Teaching #BlackLivesMatter in an all-white school

I teach in a small, rural, almost all-white community. So maybe you're wondering why I would be teaching #BlackLivesMatter.  The answer? This is where it's needed the most.

Whenever I teach Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, I make sure to cover stereotyping, racism, and use of the N-word before we even open the book. But in the past few years, I've found it harder and harder. Honestly, I thought after President Obama was elected things would change for the better.

Spongebob Squarepants is a TM of Viacom International Inc.
Yes, I believed life very well could be rainbows and sunshine. Anti-Obama supporters would see the light and embrace the historic moment. Instead, I saw people who I thought were upstanding citizens posting the most hateful, racist comments and memes on social media. And it only got worse. It didn't take long for students to pick up on what they heard at home and for the hateful language to slip into usage at school. Which made my job even more important.

If you think a white teacher shouldn't be teaching #BlackLivesMatter to white students, think again. This is the audience that needs to hear the message the most.

The biggest problem is the lack of understanding of WHY a movement like #BlackLivesMatter is necessary and important. I hear many people say, "Well, don't ALL lives matter?" Yes, they do. But, in reality, it is a mythical notion unsupported by facts. 

History tells us that our country was founded on the principle that white men matter. It would take many, many years for the populace to agree that perhaps black men, and perhaps white women, and then maybe black women matter, too. But...not as much as white men. 

Members of our judicial branch, law enforcement, and lawmakers make decisions every single day that impact each and every one of us. Their actions speak clearly: white men matter more. 

Teaching #BlackLivesMatterDon't believe me? Then explain this:

• Eighty-eight percent of law enforcement officers are white. (Source: Wall Street Journal)

• Black drivers are pulled over by law enforcement three times more than white drivers, DESPITE the fact that police are less likely to find contraband in a black driver's vehicle. (Source: NYTimes)

• Even though whites use and sell drugs at the same (or even higher) rate as blacks and Latinos, minorities are more likely to be arrested for it. (Source: NYDailyNews)

• Despite the fact that numerous people and businesses are to blame, only one Wall Street executive was convicted for the 2007 mortgage/housing crisis that launched our country/world into the Great Recession (estimated losses globally=$4 trillion). That executive is a minority. (Source: NYTimes)

• Blacks and Latinos have suffered the most as a result of the mortgage/housing crisis. (Source: CBSNews)

• Prosecutors are 95% white. (Source: Wall Street Journal)

• Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be incarcerated for a crime than a white person. (Source: ACLU)

• One in three black men will be incarcerated in his lifetime. (Source: ACLU)

• Though only making up 6% of the population, black men comprise 35% of the prison population. (Source: ACLU)

• Corey Batey and Brock Turner were both found guilty of raping an unconscious victim. Both were 19-years-old, both were college students, and in both cases, there was ample evidence for thier convictions. One man was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 15 to 25 years for rape. One was sentenced to six months in the local jail, with early release in three months for good behavior. The only difference between the men? One is black, the other is white. Can you guess who received the harsher punishment? (Source: NYDailyNews)

• The sentence for a crime committed by a black male is 20% longer than the sentence given to a white male. (Source: ACLU) In Batey's case, it was 3000% longer.

• Sixty-five percent of prisoners serving life sentences without parole for nonviolent crimes are black. It jumps to over 70% in federal prisons. (Source: ACLU)

• Across the nation, prosecutors are more likely to strike a potential juror if he/she is black in death penalty cases. (Source: NYTimes)

• In the South, black jurors are stricken at a much higher rate (80%) than whites. (Source: NPR

• Eighty-seven percent of members in Congress are white. (Source: Scholastic)

• Seventy-six percent of all millionaires are white. (Source: Statista & CBSNews)

• In 2012, many states tried to pass voter-ID laws that required voters to show a driver's license or personal ID issued by the government. A majority of the voters these laws would affect were minorities. (Source: TheAtlantic)

