It Is OK to Doodle

Lily M


Let me start with a little secret … I cannot draw.

I tell my students this and try to show them that they don’t have to be great artists to create art that helps them think critically about texts. This is even more important now that I work at a high school where one of the four pillars of our plan is an arts-infused curriculum. One of the educators who helped to write the plan, and who is now our principal, explained to me that arts-infused means thinking through art. We’re not trying to be a Fame school, but rather we’re trying to use the arts as a way of thinking across disciplines.

The idea of an arts-infused curriculum was a huge draw for me as a teacher. I have always incorporated art into my teaching of English. I have asked kids to storyboard and create other types of artistic interpretations of text, often using symbols to represent their thinking. I know that some teachers subtly put down this type of work. They argue that it just isn’t rigorous. Despite the deep thinking I see when students use drawing or art, I had trouble articulating how it helped my students think through text.

Luckily, a couple of things have happened recently that have helped me understand why incorporating art is worth it. … KEEP READING

Shakespeare Comes Alive



Think back to your experiences learning Shakespeare when you were in high school. Rather than simply reading the play, the teacher probably told you that you would be performing it in class. While this sounds like it might be fun, it probably devolved into a few apathetic students standing at the front of the room reading in monotone voices.

Students learn Shakespeare when they perform Shakespeare. They understand his words when they can truly interact with them. Unfortunately, most of our students aren’t actors, and they really aren’t comfortable performing in front of their classmates. How can we get our students to engage with Hamlet & Macbeth in ways that won’t bore or embarrass them? … KEEP READING

Multiple Choice Monday



Each Monday my students do multiple choice practice. My non-AP classes work on SAT reading comprehension questions while my AP students focus on AP exam type questions. Tests vary in length each week from 10 questions to a full AP practice exam of 55 questions. Multiple-choice practice can often suck the life out of a class, yet practice is necessary in order to increase reading comprehension skills and prepare for the exam.

I have started using Socrative in all of my classes for several reasons. Students benefit from Socrative because it provides a game-based feel for an ordinarily mundane activity and gives immediate feedback on questions. Teachers benefit from Socrative because valuable class time is not wasted on questions the entire class answered correctly, and data can be saved from each practice test in order to tailor future lessons to class weaknesses. … KEEP READING

Advertising Fallacies: Snowboarding Cars and Other Fine Things


If there ever is a perfect time to teach visual analysis, appeals, and SOAPSTone, now is the time. You can’t look anywhere without being bombarded by pressure—to be the best, to have the best. The message everywhere is BUY.

In today’s media-driven society, teens are immersed in advertising. In most cases, because it is so ubiquitous, they don’t even notice. They tune out the bar on the Facebook Wall, the popups in their favorite phone games, and can even fast-forward through commercials with their DVR. This, however, doesn’t mean that they are immune to the subtle effects. Now, more than ever, we need to teach them to read these things for what they are—ploys to make money. … KEEP READING

3 Reasons for Poetry Fridays


Every Friday, we start my English class by playing around with a poem.

The study of poetry in English class is often devoted to seriously pursuing theme, searching for literary devices, and supporting ideas with textual evidence: all worthy endeavors, but not conducive to experiencing the enjoyment so many of us get from reading a poem that truly touches us. This is equivalent to being forced to write an essay on every single book you read for fun; it misses the point of why we read in the first place. I want my students to have the opportunity to enjoy poetry the way I do.

Here are three reasons Poetry Fridays can change the way your students feel about poetry: … KEEP READING

Shakespearean Musical Chairs



My AP students enter my class having read Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade… and that’s it. No Othello in 10th. No Julius Caesar. No Hamlet. It’s the hand I’m dealt and rather than lament this, I have to get to work building skill as quickly as I can. This isn’t an easy task because Shakespeare’s language can be difficult for experienced readers, let alone ones that lack exposure.

I knew I had to develop a way to reduce their inhibitions, build their close-reading skills, front load information about the play, and make it fun and inviting at the same time. That’s when I came up with Shakespearean Musical Chairs. Here’s what I do: … KEEP READING

Literary CSI



Do we each have literary DNA? Is our writing style unique?

Vassar College professor, Don Foster, whose book, Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous, argues that no two people use language in precisely the same way, our identities are encoded in our own language, a kind of literary DNA. Combining traditional scholarship with modern technology, Foster has discovered how to unlock that code and, in the process, has invented an entire field of investigation–literary forensics–by which it becomes possible to catch anonymous authors as they ultimately betray their identities with their own words.

I first heard about Foster’s book through Lawrence Scanlon at an AP workshop a few summers back. An activity that can promote close-reading skills, Scanlon suggested, was to have students become literary detectives by investigating multiple poems with the poet’s name removed to determine who wrote what.KEEP READING

5 Works of Art to Teach Critical Thinking


With the emphasis on high rigor in today’s class, the English class sometimes becomes repetitive. Reading, writing, and discussion are the staple of a successful class, and these must be done. Art, however, is one of the most underutilized resources in today’s AP class. The Roman poet Horace claimed, “A picture is a poem without words” meaning art and written word are different mediums of expression. Art offers students a break from written words while continuing to develop the same skill set needed to be successful readers through challenging students to think both critically and analytically.

Here are a few examples of how I use art in class: … KEEP READING

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