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jennacopper

4 Ways to Celebrate the Season with Your High Schoolers

Holiday

‘Tis the season to celebrate–even with big kids! You might be surprised by how easy it can be celebrate the season with your high schoolers. I starting thinking about this right before Thanksgiving break. So, I prepared a fun Thanksgiving Task Book for my students. One of the tasks asked students to reflect on their blessings with a visual.  The directs were open-ended, but I pictured most of the students creating a digital collage.  The results surprised me, and I learned a BIG lesson in the process. Here was the result:

Yes, those are hand turkeys. They by choice made hand turkeys, and they had a blast. Thankfully, this surprise gave me an important reminder: even though they’re “big kids,” they still like to celebrate. The joy that simple assignment created got me thinking about fun ways to celebrate this holiday season leading up to winter break, so I joined up with some of my teacher-blogger friends to share ideas for creating comfort and joy in your classroom this holiday season. Today, I’m sharing four fun ideas that not only will spread joy but also provide meaningful engagement for your higher schoolers so they can have fun and learn too.

Celebrate the season with these four ideas that will spread holiday cheer while engaging your high schoolers in meaningful holiday fun!

A Classroom Visitor

Classroom holiday mascots aren’t just for little kids; my students love our Elf on Mishelf! When they walk in my classroom on December 1st, they are greeted by a mischievous holiday visitor who watches their classroom behaviors each day and then flies back to the North Pole every night to report their behaviors back to the big guy. At first, they look at me like I’m crazy, but I’ll tell you, it’s a really creative classroom management tool when I remind them, “he’s always watching!”

Celebrate the winter season with four engaging and fun activities to spread holiday cheer with your high schoolers.

We’ve had a lot of laughs over this little guy, but we also have a really important and engaging lesson on his behalf!  I start the lesson with a bellringer that reads, “What do you think about ICT (Information and Communication Technology) surveillance? Is it a necessary evil? Explain.” I know this doesn’t really sound festive, but this is how I hook them. Once they’ve completed their bellringers, I introduce students to the article, “The Elf on the Shelf is preparing your child to live in a future police state, professor warns” by Peter Holley of the Washington Post.

We read this article as a way to generate discussion and analyze the strength of the author’s claims. This piece always generates a lively discussion about Michel Foucault (hence the name, get it?), Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, and their own holiday traditions. You can access a free copy of my article discussion questions in my VIP Resource Library. After this hearty discussion, our classroom mascot takes on a fun reminder of the lesson all throughout the holiday season. Plus, every day, the students come into class eager to see what mischief our little friend got into today.

*TIP: Choose students to set up your classroom mascot each day, so you don’t have to spend time doing it. They love doing it, and they can find tons of good ideas on Instagram and Pinterest. You can even use this as a competition for creativity.

Holiday Music

Holiday music is a must if you want to get everyone in the holiday spirit.  You really don’t need an excuse to play holiday music, but if you’d like a lesson out of it, have students analyze a holiday song of their choice. Many of these songs have interesting origins and meanings, which make them great for reader response activities. I use a Critical Reader’s Song AnalysisAlso, check out this awesome (and appropriate) holiday classroom playlist from my teacher-friend, @maniacsinthemiddle.

Celebrate the holiday season with your secondary students and engage them in the process!

Holiday Decor

Do you need some holiday decor to brighten up your room? Engage your students with a symbolism ornament for a fun and meaningful holiday activity. The best part is that there are a few ways to complete this activity:

  • Depending on how many students you have, you can purchase plastic see-through ornaments and ask students to fill it with symbols that represent a literary work, a character, or even themselves. Use them to decorate your classroom tree or hang them throughout the classroom.

 Celebrate the winter holiday season with your high schoolers with four fun ways to set the holiday mood!

  • Similarly, you could have students create their own paper ornaments with images to represent the symbols.
  • Lastly, they could create their symbolism ornament digitally with a Google Slide. Students can search for images and drag and drop them into shapes to create a digital ornament. You can even print them and hang them around the room. 

Holiday Games

If your students are like mine, they’ll embrace any chance to play a game in class. This is when we have to get a little creative so that we can play a game that has some educational merit. My favorite holiday game is charades, which in itself can have literary merit if you play with literary topics. As an introduction to this game, we do an impromptu speaking mini-unit that I call Snowy Speaking. After they practice impromptu speaking strategies with a small group and fun winter topics, charades sounds pretty easy. Sometimes, they even request to do impromptu speeches instead.

