April 30, 2017

#2ndaryELA Twitter Topic: Surviving the End of the Year

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about surviving the end of the year.
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, May 2, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about surviving the end of the year.

The Format:
8:00 Intros: What and where do you teach? Include a link to your blog if you have one. #2ndaryELA
8:05 Q1: What final papers and projects do you do at the end of the year? Share favorites. #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: Do you have final exams at the end of the year? How do you make review interesting for students? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: Share tips on how you stay healthy during this busy season. #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: Do you have any special end of the year celebrations in your classroom? Academics related or just for fun? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: Share a lesson or tip for what to do with students on those really hot days. #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 29, 2017

Resources For Creating Digital Breakouts: Ideas For Making Your Own Activities

Looking for a new and creative way of having your students learn a new topic or reinforce skills? Breakouts are a great way to make content more engaging and encourage cooperation among students. Learn more about creating your own breakout activities, also known as Escape Room games, and get ideas on how to lead students to a URL, clue, or code using text, questions, visuals, articles, videos, or songs.
Creating Your Breakout Website & Your Digital Lock
You can likely use any website creator to make a digital breakout, but Google Sites is probably the best option and it is what I use. It's free, you have access to it if you have a Gmail account, it's straightforward and simple to use, and you'll easily be able to integrate a Google Form, which acts as the digital "lock" for the breakout.

Your Google Form can have as many "locks" in it as you'd like. A "lock" is a field where students will enter a code. The code can be numbers, letters, or some combination of both.

You can find a video tutorial about how to create a Google site here, how to embed items from Google Drive into your Google Site here, and how to create a "locked" Google Form here.

Planning Out Your Breakout
Think about the information you want to include in your breakout. What do topics do you want students to learn about? What skills would you like them to practice? Do you want them to read an article about an author's life? Do you want them to review Greek and Latin roots and their meanings? Once you have some ideas of what you want students to do, you can start to think about how you will lead students to those pieces of information and/or tasks.

In a digital breakout, you usually want to lead students to one of three places.
1. You can lead them directly to a code that will open a lock.
2. You can lead them directly to a clue that will help them figure out the code to open a lock.
3. You can lead them to another URL that will give them a clue to help them figure out the code to open a lock.
There are a few different ways to lead students to these three things.

Using Text
One way to lead students to information or a task is by using text. You can put text directly on the main page of your Google Site or create a Google Doc and link that to the main page. Be sure to make the sharing permissions of any Google Doc "View Only" so students don't accidentally edit it. You can also create a link that forces students to make a copy of the Doc which they can then edit.

You can also create fake emails, fake text message conversations, fake concert tickets or airplane tickets, fake store receipts, fake newspaper articles, or fake, signs, ransom notes, or diplomas. You can then embed an image your fake item on your Google Site.

Some ideas for manipulating text to spell out a URL, clue, or code:
1. Use capital letters
2. Use bolded text or a different color text
3. Underline certain letters
4. If it is a shorter piece of text, omit letters
5. Use the first letters of every paragraph, sentence, or line of a poem

Using Articles, Video, or Songs 
Another way to lead students to information is by using resources that already exist on the internet, like articles, videos, songs, etc. Find articles, videos, or songs that relate to the topic or skill your breakout is focused on. In an article, find a key word or important number to use as a code to unlock one of the locks. In a video or song, look or listen for a key word or important number to use as a code.

Since articles, videos, and songs are all things you cannot edit, you need to include a link to these types of resources somewhere on your breakout site. You can link text or images on Google Sites. This video shows you how to embed a link in text and the process for linking an image is similar.

If you are sharing a link to a video, you may want to run it through SafeShare.TV to remove any advertisements and comments to prevent your students from being exposed to inappropriate content. You can also edit the description of the video with SafeShare.TV to include a clue or code. Just be sure that your district does not block the site.

Using Questions 
You can also lead students to information by having them answer questions about information they've read, watched, or listened to or by having them answer questions that allow them to practice a skill.

