Poetry Writing: 10 Tips for Writing Poems

If you are writing a poem because you want to capture a feeling that you experienced, then you don’t need these tips. Just write whatever feels right. Only you experienced the feeling that you want to express, so only you will know whether your poem succeeds. If, however, your goal is to communicate with a reader — drawing on the established conventions of a literary genre (conventions that will be familiar to the…

Digital literacy is different from print literacy. How do we balance the trade-off?

My job includes teaching students to read long, complex texts (novels, play scripts, and academic texts.) My job also includes asking students to write researched essays that are longer documents than many of them at first seem comfortable reading. Years after they graduate, students often thank me for what I’ve taught them, and say the effort was all worth it. Buoyed by that feedback, it would be an easy thing for…

Picture of the Pevensie children arriving in Narnia, from the 2005 movie.

Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories

If Harry Potter and Huckleberry Finn were each to represent British versus American children’s literature, a curious dynamic would emerge: In a literary duel for the hearts and minds of children, one is a wizard-in-training at a boarding school in the Scottish Highlands, while the other is a barefoot boy drifting down the Mississippi, beset by con artists, slave hunters, and thieves. One defeats evil with a wand, the other…

Closeup of a person's hand pulling a book off of a shelf.

How Common Core Testing Damaged High School English Classes

Helping my students understand how my role as a college literature teacher differs from the role of a high school English teacher is a sometimes daunting task. Preparing students for a standardized reading test is completely unlike teaching them about a work of classic literature. In an English class addressing The Great Gatsby, depending on student ability and prior knowledge, the teacher might take several weeks to help the students find their…

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The Curtains Were Blue: In Which I Fix Another Meme.

Above is my response to a meme that makes some shaky assumptions about the purpose of an English classroom. Exploring the intent of the author is a huge part of the English discipline, but it’s far from the only way to study (or teach) literature. Author intent, new historicism, reader-response, structuralism.. the list goes on. Perhaps I will make more of these memes to introduce some of these other topics…