If your students are into trivia games, Kahoot has some great pre-made holiday trivia games. Students can use any device to play the game while they compete against each other (and maybe even you) to answer quickly and accurately. Kahoot is always a hit with my students.

Bonus: Gifts for the Season

Check this blog post for holiday gift ideas for your high schoolers!

Don’t forget to check out all of the great ideas for adding comfort and joy to your classroom this holiday season and make sure you enter the 12 Days of December giveaway below!

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Get Ready for Your Best Year Ever with the ELA Live Summer Series

Reading
The ELA Live Summer Series is a free professional development occuring on Facebook from August 1-15, 2017! Check out Doc Cop's session on choice reading!

The ELA Live Summer Series kicked off on June 1st, and my session, Tips and Strategies to Incorporate Choice Reading, was on August 3rd on my Facebook page, but you can watch the session here!

 

Here is a list of the resources I referenced in my presentation:

VIP Resource Library Access:

Resources:

The Critical Reader's series is a collection of resources designed to engage students in multiple perspectives analysis to create a classroom of critical readers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instagram Post:

I didn’t have a classroom library until my 6th year of teaching when I was hired at my new school and inherited books from the teachers whom I replaced. Even at that, during years 7 and 8 (year 8 was last year), my classroom library was more of a #classroomdecor piece than anything else. Last year, I studied choice reading for my secondary students, and it was a major success! So I decided it was time to put some ❤️ into my classroom library. With the help of my husband (a hs history teacher), I added SO many books to my classroom bookshelves this summer (ALL of the top ones on my initial wish list), and I did so REALLY inexpensively. Most books were under $2 and a lot were free! I wrote an article about our bookish adventures, so check it out if you’re looking to build your classroom library inexpensively. #linkinbio Where do you find inexpensive books? (Disclaimer: My students still were 💯% awesome critical thinkers when I didn’t have a functional classroom library.)

A post shared by Dr. Jenna Copper (Doc Cop) (@doc_cop) on

Blog Posts:

Panel discussions are a great activity to engage students in critical reading. Download your free resources to use panel discussions in your classroom.

Don’t forget to check out all of the amazing ELA teachers!

Aug. 1st at 9 pm EST
“Project Based Learning for Secondary English Classrooms” with Mud & Ink Teaching

Aug. 2nd at 9 pm EST
“Strategies for Writing Commentary for Literary Analysis” with Bespoke ELA

Aug. 3rd at 9 pm EST
“Ideas and Strategies to Incorporate Choice Reading” with Doc Cop

Aug. 4th at 9 pm EST
“Pinpoint the Source of Most Reading Problems in Five Minutes” with Reading Simplified

Aug. 5th at 9 pm EST
“How to Teach Students to Elaborate on their Thinking” with English, Oh My! 

Aug. 6th at 9 pm EST
“How to Run a Book Club” with The Reading and Writing Haven

Aug. 7th at 9 pm EST
“Encourage Independent Reading in Reluctant Learners” with Samson’s Shoppe

Aug. 8th at 9 pm EST
“Using Showcase Projects to Increase Engagement” with Spark Creativity

Aug. 9th at 4 pm EST
“How to Publish Student Writing Online and Create E-Portfolios” with Amanda Write Now

Aug. 10th at 9 pm EST
“5 Hidden Gems (books!) that Both Teachers and Students will Love with 2 Lifelong Teachers

Aug. 11th at 9 pm EST
“Starting on the Right Track with Struggling Secondary (Dependent) Learners” with Secondary Urban Legends

Aug. 12th at 9 pm EST
“Back to School Digital Escape Room” with Lit with Lyns

Aug. 13th at 9 pm EST
“Conferring with Student Writers” with Wild Child Designs

Aug. 14th at 9 pm EST
“Giving Meaningful Feedback to Writers” with Read it. Write it. Learn It. 

Aug. 15th at 9 pm EST
Grammar Manipulations: Holding Language” with Language Arts Classroom

The ELA Live Summer Series is a free professional development occuring on Facebook from August 1-15, 2017! Check out Doc Cop's session on choice reading!

