Category Archives: paired passages

12 Poems to Get Students Into Poetry

getting students into poetryLast time on Next Time Teaching, we were talking about poems that work really well for teaching literary analysis skills for the AP Lit exam.  But you may teach younger kids, or kids who aren’t ready for that level of close reading.  So today I want to talk about poems that work well in the ELA classroom to get kids interested in poetry.

Do you have kids who dislike (even–gasp–hate) poetry?  Again, I wouldn’t shy away from teaching literary devices.  I know a lot of times with struggling readers we focus on their reactions and opinions.  But if I don’t like poetry, and don’t feel like I understand poetry, and then get asked “how does this poem make you feel?” I’m not going to have much to say.  Especially if there’s a right answer buried in the question (like the poem is supposed to make you feel sad, not angry, even though you have every right to feel angry for being asked that!). Continue reading

12 Poems to Teach Poetry Reading Skills in AP Lit

AP Lit poems

image credit: Steve Johnson

What makes a poem great is a question that has, of course, been discussed for ages.  But I’m more interested in “what makes a poem great for teaching?”  And there are different teaching situations–great for having students see that poetry can speak to them, great for getting kids writing, great for extending the conversation about a longer work that you’re reading.

Today I want to focus on poems that are great for teaching the skills of reading poetry.  I’ve called them AP Literature poems because I think that’s often the class where we focus in the most depth on poetry reading skills.  But I’ve found that kids in a variety of classes really appreciate poetry reading skills.  A lot of them feel like poetry is something they don’t get, but they’d like to.  

So how do you teach them to get poetry?  I don’t shy away from poetic devices because I think they can be empowering tools for students.  What is a speaker and how is it different from the poet?  What does rhyme actually do to a poem?  Why do poets choose line and stanza breaks? These are all questions we tackle in a hands on way.   Continue reading

12 Resources for Teaching Storytelling


image credit: Jerry Kirkhart

I love teaching storytelling!  The kids are motivated and love the opportunity to talk about themselves.  Writing comes naturally.  There are so many great connections to literature from The Odyssey to The Things They Carried.

Honestly, the biggest problem I’ve ever had with storytelling is teachers from different years fighting over who gets what in their curriculum because everyone wants a storytelling unit.  But given the right resources, there are a lot of different approaches you can take to storytelling, so that everyone can have their own unit.

So here are a dozen storytelling resources: Continue reading

5 Resources to Help you Address Mental Illness in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

madness in HamletSo last time we were talking about using the story of Amleth to introduce and frame your teaching of Hamlet.  And I promised that I have a lot to say about Hamlet, so today I want to pick up with more resources.  Specifically, resources that will help you address the issues of madness and mental illness in Hamlet. Continue reading

The One Text You Probably Haven’t Read that will Help Your Students with Hamlet

text to help with HamletI can’t believe I’ve been blogging for six months and I haven’t mentioned Hamlet!  It’s one of my favorite things to teach and I have so much to say about it.  

Hamlet can be hard to teach because there’s so much in the text.  There are so many different directions you can take that lesson planning can get chaotic.  It’s also hard to know how to introduce the play and what to front-load.  Iambic pentameter?  Revenge tragedies?  Mental illness?  

I’m going to suggest that you start where Shakespeare started.  No, not in Stratford-upon-Avon.  I’ve always felt that biographical information on Shakespeare doesn’t help students understand the play much better.  But begin with the text that Shakespeare started with: the story of Amleth. Continue reading

8 Utopian Songs for Your Dystopian Unit

Utopian songsWhen I first started teaching dystopian literature about a dozen years ago, I actually had to define dystopia.  Not any more!  Kids love the stuff, and they already have a lot of experience. But I still think it’s great to teach because you can dig into some of the more nuanced ideas and even some aspects of literary style or sentence construction.

One thing I like to do is start with the idea of Utopia, since most Dystopias come about because a powerful group tries to create an ideal society for themselves.  Utopian songs are a nice way to start because they’re short and students usually enjoy listening to them. Many of these Utopian songs would work on their own, or you could also do a jigsaw or have groups listen to several and compare/contrast. Continue reading

8 Non-fiction Articles to Pair with Homer’s Odyssey

non-fiction articles for Homer's OdysseyLast time on Next Time Teaching we were talking about poems to teach with Homer’s Odyssey. But I know a lot of people are trying to get in more non-fiction, either because of the common core, or Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week, or just because hey, the real world makes for interesting discussions.  So without further ado, here are 8 non-fiction pieces that also go well with The Odyssey.


Continue reading

15 Poems to Teach with Homer’s Odyssey

Greek shipOne of the frustrating things about teaching English is how much time we spend looking for what to teach–the timely article, the thought-provoking poem, the text that will make an idea come to life for our students.  But finding them takes time.  And the more time we spend looking for what to teach, the less time we have to think about how to teach. Continue reading