Our Favorite Fall Activities for the ELA Classroom

Are you looking for creative ways to bring the autumn spirit into your ELA classroom? If so, the Secondary English Coffee Shop totally has you covered. We've gone ahead and compiled all of our favorite activities for the harvest season—which, if you ask us, is also the season of spooky stories and other Halloween-themed fun! Check out each of our ideas below:



One of The Classroom Sparrow's favorite short stories to teach during the month of October is, “If Cornered, Scream”. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, please do! If you’re looking for a writing resource, this Halloween Short Story Flip Book will guide your students to writing a spooky short story of their own!


Addie Williams loves this time of year! There are so many fun activities to do and one of her favorites is this newspaper writing activity for “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  Students create a newspaper to report on the events of the story. Just print and go!


Danielle from Nouvelle ELA loves getting students to put their detective hats on with “Lamb to the Slaughter.” In this pre-reading simulation, students make inferences at the crime scene to solve Mr. Maloney’s murder. Students LOVE the ah-ha! moment as they check their work by reading the actual story afterwards.


Christina from The Daring English Teacher absolutely loves a good spooky story to share with her students during the month of October. One of her favorite bone-chilling stories to read with her students is “The Cask of Amontillado.” Its got suspense and macabre, and the students love it! To help students dig in deep and gain a better understanding of the story, try this close reading and literary analysis Cask of Amontillado assignment. 


One of Tracee Orman's favorite short stories to teach is The Monkey's Paw. The idea of having three wishes and all the suspense that comes with those wishes truly makes it a classic spooky story to share with your students. Get the complete unit, which includes the story, here.


Jackie from Room 213 says that she loves spooky story season because it’s the perfect time to get students engaged as they explore the strategies writers use to create suspense and tension. Her favorite stories for modeling this are The Landlady and Just Lather, That’s All. Both are hits with students and are part of her Teaching Suspense and Tension Unit.


October is one of Bonnie of Presto Plans' favorite months because it lends itself so well to so many fun ELA activities, such as this Halloween reading mystery! For the Mystery of the Missing Halloween treats, students must work together, using their close reading, inference, and text evidence skills, to determine who stole Alex’s pillow case full of hard-earned candy! Check out this engaging, hands-on Halloween activity by clicking here.

We hope you have a fun, spooktacular month! 

Looking for more Halloween Ideas for English Language Arts? Click here.  

Using Novels in Verse to Hook Your Students

Hook your students with novels in verse

Using Novels in Verse to Hook Your Students

By Tracee Orman

Novels in verse have been around since the 1800s; both Lord Byron (Don Juan in 1823) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Aurora Leigh in 1856) used the genre to write lengthier works of poetry with mixed reviews at the time. 

Recently, the genre has become popular in young adult literature. Authors like Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo have embraced the format and created beautiful works that people of all ages love.


Using novels in verse in your classroom either in place of or alongside traditional novels can be very effective. 

1. They are more accessible for all readers. They are often more approachable for struggling or reluctant readers. The concise format and free verse style (shorter lines and smaller blocks of text) can be less intimidating, making the material more accessible.

2. They don’t take as long to read. If you struggle to teach a whole novel because of time constraints, novels in verse are the perfect replacement. They are still a complete book with all the story elements (plot, setting, characters, etc.), but most of them can be read faster than traditional novels, therefore taking up less time.

3. They include all the story elements of a traditional novel: plot, setting, characters, point of view, and conflict. Therefore, you can still practice many learning standards and objectives.

4. They can be more engaging for students. The poetic form of novels in verse can captivate students' attention and sustain their interest throughout the book. The unique style can be a refreshing change from standard prose.

5. They are easier to comprehend. The condensed and vivid language of verse can help students grasp complex themes, character emotions, and plot developments more easily. It encourages close reading and deeper comprehension.

6. They provide an opportunity to study poetic devices and figurative language. Killing two birds with one stone here! (Ugh. We need a better analogy! 😆)

I could go on and on about how they inspire creativity in students and so much more. But now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to try novels in verse, I’m also here to help you teach them.


Whether you are reading one as a whole class or allowing students to choose their own novels in verse, I’ve got you covered. My Novels in Verse Reading Response Questions cover all aspects of the novel, including the story elements AND the poetic aspects. Even if your students are all using different novels in verse, they can still answer the same questions. It's perfect for lit circles and book clubs.

Novels in Verse Questions

✳️ Choose One Element Per Section

The pages are separated by the story element and sound elements (which includes the poetic devices). This way, you can choose to focus on one story element at a time while teaching. For example, for the first section of the novel, choose to focus on the characters. My pack includes two pages of character-specific questions, so these are perfect for getting to know the characters at the beginning of the novel. You might want to use the plot, conflict, setting, or point-of-view questions next or as the novel progresses. You can save the sound and literary devices sections for toward the end when they have many examples to draw from. I have an OVERALL page of questions you can use at the very end of the novel.

✳️ Choose MORE THAN One Element Per Section

You can print (or share digitally) all the questions at once and give the students the freedom to answer them as they go. They can work at their own pace and you can also steer them as you go, giving them suggestions as you read the novel which questions they could certainly answer at that point in the story. For example, at a very intense moment in the novel, you may steer them to take a look at the conflict and/or plot questions. Also, if you notice several sound devices being used, hint to your students they may want to look at that section while they are reading.

✳️ Get Creative After Reading

Have your students try to write a passage in the style of verse. Whether it's a longer poem or a mixture of prose and poetry for a short story, have them write and then share with their classmates.


