Tag Archives: teaching

Read Your Children Poetry

A middle school teacher describes how he starts every class with a poem. Also, a note on school shootings, this one at a local high school.

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Graded Essays Are Like Chopped Wood

If you are a teacher swamped by end-of-term essays, Frost’s “Woodpile” has some good advice for you.

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Recovering from the Semester

After an exhausting semester, I feel like Tennyson’s Arthur after his final battle. I’m spending my winter break with my wife and my mother in Sewanee, Tennessee, my version of Avalon.

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School under the Sea: Reeling, Writhing…

To welcome teachers and students back to school, here’s a description of education under the sea, as experienced by Lewis Carroll’s Gryphon and Mock Turtle.

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Personal News: A 2018 Retirement

In June 2018, after 38 years of teaching college, I will retire. I don’t want to go out like Walter Savage Landor’s old man–“the fire is low

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On Forgetting Old Students

Sometimes as teachers we forget students that we impacted greatly. Thomas Hardy’s Jude learns this when he looks up his old teacher Phillotson.

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Beware Teachers That Satirize Students

Tom Layman’s “The Students” is a humorous poem but, in the end, mean-spirited. It also lets the teacher off the hook.

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Thoughts on Classroom Attendance

Tom Wayman’s “Did I Miss Anything” is a sarcastic put down of students who have missed classes. It allows teachers to vent but there are better answers to the question available.

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Reading Novels for Moral Instruction

“Tom Jones” teaches how to raise adolescents. And how not to.

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Don’t Underestimate Your Students

Rule #1 for literature teachers should be to listen carefully to your students’ responses. There may be hidden wisdom in even the most unpromising ones.

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The Limitations of Cerebral Teaching

Teaching literature must be more than just a cerebral affair.

Posted in Donne (John), Edson (Margaret) | Also tagged , , | 3 Comments

Teaching Lit Crit as Autobiography

Literary criticism can be a form of autobiography. Knowing that can improve our teaching.

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Think of Writing Essays as Method Acting

To teach writing about literature, think of your students as method actors.

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A Cancer Patient Reads “The Bacchae”

One of my students, suffering from cancer, has an exciting interpretation of Euripides’ “The Bacchae.”

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Lit Unlocks Cultural & Linguistic Barriers

Teaching abridged classics to students with limited English, this graduate instructor discovered that much more came through than she expected.

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Teaching Lit as a Public Mission

Teaching at a public liberal arts colleges shapes has influenced how I approach literature.

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How Teachers Can Make Lit Real

The “so what” question is vital if students are to make their responses to literature real.

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Poetry Is Stupid (But Will Save Your Life)

Reading poetry is a life insurance policy for when things go bad, Housman tells us.

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Narrative Drama, Key to Good Teaching

To teach your discipline, turn to compelling narratives.

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Jane Austen Has Something for Everyone

No two students respond to Jane Austen the same.

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Playing Cards Jane Austen Style

Playing the card game in “Mansfield Park” gives students insight into the meaning of games.

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World War II Internment Still Resonates

American students of color respond in powerful ways to “When the Emperor Was Divine,” Julie Otsuka’s novel about Japanese Americans’ experience in World War II internment camps.

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Death, Faustus, and a Search for Meaning

The Faustus story can aid one in an existential search for meaning.

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Steinbeck Makes Microeconomics Real

Economics teacher Steve Ziliak uses Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” to teach the human side of microeconomics.

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A Poem for Those Feeling Dragged Down

In “The Fascination of What’s Difficult,” William Butler Yeats gives us a poem that will help get us through end-of-the-year workplace fatigue.

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Teaching Integrity in High School English

Describing a high school English class that he teaches, Carl Rosin draws on the American Transcendentalists as he insists that his students live lives of integrity. His final assignment requires them to put what they have thought and read into action.

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A Day in the Life of a College Professor

I had a very interesting day Monday. Taking inspiration from Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I thought I’d describe it to give you a window into the life of a college teacher.

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Lit’s Precondition: People All the Same

I’ve just come across an illuminating contrast between literature and war.  Theater director Mary Zimmerman is currently staging a version of the Arabian Nights at Washington’s Arena Stage, and in the program notes she responds to the question, “Are you saying that you believe certain feelings are universal, or perhaps that we share an essential […]

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What Fictional Fantasy Means

Having taught British Fantasy Literature for the first time last semester, I need to think back on it before it becomes a distant memory.    By reflecting publicly, I can share some of the insights I gained from the course. Two major things I learned are that (1) fantasy is an oppositional genre—by which I […]

Posted in Andersen (Hans Christian), Carroll (Lewis), Chaucer (Geoffrey), Coleridge (Samuel Taylor), Dickens (Charles), Grahame (Kenneth), Grimm Brothers, Haggard (Rider), Keats (John), Kipling (Rudyard), Rossetti (Christina), Shakespeare (William), Sir Gawain Poet, Tennyson (Alfred Lord), Tolkien (J.R.R.) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

How to Write a “True” Essay about Lit

When I wasn’t teaching class yesterday, I was continuing my marathon essay-grading session. I took a break to write today’s post, however, and used a well-known poem by Langston Hughes to reflect on what I was asking my students to do. In “Theme for English B,” the only black student in a college composition course […]

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Essay Grading and the Great Wall of China

At this time of year, I sometimes wonder why I signed up for this gig. Stacks of ungraded essays are strewn “far and wee” across my study, and only the knowledge that I have completed my student essays in the past assures me that I will make it through this batch. In my hour of […]

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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