• The amount of new voting laws passed by states in 2012 was the most since the Jim-Crow era. (Source: NYTimes)

Teaching #BlackLivesMatter: Notice a Trend?• Thirty-four of the 50 states take away voting rights of citizens who have been incarcerated. (Source: BrennanCenterForJustice)

• In 2014, elected officials blocked a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10/hr.; 60% of minimum-wage workers are minorities. (Source: AmericanProgress

• Elected officials also blocked the Paycheck Fairness Bill in 2014; it would have issued harsher penalties for discrimination pay gaps between men and women. (Source: DailySignal)

• Twenty million black workers would have benefitted with higher paychecks if the American Jobs Act had been passed in 2011. (Source: WhiteHouse)

• Congress has only allowed 42% of President Obama's judicial nominations to pass, compared to 86% of Bush II's and 84% of Clinton's. (Source: WashingtonPost)

• Most toxic waste sites are created in minority-populated neighborhoods. (Source: Newsweek)

• The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)--a branch of the government--denied 95% of all civil rights claims against polluters in minority communities. (Source: Newsweek)

• The principle cause of the Flint, MI water crisis was "...the state government’s blatant disregard for the lives and health of poor and black residents of a distressed city." (Source: NYTimes)

• Even though white men make up 31% of the population, they hold 65% of ALL elected positions in the U.S. (Source: WashingtonPost)

Do you happen to see a trend? Do these actions represent a society that believes ALL lives matter? 

Time and time again, the people who are supposed to be representing ALL Americans seem to act as though only the white upper class matters. Our society of mass-incarcerations of our minorities causes a ripple effect that disenfranchises minority voters, thus producing a majority of white leadership, thus continuing the endless cycle of racism, discrimination, and the need for movements such as #BlackLivesMatter. 

As long as white men hold the majority of power in our nation, it is up to them to do the right thing and make decisions that are NOT based on race or income or social status. They need to make selfless decisions: sacrificing their elite statuses for the benefit of society as a whole. And while I believe there are many white men who are more than willing to make these sacrifices (I live with two of them), I am sure there are still many who are frightened by the prospect of giving up such power. (Which is probably why so many are against the idea of a female president.)

Therefore, educating our young white students on these matters is essential. They are the ones that can effect change and help make a difference. They can ensure a future where #AllLivesMatter is, in fact, a reality.

Teaching #BlackLivesMatters


Shakespeare Giveaway for Teachers

Shakespeare Giveaway

Please join my fellow TpT English teachers in this great giveaway hosted by David Rickert! ALL of the resources can be used with ANY Shakespeare play. And please share why YOU love teaching Shakespeare in the comments below.

Six English teachers with a love for Shakespeare are hosting a giveaway in honor of Shakespeare's birthday. (It's also the 400th anniversary of his death.) One lucky winner will get six great lessons that can be used with ANY Shakespeare play. So what can you win? Click on the links to get a preview and find out how to enter.

Presto Plans has a lesson on Shakespeare's Language called "What Would Shakespeare Say?"

Need some room decor? Room 213 is offering a Shakespeare Word Wall and Posters.

Tracee Orman has a great way to introduce Shakespeare with a Life and Times Power Point.

The Classroom Sparrow has a handy reference guide with her Shakespeare Mini Book.

Reach for the stars with Brynn Allison's Astrology Based Characterization Activity.

David Rickert's Comic Lesson on Iambic Pentameter will introduce students to the way Shakespeare writes.

The raffle will run from Sunday, April 24th to Sunday, May 1st. How do you enter? Simply click the link below and enter your favorite Shakespeare quote. It's that easy.

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So why do these teachers love Shakespeare?

Presto Plans:
"Since students often feel that Shakespeare isn’t relevant today, my goal when I teach his work is to find ways to relate the plot, characters, and themes to their lives. What I enjoy most about teaching Shakespeare is seeing my students make a personal connection to universal themes (loyalty, ambition, jealousy, betrayal) that emerge in his work. When students can make those connections, the class discussion always becomes far more interesting and engaging, and I know Shakespeare still has a place in today’s classroom."

