Category Archives: Recommended Reading


OK, I have opted for something simpler for my Ideas page.  It will be a collection of links to my lesson plan wiki, where I will house all my lesson ideas.  I am still restoring handouts and Power Points, so forgive me if some of the links aren’t working correctly yet.

I read a couple of good articles in Reader’s Digest.  I know a lot of you want to give me a hard time for reading that magazine.  Go ahead; I can take it.  Anyway, one was an excerpt of Frank McCourt’s new book Teacher Man, and the other was about cheating.  I have decided I definitely want to read McCourt’s book, as it looks decidedly more uplifting than Angela’s Ashes, which I couldn’t finish.  I have some thoughts about these two articles that I want to share here.

My school is also embarking on professional development regarding assessment, and I have some good articles that I would also like to discuss here.  So, watch this space!  I’m going to be discussing education here again, soon!

Research Papers

I haven’t posted much in a while; my students are working on research papers, which I find leaves me with not much time to stay on top of education issues. I do want to read the Newsweek article about how we are failing our boys and write about that.

All I have to say for right now is that if you are an English teacher and haven’t read Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves, you just have to do so.

Azar Nafisi

I am currently reading Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, much interrupted by my Harry Potter fixation, I must add. When a new Harry Potter book comes out, it takes me a long time to turn back to the world of Muggles again, but I digress.

Reading Lolita in Tehran has a segment about putting The Great Gatsby on trial, which I think I am going to ask my students to read. I found it very interesting, the perspective students in an Islamic republic had on such a Western book.

Reading Lolita in Tehran is also the second book I’ve read lately to include some high praise for Nabokov’s novel, Lolita. I also read How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, who mentions the book frequently. I suppose I was nervous about tackling the book, but I’m not sure why. I noticed it on a sale table at Border’s and picked it up.

I was talking about Azar Nafisi, though. At NPR, you can read her thoughts about how literature creates connections between people. If there is one thing I have learned from her memoir, it is that literature transcends experiences and binds us together in so many ways that may not even be apparent until years later. I highly recommend her book to teachers of literature.

The Teacher’s Daybook

While perusing the most recent issue of English Journal, I saw an ad for The Teacher’s Daybook (purchase from Amazon). I went to the publisher’s website only to discover that it was not for sale. As soon as it became available, I ordered it. The year has not yet started, so I’ll have to update my relative happiness with it periodically on this blog; however, so far, I am extremely happy with it.One of its strongest features is its insistence, if used as the author intended, to make the user more reflective about his/her teaching. I am fairly reflective already, but I realized this will really make me think about my lessons and my efficacy as a teacher. Another strong feature is it aids the user in maintaining balance between all the roles in his/her life.

Nice bonuses include reproducible handouts, which are also available on the website that accompanies the daybook. It is also spiral bound, so it lies flat, and it has three holes punched in it so that it may be kept in a notebook. There is much more space for weekly plans than in any school or district-purchased planning books I have owned. It is simply packed with tips for organization.

Perhaps the strongest recommendation I can give it is that the daybook’s author, Jim Burke, uses it himself. He has a great website with lots of handouts; his collection of handouts on note-taking techniques is especially valuable.

Teaching Grammar in Context

I have recently finished Constance Weaver’s 1996 book Teaching Grammar in Context (purchase from Amazon). While I agree a great deal with Weaver’s arguments and hope to implement many of her ideas in my own classroom, I would like to see more studies on the efficacy of her methods. In many schools, the curriculum dictates teaching grammar in isolation, at least part of the time, and my experience at a private school, has been that many of my students had a good grasp of concepts taught in isolation. They did not, however, consisently implement the things they learned or that we reviewed in their writing.

I found the section on the history of the teaching of grammar very interesting, and I might share that with students. All in all, I highly recommend this book to English language arts teachers at all levels.