220. Good Bones: Maggie Smith

What makes something go viral? It's a good question to ask your students.  If you ask them about "Literature with a capital 'L'" they won't know what you're talking about.  Classics?  Old books?  Books librarians shove in your hand, that have gold seals on them and are not good but good for you?  Personally, I... Continue Reading →


214. Grip: Jericho Brown

We are in the midst of a unit called "Safety".  It's part of our Maslow year.   What's interesting about "safety" is that everything connects to it, but nothing does directly.  When we did our first unit, Survival, we read "The Most Dangerous Game" and "To Build a Fire" and kids took notes and it... Continue Reading →

Shooting an Elephant: George Orwell

Not a poem, but a very useful story.... Because of the nature of our blocks, I recently read this aloud four times in two days. With each reading, I appreciated the story more and more. While not a poem, "Shooting and Elephant" is a stock essay in many anthologies. It is used for most any... Continue Reading →


207. A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London: Dylan Thomas

Look, there's only so much grading you can do. And when you assign writing, you might as well resign yourself to a long week of commenting. After such an assignment, I offer up work that is easy and quick to grade. One such assignment is to find an author interview. Students choose a book or... Continue Reading →


206: Paradise Lost: Book II: John Milton

Common Core a bit overwhelming? One afternoon, I was going to do the hard work of going through my ELA Common Core standards line by line and pulling out the recurring verbs--dull stuff--when I figured that, in this computer age, there must be a better way.   And it hit me: Wordle. Like Xerox, a... Continue Reading →


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 →


192. Self-Pity: D. H. Lawrence

Four weeks until graduation. Cue drama. My career began at a crazy school. It was a private boarding school for behavior problems, and we spent a lot of time in groups talking about our past and feelings; more time spent than we did in the classroom. For these kids, they needed it. We unpacked bags... Continue Reading →


190. The Horses: Edwin Muir

Post 189 is Peter Porter's "Your Attention Please." There, I discussed the difficulties in teaching a subject your grew up with: In that case and this, the Cold War. This is another Cold War poem, of a different sort. Unlike Porter, this is after the apocalypse. While the threat of a nuclear war seems to... Continue Reading →


189. Your Attention Please: Peter Porter

One of the hardest units to teach is one you grew up with. Our 8th grade was Columbus to the Reconstruction after the Civil War. Fine. In 10th grade they picked up the baton and ran through World War II (9th grade was civics). Mr. Curtin pushed us into the minutia of the Progressive Era,... Continue Reading →


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