ONLINE MUSIC EDUCATION RESOURCES
Carnegie Hall resource webpage: Has virtual classroom lesson plans, teaching videos, videos that spark musical learning for grades K-5 (but adaptable for older grades) as well as professional development resources for educators.
THEATER EDUCATION RESOURCES: A Google Drive living list document of so far over 100 links to theater-related activities, videos of theatrical productions, lessons, and theater-craft activities. (Pictured: "How to make a Greek Mask")
VIRTUAL FIELD TRIPS AND TOURS that students can learn from, write about, and discuss with each other via Zoom, email, etc.
Seven Virtual Field Trips:
33 National Park Tours
Travel & Leisure Virtual National Park Tours
Google Earth: This is Home - “While the countries, cultures, and climates may differ, knowing we all have a place to call home is a first step to understanding everything we have in common. Visit traditional homes around the globe and discover how the definitions of ‘Home’ can both change and remain the same.”
Carmen Sandiego on Google Earth: Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? Use Google Earth to find her!
Discovery Education Virtual Field Trips
Panoramas of the World: "Welcome to Earth! Enjoy your stay, and try to stay calm." Offers 360 degree views of places all over the world.
Virtual Tour of The White House with President Barack Obama
VIRTUAL LITERACY-BASED ACTIVITIES, AUTHOR READINGS, AND WRITING PRACTICE
Scholastic Learn at Home: Daily reading, thinking, and growing projects, by grade level.
Wonderopolis: Poses and explores a new question each day, like “Where is Timbuktu?”
Authors and illustrators livestream story times every day on Instagram, YouTube, Scholastic, and on their own websites. See Mo Willems everyday at 1pm for Lunch Doodles!
Starfall: a free public service to teach reading. Especially effective for ELLs, homeschooled children, and children with special needs -
Story Starters at Scholastic.com: generates creative writing prompts for kids.
Storyline Online: See the sheriff from Stranger Things read Snapsy the Alligator, or Betty White read Harry, the Dirty Dog. Sponsored by the SAG Foundation
“What’s Going on in this Picture?” By The New York Times - Intriguing images from the papers stripped of their captions. Discuss the photo with on an online moderated conversation or create your own caption.
Typing Club: Web-based typing instruction and practice -
150+ Educational Shows on Netflix: https://homeschoolhideout.com/educational-shows-on-netflix/
Another way is to become familiar with a the theory or intent, application, and look of the ELA test itself. EngageNY.org, a website created by the New York State Education Department expressly to support educators, inform families, and provide resources around assessments in ELA and Math, is a great place to start. There is a wealth of information on the site, and navigating it could be somewhat daunting at first, especially if you are not a classroom teacher or school administrator with much more at stake for doing so or not. But there’s much to offer for after school educators as well, so what follows is a look at one specific piece, and a thumbnail view of other offerings on the site.
The New York State ELA Test Guide by EngageNY.org is a 29-page .pdf that provides practical information and some of the theoretical underpinnings of the NYS English Language Arts tests.
In terms of theoretical underpinnings, the guide begins what appears to be an explanation of the rationale behind the shifts in focus of almost a decade ago ithat the NYS Board of Regents and the NYS Education Department made “to ensure that schools prepare students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and in their careers” that have impacted what is taught, how students are taught, and in the end, what students are learning. In short, the shifts took place to make sure that learners start —as early as 1st grade or even kindergarten but definitely by 3rd grade, when the ELA state exams are first administered— along a pathway of college and career readiness. The shifts “are characterized by an intense focus on complex, grade-appropriate nonfiction and fiction texts that require rigorous textual analysis, the application of academic language, and other key college- and career-readiness skills.”
