Here are some of my best assignments from 40+ years of teaching. Contact me if you have questions or comments. (Email or Home Page.) You may also be interested in copies of the various Handouts available on another page.
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Kind Description of Unit Approximate Time All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr -- Reviews, discussion questions, audio and video links, and recipes for a Book Club approach to this deftly researched historical novel. 1 to 2
Advanced English Genre Packets, Focused Presentations, Useful Links, and More -- Developed as reference materials or one-hour focused workshops.
Advanced World History Resources -- Includes Suggested Reading and Movies, John Green’s Crash Course History videos, Epic Rap Battles of History, and Amy & Herb’s History Teacher Music Video Parodies.
Autobiography Portfolio -- 50+ autobiographical writing assignments (originally designed for sophomores) cover exposition, description, narration, and argument. Each one is short, non-intrusive. Individual assignments can also be used as character autobiographical activities for litarary works. For example, Holden’s Personal Alphabet.
1 a day
& 1 week for final format
Beowulf -- This page includes Reader Response Journals for specific sections of the full epic and extra credit assignments for the desperate. Extensive links for further study and images from the graphic novel are also provided.
6 class periods
Billy Budd by Herman Melville -- Assignments for both regular and Advanced Placement classes. Activities for the movie emphasize civil disobedience and the law. Enrichment includes Britten’s opera, Charles Fuller’s A Soldier’s Play, and contemporary songs. 2 weeks Biography Projects-- Adapted from a yearlong research project, this unit offers that full set of assignments or individual projects that can be used for less extensive research. Includes directions and rubrics. varies The Book of Qualities -- J. Ruth Gendler’s book inspires student writing by personifying abstract qualities. Includes an assignment handout and samples from the book. 2 class periods Calligraphy Projects -- general guidelines, several special projects, alphabet sentences to practice, links, and student samples. These projects focus on language in a new way -- ah, synthesis! ongoing Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger -- One to two weeks to read. Activities included might take a week of classtime. Use the links provided to help enrich your reading experience.
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer -- Short unit focused on the “The Prologue” and characterization can be expanded by study of various tales. Activities include journals, creative projects, and analytical essays. 1 to 3
Career Workshop -- Career exploration project based upon PSAT and PLAN test results. Includes signing up for My Roads, taking the ORA Personality Profile, completing Career and College surveys, writing and researching a Career Essay, and preparing a resumé.
5 class hours
Using Catalogs-- Don’t Throw that Away: Using Free Catalogues to Teach Almost Everything English (Fall 2010 OCTE Presentation). 1-2 class hours Classical Literature -- Several online activities for studying classical literature and art. (Special instructions and samples for the Coat of Arms and the Postcard Project.)
Current Events -- Links and handouts for a year-long ongoing project. ongoing Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand -- Activities for Cyrano de Bergerac itself and for the adaptation Roxanne. Page includes poster illustrations, creative projects, study guides, links to theater guides, handouts, and video links. 10 class
Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe -- Intense Study Guide for the Christopher Marlowe play. My all-time favorite play to teach -- even over any Shakespearean play! 2 weeks Everyman by Anonymous -- This page includes links to online versions of the play, study questions, composition assignments, and creative writing options. Teacher's Guide includes links to other medieval plays and their performance.
3 class periods
Fairy Tales: Literary Analysis for All Ages -- Brainstorming, freewriting, theme statement, synopsis, classification, analysis, application, evaluation, and creative writing, too.
5 to 10
Film Studies -- Teach essay writing, internet search strategies, research skills, parenthetical notation, and critical analysis through film review. Focuses on classic film genres and how to view them.
Great Books Great Art -- A Discovery activity that instructs student groups to select and justify their choice of five major scenes from a literary work, choose great art to illustrate each scene, and write a rationale for each choice. (Large file) 1 week
Grendel by John Gardner -- A critical overview, chapter-by-chapter study questions on the novel, links to John Gardner's famous letter, critical articles, and astrology references. Includes information about Julie Taymor’s production of Grendel the Opera.
Thomas Hardy Poetry & Novels -- Activities for Far from the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and numerous poems. Includes three previous AP Literature Exam prompts. Varies Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad -- Best of the Best. Literary Analysis section covering five major critical stances as small group research and writing appropriate to fourth week study. Includes activities for Apocalypse Now. 3-4 weeks How to Read Literature like a Professor -- Short writing assignments for each chapter. Your responses may be informal and you may also use films for your examples. Written assignments will be due the first day of class, so see the Taboo List to avoid any formatting penalties. Do not waste time and effort re-writing for neatness; use proofreading marks for corrections. Now updated for the second edition.
