Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review is my review of Roald Dahl’s choice of 14 favorite ghost stories. The book title is misleading in that one would easily deduce that with the title, “Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories” that it is a book of his own ghost stories; however, that is not the case. Oh well, I thought and read the book anyway. I have written reviews of the stories below. I have included whether or not I would teach stories to students, and the ones I would not. If at anytime you want to see my favorite ghost stories of all time, scroll down to the bottom.

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Video Summary

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review: W.S.

W.S. by L.P. Hartley is about an author who spends most of his time rigorously writing. His life is rather plain until he begins receiving letters from a person who signs them as W.S. At first the letters seem like normal fan mail but then they continue to get more personal and more aggressive over time. The author at a point realizes a strange coincidence. That his own initials are W.S. His name is Walter Streeter and then he notices yet another coincidence. One of the characters he created who was all things malevolent also had the initials W.S. W.S. continues to write aggressive and antagonizing letters and tells Walter he will be seeing him soon. Walter decides to go to the police who take this threat seriously and tell him they will send a policeman to watch his home. The police officer seeking a moment of refuge on a snowy night is within Walter’s home when the climax of the book takes place. We learn through a phone call from the police station that the police forgot to send a police officer. Now Walter is stuck in the home with W.S. who turns out to be the character he created. The man W.S. is killed by his character and found strangled. There isn’t any sort of twist to the story as he lays out all the clues as to who W.S. could be as we read. I would teach this to students as a Halloween story. It is a bit dated so I would cut out some of the longer parts that have descriptions of objects that they wouldn’t understand.

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review: Harry

“Harry” by Rosemary Timperley is a short-fun-ghost story about a orphan girl who is adopted by a young man and woman couple. They love the little girl and mom stays home while dad goes to work each day. The mom starts to notice that when the little girl is outside she talks to herself. Soon after she is interacting with what looks like an imaginary friend. The imaginary friend’s name is Harry. The mom is really disturbed by this interaction and is striving to get the girl to stop this behavior. She takes the girl to the doctor and the doctor says to not deny Harry’s existence. On the first day of school, mom drops her daughter off and she heads to the orphanage where she adopted the little girl Christina. The woman at the orphanage proceeds to tell the mom she doesn’t normally give out information but that Christina had an older brother named Harry. She provides an address for where Christina used to live with her family. When the mom gets to the building she runs into a woman who lives there vagrantly. The woman says the father of the family decided to kill his entire family lighting the place on fire. Harry grabbed his little sister, jumped out the window and he died while she lived-having been held in his arms. She said it wasn’t as if he was trying to save her so much as he was trying to keep her with him. It is at this moment the woman hears the 3 o’clock bell and realizes she is late to pick up Christina. She runs back to the school and finds that Christina’s brother, Harry has taken her. She never sees her daughter again. This is a perfect story to teach students on Halloween. It is fun, and appropriate for their age. There is some predictability within the story but also many twists and surprises.

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review: The Corner Shop

“The Corner Shop” Cynthia Asquith is a short story about a man who is walking along one evening and comes across an antique shop on a corner street. He enters the shop to seek refuge from the snow and is greeted by two women who help him find a gift he has been intending to buy for newlyweds. He is walking by the shop the next evening and having had such a pleasant experience the night before decides to stop in the shop again. He is disappointed to find a closed sign on the door but when he tries the handle it opens. He is disappointed to find an elderly man in it rather than the two pleasant women. There is an unpleasant-strange-elderly man who roams around the shop and hands him a cheap frog. Because it was so inexpensive the man purchases the frog feeling sorry for the man. Later he cannot take his mind off the evening. The entire situation was very off-putting. Finishing dinner with a friend, his friend notices the frog, becomes very animated and tells the man that the frog is worth a fortune. The friend takes the frog and returns a huge check to the man who decides the right thing to do is return half the check to the store. He goes back to the store and the two women are there. He tells them what happened and they explain to him that this could not be the case because their father had died years before. He made his fortune taking advantage of others. The premise is that he was trying to make amends for his dishonest during life. I would suggest teaching this short story as a companion to a novel that deals with the theme of feeling guilty and trying to make amends, such as Portrait of the Young Artist, or something similar. It is engaging to hold students attention and there are different themes that can be discussed from the story.

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review: In the Tube

“In the Tube” by E.F. Benson is a short story about a man who believes that time is an arbitrary infinite thing that cannot really be measured. He is riding on the subway and he sees a man throw himself onto the rails committing suicide. He then meets the man at a dinner party and believes that he has seen the future and that the man will someday commit suicide. He tells this story to a friend who tells him he must warn the man, but he refuses because he believes it could then be himself who gives the man the idea of suicide in the first place. The man reads about the man who does commit suicide on the rails the evening before. He learns that the man commits suicide because he has decided to leave his wife having fallen in love with another woman. His wife refuses to give him a divorce so he tries, unsuccessfully, to strangle his wife who now blackmails him for trying to kill her. He sees no alternative other than to kill himself. It is an entertaining story that I recommend an adult read; however, I would not suggest reading this one with students because of all the mature topics you would need to get into in order to get through the story, ie; adultry and suicide.

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review: Christmas Meeting

“Christmas Meeting” by Rosemary Timperley is a fun, short, spooky ghost story about a man who finds himself alone and lonely on Christmas in a hotel room. For this reason he feels relief when the door opens and a man walks into the room by accident. The intruder man quickly apologizes and states that he thought it was his room. The intruder states that it is weird being alone on Christmas and asks if he can stay and talk. He continues to talk about why he is staying in a hotel on Christmas-because he is an author and does not believe in interrupting the writing process. It is mentioned that he is a writer who writes poetry and diary combined. In desperation the author asks the other occupant to read his work, pushing and practically begging. The original occupant of the room, states that he needs a break on Christmas and gets up to get his guest a cup of tea. When the occupant turns around with the cup of tea, the man has completely vanished. Later, on the bookshelf in the room, he finds a diary of the man dated 1851 where the author describes in detail, specifically about his encounter with the man in that very room. In other words it was his ghost. This would be a fun story to teach during the holiday time. There isn’t many things to teach during the holidays for the secondary level, so I would recommend this particular fun-ghost-story.

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review: Playmates by A.M. Burrage

“Playmates” by A.M. Burrage is an interesting story. There are some disturbing undertones in it that I found confusing and felt they were overlooked by many other critics. It’s a story about a girl who becomes an orphan by the loss of her only parent-her father. She is then adopted with no obstacles, as if a man was claiming a piece of luggage. The man who is considered cold and the “last person to ever want a child”. Upon adoption they move into this cold, large, rather empty castle-like home. Once they move in the girl becomes different, she smiles, and giggles and becomes child-like-characteristics she completely lacked before. Eventually she tells her adopted father that she has ghost friends. Seven girls who died in this home that used to be a school. At the time, the girl is being homeschooled because her adopted father doesn’t want her around other girls (strange). Once he hears about these seven girls, he decides to send his daughter to school. The end is him walking into the room where the ghosts reside, whispering that they do not need to be afraid of him, and him feeling the caresses of their little hands. I would not teach this story to students. There are too many things that I find “off’ and weird-to say the least. You can draw your own conclusions. I was surprised when I read other people’s reviews of the story that they missed some of these perverse happenings.

Roald Dahl’s Ghosts Stories Book Review

Ringing in the Changes by Robert Aickman

“Ringing the Changes” by Robert Aickman is a fun story about a newly married couple on their honeymoon. When they arrive in a quaint town there are church bells ringing and the bells will not stop. They settle in, and the groom-twenty years older than his bride is cranky about the bells while the wife seems delighted by them. They head for a walk and notice that the tide is too far out to walk. They next run into a man who tells them they never should have come on this night. That this night is the night that the town raises the dead, which is the purpose of the ringing bells. He tells them to get out of the town as quickly as possible. When they try to order a car, no car will enter the town. They can only make it on foot. Instead they lock themselves in the bedroom and hope if they lay very still they can get through the night unscathed. The ghosts come into the room, take the wife, and the old man is searching for her for the remainder of the evening. He eventually finds her with the man who had heeded the warning. This man says that the ghosts had her but he saved her and she should be ok. At the end of the story she is humming the same song that the ghosts hummed when they took her. I would not have my students read this story because there are several sexual insinuations. For example when the man who rescued her said he found her, he claimed they were dancing-one from behind and one from the front and each one had her hand. The woman also tries to seduce her husband while the ghosts are entering the room insinuating that a younger woman has no self-control when it comes to sex. There are too many sexist remarks and at one point they talk about women being “evil” from the beginning of time-Adam and Eve. It’s unfortunate that these sentiments were added because otherwise it would be a fun, creative story to teach.

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review

The Telephone by Mary Treadgold

“The Telephone’ by Mary Treadgold is a short story about a man who is having an affair with a woman. He is so happy with this mistress that he decides to leave his wife. His wife lives in London and his mistress in Scotland. The husband tells his wife on his next trip to London. His wife acts “dignified” and heads off to live with her sister. The man is back in Scotland with his mistress when he receives a phone call that his wife has committed suicide. He is distressed and decides to return to London to take care of business. That evening he receives a phone call from London and someone is just sitting on the other end of the line. Eventually both the man and his mistress deduce that it is his wife’s ghost who continues to call him. This was during a time when old fashion telephones existed-not cell phones. The husband leaves the next day and takes care of the funeral arrangements etc. While he is in London he continues to receive phone calls. A man shows up at the door to disconnect the line because it hasn’t been paid for and the man allows him to do it. The mistress is thrilled because it means he is permanently cutting off contact with his dead wife. I would not teach this one to students because there are too many adult topics and dysfunctional feelings that are presented in this story. For example, the mistress being excited about the man permanently cutting off communication with his dead wife whom she stole him from. This is a dated story when this kind of behavior was considered “normal”.

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review

The Ghost of a Hand by J. Sheridan

“The Ghost of a Hand” by J. Sheridan Le Fanu is an interesting story about a hand that continues to haunt this family who live in a modest home. The hand is seen on the window sill, palm on the window, and it raps constantly on the front door. The hand is so completely obnoxious at one point that the man of the house goes to the door with a stick in his hand, and opens the door to yell. There is a breeze that passes through him and now the hand or ghost, is inside the home. Now the hand continues to knock on doors inside the home. So if the couple is in their bedroom it will knock on the door of the couple’s bedroom. One night the man enters his bedroom finding his wife unconscious with the hand laying nearby her face on the pillow. He chases the hand around the room, and into the closet where it disappears. The couple had a baby and the final scene is the hand in the nursery inside the baby’s bed. Eventually they find out the name of the ghost the hand belongs to, but they do not move out, nor is there any kind of solution to the ghost hand. I would teach this story to students in light of it being rather comical and maybe have students come up with solutions as to what they would do if given the situation. Perhaps they could even write a different ending to the story like Roald Dahl’s “The Elevator”.

