BlueCerealEducation's Content Challenge
Since I have become BCE’s acolyte, I guess I must answer the
he set forth: to “talk content” to him. I love discussing content
with people other than the ELA teachers who are as old and dusty as the books
they insist must remain in The Canon (I have a really good story about that…).
I constantly work to make classical literature applicable to students. If it
ceases to speak to society, why continue reading it? The last few years I have
pre-AP/AP English, so I do use more
classical literature than I probably would in a traditional class—however, I
had over 1,000 personal books (ranging from classical to current YA) for
students to check out and read on their own time. Yes, my books stayed checked
out. To bring literature to life, I incorporate as many visual components as I
can, whether I use a forensic video about Caesar’s death or Lego Beowulf
or Seven Pounds
when we discuss moral dilemmas. I also love offering
projects or creative writing as a “final” assessment for major works or units.
I always give students several choices, including written options. By the way,
I do not consider myself a creative person. I suck at any craft or art project.
I am mostly an auditory person, but I have taught myself to be more visual to
help me reach more students. I have had some stunning and hilarious projects
over the years.
P.S. I will mostly include my original ideas. When not mine,
I will notate that. If something peaks your interest, contact me—I am happy to
P.P.S. I’m not counting my preface as part of my 1200 word
limit, BCE. Eviscerate me if you must…
Here are a few of my favorites:
I found a website to tour Ellis Island. Great for my students who may not
travel outside Oklahoma. (Not totally mine)
2. Flowers for
(excerpt): I put up the Rorshach inkblots. Thus begins some lively
discussion on what we see. (Not totally mine)
3. The Giver
pretend they are the Giver and must transmit one memory to Jonas. I have had
some stunning “memories” written over the years.
4. Anne Frank
(excerpts): I send home a letter to parents/guardians explaining students need to
spend two hours in isolation: no technology, no talking, no noise (such as
water running). They record their thoughts, during isolation, in a diary-like
5. Students build their own websites to review poetry
6. Students build a website as a memorial to a historical
event or person.
Inspired by Apple’s campaign “Here’s to the Crazy Ones,” students research
world-changers and create a PowerPoint/Prezi. I have parameters for their
search (male/female, other countries, etc.).
2. The Odyssey
choose a scene to create a visual (any medium). (See pics)
3. Romeo and Juliet
(I loathe, by the way): students make brochures about depression, suicide, etc.
they could “give” to the characters to help them escape their destructive
4. Of Mice and Men
make George and Lenny’s dream farm, movie of scene(s), make a soundtrack,
collage of words/images, write what happens to George after the book ends. (See pics)
5. A Raisin in the Sun
design or choose a symbol to represent a character, write journal entries for
one character, write an additional scene, or design a coat of arms (Not mine)
1. I have several things for The Hunger
2. Comparative myth project: students look for commonalities
(also discuss Jung’s collective unconscious).
3. Dante’s Inferno:
are responsible for teaching one Canto and creating a visual representation
(See pics). Sometimes have them create a Circle of Hell, focusing on symbolic
4. Alice in
rewrite Jabberwocky (not mine); write another adventure where
Alice encounters another literary character, write a story of Alice’s journey
at your school, make a movie, make a soundtrack and movie poster (do not use existing
work), make a diorama (see pics), or make an Alice board game (see pics).
5. Julius Caesar
students make a newspaper (inspired by an idea for The Crucible
, but this is mine)
test prep hampers me some, but I do some interesting analysis essays if anyone
is interested J
1. Tropes and schemes bingo helps students learn the eight
million literary terms.
2. The Crucible
newspaper assignment (partly mine); rewrite and film a scene, write an
epilogue, be a character and write journal entries, write a letter from
Elizabeth to John in jail
3. Autobiography of
(moral perfection section): students and I each list five
personal areas to improve. We make a chart like Franklin’s and keep track for a
4. Romanticism: we go outside (without technology) with pen
and paper. Students find a spot and empirically observe nature. They write/sketch
what they observe and their feelings.
5. Spoon River
students choose 5-6 different characters. They answer questions
and prepare a presentation. My favorite part: using a private Facebook group I
create, they write posts for each of their people. Since this is private to our
class, they can get silly or very honest (if you have read Spoon
, you know it can be frank). We also make connections using a
bubble cluster on butcher paper—helps them respond to the appropriate
characters on Facebook.
Summer 2013 students read Yann Martel’s Beatrice
When they returned we ate pears and tried to describe a pear,
as is attempted in the book.
Beowulf’s boast and write our own. We drink wassail and boast and toast each
other (not mine). I also have a security assignment to fortify Hrothgar’s mead
3. Canterbury Tales:
watch TV for a weekend and focus on stereotypes. They write an informal essay
the next Monday.
4. Hamlet, Othello,
I split the class into two groups.
Each group takes one play to read, analyze, and do projects. Ultimately, they
teach their play to the other half of the class. They must take one class
period for each play. (partly mine)
5. Read Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” with Humanism. I also
use “Allegory” when we re-read The Giver
last year. I see Giver
re-imagining of the Cave.
6. Defoe’s Journal of
a Plague Year
(excerpts): also read from other works on communicable
diseases. Students pretend a plague hits town. They can make up a disease and
take any role. They write journal entries of their experience. I have had many
7. Lady Mary Montagu’s “Letter to her Daughter”: Students
write advice letters to their future sons and daughters.
we drink tea/coffee and discuss the book in depth
9. William Blake: do 1-2 “Inner Child” days. We eat childhood
snacks and play games (Red Rover, Red Light/Green Light, etc.) on one day and
eat cereal/pop tarts/etc. and watch cartoons in our pajamas on the second day.
Ultimately, after reading several selections from Blake’s “Songs of
Innocence/Experience,” students write their own “Songs.”
10. Rime of the
students have made comic strips on ToonDoo.com
11. To alleviate some of my seniors’ stress, I assigned Winter
Break homework: watch a Christmas movie—do not analyze it, participate in a
family tradition (without your phone), ask your family what you were like as a
child (bring me a childhood picture), re-read a favorite childhood book, color
a picture and bring it to me.
12. In May, seniors write at least one thank you note to a
teacher (from any grade). I provide the notes.
13. In May, seniors write letters to their future selves. I
keep the letters and mail them five years later. Yes, I actually do this. For
the Class of 2014, I’ll also mail their childhood pic and the picture they
I push myself to bring literature to life. I share my
passion for literature and the joy I find in reading. Ultimately, I want
students to discover universal elements that interconnect us. No matter our
outside differences, the human condition crosses all barriers and binds us. As
I quote all the time from John Donne’s “Meditation 17”:
No man is an island entire of
itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a
part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the
is the less, as well as if a
promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy
friends or of thine
own were; any man's death
because I am involved in
And therefore never send to know
the bell tolls; it tolls for