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NEA Big Read: Writing a Teacher's Guide

This week, one of our grantees is sharing an in-depth look at the teacher’s guide they created for Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.

Building the Idea

An important consideration when planning for the Pennyroyal Arts Council 2017 NEA Big Read was how to reach out to our schools and cultivate interest in the selection. The Pennyroyal Arts education program smARTS (Students Meeting the Arts), as well as the public school system, supplied copies of Station Eleven to the middle and high school libraries.

Kentucky Shakespeare (Kentucky’s largest in-school touring arts provider) led an in-school residency within the high schools to highlight the Shakespearean aspect of the book. This was a positive experience and allowed the students to realize that Shakespeare can be easier to understand than they think. These students read Shakespeare pieces later in the school year and much of the feedback from teachers was how much this particular residency could benefit the students and prepare them for the upcoming literature. Elementary students and teachers were provided lists of age-appropriate books that aligned with Station Eleven so that the NEA Big Read program could be accessible to all ages.


The Pre-Reading section of the Pennyroyal Arts Council teacher’s guide

Researching Resources from Other Communities

To create buy-in from the teachers, we strove to do everything possible to make it easier for them to use Station Eleven in their curriculum. While researching resources, it was found that Michigan had a statewide Great Michigan Read in 2015-16 and Station Eleven was their chosen book. Our Production Assistant modified the Michigan study guide to correlate with Kentucky’s curriculum. Essential questions, learning goals and activities which could be related to Program Reviews and Content/Program Areas (including Arts & Humanities, English Language Arts, Global Competency, Practical Living and Career Studies, Science, Writing) were included in the study guide.


Essential Questions (EQ) glossary page in the Pennyroyal Arts Council teacher’s guide

Developing a Curriculum Tailored to Our Community

Most of Michigan’s Standards were Common Core, however they were compared to the Kentucky Department of Education’s Academic Standards to ensure teachers were following Kentucky’s framework as well as alleviate the burden of teachers searching for the correct standards to be included with their planning of the provided activities. Our Arts Education Coordinator contacted the Kentucky Department of Education’s high school administrator who assisted with altering the coding and numbering at the beginning of each standard so they were congruent to the ones teachers and administrators in Kentucky used.


Learning goals and expectations from the Pennyroyal Arts Council teacher’s guide


An excerpt of an interview with the author, Emily St. John Mandel, included in the Pennyroyal Arts Council teacher’s guide

Putting It In Action!

“Local public schools can always be counted on to participate in NEA Big Read, but this year, they went above and beyond.”

Hundreds of teens participated in events planned at several high schools. Art, drama, and English classes explored Station Eleven and Shakespeare during the many programs held at their schools. The teacher’s guide was a huge success with the teachers and they appreciated having the necessary tools to engage students in the book as well as meet the curriculum requirements. We really feel this was an asset that encouraged more interest in the book at the middle/high school level.


Students at the Assemble Arts Project event holding artwork inspired by Station Eleven. Photo courtesy of the Pennyroyal Arts Council


Kentucky Shakespeare actors after two days of workshops in Hopkinsville high schools. Photo courtesy of the Pennyroyal Arts Council

Download the full teacher’s guide

About the Pennyroyal Arts Council

Established in 1997, the Pennyroyal Arts Council’s (PACI) mission is to encourage, develop, and promote Arts appreciation through Education, Support, Service, and Presentation. As part of fulfilling our mission, PACI along with the Historic Museums of Hopkinsville, and the Hopkinsville Public Library has submitted grants each of the past four years to bring NEA Big Read to our community. Our 2017 Big Read selection of Station Eleven was unfamiliar to most people in our area which allowed us to discover the book together through multiple, diverse events offered over a month long period.