Learning Challenge Lessons: Secondary ELA

20 Lessons to Guide English Language Arts Students Through the Learning Pit

By Jill Nottingham, James Nottingham, Mark Bollom (2019)

The Nottinghams have written a must-read, practical implementation guide for any ELA teacher considering integrating the Learning Pit into their classroom. This book provides ELA teachers with countless strategies and a systematic approach to lesson planning that will move students to deeper understanding of conceptual ideas through dialogue and exploratory talk. Read this book and walk away with the confidence to effectively and efficiently plan to move students in and out of ‘the Learning Pit’ on a regular basis.
Sarah Callahan, Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, Rochester NY

Highlights of the book include:
  • Twenty lesson ideas covering a wealth of strategies for deepening students’ understanding and appreciation of traditional texts, poetry, and classic literature
  • Imaginative and rigorous ways to help students understand literary devices such as foreshadowing, characterisation, symbolism, rhetoric, personification, theme/motif, author intent, point of view, and imagery.
  • Learning Pit tools to help students understand key literary concepts such as choice, conflict, dreams, intent, patriotism, responsibility, symbolism, and hero/villains
  • Downloadable full-colour strategy cards to accompany each lesson
  • Techniques to get students into the ‘Learning Pit’ where contradictions and uncertainties generate deeper thinking
  • Advice about when to support, when to challenge, and when to engage in cognitive conflict so that all students move from surface to deep learning
  • Questioning techniques to engage and extend students’ thinking
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Downloads Reviews

“As someone whose teaching was fundamentally transformed by the Learning Pit, I was hugely impressed by this new book. As well as being an effective manual on techniques backed up with the pedagogical theory that supports them, it also includes a huge number of activities linked to core texts from the curriculum. A well-researched piece carefully constructed to be practical, informative and instantly applicable.”

Barry Dunn, Head of Beliefs and Values, Seaham High School, England

What makes this book different?

This book provides teachers with everything they need to run thoughtful, dialogue-driven challenges so that students engage more deeply with the classics and develop literary skills critical to English Language Arts. Students will analyse texts within lessons grounded in cognitive conflict that cause them to think more deeply, critically, and strategically.

Book Features

  • Photocopiable masters that act as frames to support each lesson activity
  • Guidance at the bottom of each photocopiable sheet for how to scale each item to fit the resource cards
  • Imaginative and rigorous ways to help students understand literary devices such as foreshadowing, characterisation, symbolism, rhetoric, personification, theme/motif, author intent, point of view, and imagery.
  • Learning Pit tools to help students understand key literary concepts such as choice, conflict, dreams, intent, patriotism, responsibility, symbolism, and hero/villains
  • Diagrams to help illustrate relationships between concepts for students

Intended Audience

Suitable for teachers, leaders and support staff working with students studying English Language Arts (English Literature) in secondary/high schools and colleges.

"Brilliant! This resource is a teacher’s dream … collaboration, cooperation, creativity and critical thinking will abound in your classroom as you lead your students into the ‘Learning Pit’ with these engaging ELA lesson ideas.”
Karen Nguyen, The Downtown School, Bakersfield CA
“As someone who is continually striving to improve the quality of learning experienced by young people, I am delighted to see the publication of this book. Another title from Challenging Learning packed full of straightforward practical strategies, outlined clearly for the teacher and applied to learning contexts so that anyone can pick them up and transfer them to their own setting. Just what we need to engage young people and enthuse their teachers in learning. More challenge = more learning!”
Archie Bathgate, Principal of Brechin High School, Scotland
“This book has concrete lessons and activities connected to great works of literature to guide students from surface-level knowledge to deep understanding – with an overarching goal of transfer. The best part, the activities and lessons presented in this book, can be adapted to any complex, engaging text!”
Paul Bloomberg, The Core Collaborative Student-Centered Learning Network, NJ
"This book is a must for secondary teachers searching for strategies to guide adolescents through creating and replicating the thrill experienced from learning. If you are hungry to activate your students to embark on a challenging journey – from being in a state of cognitive dissonance until progressing to the point of ‘EUREKA! I’VE GOT IT!’ – then the Nottinghams have answers sure to satisfy your craving!”
Tara Noe, Etowah High School, Woodstock GA

“Brilliant! This resource is a teacher’s dream … collaboration, cooperation, creativity and critical thinking will abound in your classroom as you lead your students into the ‘Learning Pit’ with these engaging ELA lesson ideas.”

Karen Nguyen, The Downtown School, Bakersfield CA

“As someone who is continually striving to improve the quality of learning experienced by young people, I am delighted to see the publication of this book. Another title from Challenging Learning packed full of straightforward practical strategies, outlined clearly for the teacher and applied to learning contexts so that anyone can pick them up and transfer them to their own setting. Just what we need to engage young people and enthuse their teachers in learning. More challenge = more learning!”

Archie Bathgate, Principal of Brechin High School, Scotland

“This book has concrete lessons and activities connected to great works of literature to guide students from surface-level knowledge to deep understanding – with an overarching goal of transfer. The best part, the activities and lessons presented in this book, can be adapted to any complex, engaging text!”

Paul Bloomberg, The Core Collaborative Student-Centered Learning Network, NJ

“This book is a must for secondary teachers searching for strategies to guide adolescents through creating and replicating the thrill experienced from learning. If you are hungry to activate your students to embark on a challenging journey – from being in a state of cognitive dissonance until progressing to the point of ‘EUREKA! I’VE GOT IT!’ – then the Nottinghams have answers sure to satisfy your craving!”

Tara Noe, Etowah High School, Woodstock GA

Related Links

An Introduction to the Learning Pit®

The Learning Pit® – Animated!

Consultancy to Help You Make the Most of our Learning Pit Lessons

Feedback to Enhance Learning Challenge Lessons

Related Links