Characters from High School English Literature

As students enter the upper grades, reading and writing in the secondary school subjects becomes increasingly important and valuable to their education and to their future. The focus of the 6-12 ELA programs steers away from learning to read, towards strengthening and refining existing skills, and teaching students how to process complex information. Literature for middle school and literature for high school is increasingly more challenging.

Storyboard That has created resources and lesson plans for ELA 6-12, to help busy teachers add something fun and versatile to the secondary school curriculum. Our former classroom teachers have created teacher guides for books from a variety of genre types from historical fiction to non-fiction to fantasy. We also have plays, poems, and even well known speeches. The options for literature lesson plans for high & middle school are endless. Students will enjoy demonstrating what they've learned in any type of novel study, and the swaths of possibilities for different activities gives them independence to tailor their own learning! Browse our vast collection of Common Core aligned literature for secondary school below, and unlock creativity today!

Don’t see the books that you are teaching, but want to use our activities?
Check out our general novel study guide!


Historical Fiction / Memoir

Fantasy, Science Fiction, Epic Poetry


Short Stories

Poems, Speeches, & Letters

The Importance of Literature for Middle and Literature for High School Students

Teaching literature in the secondary school environment can be challenging for teachers. Students at this age may not find the material of older, classic novels relatable, and need more to keep them engaged. Storyboard That provides students with the opportunity to really show what they have learned through art, words, and storyboarding. Let’s face it: students love graphic novels. They love games and comics and being creative. There is no better way for them to express themselves than through art that they don’t have to draw themselves, and a variety of ways to write.

Middle School Reading Skills

After spending so many years focusing on learning to read and building comprehension skills, middle school is the time to develop more sophisticated reading skills that allow students to analyze and gain information from text. Here are the key components of middle school reading instruction:

  • Reading with a strategy is the first skill that students need to master. Sometimes students only need to skim an article, another type of text quickly, just to get the gist of what they need to know or look for certain information. Other times text needs to be read more carefully; being able to read with a purpose is an important skill.

  • As texts become more difficult, and students are reading to learn, comprehension is a skill that must continue to be fostered. Strong readers question as they read, and evaluate information critically. Middle school students learn to draw conclusions, make personal connections, and connect what they’ve read to prior knowledge.

  • As students read more and more, their vocabulary increases. At this stage of reading instruction, vocabulary is critical. Students learn to master vocabulary in certain content areas, as well as how to integrate new words into their own writing.

  • Once students master actually learning to read with decoding and other strategies, reading quickly becomes easier. To build speed and accuracy, students should read often and be able to answer questions about what they have read - ensuring that the information was comprehended.

  • Now that students have many years of reading experience, being able to respond to what they’ve read is a skill that is mastered in middle school. Students should be able to answer questions about the text in complete sentences and with textual evidence, and their writing should be organized and clear.

High School Reading Skills

As with middle school students, high schoolers most often read to learn, but novel studies continue to be an important part of growth and development when it comes to reading skills. Below are some of the skills that older students continue to master during their high school years.

  • The more that young adults read, the stronger their memory and retention skills become. Even with a simple book, students must keep track of characters, events in the story, and past actions. Memory is a powerful tool for young people and adults.

  • Critical thinking and analytical skills continue to strengthen during the high school years. Reading all genres, including fiction, opens the door to advanced critical thinking, which is applied in all areas of life.

  • Vocabulary continues to strengthen as students read more challenging and different types of texts in high school. A strong vocabulary is important for success in college and beyond.

The Importance of Differentiation

We create all of our teacher guides and activities with differentiation in mind. Every student learns differently, so we must provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Teachers today have to take into account so many different factors that go into preparing a lesson, because our student population is rapidly changing. Kids are no longer “tracked” in the traditional sense; instead, most of our classes have students with all kinds of learning abilities, including those who may need a little extra help accessing the curriculum.

Differentiated instruction has become a way for teachers not only to deliver the key concepts to all students, but also a way to scaffold their lessons so students of all abilities can demonstrate their understanding in the ways that best suit them.

What Kinds of Activities are Typically Included in the Guides?

While each secondary level teacher guide is made specifically for a particular novel or genre, there are many activities that we generally include, as they are core focuses in the English Language Arts classroom. Here are the activities that will most likely see in our teacher guides:

  • Creating a plot diagram not only helps students learn the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and helps students develop a greater understanding of literary structures. Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. In this activity, students will create a visual plot diagram of major events in the story. Students should identify major turning points in the novel such as the Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. For younger students, it may be helpful to complete a "Beginning, Middle, End" summary instead. Be sure to update the student instructions and template as necessary.

