Literature for Women's History Month

Although March is Women's History Month, I don't like to just celebrate women in the month of March. I feel that traditionally mostly white male authors are taught and that's not fair. I like to incorporate a variety of authors throughout the entire school year.

I know that some schools have very rigid book lists. If you work in a school like that I encourage you to incorporate as many multicultural and female authors as you can into your classroom library. Even if you can't teach these books as whole class novels, you can incorporate them into independent reading. If you don't have a classroom library maybe you could add some female authors that have written poetry or short stories.

Here are some female authors I've incorporated into my classroom:


Mary Shelley: The novel Frankenstein is either taught in a 12th grade British Literature class or AP Literature because of the complexity of the text. I've only taught this novel once in an AP Literature course but I hope so delve deeper into the novel in the future.

Sylvia Plath: I love to teach the semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar. I've used this book a few times with seniors. Even though the book was written many decades ago I feel like some of the internal struggles that the narrator has are still struggles that people today have. I've also taught many of Plath's poems when I taught a creative writing course.

Laurie Halse Anderson: I've taught two of her novels in the past: Speak and Catalyst. Speak is a great novel to use with 9th graders as the protagonist is their age. The protagonist of the novel Catalyst is in 12th grade and she's dealing with the stress of applying to college. I think that teenagers like seeing characters their own age because it's more relatable.

Lorraine Hansberry: I've taught the play A Raisin in the Sun numerous times with both 9th and 10th graders. I think that this play is important to teach because of the historical context of racism in the late 1950's.

Sandra Cisneros: I've taught The House on Mango Street a few times. I've used the book in entirety with 9th graders and I've used pieces of it with a creative writing class. My students really enjoy this book. There are some controversial topics in the book but these are topics that students need to talk about.

Alice Sebold: I've taught the novel The Lovely Bones several times with both 11th and 12th graders. Although the book is very sad, it is well-written and unique. My students enjoyed it and they really liked the movie version of the book.

S.E. Hinton: I've taught the novel The Outsiders a few times with 9th grade classes. This book can be used with both middle school or high school students. Working in the inner city I found that my students could relate to many of the issues in this book.

Sharon Draper: I've taught the novel Tears of a Tiger with 9th grade classes but this book could easily be used with middle school students as well. The characters are teenagers and the situations they face are situations that students can easily relate to.

R.J. Palacio: The book Wonder can be used with a variety of grade levels. I've used this book with 9th graders but it is usually taught with younger grades. Wonder is a great book to use when discussing anti-bullying.

Suzanne Collins: The book The Hunger Games can be taught with any grade 7-12. Some people might be cautious about using the novel with younger students because there is a lot of death in the book but most students are probably familiar with the book already because of the popularity of the film.


Maya Angelou: I've taught the memoir I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings once with seniors. It's both heart-wrenching and well-written. I would use this book with older students because there is a lot of abusive situations in the memoir. I also love teaching many of her poetry both in conjunction with the memoir or as stand alone lessons.

Short Stories

Shirley Jackson: I've taught both the short story "The Lottery" and the short story "Charles" by Shirley Jackson. Both stories can be used with a variety of grade levels and have interesting themes.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: I've taught the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper a few times. I think it works well with either 11th or 12th graders because of the level of vocabulary. I usually pair this short story with the short story "A Rose for Emily" (not written by a female author but still deals with feminist issues) and the poem "Barbie Doll."

Flannery O'Conner also has a lot of great short stories for upper grades.


This is a list of some female poets I like to incorporate into my curriculum:

Emily Dickinson
Sylvia Plath
Anne Sexton
Maya Angelou
Nikki Giovanni
Marge Piercy

I have a few other female authors listed in this blog post I wrote about Literature for Black History Month.

Literature for Black History Month

February is Black History Month. In honor of Black History Month, I like to incorporate literature written by African Americans into my ELA classroom. The type and length of literature depends upon various factors including what grade I’m teaching, if my class is an annual class or a half year course (in NY we start a new semester the last week in January), and if I’m in the middle of a longer unit. In an ideal world I’d have time for a full-length novel, memoir or play.