How to Get Started With Critical Reading

Featured, Reading
Critical reading is the key for your students to unlock deeper meaning. Learn how to get started with critical reading and download your free plan guide!

What is critical reading?

Critical reading is the activity involved in reading for a deep understanding. The skills necessary for critical reading involve reflecting, close reading, and questioning to name a few. In other words, critical reading challenges students to move past surface-level interpretations.

Literary Criticism

Literary criticism is a type of critical reading activity that involves studying, interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating a work of literature. If you teach any type of critical reading, you are using literary criticism as a pedagogical approach. Therefore, it’s no surprise then that literary criticism has a vast history of practices and theories, which span over a period of more than 2,000 years.

Literary Theory

Considering this long history dating back to Plato, you won’t be surprised to learn that scholars have stressed different interpretative methods to go about literary criticism (Takolander, 2009). Then, literary theory is a set of schools of literary analysis based on assumptions or guidelines that shape the way the reader interprets a text. These theories focus on different areas of interpretation based on the theme of that theory. As a result, literary theory is often referred to as multiple perspectives or multiple lenses.

How can critical reading help my students?

Empowering students to think critically and analyze content on their own can be a very difficult task for the teacher, yet these reading skill sets are vital for students to be prepared to grapple with difficult content in college and problem solving situations in the workforce as well as succeed on standardized tests (Bloom, 1959; Carr, 1998; Baker, 2002; Collins, 1993). Fortunately, the connection between teaching literary theory to students and students’ improved critical thinking and reading skills is well supported by a review of the related literature (Appleman, 2009; Barker, 1965; Beach, Appleman, Hynds, & Wilhelm, 2006; Cox & Lewis, 1974; Golden and Canan, 2004; Harper, 1998; Knickerbocker & Rycik, 2002; Muller, 2006; Pace, 2006; Parfitt, 1997; Rozema, 2001; Sagan, 2003; Schade, 2004; Troise, 2007).

When students consider different perspectives to their reading, they learn to address the different, and sometimes conflicting, ideologies that exist within a particular text.  This transaction with the text encourages students to break out of lower-level thinking (comprehension) to engage in higher-order thinking skills, such as synthesizing information from a variety of perspectives to create a new perspective based on their reading. Acknowledging these differences, students engage in a textual relationship that empowers them to create their own understandings based on the many complexities of a text (Faber, 2011). This type of awareness is particularly important for developing empathy and empowerment, two characteristics that are the basis for a cooperative, productive society.

How can my students become critical readers?

Critical reading is an activity that all students are capable of mastering, and therefore, all students in all age groups, even pre-kindergarten, can become critical readers. No matter the grade level, the steps for creating a critical reading classroom follow a three-step system that I call TPA (pronounced “T” “pa”). Using the TPA model, teachers can plan their reading units around this model:

  1. Texts: Choose texts of academic merit.
  2. Perspectives: Determine the perspectives related to that text.
  3. Activities: Design activities to analyze the text based on those unique perspectives.

How should I get started?

Free Planning Resource

I created this free planning resource to simplify your critical reading planning. Download your free planning resource to get you started:

 

Free Professional Development

You can also read my blog posts and watch my live PD sessions related to critical reading:

Critical reading helps students gain a deeper understanding of the text. Critical reading helps students gain a deeper understanding of the text. Critical reading helps students gain a deeper understanding of the text. Critical reading helps students gain a deeper understanding of the text.

The Complete Guide to Literary Theory

Planning critical reading lessons can be time consuming. That’s why I created The Complete Guide to Literary Theory.

The Critical Reader's Guide to Literary Theory gives teachers & students background and practical applications to use literary theory to build critical reading skills.

This guide will streamline the planning process by providing you with a perspectives checklist that links to a variety of common perspectives. By completing this checklist, you will easily determine which perspectives apply to the work. Also included is a teacher’s guide for an easy-to-follow explanation of each perspective with suggested activities related to each perspective. You do not have to be an expert in literary theory to teach multiple perspectives!

Critical Reader’s Guides

You can also find complete Critical Reader’s units that are already developed to cover these multiple perspectives. These units include all materials necessary to develop, engage, and assess critical readers. I am working to develop new Critical Reader’s guides for all of our favorite works. I would love to hear your requests. You can email me at jennacopper@gmail.com.

