Middle School Student Reading Assessment

Earlier this May I had read a post from Isabelle Popp on Book Riot, “What Do Your Favorite Books Say About You?” Intrigued by this article I found myself thinking this prompt would make a great opening narrative essay assessment and assignment for students. And a reading assessment came to fruition.

I have scaffolded the article for students to explore what their favorite books say about them as readers, writers, and individuals. My plan is for this assignment to be an un-graded pre-assessment of their reading and writing skills. I can use the data from their essays to map out writing lessons for the school year and learn about their reading habits. I made a same organizer for myself as a model for students.

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Back to School Stranger Things Themed Syllabus & Opening Day Activities

It’s a syllabus.

It is a hyperdoc.

It’s a menu of opening day activities for students.

Actually, it is all three rolled into one.

I saw a class syllabus from @MrsGearheart laid out like a game board with station activities for each part of the syllabus. Students read and complete the syllabus to earn badges. I loved the format but was thinking how to personalize it for my middle school students. And wallah, here is the syllabus, hyperdoc, and first days of school menu choice board for students to complete. The syllabus covers about the teacher, class expectations, each of the units we will complete throughout the year, information about standards based grading, and classroom policies.

Rather than the badges, that @MrsGearheart created – and there are a lot. I have paired down a menu of activities for students to complete the first two days of classes. For the appetizers, students choose one to complete and share about themselves with the whole class. Thinking in different formats, students can either create an infographic about themselves using Adobe Express or can conduct an interview with a peer on Flip(grid). The main course is an assignment that all students will do the end of the week. It will not be a graded assignment but will help me learn about students’ reading and writing skills, likes, and literary influences. I will share that assessment in next week’s blog post. For dessert, these are short activities to help students get comfortable with the tech platforms I use weekly and also tell me more about themselves. I am a dessert person so I thought, why not complete all these activities. I think students will be able to do the appetizers and desserts over two 40 minute class periods. If you would like a copy of this template, you can click here.

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Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Picture Books at the New York Historical Society

Bryan Collier (American, born 1967), UntitledAll Because You Matter, 2020, written by Tami Charles, collage. Collection of the artist.

The poignant installation “Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Picture Books at the New York Historical Society explores the events, people, and themes of the civil rights movement through the children’s picture book.

Picture books are compelling forms of visual expression not just for young children. This exhibition showcases 80 artworks from picture book artists who interweave art and storytelling, history and now. Looking at the excerpts from many pictures books around the themes of the civil rights movement provides depth, diverse voices, and powerful meanings. The stories presented inspire young people and viewers to speak up and speak out as agents of transformation and social change. The exhibit tells important stories about the movement’s icons, including Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Congressman John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scenes are presented of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Ruby Bridges integrating her New Orleans elementary school, and the Black students who catalyzed the sit-in movement at the segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Some of the many highlighted illustrators and authors include Faith Ringgold, Brian Pinkney, Nadir Nelson, Jacqueline Woodson, and many more.

Picture the Dream is an open invitation to start important discussions with children, friends, and family about race, equity and social justice. Take a look at a list of all the books in the show and here is the family discussion guide created by High Museum of Art in Georgia. You can also find lesson plans and a powerpoint of 19 key images from the exhibit in this teacher resource kit.

Here are some ways I use picture books with my middle school students to present key themes and scaffold complex ideas.

  1. Read Alouds – Don’t just leave read aloud to elementary school teachers, in secondary education reading aloud picture books help to create a classroom community and build multimodal comprehension skills. Images and words work side by side to communicate a message. Read aloud can be used to hook students into a lesson or even useful as a teaching point during a mini-lesson.
  2. Gallery Walks – Images are powerful storytelling tools. Just like in a museum exhibit, hanging up the images from the picture books can allow students to read closely, infer the dialogue, and convey meaning from the visual text.
  3. Small Group Work – I often during station work leave a collection of picture books at one station for students to read, evaluate, and analyze to pull out key details and draw connections. Scaffolding guiding questions help students look closer at the images and text and the story presented. I might ask students what do they see, what does it say, what do I think, and continue with sentence frames or specific questions to climb the ladder of critical thinking.
  4. Jigsaws – Each student reads a different picture book along the same theme or topic and then shared the powerful elements of the story with the small group. Students put their heads together to make connections and draw conclusions about the bigger questions presented in the texts.