The Climb to College and Career Readiness
So, at grades 3-5, teachers begin to build a foundation for college and career readiness, in which students read “widely and deeply” from literary and informational texts: stories, dramas, poems, and myths from diverse cultures and different time periods, from which students begin form bases in literary and cultural knowledge, as well as in elements of literature and informational texts. In writing, students at this level use written language as a tool for giving their opinions, showing their understanding, and practice writing for unfamiliar audiences. Developing an understanding and value of research is also developed here. In language, students in grades 3-5 “gain control over many conventions of standard English grammar usage”, and learn how to use words, phrases, and turns of phrases in context,
The climb to college and career readiness intensifies in the middle grades with “works of exception craft and thought” that examine the human condition, and which students can use as models for their own writing and thought. Texts at these grades include U.S. documents, like the US Constitution, so-called classics of American literature, and “the timeless works from a diverse range of authors.” Familiarity with specific texts, images, and other cultural reference points is one goal here, while the development of analytical and evaluative skills is another. In writing during the middle grades, students are expected to focus upon making and defending claims, expressing their knowledge, choose words according to their audience, combine various styles of writing, use technology to assist in research, organization of information, and writing; and take longer pieces of writing through several drafts before publication. By 6-8th grade, there is a high focus upon “academic vocabulary” skills development. As such, students are expected to have a firm grasp of English language conventions, as well as extensive vocabularies, and be able to discern meanings of similar words in different contexts.
LOTS of Reading and Writing. But what about Listening?
It is interesting to note, that speaking and listening —which constitute 50% of the four pillars of literacy— are not areas of evaluation on the NYS ELA Exam. This is unusual and antithetical, since, according to a study conducted by researcher Miriam Wilt in 1950, of the 70 to 80% of our waking hours that we spend in some form of communication, we listen 45% of the time and we speak 30% of the time, leaving 16% to reading and 9% to writing. However, classroom emphasis on language follows what Swanson (1984) calls an "inverted curriculum," since, by the time a person graduates high school, they will have gotten "12 years of formal training in writing, 6-8 years in reading, 1-2 years in speaking, and from 0-1/2 year in listening." More on the challenges and opportunities this presents for after school programs below.
In terms of test design, the Guide provides a breakdown of the type and point value of each type of question on the ELA test. For grades 5-8, there are multiple choice, short response, and extended response questions.
Multiple Choice questions, in which students select the best answer out of four choices after reading a passage, are 1pt each. These questions generally deal with identifying central idea, style elements, character and plot development, and vocabulary. The guide explains that most of the questions require that the student comprehends and makes use of the whole passage that they have read, and that some questions require students to combine skills. For example, questions may ask students to identify a segment of text that best supports the central idea. To answer correctly, a student must first comprehend the central idea and then show understanding of how that idea is supported. Questions will require more than rote recall or identification.
Short Response questions are 2 points each. The purpose of the short-response questions is to assess a student’s ability to comprehend and analyze text. Students use textual evidence to support their own answers to an inferential question. “These questions ask the student to make an inference (a claim, position, or conclusion) based on their analysis of the passage,” says the Guide, “state it in their own words, and then provide two pieces of text-based evidence to support their answer.” Students must write in complete sentences, and “students who answer the question only using details from the text will NOT receive full credit.” To get full credit here, students must make an inference and back that inference up with evidence from the text they have read.
Extended Response questions are 4 points each. Extended-response questions are designed to assess how a student is able to write based upon available sources. In Grades 4–8, extended-response questions will require students to read and analyze paired texts —texts that are related by theme, genre, tone, time period, or other characteristics.
The charts below show the number of each type of question, as well as the number of reading passages students will encounter on the 2020 ELA Test.
The Guide also provides the rubrics for short and extended response questions, and, in the Appendix, sample actual responses from previous year tests, along with brief explanations as to why the sample actual responses received the scores that they did. The examples in the appendix are particularly useful since, “Teachers have reported that many students have been writing long responses that go well beyond the task required by the prompt.” To provide greater clarity as to the amount of writing that is expected, Appendix A provides examples of exemplary student responses to 2018 English Language Arts Test questions that received full credit.
Coach students to:
A fun way to help students with some of the nuts and bolts of what they’ve been learning all year, and in many cases, for many years since elementary school is through Jeopardy labs games that were created by educators to review the fundamentals with students. Such games found at https://jeopardylabs.com/play/nys-ela-test-review-7 and https://jeopardylabs.com/play/2018-03-22-187 quiz students on elements in categories such as Important Terms, Literary Elements, Structure, Test-taking Strategies, Writing Tasks, and vocabulary. While you or your program facilitators may be unfamiliar with the terms, the chances are high that participants will know them all too well. But with over 10,000 of such games to choose from, some friendly competition could be the way for students to showcase what they know, gain some confidence, and have fun.
