Monday, June 30, 2014

The Return of Reading Rainbow

Prepare to discover the gold at the end of the rainbow. In a Rolling Stone article, LeVar Burton discussed his plans to bring back his popular children’s show, Reading Rainbow, with some special technological advancement to reach the younger, modern audience. The original show ran from 1983 to 2006 with reruns airing until 2009 when it was pulled off the air in the wake of the No Child Left Behind legislation. Through his Kickstarter campaign, Burton hopes to bring the new show straight to the web and mobile devices to engage a newer age of tech-wielding youngsters. He feels that technology should be used as a positive tool to educate and connect with the internet-saturated generation.

At Prestwick House, we also aim to build a passion for reading. We have many products designed to aid reading comprehension. Take a look!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reading your way through the Wold Cup - Germany

0 - 0  at the half.  We'll take it.  

This Thursday Prestwick House will be enjoying grilled brats and lunchtime viewing of the U.S.A vs Germany.  We only need to manage a draw to move forward, (and a draw doesn't really hurt Germany) so stats guru Nate Silver gives the USMT a 76% chance of moving forward.  Not bad. 

This is our third "Reading your way through the Wold Cup"  and based on  Danny Scott's  impressive, "A Booklover's Guide to World Cup 2014" write up for Birgit Vanderbeke's  The Mussle Feast   I think I may actually pick this up.  


The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke, Peirene Press Ltd

Brand Germany's stock has never been higher. Since hosting the 2006 World Cup, the country has reclaimed its identity as a modern, progressive state. Against its re-emergence, diving into modern German literature seems necessary and The Mussel Feast is a great place to start. Vanderbeke's novella follows the fortunes of an East German family in Berlin as the wall falls in 1989 in beautiful, stream-of-consciousness prose.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Considering Common Core from a Student’s View

In a recent New York Times article, reporter Javier C. Hernández explores the new Common Core through the eyes of someone new – a student who is actually experiencing the changes firsthand.
On its own, the Common Core was not a curriculum; it did not tell schools to use particular textbooks, lesson plans or technology. The standards provided a philosophy for instruction. Teachers would focus on fewer topics and cover each in greater depth. They would bring abstract lessons to life by explaining how skills could be applied in the modern world. And they would emphasize critical thinking at every turn.
There has been a lot of controversy over the new Common Core standards introduced to both students and teachers. While it is a seemingly hopeful proposal to increase test scores and classroom learning, some schools are left struggling.

While many have heard the opinions of teachers, administrators, and parents, it is interesting to hear the opinions of a 9-year-old acclimating to the new system. Hernández introduces Chrispin, a Haitian emigrant who once considered himself the smartest in his kindergarten class. Now, he is falling to the bottom of his fourth grade class and is left feeling unsure as to why. The article explores his new rigorous study schedules and his earnest attempt at dreaded long division.

The entire article raises the question of whether the Common Core is truly succeeding in what it sets out to do. Are children expected to change their ways of learning so quickly? Are teachers expected to do the same with teaching? The article suggests that perhaps the problem does not rest within the new standards, but how it is being implemented.
If you are contending with implementing "Common Core" check out "Reading Informational Texts" at

My college students don't understand commas, far less how to write an essay. Is it time to rethink how we teach?


He (the High School English Teacher) talks about processes and collaboration, about students working together and doing peer review, about how they keep writing folders, and do writing frequently in various, informal ways.
“But the writing they’ll need to do in college won’t be informal,” I say. “And it won’t be reviewed by peers but by professors. So what about specific writing and research skills? What about style and grammar?”
Almost instantly, his tone shifts from one of back-patting, pedagogy-speak to something more honest. He laughs. “It’s very hard to get a lot of teachers to teach those things, especially grammar. We have such a need to engage students. There’s such an emphasis on keeping student enthusiasm going and getting them to want to actively participate. When you start talking about grammar, it’s like asking them to eat their vegetables, and no one wants to ask them to do that. They prefer class discussion, which is great but to a certain degree, goes off into the wind.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reading Your Way Through the World Cup - Portugal

