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Five Active Learning Strategies

Here's the big question I ask myself when I'm planning a new lesson or activity for my students: will it allow each one to be an active learner or just a "passer-by"? If the activity will not provide opportunities for everyone of them to engage in the learning, I go back to the drawing board.

When I say active and engaged, I'm not just talking about activities that get them up and moving around my room (although I do love those); I'm referring to ones that require all students to think, rather than passively absorb - or ignore - information.

So here are five things I try to include in my lessons and activities to make it more likely that my students aren't just "passing by" the learning:

1. Critical Thinking Activities
When I was a student, and even in the first part of my career, English class was all about chapter questions. We would read a section of the novel or play and the teacher would provide us with questions that focused on important elements of the text.  The problem with this approach is the onus is on the teacher to do all of the heavy thinking; by providing guiding questions, teachers are telling students what is important and what they need to think about. This might seem like the right thing to do, but it relieves the student of the responsibility of figuring things out for themselves. 

Five active learning strategies for middle or high school English class. Room 213 shares strategies for lessons that involve critical thinking, discussion, collaboration, movement and creativity.

So, how can we get kids more actively engaged in a text? My favourite strategy puts the responsibility on them to decide what is important and worthy of discussion. After they've read a short text or a section of a longer one, I ask each student to choose five elements from the text that they believe are most important to understand the story. Then, they work in groups to come to a consensus on these five elements. Once they do, they find evidence to support their choices, choices they will have to defend when we have a full class discussion. I love this activity because the kids are forced to take a close look at the text without me showing them where to look. It takes a bit of training and modelling the first few times you do it, but once the students get a handle on it, the discussions about text become very rich.

Grab this free organizer if you'd like to try the activity with your students. I also have several other critical thinking activities that can be used with any text. Check them out here.

2. Discussion
Speaking is a very important component of active learning, so I build in opportunities for discussion in every lesson, whether it's sharing with a partner, a group or the whole class. If I want students to explore an idea, we begin with individual reflections or brainstorms, so everyone has to think and engage before we discuss. Then, I use a variety of strategies to attempt to engage all students, not just the keen ones.

Five active learning strategies for middle or high school English class. Room 213 shares strategies for lessons that involve critical thinking, discussion, collaboration, movement and creativity.

There are many ways we can get our kids talking, from chat stations to Socratic seminars to formal debates, but some of the richest talk I've ever heard among students comes from daily chats and informal discussions. Unless you have a special group of kids, though, these don't always happen without some guidance from the teacher. If you'd like some ideas for facilitating meaningful class discussions, grab this freebie.

Five active learning strategies for middle or high school English class. Room 213 shares strategies for lessons that involve critical thinking, discussion, collaboration, movement and creativity.
When students work together to figure out a complex text or a problem, deep learning can occur. When students are taught how to listen to and question each other, they learn skills that they can use long after they leave our classrooms. 

For these reasons, collaborative work is a staple in my classroom. My go-to activity involves chart paper, sticky notes and markers because it can be applied to so many situations. I simply assign kids a critical thinking task, give them their stickies and markers and let them go to it. 

I use this strategy a lot because it allows students to see their thought processes. For example, last week we were working on our first major essay, and I wanted my students to create an outline before they began. I also wanted them to work on idea development and organization, so I created a group activity that would give them some practice and a better understanding of the outlining process. I projected the thesis: smoking is a terrible habit on the screen and had them brainstorm topic sentences. Each group was assigned one and given chart paper and markers. They brainstormed ideas to support their topic sentences and then we did a quick gallery walk to get some more details on each paper. Finally, a rep from each group came to the front of the room to hold their chart paper or potential "paragraph."  

First, we discussed whether or not each paragraph should go into the "essay" we were planning. We decided to omit the one on the cost of smoking because it didn't really fit with the other points. Then, we debated the best order to present the others. For example, should smoking can kill you go last, or should smoking can harm those around you be the final pointWe had a great discussion about the merits of each and physically moved the paragraphs around as we did so the kids could see the organization. In the end, the kids had a much better idea of the thinking process that should go into outlining an essay because they were actively involved in the outlining process rather than just hearing me drone on about it at the front of the room.

Five active learning strategies for middle or high school English class. Room 213 shares strategies for lessons that involve critical thinking, discussion, collaboration, movement and creativity.

