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Crime Scene In Your Classroom

I am finishing up my Lord of the Flies unit and just created a super exciting lesson with my fellow 9th-grade teacher.  I figured I would share the wealth and pass on the lesson here to anyone else teaching this classic novel.

The skills we wanted to focus on were examining the text closely and using textual evidence to support your argument.  But we did not want to do another writing assignment...

So, we decided to files some charges in the murders of Simon and Piggy!

Students were asked to close read the definitions the four murder charges.  Then, they needed to define unknown vocabulary.

Finally, students are asked to make a decision on which charges to make for the different deaths and the different characters who partake in the deaths.  This is where they must support answers with textual evidence.

Of course, we couldn't just do a worksheet... We had to create a crime scene! 

I created body outlines on the floor in masking tape and wrangled the art teacher into creating the Law and Order logo on my board.  I added some palms cut out from cardstock and printed other clues like the conch shell and Pigg's glasses.  I also printed out detective badges and handed them to each student as they walked into the room to help get them amped to learn. 

DISCLAIMER: the masking tape outlines took soooooooo long.  In the middle of making them I questioned why I was spending so much time on a display for a lesson that would be two days long at most.  But, the kids were really excited about the lesson and drawn in right away.  So I decided it was worth it.  I will be trying to look for easier ways to make these outlines in the future....

If you want to try out my lesson I have it for FREE right now on my TPT store.  Just download it here!  No need to follow or leave feedback.  I just want to help other teachers out who might be interested!

If you are looking for other activities, check out  my LOTF bundle here

And if you want to see my crime scene, check out the video below.  I also included photos of my set up.  And yes, that is the Law and Order theme song you hear :) 

I would love to know how this lesson works out for you!

p.s ignore my messy classroom, but that's real life!


Anyone Here A Doctor?

I recently started teaching the novel Speak with my honors students.  We are focusing a lot this year on finding textual evidence to support ideas and claims.  But honestly, it can get a little tedious to simply ask my students to look up quote after quote after quote.   So, I decided to get a little creative with finding textual evidence and address a serious issue brought up by the novel at the same time! 

The main character in the novel, Melinda, is suffering from depression.  The author makes the conscious choice to characterize her with different signs and symptoms of depression.  I decided to make my students "doctors" for the day and have them prove to me that she could indeed be diagnosed with depression.  

I found a website that listed the signs and symptoms, listed them and made a sheet for my students to write their "observations" of Melinda.   They had to find a quote to correspond with all the symptoms.   They did a great job!  We found textual evidence of all of the signs and symptoms of depression. 

This activity lead us into a discussion about teen depression where we looked at facts and stats about depression in teens.  We talked about who to speak with if you think you need help, and what kinds of things you can do to treat depression.  Find the worksheet here and a link to a site with information about teen depression below.  

I hope this lesson is helpful and enjoyable! 


Take Me To The Movies!

I am a big advocate of using as many visuals as possible to help my students understand ideas and stories in as many ways as they can.  Because of this, I like to show films that have the same themes as the novels we are reading at the end of each unit.  I often have my students compare themes or messages between the novel and the film.  
For To Kill A Mockingbird I like to show The Help and have students discuss if America made any progress in the 30 years between the settings of both stories.  ( the answer is usually  a resounding no) 

For the Great Gatsby, when I was student teaching, I showed GATTACA.  This was a great way to get students to question if Gatsby was really after Daisy, was it a love story, or was he after something more elusive. 

For The Freedom Writers Diary, I have shown the film version, but have also shown Stand and Deliver, as it covers the same type of students and prejudice seen in the novel.  I think it's eye-opening for my students to see the mistreatment of kids their age. 

This year I'm teaching Speak for the first time and can't decide what film I'd like to show with this novel. At first, I was thinking Mean Girls, to add to the discussion of fitting in and cliques.  Also, my students will be reading excerpts from Queen Bees and Wannabes, the novel Mean Girls is based on.  But I was flipping through channels today and came across The Breakfast Club.  I know for a fact most of my students have not seen this movie and it also deals with the same themes as Speak: crazy teachers, group dynamics, teen issues and so on.   I'm so torn!  I can't decide what to do, but I think I'm going to make assignments to go with both movies and see what has the most teaching potential.  If you have any movie suggestions let me know in the comment section! 