 

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Literacy Tools & Strategies to Support SEL with ISTE U

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I’m presenting on Literacy Tools and Strategies to Support Social Emotional Learning at ISTE U’s Summer Learning Academy 2022. This professional learning opportunity allows educators to learn at their own pace about the topics we all care about, now through Oct. 14. For $64 you have can access to amazing professional development. More at iste.org/sla.

Check out the Padlet of curated resources related to my presentation on SEL with teaching tools, strategies and related research.

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Enhancing Meaning Making with These 4 Graphic Organizers

I am a big proponent of graphic organizers to help students organize and visualize information. Graphic organizers are helpful to outline a writing task or showcase understanding during reading. Jay McTighe and Harvey Silver write in Teaching for Deeper Learning (ASCD, 2020), “The use of graphic organizers enhances meaning making and promotes deep understanding of critical content – especially when reinforced through questioning and summarizing.”

In 8th grade I begin the school year providing graphic organizers for all students to utilize and access to organize content information. I share and utilize different organizers with each assignment. Sometimes I might demonstrate filling out the organizer and use think aloud to show students the process of making meaning using graphic organizers. Slowly, using gradual release, I encourage students to create their own graphic organizers in the second semester of the school year. The first twenty weeks of school students have curated a toolkit of strategies and organizers for to choose which are the best to create based on the assignment and learning goals.

Here are four different organizers that are the go-tos for note making and organizing information.

  1. It Says, I Say, So What – Taken from Smoky Daniels, this three column organizer helps students record the literal details of a text, make connections and inferences. Inferences are hard for many students, especially struggling readers, because the text does not explicitly say. To make an inference students combine what the text says with what they know to come up with the answer. They need a scaffold, something that visualizes and helps students internalize the process of how to infer. The It Says—I Say chart helps students finally see a structure for making an inference.
It Says – Find information from the text that stands our or addresses a question. I Say – Think about what you know about the information. So What – Combine what the text says with what you know
to come up with the answer.

2. Window Notes/Organizer – Jay McTighe and Harvey Silver introduced this type of note making in Teaching for Deeper Learning (ASCD, 2020)Window Notes at its core is an invitation to think actively, to express curiosity, and to use prior knowledge and personal feelings to help construct meaning during note making process. Students use a window shaped organizer that encourages them to collect four different kinds of notes: 1. Facts: What are the important facts and details? 2. Questions: What questions come to mind? What am I curious about? 3. Connections: How does this relate to my experiences or to other things I have learned? 4. Feelings and reactions: How do I feel about what I am learning?”

3. Know. Question. Reflect. New Questions (KQRN) – I am over KWL charts. I think they work well in elementary school but when I see them utilized in middle and high school, we are not asking students to use higher level thinking. Here is a blog post I wrote ten years ago with alternatives to the KWL. What are some other organizers that are alternatives to the KWL and activate schema at the same time? The KQRN. This is another note making organizer that helps students extend their thinking about an idea or concept. Now with any of these organizers, the teacher wants to model for students how to complete these graphic organizers with examples and think alouds.

4. Character Traits Organizer – Characterization and theme are two key elements we study when reading literature in 8th grade English. Characterization refers both to the personality of a character and the way in which an author reveals that personality. A character’s personality is made up of different qualities, or character traits, that the reader discovers as the work unfolds. An author often gives characters several different traits to make them seem real and believable. Helping students develop the language to describe character traits and read to identify character traits is necessary to work on throughout the school year. Characterization leads to insight and inferences about theme. I have a stand alone organizer for character traits but also have created a hyperdoc based on the short story Raymond’s Run by Toni Cade Bambara that scaffolds the entire process of curating character traits then building out a written response about characterization as it impacts theme.

