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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: Lesson Plan Ideas

Updated on May 16, 2015

The issues featured in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak can be viewed as controversial for classroom subject. However, this is an important piece of literature that realistically portrays some common issues adolescents face in school today. As with any text, teachers should completely familiarize themselves with the novel so that they will be prepared to answer any questions from students and/or parents.

When researching lesson ideas it is important to find material that is sensitive to the subject matter but still engages students and inspires analytical thought and debate. This is especially true when tackling complex issues like rape, sexual harassment, depression, and bullying that are focal themes of the novel Speak. I carefully chose the following teaching material because it consists of dynamic and diverse activities, as well as conversational topics, that encourage judgment-free discussions, close examination and critical analysis of the text.

“You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.”
Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak


Speak Lesson Plans

Penguin Classroom has teaching plans to accompany Laurie Halse Anderson’s novels. This novel companion includes the Common Core Standards that align with each lesson. The list for Speak is brief but I found some of the ideas useful. It includes thought-provoking pre-reading activities to introduce students to the social issues in Speak.

Various suggested activities for Speak include:

  • Group discussions
  • Essay prompts
  • Writing a new scene
  • Online research
  • Banned books
  • Picture books

Most students will have experienced or known someone who has experienced or at least be familiar with the type of trauma the main character, Melinda, goes through. If taught correctly, Speak should be the type of novel that motivates students to reflect on social issues like bullying, depression, rape, cutting, and suicide. Penguin Classroom’s novel companion also has a section dedicated to incorporating informational texts with Anderson’s novels. Suggested texts include newspapers, magazines, websites, film, pamphlets, and public service announcements. Teachers can use these project ideas to help students further explore the social issues in the novel.

The following is a complete, comprehensive unit which covers four main curriculum objectives: Word Attack, Theme, Study Skills, and Comprehension. It includes learning objectives, step-by-step instructions for each lesson and a unit rubric. Activities include pre-reading discussion, deciphering vocabulary, oral presentation of a passage interpretation, interviewing, a service project, group discussions, essay writing, poem analysis, character analysis, film comparison, and journal entries.

I chose this unit because it includes specific study guide questions, vocabulary lists, and graphic organizers. Classroom lessons include brainstorming, essay writing, analyzing figurative language like symbolism, similes, metaphors, and personification, poem analysis, and artistic interpretations.


Book Talk Topics

This website has 5 book talk topics for small group discussions. They are very specific and detailed and can be easily adapted depending on the age, reading level and background of your students.

Web Quest

The following is a web quest to educate and inform students about rape and sexual assault. The project focuses on statistics, prevention strategies, self-defense plans, and victim counseling.

Laurie Halse Anderson Information and Interviews

This website gives students biographical information on Speak’s author, Laurie Halse Anderson.

The following links are written interviews with Anderson about the novel Speak.

Video Interviews with Laurie Halse Anderson

The above video is an interview with Anderson about the novel Speak.

The video below is of Anderson reading her poem “Listen,” which is compiled from reactions she has received about Speak.

I hope this compilation helps any teachers who are either teaching Speak for the first time or looking for new, fresh ideas. As a teacher, I would suggest that you do not copy these plans word-for-word and use them as your daily script. Instead, use the various ideas as inspiration to shape and mold classroom lessons that fit your own teaching style and students. Good luck and have fun!


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