Lessons, activities, units, strategies, and experiences in high school classrooms. High Schools include Mason City High School, Storm Lake High School, and Heritage Academy.
Poetry Lessons in the High School - For the last two years, I've been a part of a group of students and faculty from Waldorf that spends a day at Forest City High School teaching students about poetry! This is something that the college has planned with one of the English teachers at FCHS, Scott Bertelsen and it has been a great success!
Complete 6-Week Unit for Tuesdays with Morrie - Tuesdays with Morrie is an amazing novel. It deals with death, love, hardship, family, friendship, faith, and positivity, and is an amazing book for high schoolers to read. In my student teaching experience, I created a full six-week unit for the novel, complete with standards-aligned assignments, assessments, projects, papers, and activities. This is it!
A Complete 6-Week Unit for House on Mango Street - Am I joking? No. This is not a joke! Here is a 6-week plan for House on Mango Street that you can easily view and download here: Complete 6 Week House on Mango Street Unit.
What the Heck is Smore? - One of my students showed this website to me: Smore. This is a place where students, teachers, anyone can easily create an awesome-looking newsletter. FOR FREE!
Engage Students in Reading with Contemporary Music! - Looking for a way to engage your students in reading? Want to do something fun, easy, and relevant? Then use contemporary music!
Poster My Wall - Looking for a great way to have your students use technology and create awesome posters/collages/calendars/cards via online templates? Then Poster My Wall is the resource for you and your classroom!
What My Transgender High School Student Taught Me About Being True to Yourself - “She—he—goes by Elvin,” my coworker whispers. I look at the student fumbling with the cart of computers in the front of the room. She—he—formerly Cadence, then Cade, and now Elvin, is a thick bodied sophomore with glasses, an ‘I love pizza’ shirt, and short, spiky blue hair.
CRAP Test - My eighth graders are working on a perseverance project to tie into Hunger Games. To connect main character Katniss' life with other lives, the students are researching a person in their field of interest and finding evidence as to how that individual persevered through difficult times and challenges. To do this, they need to use the internet---thus the CRAP Test--finding reliable sources.
Pre-Planning House on Mango Street - Next week I will completely take over the eighth grade classes and teach House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Since I will become, in my cooperating teacher's place, one of the two eighth grade English/Reading teachers, I needed to plan and collaborate ahead of time to prepare for teaching the book.
Saying Goodbye to My Honors Classes - Friday was my last day at Mason City High School, bittersweet to say the least. Saying goodbye to my Honors 10 group was tough. I had become particularly fond of them.
Notes on My Students - As my first placement comes to a close, there's one thing I wanted to make sure to do before leaving: create a student note sheet for my cooperating teacher so that she knows a little about each student going back into full-time teaching.
Compare & Contrast – Tuesdays with Morrie Movie - My kids finished reading Tuesdays with Morrie! Yay! To complete the unit, I wanted the students to watch the movie and to compare the book and the movie--understanding literature through multiple lenses.
Who Is Morrie Now? - As a closing and wrap-up activity for Tuesdays with Morrie, I asked my students to take out their drawings from the beginning of the semester, there initial pictures of who Morrie was.
Journal – Community and Justice System - My sophomore Honors English students had just finished reading Part I of To Kill a Mockingbird, and as a transition activity, I had them journal for the first 10-15 minutes of class about these two topics: community influence and the country's justice system.
Quiz – Ch. 9 & 10 - Time for another pop quiz! This time it's over chapters 9 & 10 in TKAM.
Relationships in TKAM - "Who the heck is related to who?" This is what one of my students said to me as we reached one of the final chapters of Part II and were introduced to the Christmas scene. I took a pause out of my lecture/discussion and drew a goofy map on the board.
Discussion – Let’s Get Moving! - "How can I make teaching this book interesting?" I said to myself aloud, in the middle of the library, like a crazy person. It was a Sunday night and I was putting together my teaching plans for Monday. My Honors 10 students were just starting Part I of To Kill a Mockingbird and I wanted them to have fun. I needed some inspiration.
Life Lessons From Morrie – Final Paper - For this assignment, students were to choose two aphorisms/quotes/life lessons and define them, define them as they were presented in the book, and relate them to their personal lives.
Peer Reading - Okay, I thought. We'll see how this goes. I stood at the front of the class. "Today we're going to finish the book. I'd like you to find a partner of your choice and read this final section, 'Afterward' aloud."
