Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spice Up Thanksgiving with This Cornucopia of English Language Arts Activities

Comprehension, Writing and Thinking- A Thanksgiving Cornucopia of Activities
 With Halloween on the horizon, that means that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. This trio of lessons, Comprehension, Writing and Thinking- A Thanksgiving Cornucopia of Activities, will keep middle and high school students engaged and practicing their comprehension, writing and higher level thinking skills as they await their much anticipated vacation.

Activity 1: A Thanksgiving Celebration has students planning a dinner party using the characters, plot, setting, etc. from the story that they are currently studying.  To complete this project, they will create an invitation, choose the guest list and explain their choices, design the seating arrangement, prepare a menu, select any entertainment, think of topics of conversation and write one dialogue between two of the characters. Some research of the time period  in the story will be necessary.

Activity 2: What’s Hot?  What’s Not?  A Thanksgiving Comparison has students creating two lists- one showing what a character is thankful for and another that reveals what is unrewarding in his/her life.  Students will also have to identify two of the negative aspects that the character wishes to turn into positives and explain their reasoning for their selections.

Activity 3:  Who Wins the Wishbone? A Thanksgiving Competition requires students to write a short piece developing who they feel should reach his/her goal- the Protagonist or Antagonist, incorporating details from the story to defend their choice..

Activity 1 will require a few days of class time and homework to complete, but each of the other two can be finished in 40-50 minutes, depending on the students skills and abilities. For Activities 2 and 3, students also use details from the text that they are currently studying to show their understanding.

This lesson will also add some spice to your November planning calendar: 

Comprehension Activity: Guess Who's Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner?
During the days before Thanksgiving vacation, teachers can use a fun activity to keep their students thinking and writing. Thanksgiving Comprehension Activity: Guess Who's Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner? will encourage students to think about the characters that they have encountered in their literature during the fall. Each young person will choose a character to invite to Thanksgiving dinner, and then will write about the event as if it is the day after Thanksgiving. Students have to think analytically as they describe the setting, identify who was present, write a conversation using proper dialogue format and evaluate the situation that transpired. Teachers can use this activity to assess the students' understanding of the character each chose as they examine their charges' higher level thinking and writing skills. Have the students write their rough draft on a separate sheet of paper, revise it for spelling, punctuation (especially for dialogue format), grammar and content and then write their final copy on the handout. Give them one class period for the rough draft and one for the final copy (or they can complete the final copy for homework). Download this from ($1.50), and

With these four activities, your students will not only join you at the Learning Table, but will be asking for, "More brain food, please."

Happy Teaching,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Check out this Go-To Resource for Teaching Candidates, Rookies and Veterans

Teaching jobs can be few and far between, depending on your certificate endorsements and where you wish to hang your real or digital gradebook. 

Whether you are a candidate for a teaching position, a rookie or a veteran teacher, some advice from a colleague who has spent years in the classroom trenches, leading students to the academic  trough with engaging and strong activities and lessons can always be inspiring.

Marjan Glavac, who created and publishes the fantastic The Busy Educator Newsletter - Friday, has  a terrific resource for anyone looking for a teaching job - no matter if this if you are searching for your first classroom position ar looking for new experiences. 

He offers:
  •  three free full-length teacher training videos, 
  • a free resource sheet explaining two strategies in detail to answer the classroom management interview question  and
  •  a download for a special report- 110 Teacher Interview QuestionsThis report practically covers every question a candidate is going to be asked in a teacher interview.
These resources are available without any signup pages from

While checking out Mr. Glavac's helpful teacher training information, read a few of the engaging articles, lesson plans, videos, Ed. Chats and so much more that he posts in  

After that, why not share some of your lessons, ideas and thoughts about education for The Busy Educator? To do this, Email Mr. Glavac at

Whether you are searching for tips to land your first contract or to find a new place to teach, are browsing for new lessons, want to share your own activities or just want to read about what's up in the education field, gift yourself with the weekly The Busy Educator Newsletter

Happy Teaching,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dystopian Novels Generate a Teacher Utopia 16+ Teaching Ideas

Teacher Resource - Dystopian Novels Generate a Teacher Utopia
Good can come from dystopian cultures, well, from the study of dystopian novels, anyway. This 10-page product for Middle and High School ELA teachers, offers 16+ lessons for the study of dystopian books. Although the directions and descriptions for each lesson reference Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, I use these details to add clarification- and to offer more lessons for my Brave New World Unit Plan,  (, which was my initial goal. When I saw the universality of the lessons that I was creating, I decided to offer suggestions about how teachers could adapt these activities to fit any dystopian novel, or any novel, for that matter.
Issues, Issues, These are the Issues

After detailing 3 Novel Preview Lesson Ideas, this packet includes 12 lessons for the topic, Novel Study Lesson Ideas: Exploring the Elements of Literature. I created from 1-5 activities for each element: Character, Plot/Conflict, Theme (and Theme Topics), Setting, Symbols, and Point of View. For the lesson on Setting, this packet contains a brand new handout with two activities -  Issues, Issues, These are the Issues

Under the Extended Study- And Then There was More heading, I suggest 16 utopian/dystopian novels -some classics taught in many schools- for independent reading, small group or whole class study. Here is a working list. So many terrific novels for this genre that work with adolescents exist, that I had to make some difficult choices.