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The Game Box

I love playing games in my classroom. I create games as well as use board games and dice games to create engaging learning experiences for my students. When I started presenting workshops on gamification in the classroom, I found this great carry-all storage box to hold all the gaming paraphernalia from classroom to workshop space. Here is a similar one at Michaels and it is under twenty dollars.

Now, the contents:

Dice – Dice are great for think-dots activities, random rolls, story cubes, roll and tell, dice breakers. I have foam dice, Rory’s Story Cubes for writing prompts, and metaphor dice for poetry and figurative language review. I keep extra dice from board games like the ones pictured above from Legends of Hidden Temple which have pictures of animals on the dice.

Play Dough – Looking for a quick do-now for your students to showcase their thinking or an idea, use play dough. It is perfect for students with sensory and kinesthetic needs. Students can recreate a scene from their reading using play dough or create a sculpture of a symbol that represents the text. Edutopia has an article with fifteen ways to use play dough in secondary classrooms. I like giving students their own individual play dough and then having a gallery walk after they make their sculpture individually or in small groups.

Lego Mini-Figures – Legos are also great for building representations or showcasing a scene from a book students are reading. I carry around a small tackle box filled with mini figure parts for building avatars. Avatars are often a game mechanic to allow personalization in a game, you can choose the gender and adapt it’s appearance, from skin and hair color to dress code typically. I provide students with an opportunity to create and design their own avatar and then write the backstory of the avatar: who are they, where are they from, what are their strengths and weaknesses?

Hot Potato – The hot potato was something that I had to have because it is perfect for passing around the classroom or in small groups to share ideas and thinking. This toy shakes after a certain period of time and when it shakes, the student who is holding the potato is the speaker. I often have sentence or question starters for students when in small groups to select who will share next.

Stickers – Stickers can be used as rewards or badges when playing a game. I have been using Sticker Mule the past few years to personalize stickers for my classroom. The stickers that are on the top of the game box are from the television game show Legends of Hidden Temple. The image is of Olmec. Outside of Legends of Hidden Temple, the Olmec colossal heads are the most famous artifacts left behind by the Olmec civilization. The Olmec people are believed to have occupied a large part of modern-day Southern Mexico. Olmec was part of Legends of Hidden Temple and the sticker, personalized on Sticker Mule is a “The Pendant of Life.” If a student wins the pendant of life, they can use it for a free pass on an assignment.

If I could fit more into the game box, I probably would. I do have all my board games and card games in a different bin. I will save my favorite board games and card games for another blog post. For now, stock up and get some of these gaming elements to bring some fun and friendly competition into your own classroom.

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13 Young Adult Books With Teen Writers

Writing is a powerful thing. If we want to inspire students to write, we can use young adult fiction with protagonists who write to encourage and arouse the writers within all our students. I just finished reading Jeff Zentner’s In the Wild Light and found myself dog-earing so many pages with powerful passages and statements about a writer’s life.

“We think language as this tame thing that lives in neat garden beds, bound by rules and fences. Then someone shows it to you growing wild and beautiful, flowering vines consuming cities, erasing pavement and lines. Breaking though any fence that would try to contain it. Reclaiming. Reshaping. Reforming. In my life, I’ve never known anything else that felt so full of infinite possibility. Words make me feel strong. They make me feel powerful and alive. They make me feel like I can open doors. (Zentner (2021:264)

Here are 13 young adult books that offer teen protagonists who write:

Cash Pruitt is the protagonist in Jeff Zentner’s In The Wild Life by (2021). Cash loves his rural Tennessee hometown, his grandparents who raised him after his mother died of an overdose, and his best friend Delaney Doyle, a science genius whose boundless knowledge of the natural world fills him with wonder. Both children of an opioid-addicted parent, Delaney and Cash have a deep bond and when Delaney’s scientific discovery – a mold with powerful antibiotic properties – both are awarded scholarships at a prestigious boarding school in Connecticut. Cash worries his grandfather, who has emphysema, will die while he is away at school, but accepts the scholarship. At school he takes a poetry class that shows him the power of language to reshape experiences of pain and fear into beauty. As in Zentner’s earlier works, grief is a central theme explored in many forms.