My favorite book to teach during Black History Month is the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. Although the play was published in 1959 the topics and themes of the play are still relevant today. When I teach 9th grade I love to use the young adult novel Monster by Walter Dean Myers. The protagonist of the book is a 16-year-old boy that’s on trial for felony murder. Students always enjoy this novel. I find that my students enjoy any book by Walter Dean Myers.

If I don’t have time for a longer work of literature, I like to teach a few poems by African American authors. Two of my personal favorites are Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou but there are many poets you can incorporate into your curriculum. If you’re in the middle of a unit, you can tie in a poem or two thematically.

Below is a list of some of my favorite works of literature written by African American authors. This is not meant to be a definitive list. This list is simply a list of books, authors and poets that I think work well in a secondary classroom. Some of these books work well as full class books while others would make a great addition to a classroom library.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

This play was published in 1959 and deals with an African American family struggling with poverty and racism in Chicago. I’ve taught this play with both 9th and 10th grade but I know other teachers use it in 11th grade as well.

Kindred by Octavia Butler
This is a science fiction novel about a woman who travels back in time from present day to the time-period of slavery. She goes back and forth several times between the two time-periods. This is a great book to put in your classroom library or to use with literature circles.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This book deals with a lot of controversial topics including racism, misogyny and abuse. I taught this book in AP Literature and Composition. The topics are very mature so I wouldn’t use this book with younger students.

Fences by August Wilson
This play deals with family relationships and racial inequality. If you teach the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller you can draw a lot of comparisons between the two plays. I’ve taught this play to 11th graders.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The book deals with one woman’s search for love amid a racist, misogynistic society full of gossip hounds. This book works well with 11th and 12th graders

Beloved by Toni Morrison
The protagonist of the novel Sethe was born into slavery. When the book starts she is no longer a slave but her background story is pieced together through memories. The book portrays the horrors that the slaves faced daily. The book is very graphic so it would probably should be used with upper grades.

Night John by Gary Paulsen
The novel is set in the 1850’s on a Plantation. The main character of the novel is a young girl named Sarny. A slave named Night John teaches Sarny to read despite the fact that the penalty for teaching a slave to read was dismemberment. This is a great book to use for middle school students or lower level high school students.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This is a recent young adult novel that deals with racism and poverty. Starr Carter is a 16-year-old girl that lives in a poor neighborhood but travels to go to a fancy school in a better neighborhood. When one of her childhood friends get killed in front of her, her world turned upside down. This is a great book to add to your classroom library.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This memoir discusses the author’s childhood in the 1960’s. The book is written in free verse. The book shows racism and segregation in the south. This book (or any of Jacqueline Woodson’s books) is a great addition to a classroom library.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers
This book is about a 16-year-old boy who is on trial for felony murder. The book is written as a screenplay and it shows the entire court case. The book deals with poverty, racism, gangs and peer pressure. I’ve taught this book several times with 9th graders but it will work well with middle school students as well. Walter Dean Myers has a lot of YA books that students love. They’re a great addition to a classroom library.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
by Maya Angelou
This book is Maya Angelou’s memoir about her childhood. She dealt with being abandoned by her mother, racism, poverty and sexual assault.The topics are very mature so I would use it with 11th or 12th grade. I’ve only taught this memoir once and I used it with 12th graders.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
This non-fiction book is about Frederick Douglass’ life as a slave in the south. Although the book deals with the harsh reality of America’s dark past, it shows how one man outsmarted his masters and learned to read. He eventually escapes to the North but he doesn’t reveal how. I taught this book once with 9th graders. The book would also work well with middle school students.

Below is a list of African American poets that I think work well in secondary classrooms. In my experience most of my students are familiar with Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou but they don’t really know the other poets listed below.

