teaching honors EnglishI found out today that I'll be teaching honors English 2 next fall. I've never taught honors students before; in fact, I've mostly had struggling or low-ability students. We...

teaching honors English

I found out today that I'll be teaching honors English 2 next fall. I've never taught honors students before; in fact, I've mostly had struggling or low-ability students. We use the Prentice Hall textbook, and I hate it. I'm required to teach Julius Caesar, Antigone, A Doll's House, and A Separate Peace (yuck!).

I've never had students who could write a whole paragraph, let alone an essay. I'd love advice on teaching writing and what other literature I can bring into the class.

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amethystrose's profile pic

Susan Woodward | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

When I taught 10th grade, I used Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde paired with several short stories that featured dopplegangers ("Markheim" by Robert Louis Stevenson and "William Wilson" by Edgar Allan Poe).  I also taught Lord of the Flies and had a "Survivor" competition, much like the Hogwarts House Competition in Harry Potter.  By the way, when teaching Julius Caesar, be careful of trying to put it in "real" terms for the kids... I was talking about how Caesar's arrogant speech about being "as constant as the Northern Star" was an example of dramatic irony because the audience knew that Caesar was about to get "whacked off" by Casca.  Five adolescent boys ended up rolling on the floor in hysterics.  When I didn't get what was so funny, one of them filled me in that the proper term for killing someone is to "get whacked"... and then explained the other to me.  Yeah... my face still burns at the memory...

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

First of all, don't assume that they can write just because they are in honors. I guess it depends on your school.  You will, however, be able to teach them to write.  For honors I am assuming you are preparing for AP Language, so I would make sure to have a solid nonfiction foundation as well as including a lot of literary analysis because they won't get that for a whole year after they leave you.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

What a great opportunity for you to explore a new culture, so to speak.  You'll find the honors students are looking for the same things as students at the other end of the spectrum--plus an intense drive for high scores and extra credit projects (generally to move from, say, a 93% to a 96%).  I really enjoyed teaching honors classes, but only once I established a few parameters.

First, as mentioned above, thinking must become the objective, not a grade.  That's often a foreign concept to these driven students, and it may take them some time to adjust to the concept.  Once they do, though, you'll all enjoy the journey.

Second, NO extra credit.  Not under ANY circumstances. I do this with all my classes at every level; for these students, especially, it may be a foreign concept.  Surely doing more is doing better, they think--and often it's what they've experienced.  Instead, I have to remind them that taking full advantage of the opportunities they're given is part of the reality of the real world.  Extra credit is not a privilege they are owed.

So, some selections for reading.

I must say I enjoy teaching A Separate Peace, though I always find it disconcerting to read. Some of these are typically taught in AP classes or wherever, but here are some rather traditional ideas: Death of a Salesman, Metamorphosis, Heart of Darkness, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Ethan FromeA Raisin in the Sun, The Crucuble, Cyrano,  Our Town, Lord of the Flies,  and maybe even a comedy such as Taming of the Shrew as a Shakespearean counterbalance to Julius Ceasar (this is my "yuck").

Be sure to find out what these particular students have read on their way to you so you're not overlapping or teaching something they've already studied. 

The Socratic Seminar method is an excellent place to start if you'd like to structure your class in a way that will likely appeal to both you and your students.  Much of it is intuitive, so don't be too concerned about learning a bunch of new rules for conducting a class.  It's good--and it's good for you!

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I agree with other editors in suggesting that you put more work on your students (especially if they are higher ability) and put less on yourself. Independent study projects are a great idea, but also think more creatively about using methods such as debates in class on themes relating to your texts, role plays, dramatic readings, group projects and posters. For me, teaching advanced groups I often give over a complete scene of a Shakespeare play and tell them as a class to direct and present it. Amazing the results I get.

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jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

In my syllabus for my Honors kids I make it clear that the point of education is not the maniacal insatiable accumulation of points. Their job is to think, not focus on the grade. They are like sharks. When they sense points are in the water get into a frenzy and forget to think. 

SO, when a group gets especially whipped up for points, I will hand a lesser valued assignment, like a vocab sheet or something and have a perfect score already photo copied in the corner to take the pressure off. Then I make them think their way through it.

Most of all you will find that high acheiving groups and low acheiving groups have one huge factor in common. They thrive when the lesson planning is a little looser and allows for a little creative freedom. Both groups need an organic environment to provoke thought.