Some ideas for using questions to lead to a URL, clue, or code:
1. Have a series of multiple choice questions in a Google Doc with the answers spelling out a code (i.e. ACDBA).
2. Create a letter/number code to accompany several questions. Beneath each letter of the answer, have a corresponding number. I create a table with two rows in a Google Doc with students spelling out the answer in the top row and the corresponding numbers below. You can then give a series of numbers at the bottom of the Google Doc that will spell out a word that has no question accompanying it. Students will have to use the letter/number combinations from their other answers to figure it out.
3. Create a quiz using Google Forms. Once students have correctly answered all of the questions, you can give URLS, clues, or codes in the feedback when they view their scores.

Using Visuals
You can get creative with images and other visuals to give students a URL, clue, or code. Here's a few ways to do that:

1. Hide words in a mandala or a snote.
2. Select an image to turn into a puzzle using Jigsaw Planet  or using Google Drawings (here's an example)
3. Link parts of an image in Google Drawings or using ThingLink
4. Have students look for something using the street view of Google Maps

There's tons of other ideas and resources shared here on the Breakout EDU site. Good luck planning and creating your own breakout!

You can find all of my breakout resources here. I'm also happy to take requests or collaborate on creating one; just send me an email.

April 28, 2017

Planning and Creating My First Digital Breakout Activity: Previewing The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

The timer is ticking. Will your students be able to escape? Breakouts are a great way to make content interactive and encourage collaboration among students. Learn more about breakout activities, also known as Escape Room games, and how I planned and created my first digital breakout for previewing The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.
Right now I teach intervention ELA classes to small groups of seventh and eighth graders. The class is a mix of supporting them with reading and writing assignments in their regular ELA class and providing additional instruction and practice in weak skill areas.

This year our standardized state testing schedule was extremely spread out because our spring break fell right in the middle of it. Since students were wiped from a morning of testing and our schedule was all mixed up after testing is finished, I thought it would be the perfect time to try out a Breakout EDU.

What is a Breakout?
A breakout is a scavenger hunt-like game where players use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open a locked box. Breakouts can be done hands-on with physical locked boxes or digitally using a Google Form.

Why Use Breakouts?
1. Breakouts shift the ownership of learning from the teacher to the student.
2. In addition to the content knowledge needed to succeed in a specific game, breakouts require critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication.
3. A breakout provides learners with many opportunities to fail and try again. Every unsuccessful attempt to open a lock forces students to reexamine their information and their thinking.

Why Use Digital Breakouts?

A digital breakout requires no preparation of materials, no time spent setting up, and no purchase of a Breakout EDU kit.

Getting Started With Breakouts
It's free to join the Breakout EDU site and access any of the pre-made games. Some of the games have been vetted by the site, while others are in the "Sandbox" because they haven't been checked out yet (scroll all the way down on the Games page to see the Sandbox). There's a separate listing of digital breakouts, but any physical breakout can be tweaked and turned into a digital breakout. The breakout kits of boxes, locks, etc. are available for purchase here for $125, but many people also buy their own materials to create their own kits. For even more breakouts, you can join the Breakout EDU Facebook group as well as specific Facebook groups for each subject area.

I don't have a kit yet, so my first breakouts were digital. My seventh grade students were almost finished reading The Giver and I found a breakout for the book that another teacher shared in the Breakout EDU English Teachers Facebook group. Feeling inspired, I then created a breakout for previewing The Outsiders, the novel my eighth grade students were about to start reading.

Planning My First Breakout
Since my breakout was topic-based (rather than skill-based), I first thought about the information related to the topic with which I wanted students to interact. I came up with:
1. S. E. Hinton's letter to fans so students would understand her motivation for writing the book
2. The original movie trailer so students could visualize the characters and time period (plus see the star stacked cast!)
3. Videos of music from the time period, specifically Elvis and The Beatles to represent the Greasers and the Socials
4. Articles about important cultural influences on the book, such as drive in movies and the Vietnam War
5. Robert Frost's poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay"
6. S. E. Hinton's birthplace, Tulsa, Oklahoma, which served as the setting of the novel

Once I had all of the articles, videos, text, etc. that I wanted students to interact with, I had to plant clues that would lead students to another piece of information or decide on a code students would use to open a lock. Since I didn't have a physical breakout kit, my "locks" were in a Google Form. Students would have to enter the correct code to unlock each part of the form. This video shows you how to set up the form.

