4.28.2013

Happy Birthday, Harper Lee!

Happy 87th Birthday, Harper Lee!

Happy Birthday, Harper Lee! 

Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, turns 87 today. Will you do anything special in class to mark the occasion this week? (Or perhaps you did last week, along with William Shakespeare on the 23rd?)

Here's a free journal prompt from my A Year of Journal Prompts to mark the occasion:

Harper Lee's Birthday (April 28th) Writing Prompt www.traceeorman.com

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The text:


Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, turned 87 on April 28, 2013. 
  The Pulitzer-winning To Kill a Mockingbird is the only novel Lee has written, though some speculate that she has written additional unpublished works. She also helped her friend Truman Capote research and write his nonfiction book, In Cold Blood.
  As a private person, perhaps Lee does not wish to be placed, once again, into the limelight by publishing a new novel. 
  Would you like to be famous even if it meant losing your privacy? How would your life change if you were sought by reporters and fans every day? Would you still wish to have fame? Why or why not?

4.17.2013

Poem in Your Pocket Day Novel Connections #PocketPoem

Novel connections for "Poem in Your Pocket" day

On National "Poem in Your Pocket" Day, you don't have to give up teaching your novel for poetry. Instead, incorporate it into the lesson. This prompt (shown above) stemmed from an activity I created on my Hunger Games Lessons page to connect poetry to the characters:

Choose a character from the novel then find a poem that represents her/him.

Explain why that poem fits your character, using evidence from the text for support.

Not only does it challenge the students' critical-thinking skills, it reinforces character traits and themes from the novel.

Read more on this blog post: Which poems would Katniss and Peeta carry for "Poem in Your Pocket Day"?

It's also a great way to practice Common Core skills. This activity practices the following skills from the grades 6-12 anchor standards for reading literature:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Standards from: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/CCRA/R

If you need a collection of poems for students to browse, feel free to share my Poem in Your Pocket collection of poems (free download). You may share the packet electronically or post on your website.

Tomorrow, tweet your activities on Twitter using the hashtag #pocketpoem. I hope you have a GREAT day of sharing poetry with your students!

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4.14.2013

8 Ways to Incorporate Poetry into Your Day {Poem in Your Pocket Day is Thursday!}

Celebrate Poetry: Ways to incorporate poetry into your day.
Poem in Your Pocket Day is Thursday, April 18th.

Thursday (April 18th) is National Poem in Your Pocket Day, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets (Poets.org) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). UPDATED: 2014 "Poem in Your Pocket Day" is Thursday, April 24th. 

It's a day to celebrate poetry and share it with others. But you can celebrate poetry any time. Here are ways to incorporate poetry into your day:

1. As "Poem in Your Pocket" suggests, carry your favorite poem (or poems) with you any day and share it with others. Ask them to share their favorites, as well.

2. Write a poem! If you need help or inspiration, using formula poems can help. Here's a packet that helps you with over 40 formulas: Poetry 9-1-1: First Aid for Writing Poetry.

3. Are you reading a novel in class right now? Which poems do you think would be the characters' favorites? Why? For The Hunger Games fans, check out my post on my Hunger Games Lessons blog that asks  this same question.

4. Not reading a novel? Perhaps you are studying someone famous in history class? If so, ask the same question for historical figures: which poem would be Julius Caesar's favorite? How about Benjamin Franklin or Winston Churchill? Give reasons for why you chose this poem for that particular person.

5. Read a poem. It can be a short poem or long poem...it can be any poem. Don't know where to look? Some of my favorite websites for poetry include:
  -Poets.org
  -Modern American Poetry
  -Poetry Foundation
  -Poetry Archive

6. Discuss it! Poetry means different things to different people; this is one of the beautiful things about poems. Two people can have completely different interpretations of a poem, but both are right. Poems even have the power to take on new meanings when we read them at different times in our lives. Choose a poem or two and read with your friends. Then talk about what it means to each of you. When we discuss how a poem makes us feel, it may help someone else relate to it. It's OK if the poem does not speak to you...keep reading and you will find one that does.

7. Listen to others read their favorite poems. On YouTube, you can watch and listen both famous people and people like you and me share their favorite poems by reading them and telling us why it is their favorite.

8. Record a reading of YOUR favorite poem. You can do a video recording (learn more from the Favorite Poem Project website) or you can do an audio recording and upload it to LibriVox.org.

Teachers: You can find resources for teaching poetry here. Also, read more about incorporating poetry into your classroom here on this blog, or on my other blog.

And don't forget to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day this Thursday!

