Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss—her life—and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend's memory and racked with guilt for not being able to help save her. In her most powerfully moving novel since Speak, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia's struggle, her painful path to recovery, and her desperate attempts to hold on to the most important thing of all: hope.

Why I liked it: The main characters in Wintergirls suffer from two different eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia, as well as depression and cutting. The depiction of both girls and the diseases they struggle with was incredibly realistic and accurate. It's not a book for the faint hearted as it takes you inside the mind of Lia (anorexic) and she struggles with the death of her former best friend, Cassie (bulimic).
The main characters in Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson suffer from two different eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia, as well as depression and cutting. The depiction of both girls and the diseases they struggle with was incredibly realistic and accurate. It's not a book for the faint hearted as it takes you inside the mind of Lia (anorexic) and she struggles with the death of her former best friend, Cassie (bulimic). Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Their once supportive friendship turned toxic when the girls began competing to see who could be the thinnest. Even after Cassie's death, Lia is consumed with calorie counting, extreme exercise, a distorted image of herself, and scathing self deprecation. While Lia is not always the most likable character (as a reader I was angry with the ways in which and the number of times she hurt the people around her), I did still want her to be able to overcome her disorder and survive. Lia's voice also drew you in, and as much as I was angry with her for hurting her loved ones, I also felt myself sharing her annoyance at her parents' attempts to oversee and control her.

Classroom application: This is a novel I would recommend to teachers, counselors, nurses, parents, etc. to help them understand the self image issues too many girls struggle with and to emphasize the important of helping teenage girls build up positive self images. Because of the heavy themes, I would recommend this to be added to a high school library classroom.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Wintergirls 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.

December 15, 2017

14 World War II and Holocaust Novels to Recommend to Your Secondary Students

Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and within that, World War II and the Holocaust are my favorite historical events to read about. It's a time in history of fascinating extremes, a time when people demonstrated amazing courage and selflessness, but also a time when people were consumed by terrible cruelty and evil. Here's 14 historical fiction titles, focused on World War II and/or the Holocaust and separated into middle school and high school, that I've recently read and would recommend.
Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and within that, World War II and the Holocaust are my favorite historical events to read about. It is likely because those are the events that shaped my grandparents' generation and I had a close relationship with my grandparents. It's also a time in history of fascinating extremes, a time when people demonstrated amazing courage and selflessness, but also a time when people were consumed by terrible cruelty and evil.

Here's 14 historical fiction titles, focused on World War II and/or the Holocaust and separated into middle school and high school, that I've recently read and would recommend. Click the title of each to read my full review and ideas for using it in the classroom.


Middle School
1. Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Told using a third person limited narrator, the novel focuses on Bruno, a young German boy growing up during World War II. Although a fictional account, it presents a child's perspective of the choices one family makes during a terrible time in history.
Note: A careful discussion with students about the deficits of this book should accompany the reading of it.

2. The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg
Though also fictional, this novel is an amazing tale of a young man's successful escape from a concentration camp in hopes of warning the rest of the world about its horrors. The novel is full of action and adventure without being overly violent or gruesome.

3. Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
Focused on a little known event in American history, This narrative nonfiction novel is a fascinating story of the prejudice and injustice that faced black men and women in America's armed forces during World War II.

4. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The lives of Ada and her brother Jamie are changed forever when the threat of bombing forces them to leave London for the English countryside. After realizing what poverty and ignorance they once lived in, Ada hopes that they'll never have to return.

5. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This is the tale of two best friends serving in unusual roles during WWII. The two girls face danger and losing each other in this gripping narrative.

6. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Like Code Name Verity, this novel is set during WWII and features young women in non-traditional roles. As a female pilot, Rose can only transport planes, not engage in combat, but when she goes astray on a mission, she is forced into enemy territory and eventually taken to a concentration camp.

7. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
This novel chronicles the harrowing experience of Lina and her family, labeled as anti-Soviet during the 1940s and imprisoned in a labor camp into the 1950s. Taken from their home in Lithuania to the coldest edges of the globe, each day is a struggle to survive.

8. From Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Four young adults trek toward the Baltic Sea during World War II, hoping to board a ship and escape the advancing Russians. The historical fiction novel, told in alternating points of view, reveals the struggles of each of the narrators leading up to the deadliest maritime disaster in history.

