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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How much is too much? Currently a commercial for AT&T is asking if more is better, and, of course, the little kids sitting in the circle clamor that more is definitely better. In the world of writing prompts, though, more or less becomes one of those debatable things. Be too specific, and a teacher may actually be limiting student creativity. Yet, being too vague might frazzle kids completely.  Continue reading...
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