Point of View Paper - To change up activities for To Kill a Mockingbird, I had the students write the scene at the Radley House (where Jem, Scout, and Dill try to peer through the window and Jem loses his pants) through the eyes of one of the characters.
Pop Quiz – Ch. 3-4 - Four chapters in to the book? Pop quiz time! Call me a mean teacher, but I wanted to check that my students were reading, so I gave them a quiz over chapters 3 and 4 in To Kill a Mockingbird.
“Graduation” and “Conclusion” Scaffolded Notes - After reading aloud and realizing that my students were struggling with comprehension, I decided to create a set of scaffolded notes for them to take home over the weekend and complete while reading.
Modern-Day Scarlet Letters - I truly believe that students learn best when they are asked to relate content to their personal lives. That was my goal with this ending, fun activity–Modern-Day Scarlet Letters–applying the theme of hidden vs. exposed sin to students’ own lives.
Journal 4 – The “Nightline” Show - As I begin to wrap up Tuesdays with Morrie in my English 10 classes, I wanted to give students the opportunity to form an opinion. Some of my students love the book. Some don't. I wanted to get them working on opinion-based narrative writing, dip into persuasive writing, and most importantly, make arguments and back them up with support!
TKAM – Ch. 1 & 2 - There's a lot going on in the first few chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird. To help my students with their comprehension and understanding, I had them use a study guide to help with note-taking.
12th Tuesday Comprehension Questions - Something I started doing with my sophomore English students was read aloud from Tuesdays with Morrie. This began as an idea to help my ESL student and other struggling readers, but then it became a necessary tool to keep all students on track with their reading.
The Scarlet Letter Final Essay - Every good unit ends with a paper (says every English teacher in the world!). And for The Scarlet Letter, I couldn't agree more!
Finishing The Scarlet Letter - As my American Seminar students read The Scarlet Letter, we had some great whole-class discussions. Wrapping up the book was no different.
Vocab Terms: Part I - Vocabulary in To Kill a Mockingbird is difficult! Even as a college grad, I found myself struggling not only to understand some words, but even how to pronounce them!
TKAM – Character Maps - To Kill a Mockingbird can be a challenging text, just due to the fact that there are so many characters! I wanted to help my students organize and keep the characters straight, so I created a character map.
Reincarnation Activity - Today my students are taking their 5th-9th Tuesday Quiz, but after that, I wanted them to have a little fun.
5th-8th Tuesday, Study Guides and Quiz - After reading the 5th-8th Tuesdays both independently and as a class, I wanted to give my students a quiz. This time, however, I wanted a more challenging quiz, as my students had done very well on the last, multiple choice and true-false quiz.
Poetry Workshop - To connect on a deeper, more personal level to Tuesdays with Morrie, I had my students write poems about their 'Morries', the influential people in their lives.
Forest Scene Story - Okay, I'll admit it...sometimes reading The Scarlet Letter and its Old English can be difficult, and a little dry. I wanted my students to take a break for a minute and do something creative!
Intro to To Kill a Mockingbird - I haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird in ages. But I knew I loved the book and I wanted my students to feel the same. To begin working with the novel, I set up a classroom activity. I split the class into groups with several topics to help preview some of the essential background information.
7th Tuesday Reading Quiz - Want to check that your students are reading? Here's a simple quiz you can give them over the "Seventh Tuesday".
Scarlet Letter Discussion Groups - My American Seminar students have read up through chapter 18 in The Scarlet Letter. This point in the novel is filled with important themes, changes, symbols, and relationships, and to make sure my students were noticing and understanding these, I made a group discussion activity for them.
Who’s My Morrie? - I wanted to switch up activities in my English 10 classes and instead of having them write another journal or essay-type of response, I decided to have them write two poems. These would be about people who influenced them positively--their 'Morries'.
Journal 3 – Family - To help my students connect their lives to the story, Tuesdays with Morrie, I wanted them to write about themselves--right now, in this moment.
5th Tuesday – Tuesdays with Morrie - The "Fifth Tuesday" in Tuesdays with Morrie is important because it talks about relationships, family, and family that goes beyond blood. These were important points I wanted my students to grasp, so I made worksheets and study guides to help with their learner development.
Anne Bradstreet Poetry - In my American Seminar classes, the advanced 11th grade course on American literature, I did a mini-unit on Anne Bradstreet poetry.