Room 213:
"I love teaching Shakespeare because not only is he a brilliant writer, but he understood what makes we humans tick. What I enjoy most of all, though, is finding ways to draw students into his plays. Most have preconceived notions and dread when it comes to Shakespeare, but I design my lessons and activities in a way that helps connect the plays to their lives and, that way, it's more interesting and enjoyable for them."

Tracee Orman:
"I love the moment when students hear famous lines spoken that they never realized were penned by Shakespeare. Today in class we covered Marc Antony’s “Cry Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war” quote in Act III of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. After that scene, I showed them the beginning of an episode of Big Bang Theory where Sheldon quotes the phrase after he seeks revenge on the person who hacked his World of Warcraft account and stole his weapons. There are so many great allusions, quotes, parodies, and references to Shakespeare; I love opening their eyes to them. When former students email or post/tag examples or references they come across on my social media pages, it warms my heart to know they not only still remember this play from sophomore year, but they actually understand the reference or allusion."

The Classroom Sparrow:
The best part about teaching Shakespeare is the level of engagement the plays can bring to a classroom. Most students are not excited about Shakespeare because they have a hard time understanding the language, but once they start reading the first few acts, the students are eager to find out what will happen next. By the end of the unit, students have a better appreciation for Shakespeare in that many of his themes are timeless.

Brynn Allison:
"Reading any of Shakespeare's works is difficult for my students, many of whom read several levels below grade level, but this challenge is what makes teaching Shakespeare so rewarding. My students are incredibly proud of themselves when they begin to read and understand his plays. Acting out key scenes and making connections between the timeless themes in Shakespeare's dramas and real world issues helps to increase students' comprehension. Have students practice insulting each other using Shakespeare's language before reading the first scene in Romeo and Juliet or by conducting a People magazine-like interview of Portia and Calpurnia from Julius Caesar. Activities like these help students to see that world in Shakespeare's plays is not so different from their own."

David Rickert:
"I love the challenge of teaching Shakespeare to students who are reading it for the first time. I love his plays. They have comedy, tragedy, thrills, chills, and just all around great writing. There are some wonderful metaphors in the plays, and I find myself using them in everyday language without thinking about it."
Good luck!
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Harper Lee: The Silent Salute for You

Though I knew this day would come, my heart still stopped when one of my students ran into my classroom this morning and told me the news that Harper Lee had passed.

I have a hard time articulating how deeply her words meant to me when I first read To Kill a Mockingbird as a junior in high school. There was something about her narrative style that I hadn't read before and I was addicted. It was the only book we read as part of a curriculum that I wanted to buy for myself. I did, and I continued to re-read it every year until I was hired to teach sophomore English and could re-read it several times each year. It still remains a favorite after all these years.

While I am saddened that I will never have the opportunity to meet or see my literary hero, I am glad that Nelle Harper Lee died peacefully in her sleep and lived a full, happy, quiet life.

Three-Finger Silent Salute Harper Lee
Her legacy of tolerance will live on as her words continue to inspire generation after generation. The silent salute to you, Harper Lee.

Harper Lee quote www.traceeorman.com

Harper Lee quote www.traceeorman.com

Harper Lee quote www.traceeorman.com

R.I.P. Nelle Harper Lee
April 28, 1926 - February 19, 2016


Valentine Rejected Candy Hearts

Valentines Day Rejected Candy Hearts www.traceeorman.com

Valentines Day: Some people love it; some hate it. Whatever your preference, everyone seems to get a laugh from #RejectedCandyHearts. These are the words and phrases that didn't make the cut on the popular Valentine conversation hearts. You can find examples with a free download in my TpT store and on Twitter using the hashtag #rejectedcandyhearts.