Maya Angelou
Langston Hughes
Countee Cullen
Claude McKay
Lucille Clifton
June Jordan
Nikki Grime
Nikki Giovanni
Audre Lord
Robert Hayden

New Year, New Goals

This is the time of the year when everyone starts making New Years Resolutions. One of the more popular New Years Resolutions is about losing weight. This is a New Years Resolution I have made myself countless times. I used to say things like I will not eat chocolate this entire year (yeah right).

Everyone is going to holiday gatherings and indulging. I'm currently a weight watchers member and we were told that the average person gains between 7 and 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. If you start counting the holiday season with Halloween it's probably closer to 15 pounds instead of 10. I need to stay focused because I don't want to go back to the old me. I'm not saying I deny myself 100% because that's unrealistic. I don't want to push things off and say "I'll start again after the holidays." No one is perfect but if I indulge, it's just one day, I need to make sure I'm back on track the very next day.

When I used to call them resolutions I never stuck to them so now instead of resolutions I make goals. I also try to set realistic, attainable goals. If I make my goals too big and I don't reach them I'll be disappointed in myself. So I set numerous small goals and I reward myself (not with food lol) when I reach them. I know that using the word goal instead of resolution is just semantics, but I feel like that helps me.

I'm not just talking about my weight, although my weight and my health have been a major focus in my life the past two years. I always say "this year I'm going to be more organized" and that doesn't happen because I don't have a great system. I've tried a folder for each class, I've tried a hanging folder with different pockets, and I've tried having a tray for each class. If you can think of a way to help a teacher that can't find her desk that would be great.

The only thing that's truly helped is collecting less papers. I only collect essays, projects, quizzes and tests now. I don't collect classwork or homework anymore. I walk around with my iPad with my nifty online gradebook and I give them credit on the spot. I do a lot of journal writing with my students and they keep them in the back of the room. I tend to only check those at the end of each marking period. I tell the kids how many entries they should have and I use a rubric.

I have my students make goals in September and we revise/update them in January when we come back from the break. I make them come up with 3 measurable goals that are attainable. We come up with both individual goals and class goals. My school likes to use SMART goals.

What are SMART goals?

•Well defined
•Clear to anyone that has a basic knowledge of the project

•Know if the goal is obtainable and how far away completion is
•Know when it has been achieved

•Agreement with all the stakeholders what the goals should be

•Within the availability of resources, knowledge and time

•Enough time to achieve the goal
•Not too much time, which can affect project performance

Click here for a free PowerPoint Lesson and a SMART Goal template I use in my classes.

I hope you have a wonderful new year. Good luck with setting goals for yourself and helping your students set their own goals.

6 Winter and Holiday Themed Activities for Your Secondary Classroom

It’s December which means one thing in secondary classrooms: everyone is counting down the days until winter vacation. It’s the time of the year when both teachers and students get restless.  You have gifts to buy, holiday menus to plan, decorations to put up, and parties you’ve been invited to. You’re being pulled in all of these different directions and you need to find some engaging activities for your students who have vacation on the brain. Here are some fun and creative things to do in your ELA classroom this holiday season: 

1)  Kindness Quotes Task Cards – These task cards are free in my TpT store. Each task card has a quote about kindness that students will interpret and respond to. This is the time of the year when we want to promote kindness. These task cards can be used for Bell Ringers or a writing center. These task cards can be tied in with different pieces of literature as well. I used these task cards with the novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio

2) Secret Santa - Traditionally a Secret Santa buys a gift for someone else but you can do this in your classroom with a little twist. You can have your students write letters instead of buying gifts. Instruct students to write letters to their Secret Santa telling him/her what they like about them. You can also have students give little hints so that the letters turn into a guessing game or a scavenger hunt. 