*These books appear on Barnes and Noble’s “The Top 100 Bestsellers of 2014”
Animal Farm (George Orwell)
*Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)
*Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)
Men Like Gods (H.G. Wells)
The Time Machine (H.G. Wells)
Lord pf the Flies (William Golding)
A Perfect Day (Ira Levin)
*The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins)
*Divergent series (Veronica Roth)
*Four (Veronica Roth)
*Maze Runner series (James Dashner)
The Circle (Dave Eggers)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)
*The Giver (Lois Lowry)

Uglies (Scott Westerfield)

After that I give links to two products that tie into the study of dystopian literature and propaganda from my store: "Writing and Thinking Activity-Unconventional Inventions": ($2.00) and "Thinking/Writing Activities 'Utopian and Dystopian Society Novel Projects'": ($2.50).

As a plug for all of my Teacher-Seller colleagues, I follow these suggestions by mentioning that ELA teachers will find lessons, activities and unit plans for 12 out of the 16 novels that I name here on TpT. I hope that this mention will send you all some sales, my friends!

I close the packet with a Parent Permission Slip since many of these novels reveal controversial issues and may be restricted in some school districts for various reasons. 

Many teens and preteens love reading dystopian literature. These lessons will engage them and will hook those students who need a lift onto my favorite train, the I Love Reading Express.

Download Teacher Resource - Dystopian Novels Generate a Teacher Utopia from ($3.50).

Happy Teaching,

Monday, October 6, 2014

"Comprehension and Writing lessons - "Trick or Treat"

Comprehension and Writing Activity - Trick or Treat?
No matter their ages, students are always looking forward to Halloween when the calendar flips to October. 

The four activities in this Middle School and High School packet, Comprehension and Writing Activity - Trick or Treat? enable teachers to keep their charges on task with lessons that address four of the elements of literature.

Here are the activities and their directions:

Trick or Treat? Plot Soup
Directions – Various situations (the Rising and Falling Action) arise during a story that affect the Plot. They are either Helps or Hurdles for the Protagonist and the Antagonist. For this activity
• choose two situations each that the protagonist and antagonist faced
• summarize each event
• discuss whether the situation’s result was a Help or a Hurdle to the Protagonist or Antagonist.
•defend your reasoning by using story details in your explanations.

Trick or Treat? The Flavor of Personalities
Directions –Characters’ personalities are as varied as the candy that fill store shelves. They may be sweet, sour, nutty, smooth, sticky, hard or soft, for example, or a mixture of many of these qualities. For this exercise, choose four characters and decide which candy most matches each one’s personality. Defend your choices with details and examples from the story. Conclude this activity by choosing the Character Candy you prefer, and explain your choice.

Trick or Treat? Setting it Up
Directions – Choose either the Protagonist or the Antagonist, and discuss how the Setting influences this person and his or her decisions. In addressing this topic, consider any of the following ideas to ignite your thinking: How does the Setting influence the character’s main goal? Is the Setting a help or a hindrance to this person’s objectives? What is the character’s effect on the Setting? What is the Setting’s effect of the character? Use this form for your thesis statement and your Pre-Writing notes. Include citations that support your thesis. Include this sheet with your rough draft(s) and Final Essay copy on the Due Date.


Trick or Treat? And the Symbol is….
Directions – Symbols represent a specific person, place, thing or idea. Sometimes this meaning is clear. In other cases, the symbol needs more analysis to determine its meaning. 
For this activity
1. Examine the following Halloween Symbols, and determine what each one represents.
2. Next, list three qualities that illustrate the symbol’s connotation. 
3. Finally, decide if the story has a corresponding Symbol. If so, explain your conclusion, using details from the story for support. If the story does not reveal a parallel Symbol, then write, “No Matching Symbol” after you address the first two components required for this exercise.

As always, these activities utilize Bloom's Taxonomy verbs to promote students' thinking and writing skills, and are aligned with Common Core Anchor Standards that teachers may use as guidelines to fit their state-specific standards. This information is included on the detailed "Teacher Notes" page.

Engage your students by channeling their Halloween anticipation with these four activities.

Trick or Treat? Plot Soup
Trick or Treat? The Flavor of Personalities

Trick or Treat? Setting it Up
Trick or Treat? And the Symbol is….

Download this 4 lessons in one  packet from ($2.00)

Happy Teaching,