Friday, July 25, 2014

Kids Explain Shakespeare's Hamlet

This is great.

Thanks for that Great River Shakespeare Festival!

Coleridge died on this day 180 years ago

On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one. Decades removed from his masterworks, Coleridge seems to have turned himself into a bit of a literary curiosity in his last years entertaining up and coming literary types like a young Thomas Carlyle who found Coleridge "a kind good soul, full of religion and affection and poetry and animal magnetism," but "a great and useless genius" who in conversation "wanders like a man sailing on many currents."

Although I'm not a fan of the Romantics, you have to hand it to Coleridge for coining the term "willing suspension of disbelief" because, seriously, where would we be without that? 

Kubla Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Prestwick House Picks Six World Lit Books Worthy of Your Attention

Check out this Prestwick House list of six world lit books you should teach this year.   It includes...

True History of the Kelly Gang
Peter Carey
A historical fiction novel, True History of the Kelly Gang is told from the point of view of Ned Kelly, the Australian bushranger and folk hero. The novel may be challenging for students to read due to the unconventional writing style and punctuation, but the action-packed story of robberies, shootings, and horse thefts will surely hold their attention. The tale demonstrates the corruption of authority and lawlessness that was prevalent in 19th century Australia.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Making Summer Reading Compelling, Not a Chore

In a recent article from The Atlantic Daniel Willingham describes the tips and tricks of how to get kids excited to read even in the summer months.
As the school year ends, students’ thoughts turn to summer vacation staples like swimming, camp, and popsicles. Teachers—and most parents—would like them to think about reading, too. School and district officials offer summer reading lists, hoping that specific recommendations will move students away from video games and toward books. But most will ignore these worthy suggestions, and indeed will read very little. How can parents nudge kids toward books this summer?
While many children won't want to even think about reading while counting down their days of freedom, Willingham gives parents tips on how to sneakily make reading fun and accessible. At first it may be difficult to tear them away from their tablets and computers, but once they find the books they truly want to read, they won't be able to stop. They might even discover that the same adventures explored in a video game can be found within the pages of a book. Great readers can be formed outside of syllabi and reading lists, but they must also learn to balance what they want to read with what they need to read. Once kids appreciate the wonders of literature beyond the confines of school, they will find themselves indulging in reading both inside and outside of the classroom.
To get your child started on the joys of summer reading, browse the most popular books at .

Monday, July 21, 2014

Teachers Honored at Baseball Game

I've long thought that teachers should be getting more recognition and some basic societal perks. (Designated parking spaces?) Maybe this (via Prestwick House) is a start... Major League Baseball and Jill Biden honored 30 teachers at the MLB All-Star Game.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Today is Nelson Mandela International Day!

Today, July 18th, is the official Nelson Mandela International Day. The UN chose this date (Mandela's birthday) in 2009 to honor the life and legacy of the former president of South Africa. The purpose of the day is also to inspire activism and public service. Mandela, who passed away last December at 95, was an anti-apartheid activist and public servant.

What difference will you make? Check out the official website to learn more about the day and how you can inspire change.

Also, check out Mandela's moving autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cheaters Never Prosper — But They Want To

In the current issue of the New Yorker, reporter Rachel Aviv describes the calculated actions of a school that made the decision to help their students cheat — and not just on a simple math quiz, but a standardized test that would determine whether Parks Middle School in Georgia was performing at the level they were expected.

The students had no part in the cheating. However, it was a feeling of desperation that led teacher Damany Lewis, and others at the school like him, to help his students succeed in whatever way he could.
At the end of the testing week, Lewis went back to the testing office with Crystal Draper, a language-arts teacher. For about an hour, they erased wrong answers and bubbled in the right ones. They exchanged no words. Lewis couldn’t even look at her. “I couldn’t believe what we’d been reduced to,” he said.
While it may be easy to say that their cheating was completely in the wrong, it's not so easy to contemplate the struggle that many schools in the U.S. are facing in terms of standardized tests. Simply put, if a school is failing, teachers and faculty are let go. But, if a school increases their scores on the tests, they are offered rewards.
When a school met its targets, all employees, including bus drivers and cafeteria staff, received up to two thousand dollars. 
While the reward seems certainly enticing, the motivation for cheating in the case of Parks Middle School seemed less to do with money, and more to do with the refusal to let their students fail another year. It was with this hope of increased test scores that they cut open boxes and scribbled in the right answers.

There are many stories like this in the media, but rarely are we able to see the full story behind them. Aviv explores the motives behind the teachers, and never once paints them as people who wanted to simply cheat the system. At the same time, she uses this ten-page article to show that cheaters never truly prosper, even if they want to for all the right reasons.


At Prestwick House, cheating is always discouraged. Visit our vast collection of teaching units to help your students gain the knowledge they need for any test.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How to Build Your Child’s Interest in Reading

Most parents want their child to spend some time reading this summer, but what is the best way to make this happen? According to a recent article in The Atlantic, the standard methods might be contributing to a child’s negative association with the activity. 

If a parent tries to reward reading, it’s likely the child will understand it to be a boring task that requires payment—and what will happen once the rewards stop coming? That child will most likely lose the motivation altogether.

The same goes for setting time limits, which instill the notion that reading is no fun, like a trip to the doctor.

It is true that new games and technology have become big competitors for a child’s attention, but what parents can do—other than removing devices completely—is to alter their home “so that reading is the most appealing activity available when your child is looking for something to do.” Making reading fun can be achieved by keeping engaging books all over the house—by the bed, on the couch, on the kitchen table, in the bathroom—and in the car. Putting books in interesting places will help to spark a child’s interest and self-motivation.

Also, it goes without saying that taking frequent trips to the library can be both economical and fun.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Prize-Winning Author, Dies at 90

Nadine Gordimer was a novelist from South Africa who took on the issues of Apartheid in her writing. She won the Nobel Prize in 1991 for her collection of creative fiction. Several of her works were banned in that country for some time during the Apartheid era. Despite their controversy, these texts helped to shed light on the realities and cruelties of Apartheid. 

Check out our collection of short stories, edited, and contributed to, by Nadine Gordimer.

Friday, July 11, 2014

'To Kill a MockingBird' turns 54 years old today

On July 11th, 1960, the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee was first published by J.B. Lippincott and Co.    At Prestwick House we are marking the occasion with ice cream.

 If you happen to teach To Kill a Mockingbird do yourself a favor and check out the awesome teaching materials available at