DISCLAIMER: Some of these can be crude and inappropriate, of course, so if you share with your students, use your own discretion.


Students love to come up with these sayings if you give them the opportunity. This activity is short and perfect for an exit slip or bell ringer (last five or first five minutes of class). Make the assignment related to your content area and watch the creativity flow in your classroom.

ELA: For example, if you teach English/language arts, have your students think of words/phrases for the hearts that one character would give another in the novel or story you are reading.
Valentine's Day To Kill a Mockingbird Candy Hearts www.traceeorman.com

Or use author puns, vocabulary words, and, of course, Shakespearean insults!
Valentine's Day Book Author Candy Hearts www.traceeorman.com

HISTORY, SS: Current events, politics, and historical figures are all fodder for phrases. (Ask students what message Abe Lincoln would send to Jefferson Davis on a conversation heart either pre- or post-debate.) These can jump-start many class discussions related to your content.
Valentine's Day History Current Events Candy Hearts www.traceeorman.com

SCIENCE: Students could have a contest to see who can come up with the funniest chemical element combination or science-related pun.

MATH: Have students think differently about numbers by allowing them to come up with creative equations and math-puns for the hearts. In many ways, math class is perfect for this because numbers can express thoughts and feelings with brevity.
Valentine's Day Math Science Candy Hearts www.traceeorman.com

Whatever your content area, your students will love this brief exercise in creativity.


The best part? It can be done any time (though before or after Valentine's Day seems logical).
*As a post-Valentine's Day activity, phrase your prompt in the past-tense:
"Before he was killed, Julius Caesar received a package of conversation candy hearts from the Senate. What messages were on them?"
Valentine's Day Julius Caesar Rejected Candy Hearts www.traceeorman.com

Just for fun:

Fun with #RejectedCandyHearts www.traceeorman.com

(Want to liven up your next faculty meeting? Prompt your colleagues for their favorites and let the fun begin!)

Please share your favorite #RejectedCandyHearts messages in the comments below.


Favorite iPad Apps for Middle and High School: Notability

iPad Apps for Middle and High School Classrooms - www.traceeorman.com

Notability: A Favorite App for Middle and High School Classrooms
As our school transitioned to iPads this year, I've had the opportunity to try out new apps with my students. I have found Notability to be one of my favorites.

Use Notability to annotate text or create original content

Annotate Documents
Notability allows students to open any document and annotate it. And not just annotate. They can add videos, respond with a voice recording, insert pictures, and so much more.

Notability app: Embed videos, images, web links into any document
Embed videos, images, text, web links, audio, etc. into
ANY document using the Notability app.

Create Original Content
In addition, they can create their own original documents and share with others for feedback. Students can use this app to take notes (either by typing or writing) and add pictures, doodles, web links--pretty much anything--to their document.

iPad Apps: Create original documents for note-taking and collaboration in Notability.

Record Audio
One of the best features is being able to record audio, which is linked to the note. During a lecture, students can record the lecture as they take notes.

Students can record themselves reading their essays or other texts to check for fluency (as well as to help with editing--they catch more mistakes when they read their work aloud).

iPad Apps: Record an audio response on any document in Notability.
Record audio, such as lectures or personal feedback, within Notability.

So Many Uses For Teachers, Too
Teachers can also use the audio recording feature to give personal feedback messages back to students. We all know sometimes it's much faster to say it than type it out. Plus, students can hear our tone and better understand our comments.

Teachers can take text they want to share with students and insert web links and videos to enhance learning. For example, you can share text (a story, article, novel) with your students and add links to definitions of words they may find difficult. Use the audio and pronounce the word for students.

If a story has an allusion to a famous painting, you can embed a photograph of that painting or commentary about it to deepen understanding.

Share PDFs You Purchased on TpT
For anyone who has purchased PDF resources from my store on TeachersPayTeachers, you have my permission to use Notability for those documents so you can share them securely with your students and they can respond directly on the page.

