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Top 10 High School English Lesson Plans For Busy Teachers

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/27/2014

You're behind in your grading, but you feel a responsibility to provide a quality education for your students. Should you grade or teach? These high school English lesson plans allow you to do both.

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    Substitute Teacher Busy Work

    I was going to be sick the next day and I needed some substitute teacher busy work fast, so I hunted down the school's most popular English Language Arts substitute teacher and asked her for some substitute teacher busy work ideas. She handed me 10 lesson ideas that were more than just busy work: They were educational.

    I changed the name of them to high school English lesson plans for busy teachers, volunteered to do an inservice on English lesson plans for busy teachers, and became the star of the school.

    I now share my English lesson plans for busy teachers, and you can be the star of your school.

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    1. Crossword Puzzles: These have been a busywork classic for decades, and now they can be educational. Go to and make your own puzzle with questions aligned to your course objectives.
    2. Crossword Puzzles Part 2: Don't feel like making your own crossword puzzle? Have students make it. Make a crossword template on Microsoft Word. Choose the number of rows and columns, print it out, make copies, and hand them out. You choose the topic and give them an example. You catch up on your grading and they develop research and questioning skills.
    3. Fallen Phrase Puzzles: Why students will spend hours of concentrated thought on solving a puzzle that's ten times harder than an assignment they'll pay no attention to is beyond the scope of these lesson ideas. Fallen phrase puzzles, also available at, make an excellent assignment for students who finish crossword puzzles too fast.
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    1. Test Making: Require students to write their own test. Multiple choice test questions take a long time to write and they involve reading for detail and determining what information is most important. Be specific on the material to be covered and what the focus of the questions should be.
    2. Open-Ended Questions: Write the answer to 20 questions on the board. Assign students to come up with the 20 questions.
    3. Vocabulary Questions: Have students write a list of 20 questions they would ask a literary character/famous person/teacher/pretty much anybody. Their questions must contain at least one vocabulary word. Have students exchange papers and answer ten of those questions as if they were that person. Those sentences, too, must include vocabulary words.
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    1. Skits: Have students prepare skits using vocabulary words. The skits take about 35 minutes to prepare, 10 minutes total to perform, and 3 seconds to grade.
    2. Vocabulary Drawings: Assign each student two vocabulary words. For each word they must draw a colorful picture, include a sentence, the definition, and an example.
    3. Story Maps: Assign reading. Have students complete a story map.
    4. Cornell Notes: For days you don't feel like lecturing, make students read the information and take Cornell Notes. When you review the notes, read student-generated questions to make sure important information is covered.
    5. Timed Writing: You don't even have to grade it. Practicing timed writing serves a purpose. It gets students used to the standardized testing environment.
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