Showing posts from August, 2012


Gracia Festival 2012, a photo by Striker on Flickr.
I always loved my English classes in high school because we read such beautiful literature~ Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird, Cyrano de Bergerac, Our Town, Death of a Salesman. I don't remember ever once reading an informational text or a piece of nonfiction. That wasn't what high school English was all about~save that boring stuff for the "other" academic classes. And (to quote most people my age) I turned out just fine. In fact, when it comes to English Language Arts, I turned out better than just fine~I scored an insanely high score on the ELA portion of the ACT.
Other than allowing me the opportunity to CLEP out of my first two years of college English (I still had to pay for the credits), I'm not sure that the high score really meant much to anyone. Once I got into my college classes, I realized that everyone who was an English major had been top dog in that department in high school.
So, here I am over…


[Casey Stengel, full-length portrait, wearing sunglasses, while playing outfield for the Brooklyn Dodgers] (LOC), a photo by The Library of Congress on Flickr.
"Casey at the Bat" may not be great poetry, but it is a great poem. For some reason, I keep getting this Saturday morning cartoon image of Casey:

But this is one of those poems that makes middle schoolers say that they really do like poetry. It is a great poem to teach narrative poetry, repetition, rhyme, and rhythm. In fact, use this reading by James Earl Jones to really hit home with this lesson (yes, the pun was intended):

Since "Casey at the Bat" is a narrative poem, you can have the students use a story map to analyze the narrative elements:

You can help students set a purpose for reading by asking them to consider the different emotions that people feel about baseball.
Another fun way to have students outline the action in the poem is to give them a baseball diamond template and write the events on each of …


Etchingham School 1946, a photo by ttelyob on Flickr.
I love the beginning of a new school year because I like the idea of new beginnings in general. There are not too many times in life when you get to start over, but teachers get to start over every year. 
Oh it is a hassle in some ways~redecorating, cleaning out files, disconnecting and connecting computers~but it's also a time to get rid of those worksheets that you've not used in years; those out-of-date posters~put them in the recycle bin.
The beginning of the school year is also a time to revamp your class rules, expectations, procedures, and routines. As our children change, so do we. If I'm still starting the beginning of the school year the same way that I did twenty years ago, then I need to retire and make way for someone younger.
Here are recent "finds" that I've come across to help me start off the school year energized and feeling fresh: can't go…


"Appreciating" poetry is not exactly a measurable skill, so I'm not sure that it is a good title. Really, the lesson needs to be chunked into smaller lessons so that you can determine if your students know how to analyze poetry.
Anytime I begin a unit on poetry, I always begin by asking students to tell me what they already know about poetry. I'm no longer surprised when I hear my students say things like "they always rhyme" or "they're always hard to understand". Then, we discuss different types of poems; we make a list of some of the poems that they like or dislike. We talk about poems that rhyme or sound "musical". We talk about poems that are sad, serious, or funny. As part of a journal entry, I have students write about how poems are a way of sharing an experience.
I also go ahead and give students their list of academic words that they're going to need to know for this unit: form, structure, free verse, lyric poetry, narrativ…