The Critical Reader's series is a collection of resources designed to engage students in multiple perspectives analysis to create a classroom of critical readers.The Critical Reader's series is a collection of resources designed to engage students in multiple perspectives analysis to create a classroom of critical readers.The Critical Reader's series is a collection of resources designed to engage students in multiple perspectives analysis to create a classroom of critical readers.The Critical Reader's series is a collection of resources designed to engage students in multiple perspectives analysis to create a classroom of critical readers.The Critical Reader's series is a collection of resources designed to engage students in multiple perspectives analysis to create a classroom of critical readers.

Critical reading is the key your students need to unlock deeper understanding. Learn how to get started and download your free plan guide!

References

Appleman, D. (2009). Critical encounters in high school English: Teaching literary theory to adolescents.  New York: Teachers College Press.

Baker, L. (2002). Metacognition in comprehension instruction.  In C.C. Block & M. Pressley (Eds.), Comprehension instruction: Research-based best practices (77–95). New York: Guilford.

Barker, J. (1965).  The essay test in teaching the concept of literary analysis.  Testing in English. 52(5), 31-35. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Beach, R. (1993). A teacher’s introduction to reader-response theories. Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.

Beach, R., Appleman, D., Hynds, S., & Wilhelm, J. (2006). Teaching literature to adolescents. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Bloom, B.S. (1959). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: David McKay Company Inc.

Carr, K. S. (1988). How can we teach critical thinking?  Childhood Education, 65(2), 69-74. Retrieved from Platinum Periodicals.

Collins, N.D. (1993).  Teaching critical reading through literature.  Eric Digest. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Cox, R. & Lewis, S. (1974). The student critic.  Cambridge: Winthrop Publishers, Inc.

Faber, J. C. (2011). Re-envisioning the transaction: Literary theories in the high school English classroom. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest.

Golden, J., & Canan, D. (2004). “Mirror, mirror on the wall”: Readers’ reflections on literature through literary theories. English Journal, 93(5), 42-46. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Harper, H. (1998). Dangerous desires: Feminist literary criticism in a high school writing class. Theory into Practice, 37(3), 220-8. Retrieved from ERIC.

Knickerbocker, J., & Rycik, J. (2002). Growing into literature: Adolescents’ literary interpretation and appreciation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46(3), 1-14. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Muller, V. (2006). Film as film: Using movies to help students visualize literary theory. English Journal, 95(3), 32-38. Retrieved from Research Library.

Pace, B. (2006). Between response and interpretation: Ideological becoming and literacy events in critical readings of literature. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49(7), 584-594.

Parfitt, M. (1997). What kind of discourse?: Thinking it through. Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, 1-15. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Rozema, R. (2001) “Heart of darkness” webquest: Using technology to teach literary criticism. National Council of Teachers of English, 1-29. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Sagan, C. P. (2003). Sing a new song: A fresh look at literary criticism. English Journal92(6), 40.  Retrieved from Wilson Web.

Schade, L. (1996). Demystifying the text: Literary criticism in the high school classroom. English Journal, 85(3), 26.  Retrieved from Research Library.

Takolander, M. (2009). Energetic space: The experience of literature and learning. College Literature, 36(3), 165-183. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Troise, M. (2007). Approaches to reading with multiple lenses of interpretation. English Journal, 96( 5), 85-90. Retrieved from ProQuest database.

Wilhelm, J. D. (2009). The power of teacher inquiry: Developing a critical literacy for teachers. Voices from the Middle, 17(2), 36-39.  Retrieved from ProQuest database.

7 Cheap and Easy Ways to Build Your Classroom Library

Reading

When I decided to go all in with choice reading for my secondary English classes, I knew it was time to build my classroom library with intention. Up to that point, I had a classroom library that was really just there for looks. Some of my bookworm students would ask to borrow books, but I didn’t even have them organized in any logical manner (Gasp! I know! For an organization-obsessed teacher, I realize this is a cardinal sin!)

Building your classroom library can be both cost efficient and fun! Check out these 7 places to find cheap choice reading books for your secondary students.

