My Top 10 Posts of 2021

And we thought 2020 was a doozy! And yes it was, but 2021 threw us our fair share of challenges. And I think it’s fair to say that most of those challenges, if not all, can be traced to COVID and its ongoing effects. For me, the biggest challenge of all has been student apathy… just a lack of curiosity, a lack of drive, a lack of motivation on the part of many (most?) students.

That being said, student apathy does, ironically, motivate me to be more curious, to delve into new approaches, open up new literature, try new apps, or just lean harder into the tried-and-true.

For that reason, I’m really glad I have been adding to my blog on a near weekly basis since summer 2017.

Marilyn Yung
Good ol’ school pictures! Here I am in early September 2021.

This blog keeps me grounded, organized, reflective, and grateful for what I do. And THANK YOU for responding and reading regularly. That, my friends, makes it all worthwhile. Your views, visits, comments, feedback, and downloads keep me here, so I’ll say it again: THANK YOU!

I’ve compiled this post to put into one place my most-read posts of 2021. I hope you find these helpful, and I really hope you’ll skim through these titles and make sure you haven’t missed any that will help you be a more effective and confident teacher in 2022. Thanks again!

Without further ado, here are my top ten posts of 2021!

book bento

1. Book Bentos: My First Attempt

To conclude first quarter, my independent reading class usually produces some kind of summative project for a book they read during the previous eight weeks. This fall, instead of the usual book report, I came across the “book bento” idea in a private Facebook group. It basically takes the look of a bento, a common Japanese to-go meal, and applies it to a book. Instead of an arrangement of individual food portions, it’s an arrangement comprised of a book surrounded by tangible objects that connect to the book.

Find this Instagram account, @bookbento for lots of examples from…

2. Where I’m From Poems

George Ella Lyons

“Where I’m From” poems are perfect for going back to school! Read on to get acquainted with this awesome poem that every teacher I know raves about.

Have you heard of George Ella Lyon? She’s an American writer and teacher from Kentucky who wrote a poem several years ago called “Where I’m From.”

To get started, I read aloud Lyons’ “Where I’m From” poem as a mentor text and then I follow that up with reading three or four poems from former students. Then I pass out a template and…

3. Corona Virus Acrostic Poems

Students wearing Covid masks

My students learned at home from March 17 through May 14, 2020 when the school year officially ended. As part of their distance learning back then, I asked students to write a couple of paragraphs every other day or so for a “Life in the Time of Corona” journal. This journal documented their personal experience during the global pandemic.

I got the idea for students to create these journals thanks to a tweet from Kelly Gallagher in March of 2020, just when things were really starting to slide downhill pandemic-wise. Here’s the assignment sheet I created…

4. Canterbury Tales Resources

Canterbury Cathedral

On Friday last week, as we transitioned from a study of The Canterbury Tales to Le Morte d’Arthur, it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to share with you the resources I used and/or created to teach the tales. Here are six of them presented in the order that they fit into my lesson plans…

5. Pros and Cons of Padlet

Students working on a laptop

Yesterday, I wrote about six assignments I am using to test-drive the discussion board app called Padlet. Click here for a link to that post. Read on for my first impressions in the form of pros and cons.

While I’m using it now for distance learning during my school’s COVID-19 closing, I really think it will have more optimal use in the classroom.

6. Exploding a Moment with Barry Lane

Photo by Francis Seura on

This year, we wrote out an exploded moment instead of just watching one be narrated in a video. Last Tuesday, I planned an activity for my seventh- and eighth-grade classes that worked so well, I knew I had to share. We exploded a baseball moment.

“Exploding a moment “ is what writing teacher Barry Lane calls it when…

7. Teaching Transitions in Writing, Part 1, updated June 2021

Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson

Don’t teach just transition words… teach transition ideas as well.

Note added on June 5, 2021: I often go back to my previous blog posts and see the details of how I taught a certain book or writing mini-lesson. In fact, I recently did that with this post. In April, I was working with my junior English classes and I used the photos from Chasing Lincoln’s Killer as examples of ways to connect the six essays they had compiled for their “Transcendentalism and the American Identity” essays. Having this blog post handy helped them see actual examples from the “real world” of ways to connect their essays into a cohesive whole. This is another way to show students that their sentences, paragraphs, and even sections of an essay should “hold hands” for better flow and clarity, as the text They Say, I Say suggests. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. 

I taught this book for eight years in my middle school ELA classes. It’s such a ride! Plus, when you read it as a writer,…

8. My First Attempt at Teaching The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

My resources, my reservations, and my main reason to teach this book again

Right now, at my new teaching position at a rural high school in Missouri, one of my junior/senior level electives classes is reading The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. If you’re unfamiliar with The Red Badge of Courage, it’s a Civil War novel first published in 1895 that explores the effects of war on a young man named Henry Fleming.

According to this Glencoe Literature Library Study Guide, “The Red Badge of Courage is a profile of an inexperienced young soldier undergoing his first experience of battle. ‘The youth’ in the novel, Henry Fleming, makes a journey of self-discovery…

9. Use This Movie to Teach High School Writers How to Explode a Moment

The Natural starring Robert Redford

For some reason, young writers seem to want to write as little as possible when describing a scene. They’re too busy. Too distracted. Or they think the reader will be able to read their minds. Whatever. I often read descriptions from students as sparse as this example: I shot the ball and it went in and everybody freaked out.

However, when kids see the effectiveness of exploding a moment… making it come alive with slow-motion action, they’ll surprise themselves with how much description they can…

10. This Back-to-School One-Pager Works Wonders

Back-to-School One-Pager

Get to know your in-class and remote learners quickly. Thanks to Spark Creativity! for this awesome “biographical one-pager” idea that I used last week when school started on Thursday. Read this blog post for all the details and printable downloads.

As a mentor or example, I projected mine (see above) on the whiteboard and we talked about the details I chose to share…

Marilyn Yung

Thanks for checking in! Please feel free to leave a comment below or on my Contact Page. I’m always interested in what you’re doing in your classroom to motivate and challenge your students.

In addition, stay tuned for more poetry posts! I have THOROUGHLY ENJOYED my new poetry class this year and I have so many ideas, prompts, and contest information to share with you. Become a follower, sign up for emails below (and I’ll send you a Treasured Object Poem handout in return!), or bookmark my site to catch those posts! Have a great third quarter!

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Published by Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

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