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Vietnam war soldier Tim O'Brien

How to Approach The Things They Carried in Lesson Plans

Is The Things They Carried fiction? Is it non-fiction? Is it creative non-fiction? Should my lessons focus on analysis? Interpretation? Expository writing? Creative writing? Should students read outside of class? During the class period? Yes. Yes to all of that. There are so many ways to approach Tim O’Brien’s The…
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3 Fresh Icebreakers for Teens

Icebreaker activities for middle and high school students are often torture, just like they are for the teachers facilitating them. You have gregarious introverts in your classroom (yes, that’s a thing, and I know because I am one). You also have extroverts who take a little while to warm up…
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How to Pace AP English Language on the Block

When AP English Language & Composition was introduced in 1980(ish), AP Lit teachers were skeptical. A whole course based on non-fiction? Cake walk. They soon learned the opposite; in so many ways, the course was more challenging than one rooted in fiction. Times changed. When Lang was designed, the vast…
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How to Guide Students Toward Better Image Analysis

We had three channels, rabbit ears, and tin foil (and knew how those three things went together). My strongest sound memory is the slamming of our back screen door. I lived outside. My students have Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, Roku, and YouTube; and they carry them in a pocket. They…
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Three Censorship Stories: A Career in Banned Books

I have a few stories to tell. I started teaching in the Medieval Period, my teacher desk hewn from the village oak. (It was 1990, but that seems SO long ago. It was early enough in the evolution of Man that I actually bubbled my grades in on a Scantron…
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How to Make AP Lang Multiple Choice Less Like Torture

We’re sliding into testing season (except it’s that long, slow, shallow kind of slide with spikes, barbs, and razor blades along the way). You dread it. They dread it. Even your #2 pencils dread it; they were made for writing, after all, not bubbling. Students need exposure to the types…
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5 Ways to Keep High School English Engaging

You’re done. Mentally over it. The next student who calls your name is getting his lips stapled shut. Lesson plans? Phfft. They’re lucky if they get an agenda on the board. Your testing may have already happened, so you have these lame duck class periods to fill. Your testing may…
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What to Teach AFTER the AP Exams

Because I’ve always had four weeks of class AFTER the AP exam, my go-to unit has been a will-bending, spirit-breaking voyage through William Faulkner’s Light In August. Parent complaints never deterred me. Principals couldn’t dissuade me. The year’s not over, people!! Recently, forums, Facebook groups, and Twitter chats have shown…
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Why It’s Better to Teach Logical Fallacies Backwards

Wondering how to teach logical fallacies? Don’t. Show them fallacies and let them come to the definitions. I would guess that about 90% of our language is metaphorical. Try telling that to a teenager and then show her a sentence that mixes five different metaphors. She just can’t see it.…
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Why the Walk-Out Students Should Face Consequences

  Reuters/Shannon Stapleton You’re not going to read what you think you’re going to read, but I’ll give you a hint: I love teaching Transcendentalism. Henry David Thoreau, on whose writing Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela based their civil disobedience, said, “It is not desirable to…
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How to Create a Reading Culture with Teenagers

I once taught a set of brothers who loved science fiction so much that the only punishment their parents ever doled out was “Book Jail,” the imprisonment of the book the offender was currently reading. What a dream: A teenager who loves reading so much that confiscating the reading material…
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