Use Children’s Picture Books

Yes, Mike Mulligan dabs. We discovered this fact during our unit on the Industrial Revolution.  Half of the students were given Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House while the other half read her Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.  Each was asked to tell us if Burton thought industrialization and development were a good thing or a bad... Continue Reading →


Stop Using “Poet Voice”: Rich Smith

If you are into students reading poetry out loud (and you should be), take a moment to read this CityArts article "Stop Using 'Poet Voice'" by Rich Smith. On a similar vein of speaking poems, my wife thinks that Garrison Keillor ruins poems daily with his readings on his Writer's Almanac podcast.  It's a great source... Continue Reading →

Too Many Cooks

I whipped this together while watching football. . And if you'd like a gentle poke in the ribs and good procedural mystery, try this:


205. what your mother tells you now: Mitsuye Yamada

I thought I might find a poem called "Frequently Asked Questions".  The prompt of "Frequenty Asked Questions (about me)" would, I thought, tie together a lot of insights, both concrete and ethereal, in a poet looking to use a modern phrase to explore their inner self.  But no one has yet produced such a work... Continue Reading →


Judging a Book By Its Cover

A fascinating and engaging project for the classroom is comparing book jackets. To the right are two real covers for Sylvia Plath's classic "The Bell Jar".  The one on the left is the original, while the right one is for the 50th Anniversary Edition.  Quite a difference. Follow this link to an interesting discussion (and... Continue Reading →


Absentee List: An Old Horse Mystery

Over two years ago I began reading mysteries.  It was not something I would have predicted I would have done, and it was the result of a whim sparked by a display at our local library.  Not particularly inspiring, the librarian had simply propped up a wide selection of mystery novels.  For whatever reason, I... Continue Reading →


Memorizing Poems

I don't remember memorizing more than two lines of a poem. And I did it poorly. I'm never sure if it's "Two paths diverge in a wood" or "Two roads...." Of course, both are kind of wrong, one more than an other: It's "Two roads diverged in a yellow woods." For my graduate class on... Continue Reading →


What Nonfiction Pieces Do You Give Middle School Students?

Not poetry. With the Common Core coming, the topic of non-fiction writing is bubbling up.  Sure, everyone is a literacy teacher, but the crux of success in non-fiction will come down on Language Arts teachers, because narrative fiction is where communication becomes inspiration.  In offering thoughtful pieces, students will engage with their other subjects. I'm... Continue Reading →


Letter to Inspirational and/or Boring Teacher

As school starts and I fish through thumb drives for older paperwork I came across this story from an Ariel Gore workshop I took last year. Mr. Bachman was my eighth grade science teacher.  This fictional letter is a tribute to him and others like him: The teacher you don't realized was important in your... Continue Reading →


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