Additional movie novel pairings: 

Night - Hotel Rwanda
Night- Schindler's List
The Sun Also Rises- Midnight in Paris 
To Kill A Mockingbird- A Time To Kill - language warning! 
To Kill A Mockingbird- The Secret Life of Bees
The Crucible- X-men 
Speak - Easy A
Speak- The Pregnancy Project 
The Scarlet Letter- Easy A 
Freedom Writers Diary- Sister Act  (Two..I think....) 
Montana 1948- A River Runs Through It

I'll add more as I think of them! Suggestions welcome! 

Novel Display!

I'm super proud of my new To Kill A Mockingbird board!  I accredit my sorority for making me talented at decorating walls... :) 

I wanted to get students excited to read this novel by linking it to other novels they might have enjoyed.  AND I gave them a cheat sheet right on the wall for themes for this books.  Plus it just looks so darn cute!
The books I listed were: Hunger Games series, The Kite Runner, Monster, The Glass Castle, Night, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, There Are No Children Here, The Book Thief, The Outsiders, A Time To Kill, The Help, My Forbidden Face, The Secret Life of Bees, The Giver, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 

My plan is to try making a display like this for all of the novels we are reading this year.  I want to be sure to include contemporary books that the students are familiar with in order to activate prior knowledge.  Share your favorite novel displays below! I am always looking for new ideas and new crafts. 

Fun Lord Of The Flies Resources

I am ending my LOTF unit this week and just started putting together my flies with all of the worksheets, resources and activities we used throughout the unit.  I thought I should share for all the other high school ELA teachers teaching classic lit! Here is a compilation of some of the resources I found most helpful and my students found most interesting!  Let me know what resources you use so I can add to my lessons for next year!

1. Prestwick House has a great collection of free posters available for download.  Here is the link to their LOTF poster!

2. The Purge Trailer
My students were having a hard time with understanding Roger and that great scene where he is throwing rocks but not hitting Henry.  I tried to explain it about five different ways, but it wasn't until I asked "who here has seen The Purge" that they all had the ah-ha moment I was looking for.  Make sure to view the trailer on your own before you show it, and determine if it is suitable to show in your classroom! I teach older students so I was good to go!

3.  Girl Power
These boys end up destroying each other and the island.  But what if it was all girls? This article from The New Yorker  imagines some new lines from a gender-bent version of the novel.  This was a great resource to use to spark discussion.  And while some of the potential lines are funny, the feminist in my was also a little unsure of how to feel...  This is a great catalyst for a conversation on gender roles.  Especially since they are so forced on the boys and clearly seen on the last page of the novel. 

4.  Review Game! 

My students love video games. And this one was a hit!  I used it right before our big objective test, and I really think it helped!  Plus, it's free!   Find it here. 

If you are looking for more resources you can find some on my  TPT store!  Here is a link to some of my activities and graphic organizers!

What sites do you love to use with your Lord of The Flies unit?  Please share! 

Mean Girls And Classic Lit? Sign Me Up!

I shamelessly attended high school in the '00s.  Which means that I love anything and everything related to Mean Girls.  October 3rd is my day,  I love when I happen to wear pink on Wednesdays, I never wear a disgusting vest, and I always look for ways to reference the movie in class :)

I am currently teaching Lord of The Flies, and am trying to make these 10-year-old British boys relatable and interesting to my high schoolers.  When thinking through the plot of the story, I realized that there are actually a TON of similarities between these two movies.  Not to mention that both are interesting explorations into the inner psyche of adolescents.

From my epiphany, I decided to create an assignment to get my students excited about the story, allow them to have a laugh, and still build their analytical skills.  Thus, I created the most respected form of conveying information for today's teen: A BuzzFeed post.