  • A very helpful tool to use while reading is the character map, although it can also be used after completing a book. In this activity, students will create a character map of the characters in the story, paying close attention to the physical attributes and the traits of both major and minor characters. They can also provide detailed information regarding the challenges the character faces, the challenges the character imposes, and the importance of the character to the plot of the story. To scaffold this activity, teachers can change the questions, add more questions (the character map layout can be found under "Scenes" -> "Patterns"), provide the names of characters they want students to track, or let students start from scratch! Teachers may also provide the visuals for each character or let students pick their own from the Characters tab.

  • Starting a unit or lesson with the key vocabulary terms aids in overall comprehension and retention. In addition, teachers may utilize this activity as students read so they can make visual vocabulary spider maps of new and unfamiliar terms as they encounter them. Students will create a storyboard that defines and illustrates key vocabulary found in the book. Each cell will contain a vocabulary term, its definition or description, and an appropriate illustration.

  • Novels often have a variety of themes, symbols, and motifs that students can identify and analyze. Theme in literature refers to the main idea or underlying meaning the author is exploring throughout a novel, short story, or other literary work. Symbolism in a story is when an object or situation is more than it appears on the surface. The author is using it to represent something deeper and more meaningful. For example, an object that is the color red might have a deeper meaning of passion, or love, or devotion attached to it. Motifs are a technique employed by the author whereby they repeat a certain element more than once throughout the course of the story. This element has symbolic significance and is meant to draw the reader's attention and illuminate a deeper meaning to the story as it is repeated. After identifying one or more themes, symbols, or motifs, students will create a spider map where they label, describe, and illustrate what they found!

  • Many novels and stories have examples of figurative language that enhance the reader's understanding and help them visualize the events of the story, the characters, their motivations and their emotions. Figurative language is a technique employed by the author to describe something by comparing it to something else. The words or phrases are not literal but use metaphors, similes, hyperboles, personification, and other examples to describe the object, feeling, or event they are talking about. In this activity, students will identify different instances of figurative language and illustrate the examples from the text. To scaffold or tailor this assignment, teachers may provide students with a list of figurative language elements in the text, or they may ask students to identify them on their own. They may also want students to explain the literal meaning of the element in addition to what it represents. Be sure to update the student instructions as necessary!

  • Having students choose a favorite quote or dialogue from the book allows them to express which parts of the story resonated with them on a personal level. In this way, students are making a text-to-self connection that demonstrates their understanding of the characters and their development or the themes of the novel. Students can share their storyboards afterwards and have a short discussion about what the quote or dialogue means to them and why they chose it.

  • The setting of a story is the location and time frame, or the where and when of the story. Settings often play a crucial role in the story as they influence the characters, their motivations, and their actions. The setting can also include the environment, like the weather or the social and political factors within the time period both locally and globally. Students can create a setting chart to identify the time and place of the story, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of the characters and their situation. If a story has multiple settings or time periods, they can also explain how those changes affect the characters and plot.

  • Movie posters are a fun way for students to boil down the most important aspects of a novel. After reading the novel, students will create a movie poster that showcases the setting, characters and a chosen scene or overarching themes of the story. Students can include the title and author of the book, a catchy tagline, and a "critic's review" informing the audience why they should go to see the movie and briefly describing the compelling story. For additional templates to add to this assignment, check out our movie poster templates! To scaffold or tailor this activity, teachers can choose to provide students with as little or as much information and text as they want! They may choose to add certain characters, items, and scenes to the template and require students to use only those, or let them build their poster from scratch.

  • Literary Conflict is often taught during ELA units. Building on prior knowledge to achieve mastery level with our students is important. An excellent way to focus on the various types of literary conflict is through storyboarding. In this activity, students will choose a type of literary conflict and illustrate examples from the text.

We are certain that you will find all kinds of creative activities within our teacher guides! There’s something for everyone!

How to Use Our Teacher Guides

When you click on a book title, you will be taken to the main teacher guide page. On that page you will find the following:

  1. A brief introduction paragraph. This gives you a quick synopsis of what you can expect to find in the guide.

  2. Several student activities for the book, all of which can be copied into your teacher dashboard with just a couple clicks! Once they are saved in your dashboard, you can edit, add, and tailor any part of the activity however you would like!

