The Literary League Goes Back to School - Room 213

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The Literary League Goes Back to School

I am super excited about joining up with the other members of the Literary League to give you some inspiration for back to school.

A little about me: This September marks the twenty-fourth time I've gone back to school as a teacher, always to the same school, the same classroom and the same subject: English.  That sounds incredibly boring as I write it, but it has been far from it.  Despite all that sameness, I've had so much variety in my career, whether it be the grades I've taught or the ever-changing mix of students who populate my classes.  I've taught every grade level, but the last few years I've settled into teaching academic and general grade twelve, grade ten pre-IB and grade eleven IB. Each group has its challenges and rewards, that's for sure! In all of my classes, regardless of the level, I like to focus on learning as a process. Content and texts are tools that I use to hopefully inspire them to be lifelong, independent learners.

My favourite novel: I always have such a hard time picking just one, because I've had so many books leave their mark on me, starting with my early obsession with the Anne of Green Gables series. If I were forced to pick one, however, I would have to choose Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible because of her beautiful prose and amazing narrative technique.

My favourite novel to teach is definitely To Kill a Mockingbird. As with all of the novels and plays that I use, we start with an inquiry question that focuses the students on a bigger reason to study the text, beyond being able to plug in answers to chapter questions.  With Mockingbird we explore what we can learn about tolerance, a question that we apply to all of the texts we study during the semester.  Students still do literary analysis, using reader's notebooks and lots of cooperative learning, but we do so through the lens of what we're learning about being more tolerant.  In the end, the students do an inquiry project where they have to be a hero for a mockingbird in their community. This takes their learning off the page and into their own lives - it's one of my favourite projects ever. If you'd like to check out my inquire unit, you can find it HERE

A first day activity: My back to school activity serves multiple purposes: it allows students to get to know each other and make up some class rules as they get out of their seats. I also get them to stretch their creative muscles a little too, as they show me a bit about their skills as an English student.  

Enjoy whatever time you have left and good luck with back to school!


  1. It's so refreshing to read about a veteran teacher discuss how much she still loves being in the classroom! I wish we had more veteran teachers like you, Jackie!

  2. This was a fun read! I love the back to school activity that you provided - the layout is awesome! I think students would be really engaged (it's not just another boring worksheet!)

  3. I've been reading your blog for a long time, and you always have such great stuff. I haven't read Poisonwood Bible yet (yes, even English teachers get intimidated by size, I guess...), but I read The Bean Trees and am reading Animal Dreams. :)

    1. Thanks so much, Danielle! You must try PWB. You won't be sorry! Bean Trees and Animal Dreams are good too, though.

  4. Your students must love you! Your resources always look so engaging and creative. I do love that worksheet you have shared (and thanks for making it free!). I wish you all the best as you go back, once again, this year. :-)

  5. I am glad to see another veteran teacher who is happy to do what she does! :) (I hear a lot of veteran teachers around me that have lost that sparkle.) I love your back to school activity - it would be great to save for open house! :)

    Mrs. Spangler in the Middle

  6. Your blog is always so full of great ideas! I try to focus on intolerance, too, whenever I teach TKAM. I'm going to check out your project. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I've always loved "Anne of Green Gables" and would love to visit PEI someday! :)

    Literary Sherri

  8. The homework portion on your back to school activity is amazing! It's clear that you're super creative and committed to your craft. I love that!

  9. I haven't read The Poisonwood Bible yet, either...must add that to my "to do" list. Your tenure as a teacher is admirable, and your experience and expertise shows. I especially love the persuasive homework seat assignment - not only does it engage students, but it really does give you a good idea of the skills and abilities of your students without the dreaded "pre-test" or long essay assignment. Have a wonderful 24th back to school! Kristen @Simply Novel

  10. I love that your back to school activity includes literary terms and writing skills. you are assessing what students already know while they think they are having fun.

    Brynn Allison
    The Literary Maven

  11. The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favourite books too... I've managed to convince several senior students to read it and they always love it too! Happy rest of the summer!!



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