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review

Afterward by Edith Wharton

“Afterward” by Edith Wharton is a short story that begins in an old town. A visitor wants to know about this famous ghost that lives within the town. The protagonist states that there is a ghost but no one knows about it until “afterword”, the implication that when you see it you meet your death. The ghost has entered the home of the protagonist and has haunted her husband with some kind of information. The ghost turns out to be a young boy. After a long interrogation of her husband we eventually find out that he was the one who murdered the boy. I would not use this one for my students. There is a lot of vocabulary from the U.K. in fact I would venture to say that 50% of the story is UK descriptive words of the setting, feelings characters, and objects. It would be difficult to engage students with this story.

Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories Book Review

On The Brighton Road by Richard Middleton

“On the Brighton Road” by Richard Middleton is the perfect length to do a one-day ghost story lesson for students. Perfect length for Halloween. It begins with a description of Brighton Road and a man who is walking a great distance, in the snow on it. He is unsure as to how he has even lived through this journey. He meets a boy who is 18 on the road (a bit strange). The man says to the boy that he doesn’t know how he lived through the night with the snow and the boy says, “how do you know you did?”. We find that the man and the boy are both dead. I would teach this short-ghost story to students. It is short, fun, and engaging. You can also look at themes like belonging as they both are running away from home.

The short stories that were not reviewed are: “Elias and Draug” by Jonas Lie, “The Sweeper” by A.M. Burrage, and “The Upper Berth” by Mario Crawford. I did not review these because I had trouble staying engaged myself, and of course if I cannot stay connected, the stories would not hold the students attention.

Overall, I was disappointed that these weren’t Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories. I also wasn’t entirely impressed that out of all stories these were the 14 that he chose. My favorites worth mentioning are: “Harry”, “Christmas Meeting”, “Ringing in the Changes”, and “On the Brighton Road”. Those I would use in the classroom are: “Harry”, “Christmas Meeting”, and “On the Brighton Road”. I hope you have found this helpful and if you are to use these in your classroom, hopefully I have saved you time.

I would love to hear about your favorite ghost stories. Please leave in the comments below.

My favorite short stories and products from Teachers Pay Teachers below:

The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe

The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe

The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe

The Landlady by Roald Dahl

The Elevator by Roald Dahl

Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs

Three Skeleton Key by George. G. Toudouze

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street by Rod Serling

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman

The Hitchiker by lucille Fletcher

For my favorite Halloween Stories Blog Post, Click Here

Holocaust in Literature

Holocaust in literature can be a difficult subject to breach with students. It is so writhe with pain, and despair during a time when teens are trying to avoid pain at all costs. The Holocaust in literature should be handled delicately with a clear purpose and intention. We must always remember, we must never forget. For these reasons I have taught the following pieces of literature surrounding the Holocaust: White Bird by R.J. Palacio, Refugee by Alan Gratz, Night by Elie Weisel, Maus by Art Spiegelman, Anne Frank’s Diary by Ari Folman, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. These are all books that portray the pain of the Holocaust in a respectful, dignified manner.

Holocaust in Literature: Refugee

Holocaust In Literature

Holocaust in Literature: Refugee

Refugee by Alan Gratz is three separate stories from three separate Refugees. They are all young teens. One refugee is from Syria, one Cuba, and one from Hansburg. One of the refugees named Josef is ordered to leave Hansburg, to board a ship to Cuba. Cuba isn’t safe so the plan is to leave Cuba and head to America. At some point Josef and his family travel on the MS St. Lewis (a real ship from the past) with 900 refugees on board. When they get to Cuba, Cuba decides they will no longer by accepting refugees, so the ship sets its sights for America. America turns this ship away knowing that they are sending it back to Europe where they could all die. The ship sets sail for Canada. Unfortunately, Canada also turns the ship away. At this point the refugees are running out of food and supplies and desperately end up in the UK where they are finally accepted. In the UK they were in danger of bombs but were at least out of Hitler’s path. Josef’s story also includes his father who escapes from a concentration camp and is suffering from PTSD. The details of the book are true but the book has fictional characters. The chapters switch back and forth from one character to the next. A second character is Isabel in the 2000’s trying to escape from Fidel Castro by fleeing to the United States. Mahamoud is the third character trying to flee from Syria to the United States. All three stories contain similarities and differences. In the book there is a map at the end that shows the route each refugee takes.

Holocaust in Literature: Maus

Holocaust in Literature: Maus

Maus by Art Speigelman is on the Holocaust literature list. It is a rich and engaging graphic novel about a man from Poland. The book weaves in and out between two timelines, a narrative present, and a narrative past. The book is told by Vladek which is Speigelman’s father who tells the story from the 1930’s to the end of the Holocaust in the 1940’s. Vladek tells about his time spent in concentration camps in Poland where he meets Speigelaman’s mother, Anja. Vladek makes a good impression on the parents of Anja who give their blessing in the marriage. Vladek opens a factory and he and Anja have a son. Eventually Vladek is taken as a prisoner of war while fighting with Poland. He escapes and manages to keep his family safe. Vladek and Anja send their son to live with Anja’s sister. The Aunt, afraid of being killed in a gas chamber kills herself, her children, and Vladek and Anja’s son. Both Vladek and Anja are captured and sent to Auschwitz. Vladek and Anja move from one ghetto hiding place to the next. The story jumps from the 1940’s to 1986 where Vladek struggles to tell his painful stories. He recounts that he was marched from Auschwitz to Dachau where he suffered from abuse and starvation. He shares his stories of resourcefulness and avoidance of the gas chambers. The war ends, camp survivors reunite bringing Vladek and Anja back together. At the end the story Vladek is saying he’s tired followed by a picture of a tombstone for Vladek and Anja. Vladek died in 1982 before the publication of the book. Spiegeman’s mom, Anja commits suicide in her 20’s and his father admits to destroying all of her recounts at Auschwitz. For this reason Speigelman is estranged from his father who married another woman. This novel is a graphic novel memoir. The Jews are represented as mice, the Germans as cats, and the Poles as pigs. The story has been referenced as many different genres: memoir, biography, history, autobiography, and more. It is the first and only graphic novel to ever win a Pulitzer Prize.

Holocaust in Literature: Anne Frank’s Diary

Anne Frank’s Diary

Anne Frank’s Diary by Ari Folman is the perfect introduction to Holocaust literature. It is a nonfictional graphic novel adaptation of the Diary of Anne Frank. The story is about a 12 year old girl living in Holland in 1942. The proceeds of this graphic novel continue to go to charities around the world. The graphic novel captures “The Diary of Anne Frank” in its complete essence. Text is used from the real diary in the graphic novel adaptation. Otto Frank, Anne’s father survived the Holocaust and was the one who published the original work. Anne was murdered in a concentration camp but not before she chronicled the time she spent with her family hiding from the Nazis. She shares feeling and thoughts in line with a coming of age novel. When Margot, Anne’s sister received a summons to a Nazi work camp, Otto too summons to hide in Holland. The secret annex of the building where he ran a business producing Opeketa. Loyal employees agreed to keep the factory running while also providing food and supplies to Anne and her family. Anne wrote two years of entries in her diary she named Kitty up until March 1944 when the Dutch government called on citizens to document their experiences under Nazi rule. Anne added loose leafs of paper to enhance her diary. Her final entry is dated August 1st, 1944 which was raided three days later by the Gestapo. All occupants were arrested. Anne was deported to Westerbrok, second Auschwitz, and lastly Belsen where she died. Otto’s secretary managed to salvage Anne’s diary. Anne wrote, “You’ve known for a long time that my greatest wish is to be a journalist and later on, a famous writer. We’ll have to wait and see if these grand illusions will ever come true, but up to now I’ve had no lack of topics. In any case, after the war I’d like to publish a book called “The Secret Annex”. It remains to be seen whether it will succeed”-Anne Frank

Holocaust in Literature: White Bird

Holocaust in Literature: White Bird

White Bird by R.J. Palacio is a story of faith, hope, loneliness, bravery, empathy, and love in the 1940’s, France. The story begins with a previous character from “Wonder”, named Julian, asking his grandmother if he can interview her for a school assignment. At first she resists, as her past is painful, but then she tells Julian the story of her youth and of where his name originated. Sara (Julian’s grandmother) is a Jewish girl who loses her parents and is forced to hide at school when Nazi’s come to take all Jewish students to concentration camps. Sara is stuck in the bell tower until a German student named Julian risks everything to get her to safety. Julian takes Sara through the sewer and hides her away in his parents’ barn. Julian’s parents and Julian proceed to hide Sara there for years, taking every precaution not to get caught. Vincent, who is a Nazi German, following in the footsteps of his harsh Nazi father, takes extra notice of Julian. Julian has polio, a limp, and uses crutches to get around. Vincent picks on him, and brutalizes him to and from school. Vincent busts into the barn to see what Vincent is hiding. Sara is not caught but shortly after Vincent murders Julian in an open field. Sara and Julian’s parents are devastated. Meanwhile, back as Julian’s grandmother, Sara makes Julian promise her to speak out against any injustice he sees. Julian makes a promise to his grandmother.

Holocaust in Literature: Night

Holocaust in Literature: Night

Night by Elie Weisel is a memoir of a man who suffered starvation, unimaginable abuses, and crimes at Auschwitz. The story begins with his family being awoken in the middle of the night. He his mom, sister, and father are forced to a ghetto where they are to await transportation to a concentration camp. The memoir documents Elie Weisel’s experiences crammed into a train like cattle, losing his sister and mother, watching people die including his own father, having his gold fillings removed from his mouth for German profit, watching a man crawl to a pot of soup to try and get a bite before collapsing and dying from starvation, watching a child hang for hours before finally dying. Night is a difficult book to read and I suggest only reading it at the high school level not middle school.

Holocaust in Literature: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne is a novel about a boy who is the son of the head of the Nazi party. His father has been selected to run Auschwitz and this child has been taken with the rest of his family-sister and mother, to live just outside the fence of the concentration camp. The little boy has no knowledge of what the camp is and in fact refers to the boys as wearing pajamas. The boy in a desperate attempt to make a friend, befriends a boy from the inside of the fence. They meet everyday and chat about regular things. The boy is completely unaware of how bad things are for the other boy when he suggests that he sneak inside the camp to get a tour and help the boy in the striped pajamas find his father (it can be inferred that his father has passed). The boy puts on a striped jumpsuit and sneaks into the concentration camp. It is here when he realizes how awful it is and when he says he’s ready to go home, he is directed into the gas chambers where he perishes. Later his father finds his regular clothes just outside the fence and notes that gap in between the fence and the ground. He is able to discern what has happened to his son and it is a twisted sense of justice for this cruel man.