3) Winter and Holiday Themed Short Story Starters on Task Cards – These task cards are free in my TpT store. There are 12 short story starters included in this free product. This activity is aligned with the CCSS for grades 5-12. You can use these task cards in a variety of ways:
  • Give each child a different story starters. You will have to do some repeats. They have to use that story starter as the first sentence (or in some cases 2 sentences) of their story. If you want to give them a page or a paragraph requirement it's up to you.
  • Give each child a choice of 2 or 3 short story starters. They get to pick which one they want to use. They have to use that story starter as the first sentence (or in some cases 2 sentences) of their story. If you want to give them a page or a paragraph requirement it's up to you.
  • Put students in a circle. Have them each write their short story starter at the top of the sheet of loose leaf and write for a set amount of time (3-5 minutes) and then they pass the story to the next person in the circle. That person then continues the story wherever the other person left off. In the past when I’ve done this the stories have been hilarious. Since I work with older students I have to lay down some ground rules about cursing and school appropriate topics. I had the students share them aloud when I used this method.

4) You can have students analyze holiday song lyrics. I often use song lyrics in my classroom when I’m doing a poetry unit. Many students don’t like poetry but they love music. You can have students just read the lyrics or listen to them and follow along. Students should look for figurative language in the lyrics.

5) Winter and Holiday Themed Writing Prompts on Task Cards. This is a product in my TpT store. There are 24 winter/holiday themed task cards in this product. Some of them are journal prompts and some of them are quotes for students to write responses to. You can pick and choose which ones you want to give to the students or let the students decide. You can give each student all of the cards, you can give each student one card or you can give each student a choice of two or three cards. It's up to you how you want to use them. This activity is aligned with the CCSS for grades 5-12. 

6) Watch clips from different holiday movies. This can be a standalone activity or you can relate the film clips to literature you've read in class. Here are a few activities you can do with holiday films:
  • Analyze the characters and review characterization with your students. Example: In A Christmas Carol, the character Scrooge is a round character whereas Bob Cratchit is a flat character.
  • Show your students an example of a movie review from a newspaper like The New York Times and have students write a movie review for a movie you watch in class.
Students are always extremely excited the day before the vacation so my school does a school-wide potluck lunch followed by a student/faculty basketball game. The potluck works because I work in a small school. This might not work in larger schools.

Book Talks vs. Book Reports

When I was a child I had to do traditional book reports. We had to read X amount of books and write a certain amount of words/paragraphs/pages about the books that we read. I've always been an avid reader but once in 6th grade I remember writing an entire book report based upon just chapter one and the summary on the back of the book. Those were the days before the internet and I was still able to pretend I'd read a book. Today it's much easier to pretend you've read a book.

How many books have students read for pleasure in the past year?

As an ELA teacher I give book talks pretty much every day. Students will ask me what I'm currently reading, if I've read a certain book, to recommend a book or to tell them about a book in my classroom library. Also every time I teach a new book I do a book talk before giving out the books. I give so many informal book talks it's like second nature to me.

Many of my students aren't readers and they hate public speaking. As teachers we need to figure out ways to foster a love of reading and try to help students get over their fear of public speaking.

When I started teaching I gave students traditional book reports. I wanted them to read more so we'd have the book we were reading as a class and then they'd have to pick one book to read independently each marking period. The problems are that 1) I didn't know if they were actually reading and 2) book reports are boring. They didn't like writing them and in all honesty I didn't like reading them. I wanted to foster a love for reading and book reports were not the way to do it.

A few years ago my school started having independent reading once a week in all ELA classes. As a department we decided which day to do this. Students could either read a book from the classroom library or bring their own. Obviously everyone reads at their own pace and everyone picked books of varying lengths. I didn't assign a due date but I told students that they had to do one book talk each marking period. I modeled a formal book talk using a book I'd read recently. I used the following format:

Title of Book
Number of Pages
Information about the author
Summary of the book ( a paragraph or two)
Connections to the book
Read a passage to the class and explain why you chose it.
Recommendation (Who would enjoy this book?)

After the book talk I asked the class if they had questions. After each student's book talk their classmates asked questions. Sometimes (not always) after a book talk other students wanted to read a book someone else had read. That never happens with a book report. The more book talks a student did (they sometimes did more than required), the more comfortable they got speaking in front of the class.

How often do your students visit the library?

I still had students that didn't love reading but I think that book talks were effective for many students. Even if you don't have time for independent reading during class, I think you should consider having students give book talks in class. It will help them with public speaking and the class will learn about a variety of books.

