Taking the Fear out of Teaching Frankenstein

Taking the Fearout of TeachingFrankenstein

by Melissa Smith

To make Frankenstein relatable to our world today, I have students read and discuss various science articles. I do this lesson within the first couple of weeks of reading as an introduction to some of the overarching messages of the novel. For this activity, you will need large pieces of butcher paper (one for each group), markers, and links to the articles accessible for students. I have articles linked here to use, but it’d also be neat to find some additional articles that are locally interesting to your school or region. KEEP READING

Literary Analysis Letters

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I haven’t thought much about pen pals since elementary school when there was a sense of mystery and excitement associated with receiving a letter from a faraway friend. Using pen pals in AP Literature has captured a bit of that fun and whimsy, all in the context of literary analysis.

Here’s how it happened: As I was planning lessons for our first novel (Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), I knew that I wanted students to write informal responses while reading–to develop ideas, share insights, and ask questions. I also knew that I did not want to add to my always-overwhelming stack of papers to grade. Emboldened by Kelly Gallagher’s assertion that “students should be writing way more than a teacher can grade,” I decided that this work would not be handed in. And yet, my students needed to have an audience for this piece. That’s when I remembered pen pals.KEEP READING

Twitter Chat for Beginners

Twitter Chats for Beginners

I’ve written in the past about how the relationships I’ve developed on Twitter have transformed and energized my teaching (How Twitter Saved Me).

and how colleagues sometimes look at me with skepticism when I encourage them to take an hour out of their already crazy busy schedules to talk to teachers they’ve never met before.

But when they finally decide to try out a chat, that first step into the vast Twitter ocean can seem a bit daunting. While there are several great posts out there on diving into Twitter, I’ve yet to find a simple, straightforward guide to which I can direct my tentative friends. … KEEP READING

Teaching on the Theme of Power

Power-Resources to Customize a Unit

Are you considering teaching a unit on power? Or perhaps you are looking for some resources to pair with a major text with a theme of power? Look no further. The following list is compiled from a Twitter chat hosted by Talks with Teachers to brainstorm resources for teaching texts dealing with the theme of power. These resources include major works, visual art pieces (click on the link to see the picture), songs, Ted Talks, films, documentaries, writing ideas, question ideas, and more. Pick and choose what you need to create your own unit.  … KEEP READING

Engaging with a Text: Spotlight Reading

Spotlight Reading

I avoided reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita for years because of the book’s content.  With so many amazing works of literature to spend time with, why read a novel that explores the mind of a disturbed pedophile? I finally decided to pick up Nabokov’s classic after reading Roy Peter Clark’s book The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing. Clark’s study of Lolita’s opening sentences convinced me that content aside, anyone who crafts sentences with such skill and beauty, is an author that I had to read.

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”KEEP READING

For the Teachers Who Want to Teach Modern Poetry

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AP Lit teacher confession: I have never taught an entire poetry collection. Single poems – lots. A collection – never. But when #APBKCHAT introduced me to Counting Descent coupled with Melissa Smith’s push to #teachlivingpoets, I knew this collection would be on this year’s reading list. I fell in love with Smith’s voice, message, and way with words and knew my students would also.

Counting Descent is Smith’s first published collection exploring his life, his response to the world around him, and his questions about history and humanity forcing the reader to do the same. While the subject is weighty, the accessibility of the words on the page and the free verse form eases the reader to think and question with Smith and exploring the poems feels more like a conversation than a lecture. This is the perfect collection for high school students. These lessons were birthed out of the APLit PLN as several of us began the year with Counting Descent; these ideas are also transferable to teaching any poetry collection. KEEP READING

Slow and Steady Literary Analysis

Slowing Down for Literary Analysis

Maybe you can relate to me. Type A. Monitor for the quickest moving rather than the shortest check out line. Get things done. A minimum of five tabs open at a time on the computer. Don’t sit still well. Sound familiar? My high capacity disposition serves me well in most areas of life except for when it comes to teaching literary analysis. Unpacking a text is slow, tedious work. Teaching students to unpack a text can be even slower and more tedious. Slow, tedious work is difficult for me; I operate best in fast and furious mode. This year, however, I am making a change: I am slowing down – way down.

I have always struggled with teaching novels. How does a teacher exactly teach a novel? Back in my day, we read novels, the teacher lectured on the novel, we tested on the novel, and then moved on to the next text. This is not really my style of teaching. My style is more creating experiences for students to interact with the text and make meaning, and while I do a good job providing these experiences, I still rush my students through the process.KEEP READING

Question Like a Four-Year-Old

APLitHelp.com

A few years ago, I was trying to figure out how to get my AP Literature students to go beyond the surface in their analysis. Their essays mostly stayed in “safe” territory, rarely venturing beyond paraphrase and, when they dealt with theme at all, tentative stabs at topic: “Frankenstein’s monster shows the effect of society on personality.” or “Kafka’s Metamorphosis is about the meaninglessness of life.” The ideas in their essays weren’t necessarily wrong, but because they were so surface level, they never really dug into deeper, more focused meanings in the texts and led to similarly unfocused essays, not really sure what they were trying to say.KEEP READING

AP Lit Framework

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There are two types of grocery shoppers; those who shop by a list and those who wing it. I’m a hybrid of these two types making and taking my list but falling trap to the end cap displays and piling flavored coffee, nutritional breakfast bars, and Oreos into the shopping cart (or the buggy where I’m from). Classroom teaching is similar. I plan and give myself the stick-to-the-plan pep talk at the beginning of the year but end up throwing the latest technology, newest novel, or current professional development idea into the mix and by the time I’m checking out in May my cart is overflowing with all kinds of items that may or may not add nourishment to the learning soul of my students. I went into this year knowing I needed to have some type of plan to keep me focused but one that also allowed for flexibility and Oreo eating on occassion. KEEP READING

The Jock, The Academic, and The Boy in the Back of the Room

Creating Lasting Relationships that Work

On the first day of every school year the bell rings and students, in my case seniors, walk in, shake my hand, sit where they will, and wait to see what kind of teacher I will be.  I go through the same process with them.  Each student requires something different from me, so I need to understand students individually if I am going to help them grow into critical readers, writers, and thinkers.  I refuse to listen to past teachers’ reports on my new students’ personalities or proclivities.  I refuse to prejudge my students.  To be effective, I must know my students and I must know them well based on my experiences. KEEP READING

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