I’m always looking for new literature to teach students. Share your Holocaust literature list below. Let me know what profound works you have taught! It’s always helpful to do social emotional learning with lessons as heavy as these. To read my blog post on social emotional learning click HERE.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Night

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Anne Frank’s Diary

Refugee

Maus

Classroom Activities for Students

Classroom Activities for Students: It’s difficult to find fun activities for the classroom when you as a teacher have so many other things on your plate.

Classroom Activities for Students

Classroom Activities

For that reason I have compiled a list of 30 successful classroom activities that I have used over the years.

Classroom activities for students:

  1. Diary entries- Have students write diary entries from the point of view of various characters
  2. Write a letter to a character-Have the students be themselves writing a letter to a character. They can introduce themselves, talk about what they have in common, talk about something they like about the character, ask the character to be friends (not to get too goofy).
  3. Act out a scene-one of my favorite activities is to have students act out a scene from the reading. Students choose parts and get really into it. They can be divided up by groups and asked to act out different scenes in front of the class.
  4. Philosophical chairs-Divide the class into halves based on a controversial statement. Have students have a casual debate about the topic.
  5. Interview with a character-Have students create interview questions for a mock interview with a character. Have students act out mock interview or film it on a source like Flip grid.
  6. Create a timeline of events. Make a large timeline and put it up on the bulletin board. As major events occur add them to the timeline. Students can use the timeline to predict future events in the story.
  7. Create a book trailer-There are many website that can be used to create book trailers, I personally prefer Youtube. Student can create videos for book trailers and easily upload them to Youtube.
  8. Watch the movie-An absolute student favorite! If there is a movie that goes with your novel, watch it after you have finished the book.
  9. Compare and contrast the movie to the book. Create a Venn diagram and compare contrast the movie to the book. See how many students liked the book better.
  10. Rewrite the ending-Have students create a different ending for the book and act it out in front of their peers. If you don’t have time for them to act it out they can use a source like Flip Grid.
  11. Send questions to the author-During the unit I have students create questions for the author. You can have them pull together these questions and send them to the author through some form of social media.
  12. Create an Instagram page-students can create a Facebook page belonging to one of the main characters.
  13. Write the next chapter-depending on where you are in the book, have students do a prediction activity by writing the next chapter to the book.
  14. Chalk the setting-using erasable chalk have students draw the setting out on the blacktop or in the middle of the quad-if allowed. Take a step back and look at the similarities and differences in the students visualizations.
  15. Compare and contrast two characters-choose two characters from the book and compare/contrast using a Venn diagram
  16. Pretend you are introducing a character to the class. Stand in front of the class with another student and introduce the character. This is one of the great classroom activities for students.
  17. PA announcement-put students in pairs and have them write an advertisement for the book. Have students share on the PA system one morning.
  18. Design a new cover-design a cover with the title and a new image on the cover. Work with a partner and take time to come up with your image.
  19. Four corner discussion-Have a four corner discussion. Start with a controversial statement and have students decide if they agree, strongly agree, disagree, strongly disagree. Have students go to their respective corners. Go around and do three rounds where they share and discuss their point-of-views. This is one of the great classroom activities for students.
  20. Educational Bingo-Create bingo boards with questions from prior lessons. Put the answers on the bingo boards and ask the questions to students. Students will mark the board with the correct answer.
  21. Blind artist-Pair students up and sit them back to back. Provide an image to student A. Students A will describe image to student B. Student B tries to draw the image as best as they can given the description.
  22. Sentence race-Two teams, two separate sides of the board. Students go up to the board, take a piece of paper which has a vocabulary word written on it, writes a sentence on the board using the word in a sentence. The team that gets the most words used correctly in sentences-wins!
  23. Chain spelling-Teacher first writes a word on the board. First student is asked to take the last three or four letters of the word and form another word. The next student has to repeat the same and this is continued until a student fails to form a word or misspells it. The game can be made tighter by restricting them to certain category of words.
  24. Blindfold conversation-This is a team building activity for a new classroom. First teacher asks everybody to introduce themselves in a few sentences. Once it is done, class would be divided into two teams. A student from a team is called up and his eyes would be tied. A student from the other team is then called and asked to say something. The student who is blinded has to recognize him/her from his voice. If he/she failed to do so, he/she may also ask certain questions related to what was discussed in the introduction to identify the person. This is one of the great classroom activities for students.
  25. Jumping the line-A line is drawn on the class floor and one side of the line will be marked ‘true’ and the other as ‘false’. The students are asked to stand on the line. Teacher would pick a student and says a statement based on what is taught in the class. If the student thinks that it is true, he/she has to jump to the true side or else the false side.
  26. Thanking for the compliment-This is an ice-breaking classroom activity, which can boost the confidence and encourage students to complement each other’s. The teacher can give a sheet of paper to each student in the class which has to be pinned on their backs then she has to ask every student to think of a compliment to write for their friends. When the whole class is done with it, ask them to read it aloud.
  27. Missing cards-This is a memory game for any level students that improve their attention to detail. The class is first divided into two. Teacher has a set of cards which denotes different categories. A student from the first team is asked to come up and teacher shows him/her 5 cards for 10 seconds. He/she then shuffles the card and shows only 4 cards next time. The student has to recall his/her memory and identify the missing card. The team with the most number of correct card recalls win.
  28. Mime-The class is first divided into teams. Teacher writes action words such as running, gardening, singing etc in pieces of paper. It is then folded and placed in a bag or box. A student from a team comes and picks a paper and enacts the word. The other team has to guess the word correctly to win a point.
  29. Brown paper bag-This is a great ice breaker for the beginning of the year. Ask students to place three things from home in a brown paper bag and share each item with the class sharing the significance of each thing. This is one of the great classroom activities for students.
  30. Socratic seminar-Have students create questions using Costa’s question cues. Choose the best questions. Have students answer the questions at home in preparation for the seminar. Place the chairs in one large circle in preparation for the seminar. Choose two leaders to facilitate the class discussion. Have leaders read the questions one at a time giving students a chance to respond. Tall students as the respond and use as grade. This is one of the great classroom activities for students.

I would love to hear what classroom activities for students you are using in your classroom. Leave in the comments below! For my article on fun short stories click HERE

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Best Short Stories Horror Recommendations

Best Short Stories Horror

Best Short Horror Stories

You are stranded on a lighthouse with two other friends…you look and see a ship that is crashing and you wait for any survivors to swim towards the lighthouse when suddenly you see…not humans….but RATS!!!! Thousands and thousands of rats headed for the lighthouse that you are sharing with two other people. These rats have already killed the passengers of the ship and are now headed towards you. What would you do? If you would like to read this story it’s called Three Skeleton Key by George G. Toulouze. There are many horror stories to sift through…I have taken countless hours to read countless stories (many of them very boring) and I have compiled a list of the best horror or scary stories for you!

Best Short Stories Horror: The Cask of Amontillado

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe is a chilling story where a man named Monstressor has decided to seek revenge against a man named Fortunado for committing some type of wrong against him. He entices the man with a cask of amontillado to come to his home during Mardi Gras (all people are masked) to try this new-fine-wine. The man never able to turn down wine follows him all the way down to the cellar where Monstressor locks him in a small brick cell and paves the hole closed leaving Fortunado to die a slow and agonizing death.

Best Short Stories Horror: The Landlady

The Landlady by Roald Dahl is a short story that begins with a man entering a motel for the evening. He signs in and he recognizes two names in the registry but at first cannot place how he knows the names. He comes to remember that the two young men in the registry both went missing. It is at this point that we, the audience realize that he is in grave danger. He is sipping tea that has been provided to him by the landlady when he notices some stuffed animals, a parrot and a dog. The woman mentions that she stuffs all her pets that die. It sounds like it is quite a regular act and she mentions that the two young men from the registry are still upstairs. The end fades out with him getting tipsy from the tea. The landlady states “yes, I think you have had enough”.

Best Short Stories Horror: Lamb to the Slaughter

Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl is a short story that opens with a pregnant woman fussing over her husband and his supper. He is cranky and clearly annoyed by her. He then tells her that he is leaving her for another woman. The pregnant wife goes and grabs the frozen leg of lamb she intended to serve to her husband and hits him over the head with it instead. He dies a quick death. She then goes to the grocery store to set up her alibi, back to her home, and calls the police to claim she found her husband dead. In the meantime, she puts the lamb in the oven which she later serves to the police officers who are working hard to find the weapon that killed her husband…the leg of lamb.

Best Short Stories Horror

Best Short Stories Horror: The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe is a short story in which we find ourselves during the time period of the Spanish Inquisition. The story opens with a man placed in a small cell. He keeps himself sane by exercising and marking the days that slowly pass by. He falls asleep only to find himself awakening to a death-torture-chamber where he is tied down to the floor next to a deep pit, while a pendulum swings over his head, slowly moving toward him. He has to make a decision for what to do-get killed by the pendulum or free himself and fall into the pit. He is able to free himself just in time before being struck by the pendulum, and rolls to the opposite side of where the pit is. Oh and by the way, there are rats preparing to eat him-dead or alive. In the end he is saved by the opposing side of the Spanish Inquisition but we are unsure whether or not they will themselves take the prisoner-prisoner.

Best Short Stories Horror: The Elevator

The Elevator by Willliam Sleator is a short story about a young boy who continues to run into a large woman in his building elevator. She is in there every time and she is really starting to creep him out. He has anxiety and can’t breathe. His dad is no help for when he expresses his anxiety about the elevator his dad makes fun of him and tells him to be a man. There is no actual end to the story except that we know that the young boy enters the elevator and standing there is the “fat lady”. This is a great one to have students practice writing narrative skills. I have them write their own ending to the story.

Best Short Stories Horror: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street

The Monsters are Due on Maple Street is a short story about how humans get paranoid, can’t see clear, and start turning on each other. Several unexplainable things happen on Maple Street and the inhabitants begin to blame each other. Soon they are turning on each other while pointing fingers and people are getting killed. At the end of the short story aliens sit and talk about how they perform this experiment on humans and invariably humans do the same thing every time.

Best Short Stories Horror: The Monkey’s Paw

The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs is a short story about a family gathered together with friends and one of them is an old military vet. He has a monkey’s paw, which he said gives a person three wishes. He is convinced to leave the paw behind which he does so with a warning. The family wishes for three lbs. The three lbs. comes in the form of crushing the son in machinery while at work. The mom is struck by grief and orders her husband to order her son be brought to life. The son walks two miles from the cemetery and begins to bang on the door. The woman is frazzled and trying to open the door while the husband finds the monkey’s paw and wishes the son away right before the woman opens the door. Does this story sound familiar? This is certainly where the idea of the pet cemetery comes from.