Compare/Contrast Any Text
Instead of printing and writing, you can share PDFs
through Google Classroom and Notability for a
paperless alternative. From Compare/Contrast ANY Text.

Any PDF can become a digitally interactive document in Notability.
Turn any PDF into a digitally interactive document on Notability.
From Common Core Reading Graphic Organizers, Grades 9-10.

We use Google Classroom in our district and though we had many challenges this fall, it is nice that we can share Notability documents directly through Google Drive/Google Classroom. Use the "upload" icon, which is a square with an arrow pointing upward to get to the sharing menu.

Sharing Notability documents through Google Drive.

It's OK to Take a Break From Technology
When technology is working, it's a great thing. But, it's always best to prepare for when it's not working. Besides, it's OK to take a break from technology. We all need to put the devices aside and just communicate in old fashioned ways each day. At the end of a class period (when your students are wanting to pack up anyway), let them put their devices away and just talk to one another. I like to share humor with them and discuss it just for fun. It reminds us all that no matter how great technology is, nothing replaces face-to-face communication.

Technology can't replace the benefits of face-to-face communication.

Suggestions? Questions? Your Favorite Apps?
I plan to continue this series, highlighting additional apps such as Google Classroom. Let me know if you have suggestions or questions.

Also, please post below with any of your favorite apps for tablets OR websites you use in class. (We love No Red Ink and purchased a district license this year. More about that in another post!)

By the way, I am not affiliated with Notability at all, nor was I asked to write a review. Actually, I hadn't even heard of it until last spring when another teacher at my school asked if we could purchase the app for all students. This post is my opinion based on how I've used it so far this year.

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Mrs. Orman's Classroom - www.traceeorman.com

Laptop or Tablet? Transitioning from MacBookPros to iPads (and the frustrations of using Google Classroom)

technology in the classroom

Laptop or Tablet? Transitioning from MacBookPros to iPads and the Frustrations of Using Google Classroom

For almost seven years my school was a 1:1 MacBookPro school. We loved the laptops, but the expense for repairs and replacing new ones for all students in grades 6-12 was becoming too costly.

MacBookPro laptops in the classroom
Students writing poems on MacBookPros.
Photo: ©Tracee Orman, 2011
Normally schools would upgrade from tablets to laptops. And here we were last spring being told we were going to downgrade from our MacBookPros to new iPads. Teachers would keep their laptops and have a new iPad; students would only have iPads (with the exception of our computer instructor, who has a lab of laptops for his classes).

Questions We Asked
Of course, we had a lot of questions, such as:

• How will our students type essays on an iPad?

• How will our students use websites that use Adobe Flash Player?

• Will our students be able to make movies using iMovie?

• Where will students store all of their Pages files, Keynote presentations, and other documents?

• Will they be able to back up files onto a flash drive?

• Will all of our online lessons, quizzes, and tests open on their iPads?

• How will we monitor their use?

• Will students be able to print?

• How many apps can we get? How will the students get those apps on their devices?

and so on...

Google Classroom Launch & {FAIL}
We had already been using Google for Educators for several years. Our students all have Gmail accounts, which comes with a Google Docs/Drive account and unlimited storage. So one of the deciding factors for our administration was the launch of Google Apps for Education (GAFE), which includes Google Classroom. They *hoped* it would make it easier for students and teachers to exchange digital files, collaborate, and communicate. We were assured that Google Classroom would work seamlessly with the iPads. And last Spring, it seemed to be working just fine.

Google Classroom Teacher's Page - www.traceeorman.com
Sample Google Classroom stream of announcements
and assignments from www.traceeorman.com.

Well, it hasn't been as easy as promised. Hardly any of my students could watch an introduction video I linked from YouTube, nor could they open documents I attached and assigned. Google Classroom is still working out kinks, but it's getting a little better. At the beginning of the school year at least half of my students could not access anything from Google Classroom. Now, I have about five or six students who continue to have the problem. It's better, but still frustrating. This means I have to share content with them in alternative ways, including having a print source.

