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A Classroom with a View

"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all" –Aristotle

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Learning styles

Differentiating Instruction through Reading Choice

IMG_5112In my previous post Building a Culture of Reading through Choice, I discussed how teachers might create more avid and willing student-readers by offering multiple texts from which students may choose rather than one compulsory text read by the entire class. I received many emails asking how I implement this in my classroom, how I choose books, and how I facilitate student learning when there are several different texts. Since so many people were interested, I thought why not just write another post? As any teacher knows, if one student asks a question, there’s probably 8 or 9 others who were wondering the same thing but were too shy to ask. So–to those of you who emailed: I hope this helps; and to those who were too shy to ask: don’t be! (I know–completely unhelpful advice).

As I stated before, I don’t like being told what to read, especially if I’m told to read it because it’s a “classic” and “canonical.” On my own, if still a bit begrudgingly, I decided to read Moby Dick and David Copperfield because peer pressure still has some power and I had to see what Continue reading “Differentiating Instruction through Reading Choice”

Judging a Book by its Cover: Teaching Theme

Things Fall Apart Cover art
Theme seems like a no-brainer–it’s the universal truths we find in a text that make it relevant to the human experience. Yet teaching theme can be quite challenging. Students have difficulty grasping the concept, and I am not sure if it’s because they don’t know how to phrase a theme statement or if they simply don’t have quite enough life experience to recognize grand human truths (we’ll set aside semantics for now and operate on the premise that there are “human truths” by which we live). Continue reading “Judging a Book by its Cover: Teaching Theme”

Shakespeare: To Teach or Not to Teach, That is the Question

IMG_4995Speaking from experience, I can honestly say there is no job, area of study, or political camp more bloody than an English department. If you want to instigate war and ensure a battle to the death Roman Gladiator-style, simply state loud enough for four or five people to hear, “There’s no point in teaching Shakespeare anymore.” Then sit back with your popcorn and your body armor, and let the games begin.

As a scholar and PhD candidate, I’ve seen my share of in-house feuds among professors and within areas of study. You have the Renaissance and Victorians on one side of the divide and the Post-Modernists and Literary Theorists on the other. Somewhere in there, the Folklorists and Rhetoric guys are wandering the desert like the Israelites, trying to find the Promised Land. The vitriol within a university English department is quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and the battle for research money is indeed a nasty one. Thus, it’s no wonder there are so many turf wars; but the major battle is in deciding (or rather lobbying for) which works should be included in the Canon, and thus, which works should always be taught. Dante? Chaucer? Shakespeare? Milton? Of course. Pope? Swift? Jonson? Johnson? Yeah, okay. Barrett-Browning? Austen? the Brontes? Eh, they’re women, but I guess they can join. Woolf? Auden? Plath? Wait a minute. Let’s fight about this. Continue reading “Shakespeare: To Teach or Not to Teach, That is the Question”

What Students Wish Their Teachers Knew

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Earlier last week, my students were working in small groups discussing their summer reading novel. As I moved around the classroom listening to and facilitating discussions, one thing I heard over and over again was how much the students really liked this year’s summer reading and that it was the only summer book they ever really read. The reason for that is the subject of another post entirely, but it is enough to say that as I listened, I also heard some other disturbing trends. One group of students complained that they had 4 tests the next day, which clearly was some Communist plot by teachers to ensure students didn’t have a life and/or failed their classes. Another group overheard and chimed in, criticizing their teachers’ handling of the material, specifically that some teachers didn’t seem to know the curriculum well enough to give correct information to students so they could study. A different group grumbled about band and sports practices after school that would keep them at school until long after dinner and they had hours’ worth of homework to do when they arrived home. I questioned them about their preferences or what they thought could be done to correct it, and before I knew it and could stop them, they were unloading years of bitterness about specific teachers and classes (they’re brutally honest!). Continue reading “What Students Wish Their Teachers Knew”

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