Tuesdays with Morrie, Mid-Book Quest - I needed to asses my students' comprehension. It wasn't enough to read their worksheets or to peek over their shoulders during individual work time. I needed to know exactly what my students had learned, so I decided to make a Tuesdays with Morrie Mid-Book Quest.
Old Man and the Sea Outline - My Honors kids have been struggling with thesis statements. They have great ideas, they just aren't articulating them into arguments. And thus their papers (and grades) are suffering. So I decided to do something a little different for their Old Man and the Sea papers. I wanted to help them out.
Scarlet Letter Quiz - Tests and quizzes are great for making sure students have read and for assessing their comprehension. Across my classes, I've done plenty of formative assessments, but for my American Seminar class specifically, I needed to mix in a summative assessment to see how much the students had actually retained from reading and discussion and to see what parts of the book I needed to discuss.
Old Man and the Sea Thesis Statements - The next objective for my Honors 10 students was to write a thesis statement. In the class before, they had (on their own) brainstormed topics to write their research papers on. Now they were told to pick a topic/question and bring a thesis statement to class.
Old Man and the Sea – Paper Topics - Now that my students have presented on the Old Man and the Sea, their next objective was to write a paper on the book...but just like with the projects, I wanted the students to have ownership--they were going to pick their own topics.
Is Love Rational or Irrational? [Part 2] - This lesson is a follow-up to Is Love Rational or Irrational? [Part 1], which is primarily focused on the question of love being rational or not.
Is Love Rational or Irrational? [Part 1] - Today I started my English 10 class in a very strange way. I sat at a chair in the front of the room, and for the first five minutes, stayed absolutely silent.
Journal #2 – Being Your Age - September 21: By this time, my English 10 students are up to page 60 in Tuesdays with Morrie. Perfect time to assign another journal.
Old Man and the Sea Projects - For today's lesson, I wanted to spice things up a bit. Over the past few days, the students in my Honors 10 classes had read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. The book is small, easy to read, but packed with symbolism and author influences. I wanted to see how much the students had comprehended, but I also wanted to challenge them to think deeply about the book--going beyond the simple plot line.
Connecting to Tuesdays with Morrie – Making Bucket Lists! - Today was a shortened day because of Homecoming. Classes were only twenty minutes, but I still wanted my students to do something pertaining to Tuesdays with Morrie, while being fun! So I had them make their own Bucket Lists!
Tension of Opposites - One of the major themes early in Tuesdays with Morrie is tension, or 'Tension of Opposites,' as Morrie himself names it. I wanted my students to understand this, but I wanted to see how much they understood independently. So I made a worksheet.
Task List/Work Day - What's the solution to disruptive, easily-distracted students while not taking anything away from productive, doing-what-they're-supposed-to students? For me, and for my English 10 classes, the solution was a Task List/Work Day.
Who Am I/My Culture Paper - For one of the first major writing assignments in my English 10 classroom, I decided to have the students write a paper about three items that define them, 'Who Am I/My Culture Paper'. This began as an assignment/mini-speech [to read more about that, click here].
Who Am I/My Culture Assignment - To dig a little deeper and connect my Tuesdays with Morrie unit to Narrative writing, which my students have and will be doing for the remainder of the year, I decided to create a 'Who Am I/My Culture' Assignment.
What’s Wrong with My Summer Essay? - Okay, this sounds a lot harsher than it actually was...sort of.
Tuesdays with Morrie – Quiz 1 - After going through the book for several days as a class and having short Journal assignments and discussion, I decided to have a reading pop-quiz.
ALS Web Quest - Sometimes to understand a concept fully, students need to research and learn about the concept outside of the classroom discussion. This I've learned with Tuesdays with Morrie and his condition ALS [Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis].
Journal 1 – Connecting Student Lives to Tuesdays with Morrie - Students connect with a text when they are able to relate the content to their personal lives and make deeper, more personal connections.
Who Is Morrie Schwartz? - To introduce my students to the book, Tuesday with Morrie, and the main characters, I had my students close their eyes and listen as I read aloud.
Connecting Lessons to Real-Life: The Ice-Bucket Challenge [and more!] - As an intro activity to my English 10 class' first major reading, Tuesdays with Morrie, I wanted to talk about ALS and the complications of that disease since the main character, Morrie, struggles with ALS.
Intro to the Scarlet Letter - So how do you start teaching The Scarlet Letter? Where do you begin?
What Is My America? - One of my first assignments for my 11th grade American Literature class was called 'What Is My America?'.