When I experimented with choice reading last year, I instantly knew that this strategy was a winner for my students. There are so many benefits to a robust classroom library, but for me, I wanted to be able to give my students access to all of my favorite classic and young adult novels for their free choice reading assignment. I was lucky to inherit books from the teacher whom I replaced, but I still had a long way to go to acquire books that I wanted in that library. Over just a few months, I checked every major book and/or genre off my list and into my classroom bookshelves! Even better, I did it cheaply!

Here are seven of my best tips for building your classroom library and doing so in a way that won’t break the bank:

1) Ask your friends and family

This one seems obvious, but I didn’t think to do it until we were cleaning out our basement and we realized just how many books we had been hoarding! Unfortunately, most of those books were not what I needed for my classroom library (a lot of football coaching books and teaching trade books), but it made me wonder if other people had hoards of books as well. I started by asking my family members if they had any books they wanted to donate to my classroom. The response was incredible! I couldn’t believe how many people had hoarded books like we did.

The next step was reaching out to my friends. You may even find success if you write a public announcement on Facebook. It helps if you frame it like you’re hosting a book drive for your classroom library until such and such a date. People tend to be more likely to donate if you make it sound official and you give them a deadline.

2) Browse discount stores

Check any and all discount stores for the chance that you might find relevant books for your grade level. My husband and I found so many great deals on books at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet; we purchased eight brand new books for my library for $12!

3) Find used book stores

Yes, used book stores still exist, but you may have to do a little searching for them (and likely a little driving for them). It can be well worth it though. We discovered an awesome used book store at State College, PA. We turn in our used books to them and get credit for purchasing used books from their store. This summer, I was able to get six books for my classroom library on that credit. Granted we have to drive two and a half hours to get there, but in truth, we love any excuse to go to PSU.

4) Search buyer/seller networks

Facebook Marketplace, Amazon Used Books, Half.comhttp://www.half.ebay.com/ (an ebay Company), and Craigslist are great places to search for books. As a bonus, you don’t even have to leave your house! I tend to use these marketplaces when I have to have a specific book. Just make sure you check out the condition before buying online without seeing it.

5) Go to yard sales and flea markets

This option is hit or miss, but you might find other fun classroom decor or flexible seating options, so it’s definitely worth it.

6) Travel to book sales

We used to have an amazing book sale in a warehouse just down the street from our house. Sadly, the storage center was sold and the book sale ended. This lead me to try to find other book sales in our area. This is when I found an amazing website, Book Sale Finder. I’ve found two library book sales within an hour drive coming up in the next two weeks. Check this website out for sales in your state.

7) Stop by thrift stores

The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Goodwill, and other consignment stores often receive book donations. (This is where we donated ten boxes of our book hoard, so we know from experience.) In fact, when I asked my teacher friends on Instagram, they overwhelming responded with Goodwill as their go to.

I didn’t have a classroom library until my 6th year of teaching when I was hired at my new school and inherited books from the teachers whom I replaced. Even at that, during years 7 and 8 (year 8 was last year), my classroom library was more of a #classroomdecor piece than anything else. Last year, I studied choice reading for my secondary students, and it was a major success! So I decided it was time to put some ❤️ into my classroom library. With the help of my husband (a hs history teacher), I added SO many books to my classroom bookshelves this summer (ALL of the top ones on my initial wish list), and I did so REALLY inexpensively. Most books were under $2 and a lot were free! I wrote an article about our bookish adventures, so check it out if you’re looking to build your classroom library inexpensively. #linkinbio Where do you find inexpensive books? (Disclaimer: My students still were 💯% awesome critical thinkers when I didn’t have a functional classroom library.)
A post shared by Dr. Jenna Copper (Doc Cop) (@doc_cop) on

You can check out the full post and comments here.

Bonus: Find free eBooks

In my opinion, nothing beats a physical book and a bookshelf filled with your favorite books. Still, you can’t beat free. If your students have a SmartPhone, tablet, or computer with internet access, they can find thousands of eBooks for free. Project Gutenberg is my favorite for classics, but you can even find contemporary eBooks with a simple Google search.

Although it can be somewhat tiring, we find book hunting to be really fun. Who doesn’t love a good deal on a good book? When you do come across those treasures, don’t forgot to play the teacher card. You just might get an even better deal.  Good luck filling your bookshelves!