I use chart paper, markers and stickies in a variety of ways to engage my students in active learning. For example, I might ask them to come up with a title that captures the essence of a chapter. They would write the title on the chart paper and then list examples and quotations that would illustrate why their chosen title is a good one. If they are working on showing rather than telling in their writing, I write phrases on the top of each paper and have them brainstorm descriptive details to bring each phrase to life. All of these activities can be turned into a gallery walk, with each new group adding more detail to the info on the chart paper with sticky notes.

4. Movement
In my classroom I like to get the bodies active along with the brains, so I work to find ways to get them moving at some point in each class. Seventy-five minutes is a long time to sit still, so even if I don't have an activity that requires students to move, I'll stop half-way through class and ask them to stand up to share something they've written or to discuss I question I pose. 

I use a lot of learning stations to get my students moving, but sometimes, I just put questions or quotes on the wall. Instead of working at their desks, students "go to the wall" to work. The pictures below illustrate an activity I did last week. My IB students needed to do some quotation analysis, so rather than giving them a sheet of quotations to work on at their desks, I enlarged them to create posters for the wall. You can read more about this activity here.

Five active learning strategies for middle or high school English class. Room 213 shares strategies for lessons that involve critical thinking, discussion, collaboration, movement and creativity.

There are many easy ways you can get your students up and moving during your class. Check out ten different strategies on this blog post.

5. Creative Assignments 
Five active learning strategies for middle or high school English class. Room 213 shares strategies for lessons that involve critical thinking, discussion, collaboration, movement and creativity.
In the early part of my career I was a bit of an essay snob. Almost all of the writing that happened in my classroom was literary analysis or research. The five paragraph essay reigned supreme. Now, I provide my students with the freedom to write what they want during writing workshop. They still learn to write an essay (although I ask for a multi-paragraph one, rather than five), and we do a fair bit of literary analysis. 

However, I know that many of my students will actively engage with their writing and find their own voice when they have the freedom to experiment with a variety of genres. Some of them need inspiration to stretch their creative muscles and using mentor texts to show them what great writers do is a very effective strategy. Almost daily, I share a short passage that illustrates engaging writing. Usually these passages demonstrate specific skills we're working on, like word choice or sentence fluency. After students identify what makes the piece effective, they use it as a model to create their own. Since I began this practice, I've seen great improvement in my students' skills and their engagement.

Now, instead of only writing literary analysis essays, I give my students opportunities to illustrate their knowledge of literary techniques through creative writing. I also build in more opportunities for creativity with bell ringers and writing prompts, like the one below, or I assign longer creative pieces. For example, the image below is a prompt I use that allows kids to be creative while also illustrating knowledge of their novel. In the one above, students use excerpts from young adult novels as inspiration for their writing.

Five active learning strategies for middle or high school English class. Room 213 shares strategies for lessons that involve critical thinking, discussion, collaboration, movement and creativity.

Now, obviously, I can't include all of these strategies in every lesson I deliver. However, I do attempt to include at least two or three of them each time so that more of my students are actively engaged in what we are doing. 

You can read about other active learning activities I've used in my classroom on these blog posts:

Teaching Students to Find Evidence in Texts
Teaching Research Skills: Active Learning
Collaborative Poetry with "Where I'm From" Poems
Speaking and Listening Workshop

My friends here at the Coffee Shop have lots of active learning activities too. You can check them out here:

Collaborative Bell Ringers, Nouvelle ELA
Discussion Activity: What Would You Do?, Presto Plans
Encourage Creativity in Your Classroom, Tracee Orman
Novel Study Project for Any Text, The Classroom Sparrow
Eight Ways to Get Students Moving, The Daring English Teacher

5 Thanksgiving Ideas & Resources for your English Language Arts Class

Family. Parades. Pie. Football. Pie. Did I mention pie? Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I for one am excited! Thanksgiving is all about sharing, so I have compiled a bunch of Thanksgiving-related activities and resources to use the week before the holiday. If you're anything like me, you're running close to empty right now, so these lessons and ideas are designed to be as hassle-free as possible; no marking and very little preparation required. So, you can kick back, relax and look forward to a fun few weeks ahead!

Debates are a great way to channel a student's chattiness and enthusiasm into something worthwhile. Debates allow students to blow off some steam in a controlled manner, while also developing speaking, listening and critical thinking skills. First, choose a topic that relates to Thanksgiving. Some examples might include:
  • Some stores open on Thanksgiving to start early sales. Is this fair to the employees who now have to miss time with their family?
  • Is commercialism undermining the true meaning of Thanksgiving?
  • Should employees be given more time to celebrate Thanksgiving?
  • Is Thanksgiving offensive to Native Americans?
Choose a topic that would best work with your class. Split them into two teams, give them time to prepare their arguments, then let the debating begin!

