The Secondary English Coffee Shop

I once had a roommate who was a primary college teacher. She would have such fun designing her bulletin planks and planning course celebrations every season. Our apartment would fill with buck store discovers like pumpkins, snowflakes, valentine hearts and shamrocks. I would often feel a little jealous that, as a high school teacher, I didn’t have time to devote to all the seasonal and holiday fun. In high school, we let these holidays pass with only a cursory nod sometimes.

However, I don’t think either of those statements are completely true. Teenagers, despite their preoccupation with being “cool”, do appreciate a little fun in class. The issue of time, though, is a genuine one. I understand I never have enough of it, and often arrive in the last few weeks of the semester questioning how I’m going to cram it all in.

But celebrating the seasons and the holiday season doesn’t mean we must sacrifice time devoted to the curriculum. Continue reading to observe how! Backward design is a good idea always, but it makes a complete lot of sense if you would like to find time for seasonal and holiday connections. Take a look at your calendar and think about how you can build in activities and lessons that will allow you to embrace the season and have some fun with your students.

In English classes we use text messages as tools to teach students to learn critically and also to communicate effectively; thankfully there are numerous short text messages out there that we can use to do this. Spend time thinking about how exactly you can use these texts to create the abilities your class will be focusing on in those days of year.

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I’ve provided a summary of short stories, poems and expository text messages that you can examine out, and a sheet you can use for planning. You’ll find them all HERE. This fall I am doing reader’s workshop, and am teaching my students to investigate and evaluate author use of narrative elements like atmosphere and environment.

To do that, I use coach text messages as exemplars for my students, and Halloween is the perfect opportunity to find short texts that illustrate how environment and atmosphere can affect a story. By Christmas time, one of my classes will be reading Macbeth; the other, The Poisonwood Bible. At this time we are knee-deep in personality and thematic analysis, and I’ll have my students create Christmas wish lists and New Year’s resolutions for the characters. In doing this, they shall have to illustrate what they find out about not only the character types, but also the major styles in each work.