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Teaching Allusion in 8th Grade


At the end of each quarter in my school district each student at the secondary level is required to take benchmark exams. Because we are preparing for the transition to the Common Core, my district decided that for 4th quarter we would replace the project-based 4th quarter benchmark that we had been using with a Next Generation Assessment taken from the Common Core.

I’m all for it – if Common Core is where we’re going, I want to be as prepared as possible. But when I got a look at this assessment, I was nervous. It asks the students to perform 3 main tasks with a poem:

1) analyze the impact of word choice on meaning and tone
2) identify and analyze analogies
3) identify and analyze allusions

Word choice is something we talk about all year, so I didn’t worry about that one. Analogy is a new term to my 8th graders, but we talked about comparisons, similes, and metaphor, so it isn’t that much of a stretch.

Then there’s allusion.

My first thought was, “Is it even possible to teach literary allusion to 8th graders?” Allusion is nowhere in GLEs or objectives. I’ve never taught it, and I don’t think I even learned it myself until college! Besides being able to define the term, allusion is 100% based on schema. Can I teach my kids the schema of a literary cannon in 3 weeks of 8th grade??

No, of course I couldn’t. I didn’t need to. I needed to calm down. My students and I could find a way to do this. I was trying to squeeze their toes into tiny shoes again!

So this week in my 8th grade Reading class we tackled allusion. I figured out a way to introduce and play with allusion, and the kids really enjoyed it. They worked really hard, and they truly did figure out what allusion is. Lack of schema is a huge stumbling block, but we got through it together.

Here are the tools we used:

Introducing Allusion Prezi

Activity for identifying Allusions in groups:


Fantastic poem for basic allusions:

Standing Tall


  1. Pingback: Love::Teaching - Teaching Allusion in 8th Grade | Common Core State Standards for School Leaders |

  2. Thanks for this article on allusion. Very helpful to my LA group in Metro Atlanta. We’re starting with your prezi. :-)

  3. Great topic. My 7th LA teachers just used your prezi in thier planning for allusion. Keep it up!

  4. Thank you! Exactly what I was looking for. So thank you for sharing!

  5. GREAT presentation!! This will be very helpful to me

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