Creating a Digital Breakout
Using Google Sites, which is free for anyone with a Gmail account, I started to put everything together. First I put an image in the header of the site. Then I added text to the header and linked that text to the letter from S. E. Hinton. In that letter, I put certain text in bold and blue to spell out a shortened URL (I used bit.ly to shorten and customize the link). That URL led students to the original movie trailer for The Outsiders. The run time on that trailer was the code for one of the locks.

Back on the main page of the site, I put a text box with a brief introduction to the novel and the time period in which it is set. This provided the "story," or the purpose for the students to solve the locks.
Beneath the text box, I placed six images, each of which I linked to a video, article, poem, etc. In each of these clues, students might be looking for a code (a series of numbers or a word), listening for a code, or answering questions to spell out a code (I don't want to spell out too much here in case a student stumbles across this post).

At the bottom the site, I embedded the Google Form with the "locks." To finish, I published my site, but didn't make it public because I didn't want students to be able to search and find it outside of school.

When I came time to play the actual breakout, I let students to work alone or in groups of two or three. I allowed each student to have a Chromebook and left it up to them to decide how they would approach the breakout. Other than pointing out the form and explaining that the site contained all the information they would need to find the codes for the locks, I gave very little directions. I then set the timer and set them off to work.

Since this was my students' first breakout, I walked around the room as they worked, encouraging them, asking them what they noticed or how they thought a piece of information would help them. In the physical breakout kit, there are hint cards, but I built my hints into my form (this video shows you how). It took my students about forty five minutes to an hour to solve. Because we worked over a period of two classes, I had students write down the codes they figured our since the form will not save them.

Good luck planning and creating your own breakout! You can find all of my breakout resources here. I'm also happy to take requests or collaborate on creating one; just send me an email.

April 24, 2017

On My Bookshelf: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

In 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. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?





Why I liked it: The War That Saved My Life is set in London at the start of WWII. Ada
has a clubfoot, so her mother is ashamed of her and does not allow her to leave their apartment. At first Ada has the companionship of her younger brother Jamie, but when he gets old enough to play outside and attend school, Ada decides she doesn't want to spend her days sitting in a chair by the window. She becomes determined to learn to walk. Her decision is just in time since children are being evacuated from the city and her mother plans on sending Jamie, but not Ada.
In 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. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The two are sent to Kent, where a strange woman, Miss Susan, is forced to take them in. There they grapple with how different their new life is compared to the poverty and ignorance that marked their lives with their mother. Ada also struggles with the shame insulted in her by her mother and is terrified of returning home. Miss Susan changes their lives, but the children also change hers by helping her come out of the depression she suffered after the death of a close friend.

Classroom application: Possible research topics include the battle at Dunkirk, the British air force, the evacuating of children from London, the role of spies and the bombing of England.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The War That Saved My Life 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 23, 2017

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Article of the Week

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about implementing article of the week.
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, April 25, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about implementing article of the week.

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 using AOTW in your classrooms? Why or why not? Your experiences? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: Share your best tips for managing this heavy marking load. #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: Where do you find the articles you use each week? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: How do you differentiate the articles for different reading levels and interests in your classroom? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: Share any resources you have found helpful for implementing ATOW (blog posts, books, websites, etc.). #2ndaryELA

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

You can schedule your responses to the questions ahead of time using a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite (but don't forget to use A1, A2, etc. and #2ndaryELA). Links are encouraged, so be sure to use a link shortener like 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 21, 2017

Measuring Student Learning: Assessment Strategies for Middle & High School

How do you know if students have "got it?" This #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about measuring student learning in the ELA classroom. Middle school and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed different types of informal and formal assessments. Teachers also shared how their assessments are designed and creative methods of measuring learning. Read through the chat for ideas to implement in your own classroom.
This #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about measuring student learning in the ELA classroom. Middle school and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed different types of informal and formal assessments. Teachers also shared how their assessments are designed and creative methods of measuring learning.