Seven Scary Stories to Read in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love watching scary movies on TV, I love planning which costume I'll wear this year to my friend's annual party and I love reading scary stories with my high school students. Whenever I think of Halloween I think of Edgar Allan Poe.

I used to always teach "The Tell-Tale Heart" which is one of my favorite stories to teach this time of year. We'd start the story and then all of a sudden a student will say "Is this the story where....?" and all of a sudden the entire story is ruined for every kid who hasn't read it yet. "The Tell-Tale Heart is a wonderful story but so many ELA teachers teach it that you're bound to have a student that has read and can potentially ruin it for others. This scenario has happened with "The Raven" as well. I used to teach "The Raven" every year on Halloween but a few years ago I started doing scary story writing instead because too many students had already read it. This is especially true on the high school level. For this very reason I started looking for other stories to teach. Of course I still love to teach Poe but I tend to stay away from "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Raven."

Below is a list of seven scary stories that I've used successfully in my ELA classes.

"The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe

My students really like this story even though the narrator who is both crazy and an alcoholic abuses a cat. They like that not only does the narrator get caught, but he gets caught because of the second cat. I've used this story with students who were already familiar with Poe.

"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe

The one thing my students love about this story is that the narrator gets away with murder. Unlike the narrator in "The Tale-Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat," this narrator gets away with it. They always wonder exactly what the insults were but that's where our imaginations can fill in the blanks. This story can be used with any high school grade.

"The Bad Babysitter" by R.L. Stine

Most of my students are familiar with the Goosebumps books so when I use a short story by R.L. Stine they get excited. Although this story isn't as gruesome as Poe's stories there is an element of magic and mischief that makes this story ideal for Halloween. (I don't want to give away too much for those of you that haven't read it.) I've used this story with 9th graders in the past.

"A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner

This is a story that I would use with either 11th or 12th graders. When I taught AP Literature and Composition this short story was in the textbook. This story isn't a horror story with gore but it definitely falls into the category of Southern Gothic. The entire story seems like a sad love story until the very end when find out that not only did she kill him, but she slept next to his dead, decaying body for years (the grey hair on the pillow). Other things (that I won't mention here) often come up in student questions when we get to that unique ending.

"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

"The Lottery" is another story that is taught by so many teachers that you might run the risk of students ruining the ending. Despite the foreshadowing (the children gathering rocks, people being nervous about the lottery, etc) my students are always shocked by the ending. I always get questions about the setting and whether or not this story is non-fiction. This is definitely a story that students will remember. I've used this story with grades 9-12.

"The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs

"The Monkey's Paw" is definitely a scary story and it even starts out on a stormy evening which you'd expect in this type of tale. I always enjoy the classroom discussions about our own three wishes. I usually do this story with upper grades because there is some difficult vocabulary in it.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

"The Yellow Wallpaper" doesn't seem like a horror story at first. It's the story of a woman who is sick and her husband decides to rent a house in the country so she can recover. What happens in the house is what makes this story a Gothic tale. The language is difficult because the story was written over 100 years ago so I use this story with 11th and 12th graders. This story always brings up discussion about gender equality and traditional gender roles.

I have a free PowerPoint lesson in my TpT store for the poem "Barbie Doll" by Marge Piercy. I often pair up the poem "Barbie Doll" with "A Rose for Emily" or "The Yellow Wallpaper. Sometimes I do all three works of literature.

I usually teach two or three scary stories and then the week of Halloween I have my students write their own scary stories using story starters. In the upper grades we don't celebrate every holiday the way that some do in the lower grades but Halloween tends to easily fit into the secondary ELA classroom.

You don't need to have a fancy color printer. You can print in grayscale and it still looks great. 

For years students have been fascinated by horror shows, horror films and horror novels. Utilize this time of the year to read some stories that will appeal to your students. You can always tie these short stories into the longer works you teach later in the year. (Compare and contrast characters, what would the narrator from ________ story do in this situation,? etc.)

I hope you have a hauntingly good time in your ELA classroom this fall.