The best thing of all is to make sure that your participants are at all times toggling through the four pillars of literacy: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Remember to pay particular attention to speaking and listening, since, as humans, we generally spend more of our waking time doing these than reading and writing, although schools now spend a disproportionate amount of attention (and funding) around the latter two.
The after school program is a place of great flexibility with regard to literacy enrichment, since at the moment, you are not bound by the Common Core standards in the same way that schools are. As such, make sure to give students the balance and variety the constraints of the Common Core may prevent them from having during the day school, by giving them ample opportunity to speak their opinions, backing them up verbally with valid facts or examples, listen to the ideas and thoughts of others, engage in friendly debate, collaborate on projects, and reflect on their collaborations. Role-playing, script-writing, improv, narrating a still scene, and creating alternate endings are just a few forms of creative expression that can help participants practice making inferences, exploring author’s intent, making text-to-text connections, and forming conclusions, skills which are assessed on the ELA exams.
Hyslop, Nancy B. & Tone, Bruce. (1988). "Listening: Are We Teaching It, and If so, How?" Retrieved from https://www.ericdigests.org/pre-928/listening.htm.
Wilt, Miriam E. "A study of teacher awareness of listening as a factor in elementary education," Journal of Educational Research, 43 (8), April, 1950, pp. 626-636.
Swanson, Charles H. "Monitoring student listening techniques: an approach to teaching the foundations of a skill." Paper presented to the Eastern Communication Association, 1984a. [ED 240 653]
Taking the Guesswork Out of Online Videos with EdPuzzle
EdPuzzle.com has no "About Us" page on which a potential user may learn about the creators and motivations behind the website, and it's home page dives right into content, offering an ever-shifting list of "trending" video clip links. A Google search result offers a snippet of an answer: Make any video (of) your lesson. Choose a video, give it your magic touch and track your students' comprehension." And a recent Tweet, offers: "Make your students look forward to their #homework? When it means watching #videolessons on Edpuzzle, you might even get a happy dance out of them!
So, just what is Edpuzzle.com?
Upon explorating it, you'll find it a very useful resource for adding a spark of engagement to material you may be covering, while enabling you to create learning experiences that help students practice reading, comprehension, and critical thinking skills.
Put simply, Edpuzzle is an online application that allows you to upload a video --of your own creation, captured from any of a variety of sources, or available in the EdPuzzle library of content-- and annotate that video with quiz-like comprehension questions, commentary, and review points. Edpuzzle has a feature that permits the online editing of video content that educators can customize to address topics you are teaching and to suit the needs of your particular set of learners.
Commonly, you might find content on YouTube, Khan Academy, or Crash Course that applies to what you are teaching, screen the video in class, pause at key points of that video to review and ask questions about concepts that have been covered up to that point, and then press play to continue the video. EdPuzzle takes this process a step further by permitting you to pre-load the video with pause points. At these pause points, you can insert open-ended, multiple choice, or true/false questions. In order to continue to the next segment of the video, students must first submit their responses to the questions; these responses can receive immediate feedback that what they answered was correct or not, or you can program the video to deliver the cumulative results once the video is completed by the students.
In addition to having the video pause automatically to have students respond to questions, the teacher can use the Crop feature to capture only the “important stuff,” add their own voice over using the Voice Over feature, and include Audio Notes.
EdPuzzle has a searchable database of its library of videos that were created (annotated) and uploaded by EdPuzzle users, and once you create an EdPuzzle video it becomes a part of that library. Content areas covered include all aspects English Language Arts including grammar, sentence structure, literature, poetry, and interviews with authors. Other subject areas include science, math, history, sports, current events, and virtually any other topic educators have seen fit to use with their students. And users have sourced videos from such websites as Khan Academy, National Geographic, Crash Course, TedTalks, and of course, YouTube. Some users have even annotated animated versions of classic literature, like this adaptation of The Fall of the House of Usher: https://edpuzzle.com/media/5db06b0ca02a9740b0b3952c
Let’s say you’re covering allusion. You can use one of several videos on allusion available in the Edpuzzle library of videos, to introduce the topic or provide additional instruction on it. This video, created and shared by an EdPuzzle user, contains seven pause points that contains several open-ended questions --questions for which a student must type in a response-- as well as multiple choice questions. The video, which was found on YouTube by the EdPuzzle user, was created by PowToon.com. As it existed on YouTube, there were no review questions. However, through EdPuzzle, the teacher was able to insert his or her own review questions. In addition, you may copy the video to your own EdPuzzle Classroom, edit it to suit your own needs, upload that newly annotated video, and share it with the EdPuzzle community.