High School
9. Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero
The lives of Elsi, a young half-Jewish girl in the Lodz ghetto, Matilda, a Romanian child taken from her home to be Aryanized, and Willem, a Nazi doctor, become intertwined as each struggles to survive.

10. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Two sisters have two very different experiences in occupied France during WWII. Despite the struggles of everyday life, both women risk their lives to save others.

11. China Dolls by Lisa See
Three young Asian women meet while auditioning at a San Francisco nightclub and quickly become friends despite their differences. But the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II will change everything.

12. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The lives of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a German orphan recruited by the Nazis, intersect in extraordinary ways in a tale full of magic and beautiful details.

13. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
This nonfiction biography, reads like a great narrative. Louis Zamperini survives unbelievable odds as a POW during WWII.

14. Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
This literary nonfiction reads like a spy thriller. America's efforts to build the atomic bomb, the sabotage of German weapon manufacture, and the Soviets attempts to steal American secrets are woven together in this action packed story.

You can find all of my teaching resources for the Holocaust here.

December 11, 2017

On My Bookshelf: King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard

In King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard, the Mare Barrow of Red Queen, the first book in the series, is back. In Glass Sword, the second book in the series, Mare was hard to warm up to; she seemed cold, distant, and calculating. Much of the novel focuses on her complicated relationship with Maven, as both are unsure of how to deal with the feelings they deny that they still have for each other. Maven can't stand to have her be killed, but also can't let her go free. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s #1 New York Times bestselling Red Queen series, rebellion is rising and allegiances will be tested on every side.

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.
In King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard, the Mare Barrow of Red Queen, the first book in the series, is back. In Glass Sword, the second book in the series, Mare was hard to warm up to; she seemed cold, distant, and calculating. Much of the novel focuses on her complicated relationship with Maven, as both are unsure of how to deal with the feelings they deny that they still have for each other. Maven can't stand to have her be killed, but also can't let her go free. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Why I liked it: In King's Cage, the Mare Barrow of Red Queen, the first book in the series, is back. In Glass Sword, the second book in the series, Mare was hard to warm up to; she seemed cold, distant, and calculating. In this book, I appreciated her complicated relationship with Maven, as both are unsure of how to deal with the feelings they deny that they still have for each other. Maven can't stand to have her be killed, but also can't let her go free. 

The introduction of other character's viewpoints was an interesting twist, but different from the previous two books in the series. While at first it seemed a bit unnatural, the alternate narrators were necessary to tie together the plot lines, especially while Mare was being held captive.

The ending of the novel was very much unresolved, leaving open the possibility for another book in the series, which I originally thought was a trilogy, but according to the author's website is a quartet (there are also two novellas focused on minor characters in the series). At the close of the novel I was left with many questions: Was Cal really choosing the throne over Mare? How would Maven handle the news of the crowning of his brother? What would Mare and the Red Guard do next and where will the go?


Classroom application: As with the rest of the series, there is violence in the novel, though mostly of the fantastical kind, and Mare and Cal's relationship does escalate into a sexual one in this book, so this might make the book more appropriate for upper middle school and high school students. The issues surrounding an unresolved relationships, both in Mare's relationship with Maven and in her relationship with Cal, are issues many teenage readers can likely relate to.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of King's Cage 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.

December 4, 2017

On My Bookshelf: Out of The Easy by Ruta Sepetys

In Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, Josie, the protagonist, is a fierce character. Because her mother thinks only of herself, Josie learns to fend for herself at a very young age. She has a passion for books and education, and is determined to create a better life for herself despite the many obstacles in her way. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.
In Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, Josie, the protagonist, is a fierce character. Because her mother thinks only of herself, Josie learns to fend for herself at a very young age. She has a passion for books and education, and is determined to create a better life for herself despite the many obstacles in her way. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Why I liked it: I've been a huge Ruta Sepetys fan and Out of The Easy might just be my favorite of her novels so far. I loved that Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea focused on lesser known parts of World War II history, but not as much as I loved the characters in Out of the Easy. 

Josie, the protagonist, is fierce. Because her mother thinks only of herself, Josie learns to fend for herself at a very young age. She has a passion for books and education, and is determined to create a better life for herself despite the many obstacles in her way. While Josie has a variety of friends who support her, it is still heartbreaking to see her own mother turn against her and take advantage of her over and over.


