Introducing Characterization with The Hunger Games

Although I didn’t always know I wanted to become a literature teacher, I have always loved to read.  When I think about the books that drew me in as a child, I remember the characters whose lives they followed – a girl who loved animals, a family who worked together to solve mysteries, a boy who just wanted to do the right thing.  I loved the stories because I resonated with each character in some way.

And although there are many aspects of literature that can attract a reader, I think developing powerful characters is one of the most effective.  Unfortunately, many of my high school students often lack the basic skill of understanding characterization by making inferences, reading between the lines, and analyzing character development.  For this reason, I developed a series of fun lesson plans to help students understand, analyze, and synthesize their knowledge of characterization with an engaging activity!  Check out the first in this series, an introduction to characterization! Continue reading “Introducing Characterization with The Hunger Games”

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Analyzing Metaphor in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

It’s funny how teaching a piece of literature often actually changes your own perception of it!  This is definitely true for me and T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”  I first read the poem in college, and as my professor was very passionate about it, we spent what felt like a very long time analyzing it.  At the time, I was not overly impressed, but the first year I taught it in my high school American Literature class everything changed. Continue reading “Analyzing Metaphor in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock””

Analyzing the Poetry of Billy Collins

During my time in college, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a poetry reading by Billy Collins.  I was not familiar with his work prior to this event, but I was immediately drawn to his sarcastic, dry, and playful style.  Fast forward to my first year of teaching American Literature a few years later, and I was excited to discover that Billy Collins was included as a contemporary author in my textbook.  However, as I began to plan my lessons over his poetry, I stumbled across a challenge.  Because Collins has a well known disdain for over-analyzing poetry in classrooms, I wanted to find a way to help provide an authentic experience for students to enjoy and appreciate his poetry, while still providing the support they would need to understand it.  Over the past few years and with a few tweaks, I think I finally designed a lesson that accomplishes both of these goals. Continue reading “Analyzing the Poetry of Billy Collins”

Analyzing Rhetoric with I Love Lucy

I recently shared about how I incorporate The Dick Van Dyke Show into my lesson about Evaluating Reliability in Historical Accounts.  Today I want to share another of my favorite shows, and how I use it to introduce or review Rhetorical Appeals – I Love Lucy!

I begin the lesson by showing my class the famous Vitameatavegamin scene, where Lucy films a commercial for a health product.  Most of my students have never seen it before, so I let them know that they will be seeing a commercial, and I want them to jot down all of the ways she tries to convince her audience to buy the product (if you are using this activity to review, you can specifically ask students to identify rhetorical appeals). Continue reading “Analyzing Rhetoric with I Love Lucy”

Evaluating Reliability in Historical Accounts

One of the challenges in teaching American Literature is creating relevance when studying very old texts with antiquated language.  A strategy I have found to be useful is creating connections to more contemporary texts and videos, particularly in my Warm Ups.  While there is definitely value in using pop culture references to engage students, I sometimes like to use videos from before their time.  This way, it modernizes the topic but is still new and maybe outside of their comfort zone.  One of my favorite types of resources to pull from are fifties sitcoms!  In this lesson, I use The Dick Van Dyke Show to help students recognize bias and evaluate reliability in historical accounts. Continue reading “Evaluating Reliability in Historical Accounts”

Storytelling Analysis Project with Rubric

I recently shared a warm up activity and lesson plan for Teaching Inferences with “The World on the Turtle’s Back” or any type of Native American oral literature.  In this lesson, the guiding question, “What do the stories we tell reveal about us?”, leads my classes to develop the skill of making inferences about an author or culture based on the texts they produce.  Last year I developed a Storytelling Analysis Project as an engaging way for students to demonstrate their mastery of making inferences based on evidence by telling their own stories and analyzing stories written by their classmates. Continue reading “Storytelling Analysis Project with Rubric”

Making Inferences with “The World on the Turtle’s Back”

Like most teachers, now that the summer has begun, I have already started thinking about next school year.  In my American Literature class, we begin the year with the study of Native American oral literature.  More specifically, we read an Iroquois creation myth entitled “The World on the Turtle’s Back”.

My students are usually interested in this story due to some of the crazy plot elements (including a husband pushing his pregnant wife through a hole in the sky, a baby being born out of his mother’s armpit, and an epic duel between two twins).  But what I love about teaching this text is the conversations we have about the art of storytelling. Continue reading “Making Inferences with “The World on the Turtle’s Back””