Posts Categorized: Teaching

Epistolary Fanfiction: A Story and an Exercise

I recently read Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? after a few people, including my good friend Laura Sibson, had enthusiastically recommended it. (Laura wrote a post that was partly inspired by the book here.) I loved the book, and I also loved Maria Semple’s short story “Dear Mountain Room Parents,” which appears at the end of… Read more »

Exceeding My Expectations: A Great Author Visit at a Hectic Time

Last Friday morning as I was having breakfast before school, I read this blog post entitled “The Paradoxical Extremes of Middle Grade Students: A Holiday Memory,” and I teared up a bit. In the post, Braden Bell, a choir director and author, describes his experience with a talented but silly group of eighth graders and… Read more »

Fanfiction?

Last year, after we finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird, I gave my eighth grade students a creative writing assignment. “Write your own chapter,” I instructed them. “It could be an extra scene that takes place during or after the events of the novel. It could be a secondary character’s take on an event that’s… Read more »

“Why are we allowed to read this…?”

Pretty soon, I’ll post the final installment of my series on engagingly fallible first-person narrators, but in the wake of Banned Books Week last week, I wanted to post something else while it’s fresh in my mind. After A.S. King visited my school last spring and gave three amazing presentations to grades 7-9, several students… Read more »

Engagingly Fallible Narrators Strategy 3: Taking Advantage of Syntax and Diction

Well, I’ve made it through the first full week of the school year, and I’m back to continue my series on strategies for creating an engagingly fallible first-person narrator. In the last two posts, I’ve covered two big-picture strategies for showing readers that a character’s perspective is not entirely reliable: writers can incorporate narrative distance… Read more »

Engagingly Fallible Narrators Strategy 1: Narrative Distance

Last Monday, I shared some information about the rise of first-person novels for children and young adults and some thoughts on the challenges and benefits of writing in the first person. As promised, today and in my next few posts, I will be offering some ideas about how writers can create engagingly fallible first-person narrators…. Read more »

Two Novels to Savor: I’LL BE THERE and PARCHED

When I was in high school, I first read a novel by the writer Alice McDermott and was blown away.  I shared it with a friend and was surprised when she still hadn’t finished it a few weeks later.  Did she not like it?  She assured me that she did.  “I have to read it… Read more »

Technology in Young Adult Fiction

Well, it’s official. After missing a few exciting things and getting some encouragement from MFA classmates, I’ve joined Twitter.  I’m a little overwhelmed and still not clear on the nuances, but hey, that’s technology. Speaking of technology, and in honor of my entrance into the Twittersphere, today I’m thinking about technology and social networking in… Read more »

On this April Morning

Yesterday, I put off writing a blog post because I wasn’t sure what to say.  After a week that included the Boston Marathon bombings, the terrifying manhunt that shut down Boston, and a massive fertilizer plant explosion, it felt wrong to post about the relatively mundane details of teaching or writing.  And yet who am… Read more »

Excited about E-Books: An Author Visit from Andrea J. Buchanan

Most writers I know are a little bit wary about e-books.  Some duck their heads and smile apologetically when they admit that they kind of like the Kindle they broke down and bought.  Many seem worried about what electronic publishing means for independent bookstores and the future of the book as we know it.  Not… Read more »

Middle School Girl Culture Mini-Course

Now that I’ve made it through the first week back from spring break, I’m finally getting around to writing about something that happened just before vacation: a two-day “Middle School Girl Culture” mini-course that included a successful Skype visit and other fun events. My friend and colleague Maureen and I led a course for fifteen… Read more »

Why I [Fill in the Blank]

It’s always interesting to me that I can read the same book at different times and notice very different things about it.  Recently, I began reading Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian for at least the third time.  I first read it several years ago, then read it with my eighth… Read more »

The Value of Failure?

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about the value of failure. Sounds counterintuitive, I know.  But last week, I went with the other teachers at my school to the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) conference for a day.  I expected lots of information about how we can set our students up to… Read more »

Going for 1000: Lessons from Rebecca Levenberg

Confucius said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” And that has become a mantra for Rebecca Levenberg. A little over two years ago, Rebecca was hit by a garbage truck while riding her bike to work.  In the accident, she sustained severe injuries, and one of her legs had to be… Read more »

Book Binges

I love it when I discover an author a little late in the game, after he or she already has multiple novels out, so that I can finish one and pick up another without having to wait too long.  A couple of years ago, I fell in love with Jaclyn Moriarty’s Ashbury High novels, and… Read more »

Short, Fun Projects to Energize Student (and Adult) Writers

I’m working my way through the first seasons of Dr. Who, and last night I watched an episode called “The Girl in the Fireplace.”  In that episode, the Doctor passes through time windows to 18th century France to protect a young woman being stalked by extremely creepy looking clockwork droids.  For the Doctor, only a… Read more »

How Structured Writing Assignments Can Unleash Creativity

In July of 2011, I was beginning the third semester of my MFA program, and I had some very definite goals.  I was going to start a new teaching job, so I knew the first few months of the school year would be especially busy.   To make the beginning of the year more manageable, I… Read more »

Skyping with a True Pro

Last Thursday afternoon, thirty-nine seventh graders crowded into my classroom.  I handed them index cards with the questions they’d prepared ahead of time, signed on to Skype, and set up the projector.  Soon, Kate Messner’s face appeared on the screen, and we began our virtual author visit. The day before, we’d finished Capture the Flag,… Read more »

Drawing to Learn: Visual Projects in the English Classroom

Recently, I got the chance to visit middle school English classes at another school as a professional development opportunity.  It was really helpful to step outside of my day-to-day routine, see what other teachers are doing, and then reflect on my own practices. One teacher gave me some great ideas about independent reading projects. She… Read more »