Yes, that's right.  You can make your own post! So I did. And I made a worksheet to go along with my lesson.   This activity asks the students to find textual proof for the claims given in the BuzzFeed post.  Students must reference the book and support their ideas and answers with concrete evidence from the text.

Here is the link for the post, and I have included the accompanying worksheet below.  Let me know how this lesson works out in your class! Hope you enjoy because it really is so fetch.

Want more Lord of the Flies lessons?   Find my other activities here!

Why Teachers Are Obsessed John Green Books

In honor of his new book coming out,  I thought I would give a little insight as to why John Green has my undying devotion and support as a high school English Language Arts Teacher.

1. His Books Are Just That Good

Any book that can draw you in from the first page is a good book in my eyes.  And all of his books have that magic quality that just makes you want to keep reading and reading.  I have had to beg students to put the book away so we could finish a lesson and then promised them that they could take it back out as soon as their work was done.  Fighting a student to get them to stop reading?  An English teacher’s dream. And the best part?  He keeps writing books, which means this fight is never-ending.  :)

2. The Sophistication of the Language and Style of Writing  

All of Green’s books are intended for a teen/young adult audience.  And yet he does not do the normal dumbing down of plot lines and language.  His characters, plot, and literary techniques are complicated, sophisticated, and of quality.  Because he believes that teenagers are complicated and sophisticated and deserving of quality words to read.  The simple assumption that teens can, and want to read high end prose is one that I thank him for.  I love any book that gets students hooked on reading regardless of the quality of writing ( I’m looking at you Twilight).  However, there is a special place in my heart for the books and authors who respect my students brains enough to give them beautiful literature that assumes they are intelligent, and forces them to think without being so highbrow that the text is inaccessible.  From his allusions to Shakespeare and Hemingway’s style in TFIOS, to the complicated math in An Abundance of Katherines, Green respects his teen readers enough to give them complicated material to grapple with.  But he also sets them up for success and interest when their pesky ELA teachers hand them these classic texts.

3.  The Assumption That Teens Have Meaningful Stories All On Their Own

I love a good dystopian story as much as the next Hunger Games fangirl.  But this narrative that one must be special, have a special skill, stand out from the crowd, be the “chosen one”, can leave a lot of kids feeling left in the dust.  We can’t all be Katniss or Tris ( as much as I really want to be).   Green celebrates the everyday teen without unattainable plot points.  His characters are normal boys and girls.  In fact, his most beloved characters are boys and girls who are living lives that are way less than ideal.  And yet their stories are important.  Their stories are  interesting.  Their stories are exactly what our students need to hear.  For this, I am so thankful.  To be able to a student a book that they can see themselves in is a true gift.  ( and exactly why we need more diverse books, but that is a whole different blog post)

4. The Message That Teens Can Be Smart and It Is Cool To Read and Learn

John Green, you made reading cool.  You made learning cool.  You made my most reluctant readers want to talk to their peers about books. You made my students have strong emotional reactions to a piece of literature ( How could you do that to Gus?!).  You made my students have opinions on what they read. ( “Paper Towns isn’t as good as TFIOS” “No way!  Have you read Looking for Alaska?” )  Your words were the catalyst for conversations on books from students who I had never seen pick up a book before.  Your words let teens know that you can think big thoughts, and have educated opinions on the world.  Teens are capable of being intelligent, and still having fun.  I will never forget the day in my ELA class where I threw out the question, “ What is it that you fear?” in reference to a classic text.  And I had my most timid and shy student immediately throw her hand in air and answer “oblivion”.  I owe John Green for the gaggle of girls who raced into my room the day the Paper Towns trailer came out and begged me to play it nice and big on my projector screen after school.  And then their friends in the hall popped their heads in and we played it three more times for even more kids.  And these same teens talked up these books and walked right to the school library to see if they could check out something to read.  Reading is cool because John Green says it is on instagram and tumblr.  And I would never argue with anything posted on tumblr.

Can you tell I am beyond excited to add another Green book to my collection on books to read and recommend?  Which of his books is your favorite?  Let me know below!

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