EdPuzzle.com adds a layer of ease and customization to online content that educators may already be using, and allows for students to work independently or in small groups on watching the assigned video and responding to the questions. Or, a teacher may run the video with a full class, have students discuss and vote on what best response may be, and input the collectively decided upon response him or herself.
Most of all, by curating and annotating your own set of videos, you can reduce or eliminate the guess-work and mystery when you’re using video content available on the Internet for your work with your learners.
Click the links below for some great places to start.
Take a (Virtual) Field Trip
Visual Essays help students show comprehension
Want to take your group to an active volcano? Or on an African Safari? Or perhaps a trip around the world in 80 clicks is more your speed? Such excursions are now possible.... and free!
In addition to a vast amount of information, access to eBooks, lesson plans, and coding activities, the Internet offers opportunities for you to take your participants on field trips to places that are not possible in the after school setting. Virtual field trips promote authentic, active, collaborative, discovery-based learning. A number of professional organizations and educational institutions now provide virtual field trips which you can find simply searching the web using the key words of the topic you are exploring and "virtual field trip." Or, you can go to sites like Tech Trekkers to select from a vast array of field trips. Aside from the obvious exposure to place and experiences, a great thing about virtual field trips is that they are driven at the pace and preference of students.
I went on a virtual field trip of the Civil Rights Movement, accessed through PBSLearningMedia.org. This virtual field trip is expansive, interactive, and entirely student-directed. The site consists of 10 main slides that show images relative to the the American Civil Right movement. On each slide are between three and eight links to categories related to the slide. For instance, slide #1 contains an image of a virtual room where the words “City Cafe Colored Entrance” are stamped to the wall, a camera sits on the window sill, a painting rests on an easel, a gavel sits on a chair, a front page of new daily is posted on a wall above a poster of the schematic of a a cotton gin. Each of these items themselves is a link to another section: a poster listing Jim Crow Laws; a gallery of captioned photos of the era; a section where students can describe, analyze, interpret, and synthesize a painting of slaves picking cotton and a political cartoon; images of three notable individuals connected to the early days of the movement (the chair); a description of Plessy v. Ferguson (the gavel); a short documentary about the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 (the newspaper front page); and a video called Broken Beginning, which provides an overview of the Civil Rights Movement. Each subsequent main slide provides as much, and does so using video interviews, short documentaries, primary source materials, and even music from the era.
Students taking this virtual tour would be able to navigate through this very non-linear tour in a non-linear fashion and at their own pace, choosing how much to read or view before moving on to the next slide or section. Students could spend an entire period on just one slide alone, or one one subsection, since many of the subsections have branch-offs of their own. Such a design is ideal for students working in solo or in pairs. A class could even be divided into groups and do jigsaw learning.
Rise above funding and time constraints by taking your students on a virtual field trip!
There’s more than one way students can show a deep and complex understanding of a text they read, and high school teacher Gretchen Schroeder in Ohio shows one of them with Visual Essays. In her description of the activity on the website Choiceliteracy.com, Ms. Schroeder walks us through her rationale, process, student outcomes, and her takeaways of an exciting experimental form of essay writing. Developed out of a need to, in a short timespan, have students compose a piece that highlighted their understanding of texts they had read, visual essays are compositions in which students use words, images, quotes from the text “to show evidence of deeper understanding” of the texts.