This works great as a stand-alone activity or if you have more time, students can use the ideas from the debate to write a persuasive essay defending their point of view.

Advance warning: this activity will cost you delicious pie, but it will be totally worth it!

You know those food commercials that instantly stir up a craving? Well, your students will now have the opportunity to create their own commercial scripts, using delicious Thanksgiving pie!

First, show your students any food advertisements on YouTube that may stir up the senses. Here are a few links to videos that cater to the five senses. Grab this FREE Descriptive Food Advertisement planning sheet to use during this activity.
Next step, dessert time! Select your dessert of choice (if you decided not to go with the pie). Hand out a small piece to each student and ask them to write down on a planning sheet, descriptive vocabulary based on the pie's appearance. They will continue to do this with each bite of their pie.

When they've finished with the pie and you're their favorite teacher for 5 minutes for bringing in the food! They will then have to organize their notes into a script for a TV advertisement using adjectives, similes, sensory images and complex vocabulary to persuade viewers to buy their product. This does not necessarily have to be filmed, but it is definitely an option!

Without a doubt, one of the most popular activities in my class right now has to be escape rooms. In the past, I used to get nagged before the holidays for a movie, now they ask for escape rooms! Escape rooms are a much better alternative - they are interactive, team-building and yes, FUN!

In addition to the fact that escape rooms are a collaborative activity, escape rooms require students to use critical thinking and use literacy skills to solve challenges and learn more about a topic. Oh, and did I mention they do not need to be graded?

As you all know I love  incorporating holiday-related activities into my classroom, so you guessed it, I created a Thanksgiving Escape Room! In this escape room activity, students will work together to complete a range of tasks including: trivia, cryptograms, mazes and work puzzles to learn more about the history and customs of Thanksgiving.

You can use the challenges with one class over multiple lessons, mix-and-match the activities for different classes or even give out the challenge as extension activities (for students who finish their work early) or as fun homework activities.

Each escape room challenge includes detailed teacher notes and answer keys. Each challenge was also created as a print-and-go resource. No locks required! :)

I am a huge supporter of creativity in schools. Often, we are so busy trying to cram the curriculum into our planning that we forget the importance of just stepping back and allowing our students to be inventive. When was the last time your students wrote something for fun? Not for a test, not for a grade, just for the sole purpose of using their imagination and expressing their imagination and ideas.

The key message about Thanksgiving is being thankful and appreciative of what we have. Using this message as a starting point, ask students to plan and write a short story, script or narrative poem about a time someone learned to be thankful.

Good writing comes from the opportunity to practice and experiment. I bet that there are some budding authors in your classroom that will relish the chance to show you what they can do.

Tip: If you want to link this activity more closely to the curriculum, then provide students with a check-list of different grammatical features or writing techniques that you have covered over the semester thus far and ask them to include them into their stories. This way you can check their learning, while still allowing them the freedom to write.

In need of a slightly quieter, calmer classroom before the holidays? Try out a new form of writing and have students compose a newspaper article relating to Thanksgiving events.

I know what you're thinking. You're tired, the holiday is in sight, and planning for a new writing unit is going to take hours of work, right?

Wrong! My Thanksgiving Newspaper Article pack includes everything you need to teach article writing for an entire week leading up to the holiday. Students start by identifying the main features of a newspaper article, then plan their own shocking or funny Thanksgiving-related news stories using the news paper article template provided in the pack. Then, they will then write their own articles using the detailed, editable rubric.

The writing pack even includes practice worksheets for teaching dialogue and a peer assessment sheet to help you cut down on the marking, leaving you free the week after the holiday to relax and enjoy your time off!

Here are some Thanksgiving headings that you could have your students pick out of a hat to help them get started!
  • Turkey Turns on Thanksgiving Shoppers
  • Thanksgiving Dinner Cancelled 
  • Family Saves Turkey from Oven Death 
  • Turkey Shares its Last Thanksgiving Wish
  • Family Experiences a Strange Thanksgiving Dinner
Check out these other Thanksgiving resources:
- Thanksgiving Writing for Teens
- Thanksgiving Figurative Activities
- Thanksgiving Writing Prompts
- Thanksgiving Interactive Notebook Activities

Authentically Teaching Greek & Latin Roots for Secondary Vocabulary

Greek and Latin roots are sometimes the evil stepsister of vocab. Middle schools that use the Common Core (or any variation of it) must teach affixes, but high schools aren't required to, even though it’s valid vocabulary building.