Google error message in Google Classroom, GAFE
Error message when students try to access files in Google Apps.

Docs is Back...But Drive Is Still Here?
In addition to the Classroom problems, Google's relaunch of "Docs" while maintaining "Drive" is causing much confusion with students. One feature Docs now offers is the ability to work on items offline. We are not sure if this feature is the root of the problem or not for our students, but we know there are several who will try to locate their documents and they will not show up. Sometimes they appear when they click out of the app and go back on, but when they try to share it via Classroom, *poof* all their documents disappear again. Again, we were told Google is working on fixing the kinks.
Using iPads for Video Parody Project
Students use iPads for a video parody project.
Photo: ©Tracee Orman, 2015

One of the biggest frustrations as an English teacher is the lack of features in Google Docs. Students are unable to add a header or footer in the iPad app (either I have to provide them with a template--which defeats the purpose of them learning how to format a paper themselves--or they have to find a laptop to create the document on first). So much for assessing them on how to create an MLA-formatted document!

The Pages app is much better for typing papers, but it is glitchy and does not work well with Google Docs and Classroom on the iPads.

So Which Is Better: Laptops or Tablets?
Having laptops also had its fair share of frustrations. Those problems have not gone away with the introduction of iPads. For example, these continue to be a challenge:

• Students play games instead of staying on task.

• Students communicate answers from tests via screenshots, messaging, or logging into a friend's account and taking the test/quiz for him/her.

• Students are easily distracted with social media and constant notifications.

• The internet is never fast enough.

• Printing from the device is not always reliable.

• Students are impatient with the devices and easily frustrated when they do not work properly.

We have only had the iPads since August and we had our laptops for almost seven years, so it's hard for me to recommend one over the other at this point. I see a lot of potential with the iPads and have really been impressed with some of the apps our district has purchased. 

Favorite Apps, Coming Soon
I plan to post a series of articles featuring some of these apps and what they can do. (Surprise: one is even about GAFE and Google Classroom.) Check back for my posts, which will be tagged with this image:
iPad Apps - Favorites

Is It Worth It?
Is technology even worth it? The Wall Street Journal reported on this topic recently, citing a study that disproves using technology increases scores in math and reading.

That said, we still need to prepare our students for an ever-changing world in technology, so, YES, I think it's worth it. But it's important to use technology in moderation; going 100% paperless isn't realistic.

There are times when students need to write with paper and pencil.

There are times students should read from a book.

There are times when your students need face-to-face interaction with one another.

And there are times when your device will fail for one or more students in your class and you better have a paper back-up ready!


Apparently, Summer Is Over #TeacherProblems

Apparently, Summer is Over {Funny Teacher Memes-click for more}

Apparently, summer is over. I mean, it is over for me. As I type this, I am procrastinating going to bed, knowing in a few short hours my alarm will be waking me up for my first day back to school for the 16th straight year.

In remembrance of this summer–which ended much too soon–I made some funny memes so at least we can laugh about having to go back to the long hours of endless paperwork and lesson planning. Hope this helps ease you back into your school year!

But I don't wanna go back to school yet. #teacherproblems
I am simply not ready! 
(But I never am. Maybe a year off might help me get caught up on summer projects.)

First-world #TeacherProblems
I know I should be happy I have a job. Getting fresh paint (and new carpet this year, too) may have caused me extra work, but I am truly thankful for my job and the wonderful people who work on it all summer.

One does not simply get her classroom ready in a day. #teacherproblems

Sadly, it takes me a long time to get it back in order.

Lesson plans... #teacherproblems
I wish this were the case. :(

Seriously, how do our feet get out of shape so quickly in the summer?

Buy ALL the school supplies! #teacherproblems
Let's add HOARD ALL the school supplies, too!

When you get your new class lists... #teacherproblems
Admit it, you've felt this way a time or two.

