Today’s post comes from a recent email (used with permission) from a fellow English teacher. For privacy, I changed her name.

Hi Laura,
First, thank you, as always, for your thoughtful, realistic approach to education. I am deeply grateful! Next, a few questions for you. It sounds like you are free to create and use your own curriculum. Is that the case? Are you and the other English teachers expected to cover the same content? To have the same number/type of assessments?

Also, my department chair insists on following up every single chunk of reading with what he calls “focus” questions, the bulk of which involve reading comprehension questions, all of which are approached in the exact same way – context, lead-in, quote, sometimes analysis. Thus, let’s say for The Catcher in the Rye, he expects kids to answer 10-15 focus questions after every chapter. Am I right in despising this approach to curriculum and thinking he is out of touch with how to approach curriculum in a meaningful way? I know I’m asking you to weigh in on something here that has no remedy; I’m just wondering if I’m the one who’s out of touch!
Thanks,
Carly
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Each spring, I launch a project-based learning experience that encourages students to pursue a project of personal interest. Folks have lots of different ways of managing this (search Genius Hour, 20 Percent Project, or Kevin Brookhouser to learn more), and here are the rules for my version: 1. The project must be something the student […]

Friend of the blog (and real-life homie) Annette just shared a link to this surprisingly challenging quiz from the folks at Mental Floss where we must determine whether a line comes from our favorite Dark Romantic era writer or a modern “emo” band. Continue reading

In this first week of the new year, it’s wise to pause and look back at the previous year as we figure out what we want to accomplish next. Around here, January means prep for 20Time, a passion project that’ll carry us through the spring semester. (More about 20Time2019 will be posted later this month. Working on some plans, y’all…)

Today, I’m sharing a handy organizer created by a bunch of humanity-loving Hungarians that could help us – and possibly our students – accomplish significant goals. Continue reading

Many of us will present “The Gift of the Magi,” O. Henry’s tale of gift giving and self-sacrifice in December, and friend of the blog Kate McCook just shared a link to a 15-minute film that beautifully modernizes the classic short story. “I came across this lovely short film set during the Greek economic crisis,” she emailed this week. “I’m thinking of showing it to my class for a little treat and exposure to world culture.” Thanks, Kate, for sharing the good stuff – this one’s definitely going into my rotation, too. Continue reading

Note: This is an updated repost.

A few years ago, I shared my P.E. department colleagues’ inspired use of stations on the day before we left for Thanksgiving break. Continue reading

Note: This is an updated repost featuring some of my favorite end-of-October lesson ideas.

In 7th grade, my friend Sarah plugged her older brother’s copy of A Nightmare on Elm Street into the VCR at a sleepover and I haven’t been okay since. Scary movies? Nope. No, thank you. I’m such a chicken, I shut my eyes during commercials for horror flicks. I mean, you heard the new Halloween movie opens this weekend, right? Count me o-u-t.

Books, though, are different. Somehow, the images in my mind aren’t as gory as those on the screen and good short stories don’t rely on cheap jump-scares; instead, there are heavy things to actually think about and I suppose that’s my favorite kind of terrifying. Continue reading