June 28, 2022

How to Teach Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: Wrapping Up The Play

After students finish reading Julius Caesar, they continue to apply their understanding through film analysis, a final exam, and a Socratic Seminar.

After students finish reading Act V of Julius Caesar, they will continue to apply their knowledge and understanding in the form of various assessments. We watch a film version or two, review for and then take a final exam, and have one last discussion in a Socratic Seminar.

How to Teach Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: Act IV and V

Here's how I plan out Act IV and V of Julius Caesar: the scenes I focus on and the activities I use to extend learning and make connections.

After reading Act III of Julius Caesar, students understand that not all characters view omens and superstitions the same. We notice how Shakespeare builds towards the chaos surrounding Caesar’s murder and what he does to create the tension. Act III is important because it is packed with drama. We watched how characters’ plans succeeded and failed, taking us in a different direction than expected. With Julius Caesar– our title character– now dead, we will read to see how Shakespeare wraps up the play and whether “justice” will prevail.

How to Teach Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: Act III

Here's how I plan out Act III of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: the scenes I focus on and the activities I use to extend learning and make connections.

After reading Act II of Julius Caesar, students understand the pros and cons of Caesar’s ambitious nature and his decision-making skills. We see the notable differences between Cassius and Brutus and understand that Caesar’s death is likely imminent. In fact, teachers should make note of the fact that Caesar is killed in the beginning of Act III, which begs the question why would Shakespeare kill off the title character in the middle of the play, and what does that leave in store for the rest of the play?

How to Teach Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: Act II

Here's how I plan out Act II of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: the scenes I focus on and the activities I use to extend learning and make connections.

After reading Act I of Julius Caesar, students understand the conspirators’ plan to defeat Caesar– who we only see a little of in Act I but hear a great deal about from other characters– and understand how certain characters are using language to manipulate others into joining the conspiracy. Readers become more acquainted with Caesar in Act II as well as the only two women in the play: Calphurnia (Caesar’s wife) and Portia (Brutus’ wife).

How to Teach Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: Act I

Here's how I plan out Act I of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: the scenes I focus on and the activities I use to extend learning and make connections.

When teaching one of William Shakespeare’s dramas to secondary students, it is all about digging in and having fun. I begin building engagement during the week I spend introducing the play Julius Caesar. Here's my approach to Act I.

How to Teach Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: Introducing the Play

If you are teaching Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare this year, here’s four ways to hook your students as you introduce the play.

Rarely are students excited for reading a drama, let alone one written almost 500 years ago. It is much more likely that you’ll hear groans and complaints when you announce that your upcoming unit is Julius Caesar written by William Shakespeare. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your students, as mine did, can learn to understand and even to enjoy the old bard’s messages about relationships, ambition, and betrayal.

In this series of blog posts, I'll describe how I teach each part of Julius Caesar, starting with how I introduce the tragedy to students. As with any new piece of literature, especially one you know will be challenging for students, hooking them from the get go is crucial.

June 27, 2022

7 Projects to End a Unit or Novel Study (That Students Will Actually Get Excited About)

These 7 fresh ideas for creative projects that students will want to complete are perfect for the end of any novel or unit.

In English Language Arts we do a lot of reading and writing, so while I often wrap up a unit or novel with a major writing assignment, I also like to offer students' an opportunity to let their other talents and interests shine. Read on for 7 fresh ideas for projects that students will want to complete.

9 Ways to Maintain Students' Enthusiasm for Independent Reading All Year Long

Key to a successful independent reading program is constantly exposing students to new books and celebrating students' reading. Here's 9 ways I do it.

Key to a successful independent reading program is constantly exposing students to new books and celebrating students' reading.  It can be easy to want to do everything all at once, but I would recommend trying out one or two idea at a time. Sometimes what works for one group of students will not work with another group of students. Over time you will settle into what works in your classroom and is sustainable for you. Some of the ways I do this are through one time "special events," but most are established at the start of the year and built into our weekly classroom routines.

June 8, 2022

Reading & Teaching in June

As the school year comes to a close, I am reflecting on the year and planning on how to engage students during the final days of school.

