Survival Kit: High School
High School Curriculum Can Be Tough!
With hundreds of standards, very little guidance, and zero support with novels, teaching English in high school can be a very daunting task. However, if you have specific lessons in your toolbox, then teaching English curriculum for high school is much easier. Specifically what is needed for high school English curriculum are: one-pagers, “do nows”, essay outline templates, mentor sentences, philosophical chairs, and a grammar review guide. All of these can be repeated throughout the year, and in following years to come.
High School English Curriculum: One-Pager Lessons
One project that can be used with English curriculum for high school is a one-pager. A one-pager lesson, project, or activity can be a great, engaging way to assess student knowledge. “Create” is at the top of the list for Bloom’s taxonomy: levels of critical thinking. The purpose of the one-pager is to take a close look at the novel and analyze themes, characters, quotes etc. The top half should focus on themes and symbolism using words and images. The bottom half should focus on key characters from the text and how they develop. The border has pictures, symbols and words that symbolize theme.
High school English curriculum books can be assessed with the one-pager. Students organize their papers in six separate boxes. In one box there needs to be a main idea, an image of the main idea and a quote to support the main idea. In a second box there needs to be 3 quotes of choice that capture the themes addressed in the novel. In a third box, images or doodled words about characterization, physical characteristics and description of character changes. In a fourth box a description of the setting, quotes about the setting, and images of the setting. In the fifth box, images and quotes that show the author’s style of writing. And finally, in the sixth box images and words connecting themes and ideas as well as a connection to the world today. Books in high school English curriculum that are assessed best in this way are novels.
English Curriculum High School: Philosophical Chairs Lesson
What is a philosophical chairs lesson? A philosophical chairs lesson is an active, collaborative discussion about themes, characters, and main ideas in a novel. These are most successful for English 3 high school curriculum, and English 4 high school curriculum. I have my freshmen and sophomore students practice Socratic seminars which prepare them for philosophical chairs discussions. The way that I structure a philosophical chairs discussion is to put a controversial statement on the board that students will either agree or disagree with. Students are to use notes from the unit and write for a length of time about why they agree or disagree. Students are to use quotes and evidence from the book to back up their opinions. Setting up a philosophical chairs discussion is critical to having a successful lesson. Students need to know the proper etiquette and how to speak to one another when the agree or disagree with a classmate. Students are provided with keywords and phrases they can use for cooperative discussion. The teacher remains outside of the discussion and only interjects if students need redirection back to the topic. Students typically face each other in two lines-10 on each side, and the rest of the class sits in chairs behind these students on the side they agree with. There is one seat on each side that will remain open in case a student not in the row of 10, wants to jump into the discussion and share a thought. Students are also to get up and move to the other side of the opposing line of students if they change their opinion. At the end of the lesson, it is important to review and reflect. What went well, what did not go well, what could be better for next time.
English Language Curriculum for High School: Mentor Sentences
You do not want to teach high school English literature curriculum without using mentor sentences. What are mentor sentences? A mentor sentence is a superbly written sentence written by an author at the appropriate level for the student. Instead of finding what is wrong with the sentence, students find what is right. It provides a much more positive experience. Students read the sentence and are to reply on the different components of the sentence, analyze the components impact, and write their own version of the sentence. Writing their own version is not copying the sentence but rather mimicking the author’s style.
Why do I love using mentor sentences? There are so many reasons why using mentor sentences are great for students. I love using mentor sentences in my classroom because they give students the chance to observe quality writing up close. How to teach mentor sentences by allowing students to breakdown a sentence and see how the author created it in order to create a meaningful sentence for readers. There is a lot of flexibility with how to teach mentor sentences: scavenger hunts and other games, or good ole’ fashion close reading, with colored pencils and a partner.
While I am reading a novel I plan to teach, I always write down the sentences that are amazing! This way I do not have to go through books trying to piece together some sentences. I find the best quality sentences and it doesn’t waste or take up extra time. A great practice is to also use the first sentence in novels if it is a dynamic one. Some of the best, most progressive authors who write sentences that include figurative language are: Jason Reynolds, Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, Dashka slater, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and more.
“Do Nows” or Journal Responses
“Do Nows” are prompts that students respond to at the start of class, end of class, or during a transition period. “Do nows” signal students to quickly take out their journal and respond to the prompt on the board. Students know they are to be quiet during this time, and have a protocol in place to follow. Students receive a prompt, and respond to the prompt for approximately 10 minutes. I use philosophical statements for “do nows” to get students to really think critically prior to response.
Here is an example of one of my do nows:
“Can we remember something we can’t imagine? What makes us able to imagine something? Why do we say, “it came back to me?” Why do we use the word ‘flood’ when describing a sudden memory? Can you have the same memory twice? Write about a memory you have shared with someone who was a part of the memory and they remembered it different than you. Why do you think their memory is different?
Once students have completed their “do now” they have a chance to share at their table, and then one student shares their response with the class.
Grammar Review Guide
Grammar is not a topic that is typically covered in high school. For this reason students tend to forget about the basics of grammar. I like to provide a basic grammar guide for students to use when they are writing-especially essay writing, or peer editing. The grammar guide I provide is on capitalization, commas, colons, semi-colons, bracket use etc. If students need a brush-up on their grammar rules, they look it up in their notebook.
Essay Templates and Outlines
The three main essays that are written in English curriculum for high school are: the expository essay (informational), the narrative essay, and the literary analysis essay. Depending on the year, students have a focus essay. For example for high school sophomore English curriculum students focus on a research paper. In senior year, the expository, freshman year narrative, and junior year literary analysis. Students complete all three essays each year in high school, but there is still an emphasis placed on a particular essay each year.
Students tend to get stumped, followed with a dose of anxiety when they hear the word “essay“. Providing an outline and template can help to relieve this anxiety and lead to a successful grade. It is essential and crucial to the essay process that prior to assigning any essay to students, that you first know how to write a an essay outline. The outline serves as the foundational pillars for crafting a successful paper. It is the road map to success when students begin writing their essay. Not all essays are the same. For example, the narrative essay outline is much different. It does not have the typical thesis or prescriptive writing that other essays, such as the literary analysis have. All essay introductions include a hook-something to capture the reader’s attention, a setting-where the story will takes place, characters-who the characters are that will be in the story (physical and personality description) and a conflict-what issue is the character facing. I find it is easiest for the students if I set the essay up in a traditional essay outline format. Once you have created your outline you will have your students fill in notes on a skeletal outline.
Once students have graphic organizers to fill out, I show videos on the different parts of the essay. Students fill in graphic organizers which they will then use to write their rough and final draft.
I have students do self-edits as well as peer edits when students complete their essay. Students use the rubric that was created for the essay, and they go through a check-off list for each edit. This way it is ensured that they have all essay components. They also are to make corrections in order to submit a polished essay. If you want an extended activity for an essay unit, you can also add a 6-panel storyboard where students can draw the main events of the story.
For more on the narrative essay, read the blog post link below.
English Curriculum for High School Survival Kit
Teaching high school can be overwhelming but if you have the above items in your teacher toolkit, it can make teaching high school English curriculum much easier. What tools do you have in your teacher toolkit? Please share in the comments below.