Category Archives: Teaching

Wuthering Heights: Before Reading 2


Before I read the book, says Kelly Gallagher in his book Deeper Reading, I need to activate any background knowledge I can about the topic, which Gallagher likens to warming up a car before driving it. This is designed to “get the students ready and focused for the upcoming reading” (Gallagher 21).  He goes on to say, “By activating their schema… a sense of anticipation is built before they begin to read” (21).

Gallagher goes on to explain the importance of setting up the book before the students start reading: “…reading comprehension is tied closely to what the reader brings to the page — to what the reader knows before reading” (26). He cotinues: “Having context helps immeasurably” and “…our students often lack prior knowledge in many of the areas they are to study” (27). Gallagher then quotes a brain guru, David Sousa, who says, “past experiences always influence new learning” and Gallagher continues: “When we read something new, we are much more likely to understand it if we see connections that make it relevant” (Gallagher 27).

Not to belabor the point, here are some other points he makes:

  • Teachers should do more “…frontloading of the text so that students could get past the unfamiliarity of the story and begin seeing the beauty and the universal truths inherent” in a novel (28).
  • “If we expect students to find meaning, ‘we need to be certain that today’s curriculum contains connections to their past experiences, not just ours’ (Sousa 2001, 49) (28).
  • “When we teach difficult literature and challenging nonfiction to our students, we need to work hard to frame the text for them. Remember, adolescents often bring very limited prior knowledge to the page, so we need to be the equivalent of that guided audio tour” (37).
  • “As the teacher, what you do (or don’t do) before your students read a major literary work will determine their level of motivation and interest. This in turn will have a direct effect on their level of comprehension” (37).
  • “What can (the teacher) do to shore up those gaps in the prior knowledge of… students?” (38).

Gallagher then goes on to suggest a number of strategies, including the K-W-L-R (K: What they know already; W: What they want to know; L: What they have learned; and R: Post-reading research), the “K” of which I explored in the last post.

But Gallagher also suggests additional ideas for preparing students, such as:

  • a related story or article
  • an art experience
  • a video clip

To frame Wuthering Heights, I explored the internet and what I found is in the next post


Student Writing Tool:

I have the privilege of attending an afternoon PD session on teacher websites as well as blogging, and Danika showed me a blogging site called

Here’s the description from the website:

Built for Teachers

Kidblog is designed for K-12 teachers who want to provide each student with an individual blog. Students publi

sh posts and participate in academic

discussions within a secure classroom blogging community. Teachers maintain complete control over student blogs and user accounts


Here are suggestions on how to use

Use Kidblog to:

  • create classroom discussions

  • learn digital citizenship

  • practicing writing skills

  • create an e-portfolio

  • reflect on learning

  • formatively assess writing

Danika has been telling the teachers in the session today that she herself has set up a class but she has spoken to ‘non-techno’ teachers (my term) and they were able to set up their blog in under 20 minutes!

I believe that Danika said she spent time up front typing in all of the students’ names, which is a bit of a pain, but in doing that, she was able to maintain control over the blogs, including giving students a password, which the teacher then obviously maintains.

Sounds very cool.

Some other notes from Danika:

  • Having students post a reflection after a Literature Circle discussion and then students have to comment on two or more other students’ blogs.
  • Danika used to use Ning (as I did) which is a site that allowed for safe, private social networking, as I did. Used to be free, now it is not, and Kidblog has almost all the same functionality as Ning.
  • Don’t be thrown or put off by the name, Kidblog. The name won’t be as prominent later once you customize your page.
  • All students’ blogs appear on Danika’s homepage.
  • Students use real first name for accountability but no last names for anonymity, and no outside internet user can see their blog posts.
  • There is an app for both Apple and Android, which can help if there is limited lab availability.
  • Very similar to — if not the same as — Word Press.

Useful Site? Teaching Literature to Adolescents

Teaching Literature

I stumbled upon this site in Google. The site has what appear to be chapters (from a book of the same title) that contain ideas and activities. In addition, there are pages that contain links for such topics as Poetry, Shakespeare and Multicultural / Women’s / World Literature, as well as Lesson ideas.

Might this be a useful site for English teachers?


Twitter ‘unworkshop’?

Twitter resources for our ongoing twitter teacher unworkshop

Curated by Maggie Verster
Twitter unworkshop
A collection of ideas for using Twitter in the classroom, as a teacher, as a professional resource, etc.

Is spelling that important?

Dear English Teacher...

Shakespeare at SilverCity?


My wife and I took our girls to see a movie today (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2”) and, whilst there, we saw a poster advertising National Theatre Live’s upcoming shows. Their tagline is “Experience the best of British theatre at a cinema near you,” and we noticed, to our delight, that Kenneth Branagh’s performance of Macbeth (that he co-directed) is being broadcast in October (the dates can be found here or here). We very much hope to attend the broadcast this weekend.

National Theatre Live

My teacher brain, however, wondered: wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to bring students to see modern interpretations of major literary works such as Macbeth (or Coriolanus in January)? I attempted to find out whether these broadcasts might be purchased but was unable to discover the answer…

Cool Site: English Companion Ning

The English Companion Ning describes itself as “A place to ask questions and get help. A community dedicated to helping you enjoy your work. A cafe without walls or coffee: just friends.

Ning is a site that allows users to set up a social network with much of the functionality of a site such as Facebook but the creators of the particular Ning site can dictated how public the site actually is. For example, I have used Ning in an English Media class and only the members of the class (and their parents) had access to that Ning so as to maintain privacy and security.

To access the English Companion Ning, a new member is required to create a membership but it is a great resource of ideas for the English classroom as created by English teachers