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English

Finding Your Inner Poet

Poetry has been my lifelong friend who always shows up at the right time. My English I and II classes have just begun their Poetry Unit. I look forward to gently nudging the scholars to find the poet inside themselves.

Growing up, poetry came into my life with artists like Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Lowell. When I was earning my undergraduate degree, I studied under Jorie Graham who later won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. I still keep a personal note to me from Jorie as a reminder of how one teacher can introduce you to a whole new way of thinking about words.

Should we teach English grammar in our schools?

Is it important to teach English grammar in our schools? Do kids need to know the difference between a noun and an adjective, or between the subject and the direct object of a sentence? Before the 1960s, educators generally believed that understanding grammar was crucial to becoming an articulate speaker and a good writer of English. But a sea change in thinking occurred in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Oh, the Humanities!

I am an English teacher who is passionate about literature. Catch me in my AP class and you’ll see that I’m a superb lecturer (though I do stray from literature every so often; see my blog on why I teach Aristotle’s Ethics). In my standard English classes, however, as I have gathered experience over the last 10 years, I have moved away more and more from pure literature, and exposed my students to magazine articles (old and new), op-eds, and other types of non-fiction, like primary source documents such as historical memos, convention resolutions, and legal opinions.

Your English Teacher’s Role in College Preparation

A weighty concern on many teenagers' minds right now is, "How strong is my high school preparation for college?"  Certainly, part of the responsibility for college readiness lies with the student: to best prepare for college while in high school, should you take college-level classes in high school or utilize some other tool?

What to Do About Plagiarism

Plagiarism is one of those things kids know of, but are not sure about. They read something on the Internet and think, “Yes, that’s exactly what I want to say. This person said it better than I ever could,” and then they don’t know what to do. I put a note on a student’s assignment that said we need to chat about plagiarism. This particular student had been having trouble with this consistently the previous year. Because I would be teaching him again, I decided that I would begin a discussion of plagiarism right away.

Teaching Turgenev's Novella "First Love"

Like many of us, high school students are often attracted to stories with characters going through similar struggles and life changes. I have found some success teaching Alan Sillitoe's novella The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959), whose 17-year-old protagonist from a working class home, Colin Smith, has been caught burgling and is sent to a reform school. Discovering Smith’s gift for running, school officials enter him in a cross-country competition.

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