  3. Some ideas for essential questions that you can choose to use to guide your lessons.

  4. A summary of the book for teacher reference will be included in every novel teacher guide. Our summaries always contain spoilers, so we highly advise teachers not to share this information with students.

Once you have decided on an activity to use, click on the image and you will be taken to the activity page. All of our activities include the following:

  1. An activity overview that explains the activity and what the students will be expected to do. This is for reference only; you can use our activities however you’d like!

  2. A blank template is included for every activity. All of our templates can be edited to fit the needs of your students. You can even add multiple templates to an assignment, making differentiation a breeze!

  3. Our premade activities also come with a colorful, eye-catching example that was made by one of our former teachers who read the novel and created the teacher guide. We know how long it takes to make high quality examples to show your students. Now you don’t have to.

  4. We also include premade objectives and instructions for each activity. Of course, we know that teachers use various methods to explain information, so our objectives and instructions can be easily edited or deleted.

  5. All of our activities also include a lesson plan reference guide. This handy information includes suggested grade level, suggested type of assignment, difficulty level, and suggested Common Core standards. We often also include the activity type if it’s applicable.

  6. Last but not least, our activities come with a premade rubric. Rubrics come in all types; some are basic, and some are quite in depth. Our rubrics are designed to be a starting off point, or to be used as is, depending on your preference and needs. You can edit or copy our rubrics, or even create your own using Quick Rubric!

How to Copy an Activity

Copying an activity to your teacher dashboard is literally as easy as 1, 2, 3. Once you have chosen an activity to copy, you simply click on the orange “Copy Activity” button anywhere on the page. This will save a copy of the activity into your account. From there, you can make any changes you wish to make, assign it to classes, add more templates or edit the existing templates, allow students to collaborate, share the assignment link with students, and so much more. We’ve done the work so you don’t have to. We know you will love it.

Ideas for Post-Reading Activities

Storyboard That is an excellent tool for students to create fun and engaging projects as a culminating activity after finishing a novel. In addition to our premade activities, here are some ideas that teachers can customize and assign to students to spark creativity in individual students, pairs, or small groups for a final project. Several of these ideas include Storyboard That templates that can be printed out or copied into your teacher dashboard and assigned digitally. All final projects can be printed out, presented as a slide show, or, for an extra challenge, as an animated GIF!

  1. For Groups: Choose a scene from the story and write a short play to reenact to the class. Use the traditional storyboard layout to plan out your scenes. You can add text to your storyboards, or simply use the cells to visualize each scene of your play.

  2. Using the timeline layout, retell the story in chronological order. Our timeline layout gives you the options to include year, month, day, and even hour! You may also choose to omit these altogether.

  3. Choose a setting from the story and create a map of the setting using the small poster or worksheet layout. Use free form or other text boxes to include a key or label the different parts of the map.

  4. Using one of Storyboard That’s board game templates, create a game based on the book for your classmates to play!

  5. For Groups: Divide the chapters of the book amongst your group members. Each member of the group creates a storyboard for their assigned chapter. This can be done as a collaborative project, or separately for longer novels.

  6. Using the worksheet layout and Storyboard That’s worksheet assets, create a test or a quiz for other students in the class. You can create all kinds of questions such as multiple choice, short answer, and even matching! When you are done, be sure to make an answer key.

  7. Using one of Storyboard That’s biography poster templates, create a poster about the character of your choice. Be sure to include important biographical features such as: place and date of birth, family life, accomplishments, etc.

  8. Choose a chapter from the novel and create a storyboard that shows that chapter from another character’s point of view. For an extra challenge, use the T-chart layout to compare the original point of view with another character’s point of view!

  9. Create a book jacket of the novel using one of Storyboard That’s book jacket templates. Use Storyboard That art to create the cover, and write a summary of the story on the back, just like real books have!

  10. Using one of Storyboard That’s social media templates as a starting point, create a social media page for one or more of the characters in the novel. Be sure to think how the character thinks while creating this page.

  11. Create a scrapbook page made by one of the characters in the novel. Storyboard That has lots of premade templates that you can use as is, or change to fit your character’s personality! Check out our scrapbook templates today!

Other Teaching & Project Ideas

Frequently Asked Questions about 6-12 Literature

What are some popular books for middle school students?

What are some popular books for high school students?

What are the literature genres for grades 6-12?

As students get older, they are now learning to read to learn, as well as reading novels in literature class. Storyboard That has lessons for fiction, historical fiction and memoirs, fantasy, science fiction, epic poetry, plays, short stories, speeches, non-fiction, and more!

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