Building your classroom library can be both cost efficient and fun! Check out these 7 places to find cheap choice reading books for your secondary students.

 

Make the Best Decision: A Free Tool for Teachers and Students

Reading

It is an understatement to say that I’ve learned a lot from my dad. He can fix anything. I have this great memory of coming home from school to my dad sitting on the floor surrounded by the washing machine in about 1,000 pieces and thinking to myself, “There is no way this is ending well.” I won’t act like I didn’t hear any choice words whispered under his breath, but somehow the next day that washing machine was working like new. 

As a Father's Day tribute, this post explains dad's decision-making philosophy with a free tool to help you practice making the best decisions and teach your students to do the same. Apply this concept and tool to the real-world or the classroom!
In terms of his role in my life, he was (and still is) my coach, counselor, financial planner, mechanic, contractor, and for lack of a better term, my hero. Without getting too sentimental, I’d like to share one of the most important life tools that I learned from my dad: the Pro Con List. 

As a Father's Day tribute, this post explains dad's decision-making philosophy with a free tool to help you practice making the best decisions and teach your students to do the same. Apply this concept and tool to the real-world or the classroom!
 
It seems so simple, but it really has guided my decision making since I was a little girl. I’m not saying that you should make a pro con list for every decision (i.e. it’s not really necessary or advised to use it for deciding what to order at a restaurant). However, for important decisions, it has really, really helped me. 
 
I love it so much that I even created the “pretty” version you see above to use in my classroom (for reading and counselling). You can download it for free here. I print off a bunch and have them in my classroom in case a student comes to me with a difficult decision (e.g. What college should I go to?, Should I take AP next year?, etc.). I also use it as during reading and after reading activities. For example, when after reading part I of Antigone by Sophocles, I ask students to assume the role of Creon, the antagonist in the tragic Greek play. I ask them to complete a Pro Con list for Creon’s big decision: should he or shouldn’t he punish his niece, Antigone, for disobeying his edict? The students use the Pro Con list to determine what Creon should do. At the conclusion of the story, we revisit their Pro Con list and discuss what Creon should have or could have done differently based on their judgments. Not only are they addressing higher-order thinking skills, but the students are also learning and important life skill: decision making. As you can tell, the Pro Con List is a big time winner in my book.

As a Father's Day tribute, this post explains dad's decision-making philosophy with a free tool to help you practice making the best decisions and teach your students to do the same. Apply this concept and tool to the real-world or the classroom!

Here’s why I love it:

  1. It requires higher order thinking. Evaluating a decision and potential outcomes is one of the highest thinking skills on Bloom’s Taxonomy. 
  2. A Pro Con list makes the abstract, concrete. Decision making (and thinking in general) are abstract. However, once you put potential outcomes and realities on paper, it becomes concrete, hence helping you make better decisions.
  3. It’s universal. If you can write, you can do a Pro Con list. Adults and children alike can benefit from this practice.
  4. You have a record of what you were thinking long after the decision is relevant. I found a Pro Con list that I made years ago when I decided to go to pursue my doctorate in education instead of law school. Not only is it interesting to see how far you’ve come from that decision, but it is also validating to remember why you made that decision.
  5. It really does help you make the best decision, and even if it doesn’t work out perfectly, at least you know you made an informed decision.
Happy Father’s Day to one awesome dad! I love you!

As a Father's Day tribute, this post explains dad's decision-making philosophy with a free tool to help you practice making the best decisions and teach your students to do the same. Apply this concept and tool to the real-world or the classroom!


Best of luck with your next decision!

As a Father's Day tribute, this post explains dad's decision-making philosophy with a free tool to help you practice making the best decisions and teach your students to do the same. Apply this concept and tool to the real-world or the classroom!
 
 
 

10 Meaningful Graduation Gifts That Will Make an Impact

End of the Year, Reading

Graduation season is upon us, which means you’ve likely been invited to graduation parties for former students. No matter your philosophy about attending graduation parties, you most likely will find yourself in search of the perfect graduation gift for at least one special graduate. Of course, you can give money or a gift card, but it’s unlikely to make a lasting impression and the cost can quickly add up if you’re attending several (or many) graduation parties. One meaningful graduation gift that can make a true impact is a book picked specifically for that special student. With a personalized inscription in the front cover, the student will not only remember you when his or she picks up that book, but if you choose wisely, the meaning behind the book selection can become a special treasure. Plus, you’re a teacher, so books are kinda your thing!

