by Deborah Appleman
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
As the summer wanes, we teachers slowly turn our focus to the beginning of school. For teachers of literature, that often means a trip to the dusty bookroom to decide what texts teachers and students should read together throughout the year. This is, or should be, a complicated decision, a thoughtful calibration of text and context, of who our students are and what kind of reading would serve them best as we encourage their personal and intellectual development. After the obligatory quick count of paperback and perma-bound copies of literary texts, we consider factors of readability, literary merit, and relevance. We re-read state standards and confer with our fellow teachers about our school’s curriculum. This fall, however, there are even more factors to consider as we attempt to make our best pedagogical decisions about what to teach and why.
Continue reading “In Defense of Teaching Troubled Texts in Troubling Times“
By Geraldine Woods
Making New Year’s resolutions has never made sense to me. Exhausted by holiday celebrations and dismayed by the prospect of slogging through a Northeastern winter, on January 1st I barely have enough energy to turn a calendar page. But that first day of summer! That’s when my mind churns with possibilities that morph into resolutions: This summer I’ll learn to quilt, take up tennis, reorganize my linen closet and . . . well, if activities were food, let’s just say I plan a banquet.
Continue reading “Summer Reading Resolutions: Read Outside Your Field”
This post is excerpted from the book Creating Confident Writers: For High School, College, and Life by Troy Hicks and Andy Schoenborn (W. W. Norton, June 2020).
Perhaps one of our most important jobs as writing teachers is to help our writers understand that literacy is much more than reading, researching, and academic writing. For many students, the only real changes they see in their ELA and composition courses over the years are that the mechanical demands become stricter (with specific attention to MLA, APA, or other style guides) and the papers get longer. It is an unfortunate reality that turns many of those same students away from writing or, worse yet, forces them to see school-based prose as the only kind of writing that counts.
Continue reading “Given a choice, some students will choose to write poetry.”
By Brett Vogelsinger, republished with permission from Go Poems.
Since reading a poem is a daily ritual in my class, patterns develop in our poetry selections. One of those patterns—yes, a pattern students observe in much of the literature we read in English class—is that writers often tackle dense, heavy, depressing topics. Poetry is no exception. And I would argue it is important to bring these types of poems to our students.
Continue reading “As National Poetry Month Ends: Some Words of Comfort during a Pandemic”
However, we also live in an age of crushing anxiety, and each year I see more students struggle to maintain their emotional health. I want to be sure that English class, and particularly a routine that begins our class period most days, does not deliver a daily dose of doom. Picture the Pavlovian effect of that for a moment: Bell rings, gloomy poem emerges on the screen, discussion of humanity’s darkest moments ensues. . . what might be the effect of that day after day after day on our students?
By Catherine Conley
Today we finished our third week of online classes, and my last class was the worst online teaching experience I’ve had so far. Usually being in this class is like being on Family Feud. The students encourage each other with chorus of “good job,” “great answer,” “you’re on fire,” “sooo good,” and the like. It is a mixed class of juniors and seniors, but they don’t discriminate. They cheer on all. It is usually such a joy to be with them.
But not today. Instead, they were whiny and negative. There were the regular complaints that they are tired and there is too much work, but it was more than that. They are beginning to feel the effects of staying home so much. They don’t feel well; their backs hurt; their curiosity is dulled. It didn’t help that there was a bit of a tech glitch too so that the question I wanted to post on the Classroom had to be retyped. And of course, it was a long one, so they were waiting while I prepped it. I tried to talk to them as I recreated their assignment, but as most of them do not use their mics and prefer to write their comments in the chat box, I couldn’t see those while I was typing on a different tab. And then, wow, did they misread the passage.
Continue reading “Salvaging a Failed Lesson”