Classroom application: Because it deals with the issue of prostitution, this would be a novel I would add to a high school classroom library, but not a middle school one. Adultery, homosexuality, and (mild) sexual fetishes are also topics present in the book. 

New Orleans is such a colorful city and makes for a rich backdrop for the story. Parts of the novel could be used as mentor texts to help students develop setting in their own narratives or to help students understand how setting can affect plot.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Out of The Easy 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.

December 3, 2017

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Celebrating the Holidays in the Secondary Classroom

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




Looking for the recap? Click on the image below.


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.

On Tuesday, December 5, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about celebrating the holidays in the secondary classroom.

The Format:
8:00 – What and where do you teach? Include a link to your blog if you have one. #2ndaryELA
8:05 Q1: Does your school celebrate the holidays? With what types of events or activities? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: Do you celebrate the holidays within your classroom? With what types of lessons or activities? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: How do you keep students focused on curriculum during this month which is filled with special events and activities? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: How do you get students to think about others during this month? Lessons? Videos? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: Share some resources for helping students think beyond themselves during the season of giving (e.g. blog posts, Pinterest 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 “Latest.”
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.)

You can also check out a quick video tutorial in this blog post.

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:

December 1, 2017

Best Practices for Co-Teaching Bliss

This #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about co-teaching strategies in the secondary ELA classroom. Middle school and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed their experiences with co-teaching. Teachers also shared tips and best practices for developing positive co-teaching relationships.

Read through the chat below to find out how to navigate prickly co-teaching partnerships. You'll get ideas about how to divvy up the marking and planning load to ensure that it is equally distributed.

Hope you'll join us next week for another chat. 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, links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction.

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November 27, 2017

On My Bookshelf: The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner alternates between two first person narrators: Kyle, a teenage boy trying to make his way home from school on 9/11, and Hannah, the teenage girl he rescues on the way. Kyle and Hannah are both struggling with burdens that neither is fully prepared to disclose at first. In the midst of great tragedy, the two try to comfort each other, but also have moments of teenagers just being teenagers. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows, covered in ash, and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a NYC detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.
The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner alternates between two first person narrators: Kyle, a teenage boy trying to make his way home from school on 9/11, and Hannah, the teenage girl he rescues on the way. Kyle and Hannah are both struggling with burdens that neither is fully prepared to disclose at first. In the midst of great tragedy, the two try to comfort each other, but also have moments of teenagers just being teenagers. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Why I liked it: The Memory of Things took me two tries to get started reading, but once I did I couldn't stop. The novel alternates between two first person narrators: Kyle, a teenage boy trying to make his way home from school on 9/11, and Hannah, the teenage girl he rescues on the way. Kyle's sections are written in a traditional narrative style, but are broken up by Hannah's sections, which are written almost in verse, which is what I got stuck on during my first attempt at reading.

Kyle and Hannah are both struggling with burdens that neither is fully prepared to disclose at first. Kyle's mother and sister are across the country and were supposed to fly home that day, his father is a police officer responding to the scene of the event, and his Uncle Matt is wheelchair bound at home. Hannah is experiencing temporary amnesia (I'll leave you in suspense as to the why). In the midst of great tragedy, the two try to comfort each other, but also have moments of teenagers just being teenagers. 


Classroom application: Reading the novel was a very personal experience for me because I too was a teenager when 9/11 occurred, and though I was not living in New York City, I shared the experience of watching the event unfold on television and overcome the nation in the days that followed. Students today do not remember the event, and more likely than not weren't even born yet, so to help them create a personal connection with the novel, they could be assigned an interview of someone who was alive that day. In the interview, students could focus on not just where their interviewee was and what they were doing that day, but their views on how 9/11 changed the world in the short and long term.

A fun activity for students to try out during reading would be memory exercises similar to the one Kyle teaches Hannah. You could even hold a classroom competition for the title of student with the best memory.

This novel could be paired with other young adult fiction focused on 9/11 like Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan and others mentioned in this article. The novels could be used in themed literature circles focused on how the same historical event is portrayed in fiction.

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

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 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.

November 26, 2017

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Co-Teaching Strategies

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




Looking for the recap? Click on the image below.


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.

On Tuesday, November 28, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about co-teaching strategies for the English Language Arts classroom.