Check out this post for ten meaningful graduation gifts for every student in your class. These ideas will make an lasting impact (but won't break the bank)!


The following list describes 10 books that are perfect for every student in your class. These books not only match with a particular interest, but they are really meaningful books for any reader (even you!). Most of them are so cost efficient you could even pair the book with another special trinket (as I explain for a few of them).

*Thank you to my husband (a social studies teacher) who helped me compile this book list!

For questioners:

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True by Richard Dawkins

Written by famous evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, this nonfiction book is the perfect gift for a student who asks insightful questions. I call these students “questioners” because they simply don’t stop questioning. To encourage them to keep asking those tough questions, give this book, which highlights many fascinating and challenging questions and their scientific answers, and rest assured their questions will keep coming.

For organization-fanatics (or students who need to become more organized):

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Mari Kondo

Taken from the title, life changing is just about the only way I can sum up this book! It is perfect for any organization fiend, like myself, or any student who needs a push in the right direction. This book would be perfect for a student who is ready to pack up his or her belongings and head to college. Need proof? Check out this post by B’s Book Love. She talks about how this book inspired her and her husband to downsize, and while you’re there, you can learn about how to apply it’s magic to your classroom.

For leaders:

Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success by John Wooden and Jay Carty

I read this book for the first time in one of my doctoral classes. The basic principles outlined in Coach Wooden’s pyramid can be applied to just about any life situation, which makes it a great gift for a graduate on your list, especially those leaders who may want personal and professional development.

For athletes and/or soon-to-be soldiers:

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by John Krakauer

Pat Tillman is one of my heroes, and his story, though tragic, is inspiring on so many levels. He was an NFL star who left the game (and millions of dollars) to respond to his personal call to serve his country after 9/11. His story will inspire your graduate to follow Tillman’s free spirit, patriotism, and heart.

For poets:

Poetry 180 by Billy Collins

This poetry collection by former American poet laureate, Billy Collins, is a collection of 180 contemporary poems that are accessible and impactful. One of my favorite poems in this collection is “Animals” by Miller Williams. This short poem that relates the lives of our pets to periods in our lives is just one example of the finely selected poems that are likely to engage new graduates.

For nature lovers:

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Your students may have touched upon transcendentalism in their American Literature class, but it’s not until they read Walden in its entirety will they understand the “truth in the quiet of nature.” As a bonus, this classic work is only $5, so you could pair it with a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a small plant.

For adventurers:

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

This classic novel is touted as one of the best adventure stories. As a bonus, it’s really cheap (like $3 cheap), so you could pair it with a compass as both a practical and meaningful gift to symbolize finding your way. Credit goes to my dear friend and colleague, Mrs. Mortimer, for the compass idea! She also makes beautiful t-shirts blankets that make beautiful graduation gifts and would be perfect for keeping warm on a chilly night by the campfire. You can find her on Instagram here.

For class clowns:

Connect Using Humor and Story: How I Got 18 Laughs and 3 Applauses in a 7 Minute Persuasive Speech by Mr Ramakrishna Reddy

This book is a great addition for anyone. It contains practical advice and step-by-step directions for using humor. Though it tops the list in price, it is worth it. Not to mention, you usually only have one class clown!

For future lawyers:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I got this idea from one of my former students. She loves this book so much that she asked me to read a chapter of it before I had even heard of it. When she stopped back the next period to talk about it, I had tears running down my face. It’s that good. Civil rights attorney, Bryan Stevenson, will make an impact with this book.

For aspiring educators:

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things by Robert Fulghum

What I like about this book is that it is a great first book to build a classroom library, and it contains important fundamental life advice.


Check out this post for ten meaningful graduation gifts for every student in your class. These ideas will make an lasting impact (but won't break the bank)!


I hope these ideas can help you give a special gift to your special graduate. You don’t have to be a teacher to give these books either! Don’t forget to write a special inscription in the front cover so the student knows why you picked that particular book for him or her.

Happy summer!