With visual essays, students can decide what aspect of a story or stories they would like to expound upon —story details, theme/main idea, conflict, setting, mood, tone, character, author’s craft, etc. — without the limitations and structure of the standard 5-paragraph essay. Students can still express a standpoint or make an assertion, back that assertion up with evidence or quotes from the text, and present their opinion. However, because they will have free reign over the visual representations, students can be as literal or figurative as they desire.
Visual essays allow students to be at their creative best while still fulfilling the expectations of having a thesis, providing supporting evidence and examples, and coming to a conclusion. Taken a step further, visual essays could compliment a five-paragraph essay, act as a rough or final draft of a standard essay, or be an alternative assessment for students who struggle with essay writing. Taken another step further, by adding animation using technology, visual essays can address 21st Century technology and Common Core literacy standards. Students who are English Language Learners would especially benefit from being able to express their understanding of texts visually as a supplement to their emerging English language knowledge. Visual essays can help students engage more deeply, creatively, and authentically with their literacy development. And, carried out as Ms. Schroeder did, they definitely are a great example of providing students with the choice and voice that is so key to student engagement.
Have a look at the sample student work that Ms. Schroeder compiled and uploaded to the Choiceliteracy.com website, along with her detailed discussion of how to conducted them. And explore the other available free samples of teachers’ best practices on the main site.
NewsELA: More than just current events
NewsELA (As in “News English Language Arts”) is a resource that collects, sorts, and adapts current and timely news articles that cover politics, history, the arts, science, math, sports, religion & philosophy, careers, economics, and others. But it offer much more than the traditional classroom "current events time."
Updated daily to reflect current news, articles are selected from such respected new outlets as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, USA Today, and many others. Available in Spanish as well as English, the articles are vetted by NewsELA staff to be engaging for struggling or hesitant readers, and to reflect students’ interests and personal experiences, while maintaining a bend toward being informative and eye-opening. During Black History Month, for instance, students may browse readings from the expansive NewsELA library about the Civil Rights activists like Claudette Colvin, Black explorers, like Matthew Henson, diplomats like Condoleezza Rice, or athletes like gymnast Simone Biles.
A great feature of this resource is that students can scan through a wealth of news articles that grab their interest. By providing students a plethora of choices available on NewsELA, students gain a sense of autonomy and ownership of their own reading, and develop increased motivation to read. At the same time, teachers may design reading assignments based upon content area or grade level by customizing their own “classroom” environment, pulling in selected readings for the class to read.
But perhaps the greatest feature of this resource is the ability of students and teachers to scale the articles to up to five levels of reading difficulty. All articles are adapted by NewsELA staff to different Lexile levels and word counts. For instance, the article about Arctic explorer Matthew Henson may be read at the “MAX” level of the original Biography.com piece: Text Level of 8, 999 word count. Or, a reader may learn about the explorer and four reduced levels of difficulty: 1040L (level 7, 980 words), 950L (level 6, 907 words), 800L (level 5, 767), or 610L (585 words). Such flexibility provides students with a level of reading at which they can achieve, and gives way to conversations between students and teachers that promote knowledge of a students reading level and development.
In addition to a standard search function, the articles are grouped by content area, topic, grade level, text level, or reading skill —i.e. “What the text says” or “central idea” or “text structure” or “point of view/purpose.” This means that you can select a reading or set of readings are engaging AND that help students practice vocabulary in context, finding main idea, making inferences, author’s point of view and other skills that are heavy on the State ELA Exams. And, teachers can create text sets, upload text sets, search text sets created by other teachers, or use the ELA-suggested text sets that include such topics as Bullying, Music, Cell Phones, and Preparing for a Holocaust Survivor Visit.
The complexity of the four-question quiz that accompanies every article changes to match the complexity of the text that was selected, is printable, and provides immediate annotated answers. Also under the “Activities” section for every article is a writing prompt for an essay or a paragraph. And teachers can create their own online assignments based around readings selected by the teacher or suggested by NewsELA. Teachers can track students’ progress, and students can track their own, again setting the stage for increased engagement through greater autonomy.
The site is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and provides enough variety and volume of material without being overwhelming or unwieldy. With virtually every topic a teacher of any content area could hope to find, NewsELA goes very far to live up to its tagline that “We solve the problem of reading engagement holistically for students, teachers, and principals.”