There are so many novels in verse being published today but if you aren’t familiar with them, definitely ask your school librarian or public librarian. In the meantime, I can suggest some new and older titles that seem to be very popular with students, teachers, and critics. Some novels will not be appropriate for all ages. You can always check their Common Sense Media rating if you are concerned about their appropriate age level. That said, here are some notables (not all are pictured):

Long Way Down and For Everyone by Jason Reynolds

Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe

House Arrest and Knock Out by K.A. Holt

Crossover (series), Solo, Swing, and The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

Clap When You Land and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Inside Out and Back Again and When Clouds Touch Us by Thanhha Lai

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Alone by Megan E. Freeman

Crank (series) by Ellen Hopkins

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

Every Body Looking by Candice Ipoh

The Ghosts of Rose Hill by R.M. Romero

The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan

Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz

A Seed in the Sun by Aida Salazar

Odder by Katherine Applegate

The Hope of Elephants by Amanda Rawson Hill

The Road to After by Rebekah Lowell

Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes

Star Fish by Lisa Fipps

The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcarcel

A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner

Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido

Gone Fishing by Tamera Wissinger

Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai

Hidden by Helen Frost

Once in a Blue Moon by Sharon G. Flake

Dear Medusa by Olivia A. Cole

We Are All So Good at Smiling and Moth by Amber McBride

White Rose by Kip Wilson

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep by Allan Wolf

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

Don’t Call Me a Hurricane by Ellen Hagan

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder

High by Mary Sullivan

When We Make It: A Nuyorican Novel by Elisabet Velasquez

Lawless Spaces by Corey Ann Haydu

Home Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo

Angel & Hannah: A Novel in Verse by Ishle Yi Park (perfect pairing with Romeo & Juliet)

Novels in Verse for High School

Novels in Verse for Middle Grades

I hope you found some great ideas for using novels in verse in your classroom! Check out these posts from my friends here at the Coffee Shop:

8 Captivating Novels in Verse for Secondary ELA Students by Nouvelle ELA

Long Way Down Novel Unit by The Daring English Teacher

Tracee Orman

Memorable Persuasive Techniques and Media Literacy Lessons

Ready to have your students not just engaged, but totally hooked on learning? It's time to dive into the exciting world of teaching media literacy, critical thinking, and persuasive techniques – the secret sauce that transforms your classroom into a hub of fun-fueled skill-building! 

That seems like a HUGE promise, I know, but teaching these concepts can really increase buy-in from the most reluctant student. It's Danielle from Nouvelle ELA here, and I'm thrilled to talk about persuasive techniques today.

  1. Students as Myth-Busters

Imagine your students as media wizards, armed with wands (or smartphones) to conquer the digital realm. Teaching media literacy is like giving them magical powers. 

Media literacy is all about how to navigate the jungle of information, debunk myths, and identify trustworthy sources. With this power, they'll browse print and digital sources with confidence and ease.

  1. Students as Puzzle Masters

Who doesn't love a good puzzle? With daily critical thinking practice, your students get that puzzly-goodness. Challenge them to question, analyze, and piece together information from different angles. It's like solving brain-teasers, but with real-world impact.

How can you achieve this? I use Persuasive Techniques Bell Ringers.

Each day of our persuasive techniques and media literacy unit, students do a bell ringer. Sometimes, they’re straightforward: “Identify the persuasive technique used in this ad.” While sometimes, they’re creative: “Using this image, create an ad for an imaginary company.”

Grab your free sample of these bell ringers here.

  1. Students as… Jedi?

What if you could teach your students how to use Jedi mind tricks? Almost there – we're talking about persuasive techniques! Show them how advertisers, politicians, and even friends use these tricks. They'll learn to see through the smoke and mirrors, understand the art of persuasion, and wield it themselves – not for evil, of course, but for well-argued essays and convincing presentations. 

You may also like:

6 Ideas for Teaching Media Literacy

  1. Students as Performers

Imagine your classroom turning into a stage, with each student performing their best. That's what happens when you introduce media literacy, critical thinking, and persuasive techniques. Suddenly, learning isn't just about textbooks; it's a dynamic show where students express their thoughts, engage with the world, and challenge ideas like never before.

I’ve had students absolutely transform when they get to create commercials, logos, and slogans

Students come up with silly products or super ingenious ones, and whichever way they go, they have a great time. I also use this unit to practice presentation skills and peer review, and students perform every mini-project for another pair or small group.

  1. Students as Active Participants

Prepare for a never-ending cascade of "whys" when you teach persuasive techniques! Students will start asking why things are the way they are, and that's when the real fun begins. They'll dig deep, analyze motives, and understand the world through a new lens. Plus, they'll realize that they're not just passive consumers – they're active participants in shaping opinions!

A student favorite is this set of Ad Analysis slides

Each slide features an ad utilizing a different technique, so it’s great practice. However, I’ve had students totally take off after seeing these, ready to design their own ads as a quiz for their classmates. 

  1. Students as Confident Communicators

Imagine your students as rockets, fueled by media literacy, critical thinking, and persuasive techniques, launching into the future. These skills aren't just for tests; they're life-boosters. Your students will become savvy decision-makers, confident communicators, and empowered individuals ready to tackle whatever comes their way.

Be sure to check out my complete 3-week Persuasive Techniques and Media Literacy Unit. It’s truly a memorable time of year.

So, get ready to watch your classroom transform into a dynamic arena of learning excitement. When you’re teaching media literacy, critical thinking, and persuasive techniques, you'll be crafting an educational adventure that's upbeat, engaging, and skill-building in the most fantastic way. Your students will thank you for the ride of a lifetime – let the learning party begin.

Happy teaching!


More from the Coffee Shop teachers:

Argument Writing Unit by Tracee Orman
Back to Top