Best Short Stories Horror

Best Short Stories: The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe is about a pandemic in which everyone is dying. Prince Prospero decides to turn it into a celebration so he invites all of his friends into his castle which they lock from the inside and the outside. The celebration is in full swing when an uninvited masked guest comes walking slowly into the main ballroom from the “red” room. Each room has a color resonating from it but no one goes into the red room. The Prince runs at the masked man and dies instantly. All other guests perish, and the pandemic is escaped by no one.

Best Short Stories: The Veldt

The Veldt by Ray Bradbury is a cautionary tale about the overuse of technology. Two parents have their home set up virtually and the nursery is included. The two children grow older and older while becoming very close to lions which live on the screen in their room. The nursery has a large canvas of Africa playing on the wall. The parents become nervous about the lions and decide to shut down the nursery. The children are furious and do not know how they will survive without the animals from Africa. They ensure the lions get to the parents prior to shutting it down. The children choose the lions as their parents over their actual parents.

Best Short Stories: The Most Dangerous Game

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell a group of hunters are on a ship headed for Africa so they can hunt big game. The main character, Rainsford falls into the water during the night and swims toward an island. He arrives on the island hungry and exhausted where he at first finds himself to be in good company. Zaroff, the man who welcomes Rainsford into his home is hospitable at first offering Rainsford shelter, food, and sleep. Zaroff is also a big game hunter and Rainsford soon learns that Zaroff hunts humans. Zaroff turns out to be a cold blooded killer who is planning to hunt Rainsford in the morning. The alternative is to be mauled by his guard, Ivan. Invariably all men choose to be hunted where they may stand a chance.

Best Short Stories: The Lottery

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a story that is reminiscent of “The Hunger Games”. The lottery is a way of taking numbers and killing off the population while everyone is watching. In the lottery it is a woman who is selected and begs for her life as others prepare to stone her to death.

Best Short Stories Horror

Best Short Stories: The Tell Tale Heart

The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe is a story about a man who has moved into the realm of paranoia. He is the care-taker of an elderly man who has an eye full of cataracts. The paranoid man thinks that the old man is starring at him with his eye when in fact the man cannot even see out of the eye. He decides he is going to kill the man which he does and buries him beneath the floorboards. When the police come, he screams out a confession because he now believes he can hear the beating of the old man’s heart.

Best Short Stories: The Hitchhiker

The Hitchhiker is a spooky short story about a man who picks up a hitchhiker, who turns out to be a serial killer. The man continues to run into his victims as he travels and cannot escape the hitchhiker’s kills.

Best Short Stories: The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story about a woman who is held up in a bedroom out in the country for a long period of time. She loses her mind during her stay while suffering a serious bout of depression and she starts to peel the yellow wallpaper off the wall because in her mind it is moving and speaking to her. She believes the paper is alive.

Have horror stories you teach in your classroom? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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The Veldt

The Lottery

The Tell Tale Heart

The Masque of The Red Death

The Monkey’s Paw

The Monster’s Are Due on Maple Street

The Elevator

The Pit and the Pendulum

The Most Dangerous Game

The Landlady

Lamb to the Slaughter

The Cask of Amontillado

Three Skeleton Key

The Hitchhiker

The Yellow Wallpaper

If you would like to read my Halloween blog, click HERE

March On Washington Lesson Plan

March on Washington

March on Washington Lesson Plan: Intentional Planning

It’s not surprising today that my “March” on Washington mini-lesson plan is one of my top sellers in my Teachers Pay Teachers shop. Teachers are looking for ways to talk about rioting, action, inequality, values, and change. When I teach a lesson about equality I begin with teaching students the importance of values. Students look to educators to set an example and answer questions for what to do in situations like George Floyd. What can we do? What can I do? How can a navigate change safely? There is no magic answer, but it is essential that we handle these inquiries with a lot of careful thought and intentional lesson planning.

March on Washington Lesson Plan: Values

When I teach any of the standards for tolerance, I like to begin with teaching tolerance starting small with an assignment on identity. First we start with the identity of the students by looking at their values. I provide a long list of values and they choose 7. The list of values is as follows:

Awareness                       Optimistic Courage                   Power Creativity                       Philanthropy Growth                            Success Love                          Strength Integrity                        Privacy Tolerance                        loyalty Respect                    Passion Responsibility                Discipline Resourcefulness           Preparedness Spirituality               Punctuality Peace                      Spirituality

Once they have chosen 7 values, they explain why they chose them, and then narrow it down to their three core values. Once they have a clear understanding of what their values are we take a look at identity and align how those values create their identity. See Social Emotional Learning at the bottom for my social emotional learning lesson.

March on Washington Lesson Plan: Cultural Goggles Poster

Students are to next create a teaching tolerance poster, called, the “Cultural Goggles” poster. “Cultural goggles” can be defined as a set of beliefs and values that we carry with us that affect the way we see the world and how we operate in it. Our “cultural goggles” is bias that is unique to our particular background in understanding that each person comes with their own set of “goggles“. We can hopefully eliminate assumptions and instead grow respect for one another. Requirements for the assignment must be a pie graph with four sections with labels that make up the students identity. For example: religion, family, friends, and school. Students are to explain how each section is unique to them. Once students have a clear understanding of their own identity it is much easier for them to identify character values. You can even have your students create a “cultural goggles” poster for a character you are reading about.

March Edmund Pettus Bridge

March on Washington Lesson Plan: Edmund Pettus Bridge

The Edmund Pettus Bridge was the site of the conflict of Bloody Sunday on March 7th, 1965, and police attacked civil rights movement demonstrators with horses, Billy clubs, and tear gas as they were attempting to March to the state Capitol. It’s important to talk about John Lewis and his participation in the March. You can also show interview clips where he discusses his participation and make it relevant by showing a short clip of his recent passing. Events are more relevant to students when they have a clear picture of the time period.

Moving backwards leading up to the march, discuss those people and events that were the catalyst to the big event. The March was the biggest event that has ever existed in Washington followed by JFK’s presidential inauguration. Important figures to mention are Rosa Parks and how she refused to sit in the back of the bus and was arrested. A catalyst to the civil rights movement. Students learn about Parks when they are young but putting it into context here is essential in their understanding of what led up to the March.

March James Lawson

March on Washington Lesson Plan: James Lawson

James Lawson held workshops that included simulations in order to prepare the students to handle verbal and physical harassment that they would ultimately face during the civil rights protests. These were psychological exercises to support students through the atrocities of trauma they would face. Can you imagine? People fighting for equality are treated with such disdain it would bring about a traumatic experience in their lives including PTSD. Many students didn’t make it through Lawson’s training and this was a simulated experience.

March Sit-ins

March on Washington: Sit-Ins

The protests began with peaceful Sit-ins, which lasted six months were part of a nonviolent direct-action campaign to end racial segregation at lunch counters in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Students would meet at a specific time in a restaurant that segregated black people from white people and they would sit up at the lunch counter, which wasn’t allowed for black people. They would sit peacefully and not say anything. They were taunted and verbally abused by owners, but they just sat and remained silent. It’s harder to become violent with peaceful protesters than it is with violent protesters or protesters who are antagonistic. How does one justify their own raunchy behavior if someone isn’t doing anything wrong. These students became significant leaders in the civil rights movement.

The first sit-in was the Greensboro sitin. The Greensboro sit-in was a civil rights protest that started in 1960, when young African American students staged a sit in at a segregated Wolesworth lunch counter in Greensboro , North Carolina, and refused to leave after being denied service. The sit in movement soon spread to college towns throughout the South. Students continued a peaceful protest. They allowed others to commit violence to them but would not lift a violent hand back.

The judge found the college students who sat at the lunch counters guilty immediately and put them in jail. This brought the attention to white people who primarily were not in favor of segregation. Once white people began to take action the movement took off even more. This is why it is crucial that all people take action when there is inequality. More and more students continued to march to store counters. Peaceful protests began working as it was more difficult to beat someone up who wouldn’t fight or yell back. Dynamite went off out front of Alexander Looby’s house, an NAACP activist attorney. This was a pivotal movement for the March on Pettus Bridge.

March Martin Luther King Jr.

Questions for March on Washington

Social Emotional Learning

Once I have completed a lesson that is emotionally charged, like the one above, I complete the lesson with some social emotional learning and have students participate in a breathing exercise like the one below.

Observing is bringing your mind back to the sensations of your body and mind. Observe your breath: Breathe evenly and gently, focusing your attention on:

1. The movement of your stomach.

a. As you begin to breathe in, allow your belly to rise in order to bring air into the lower half of your body.

b. As the upper halves of your lungs begin to fill with air, your chest begins to rise.

c. As you breathe out, notice your belly, then notice your chest. Don’t tire yourself.

2. The pauses in your breathing

a. As you breathe in, notice the brief pause when your lungs have filled with air.

b. As you breathe out, notice the brief pause when your lungs have expelled air.

3. The sensations in your nose as you breathe in and as you breathe out.

a. As you breathe, close your mouth and breathe in through your nose, noticing the sensation in your nostrils.

4. Your breathe while walking slowly, breathe normally.

a. Determine the length of your breath the exhalation and the inhalation by the number of your footsteps

b. Watch to see whether the inhalation also lengthens by one step or not after 20 breaths. Return to breathing

A breathing exercise helps to ensure that they leave the room feeling calm and at peace rather than confused, scared and on high alert for their next class or lunch. It’s important for them to know that they are safe.

I would love to hear how you teach students about action, like the March on Washington! Or how you discuss the riots happening today. Please leave a comment in the comment section below!

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Halloween Lesson Plans for Teens

Halloween Poetry

Spooky Short Stories and Poems

Halloween is my most favorite time of the year to teach lessons! Students love spooky stories and poems-they don’t care what it is they just love to be scared. I have taken years to build up my Halloween curriculum and I will share student favorite Halloween lesson plans with you here.

Halloween Lesson Plans: “Incident in a Rose Garden” Poem by Donald Justice

I begin by passing out a copy of the poem. Students and I go over figurative language as a review. We also review how to read a poem-whether you pause for a period, coma, or hyphen; intonate for a question; add emotion for an exclamation. Once we have reviewed figurative language and how to read a poem, we read it twice. The first time to process and the second time for anything that was missed. Students next take time in small groups to practice a close reading on the poem and answer questions. “Incident in a Rose Garden” is a fun poem about a gardener who is working for his employer when something resembling “the Grim Reaper” appears. The gardener flees to his master quitting his job and proclaiming he is going to go live the last moments of his life to the fullest. The frustrated employer, walks to find the grim figure and when he does, the employer scolds the grim ghost for scaring his employee. It is at this point we learn that the grim reaper is not there for the gardener but for the employer.