With striker Jozy Altidore officially out this Sunday, the U.S. faces an uphill battle against perennial football powerhouse Portugal.    Win or lose on the pitch, you can still win the World Cup of life by reading your way through the World Cup.  Check out Danny Scott's  impressive, "A Booklover's Guide to World Cup 2014"


Act of the Damned by António Lobo Antunes, Grove Press

If Cristiano Ronaldo has anything to do with it, all eyes will be on him as he pouts, poses and struts his way through World Cup 2014. His countryman Antunes is considered to be one of the literary giants of Portugal. His work has been compared to William Faulkner's in the way it seeks to incorporate many voices in complex literary structures. In Act of the Damned Antunes tells the story of a once wealthy family that unravels into dysfunction as it tries to escape a socialist revolution.

"Mother Cities" and "a collection of leaves" Literal translations of vocabulary words can illuminate nuanced meanings

Our lovely English language has thousands upon thousands of words that have been derived from Latin and Greek. The literal translations of these words are sometimes beautiful, sometimes silly, but always interesting.


G. Metr, "mother" + polis, "city"
Metropolis literally means "mother city," but it's used today to denote a very large city, like Los Angeles or New York.


L. con, "all, together" + spir, "breath"
Conspirators breathe together. Huddled together in the dim light of a flickering lamp, they share their breaths in common cause.

Check out for more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Introducing Poetry in the Classroom

Writing in the New York Times Sunday Review, William Logan, poses a rhetorical question: Poetry: Who Needs It?
The way we live now is not poetic. We live prose, we breathe prose, and we drink, alas, prose. There is prose that does us no great harm, and that may even, in small doses, prove medicinal, the way snake oil cured everything by curing nothing. But to live continually in the natter of ill-written and ill-spoken prose is to become deaf to what language can do.
Indeed. We lovers of poetry have been living behind enemy lines for a while now. With the Common Core Standard’s heavy emphasis on non-fiction is there any place left for poetry in the classroom? Was there ever?

Where did you read your first poem? Was it in a classroom full of kids rolling their eyes and yawning? Or was it and act of rebellion? Did you read your first poems sneakily on the bus home, a book balanced on your knees?

If you’re like me, you might’ve discovered poetry between the subjects of science and math, huddled over the frayed pages full of words by Maya Angelou, dreaming of caged birds singing for their freedom. Poetry was a door that I didn’t even open, but rather fell through – and fell hard.

 I only had one unit of poetry taught in my time from kindergarten to eighth grade – the most formative years of not only education, but English education. My fifth grade teacher gave us the task of writing almost every form of poetry, from rhyming couplets to the haiku. Months later we sat in the auditorium and sipped hot chocolate, snapping our fingers as our classmates read their own poems aloud. Nobody really cared about poetry then. It was only an assignment, with a payoff in the form of liquid chocolate in a cup.

Years later, I know it meant something. Poetry is essential to all matters related to the viability of life and the human spirit; it is the cornerstone of every song professed, the iambic heartbeat and rhythm of all movement, the soul of literature. And maybe twelve-year-old me didn’t know this then, but poetry put my stars into orbit, and gave me something to wish on when I dreamt of my own future as a writer. Poetry in the classroom is important, plain and simple. But what is even more important is the introduction of poetry to children, and how it’s done. With passion and the inspiration for genuine interest, anyone can come to enjoy Byron, Shelley, or Keats. Poetry strikes the innermost stirrings of pure human nature and love.

And no, it may not be as exciting as television or video games, but poetry transcends material things and becomes universal. Not everyone will love poetry, or hunger for the next rhyme or Neruda sonnet, but those that do will discover a new world of writing and reading. Now think again about when you first discovered poetry. Was it exciting? Did it bore you? Would you rather have been learning about fossils, or even algebra? There are endless possibilities, and for every kid that closes a book, somewhere another is just beginning to turn the pages.