First Week Jitters

Everyone knows that your first year of teaching is tough. I remember being told that it gets easy after 5 years. Some things definitely get easier with time but it never gets "easy." Here I am with 16 years experience and I still think that September is hard. Most of my friends are teachers and all I've seen on social media for the past few weeks are people talking about having back to school nightmares. We're not rookies, why are still having first week jitters?

I always love the first day back. I'm not talking about the first day with the kids, I'm talking about the day we have staff meetings. When you've worked in a school for many years the first day is like a reunion with old friends. I saw maybe 4 of my co-workers during the summer. People are busy with their families, some work another job, while others go on vacation. The first day back it's nice to see all of the familiar faces and meet a few new people.

Then there comes the moment of dread....

How many classrooms am I in? How big are my classes? How many grades am I teaching? In a perfect world I'd know my schedule and my room(s) in June but I tend to find out that first day back. This is one reason why my classroom will never look like the classrooms I see all over Pinterest and I'm ok with that. With one or two days notice and anywhere from one to three classrooms I know my teaching environment won't look good until the end of the first marking period when it's covered with student work and anchor charts.

This is my old classroom and it took a lot of time to look like this.

One thing I've learned is that whether I'm teaching 9th grade ELA or AP English the first few days I need to get to know my students and obtain a writing sample. With 9th and 10th grade I usually do "Two Truths and a Lie" which is always a fun activity. I have the students write three paragraphs about themselves and two have to be true and one is a lie. They take turns sharing their paragraphs and we get to know each other and we have some laughs in the process. I always write about things no one would expect and the students always think that my true statements sound fake.  With 11th and 12th grade I usually have them interview each other and present their partner to the class. I think that presentation skills are important and many high school students have stage fright.

When my friends start having the back to school nightmares about coming to school without their lesson plans I remind them that with Google Drive that can't happen. Sure every year is different and every year has it's own set of challenges but one thing that I absolutely love about teaching is that every day is different. I don't have a 9-5 job that's the same day in and day out and I don't think I could be in an environment like that.

Are you new to teaching? Here's a freebie to help you get through those first few days.

We all have first week jitters, it's something we can't get rid of. Each school year is a new beginning. The start of something new is both exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Have a great school year.

Why I Like To Teach Controversial Literature

When I was in 7th grade I read the novel Go Ask Alice. I was a naive young girl who grew up in the plastic bubble of suburbia. For me Go Ask Alice was a cautionary tale and to this day I've never tried drugs because of that book. The events that the main character went through scared the you know what out of me.

Five or six years ago I read the book 13 Reasons Why with a book club that I was in with some fellow teachers. I wanted to read the book because I had seen several students reading it and the plot intrigued me. After reading the novel I put it in my classroom library and added it as a choice when I did literature circles.

Although the book was on the best sellers list many years ago, the book is drawing a lot of attention (both positive and negative) because of the Netflix series. Some people think that the show romanticizes suicide and will give kids bad ideas. Yes the suicide scene in the show was shockingly graphic. I had read the book twice and I was taken aback. In the novel she took pills and in the show she slits her wrists. I read somewhere that this show was giving kids that are bullied instructions for killing themselves. I'm sorry but that's nonsense.

Maybe Hannah didn't know how to tell her parents. Maybe she thought that since they had financial issues, she didn't want to be a burden. Who knows? Maybe we can ask the author. Maybe like Go Ask Alice, 13 Reasons Why is a cautionary tale. Maybe the critics should focus more on anti-bullying and getting help for sexual assault victims. Did Hannah's friends turn on her? Yes. Did Hannah have a lousy guidance counselor? Yes. The reader/audience knows that she could have turned to Clay but she felt like she couldn't trust guys and to be honest you can't really blame her.

Many teachers are saying that they won't teach the novel because it's about suicide but these same teachers teach Romeo and Juliet which is in essence a play about suicide and death. What's the difference? Romeo and Juliet felt like they couldn't talk to their parents (just like Hannah). Just like Hannah, Romeo and Juliet killed themselves and didn't think about all the people they left behind. Not to mention all of the other people that died because of them (Tybalt, Mercutio, Paris and Lady Montague.)

