In my last column, I asked several multi-published authors this question: What advice do you wish your English teacher would have given you? Now, in this column, I'm going to share the answers to the second question I asked: What was the most important thing you learned in your English class that had a lasting impact?  Continue reading...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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In Miss MacDonald's fourth-grade classroom in P.S. 206, in Brooklyn, New York, I had my tracing paper in front of me, unzipped my pencil case, picked up my sharply pointed #2 pencil, and I placed the transparent paper on top of the picture of the paperback bird guide drawing of the owl.  Continue reading...
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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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High/low, yes/no, black/white. There's something reassuring about opposites. A lot of vocabulary teaching is done using pairs of opposites, and with good reason: learners really feel they have a handle on a concept if they grasp its antithesis. There are, however, some other concept families that are best learned using three terms — triples — that provide a middle ground which in turn enhances all three concepts.  Continue reading...
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