My Favorite Anticipatory Activity for Literature

Happy Tuesday!

I was going to post this yesterday, but Monday marked the first day back to work after Spring Break, and I was more than exhausted.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately; my usual sleep schedule is one of “The Early Bird Gets the Worm,” but lately I haven’t been able to calm my brain down enough to allow for slumber to take over.  Hopefully tonight will be better.


Despite being sleep-deprived, Monday also marked the day in which I introduced George Orwell’s 1984 and Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” to English IV and Pre AP English, respectively.  With a double-lit-introduction, it allowed me to utilize my favorite anticipatory activity with two classes.  I love this activity for many reasons:

1.  It allows students to voice their opinions in a non-threatening/aggressive format.

2.  It involves both interpersonal, verbal-linguistic, and bodily-kinesthetic learning styles.


3.  It’s a controlled activity that allows students to get up and be out of their seats.

4.  They get to consider topics from several different points of view.

5.  They feel safe changing their mind and consider the factors that lead them to their decisions.

6.  It’s student-centric.

Steps to Lesson:

Teacher Prep:

1.  Before the lesson begins, the teacher will identify the key themes that they will have the class focus on for the unit.  If you’re a novice teacher, there are TONS of websites that provide the themes for you.  My favorites are SparkNotes and Shmoop.

In addition to themes, other key topics can be identified, such as expected behavior based on sex or age, choices characters make, philosophies held by characters, etc.

2.  Once themes and topics have been identified, an opinion-based statement that students will be able to respond to.  For example:

Theme: the dangers of totalitarianism

Opinion-based statement: The national government always acts on behalf of its citizens’ best interests.

Theme: Technology

Opinion-based statement: Without technology, the world would be a better place to live.

Ideally, 6-10 statements are ideal for this activity.

3.  Designate two opposing sections of the classroom, one for AGREE and one for DISAGREE.  It is up to the teacher’s discretion if they want a third, neutral location.  I tend to avoid this because it allows for some students to become disengaged, not truly acknowledging both sides of the argument, or physically becoming stagnant.

iStock_illustrated people with arrows in opposite direction


1.  Introduce the idea of the activity by informing the students of the purpose: to both identify the themes within the upcoming text, but to also discuss the various views of the themes within a safe environment.  It’s vital that the expectations are clearly identified to allow for an active discussion: respect for others’ opinions, not speaking over one another, and allowing for the opportunity to change your mind.

2.  Clearly identify and explain the steps of the process:  for each revealed statement, students will consider their initial opinions and then move to the “AGREE” or “DISAGREE” side of the room.  Opportunities to share opinions will be allowed for each, as well as the freedom and acceptance to change your opinion once you have “case your vote.”

3.  Reveal the first statement and once students have settled, allow for students to share their views.

4.  Continue until all statements have been revealed and discussed.

Post Activity:

There are multiple ways in which students can respond to this activity.  You can use this as an exit slip as well as a closing activity.  Students will respond to a question/questions in written form.  I highly recommend a written response so that the room is quiet, focused, and conducive for reflection.  Some suggested questions can be:

1.  Which topic did you feel the strongest response to and why?

2.  Which topic did you feel the most ambiguity and why?

3.   Which topic did you change your opinion about after you voted?  What influenced your decision?

4.  Which topic did you find to be the most divisive? Were you surprised, why or why not?

5.  Which topic were you surprised that most people agreed with and why?

6.  Which topic were you surprised that most peopled disagreed with and why?

Let me know if you utilize this style of anticipatory activity in your classroom and any alternatives you use!

Debating in Class

Hello All!

Tomorrow is a big day in my English IV courses.  The students will conduct a debate, the first time using this format of idea exchange and defense.  In the past we have used Socratic seminars, group discussion, and other forms of summative assessment, but tomorrow is going to require them to tap into other skills that they have been developing over the course of the school year.


The structure of the debate that we are going to be utilizing tomorrow has been adopted from various sources and trial-and-error on my part from previous years’ English classes.  For tomorrow’s debate, the students are going to be demonstrating their knowledge and understanding of the characters and plot of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Before beginning the specifics of the debate topic, I first address the general purpose of a classroom debate:

  • Allows participants to analyze the similarities and differences between differing viewpoints
  • Understand where opinions diverge and why.
  • Way to model the analytical and communicative processes that students are learning whenever they examine course material through oral or written work.
  • Challenge students to think critically about course material
  • Provide a forum for them to develop the arts of expression that allow them to communicate their ideas.

Their specific purpose/objective:

  • To convince Mrs. Ferrari that your position on where the ultimate responsibility for the deaths of William, Justine, Henry, Elizabeth, and Victor’s father lies.
  • How?


–Convincing structure (logic)

–Quality of the debate/argument being delivered


After explaining their objective,I explain the general structure of the debate.

  • There will be two teams based upon which character the group feels is ultimately responsible for the deaths.
  • Speakers will be chosen by the team.  More than one speaker can be utilized; they should be chosen based on their skills at speaking, responding to the opposing team’s arguments, and ability to convince the judge (me) of their argument.
  • In preparation for the debate, teams will develop three strong points in favor of their point of view.  Textual evidence is required.  Those team members who are less adept at public speaking can work as researchers, both prior to the debate and during, for reinforcement.

Here is the structure of the debate borrowed from “The Noisy Classroom” :

  • Introduction – who are you and what do you stand for?
  • Preview – What are the names of the points you are going to cover?
  • Rebuttal – unless you are the first speaker, you’d say “first lets take a look at what we heard from the previous speaker” and disagree with their points.
  • Point One – “Now onto my points”
    Explanation (the reasoning – why is your point true and why does it mean your overall position is right?
    Evidence (facts, analogies, examples, imagery or authority to support your reasoning)
  • Point Two – Name, Explanation, Evidence
  • Point Three – Name, Explanation, Evidence
  • Reminder – remind the audience of the three points you have covered
  • Vote for Us

I then provide the behavior expectations:

  • Only the elected speaker may address the question or opposing team. Any comments made by “the gallery” will cause the team to lose points.
  • The speaker may only address the question and may not attack, personally, the opposing team.
  • Derogatory comments made from either the gallery or speaker will count as negative points, and will also result in a referral for specific students.
  • Professional tone and vocabulary is required.
  • Any divergence from the topic, personal anecdotes or other off-topic behavior/commentary will result in lost points.

Finally, students are informed of how they will “win” the debate.

Ultimately, points are earned by:

  • providing a textually sound, accurate, and logical argument.
  • textually sound, accurate, and logical rebuttals.

Points are lost, or not awarded, when:

  • textual evidence is not provided
  • inaccurate points are made
  • disruptive behavior abounds
  • speaking out of turn.


PowerPoint: Debate Structure and Purpose

Student Response Frankenstein Debate Assignment (Frankenstein specific)


Best Year Review

I have begun to reflect on 2014, as early as February really, and almost instantly I’m reminded of many blessings and high points that I want to build upon for 2015. On the flip side, I don’t want to brush past the tough lessons learned better through error, much the way I scoot past people I am avoiding the stop-and-chat in hallways and Target. I found an wonderful reflection and goal setting worksheet via Moritz Fine Designs that I need to share with you as I complete my own version.



My Best Year Reflection:


This is the 2015 Reading Challenge that I mentioned in the “3 New Things I Want to Try” section.  It comes from PopSugar’s website.