Halloween Lesson Plans: “Egg Horror Poem” by Laurel Winter

I pass out a copy of “The Egg Horror Poem” as well as a list of literary devices. I review literary devices with students prior to reading “The Egg Horror Poem”. The poem is about eggs that are personified and brought to life. They wait in agony in the fridge while the owner opens the fridge to make an omelet, egg salad sandwich, or the worst- the meringue pie, which requires the most eggs and egg beaters- the most painful of the egg tools. This poem seems more comical at first until students begin to make connections to similarities in events such as the Holocaust and other horrific historical events. This is when it becomes bone chilling rather than funny. Students spend time answering questions and then create their own food to be personified in a spine tingling manner.

Halloween Lesson Plans: “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” by Emily Dickinson

“Because I could not stop for Death –

He kindly stopped for me –

The Carriage held but just Ourselves –

And Immortality.”

Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Because I Could Not Step for Death” is a great poem to teach rythme and rhyme. It also is a reminder that we are all unaware of when we will go and to keep life’s beauty and timeliness in perspective.

Halloween Lesson Plans: “Goblin Market” by Christina Rosetti

“Goblin Market” is a long poem by Christina Rosetti. Once I have completed the poetry lessons with students, I use the “Goblin Market” to assess their learning. There are many images, and videos created for the “Goblin Market” that can be used to engage students and enhance learning. If you are teaching middle school, then I would go with “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. Goblin Market should be used beginning with the high school level. “The Raven” is another classic of Edgar Allen Poe’s that has been copied for generations. The raven is symbolic for bringing news, and for holding the spirit of someone who has passed on. Just look at “Game of Thrones“. “The Raven” is a poem about a man who has lost his beautiful wife Lenore. The Raven continues to visit tapping on the window and at first it is comforting to the man. After this goes on for a while the man becomes agitated and is becoming mad. He cannot get rid of the memories of his wife nor can he move on from her death as there is always something to remind him of her. We watch as the character goes through the different stages of grief.

Halloween Lesson Plans: Edgar Allen Poe

A question that is often asked: Is Edgar Allen Poe truly the best horror author? The answer, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. However, I think he should get credit for his original ideas that have been copied and repeated in books, short stories, poems, and movies over the years. Today it is difficult to come up with new material because most ideas have been written about. Imagine having to be the first to create horror stories? This would be even harder. For this reason, Edgar Allen Poe takes the cake on horror stories, which are perfect for Halloween!

“The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allen Poe

“The Masque of the Red Death” is at the top of my list for short stories by Edgar Allen Poe. “The Masque of the Red Death” pertains to today in that it is about the red death during a time when the death rate was through the roof and even the upper-class couldn’t escape the plague…but they sure tried. The story begins with primarily the lower class peasants dying at a rapid rate from the black plague. Despite death being everywhere, a rich Prince Prospero decides he is going to invite his rich friends over, shut everyone out and/or in and party through until the plague has passed. He is an arrogant man and the idea of celebrating while so many are dying is as pretentious as it is callous. For a few days everyone celebrates with eating, dancing and being merry. In the castle the Prince has rooms that are a different colors. Edgar Allen Poe, during a time when author’s didn’t use metaphors, was using color as metaphor. The blue room, purple, room, yellow room etc. were happy places to be but no one entered the red room. At the end of the story the music shuts off and a man “death” in a mask (the plague) emerges from the red room to the party. The host charges him and dies immediately and everyone drops and dies in the end. I love this short story for several reasons. First it pertains to today’s pandemic, but it also puts our pandemic in perspective in that we are lucky this is a virus unlike the red death. It shows the audacity of particular groups of people who think they are untouchable and reserve no compassion for those who are less fortunate and vulnerable, and the use of colors, metaphors, symbols and lessons learned are brilliant, especially in this time period!

“The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allen Poe

“The Pit and the Pendulum” should win an award for being the most copied on one of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories list. It is a tale during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. A prisoner awakens in a torture chamber and is trying to find a way out. It is Edgar Allen Poe’s use of anticipation that further positions him as the greatest author of horror stories. It begins with the man trying to keep himself busy by doing exercises, and writing on the wall. This seems like torture until the room opens up and he finds himself tied to the ground with corpse rats charging at him. This is a scene that has been recaptured in several works and T.V. shows. I have seen it in “Criminal Minds”, and “Bone Collector” to name a couple. Rats eating dead bodies at some point sparked the idea of rats eating live bodies and Edgar Allen Poe was the first to capture this horror. The next set of torture is a pit on one side and a swinging sharp pendulum swaying back and forth getting closer and closer to the prisoner. The prisoner has a short period of time to try and outsmart the device and is saved at the end. Can anyone say “Saw“? Saw’s entire plot surrounds same ideas from “The Pit and the Pendulum”. In the end the prisoner is saved right in time by the opposition. This is the second of my favorites of stories by Edgar Allen Poe. This story is copied for generations and continues to be copied, it captures the horror of torture, and it leaves the story with a feeling of anxiety as though the man will end up right back where he started. The Spanish Inquisition was a time when distrust was high and no one was safe.

“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe

“The Cask of Amontillado” is among one of the best Edgar Allen Poe tales. What is so farsighted about “The Cask of Amontillado” is that Edgar Allen Poe has so much insight into a level of psychology that was not studied at this time. A man named Fortunado has somehow offended Luchesi. The offense was a mild one as Fortunado puts his complete trust in Luchesi when he agrees to go down to his wine cellar for a cask of Amontillado (wine). Fortunado has plotted and planned this murder for some time and waited for the right moment to kill Fortunado. Luchesi even knows Fortunado’s weakness and makes an offer Fortunado cannot refuse on his weakness’ behalf. Fortunado cannot say no to a good bottle of wine and is willing to take a long journey down to the catacombs of Luchesi’s wine cellar. Fortunado (a very ironic name) willingly walks down the narrow stone steps, coughing as he is already sick and the damp air is making him worse. Fortunado heads into a hole dug into a wall to get to his hamartia-the wine, when he is shut in by Luchesi. The fact that Fortunado was still willing to crawl into a space suggests that Fortunado was an alcoholic during a time when alcoholism was not understood. Edgar Allen Poe gives a chilling account of anger, bargaining, denial, and acceptance at the grieving of Fortundo’s own death.

“The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe

I hate to say it but “The Tell Tale Heart” is one of his most popular works and is one of my least favorites. However there is still much to be said about Edgar Allen Poe and his writing talents in this short story. “The Tell Tale Heart” opens with a man who is middle aged arguing to the audience that he isn’t mad, which makes you quickly realize that you are dealing with someone who is mentally unstable. He goes on to state that he loved the old man (whom he killed) and “took no offense of him”. He states that he killed the man because of his eye. One can deduce that the old man had blue eyes and a bad case of cataracts. One can also deduce that the man serving him entered into a psychotic paranoid state when he decided to kill the man because of his eye. The next display of his complete paranoia is when he buries the man under the floorboards and the police enter to inquire about the missing man. The middle-aged man continues to hear the beating of the old man’s heart inside his head and yells out confessing that he killed the old man. Like in “The Cask of Amontillado”.

Additional Halloween Lesson Plans to Tingle Your Spine

“The Elevator”, “Lamb to the Slaughter” Roald Dahl, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury. “The Elevator” is about a boy who has a fear of riding elevators and of the mysterious large woman who rides in it. “Lamb to the Slaughter” is about a woman who kills her cheating husband with a frozen leg of lamb and then feeds it to the police, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is about a woman who suffers from mental illness and begins to see things within the wallpaper, “The Veldt” is about technology and how children can turn away from their parents and towards technology even if it means a lion will eat them.

I’d love to hear how you will spook your students this Halloween! Please leave a comment in the comments section below.

To read my blog on Edgar Allen Poe: Is He Truly the Greatest Horror Author click HERE

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Egg Horror Poem and Incident in a Rose Garden Combo. Lesson

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African American Urban Fiction

African American Urban Fiction

African American Urban Fiction Blog Summary

African American Urban Fiction has become very popular- and that is not surprising considering our cultural climate today. It is essential to begin teaching students African American Literature as they begin to read novels-so elementary school. It becomes most essential when they begin to learn about American Literature in the 8th grade. There are several popular and new African American Urban fiction novels available today and I will help to eliminate the weeding out by providing a list of great African American Literature reading lists for you to get started on in your classroom.

African American Urban Fiction: One Crazy Summer

African American Literature: “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams Garcia

“One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams Garcia is a book about a girl and her two younger sisters who were abandoned by their mother as young children. They haven’t seen their mom, a.k.a. Cecile in years and do not remember her. Their grandfather believes it is time for them to meet their mother and sends the girls from Brooklyn, to Oakland, California. Cecile is cold, unkind, and anything but motherly as she does her best to welcome them into her home. The story is told from the point-of-view of the protagonist, an 11 year-old-girl and one of Cecile’s abandoned daughters. Cecile is part of the Black Panther Movement and left her children for complicated reasons. Although she is not let off the hook as a mother, we do get a glimpse into the very difficult and impossible life of a young girl that was Cecile. It is a book coming-of-age book about healing.

African American Literature Books: “Dear Justyce” by Nic Stone

“Dear Justyce” is a fictional novel written by Nic Stone. It is the sequel to “Dear Martin”. The reason behind Nic Stone deciding to write “Dear Justyce” is because the main character from “Dear Martin”-Justyce comes from a wealthy, privileged background. It can be predetermined that he would end up on a path toward wealth and prosperity. Stone decided to write the story from Quan’s perspective, one of the character’s from the “Dear Martin” novel. Quan grew up in poverty and was predetermined to end up in prison, as he does. She tells the story from the perspective of the poor kid who lived in an abusive household. Justyce comes back from a visit from college and decides to help Quan. Quan is innocent and is being tried for the murder of Castillo-the same police officer who killed Manny (Justyce’s best friend) in “Dear Martin”.

“The Boy in the Black Suit” by Jason Reynolds

“The Boy in the Black Suit” by Jason Reynolds is a story about a teen who loses his mom and is trying to survive with one alcoholic parent. The protagonist chooses to work in a funeral home because it brings him comfort after losing his mother. Through meeting different people and connecting with those around him and unlikely people who take care of him, it is a very healing coming-of-age novel.

African American Books Young Adult: “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansbury

A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansbury: A Raisin in the Sun is one of the most heartbreaking plays to read. It is about a family that is trying to catch a break, and when they finally do, it is at the expense of Walter Sr. (the grandfather’s death). The break they catch is the check they will receive from the insurance company for his death. Each member of this 5 person family has dreams of what they want to do with the money. Beneatha wants to be a doctor, Walter wants to open a liquor store, Mama wants to buy a new home etc. All of the characters crave the dream so badly that when it falls apart, there is an anger and bitterness that changes each of them forever. The message is that during this time period (post civil war) it was near impossible for African Americans to get ahead. They only experienced “dreams deferred”.