On the Level with ReadTheory
Readtheory.org is a reading comprehension website that stands out for its ease of use, cleanness of appearance, and sophistication of design. ReadTheory is powered by five writer/editors, including founder and developer Tanner Hock, a philosophy graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. According to the abstract of ReadTheory.org Data Collection Study 2.0: A Preliminary Study Concerning the Effectiveness of an Online Reading Comprehension and Writing Program (March, 2016), “ReadTheory’s unique features are its rejection of a paid licensing or fee-for-use model, its incorporation of game mechanics, and its responsive leveling algorithm, which allows students to be presented with best-fit material based on prior performance.”
In other words, Readtheory is free, has a feel that engages the gaming instincts in students, and “learns” the reading level of its users. Suitable for readers in grades one through 12, Readtheory focuses upon improving the core reading comprehension skills that students are tested on most frequently: recalling details, making inferences, understanding vocabulary in context, examining author’s intent or craft. There is an initial reading pre-test that consists of eight short passages, with each passage having one multiple choice quiz question.
The level of difficulty of each subsequent reading increases or decreases depending on the how the reader scores on the current quiz question. If a readers start out at grade 3 reading level and gets the multiple choice question correct, the next reading will be at level 4; if the reader gives an incorrect response, the next reading will be at level 3. Scoring a correct answer next time moves the following reading back to level 3, and so on. At the end of the diagnostic pre-test, a user may get a response such as the one I got after I completed it: “Ace! Congratulations, you got a perfect score! You won't be seeing this quiz again :) Based on your outstanding performance on this quiz, we think you're ready to move up a level. We'll make your next quiz a little harder.”
The next reading was five paragraphs long, at level 6, and a Lexile range of 860. This was the level that, according to my test performance, was deemed the optimal level for me to practice and improve my skills. I also received a graph charting my “Mastery of ELA Common Core Standards, the areas of comprehension that were areas of strength and areas that needed improvement (see photo).
Users earn a point for each correct answer, and three points for each “challenge” question answered correctly. Overall high scores earn the user knowledge points or KP’s. There are 20 progress levels, from “Luminary” (0KP) through “Theorist” (15000 KP). The accumulation of points, the accolades, and words of encouragement all motivate students to read on, similar to how high scores or achievements in video games unlock sought-after features or characters.
The Readtheory readings are interesting and engaging, and, in their own words: “The passages you'll see on ReadTheory are all hand crafted originals that have been written, refined, and tested by the members of our team. The ReadTheory team consists of a handful of professional writers and educators, many of whom have received advanced degrees, are published authors and award winning teachers.” The multiple choice questions closely mirror those students will encounter on the State ELA exam. The initial pre-test itself is excellent in that in fewer than 10 minutes, a student can get a very good sense of their reading level, as well as become more familiar with test-style questions. The Mastery of Common Core Standards chart is a fantastic way to visualize the area or areas that a reader needs to focus upon.
I highly recommend using ReadTheory with your readers, and teaching students how to use it on their own. Students can easily access it on smartphones, as well as on tablets and computers, making it something students can do while traveling on a bus or train.
PBSLearningMedia: A site as "PBS" as the TV station
PBSLearningmedia.org strives and achieves at being everything its broadcast namesake is known for: a repository for teaching and learning K-12 and beyond; an inexhaustible resource for topics in science, technology, nature, arts, news, history, and culture; a diverse collection of sources, from Annenberg to NASA. Where else can you find an Educator Guide on the "Say Something" movement or a video discussing the merits of procrastination? Or watch Apollo astronaut David Scott confirm Galileo's gravity prediction on the Moon? Or learn how to Think Like Einstein?
PBS Learning Media has no shortage of content, lesson plans, and connections to other topics. Each topic comes with lesson suggestions, support material that includes student handouts, articles for additional background reading, and a listing of the State and National standards that are addressed. There is enough on hand that an educator in any content area will find numerous entry points. In terms of literacy, PBS Learning Media has a good supply of books, authors, topics, and stories covered. However, you may not consistently find titles that have wide contemporary popularity. A search for The Skin I'm In turns up scientific articles and videos on skin; a search for Wonder will bring you to episodes of the children's show Super Why; but a search for "graphic novels" will take you to an interview with Real Friends author Shannon Hale. Search for “essay” and you will receive several video articles about the argumentative essay writing process which would be very useful to any Common Core-conscious teacher.