Have a great school year? Challenge Accepted.

I hope you all DO have a great year!


Free Back-to-School Resources for Teachers

Free Back to School Resources for Teachers

It's back-to-school time! Which means it's time to bring you a collection of resources from teachers to help you get back into the swing of things at school.

Each page in these eight Back-to-School resources sampler includes a back-to-school tip, a link to a free downloadable resource, and another resource (priced) that you can check out if you like that teacher's style.

We wish you the best school year and hope you find many great ideas, tips, and freebies to help you get through this school year!

You can download all of the books here:

Grades 7-12 Back to School Science Sampler 

Grades 7-12 Back to School Math Sampler 

Grades 7-12 Back to School Social Studies and Foreign Language Sampler

Grades 7-12 Back to School English Language Arts Sampler

Grades 5-6 Back to School Sampler

Grades 3-4 Back to School Sampler

Grades 1-2 Back to School Sampler

Grades PreK-K Back to School Sampler


Are You Ready for Back-to-School?

Back-to-school time: Parents vs. Teachers (from www.traceeorman.com)

Going back to school in the fall is always a mixed bag of emotions: excitement, anticipation, nervousness, and, yes, overwhelming stress. There is a reason teachers need breaks throughout the year: the planning, grading, and performing in the classroom for the toughest audience out there is both mentally and physically exhausting.

Welcome back to the overwhelming workload... (from www.traceeorman.com)

But part of your workload and stress can be diminished.

Instead of spending your entire prep time altering your textbook lesson to work for your students, why not try materials that have been tried and tested in the classroom already by real teachers?

I've posted many new resources in my store this summer, with a lot more to come. You can check them all out here: Tracee Orman on TpT

I've also collaborated with my friends at the Literary League, which is a group of secondary language arts teachers, to let you know we'll be having a sale starting tonight and running through August 4th. Don't miss out on it! Use the code BTS15 at checkout to get an additional 10% our already-marked 20% off stores!

Back to School Sale - The Literary League

Visit their stores here:



Go Set a Watchman By Harper Lee Close Reading Activities

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee - Teaching Resources www.traceeorman.com

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee will be published in just a couple of hours. While it's not exactly a new book, it is new writing for fans who have been clamoring for something--anything--from their beloved author. And I am one of those fans.

To Kill a Mockingbird is still (and will probably always be) my all-time favorite novel. So to get another look at my favorite characters from a different perspective (an older Scout), I was ecstatic. Then I read the first chapter and realized why she spent two years rewriting and revising the work.

It is important to understand that while the publishing of Go Set a Watchman (GSaW) is “new,” this novel is not new. It is Harper Lee’s first draft of her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (TKaM), submitted to her publisher in 1957 and asked by her editor to rewrite the story, using a child’s perspective. It took Lee two years to revise and rewrite it. In 1960, TKaM was published as the final version. Therefore, GSaW is not going to be as polished; it was her initial offering, and one that needed much revision. Readers should expect some of the characters will be different, and perhaps not as likable.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee - Teaching Materials www.traceeorman.com
The beauty, though, of having her first draft to analyze, is that readers will be able to see where the characters and events originated. Readers will see how her writing improves with revision. And, hopefully, readers will be enlightened by the publishing process: how hard work, perseverance, and meticulous revisions are requirements in creating a classic novel. In today’s world of instant gratification, it’s important to look at the process and stages of a work that took years to develop and write.

Which is why I created a resource for my students to compare the two works. I am going to have them read closely the first chapter of GSaW and re-read the first chapter of TKaM and analyze how the author improved the story in various areas.

If you are looking for teaching resources for using GSaW in the classroom, you can find my materials in my teacherspayteachers store. All of the activities are aligned to the Common Core State Standards for reading, language, and writing.

I'd also love to hear what you think of Go Set a Watchman. Comment below with your thoughts/feeling. Thanks for visiting!

Go Set a Watchman Literature Resources for Teachers