“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston”: The story is about a young woman who doesn’t have much choice in a post civil world, who gets married twice. The first husband she is married off to by her parents and doesn’t love, and the second she runs off with named Teacake who she is madly in love with. The story shows the struggles, trials and tribulations as an African American, specifically an African American woman during post-civil-war-time. The scene where there is a storm is one of the most beautifully written scenes in literature and can be studied independently. Teacake, the love of her life dies from rabies in the end leaving her alone.

African American Urban Fiction

African American Urban Fiction Author: “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison: In the beginning a mom slits her babies throats in an attempt to save them from what she thinks is white men coming to take them into slavery. She has lived such a horrific life that she believes it is better to show her children mercy by killing them. This is a lot for high school level students to process, or connect with even a little. There are sexual metaphors, such as the cherry blossom tree that aren’t appropriate to get into as a high school teacher, and should be left for the college level.

African American Urban Fiction Author: “The Stars Beneath Our Feet” by David Barclay

The Stars Beneath Our Feetby David Barclay is a book that I suggest for the typical high school reading list. A story about a boy who loses his brother and is trying to find a way to cope with this loss. He becomes friends with many he never thought he would befriend and he uses legos as a creative way to deal with the pain of his loss. It’s is a well-crafted book with many themes and messages students can relate to and connect with today.

African American Urban Fiction

African American Literature Authors: “As Brave as You” by Jason Reynolds

As Brave As You” by Jason Reynolds is a book about a young boy who is taken to live with his grandparents for a length of time. The boys’ parents are going through a divorce and they are going on one last trip prior to a separation. The boy spends the time with his grandparents, his brother, and some townspeople. The boy connects with his grandfather who is struggling with blindness. There are many themes that students can relate to and I think this is a great read for 9th grade.

African American Book Authors: “Ghost Boys” by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes: is a perfect read for today’s political climate. The book is about a young African American boy named Jerome who is shot and killed by a white police officer who gravely mistakes a toy gun for a real gun. There is a trial and the police officer is released with a slap on the wrist. “Ghost Boys”, visits the unfortunate, criminal issues that have been highlighted in our news. The Ghost Boys Gang includes Emmett Till as the ghost boys’ leader and Jerome goes on a journey of self-discovery, the awakening to American history, and healing.

African American Books for 5th Graders: “Class Act” by Jerry Craft

Class Act by Jerry Craft: A graphic novel in the “New Kid” graphic novel series. This is one of the books to read for teens. Once again Jordan returns to middle school finding himself in 8th grade where he faces new challenges. This is a sequel to “New Kid” focuses slightly less on Jordan and includes more secondary characters and their struggles. The class clown and bully has become isolated, and bullied in this version. I would not be surprised if the next book has a focus on him, and the effects of bullying.

African American Urban Fiction

African American Urban Fiction: Middle School-Track Series by Jason Reynolds

Track Series by Jason Reynolds: A 4-part-series referenced as the “Track Series” by Jason Reynolds. Patina is one of the four characters among Ghost, Lu, and Sunny. Each book is written from the perspective of each character as their lives intertwine with one another. They all suffer through different hardships and the one thing they have in-common, and is their grounding force-is track, and their track coach. Patina and her sister Maddy live with their adopted parents because their mom lost her legs due to diabetes; Sunny lives with his father and without his mother because she passed away. Ghost lives with his mother and no father because his father tried to shoot Ghost and his wife with a rifle and is in jail. Lu lives with both mom and dad but struggles greatly with his identity because he is an African-American albino and he doesn’t feel like he fits in either world. 

African American Urban Fiction Middle School: “Booked” by Kwame Alexander

Booked by Kwame Alexander: is a crafty novel that makes the topic of books interesting. Kwame uses poetry, and a lot of imagination to draw the reader into the topic about a young boy whose father forces him to read. This boy is influenced by some amazing mentors: a teacher, librarian, and a new girlfriend and he is led to reading books and even joins a book club by the end of the novel.

African American Urban Fiction High School: “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers

Monster by Walter Dean Myers: a book about a young man who is on trial for his life for a crime he did not commit-or did he? Either way, if he had committed the crime of staking out a mini-mart to allow a robbery to take place, he should hardly be tried for capital murder. He unequivocally claims throughout the book that he was never in the store that day, however at the end there is a hint that he did in fact stake out the store that led to the death of a grocery clerk owner. This book comes as graphic novel or novel version.

African American Urban Fiction

African American Books 6th Graders: “New Kid” by Jerry Craft

New Kid another graphic novel. It’s about a boy in a new-private-middle school who deals with many of the issues that students deal with in middle school: bullying, fitting in, relationships, friendships, puberty, and racism.  What I really like about this book is that the themes just mentioned are to the degree of making an impact on students without completely bringing them down.  What I mean by this is that there is teasing and unkind words exchanged between classmates, but there isn’t a degree of bullying that students have to eat their lunch standing on a toilet, like there is in other books (Ghost Boys). The main character, Jordan goes to an almost all-white-student body school as an African American, and he deals with students and teachers making comments such as, “I bet you’d be good at basketball”, followed with “I didn’t mean that because, well, you know”. Other than these frustrations the book is light-hearted, each chapter is a malapropism for a movie, and portrays the average middle school student’s day-to-day life. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s important to first begin by teaching students how to read a graphic novel: thought bubbles, gutters, panels, etc. prior to reading a graphic novel. Some ideas during teaching is to cut out a scene, mix them up, and have students decide how to put them in order. You can delete dialogue from circles, and have students predict based on the images, what is being said. Lesson suggestion; I have heard teachers talk about how students are not able to practice critical thinking by imagining up a scene in a graphic novel. You can give the students the dialogue and have them draw what they imagine the scene to be.

African American Books for 7th Graders: “Rebound” by Kwame Alexander

Rebound by Kwame Alexander: It’s a new and different way to read a novel in that it is multiple poems strung together through the duration of an entire novel. It’s a bit like a string of dreams, or memories. Kwame is a master at writing and uses multiple literary devices on each page. He shapes his poetry to match the topic of a poem, and he engages middle school students in ways that most poetry cannot. The main character, Charlie, in “Rebound” is dealing with a lot. He has to deal with the loss of his father as well as puberty and all that it entails for a boy in middle school. Charlie is struggling to get along with his mom, who doesn’t seem to relate to him on any level. The person who can-is gone-Charlie’s father and Charlie misses him deeply. After Charlie gets into trouble a couple times, his mom decides to send him to his grandparents for the summer. Charlie is unhappy about it, but it seems to be what he needs to get his smile and his confidence back.  It’s a coming-of-age book that includes: family, friends, death, and sports: exactly what he needs after his painful loss. Lesson suggestion: take one poem and have students turn it into the parts of a short story: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

African American Graphic Novels: “Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a summarized version of what happens in the novel. There is a boy whose family has a long history of gang violence and he has lost multiple family members for this reason. Once the boy’s brother is killed, he feels he has to follow the rules which is to now kill the teen who killed his brother. That would then mean that he would be the next victim in line for death or prison. He wrestles with his conscience as he visits the multiple victims from his past in an elevator. There is a great impact in the graphics including when the main character’s brother is shot and killed, ghosts, and other victims that are not illustrated in the novel.

I’d love to hear about what African American Urban Fiction Authors you are teaching in the classroom! Please leave it in the comments section!

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Anti-racist Workbook

“Tags”: Short Story by Walter Dean Myers

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Blended by Sharon Draper

Teaching Tolerance

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The Crossover

Anti-Racist Curriculum for Elementary

Anti-Racist Curriculum: It’s Not OK!

Anti-Racist Curriculum Video Summary of Blog Post

Anti-Racist Curriculum for Elementary: It’s Not OK!

Anti-racist curriculum for elementary is crucial to creating young adults that are not biased, racist, or prejudice. I personally teach and sell curriculum for tolerance and anti-racism for the older students such as middle or high school, but I recognize the importance of starting in earlier years. Opal Tometi, community organizer, human rights activist, and co-founder of #blacklivesmatter shared, “What we need now more than ever is a human rights movement that challenges systemic racism in every single context.” We CAN do this! And it’s easiest and best to start young.

The first thing to understand is that kindness won’t end racism. It is a start but we need more action. Anti-racism is lifelong work, and is worth the sweat and tears it takes to provide a better future for our children.

Anti-Racist Curriculum: History

Anti-Racist Curriculum for Elementary School: History

The second thing we need to teach students is to learn the history of this land we live in. I chuckle every time I hear a close member of my family (a Canadian citizen) grumble about refugees or immigrants coming into the United States. Something so obviously hypocritical is lost to some adults. This is why we need to teach young children about immigration, Native Americans, Ellis Island, etc. There are many resources such as the NativeLand app, or you can google search “Who were the inhabitants of….” and enter your city name. Learning about the history of the land we live on will help us to accept the past and become better messengers for those who will come long after us. Have students talk about re-writing history books. What could be taken out, what could be added. Take some time to look at some online resources asking questions such as, is this true? How reliable is this resource? An additional activity is to have students interview a family member (preferably the eldest member of the family to gain context into their ancestral history)

Anti-Racist Curriculum: Values

Elementary school is not too early to teach students about values. Even at a young age students know what it is important to them, to their family, friends, and at school. Provide students with a list of values and have them choose seven of the values that are important in their lives. Next have them narrow it down to three values that are most important to them. This leaves out school, family and others and helps them to find their own identities. You then address how these values will help keep students anchored when anti-racism feels overwhelming, or exciting.

Students will learn the difference between race and ethnicity. Have students next create an anti-racist vision. What would our world be like, look like, feel like as an anti-racist world? How does this affect students directly in our state? country? and world? How will we get there and what is their role as a person or citizen in this process?

Anti-Racist Curriculum: Identity

Anti-Racist Curriculum for Elementary: Identity

Students will create a diagram about themselves that will help to make-up and include topics such as: what is your favorite color, food, friends, pastime, places to visit? Once students have identified simple questions and answers about themselves, you will get into more complex questions such as: education, family, nationality, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation (use best judgment here), religion, language, and talents? This is a great assignment to do at the start of the year so that students learn about each other!

Let students know that no matter what age they are, their voice matters. Give examples of young activists, such as Mari Copeny who has been advocating for racial justice since she was eight-years-old. She states, “If they don’t want to listen to you at first, keep talking, they will eventually have to hear you out. And once they hear you out, they will see that you have a unique view of the world and that your opinion matters.”

Anti-Racist Curriculum: Action

Anti-Racist Curriculum for Elementary: Diversity

Students will take some time to look at their own world in relation to diversity. So, what nationality, race, religion etc. are your friends, teachers, family, author’s you read, historical figures they learn about, etc. Once they have established answers to these questions they can gauge how diverse their world is. This is an assignment for the older elementary such as fourth and fifth grade.