In the YA novel Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink (2021) Angel and Isaiah are two young Black teenagers living in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma in the days leading up to the Tulsa Race Riot and massacre. The two come together for a summer job running a mobile library, delivering books to poorer black areas. Despite early contention and philosophical differences (Angel is a follower of the more conservative Booker T. Washington; Isaiah prefers the teachings of the more revolutionary WEB De Bois) the two fall in love as the world around them begins to catch fire. Isaiah writes poetry throughout the story and it is great to see a young man use poetry as a form of expression.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone (2018) using letter writing and journaling to understand Justyce McAllister, a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend. None of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Jaqueline Woodson is an amazing young adult author who has powerful stories to tell. In her book From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun (2010) addresses what it means to be a family. Melanin Sun has a lot to say. But sometimes it’s hard to speak his mind, so he fills up notebooks with his thoughts instead. He writes about his mom a lot–they’re about as close as they can be, because they have no other family. So when she suddenly tells him she’s gay, his world is turned upside down. And if that weren’t hard enough for him to accept, her girlfriend is white. Melanin Sun is angry and scared. How can his mom do this to him– is this the end of their closeness? What will his friends think? And can he let her girlfriend be part of their family?

The Diary of Anne Frank is a classic. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (2020) has won the National Book Award and the Printz Award. The book is told in poetry. Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.  With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (2018), Cath is a Simon Snow fan. For Cath, being a fan is her life―and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words.

Ava Dellaira’s  Love Letters to the Dead (2015) begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did.  Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more–though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her.  Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was–lovely and amazing and deeply flawed–can she begin to discover her own path

Newbery Medal Winner, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2010) begins shortly after a fall-out with her best friend. Sixth grader Miranda starts receiving mysterious notes, and she doesn’t know what to do. The notes tell her that she must write a letter—a true story, and that she can’t share her mission with anyone. It would be easy to ignore the strange messages, except that whoever is leaving them has an uncanny ability to predict the future. If that is the case, then Miranda has a big problem—because the notes tell her that someone is going to die, and she might be too late to stop it. 

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea in Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia (2019). When a new boy at school tempts Eliza to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble. In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace transfers to her school and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. 

In Riley Redgate’s Final Draft (2018) the only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he’s suddenly replaced–by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed. At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. 

Natalie’s best friend, Zoe, is sure that the novel Natalie’s written is good enough to be published. But how can a twelve-year-old girl publish a book? Natalie’s mother is an editor for a big children’s publisher, but Natalie doesn’t want to ask for any favors. The School Story by Andrew Clements is 20 years old but a perfect read for 5th and 6th graders. Zoe’s brilliant idea is that Natalie can submit her manuscript under a pen name, with Zoe acting as her literary agent. Can Natalie and Zoe pull off their masquerade?

What happens if your notebook ends up in the wrong hands? Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy (1964) is about Harriet  M. Welsch, a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Despite being written decades ago, there are some key themes about friendship that are worth noting.

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Organizing A Day of Service for Students

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Looking ahead to the final day of school, my colleague came up with the idea of hosting a walk-a-thon for students to be outside and raise money for a community organization. Thinking about would everyone be able to walk, we expanded the day to offer multiple community service projects for 8th-grade students to help many community organizations. We wanted to end the year by taking time to focus on helping others and making a difference in the community. 

