Growing up poetry was never my favorite thing to read. I liked Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, but in my mind I also never considered their writing poems. What they wrote was fun. It made me laugh and made me think. Poetry was what I read in school. It was boring and meant virtually nothing to me. I read it because I had to, not because I wanted to. And for a really long time that was the only relationship I had with poetry.
Things started to change my senior year of college. I found poems that sparked something inside me. Stray Dog Cabaret was a collection of poems by Russian authors, and reading those poems something clicked. Poetry, I realized, could be magical. Fitting words together like puzzle pieces could be something really really cool. I loved reading and I love writing and I loved this new way this all fit together.
Even though I had discovered how amazing poetry could be, I didn’t run out and buy a ton of poetry anthologies. I didn’t know where to start. Poetry had been foreign to me for so long that even though I had a new appreciation for it I let it stay a pretty big mystery. I didn’t know what else to do or how to do anything else.
That has started to change. In my job as a literacy tutor I have the opportunity to work with some amazing Language Arts teachers. One of the bigger pushes at the middle school level has been to incorporate more poetry. I’ve been able to see how poetry can be made fun and accessible and how my students can respond and connect to it. I’ve seen them love poetry and struggle with poetry, but it’s been made much more accessible to them than I feel it was made to me when I was going through school.
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately collecting poems that I like. I’ve been combing through Goodreads and looking for other sources. I want to make poetry accessible to all of my students. I want to show them that it doesn’t have to be something that is stuffy and inaccessible. Poetry is alive and well; we as teachers just need to find ways to teach our students that.
I am a firm believer in reading. And I am a firm believer that English teachers have an obligation to encourage reading. Not just reading for class, but reading for reading’s sake. I also feel that the best way to encourage reading is to have a classroom library and encourage students to explore it.
I don’t yet have a classroom to call my own, but I hope to in the very near future. In the meanwhile, I’ve been collecting books for my future classroom library whenever possible. I’ve gone through my own store of books and put aside the ones I plan on incorporating. I’ve also been searching for free books whenever possible and stashing away the ones I think I want to include.
Once I’ve secured a classroom of my own I plan on going to the Book Barn. If you’ve never been there you’re definitely missing out. It’s in Niantic, CT, and it’s amazing. There are so so so many books and they are so reasonably priced because they are all used. Used doesn’t mean beat up though. The books are amazing and the selection is unbelievable.
If you have any suggestions for how to build a classroom library, please let me know in the comments. Until then, happy reading!
To me, grammar is one of the more complicated parts of English. There are a lot of rules, a lot of very specific tiny things that are easily forgotten, and it’s something that always caused me problems as a student.
Grammar also wasn’t something that had a lot of focus put on it while I was in school. My grammar education came and went, and I think eventually my teachers thought that I had already learned what I needed to learn. (But I hadn’t.)
I took a couple of grammar courses in college, and I’ve tried to learn everything I can in grad school and in my tutoring job. I want to be able to provide my students with a well-rounded and understandable grammar education. I don’t want them to think that grammar is something elusive and incomprehensible.
I’m not saying that grammar is the coolest thing ever, because that might be pushing it just a little. But I am willing to say that grammar is incredibly important. Without a good grammatical foundation it can get progressively harder to communicate ideas.
And grammar isn’t all bad. I’d even venture to say that sometimes grammar can be fun. There are ways to make grammar something special, and I’m looking forward to exploring all those opportunities in my classroom.
I love words. I love collecting them and fitting them together. I love seeing how other people fit them together. I love seeing the messages they can send and the power they can hold. Words are powerful, and it’s important to remember that and to teach students that.
I read this fantastic article on Edutopia. It’s titled “The Perfect Classroom”, and it was all about a teacher who brought her class together and had them all shared words. Some people shared poems. Other people shared quotes or song lyrics or phrases they’d heard.
To me, it sounds awesome. It sounds like one of the most amazing things I could do in my future classroom.
You can read the article here. And as always, tell me what you think.
Have you heard of Harris Burdick? I hadn’t until a couple of weeks ago, but when I did hear about him I was immediately fascinated. You can read more about him here, but the short version is that one day he was pitching a book to a publisher and the next day he was gone. No one ever heard from or saw him again. All that was left behind were 14 drawings that went with the book he had been pitching, and the titles and captions that went along with the pictures.
It’s a huge mystery, and no one has the answers.
What there is, is these amazing pictures and intriguing captions that have been used as the springboard for countless short stories. Teachers use them as springboards. Aspiring writers use them as springboards. Countless people have used them as springboards.
A group of my students have recently used them as springboards. They each picked a picture and wrote a story based on it, its title, and its caption. They’ve been really excited to write the stories, and it’s been a great way for them to practice narrative writing without having to come up with the basis of the idea.
I can’t wait until I have the opportunity to use these stories as a springboard in my own classroom. I think that they’re really interesting, that the mystery of Harris Burdick is really interesting, and I hope that someday someone finds the answers.
I love Edutopia. I think it’s a great teacher resource. The articles are easy to read, informative, and have great ideas. I have so many of their articles bookmarked on my iPad so that I can use the ideas in the future.
One idea that I’m really interested in is classroom libraries. Personally I think that every English/Language Arts classroom should have a class library so that students have easy access to a variety of books. It’s just something I think is really important, and I know that I want to have my own classroom library someday.
I found a great article on the importance of classroom libraries on Edutopia. You can read it here. The author talks about the different types of readers, how to bring students into the classroom library, and how to incorporate the classroom library into lessons.
What I like about the article is that it’s broken into the three sections. I like the array of ideas that are connected to a single topic. I also like how the ideas are there and are detailed enough to work with but the article isn’t overwhelming. It’s just the right amount of information to be a springboard, which for me is all I need.
Read the article. Tell me what you think.
I love movies. And I love comparing books to their movie counterparts. I find it really interesting to make comparisons between books and movies, and I want to share that with my students. I think that doing so could lead to a lot of discussion and great analysis. I also think it’s important to know why you are showing a movie in class and what you want the end result to be.
Let’s take a minute to be honest. In my experience, there are two main reasons to show a movie. The first is because it’s right before a vacation and students are too hyped up to focus and get work done. The second is for a comparison or another educational activity.
If you’re showing a movie before a vacation, your goal is probably to show a movie and keep students mildly entertained. And that’s OK. That’s what will happen, and everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.
However, if you’re showing a movie to students so they can make a comparison or learn something, they need to have a reason to pay attention. There needs to be buy in, or students aren’t going to give the movie their full attention. They’ll find something more interesting or something they feel is more important to give part of their attention to.
Create some buy in. It can be simple. It can be a comparison chart they need to fill out. It can be questions they need to answer. It can be a big overview question they need to be prepared to answer. But give students a reason to pay attention. Set some expectations. Then everyone is on the same page, and no one needs to be fighting with anyone else.