Life is messy, sometimes friends suck. sometimes you have a teacher that's not trained to be a guidance counselor (in the book at least), and sometimes you feel like you have no one turn to. This doesn't mean that every kid that is bullied is going to pull a Hannah. Maybe it will be a cautionary tale and the depressed/bullied individual will be able to look around and realize that they do have someone they can trust and turn to. Maybe reading a book like this in class (even as independent reading from your classroom library) will help a student in need. I always find that teaching young adult books that deal with these types of issues bring up good class discussion. You never know when discussing a "controversial" topic that's in one of these books can help a student in need.

P.S. I have a friend from high school whose daughter has been bullied for the past 2 or 3 years. She attempted suicide and was hospitalized for many months. She's now in counseling and doing better. This friend watched the Netflix series with her daughter and she wrote on Facebook that she thinks that every parent and teenager should watch the series. The world isn't perfect, please stop being scared of "controversial" literature.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. I'm not going to post a lot of statistics or photographs that will make you cry. I'm not a historian and there are plenty of sites for you to find that sort of information. I will tell you that I am the granddaughter of 3 Holocaust survivors and because of this fact I find it extremely important to teach about The Holocaust.

In a few years all of the survivors will be gone and as educators it is our responsibility to pass on their stories to the next generation. I have been lucky enough to meet many survivors over the years at The Jewish Heritage Museum. If you're in the NYC area you should definitely pay a visit to this museum. It's in Battery Park in lower Manhattan.

As an English teacher I find it very important to teach Holocaust Literature. In my school it's on the 10th grade curriculum. My students learn about World War II and the Holocaust in Global Studies so when we get to our Holocaust Literature Unit they already have some background knowledge. Sometimes they've already read The Diary of Anne Frank in middle school but that depends upon the school that they went to. I love to teach the memoir Night by Elie Wiesel because it's a real account and the narrator is about the same age as my students so I think they can relate to him.

A few years ago I had what my school calls a "repeater class." It was a 10th grade English class but the students all should have been in 11th or 12th grade. I decided that instead of using the memoir Night with them that I'd teach the fictional novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. I taught the novel and showed the film and my students were really affected by the ending. I won't spoil it in case you have yet to read the book or see the film but it's a Holocaust book so you know it's sad. You can pick whatever memoir or novel suits your fancy but I think it's important to teach our students about this devastating time-period in history

Shakespeare's Birthday

Every year on April 23rd (Shakespeare's accepted birthday) I write on the board next to the date "Happy Birthday William Shakespeare". Every year I get made fun of for this and I don't care. It's one of those things that I love to do.

Have you ever read a book and the language was so rich that you could read it several times and get something different out of it each time? That's how I feel about Shakespeare. I've probably taught Romeo and Juliet eight times but it never gets old. I could teach Hamlet every year and never get tired of it. When a story is that good, it never gets old.

I've worked with some teachers that refuse to teach Shakespeare. I've worked with other teachers that will use the Shakespeare Made Easy books. Those books are great for certain classes but I would never completely abandon the original language. Yes it's difficult, yes the play might take twice the amount of time to teach as another literature unit but I think it's worth it. I always say that no child should graduate from high school without having read at least one Shakespearean play.

The language is difficult but that's why we have footnotes, online summaries and nerdy English teachers like myself. Once you get past the language the stories are universal. Romeo and Juliet are two teenagers that want to be together but their parents say no. Hamlet is a kid that's upset that his dad died and his mom re-married quickly. Othello is about an interracial couple and all the problems that society has with them. Macbeth is about a guy that is greedy for power. I could go on but I think you get the point.

Here we have a man who wrote plays over 400 years ago with themes that still apply to our world today. How many authors can we say that about? I love many modern authors but I highly doubt people will be reading their books in 400 years. So for that reason and that reason alone I will always say Happy Birthday William Shakespeare every April and I don't know the birthday of any other author despite the fact that I'm an avid reader.


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