All things, good and bad, must come to an end, and that includes this school year. Like the past two years, there's been an intensity to this year that leaves me longing for summer and some time to decompress. 

Despite the challenges of teaching during a pandemic and being out for two extended absences because of Covid, there are things this year that I am happy about. I am pleased with the layers I've continued to add to my curriculum,  and the work I did to develop students' writing skills and love of reading. I hope to continue my progress with all of those things next year, but mostly I'm just hoping for a healthier school year.

May 15, 2022

What I'm Reading & Teaching in May

With state testing behind us, this month we're in the midst of our final novel unit and ending with some creative writing assignments and projects.

With each new month this school year, I feel like I've tried to convince myself that things are going to be better: I am going to have more energy, be less tired, and be more on top of things. It's probably not a surprise to you that I'm still waiting for that to happen, and I have no hopes that May will be the month that it does. I know I have been fortunate compared to the behavior issues and coverage shortages that so many teachers have faced this year, but I still can't wait for the school year to end in June. What I planned on  teaching in May remained much a mystery until late last week and we're already halfway through the month at this point.

April 2, 2022

What I'm Reading & Teaching in April

Our "dealing with disaster" unit begins with poetry, nonfiction, and a short story. We'll begin parallel novels and state testing at the month's end.

Spring is finally here, bringing warmer weather and more hours of daylight. I can feel the effects on my energy levels and students' as well. Once the mornings are a little less chilly, I'll start planning lessons that we can take outdoors again. 

The infographic project at the end of our "facing fear" unit went really well, and so did our personal narratives for some students. However, too many just aren't taking the revision and editing process seriously. Next year, I will have to work out how to spend more time working on making those changes in small groups. We just wrapped up our March Madness Poetry Tournament and our winner was "Water" by Rudy Francisco.

Right now, I'm coasting a bit through the start of our new unit on "dealing with disaster" because I've previously taught all of the shorter texts we start the unit with. I will have some work to do when we start our parallel novels at the end of this month. 

March 1, 2022

What I'm Reading & Teaching in March

After writing a narrative and and creating infographic, we'll start our "Dealing With Disaster" unit and kick off a March Madness Poetry Tournament.

For the shortest month of the year, February sure felt long. For me it was likely less because of teaching and more because of interruptions to my sleep thanks to my own children (I don't function well without a full night of sleep). I wasn't super productive during my time to work at work and ended up doing too many things at home. We also had parent conferences, a field trip, and a day off for President's Day thrown in there, so maybe part of the problem was never quite settling into a rhythm. Whatever the root of my February problems, I'm trying to reset my energy and focus for March.

There were some positives in February. My students enjoyed our literature circles just as much as I did and since covid cases are way down, we are allowed to put student desks together again. That also means being allowed to pull small groups, which I've been struggling with not being able to do all year. Especially because I teach a 90 minute block, being able to pull different groups of students or have different groups of students work together throughout a class period is a must. 

February 8, 2022

What I'm Reading & Teaching in February

This month we are fully immersed in literature circles with a weekly structure that allows room for reading, writing, discussing, and collaborating.

January was exhausting. The first week back from break was an emotional roller coaster of getting ready to go virtual and then not, due to a last minute health department decision. The following week was just weird, with anywhere from one third to one half to two thirds of my students out in each of my classes. It felt like those days just before schools closed down in March 2020 when I kept teaching to try to maintain a sense of normalcy, but it felt foolish with the number of students missing. The following weeks some students were back and others are out and the health department changed its guidance again. Now I'm trying to catch everyone up and still stay on top of everything and I'm just tired.

January 1, 2022

What I'm Reading & Teaching in January

Our "Facing Fear" unit continues with nonfiction texts, a synthesis essay, and literature circles. Read on for this month's reading and teaching plan.

Happy New Year! I’ve spent as much of my time as possible over the break not thinking about school, avoiding social media, and limiting my news intake so that I could actually try to relax during my time off. 

My school will return from break in person, continue to require masks, and hope for the best. Our students will continue to be seated 3 feet apart and while we have been instructed to put a pause on group work, we aren't yet reverting back to a standardized seating chart across class.