Another very useful feature of this website is its "In Search of the Novel" series, which links to the Annenberg Learner Center’s Interactive Workshops, where teachers can find synopses of novels like, To Kill a Mockingbird. Also provided links are lesson plans for character studies of Scout Finch and critical discussions on such topics as “Is To Kill a Mockingbird Still Relevant Today?" This “In Search of a Novel” series includes discussions, reviews, lesson plans, and additional web resource links for nine other novels, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Things Fall Apart, and Song of Solomon. Also available in its Digital Public Library of America are teaching guides in every content area, such as the ones for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.
Exciting Offerings at NEH's EDSITEment!
EDSITEment, a free resource created by the National Endowment for the Humanities, holds a massive library of lesson plans sorted by content area, covering Arts & Culture, Foreign Language, History & Social Studies, and Literature & Language Arts. The searchable database of lessons is filterable by grade level, subtopics, and desired number of class periods. Because each page contains links to useful “Related Lessons” that cross-reference your search over the variety of content areas, a teacher may construct interdisciplinary lessons or units.
The lessons themselves take creative approaches to examining such topics as folktales and character study, as in “Cinderella Folk Tales: Variations in Character,” which helps students explore the appearance of the Cinderella-like character in across cultures, the changes in the character when it is translated from one culture to another, and the ubiquity of the storyline.
EDSITEment also Provides informative scholarly readings that educators may use to develop their own background knowledge as they plan to take on lessons related to history and/or society, such as Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave and the Slave Narrative Tradition. This particular reading, which discusses the background and impact of the slave narrative upon American culture would be useful if you’re planning to study slavery, personal narrative, The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, or Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The feature called Spiraling Up with Summer Reading from EDSITEment: Common Core Exemplars links to a Summer Reading for Teachers page, containing suggested readings in fiction and non-fiction, and is sectioned off for K-3, 4-6, 7-8 and high school teachers for Summertime favorites and by age level for non-fiction. The fiction listed doesn’t include many popular contemporary titles that students may be attracted to in bookstores, but it does contain imaginative and useful lessons on classroom literary works that are all aligned to the Common Core. One such resource is an exploration of the plot, theme, and character of the novel A Wrinkle in Time through a board game. In the lesson, students are able “to reconfigure Meg’s journey into a board game where, as in the novel itself, Meg’s progress is either thwarted or advanced by aspects of her emotional responses to situations, her changing sense of self, and her physical and intellectual experiences.
The website is laid out very neatly, and all lessons are complete with tabs for introductions, learning objectives, background information, instructions for preparation, lesson activities, assessment, and extension activities. In addition, there are downloadable worksheets.
Dealing with bullying using The Skin I'm In
Strategic Adolescent Reading Intervention (STARI) - STARI is a literature-focused, Tier II intervention for students in grades 6-9 who are reading 2-4 years below grade level.
Developed by Strategic Education Research Partnership, this is a 40-day Common Core-aligned curriculum that uses The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake as a base text to cover such themes as identity, membership, peer pressure, and bullying, with the central theme "Stand Up for Yourself".
At the same time, it focuses very heavily upon literacy skills development, with fluency activities (ELA Standard RF 4) that involve listening to audio tracks of the novel, turn-and-talks, and phrase-cued reading. This curriculum could be used in its entirety, or used for particular activities and discussions related to the themes and/or content.
A Huge Selection from Better Lesson.com
Better Lesson.com is an educator coaching for-profit organization that provides professional development to teachers and school districts. Its website includes a free public "Community Lessons" section comprised of over a million lessons plans provided by educators from across the country, and which cover every school subject area for grades K-12.
Of these, over 20,000 lesson plans are available for middle school ELA educators, and span such topics as figurative language, elements of literature, writing opinion pieces, and lesson plans for such books as Wonder.
Lessons are available for free (you just have to sign up for a free account), and are written and submitted by U.S. teachers who are members of the Better Lesson community.