Read through the chat below to find out how other teachers use data from assessments to inform future instruction. You'll get ideas about simple informal assessments like exit tickets, four corners, and thumbs up/thumbs down.  You'll also find ways to use technology like Kahoot! and Google Forms to make collecting data easier.

Hope you'll join us on Tuesday April 25th to discuss using article of the week in the ELA classroom. 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.

April 17, 2017

On My Bookshelf: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

In Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, Isla and Josh fall hard for each other, but can their whirlwind romance last when Josh is kicked out of their boarding school in Paris and sent back to the States? Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren't always forever. Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Why I liked it:  Isla and the Happily Ever After is not quite a sequel, but there is some overlap in characters with Anna and the French Kiss. The novel is set a year later a the same school.

In Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, Isla and Josh fall hard for each other, but can their whirlwind romance last when Josh is kicked out of their boarding school in Paris and sent back to the States? Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Isla, a petite redhead with a French mother and American father, is from New York City and is at the top of her senior class. Her older sister graduated last year and her younger sister is now a freshman. Isla is loyal to her best friend Kurt, who is autistic, but extremely high functioning. The two have known each other since they were very young and Isla has lost a friend and a boyfriend because she refused to choose them over Kurt.

Josh is brooding and artistic. He is a rule breaker who skips class and leaves the country on weekends, things Isla would never dream of doing until falling for Josh. After Josh is kicked out of school for breaking the rules one too many times, distance stains their relationship and Isla begins to doubt how Josh feels about her because of her own insecurities.

Classroom application: I would recommend this for a high school classroom library. It has some sexy scenes in it, more so than Anna and the French Kiss.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Isla and the Happily Ever After 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 16, 2017

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Measuring Student Learning

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about measuring student learning.
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, April 18, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about measuring student learning.

The Format:
8:00 Intros: What and where do you teach? Include a link to your blog if you have one. #2ndaryELA
8:05 Q1: What types of informal assessments do you use to measure learning in your classroom? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: What is your favorite or most creative way of assessing students? #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: Are you required to use certain formal assessments or do you design your own? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: Are your assessments based on standards? Skills? Content? How does that affect the design? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: How do you use data from assessments to plan future lessons? #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 10, 2017

On My Bookshelf: Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin is literary nonfiction that 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. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.




Why I liked it: Bomb is literary nonfiction, but it reads like a thriller or spy novel. It's chapters are short and packed with action that propels the plot lines forward. One storyline focuses on the Americans' development of the atomic bomb. The other two storylines follow Soviet spies trying to uncover the Americans' design and America's attempts to prevent Germany from developing an atomic bomb first. It was occasionally hard to keep track of characters because there were so many and the plot lines frequently alternated.
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin is literary nonfiction that 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. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Classroom application: The book would be a great one to recommend to boys or war enthusiasts or paired with a unit on WWII or the Cold War. It could also be in connection with a physics course. The author provides detailed research notes at the end and the book could be used as a mentor text to inspire students' own literary nonfiction. With its short, action packed chapters it would make a great read aloud.

The ethical issues in the book would make for interesting classroom discussion. Two scientists working on the atomic bomb project in the United States share information about it with the Soviets. One of the men has Communist leanings, but the other's motivation is so that the United States does not become a unchecked power as the only country with an atomic bomb. The other decision related to ethics is of course the decision to use the bomb, twice, on Japan. The book paints a picture of the immediate destruction, but does not give much detail about the lasting effects on the environment and the people in the bombed areas.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Bomb 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 9, 2017

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Speaking & Listening Skills

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about developing students' speaking and listening skills.
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, April 11, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about developing students' speaking and listening skills.

