Lately, I've been talking about Stephen King while teaching Edgar Allan Poe. When King was in middle school, he wrote a "novel version" of Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum," based on the horror-movie adaptation. When his teacher, Miss Hisler, caught him selling mimeographed copies, she asked him why he was writing such "junk."  Continue reading...

Teachers, let's be honest. Most kids these days are more interested in the watching the latest video, writing a text, checking their social media or sending a Snapchat than they are digging into Mark Twain's Huck Finn (there's a movie for that).  Continue reading...

Once, a long time ago, my English III class began whining when I assigned an essay. "Why does it have to be five paragraphs? Why do we have to write this?" Without addressing the latter question, I answered very easily, "Let's make it ten."  Continue reading...

One of the students in my Fiction Writing Workshop told a classmate to take a red pen and cross out the multitude of adverbs he had strewn throughout his story. The rest of the class nodded their heads in agreement. But just before I could move us on to the next item on the agenda, the author asked the young woman who'd spoken up, "But why? Why can't I use adverbs?"  Continue reading...

To encourage summer reading, the school librarians went around to the English classes and talked up reading. For the first hour, they pushed around a cart filled with popular books, including current favorites Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars. They checked out a total of three books.  Continue reading...

In a previous column, "The Problem with Punctuation," I told you I'd report back my findings on teaching grammar and punctuation a little differently. Now I have some findings and thoughts I can share.  Continue reading...

Every day, teachers make a difference. In this time when teachers are seen as incompetent and lazy, and when we are being blamed for societal ills and failing students and schools, I wanted to provide some positive affirmation, something beyond that bumper sticker cliché of "If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher." After all, teaching goes beyond the classroom, beyond our instruction, and beyond the love of words.  Continue reading...

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