The History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage -- Study Questions, Map Activity, and Projects for recommended DoDEA Honors 9 and 10 Integrated Social Studies and English summer reading. Also includes directions for annotations, reading response journals, and alternative reading assignments. Summer Invisible Man Online -- Includes teacher materials, notes, motif strands, art, music, sound clips, critical articles, links to background resources, assignments, and handouts. Focuses on major motif -- dreams, family, music, significant objects, oratory, paper, power, sex, violence, and vision. Also links to student sample webpages, PowerPoints, and decorated pages (Humament style).
Look Magazine’s “They Made Our World Series” by Leo Rosten -- I remember reading these as a sixth-grader. Seductive opening lines immersed me in Rosten’s powerful 1000-word biographies, subtly crammed with content, evocative, memorable. Better known for his Yiddish tales, Rosten rocks prose. Almost impossible to find today. Whenever “The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson -- More Than You Ever Wanted to Know about teaching this poem. Includes links to artwork, criticism, and derivative writing. Check out the links to additional allusive artwork.
2 class periods
Macbeth by William Shakespeare is my favorite play for all levels of English. Worksheets, daily assignments, major essayss, creative projects, and a controlled research paper. 2 to 3
Monuments Men is a contemporary movie based upon historical events of World War II, with an excellent opportunity to open discourse on what art is, what art is worth saving, and at what costs. Excellent primary resources are available to construct a synthesis question for AP Literature or a DBQ for AP US History.
Markings -- A pre-writing strategy based upon Dag Hammarskj÷ld’s autobiographical fragment, Markings. Arbitrary restrictions on a brainstorming list force such critical thinking that it almost always produces thoughtful writing topics. 2 class periods The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway -- Links, reviews, centennial perspectives, style assignments, an essay assignment, and a sample essay
5 class hours
Poem-a-Day: National Poetry Month and Online Resources are used for Poetry Immersion in preparation for the AP Literature exam. Using a carefully selected daily poem to foster deep reading and prompt focused writing, students can review major poetic techniques and forms.
1 a day for
Poetry & Paintings -- This website, captured and re-posted here, from Emory University offers connections to Ekphrastic Poetry. In modern usage, the vivid literary description of a specific work of art, such as a painting, sculpture, tapestry, church, etc.
Poetry Presentations -- Using LOVE poems, students apply poetic terms and analyze the effect of poetic elements. Directions, handouts, and student web pages.
5 class hours & lab time
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli -- Non-fiction analysis appropriate to history and government, as well as a background for study of later Shakespearean works. Some of my personal best assignments! 1 week Poet Research Project -- A research project on the life, the works, and the time period in which a significant poet lived. Includes directions, links, and handouts. See also the Advanced English Senior Research Project, an analysis of a major literary work
Projects for Reports -- Creative projects for any subject, with grading checklists. My old “50+ Ways of Sharing Knowledge” improved by collaboration (developed with Sandy Bahan, Linda Kramer, and Walt Shaw). Homework
3 or 4 days
Root Words: Getting to the Root of Vocabulary -- Covering two or three roots a day, all year, students improve their ability to figure out the meanings of words. Tests are given every ten roots until 120 roots are covered.
Best of Shakespeare -- Shakespeare’s life and times, theater performance guides, best sites, infographics, PowerPoints, movie guides, Shakespearience poster, fun (including the famouus Twitter Shakespeare), and more. Materials to help teachers introduce any of Shakespeare’s plays. Varies Why the Mystery? Why Sherlock? -- From one story to several, from the original to myriad adaptations, from theses to analyses. Worksheets, powerpoints, videos, an extensive extended reading list, and general genre activities. Some fun, too. Varies Six-Word Memoirs -- Assignments based on Smith magazine’s books and website. Includes links, assignment sheets, grading checklist, examples, and adaptations for novels and historical figures. 3 or 4 days Writing the Synthesis Essay -- A collection of prompts for the synthesis essay and instructions for students to research a topic, create a packet, write their own and develop a grading rubric. Now includes scoring guides, samples, commentary. Varies Think Different -- Based on the 1998 Apple series of posters, three brief biographical research activities. 3 or 4 days Travel: You Deserve a Break Today -- Research and composition unit that includes 14 activities. 2 weeks True West by Sam Shepard -- Two diabolically-opposed brothers, the myth of the American West, Hollywood, dysfunctional families, coyotes and toast. So much fun to teach! 1-2 weeks Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez -- From the moment El Pachuco glides on stage, we are drawn into a jazzy savvy world of rebellion. Valdez weaves music, slang, dance, and fashion into a compelling tale of cultural pride, creative spirit, self-determination. Movie version fascinates with its use of creative staging. 1-2 weeks
If an activity uses the internet as a teaching resource, I have provided links, so please let me know if any links are incorrect. Updated 6 February 2021.
If you download or print anything from this site, please consider making at least a $10.00 donation through PayPal. I can maintain and expand this website only with your help.