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: In what ways do students practice their oral communication skills in your classroom? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: How do you assess students during speaking activities? (Share rubrics, checklists, etc.) #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: How do you encourage reluctant speakers? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: What are your favorite speaking and listening assignments? #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: Share a resource for teaching oral communication skills (book, article, blog post, etc.) #2ndaryELA

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

You can schedule your responses to the questions ahead of time using a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite (but don't forget to use A1, A2, etc. and #2ndaryELA). Links are encouraged, so be sure to use a link shortener like 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 7, 2017

Out Of The Box Teaching Ideas: Bring Creativity Back Into Your ELA Classroom

Have your lessons have lost their spark? Are you searching for some creative inspiration? This #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about out of the box teaching ideas in the ELA classroom. Middle school and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed interesting fiction and nonfiction pairings.  Teachers also shared creative activity and projects that are both fun and rigorous. Read through the chat for ideas to implement in your own classroom.
This #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about out of the box teaching ideas in the ELA classroom. Middle school and high school English Language Arts teachers discussed interesting fiction and nonfiction pairings.  Teachers also shared creative activity and projects that are both fun and rigorous.

Read through the chat below to see how other teachers are getting creative in their classrooms. You'll get text recommendations that you've likely never heard of. You'll also find unusual ways to get students out of their seats.

Hope you'll join us on Tuesday April 11th to discuss speaking and listening skills in the ELA classroom. 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.

April 3, 2017

On My Bookshelf: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

In The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, 16 near strangers are named as heirs to millionaire Sam Westing, but in order to claim their inheritance, they must solve the mystery of who killed Sam Westing. The players are paired up and only one pair can win. Clues are stolen, three bombs explode, and family members are keeping secrets from one another as each pair desperately hopes to win. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, on things for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

Why I liked it: The Westing Game hosts a large cast of characters. All have recently moved into the same new apartment building: some are families with children, others are lone figures. The figures are also s mix of occupations and economic statuses. They are all called upon to play Sam Westing's game, but their true interconnections are revealed as events unfold.
In The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, 16 near strangers are named as heirs to millionaire Sam Westing, but in order to claim their inheritance, they must solve the mystery of who killed Sam Westing. The players are paired up and only one pair can win. Clues are stolen, three bombs explode, and family members are keeping secrets from one another as each pair desperately hopes to win. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

The mystery of the game is just as much a puzzle to the reader as it is to the characters. Trying to solve the mystery brings together unusual pairs: a seamstress and a preteen girl, a judge and a young man confused to a wheelchair, and housekeeper and a private detective in disguise as a delivery man. Other characters come out of their shell, like Angela who feels like she is nothing but a bride to be and Sunny who longs to return to China.

I love how everything comes together in the end, but the puzzle is only solved by the youngest player of the game. I always wonder if authors plan out novels with such intricate plots before they begin to write or if they are able to weave things together add they go.

Classroom application: The novel would be appropriate for middle school or high school students of either gender. And though it is a mystery, there are no gruesome or violent scenes. It would be a great add to your classroom library or could be used as part of a genre study with classics like Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Westing Game 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 2, 2017

#2ndaryELA Twitter Chat Topic: Out of the Box Teaching Ideas


Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Tuesday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about out of the box teaching ideas.
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, April 4, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about out of the box teaching ideas.

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: Where do you find “out of the box” ideas? What structures do you have to set up in your classroom to make these idea successful? #2ndaryELA
8:10 Q2: Share your most interesting fiction and nonfiction pairing. #2ndaryELA
8:15 Q3: What text (novel, short story, poem, nonfiction) would you recommend to other teachers that they've likely never heard of? #2ndaryELA
8:20 Q4: Share a creative activity or project you've had success with in your classroom that is also rigorous and focused on standards. #2ndaryELA
8:25 Q5: What's your most unusual method of getting students out of their seats while still engaged in learning? #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:

32 Poetry Pairings for Secondary Students: Host a Poetry Tournament in Your Classroom

Comparing poems fosters critical thinking and deep discussions. Because of their short form, using poetry pairings is a great way to expose students to a variety of writers and writing styles, subjects and themes. Here's 32 pairs of poems, a total of 64 poems, to share with your students throughout the year, during National Poetry Month or to run a March Madness Poetry Tournament in your classroom.
Last year, I shared 30 favorite poems for secondary students after being inspired by an Edutopia recent article, 4 Reasons to Start Class With a Poem Each Day, by ninth grade English teacher Brett Vogelsinger.