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jilllessa | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

It can be great fun to work with students who are up to a challenge.  You can design some fun writing assignments for them.  One writing assignment I used with Julius Caesar was to have them imagine that Brutus and Cassius had been captured before committing suicide.  Then they had to write the speech that each would give before the Senate justifying their actions.  I got some great speeches, some even in Shakespearean English.  Another thing my more advanced students have enjoyed was entering contests:  they each entered a sonnet writing contest and two of them actually won an essay contest.   I have also had students write letters from modern characters placed somewhere on the levels of Dante's Hell (telling how they ended up there) and have had artistic interpertations of the levels of Hell.  Be creative and allow them to be creative.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Alas Babylon! is awesome.  My kids always love it...nuclear holocaust and all that--set in Florida and many places will be familar to them (Orlando, Daytona, etc.)

You might also look into taking some of the pressure off of yourself and putting it on the students. Try the Socratic Seminar form of class discussion.  Give the students roles the day or two before, and get them started reading passages more closely, writing and asking their own questions, and discussing the literature at a more in-depth level.  You'll be surprised what they come up with...of course, it may take a few sessions to get them used to the process.  Also, in order to participate, they have to have read and filled out the questions for their role (passage master, word master, connecter to the real world, metaphor/simile master, symbol sage, etc.)

I'll be happy to share more if you are interested.

I'd love more info. I'm not familiar with this. Thanks!

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Alas Babylon! is awesome.  My kids always love it...nuclear holocaust and all that--set in Florida and many places will be familar to them (Orlando, Daytona, etc.)

You might also look into taking some of the pressure off of yourself and putting it on the students. Try the Socratic Seminar form of class discussion.  Give the students roles the day or two before, and get them started reading passages more closely, writing and asking their own questions, and discussing the literature at a more in-depth level.  You'll be surprised what they come up with...of course, it may take a few sessions to get them used to the process.  Also, in order to participate, they have to have read and filled out the questions for their role (passage master, word master, connecter to the real world, metaphor/simile master, symbol sage, etc.)

I'll be happy to share more if you are interested.

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dorisjac | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

teaching honors English

I found out today that I'll be teaching honors English 2 next fall. I've never taught honors students before; in fact, I've mostly had struggling or low-ability students. We use the Prentice Hall textbook, and I hate it. I'm required to teach Julius Caesar, Antigone, A Doll's House, and A Separate Peace (yuck!).

I've never had students who could write a whole paragraph, let alone an essay. I'd love advice on teaching writing and what other literature I can bring into the class.

Having students choose a book on writing for independent reading that they can then teach concepts to the class that they gleaned from the reading can be an interesting and interactive approach that I have used. Some possible books on writing include: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, On Writing by Stephen King. A school librarian can be helpful with finding good books on writing that go beyond being a resource or reference text.

Creating writing groups that students stay with for the whole course in order to build academic relationships to help each other with revision and writing ideas has worked pretty well also.

There is a program (it requires taking workshops to get the text) put out by the University of Kansas Research called Strategic Instruction Model that has a paragraph writing strategy that I have found to be extremely helpful, although formulaic, that I have used from grades 7 through 12. I've had students come back to me for the diagram structure to use in college writing to keep their writing organized.

There are also many practice tests related to SAT and ACT tests online to help with writing skills and prepping for those college entrance tests. I invested in the big practice book for SATs to guide me in what grammar issues I should focus on to help students with college prep.

 

Good luck!

 

 

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deneetyler | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Alas Babylon! is awesome.  My kids always love it...nuclear holocaust and all that--set in Florida and many places will be familar to them (Orlando, Daytona, etc.)

You might also look into taking some of the pressure off of yourself and putting it on the students. Try the Socratic Seminar form of class discussion.  Give the students roles the day or two before, and get them started reading passages more closely, writing and asking their own questions, and discussing the literature at a more in-depth level.  You'll be surprised what they come up with...of course, it may take a few sessions to get them used to the process.  Also, in order to participate, they have to have read and filled out the questions for their role (passage master, word master, connecter to the real world, metaphor/simile master, symbol sage, etc.)

I'll be happy to share more if you are interested.

I am also very interested in hearing more about the socratic seminar methods you use.  Please do tell!!

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