Provide students opportunities to reflect and process the material they are learning. This curriculum can be daunting for some students, so try and keep the assignments light, and never condemn a student for having a less diverse world. This is strictly for reflective purposes at this age group. There is no victory in shaming a student for being any particular race. Mindfulness activities are great ways to take breaks and clear the mind of anything that frustrates students. A great self-affirming activity can be to have students create a comic strip of themselves and their super powers.

Have students study a historical activist. Prior to studying an activist, have them look at their own history. This is a great chance to address the narrative standard. Have students talk about who they would want to have an interview with and what questions they would ask them. They can create a mock interview on video, or paper depending on their level of comfort with technology. Have students write about what they would have done if they could have supported this particular activist.

Anti-Racist Curriculum: Self-Care

Anti-Racist Curriculum for Elementary: Self-Care

Self-care: have students create self-affirmations about how great they are throughout the anti-racist curriculum unit. As mentioned earlier, this can be a daunting curriculum for some, and the idea is not to shame, guilt, or make anyone feel bad about who they or who their family is. Do check-ins, journaling, mindfulness, and self-care activities throughout the unit. Be mindful of students who have already been dealing with or learning about the effects of racism. Michelle Obama once stated, “Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It’s up to all of us-black, white, everyone-no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.”

Anti-Racist Curriculum in Elementary: Power

It’s important to teach students about power. Who has it…who doesn’t…how some is corrupt. To do this take a look at different institutions that hold power: government, education, adults, teachers, etc. You must be careful in this portion of the curriculum because you do not want to scare children into a paranoia of adults. You want to instill a healthy amount questioning of procedures, policies, rules, etc. Start with using an arbitrary rule at another elementary school and have a collaborative discussion about the rule.

Anti-Racist Curriculum: Power

Have students practice creativity throughout the lesson to keep it engaging. Some ideas are to create buttons with slogans on them such as things that need to be changed on campus such as bullying. Write a letter and put it in a time capsule for their future selves, write notes to themselves about information they choose at this time not to share with others (some kids hide things like a second language, or their ethnicity). The Whiteness Project is a great resource for older students. Create an anti-racist toolbox with items they need to calm themselves in times of racist strife.

Anti-Racist Curriculum: Creativity

Create scenarios for students on strips of paper where racism occurs. Pair students up and have them practice with a partner on how to respond. Have students who are comfortable act out their scenarios. Take notes on how to handle racist scenarios, and create additional scenarios students can be ready for.

Anti-Racist Curriculum: Scenarios

Anti-Racist Curriculum in Elementary: Positive Role Models

Provide excerpts and images of current activists, who they are, what their race is, what they do to make the world a better place. Students need examples of what they can do today. Some students only have seen violence on television, or perceived violence on television as examples of how to change the world. This is not the way. Some examples of young-positive-role-model-activists are: Winona Guo, Priya Vulchi, Zyahna Bryant, Mari Copeny, and Marley Dias. Talk to students about their comfort levels and safety zones.

Anti-Racist Curriculum in Elementary: Safety

Safety is important to address in that we wouldn’t want a student to confront a racist without support or safety measures. An example of a bad time to confront racism is in a scenario such as at a location, with an adult when they are alone. A safe time would be to stand up to a friend who tells a racist joke, bullies a student who they perceive as “different.” Do NOT complete this unit without going over safety scenarios and safety measures.

To finalize the unit have students create an anti-racist routine or schedule for each day. The topics to include are: wake up each day and observe. Know who you are by knowing your history. Choose a path and take action-respond to racism. Work alone and with others to combat racism-sometimes it can be a student’s best friend who is racist. Build relationships with those who are not racist, learn self-care, and wake up each day and repeat.

I would love to hear ideas and comments about how you use anti-racist curriculum in your classroom! Please respond below in the comments section!

Curriculum on Teachers Pay Teachers:

Anti-Racist Workbook

Teaching Tolerance

Teaching Tolerance Social Justice

Social Emotional Learning

Social Emotional Wellness-Elementary School

Social Emotional Learning Activities

Team Building Activities

Wellness Essay

Lesson for Kindness

How to Write a Narrative Essay

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Teaching Drama In the Classroom

Teaching drama in the classroom is a lot of fun and has so many rewards! I have found that with the right play, students learn more during a drama lesson in the classroom than they do with any other lesson. Here is the catch! It must be a play they can connect to and fully comprehend or the entire unit is lost. I know it’s hard to hear but this might mean that Shakespeare is out! But, Westside Story is still in! The plays that I teach in my classroom, which I have found much success with are: “Wicked”, “Hamilton”, “Dear Evan Hansen”, and “Westside Story”. These plays are humorous, have a great plot and characterization, and are highly engaging!

How to use drama in the English classroom: Plays are intended to be read aloud so it is important that you take this intention seriously. Reading a play straight out of a textbook is not only painstaking but it is also pointless if engagement isn’t present. I print out scripts for the plays that I use, and I put up character names for each scene and write the parts up on the board each day. As students enter the classroom they can sign up for a character role they want to play for that class period. I give everyone a chance to sign up. This includes a narrator, smaller parts, and “all”. Students are to go to the front of the room to act out their parts. You would be shocked to see how into this students get. Personalities that are typically shy show up for this unit!

Teaching Drama in the Classroom: “Wicked

“Wicked” Play

Drama in the Classroom Video Summary of Blog Post

Wicked” is the most engaging play I have used in the classroom and it is chalk-filled with so many lessons. Oprah Winfrey claims that “The Wizard of Oz” takes the cake on lessons, but I believe “Wicked” has even more. The story is told from the perspective of Elphaba (The Wicked Witch of the West) and we get a completely different perspective about Glinda, The Wizard of Oz, and the protagonist, Elphaba (who is supposed to be an evil character). We learn that Elphaba was set up and that those who are truly evil in “The Wizard of Oz” is the Wizard himself, and one who is selfish and materialistic, although still portrayed as a good person, Glinda. We learn that Elphaba’s mom had an affair with The Wizard of Oz, and therefore Elphaba was born green. Elphaba’s father, sister, and the community know that Elphaba was born by another father because she is green and this is the color she has to wear in shame.

Elphaba spends her life taking care of her sister, Nessarose, born and favored by both parents. The two sisters go to something akin to Wizard school where Nessarose is intended to be trained as the next Mayor of Munchkinland. There, Elphaba meets an evil headmaster, Madame Morrible, at the school who works with The Wizard of Oz to discredit Elphaba at first, and later commiserate to have her killed. When Elphaba finds out the Wizard is her father, she tries to meet with him in the hopes that they will resemble some semblance of a family, but the Wizard decides once Elphaba refuses to enter a life of dishonesty to have her killed. After all she is a reminder of infidelity and a moral obligation he never fulfilled.

There is one scene in “Wicked” where the Wizard enters the home of Elphaba’s mother when Elphaba is conceived but there are no sex or any derogatory acts in this scene. For this reason “Wicked” can be taught beginning at the 8th grade level or higher. Teaching drama in the classroom can be done in English middle or high school.

Teaching Drama in the Classroom: “Hamilton

“Hamilton” Play

Hamilton” is another engaging play to teach in the classroom. Students love to play out the roles and it is particularly useful if taught in the 11th grade year when students learn about American history. “Hamilton” can also be taught in a history course. “Hamilton” tells the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton who experienced a hard early life, and at a young age, leaves his home. In New York, 1776 Hamilton meets Aaron Burr, John Laurens, Marquis de Lafayette, and Hercules Mulligan, and impresses them with his rhetorical skills. The latter three and Hamilton affirm their revolutionary goals to each other, while Burr remains not a fan. Later the daughters of the wealthy Schuyler go into town and share their opinion on the upcoming revolution; it is at this time that Seabury warns everyone about the dangers of Congress while Hamilton disagrees and counters Seabury, until King George insists on his authority. During the New York and New Jersey Campaign, Hamilton accepts a position as George Washington’s aide. Eliza falls in love with Hamilton as Hamilton’s feelings are reciprocated they end up married. As conditions worsen for the continental army, Hamilton aids Laurens in a duel against Lee, who had insulted Washington. Eliza asks Hamilton to take it easy because she is pregnant with Philip.

As the war progresses Hamilton feels he should die a martyr and a hero in the war and is warned that history has “eyes on him“. In Act II Hamilton has an affair and is seen by Burr who is envious and releases the information which eventually leads to a duel between Burr and Hamilton, leading to Hamilton’s death, but not before Hamilton experiences the agonizing pain of the death of his son Philip. This play is a bit more in-depth when it comes to characterization and plot. To be a success there must be front-loading on the history of Alexander Hamilton and the Revolutionary War. I would print scripts and have students read as was mentioned in “Wicked“. A pre-warning, right before Hamilton engages in his affair there is a song I would take out of the play altogether about sex. The rest of the play seems appropriately fit for high school. Teaching Drama in the classroom: Hamilton is best if taught in 11th grade year.

How to Teach Drama in the Classroom: “Dear Evan Hansen

“Dear Evan Hansen” Play

Dear Evan Hansen” is a play that all teachers should walk students through either with the play or with the novel. It is a story about a boy who commits suicide and another teenage boy who is lost and close to committing suicide who becomes popular and experiences a life change as a result of this other teen’s suicide. Evan Hansen has been given an assignment by his psychiatrist to write letters to himself as an exercise to create a more positive life for himself. They are lessons in gratitude. However, Evan hates this assignment and types out his true feelings about being alone, and added dark comments that could easily be mistaken as a suicide note. Connor, the student who commits suicide later that evening, grabs hold of Evan’s note (Connor is somewhat of a bully) and Connor’s parents mistaken Evan’s note as a suicide note from Connor.

Evan suddenly deemed as Connor’s “best friend” becomes popular, and a personal favorite to the family. Evan buries himself deeper and deeper in this charade as he not only poses as his best friend, he has another kid create fake email letters that are correspondence between Evan and Connor. Evan even ends up with Zoe the girl of his dreams, Connor’s sister. Some very important themes to discuss in this unit are: teen suicide, which MUST be addressed prior to beginning the unit; mental health, bullying, friendship, homosexuality and family. I would suggest having a counselor come in to discuss teen suicide prior to beginning the lesson as a precaution. In addition I would have a Socratic seminar for students to discuss teen suicide and then I would pass out some type of teen suicide support materials such as a suicide hotline phone number for students to call.