Many of the families in our school help to donate items when we hold school wide drives but community service is voluntary time, without compensation, spent on selfless acts which benefit the school or wider community. In addition to donating items like clothes, food, and toys, we wanted our students to serve the local or global community in a positive way. Many high schools require some community service hours for graduation but why not start sooner with young people. Community service fosters responsibility, understanding, and leadership.

The last day of school is actually a half day and students will have twenty minute periods. As a team, 80 minutes in total. Why not spend the final 80 minutes of team time participating in service projects? All of the activities will be held at school. After contacting community organizations and brainstorming possible service activities, using a Google Form students selected three activities they wished to participate in. Additionally, we asked the Parent Organization to get involved and they also donated pizza after the Day of Service for the 8th graders. 

Here are the activities we have planned: 

Dog Toys for Animal Shelters: Braid pull toys for animal shelter dogs at Incredible Pups Pet Rescue in Poughkeepsie.

Art for Osborn: Create works of art to share with the Osborn community. Brighten the day of a senior 

Meals on Main Street: Stock the mobile food pantry truck before it goes out to do a pop-up pantry.

Spice Care Packages for Afghan Families: Help organize spice care packages for local Afghan families

Sandwich Making: Prepare sandwiches for a local homeless shelter.

Soul Ryeders: Design drawstring bags and friendship rocks for kids going to summer camp 

Book Drive & Personalized Bookmarks: Curate books for donations to community centers and schools. Create personalized bookmarks to send messages of encouragement and reading to recipients. 

Book Swap: Work the First Annual RMS Book Swap, helping 6th and 7th graders pick summer reading books. 8th-grade RMS families have donated these books. 

School Supplies Drive & Organization: Help to organize school supplies to be distributed to students in need in the new school year. 

Moving Up Ceremony Graphic Design: Help make signage for Moving Up Ceremony

RMS Clean Up: Clean out lockers and help identify the lockers with graffiti that need cleaning

Make Fleece Blankets for Children Blythedale Hospital

Lastly, we asked every student to bring a box of dry cereal to be donated to a local community organization to distribute during the summer to the food insecure. Emailing families with the details and reminders helped us to collect donations of books, school supplies, cereal, and t-shirts to use for the dog toys. We are excited to kick off this Day of Service which we hope can be an annual event.

Numerous studies report the benefit of community service among teens. Researchers also found that community service enhanced students’ problem-solving skills, improved their ability to work within a team, and plan more effectively. Social emotional development is integrated through service and service learning programs. Participating in community service does widen a student’s world view and give them context for how the world around them functions. Students are building social emotional lifeskill like

  • Decision making 
  • Empathy 
  • Leadership 
  • Critical thinking 

New York Times Editorial Contest for Students

The the past five years The New York Times has hosted an editorial contest for middle and high school students. Students are asked to submit 500 word opinion editorial about an issue that matters to them. The newspaper’s website actually invites teenagers to share their opinions about questions NYT pose — and hundreds do, posting arguments, reflections and anecdotes. The contest is a bit more formal and open to all students ages 10-19. You can find the complete rules to the student contest HERE.

This NYT writing contest is a great teaching tool for writing and reading units of study. Persuasive writing is a key standard and learning target within the Common Core and Next Generation Literacy Standards. We are ending the school year with a mini-inquiry into editorial writing. First, students were immersed in a variety of NYT student writing contest winners and then students will write their own 500 word editorial.

The assignment has been adapted from the contest requirements and I have provided students with a graphic organizer to help start their writing. The student’s editorial is based on a culminating social studies podcast project that my humanities colleagues have created:

Task: Create a podcast with a team of students (of no more than three) that finds a thread in history and follows that thread through. Explore a current events topic and trace the history of that topic throughout time.

What is a “Throughline”? 

A Throughline is a theme, plot, or characteristic that connects stories together. Throughlines help the viewer or reader do a few things: understand the theme/character better over time, layer experiences, make predictions, and become invested in the story.


For example: Take the enduring issue of inequality and the topic of Black representation in Congress. Look all the way back to Reconstruction to the first African American man in Congress and trace the story of Black representatives and senators throughout our history and discuss why this unequal representation exists.

