Put Down the Overused Literary Term

Dearest Students, This post is for you.  Your teachers are allowed to use whatever literary terms they want, because years of trial and error have taught your teachers discretion.  You are a different story.  My hope, however, is that the next time your teacher asks you to do some kind of textual analysis, this post … Continue reading Put Down the Overused Literary Term

Case Study: The Board Game Rulebook

Today we’re going to combine a couple of my hobby horses - good writing and board games - into a bizarre hobby horse chimera that might be distressing to look at, but will show us how, in addition to its many other benefits, good writing helps us have fun with our friends.  We’re going to … Continue reading Case Study: The Board Game Rulebook

Simple versus Simplistic

Write simply. Its one of the first, most frequent, and loudest writing tips I give my students: write simply.  Some of my students - those fond of referring to “individuals” when they mean “people,” talking about how an author “utilized” something when they want to talk about use, and those who have thesaurus.com in a … Continue reading Simple versus Simplistic

Five Writing “Controversies” I Will Not Engage

Every so often, my students will ask for my opinion regarding a writing matter on which I have no opinion - and that’s tough, because as anyone close to me can tell you, I have opinions on most things!  But since these come up from time to time, and I will continue to resolutely not … Continue reading Five Writing “Controversies” I Will Not Engage

Paper Prompt: Connecting

My lit students across my three seminars began their spring semesters with two of my favorite books to teach: Euripides’ The Bacchae, perhaps not the best of the Greek tragedies but without a doubt the most bonkers of them; and Dostoevsky’s psychological doorstopper Crime and Punishment, wherein we learn how exhausting it is to spend … Continue reading Paper Prompt: Connecting

Build Your Vocabulary (And Then Don’t Use It)

The other day, as I was about to hand back some lit analysis essays my students had written, I asked them a question that had been on my mind for some time: what do you guys have against the word people? I had noticed a pattern across their papers that, when discussing characters in books … Continue reading Build Your Vocabulary (And Then Don’t Use It)

Hills I Will Die On: Abuse of Myself

My teaching philosophy holds that one should limit the energy one spends sweating the little things.  I believe fanatically in teaching my students the rules that are actual rules, but my contribution to the interminable debate surrounding the series comma is a resounding “eh.”  While I favor the series comma, I don’t care whether you … Continue reading Hills I Will Die On: Abuse of Myself

Teaching the Strong Thesis Statement, Part One

This week, I asked my Facebook readers to suggest a topic for the blog and several people, especially my teacher pals, hit me with a lot of simmering angst about thesis statements and how students can’t write them.  There are dozens of online guides about how to write a good thesis statement, so I’m going … Continue reading Teaching the Strong Thesis Statement, Part One

Getting Squatters Out of Your Sentences

After “commas any time you pause” and “your thesis has no stakes,” this is the piece of writing wisdom I distribute most often to my students: adverbs are not your friends.  During this past week, as I’ve been helping seniors revise college essays in the Writing Lab at my Esteemed Place of Employment, I’ve been … Continue reading Getting Squatters Out of Your Sentences

Against the Essay Hook

It feels like the most commonly taught wisdom in English classes, especially in the lower grades of high school. “Start your essay with a hook.” Okay.  Interesting.  What’s a hook, exactly? “It’s an engaging opening sentence that grabs the reader’s attention.” Okay, sounds good, if a little vague.  How does it do that? “It gets … Continue reading Against the Essay Hook