There is primarily humor and laughter in the play but the background theme of suicide is important to address from the start. I would not suggest discussing suicide all throughout the unit as that is not how the author’s intended the play to be, nor is that an appropriate degree of heaviness that students can handle. I would have a collaborative discussion about mental health that might include a social emotional learning lesson that includes coping skills. It’s a great opportunity to introduce healthy habits to students. In addition this is a great time to talk about homosexuality. The teenager, Connor, who committed suicide did so because he believed his love interest (another male) had “dumped” him. He didn’t feel he could talk to anyone about it, and believed he was alone in this world. The most essential theme in this story is that teens feel that they are different, and that they themselves are the only ones who feel inadequate, different, or are the only ones who feel alone. The story brings to light that all teens feel this way at different times throughout high school and that they are not alone. Teaching Drama in the classroom can be a safe place for these conversations.

Drama in the Classroom: “Westside Story”

Westside Story is a great play to teach in 8th, 9th, or 11th grade year. In grades 8 and 11, students are learning about American History, and in 9th grade students read “Romeo and Juliet“. “Westside Story” is a rendition-a modern (1950’s) version of “Romeo and Juliet“. Students learn about immigration and how it affected and created gang culture at the time. The setting takes place on the harsh upper west side of New York where two gangs battle over turf. The situation becomes even more complicated when two members of opposing gangs fall in love with one another: Tony and Maria. The members of the Sharks, new immigrants from Puerta Rico are taunted by members of the Jets, a white gang. The main character, Tony a previous member of the Jets, falls in love with Maria the sister of the leader of the Sharks, Bernardo.

The difference between the gangs is that in Romeo and Juliet it was a time period of family gang rivalries whereas when families became smaller over time, gangs branched out to friends and became more of a teenage practice. Many believe that the story of Romeo and Juliet and Tony and Maria are primarily about love; however they are not. The primary themes are darker and are about the American Dream crashing into reality, teens singing about their dreams only to turn and cut each other’s dreams down in violence and death. It is about a desperate hope for a better life. It’s important to look at the migrant struggles to make a living and the obstacles of xenophobia and racial prejudice. I would print scripts and assign students to parts as mentioned in all the above plays. This play is best taught con-currently with Romeo and Juliet. Teaching Drama in the classroom can be a safe place for these conversations.

Creative Drama In the Classroom

Teaching Drama in the classroom can be a painstaking experience or an amazing-engaging learning experience if the right play is chosen and taught in the right manner. If you follow my advice on the plays above, your students can have an amazing learning experience! Let me know how you are using drama in the classroom in the comments section below! Also what have been the benefits of drama in the classroom?

Products on Teachers Pay Teachers for Drama in the Classroom and Activities

Wicked Script and Lessons

Dear Evan Hansen Novel Study

Hamilton Script and Lessons

Social Emotional Learning Unit

Hamlet Novel Study

Graphic Novels You Must Read

There are certain graphic novels you must read! What is a graphic novel? A graphic novel is a compilation of graphics and text structured on pages at the length of a novel. How long are graphic novels? Anywhere from 100-500 plus pages. The difference between a graphic novel and a novel is that the graphic novel has graphics (images). The difference between a graphic novel vs comic book is the length. Graphic novels text features are different than a novel just like nonfiction text features. The 5 characteristics of a graphic novel are: shapes, perspective of frame, angles, structure, and layout. To read “How to Read a Graphic Novel” see this blog post.

There are different types of graphic novels just like there are novels with different genres. Some graphic novels you must read are: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, New Kid by Jerry Craft, American Born Chinese by Gene Luan Yang, The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank, Edgar Allen Poe graphic short stories, White Bird by R.J. Palacio, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Anne of Green Gables by Mariah Marsden, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Graphic novel books are a great way to engage students who are not particularly interested in reading, or students with special needs; however, anyone and every age group can read and enjoy graphic novels. Below are descriptions for 15 of the books above.

15 Best Graphic Novels

Graphic Novels Video Summary of Blog Post

1. New Kid by Jerry Craft is one of the Graphic Novels You Must Read: A graphic novel about the struggles of everyday life in middle school. Jordan, an African-American student at a privileged-primarily-white-private school finds himself not only one of the few African-American students in attendance but the subject of intended and unintended prejudice from staff and students. For example, when Jordan enlists on the soccer team, the coach states, “I bet you can run…not because, well…you know. I truly believe that all people are equal Jordan.” Jordan deals with an additional layer of adversity that other middle school students do not, and let’s face it-middle school is hard enough as it is! Despite these additional adversities, Jordan manages to find his way, make friends (black and white), and begins to find his place in this world. There are so many nuances in this book, it’s great for learning inference.

15 Best Graphic Novels

2. Sheets by Brenna Tummler is one of the Graphic Novels You Must Read : A graphic novel about a young girl named Marjorie who runs a dry cleaning business on her own. She lost her mom in a drowning accident and claims that her father “died” (metaphorically) at the same time. Dad spends most of his time in bed-depressed. A deviant man is trying to pull the business out from the family in order to put in a hotel and Marjorie spends her time alone, trying to save the place. A young ghost named Wendell appears to help Marjorie save the business, which together-they do. It is a great story about friendship, pain, and healing. The graphic novel makes it easier to deal with a the heavy topic of death with fun images of ghosts etc.

3. This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews: a graphic novel adventure that takes two unlikely friends on multiple fantastical journeys. They begin on bikes with a large group of boys as one-by-one, the boys tire out and head home until there are only two boys left. The last two left end up in the beautiful wilderness chasing lanterns for the Autumn festival and become friends as they come across a talking bear, a mad scientist woman, and multiple other creative characters that talk and share their traditions of the Autumn Festival, and what the lanterns, stars, mean to them and to their ancestors. The end takes a bit of a dark twist in that it states that the two boys on their adventure “never to return home, never to look back”, suggesting that maybe they died in the wilderness? Or perhaps the author is just being ‘fun’. Either way, the author somehow still manages to end the story as a fantastic adventure rather than as a tragedy.

15 Best Graphic Novels

4. Monster by Walter Dean Myers: a book about a young man who is on trial for his life for a crime he did not commit-or did he? Either way, if he had committed the crime of staking out a mini-mart to allow a robbery to take place, he should hardly be tried for capital murder. He unequivocally claims throughout the book that he was never in the store that day, however at the end there is a hint that he did in fact stake out the store that led to the death of a grocery clerk owner. It is not as heavy to read as a graphic novel and students seem to connect better with the graphic novel than the novel version.

15 Best Graphic Novels

5. “The Odyssey Odysseus the Great King sets out to fight in the Trojan War and ends up taking years to arrive back at home. Odysseus is supposed to be this great war hero, but it is difficult for me to see him as anything but an egotistical-selfish being. He looks at the sirens when he is not supposed to, he cheats on his wife Penelope multiple times, he gets all of his men killed because he cannot control his ego and yells out taunting his enemy Grendel who in turn has his father Poseidon kill all Odysseus’s men. What kind of leader gets all of his men killed? and is still considered a great war hero? Although I have my thoughts about Odysseus, students do learn a lot about the Greek Gods which is more of the point of reading the novel. There are many other ways to learn about the Greek Gods such as short stories or even modern reads like Percy Jackson. We may just have to stick with the Odyssey and the way to do this is with the graphic novel. Warning there is one seminude scene on one page so be aware of this.

15 Best Graphic Novels

6. They Called US Enemy” by George Takei is one of the Graphic Novels You Must Read . It is a memoir written graphic novel style by George Takei (you know the guy from Star Wars?) As a young boy George Takei is awoken in the middle of the night with minutes to pack up what the family can carry to be whisked off to an internment camp. The setting takes place during the time of WWII after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The family is singled out solely based on the fact that they were Japanese. The family lost all of their possessions and when they were finally released from these camps ended up homeless living on skid row. It wasn’t until after George Takei’s father died that some restitution was paid to the families for the “inconvenience”. Like most of the novels on this list there is no justice, it is a great read with realistic graphics.

15 Best Graphic Novels

7. “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi is one of the Graphic Novels You Must Read . It is a non-fiction graphic novel where the setting takes place in the Middle East. The Middle East has been quite villainized since 9/11 and this book gives students a realistic picture of what it’s like to grow up in the Middle East. The main character has the same fears, passions, personality characteristics, and what everyone wants-a sense of belonging. It provides a positive, accurate depiction of what it is like to grow up as a teen in the middle east vs. worse case scenario in the middle east. Marjane and her family are constantly participating in protests. The graphics are comical, realistic, and disturbing at times.

15 Best Graphic Novels

8. “White Bird” by R.J. Palacio is one of the Graphic Novels You Must Read. It is a graphic novel about the Holocaust and a young Jewish girl who is separated from her family and has to live in a barn to survive. The young man she falls in love with is the person who saved her life and he dies in the end as a result of it. It’s a beautiful-love story with a tragic ending. The graphics are beautiful and truly amazing!

10. The Diary of Anne Frank Anne Frank is beautifully written and illustrated. Like the Diary of Anne Frank novel, it tells the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of Anne Frank. The graphics are fun and imaginative as if pictured by Anne Frank herself.

15 Best Graphic Novels

9. “To Kill a Mockingbird” This is a classic that needs to withstand the test of time. Harper Lee captures a realistic portrayal of an innocent black man being falsely accused of rape by a white woman. Despite the immaculate defense given by Atticus Finch, Tom Robinson is found guilty and is sentenced to death. The graphics in this novel are amazing!

15 Best Graphic Novels

11. Edgar Allen Poe Short Stories The Short story and poetry collection is the same stories written with bone-chilling graphics. The Edgar Allen Poe Short Stories Graphic novel leaves nothing to the imagination. It is crafted with great skill and talent.

12. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a summarized version of what happens in the novel. There is a boy whose family has a long history of gang violence and he has lost multiple family members for this reason. Once the boy’s brother is killed, he feels he has to follow the rules which is to now kill the teen who killed his brother. That would then mean that he would be the next victim in line for death or prison. He wrestles with his conscience as he visits the multiple victims from his past in an elevator. There is a great impact in the graphics including when the main character’s brother is shot and killed, ghosts, and other victims that are not illustrated in the novel.

15 Best Graphic Novels

13. American Borne Chinese by Gene Luan Yang Is eccentric to say the least. It is a story about two young American Chinese boys who are trying to fit in with a side story about a monkey who is trying to do the same. There is a twist towards the end about who the monkey really is and represents.

15 Best Graphic Novels

14. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson It is graphic and should only be read by older high school students. It is about a high school student who is raped by an older boy and does not tell anyone about it. She suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and in the end she finally comes out and speaks up about the rape which helps to alleviate her symptoms. The graphics show the rape, so be aware of that scene. It can still be used as a great supplement to the book, or you can take out the page with the rape scene.

15. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald a story about a man who returns to his home to try to reconnect with the woman he never fell out of love with, Daisy. The problem is that she is married and although she has fun with Jay Gatsby, in the end it proves to be a dangerous game. The graphic novel includes beautiful, elegant graphics that complement the story.

Tell me about your favorite graphic novels in the comments below! I am always looking for new graphic novels to read.