This year, he and I seem to be of like minds again. After reading another of his Edutopia articles about the benefits of pairing poetry, I was inspired to create my own list of poetry pairings. Vogelsinger believes that "comparing two poems side by side fosters deep thinking and rich discussion—even in classes beyond English" and shared three possible pairings.

I came up with 32 more poetry pairings (64 poems in total), perfect for creating a March Madness Poetry Tournament to use during March Madness, during National Poetry Month or any other time of year (you can generate a bracket here). Here's my 32 pairings:

1. Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar & Hope is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson
Both poems use an extended metaphor to explore an idea. Dunbar uses a caged bird to represent the plight of slavery, while Dickinson uses a bird to show how hope perseveres.

“Home” and “The Raven” center around an unexpected visitor appearing on a gloomy night. Reading “Home,” a shorter and an easier read with great rhythm, first would help prepare students for some of the more challenging language in “The Raven.”
Personification is used to give the moon human-like qualities in the two poems by Dickinson and Stevenson. A great compare and contrast activity would be to have students draw a picture of the moon based on each poet’s description.

Childhood memories, both happy and sad, come to life in “Fifth Grade Autobiography” and “Nikki-Rosa.” Both also emphasize the importance of family love.
Both Sandburg and Hughes bring music into their poems. "Jazz Fantasia" has the sounds of drums, banjoes, and horns while "The Weary Blues" includes the lyrics of a blues song.
At the surface, the lure of the ocean is the topic of these two poems, but on a deeper level, both deal with death. "Sea Fever," which has great imagery and uses alliteration, has a haunting quality because of its repetition. Both poems have an easily identifiable rhyme scheme.

7. We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks & Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost
These two classic, yet very stylistically different poems present the message of how fleeting life, and its marvels, can be. Listening to Brooks read her poem is a must. She gives some great background on writing the poem in the audio included at the link above.

Both poems center around the idea of the unfulfilled dream. Flick Webb is the ex-basketball player in Updike's poem; once great, he now pumps gas. Hughes's short, but powerful poem asks questions about what happens to dreams that are put off.

9. Boy at the Window by Richard Wilbur & Snowman by Gu Cheng
The snowman, symbolic of childhood in winter, is featured in "Boy at the Window and "Snowman." "Boy at the Window" is interesting because it is written in third person limited point of view and focuses in on the boy first, and then the snowman. The narrator of "Snowman" is not quite as young as the boy in "Boy at the Window." The snowman he builds is part of his efforts to woo a crush.

10. Same Song by Pat Mora & Mirror by Sylvia Plath
Mirrors and the displeasure of looking at oneself in one are the focus of these two poems. In "Same Song," the speaker shows both her daughter and her son's interactions with the mirror. I appreciate that she depicts both genders as struggling with their body image. In "Mirror," the mirror is the speaker and claims to be "truthful" rather than "cruel."

11. I am Offering This Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca & Things by Eloise Greenfield
If you haven't read anything by Jimmy Santiago Baca, you should, especially his autobiography, A Place to Stand. Knowing a little about his life, makes his poem "I am Offering This Poem" even more meaningful. Eloise Greenfield's singsongy poem is simpler, but shares the same measure: that poems are things to be treasured.

12. The Summer I Was Sixteen by Geraldine Connolly & Because it looked hotter that way by Camille T. Dungy
The female narrators of these poems are coming of age and experiencing the rush of being young and beautiful. Both poems are full of great imagery and Dungy's poem gives a nod to "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks, another possible pairing.

These are two of my favorite poems with which to start a poetry unit. As we read "Introduction to Poetry," I have my students create a stanza-by-stanza cartoon strip. "How to Eat a Poem" leads to a great discussion about what type of food she is comparing a poem to; I've heard everything from a piece of fruit to a cheesesteak!