Affixes don't initially look glamorous to students, either; at first glance, affixes seem boring (a.k.a. memorization), and teachers are wary of how to teach them well (without just lecture and flash cards).

Therefore, instead of viewing affixes as literary molecules - the building blocks to like, everything - classes often just go through the motions (or worse, ignore them completely).

But what if you could teach prefixes, roots, and suffixes in a small amount of time, with higher student buy-in?

Truth be told, I’ve done the full spectrum of bad to good with affix instruction: not enough of it, too much of it, successful flipped classroom, unsuccessful flipped classroom, too much in isolation, etc. Finally, I’ve got a balance that I’m happy with and that is starting to raise student awareness of the words they encounter while reading.

Here's what that process currently looks like in our classroom.

Yes, pretests are dry, but here’s the fun part: when my seventh graders bombed their pretest, they realized that they really DO need this instruction, and now they’re open to learning more about it. There are no egos in the way, and more students are willing to learn. (Steal my editable pretest here.)

Side note: No, I don’t want students to fail or take a hit to their self-esteem… but many older teens and tweens assume they know or remember content that they do not.

Next, we built flip books that contained essential lists of affixes AND practice for EACH chunk of them. Students rotated through stations to do things like…
  • Complete the pages in their flipbooks
  • Practice listing words that USE each affix
  • Talk through how they could remember each one
  • Play with a premade Quizlet set
  • Pick up pre-made flash cards and start quizzing each other

Yes, repetition is necessary, but practice can come from more than just index cards.

Once students start to have a handle on some affixes, it’s time to do something creative (alongside your method of memorization) to make sure these meanings really stick. Start with an intermediate activity like this FREE puzzle challenge!

The application level will look different, depending on your grade level and the extent of your students’ mastery. Here are a few ideas:

  • Mixed Levels of Readiness: My 10-pack of application activities for affixes contains easier activities for students who are still acquiring roots AND more challenging ones for students who are ready, including pages about test prep and Harry Potter! (Try one for FREE here.)
  • Embedded into Vocabulary: Start noticing the roots, prefixes, and suffixes in the vocabulary you assess elsewhere in your class. For example, in my Word of the Day program, we identify at least one affix and/or the language of origin for each word. 
  • Delve into REAL Latin: Don’t run from this idea! Do your students know common “English” phrases that are actually Latin, such as ad lib, per se, nota bene, pro bono, pro tempore, and status quo? If not, then maybe it’s time to build literacy with these common phrases.

The REAL payoff...
...will come in that cute moment when a student raises her hand because she’s just noticed an affix in the text… or when a reluctant reader correctly zeroes in on what “agribusiness” means in a nonfiction article because he knows that “agri” means “farming”... or when a class tells you that they saw a root in their Science class and knew what the word meant.

If students don’t get these affixes from us now, they never will, and it’s one of the best literacy graduation gifts we can give them.

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10 Tips to Inspire Reluctant Writers

You introduce a writing assignment to your students and are met with two reactions.  Some students grab their pencil (or computer) and without hesitation begin brainstorming ideas, outlining, or even diving immediately into the writing process.  Some students, on the other hand, stare at the blank page or screen and utter the same phrase teachers know all too well: “I don’t know what to write.”

Below are some strategies and activities you can use to help reluctant writers get ink on the page or words on the screen while also turning the writing process into a more enjoyable experience.

Giving students a basic prompt like “Describe your summer vacation” isn’t likely to have them engaged or inspired to get to work.  Shake up your prompts by making them wacky, silly, engaging, or thought-provoking to get students’ brains swirling with ideas to put on paper.   One of my favorite ways to do this is with a bundle of highly-engaging video assignments that I created with the talented John Spencer.  John creates hand-drawn videos to hook students into the assignments that are INCREDIBLE.  The bundle that we created has 5 custom video prompts, presentations to explain the writing assignments, as well as all of the pre, during, and post writing handouts, assignments, checklists, and rubrics you need so that each and every student can be successful in each of the writing assignments.  Check out a sneak peek of the videos he created below (the full videos are in the bundle).

The bundle contains tons of supporting documents that can be used to scaffold the writing process for your students (see picture below). The 5 included assignments are:

SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFEStudents will create a mix-tape for their life by choosing ten songs that they connect with or that represent them.

MY GENERATIONStudents will write an open letter discussing misunderstandings people have about their generation and why they are different than the way people perceive them.

MY LIFE IN TEXTURESStudents will use persuasive and personal narrative writing to talk about their life using three textures. 