The Format:
8:00 – What and where do you teach? Include a link to your blog if you have one. #2ndaryELA
8:05 Q1: What questions do you have about co-teaching? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: What have been your experiences with co-teaching? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: Discuss your best tips or strategies for best practice with co-teaching. #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: How do you co-teach when the subject teacher or the other teacher is reluctant to collaborate and/or "share" the classroom? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: How do you divide up the marking and planning load to ensure it is fairly distributed? #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 “Latest.”
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.)

You can also check out a quick video tutorial in this blog post.

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:

November 24, 2017

Teaching Literary Elements: Theme

Theme is one of those concepts in literature that students seem to struggle with more than others. It's likely because there is no one right answer and it requires a higher level of thinking than identifying a part of the plot or a character type. Whether you are teaching theme as new concepts for your students, diving in deeper, or just reviewing the basics, you'll find activities and resources below that will benefit all levels of students.



November 20, 2017

On My Bookshelf: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas covers so many important topics that are rarely touched upon in young adult literature in realistic ways. Even better is that Starr Carter is a strong African American protagonist supported by family members who are equally as well-developed as characters. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Why I liked it: As an inner-city teacher for many years, The Hate U Give covers so many important topics that are rarely touched upon: racism, racial profiling, gangs, drugs, code switching, interracial relationships, urban decline, black on black violence, police brutality, witness intimidation, and race riots. Not only are these topics addressed, but they are done so realistically; the reader doesn't feel like the author has just tossed them into the plot to spice things up.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas covers so many important topics that are rarely touched upon in young adult literature in realistic ways. Even better is that Starr Carter is a strong African American protagonist supported by family members who are equally as well-developed as characters. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

One of my favorite parts of the novel is the relationship between the main character Starr and her family: Lisa, her mother, Big Mav, her father, Seven, her older half-brother, and her younger brother Sekani. Each family member is as well developed as Starr is and has a unique relationship with her. The family is far from perfect, but throughout their struggles they find ways to compromise and constantly support one another.


Classroom application: Due to the topics addressed and the amount of profanity in the novel, this is one I would only recommend to add to a high school classroom library. If your students have already read and loved this one, I would recommend On The Come Up by Hannah Weyer, which also features a strong African American female as its protagonist. If you are looking for other young adult novels that deal with race and police brutality, this article has some great recent recommendations, which would be perfect for creating themed literature circle choices.

There are so many nonfiction connections that could be made with the topics I listed above, any of which could lead into a research paper or project.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Hate U Give 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.

November 17, 2017

Successfully Structuring Socratic Seminars

This #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about Socratic seminars. Middle school and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed the most effective seating arrangements. Teachers also shared helpful rules and procedures for discussion.

Read through the chat below to find out how to prepare the questions for discussion, often student created and teacher selected.  You'll get ideas about how to encourage and track participation.  You'll also find ways to assess students without penalizing quieter voices.

Hope you'll join us next week for another chat. 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, links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction.

November 13, 2017

On My Bookshelf: The Misfits by James Howe

The Misfits is the a sweet story of four friends who seem much wiser than their seventh grade years. Despite having four very different personalities, Skeezie, Addie, Joe, and Bobby support and care for each other because they understand what it is like to be different. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: Kids who get called the worst names oftentimes find each other. That's how it was with us. Skeezie Tookis and Addie Carle and Joe Bunch and me. We call ourselves the Gang of Five, but there are only four of us. We do it to keep people on their toes. Make 'em wonder. Or maybe we do it because we figure that there's one more kid out there who's going to need a gang to be a part of. A misfit, like us.

Skeezie, Addie, Joe, and Bobby -- they've been friends forever. They laugh together, have lunch together, and get together once a week at the Candy Kitchen to eat ice cream and talk about important issues. Life isn't always fair, but at least they have each other -- and all they really want to do is survive the seventh grade.

That turns out to be more of a challenge than any of them had anticipated. Starting with Addie's refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance and her insistence on creating a new political party to run for student council, the Gang of Five is in for the ride of their lives. Along the way they will learn about politics and popularity, love and loss, and what it means to be a misfit. After years of getting by, they are given the chance to stand up and be seen -- not as the one-word jokes their classmates have tried to reduce them to, but as the full, complicated human beings they are just beginning to discover they truly are.
The Misfits is the a sweet story of four friends who seem much wiser than their seventh grade years. Despite having four very different personalities, Skeezie, Addie, Joe, and Bobby support and care for each other because they understand what it is like to be different. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Why I liked it: The Misfits is the a sweet story of four friends who seem much wiser than their seventh grade years. Despite having four very different personalities, Skeezie, Addie, Joe, and Bobby support and care for each other because they understand what it is like to be different. While the plot of the The Misfits isn't without conflict, it was refreshing to read a novel about middle school students whose troubles didn't revolve around mean girls, cyberbullying, etc.


