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    Thoughts to Share with Students

    Children’s Books Teach Us All We sometimes think children’s book are only for children. But there is wisdom to be gleaned for us all. Invite your students to bring in their favorite children’s

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    Prepare in the Fall for Spring Assessments

    Practice Debates ⇒Argumentative Essays Meeting Common Core State Standards is not the only reason to have students learn to think about claims, reasons, counter-aguments, and evidence.  The four major assessments

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    Maximizing Meetings and Maintaining Morale

    Department chairs regularly seek for ways to use meeting time more efficiently and to keep up the spirits of their department members.  Attached are ideas planned for the “Learning to

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Revamping Senior Course?


Two senior courses that worked well for college prep students have  a required semester one course with tradition titles followed by semester two their choice of an elective.

The first semester REQUIRED includes the traditional classic titlesHamlet recitation
Ralph EllisonModern Novel (20th Century)

We read one assigned novel for each of three decades and then students selected one novel they have always wanted to read but never had time.  In each case, the essential question that focused our discussions and writing was “In what way does this novel reflect the social, economical and political milieu of the times in which it was written?”  This opened opportunities to link what they had and were learning in history, social studies and science.

Rhetoric: Written and Oral

In the second, we first studied Aristotle’s art of rhetoric, read, viewed, discussed and analyzed speeches Speakingand essays, and then three full length fiction works looking at ways those rhetorical devices were used by characters in literature


The unifying tasks: What strategies do characters use to bring about a change in belief or behavior?  How effective were they?

We watched films clips from each book, and considered similarities and differences in message from reading and viewing.

Students wrote essays and presented gave a variety of persuasive speeches to demonstrate their understanding of various strategies for argument and persuasion.

Closing event: Evening of Speech to a Guest Audience of family, friends, faculty, and administrator(s)




I am delighted to be on the editorial team for a new book, SWEETHEARTS OF ZION’S HILL, a sequel of sorts to my book, ON ZION’S HILL: A Novel published last summer.  The new book, a collection of memoirs writing by and about couples who met on our church campground, Zion’s Hill, and later married. It’s due for release in August, 2016.  But you can get a preview in this trailer.  Turn up the volume and enjoy the traditional favorite, “I Love You Truly” by Carrie Jacobs-Bond.  Proceeds from sales will go towards scholarships for Youth Ministries of the National Association of the Church of God, West Middlesex, PA.

Poetry is…

Poetry is Someone Saying Something to Someone

Poetry is written
to be understood!

“Poetry is literature designed to convey a vivid and imaginative sense of experience, especially by the use of condensed language chosen for its sound and suggestive power, as well as for its meaning and by the use of such literary techniques as structured meter, natural cadences, rhyme or metaphor.”

Houghton-Mifflin College Dictionary. 1986.

Keep in mind: There always is an audience. Use clues from the poem to determine who could be speaking to whom.


PoetryIs-Diagram (1)

Poetry Is Diagram



Shakespeare’s Birthday


Happy 452nd  Birthday, Will!

April 23rd is the day many celebrate the birth of William Shakespeare, one of the more widely read dramatists of all times.This year is his 452nd!

Prepare your students to understand Elizabethan society a little better.

Have a go with your students and have them take a Humours Quiz  to determine their own basic personality traits, then see how they’d rate characters in the plays you have them study.  Teens in the US will have fun with this quiz written in British English by our colleagues at TeachIt in the UK.

I also include one my students’ favorite pictures of Shakespeare – with the earring which suggests how “hip” William Shakespeare still is today.  See Words and Phrases from Shakespeare.  

Also see SHAKESPEARE OUT LOUD AND IN COLOR.  Students get a kick out of trying the Lazy Sonnets.  Invite them to write a lazy sonnet about whatever text you happen to be studying now. See samples written about “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner“!

For the Bards’ birthday, you may want to create your own birthday sonnet, or invite your students to write an record one like this:


April is Poetry Month 2016

How are you going to celebrate in 2016?


“What you learn through reading and writing poetry will stay with you throughout your life,” Michelle Obama said in a statement about a national initiative to support the study of poetry. “It will spark your imagination and broaden your horizons and even help your performance in the classroom.”

Introduce POETRY MONTH  this year by sharing Billy Collin’s poem, “INTRODUCING POETRY” or by  reading Naoshi Koriyama’s  poem  an”Unfolding Budand showing a video clip of budding flowers to remind students that it sometimes takes T.I.M.E. for their understanding of a poem to blossom. Then, play the video once or twice again and invite students write their own poetic response to viewing these lovely flowers.  Your students may see the images as symbolic of relationships, historical or current events, characters in literature or people they know.  Consider writing along with the class and then share your poem with your students.  Click here for links to April is Poetry Month page on this site.

Poetry and the Common Core: Poetry Foundation Exemplars for All Grades

Here are websites suggested by other educators:

There also is a Digital Write-Able  It offers you a space online to write a poem that you can put in your pocket.

Tom Worthen Smithfield says, “There are thousands of free poetry lesson plans available at Poetic Power . The website allows you to select your grade range and desired category for teaching. This is a great resource for teaching students how to write and create poetry.”

Cynthia Roberson  recommends The NY Times Learning Network –Poetry Pairings – Pair a poem to NY Times News Article.  What a great way to teach poetry and non-fiction reading at the same time!

First Lady, Michelle Obama launched The National Student Poets program  created by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, of which the first lady is honorary chair, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services through a partnership with nonprofit group, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

Even if you’ve never taught poetry before, teach high school or college, the resources here on this website and ideas in my books TEACHING MIDDLE SCHOOL LANGUAGE ARTS: Incorporating Twenty-First Century Literacies (2010) and TEACHING READING IN MIDDLE SCHOOLS: Common Core and More (2013) or TEACHING WRITING IN MIDDLE SCHOOL: Common Core and More (2013)can help you prepare your students to participate actively in local, state, and national program supporting student poets.  See particularly “Taking T.I.M.E. to Teach Poetry” and “Versing Life Together”.

Search the Language Arts Resources Tab where you’ll find ideas for poetry projects, poetry notebooks, patterning and performing poetry, writing meaty personal essays about poems, and also ways to grade students’ original poems.

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