GEEK OUTStudents will share information on a topic they geek out about in the form of a listicle.

INVENT YOUR OWN SCHOOLStudents will invent their own school, write about their first day, and develop a promotional advertisement to recruit students.

Many times, reluctant writers have lots of creative ideas, but they struggle with the physical act of  getting their ideas onto the paper/screen.  Using technology (or even a scribe if your school doesn’t have a lot of tech) is not cheating.  You aren’t assessing the physical act of writing, but rather the content and structure that students are implementing.  In this case, I would suggest allowing students to use one of the following strategies:

1. Have students use a voice-to-text software to tell their story or provide their content.  I personally know this helps because I often voice text the first drafts of all my blog posts. In fact, I am doing it right now!  I use the notes app on my iPhone and the voice text feature to talk about everything I know about my blog topic.  Is it ready to publish after I voice text it? No.  Does it give me a place to start and make the process of writing less daunting?  Heck yes!  

2. Have students record themselves telling their story or listing the things they want to write about or include.    Have them use this recording as an outline of sorts.  Because it is recorded, students can go back and listen to their own words, pause, skip ahead, go back etc. which will help them to develop their physical written piece.

Conferencing is such an important strategy to encourage reluctant writers, and it is especially important to make time to have them one-on-one.  Now, I know what you are thinking.  Finding the time to meet with every single student sometimes seems like an impossible task.  I think this is because when teachers hear the word conference, they think they should meet with each student for an extended period of time.  Instead, teachers should think of conferences as a quick check in with students to address only on one area where students could improve their writing.  This is a basic outline of a 2-3 minute conference you could use.  

1.  Briefly examine the text and find one area where the student has done incredibly well and one area where they could improve.  

2.  Take a moment to compliment the student on what they did well. 

3. Find an area where the student needs some work and show them how they could improve through modelling.  

4.  Encourage and urge the student to make a specific improvement in this area.

Teachers also must remember that during a conference, they need to make a conscious effort to promote positive attitudes about writing and motivate the student by praising what they have done well.  While they still must provide support and encouragement in the areas where the student needs work, it should be done in a non-critical and supportive way.   Below is a free writers conference form that you can use to track your meetings with students.  Use the template as a way of tracking progress or as a way of grouping students for more focused instruction.  Download it HERE

The writing process is important, BUT it shouldn’t  be used in every single assignment.  A sure-fire way to make students hate writing is to always require them to brainstorm, outline, draft, edit, revise, and make a good copy.  Develop opportunities for students to write for fun with no marks attached and no pre or post components.  Using the full writing process should be reserved for major summative assignments.  Other writing in your class should be considered formative and doesn’t need to include all of these steps. 

Make a conscious effort to create an environment and atmosphere that is comfortable for students when they are writing.  This may look different for each student.  Some may want to sit at their desk with their ear buds in listening to music.  Some may want to sit by themselves in the hall on the floor.  Some may want a comfy chair with a notepad.  Some may want to be with others to bounce ideas off of them.  Remember that your process of writing may look different than that of your students, and that is okay!  Get to know what works best for them and do your best to create an atmosphere that helps to engage them.

When I reflect on my time in middle and high school, I can’t recall a single time that a teacher shared their own writing with the class.  When I took a Master’s course in writing instruction, I was surprised the professor shared her own examples for each of the writing assignments she introduced. She didn’t only share the polished final piece.  She showed the messy parts too.  Share your writing with students.  Share the struggles you faced while writing and empathize with the challenges they may face.  This will have such an impact on them to know that it’s okay to make mistakes and face challenges, because their teacher did as well.

I am a huge advocate for collaborative writing.  As teachers, we sometimes forget the lonely and uneasy feeling of staring at a blank page, not knowing where to begin.  When we allow our students to work with each other, it provides a there a sense of comfort in that they have someone to discuss, collaborate, and share ideas with. If you’d like to try out some collaborative writing activities, you can check out this post I wrote that shares my favorites to use with students.
Let students write about what they love.  Giving freedom and choice in writing assignments whenever possible is an important key to engaging your reluctant writers.  If a student already doesn’t like to write, giving them a topic they don’t have interest in or a genre they hate will not make your life any easier.  There are standards to meet, but often times the topics and genres have some flexibility and that can make all the difference.

Set up an area in your classroom that has writing support documents that students can refer to independently to improve elements of their writing.  Consider including examples of figurative language, lists of strong verbs, adjectives, or adverbs, graphic organizers, or handouts with tips for writing different genres.