Classroom application: The novel could be tied in to a unit on elections and political parties as it centers around student council elections at Paintbrush Falls Middle School. The novel also touches on racial issues and Addie's protest of the Pledge of Allegiance could be tied into current events connected to football players refusal to stand for the singing of the National Anthem.

The Misfits is the first of four books in a series focused on the four main characters, all of which would be great additions to a middle school classroom library.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Misfits 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.

November 12, 2017

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Socratic Seminars

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




Looking for the recap? Click on the image below.


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.

On Tuesday, November 14, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about using Socratic Seminars in the English Language Arts classroom.

The Format:
8:00 – What and where do you teach? Include a link to your blog if you have one. #2ndaryELA
8:05 Q1: What seating arrangement(s) do you use for your seminars? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: What rules/procedures do you have in place to ensure successful seminars with your students? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: How are seminar questions prepared, by teacher or students? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: In what ways do you encourage/track seminar participation? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: How do you assess student seminar performance? #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 “Latest.”
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.)

You can also check out a quick video tutorial in this blog post.

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:

November 10, 2017

8 Realistic Fiction Titles to Recommend to Middle and High School Boys

Boys can be pickier customers than girls when it comes to choosing a book to read. They need just the right book to hook them. Here's 8 realistic fiction titles, separated into middle school and high school, that I've recently read and would recommend for boys. Click the title of each to read my full review and ideas for using it in the classroom.
Boys can be pickier customers than girls when it comes to choosing a book to read. They need just the right book to hook them. Is it that too many boys see reading as an activity "for girls"? Or do teachers, many of us female, read too many "girl books" and not enough ones "for boys", and are therefore unable to give good recommendations?

Whatever the reason, here's 8 realistic fiction titles, separated into middle school and high school, that I've recently read and would recommend for boys. Click the title of each to read my full review and ideas for using it in the classroom.

Middle School
1. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Jackie is from Kansas, but after his mother passes away suddenly, his father, an officer in the army post-WWII, places him in a boys boarding school in Maine. He eventually befriends Early, the only boy at school who is more of an outcast than he is. Their adventure, equal parts magic, pirates, and strange coincidences, leads the boys to find things they didn't even know they were looking for.

2. My Cousin's Keeper by Simon French
Kieran is pretty happy with his life with his mom, his soccer-playing dad, and his younger sister Gina. But in the midst of his fifth grade year, his cousin Bon arrives at the same time as the new girl Julia. Kieran struggles to decide if he wants to fit in with his friends or stand by his strange cousin Bon. What will it take for him to do what is right?

3. Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
Doug is a fourteen year old boy with seemingly endless problems, both at school and at home. When he moves to a new town his troubles don't end, but he makes some new friends that make it all a little more bearable.

High School
4. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon is a typical teenager, trying to figure out where he fits in and decide who he is; he just also happens to be not so openly gay and being blackmailed by a classmate for it. The themes of friendship, relationship, betrayal, and trust will draw in teen readers.

5. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Summer in a small town in Alabama is anything but dull when Cullen's cousin overdoses, his brother disappears, the most beautiful girl in town becomes his girlfriend, and the town goes nuts over the alleged sighting of a rare bird.

6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
This novel tells the tale of an outsider determined to make his own path in life. The novel also provides opportunities for teens to reflect on the loved ones they've lost.

Both
7. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
This fast-paced novel written in verse. Josh, a 12-year old basketball player, must learn to balance school and basketball, as both family and friendships change.

8. Code of Honor by Alan Gratz
Kamran Smith used to have it all: a starring role on the football team, a beautiful girlfriend, the title of Homecoming King, a loyal best friend, and a spot at West Point in the fall. But after his brother is named as a suspected terrorist, Kamran and his parents are deatined by Homeland Security and Kamran must fight to prove to everyone, even himself, that his brother is innocent.