Both poems describe the struggle of African American women. Hughes's poem features a mother telling her son of her trials, while Walker's poem is narrated by a child reflecting on her mother’s perseverance through the challenges she and the women of her generation faced.

The myth of Daedalus and Icarus can be paired with these two very stylistically different poems detailing the fall of Icarus. Pieter Bruegel's painting, "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus," was the inspiration for these two poems, but there are a number of other wonderful paintings on the same topic that they can be compared also.

If you are reading any utopian or dystopian literature with your students, these two poems would be great adds to your unit. We just finished reading The Giver and used Alice Ostriker's poem to emphasize the impossibility of the existence of a perfect place.

Published in the 1920s, just five years apart, these poems share the pain of being excluded in one's own country. McKay and Hughes have much different outlooks on what the future will hold.

These two poems are a touching tribute to aging and emphasize the happiness of a life well lived. "When You Are Old" has a wonderful rhythm to it, which makes it perfect for reading aloud and both poems incorporate personification.

A son's admiration for his father is shared in both "The Secret Heart" and "Those Winter Sundays." the tender poems encourage us to show appreciation to those who love us now rather than later.

20. The Base Stealer by Robert Francis & Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer
The sports fans in your classroom will enjoy these two poems about baseball. They are both light, playful poems. "The Base Stealer" is inspired by Jackie Robison and "Casey at the Bat" has an unexpected ending.

Both of these poems dwell on the distance between mother and daughter. In "Hanging Fire," the speaker is a teenage girl and her issues with her mother are in the moment while in "Mama, Come Back," the speaker is reflecting on the past.

"My Papa's Waltz" and "Listening to Grownups Quarreling" are told from a child's point of view and reveal their parents' flaws. Roethke's poem is about a drunk father and Whitman's poem is about arguing parents.

Death is the subject of these two classics. In Dickinson's poem, the speaker is busy living life and caught unaware by death. In Thomas's poem, the speaker encourages all men to fight against death, to fight to live.

In these playful poems, the poets describe the effects of the wind, since the wind itself cannot be seem. Stevenson's poem personifies and directly addresses the wind. Rossetti's poem is shorter, but both have an easily identifiable rhyme scheme.

25. I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman & America by Allen Ginsberg
Published roughly 100 years apart, Whitman and Ginsberg describe America as they see it. Both poets share their love for America despite its flaws. Ginsberg's poem is full of cultural references that students could research to fully understand the poem.

These two love letters-like poems are full of figurative language. Both hope that their love will live on forever; Bradstreet because they have lived a pure life and Shakespeare because he has captured his love in a poem.

If you want to bring some silliness into your classroom, these two poems are a perfect pick. The poets playfully describe their shadows. Stevenson's shadow has a mind of its own, while Silverstein's shadow shrinks after a washing.

"Mr. Nobody" is a clever poem about all the things that go wrong around the house, all of which can be blamed on Mr. Nobody. "One Art, " a poem about losing things, starts off light, but turns serious.
Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni are two female poets who are proud of their beauty and their identity. These two poems are a celebration of themselves and encourage all women to feel empowered.

30. sisters by Lucille Clifton & The Sisters by Rainer Maria Rilke
Both of these poems touch on the special bond between sisters, a relationship between two women who are connected, but not the same.

31. We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar & Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson
It is clear that appearances are deceiving in "We Wear the Mask" and "Richard Cory." Dunbar's poem captures the oppressed feelings of many African Americans in the early 1900s. "Richard Cory" tells the story of a man many admire, but suffers from unnamed inner turmoil that results in an unexpected ending to the poem.

32. To Helen by Edgar Allan Poe & Helen by Hilda Doolittle
Helen of Troy is depicted very differently in these two poems. Poe's poem conveys reverence of her beauty, while Doolittle's poem conveys loathing. These poems would be a great pairing with The Iliad, The Odyssey, or a unit on Greek mythology.

Find all of my resources for teaching poetry here.