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4.06.2013

Seven End-of-the-Year Writing Prompts for High School Seniors

Writing Prompts for Seniors www.traceeorman.com

As your seniors begin the last few weeks of their high school careers, they will probably be experiencing many emotions. Excited to graduate, stressed for finals, anxious to begin a new life. To help ease their anxiety, carve out a little time for a meaningful writing assignment. Try one of these short prompts:

1. "Remember when..." - Who doesn't like to reminisce once in a while? Have your students write as many "Remember when..." statements about their school days and classmates. Allow them to share with their classmates. You could also collect their writing and make copies for each student. For a paperless option, create a Google Document and share it with them. Each student can contribute their own "Remember when..." statements.

2. "My Favorite Quote..." - Have your students share their favorite quotes. Prompt them to elaborate on why that particular quote speaks to them. Some will already know their favorite quote, but others may need help. Here are some websites with compilations of quotes that may help:
  • Brainy Quote
  • Good Quotations by Famous People (Compiled by Dr. Gabriel Robins)
  • A Collection of Quotes and More Pinterest Board
As an enrichment, students can type their favorite quote into a word-cloud generator (try www.wordle.net or www.tagxedo.com). They can print the images and hang their quotes in the classroom as a reminder of the inspirational words they have chosen.
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Live & Learn End of the Year (or Anytime) Activity for All Ages Freebie
3. Live & Learn and Pass It On: "I Have Learned..." - I've written about this activity several times; it's no surprise that it is one of my favorites each year. Based on H. Jackson Browne Jr.'s book, students write a "life lesson" they have learned. Examples include: "I have learned that being nice to the lunch ladies pays off with extra helpings of food," and "I have learned that my senior year went by way too fast. If I could have a do-over, I'd enjoy it more and stress less." If you want to use the lesson I created for this assignment, you can download it free here: Life Lessons Writing Freebie

4. Best Advice Received &/or Best Advice to Pass Along - First, students write about the best advice they've received in the past four years. What made it the "best"? Did they follow it? Or wish they had? Next, or as an alternative prompt, they write a message of advice to incoming freshmen. What do they wish they had known? Would they pass along advice they had been given? How would advice to an incoming freshman differ from advice they would leave to the current junior class?

5. "My Legacy..." - Ask students, "What is your legacy?" What are they leaving behind for others? This is a good reflective prompt because it makes students think about how they have impacted the lives of others. Perhaps it is a memory of something they did in school--an accomplishment they achieved or how they made a group of students laugh. Maybe they served as an example, whether it was positive or negative (one of my former students who had been expelled for a year wrote about that experience and hoped others would learn from his mistakes). Maybe it is a tangible item, such as a trophy in the cabinet, a seat in the cafeteria, a parking space, a locker, or a tree planted on campus. How will others benefit from their legacy? If they struggle with this, ask them what they would like to leave behind if they had no limitations. Or maybe the underlying question here is: how do they want to be remembered by future students? Or do they want to remembered at all? If not, why not?

Senior Wills and Six Other Writing Prompts for the End-of-the-Year
6. Senior Will - I remember my old high school year yearbook printing up "senior wills" on the last page of the yearbook. Each senior "willed" something to another student, a teacher or staff member, or the administration. Perhaps the reason it was dropped before I entered high school was that some responses like "Jack wills his sense of humor to Mr. Doe because he clearly needs it" were not appropriate or respectful. But some of them were great, like "Jane wills her artistic abilities to the incoming freshmen so they can beat the other classes in the Homecoming float-building contest." If you think your students can handle this (as far as maturity), it is a fun activity. But if it becomes a way to make fun of others, move on to a different activity.

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7. "What's Hot? What's Not?" - Another favorite activity, have students create Hot/Not lists for their high school career. They could start a list on the white board (or on a shared Google Doc) of events or happenings that were "hot" (or great) and "not" over the past four years. "Hot" items might include winning a championship, filming a "Harlem Shake" video, or participating in a poetry cafe. "Not" items may include state testing/final exams (or any high-stakes test), losing a close game, or perhaps losing a classmate. The lists they generate are great discussion starters, but also help students cope with feelings they may still be holding on to. I use my "What's Hot? What's Not?" activity in class for additional purposes, as well. You can download it free in my teacher store.

You'll also want to read:
Thoughtful and Inexpensive Gifts for Graduates

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I teach high school English in Illinois; enjoy family time, baseball, collecting PEZ dispensers, and talking about anything related to my favorite books. They include The Hunger Games trilogy, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Chaos Walking trilogy, and anything written by Amy Tan.

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