Gather pictures that might inspire creative writing and pass them out to your students.  Set a timer and have them free flow write for 10 minutes.  Tell them that this is stream of consciousness writing where whatever story pops into their head based on the picture must go onto the page.  

They shouldn’t think; they should only write, and their pencil should not leave the page.  Also explain that there is no editing or revising permitted during the 10 minutes.  It is a brain dump of absolutely whatever is in their head (it might not even have anything to do with the picture at first).  The thought process behind this is that it is easier to start a writing piece with something rather than staring at a blank page.  After the 10 minutes is done, students can use what they have on the page to start developing a more comprehensive written piece.
Thanks so much for reading! If you want other resources to help inspire your reluctant writers, check out some of the resources below from the other ladies of the Coffee Shop!

Paragraph Writing Task Cards from Stacey Lloyd
Motivational Monday Bell-Ringers from Tracee Orman
How To Get Students To Write More by Nouvelle ELA
Writing Prompts With a Twist by Room 213

Espresso Shot: Setting the Scene for Halloween

BOO! Halloween is almost here and the ladies of The Secondary English Coffee Shop have come together to share some creative ideas on how WE set the scene for Halloween in our classrooms! Here are a few simple, but fun ways how we like to incorporate Halloween into our classrooms.

To bring a little Halloween spirit into the classroom, I give each of my students a Halloween-themed bookmark! If you can print them out on card stock paper, they will last longer! I also use orange-colored paper, too! These FREE bookmarks are a simple and easy way to get your students excited for the upcoming season!

I love to play spooky Halloween sounds and dim the lights as we work on Halloween Writing! If you can find electric candles that flicker they can be a fun and safe addition to your room. I also make a trip to the dollar store to grab some Halloween pencils and erasers. I print out some themed paper and we have fun writing Halloween haikus, coming up with the worst opening line for a scary story and creating spooky settings using vivid words. Even my senior students have fun!!

Get students' spooky creativity flowing with "Scary Six-word Horror Stories." Simply hand out appropriately fall-themed scraps of paper (think oranges and reds) along with thick markers. Then instruct students to think of a truly horror-story-worthy situation (you can even hint that these could be humorous). Instruct students to then write this out in exactly six words: no more, no less! Stick them up for a fun Halloween week display!
A fun activity for students to complete during the Halloween season is rewriting one of their favorite horror stories, but for an audience of children. This activity forces students to think about their audience and make conscientious writing decisions that are specifically targeted toward children. Students might need to change a character or conflict slightly, or they might need to make adjustments to the setting. However they alter the story though, students will be thinking about plot, characterization, conflict, setting, and audience while having a ghoulishly great time.
We love dressing up at our school for Halloween. The students love to see their teachers in a different light and it's a great way to show our creativity. If your school doesn't allow dressing up, try approaching the idea from a curriculum standpoint: famous characters from literature day! One of my favorite costumes to construct and wear was Scout's ham costume from To Kill a Mockingbird. We also had a lot of students dressing up as characters from The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and even some Stephen King novels (both Carrie and IT have made appearances). It's a fun way to promote literature while getting the students excited about Halloween.
Help your students improve their descriptive writing by bringing in some Halloween candy, chocolate, and/or chips. Give each student an item and have them write a paragraph that uses strong imagery to describe the appearance, taste, texture, and smell of the treat.

You can also make this a competition by putting students into groups and having them write a paragraph collaboratively. Each group can present their paragraph while YOU eat the snack they are describing. Whichever group you decide described the treat most accurately gets to have the leftover treats. They practice their writing and you get to eat Halloween candy; it sounds like a win-win to me ;).

I'm not as headlong into holidays as some of these other fabulous Coffee Shop ladies, but I have to do at least one thing, right? ;) One of the ways I work a little Halloween in is reading "Masque of the Red Death" and teaching about symbolism using Tootsie Roll Pops. It's pretty much the best lesson of the year when you give students candy and tell them it's time to ANALYZE it. Hah!
I always get my kids to write a scary story - it's an engaging way to get them to work on their narration and description skills. To set the scene and give them some inspiration, I begin with a few short YouTube clips that you can access HERE. Grab my FREE Spooky Story Graphic Organizer HERE to help you get started!

I love “The Raven”, but it’s not an easy poem at first, so I’m using stations to help students identify literal and figurative meanings in the text, including allusion and structure. I can’t wait to introduce my middle schoolers to Poe!

Share your favorite ways to set the scene for Halloween below!                    
We'd love to hear from you!
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