Pre-Planning the Tuesdays with Morrie Unit - This is what I call the Novel-in-a-Notebook, a way to pre-plan for your lessons by having all of the pages of your text copied into your notebook for easy access, reference, and smart note-taking.
‘I Can’ Bulletin Board - To prepare for my classroom, I decided I wanted to make a bulletin board. And since this bad boy was picked up for only $1, I thought it would be perfect to recycle, revamp, and decorate for my 10th and 11th graders!
A Lesson in Culture – Visiting Heritage Academy - For the second and final week of my Multicultural Practicum class on diversity in education, me and a classmate were placed in Heritage Academy of Science and Technology in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A 100% Somali school, this was something completely different than the public school systems I've grown up with and taught in. I didn't know what to expect.
Wait…You Don’t Speak English? - Last week I went to Storm Lake High School for my Multicultural summer class exploring diversity in education. Storm Lake is a school in an incredibly diverse city that changed my perspective on both ESL and becoming an English teacher.
Attention-Grabbers Lesson – Narrative Stories - A good introduction is one that doesn’t always start at the beginning of the story. A good introduction uses figurative language, interesting detail, and grabs the reader’s attention and makes him/her want to keep going! This is something I emphasized with my sophomores when writing their narrative pieces.
Developing Background – Narrative Writing Lesson - The background/background information for a story is essential to grasping the meaning.
Developing Introductions – Narrative Short Story Lesson - For my Narrative Unit [with my Mason City High School sophomores], I had them first create a narrative 'Day in the Life' Comic, and then work on taking their comic and creating a short [1-2 paragraph] narrative story based on it.
Narrative Writing: From Comic to Short Story - For my Narrative Unit [with Mason City High School sophomores], I had them create a ‘Day in the Life’ Comic, documenting, in first-person, and using the elements of narrative, a day in their personal lives.
A Day in the Life – Narrative Comic: Student Examples - Fall 2014: As a part of my Narrative/Self-Writing Unit with my Mason City High School 10th graders, I wanted students to be comfortable writing about themselves, so I decided to create a comic activity, one that would bridge the gap between writing and drawing, while also bringing in some creativity. Below is a sample brainstorming […]
A Day in the Life Comic - Fall 2014: As a part of my Narrative/Self-Writing Unit with my Mason City High School 10th graders, I wanted students to be comfortable writing about themselves, so I decided to create a comic activity, one that would bridge the gap between writing and drawing, while also bringing in some creativity.
Tuesdays with Morrie – Letter to Mitch, Student Example - As a part of the Tuesdays with Morrie Unit I did with my sophomore students at Mason City High School during my fall 2014 clinical placement, I had the students write a letter to the author, Mitch Albom, reflecting on the book. To reference the lesson, click this link: Letter to Author, Mitch Albom
Tuesdays with Morrie – ‘My Coach/Mentor’ Student Example - Going back to the ‘My Coach/Mentor Poem’ [to view, click on link] lesson and activity connected to Tuesdays with Morrie, I had the opportunity to gather some student examples to keep with my portfolio. Students were asked to create 2 poems based on influential relationships in their personal lives. This helped to connect to the relationship […]
Letter to Author, Mitch Albom – Assignment, Rubric - To direct my students in the Letter to [Author] Mitch Albom activity, I created an assignment sheet and a rubric, grading them on their ability to connect the text to their personal lives [narrative writing], use correct letter-writing format, content, and conventions/grammar.
Tuesdays with Morrie – Letter to Author, Mitch Albom - As my unit on Tuesdays with Morrie continued, I moved into a series of lessons I called ‘What’s the Point?’ which focused on the ‘why’ behind reading this book. I think it’s important for students to know the purpose of reading certain texts, and this lesson set discussed this and helped to make meaning between Mitch and […]
Tuesdays with Morrie – Coach/Mentor Poem - In the fall of 2014, I completed over 50 clinical hours at Mason City High School with English Department Chair, Deadra Stanton. My experience consisted of taking control of her 10th grade English classes, teaching every Friday. One of my first set of lessons was on the book, Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom.
Social Contract - As a future English teacher, my job is to make sure my classroom is safe, fun, orderly, and effective. One of the most basic ways I can do this is through a Social Contract.
Creating My Own Rubric - During my clinical hours at Garner-Hayfield-Ventura High School in the fall of 2013, I created a rubric for a research paper in a 12th grade English classroom.