Utilizing the research completed for the podcast project, students are taking a particular stance on their podcast project.

For example: If students are researching and creating a podcast on the similarities between George Floyd and Emmitt Till, their editorial might address how history repeats itself or the failures of the American justice system, students might write about how racism still exists and Black Lives Matter.

Each student brainstormed five different perspectives about their podcast topic. Together, social studies and English are working collaboratively to support student research, writing, speaking, listening, reading, and digital literacy skills. Research must be done, facts are collected, evidence is weighed and carefully selected. To strengthen an argument further, a counter point is added and debunked. Students are motivated by topics they have selected and are using their voice to persuade others.

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For Stranger Things Fans Who Want More

This weekend marks the final season of Stranger Things. The first part of final season was be released on Friday, May 27, 2022 and the second part of the finale will be released in July. This 80s ode sci-fi horror series was created by brothers, Ross and Matt Duffer and streams on Netflix. The series first aired in 2016 and centers around a group of “nerdy” friends living Hawkins, Indiana who love playing Dungeons and Dragons. Then they meet a girl with psychokinetic abilities and strange things happen keep happening. Think 80s films ET and War Games meets Goonies, the series is part adventure, investigative drama with supernatural elements and government conspiracies.

I have used Stranger Things episodes with in the media literacy course I teach in middle school to help teach storytelling, allusions, director moves, and suspense. There are many scenes that borrow from iconic films from the 1980s and pay homage to director like Steve Spielberg (ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and John Hughes (Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club), writers Stephen King (IT and “The Body” ie. Stand By Me) and RL Stine (The Goose Bumps Series).

The fourth and final season of Stranger Things does not disappoint. It has taken a clear horror turn clearly influenced by Body Snatchers, Poltergeist, and The Shining. Once you binge the first part of Season Four and have four weeks to wait for the July release of the final episodes, what are you going to watch, read and listen to when you want more. Lots more.

Well, here is a list of what you can read, watch, and listen to while you wait patiently.

  1. You cannot deny that 80s music comes to the forefront of the final season. Music is in every scene to build suspense, set the mood, and even parallel character development. TAMARA FUENTES writes for Cosmopolitan Magazine and provides links and background information on Season 4 Stranger Things Soundtrack.
  2. According to his publishers, R.L. Stine invented the teen horror genre with Fear Street, the bestselling teen horror series of all time. He also changed the face of children’s publishing with the mega-successful Goosebumps series, which went on to become a worldwide multimedia phenomenon. Guinness World Records cites Stine as the most prolific author of children’s horror fiction novels. If you haven’t read any of R.L. Stine’s books you might want to check them out.
  3. Think teen horror is too light and looking for something to scare the begeezies out of you? Check out Stephen King‘s short stories, books, and movies. He has since published over 50 books and has become one of the world’s most successful writers. King is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to the American Letters and the 2014 National Medal of Arts.
  4. Satan Panic in the 1980s. Season 4 Episode One introduces panic in the town of Hawkins, Indiana when two teens end up dead. One theory is that these teens were possessed by a demon. In fact, the popular game Dungeons and Dragons is criticized by mass media and hysteria as a demonic game that brainwashes children — sound familiar? This idea of teens brainwashed by games, music, and videos games continues to persist today. Back to Stranger Things Season 4. The Duffer Brothers are not making anything up. According to Vox.com, “one of the most famous, prolonged mass media scares in history, Satanic Panic was characterized at its peak by fearful media depictions of godless teenagers and the deviant music and media they consumed. This, in turn, led to a number of high-profile criminal cases that were heavily influenced by all the social hysteria.” Most people associate the Satanic Panic with so-called “satanic ritual abuse,” a rash of false allegations made against day care centers in the ’80s. Crime Reads gives more of the background on this panic that shook the world.
  5. Rewatch Stranger Things Season 1-4.
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