At Prestwick House, we hope to keep those pages turning. Below are some great collections of poetry available from us: Maya Angelou Shel Silverstein Robert Frost Romantics Collection Poets of the 20th Century Editor's Note: This post was written by Lindsay Saienni, a Prestwick House Summer Intern.

Impossible Trivia Tuesday

What unusual distinction is shared by these TV shows? Airwolf, Battlestar Galactica (2004), Days of Our Lives, Game of Thrones, Lost, Mad Men, Oz, Pushing Daisies, Twin Peaks, The Walking Dead.
This trivia question is taken from Ken Jennings' Tuesday Trivia email. Click on the first comment below for the answer.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Reading your way through the World Cup

The United States takes the field tonight at 5:30pm for its first World Cup 2014 game vs. Ghana. It you are interested in reading your way through the world cup Danny Scott of The Scottish Book Trust has put together an impressive list of titles.


Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi, Penguin

Ghana Must Go was the much anticipated debut novel of part Ghanaian, part Nigerian Taiye Selasi. Selasi rose to fame when she coined the term 'Afropolitan' to describe a new class of educated, ambitious Africans and sons and daughters of the African diaspora. In Selasi's beautifully written debut, three such Afropolitans must journey to the land of their parents when their estranged father dies suddenly of a heart attack.

Friday, June 13, 2014

We get fan mail

Prestwick House prides itself on delivering great customer service to English and Language Arts teachers. This came in via live chat.

Chat time: 3m 4s
Hello! How can I help you today?
Hello, K**** H***** here.  I just wanted to take a moment to give a sincere thank you to all of you at Prestwick this year.  I have enjoyed working with you all this year, and everyone is so helpful and kind.

This is the last day of school, so I just wanted to shoot a quick thanks over to you all.
Thank you very much, our customers are very important to us and it's great to hear that you are so satisfied with your experiences with us. 

We appreciate you as a customer and hope you have a wonderful summer vacation, you deserve it ;)
Thank so very much.  Take care.
Have a great day!  Look forward to hearing from you next school year!

For great product, prices and customer service be sure to bookmark

Thursday, June 12, 2014

When writing is the sickness and the cure: the rise of "Stay Lit"

I’ve known from a very early age that choosing to go down the “writer” path would be a decision supplemented with questions, stares, and worried expressions from my friends and family. There is much consensus that writing for a living is akin to being poor for a living or being a professional gambler—and while this might often be the case, is there no upside? Is novel-writing, itself, doomed?

While there is no denying that times are changing and that writers must be willing to adapt to technological and social revolutions, those who wish to pursue a life of imagination and creativity at the keyboard should realize that they are not alone. Those who are adamant have stuck with the field despite fiscal difficulty. In fact, there has been an emergence of what some term “Stay Lit”, a seemingly new genre specifically about sticking with writing, despite hardship. For many other pen-wielders, this writing has proved inspirational.
In an essay recently published on The Rumpus, the novelist Russell Rowland describes being dropped by his agent after years of underwhelming books sales and dwindling advances, the most recent in the two figures. These disappointments weigh on him: “Every time I get my royalty statements, which come every six months, my resolve gets tested in ways that sometimes take weeks to overcome.” Yet he keeps coming back: “The desire to write, it seems, is a sickness for which there is no cure. Except writing.”
At Prestwick House, we also aim to inspire and keep the passion for writing alive. We have many resources that can help improve a student’s writing, including…
Editor's Note: This blog post was written by Prestwick House intern Andrew Sommers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Should you teach Into the Wild?

Your students will love:
  • The truth-seeking, journalistic style of Krakauer’s account 
  • The youthful ambition and idealistic mind of the protagonist 

But your students may have problems with:
  • The tragic ending of the book. It is a sad but awe-inspiring story. 
  • Time jumps. Often, the author neglects to follow the chronological order of events in order to share the information at the most effective moments. 

For a complete Teacher's Guide to Into the wild visit

Common Core Scrutiny Grows in New York: "We are not the research and development arm of Pearson"

New York Sen. Terry Gipson, D-Rhinebeck, is calling on the state to cut ties with testing giant Pearson Inc. Gipson has introduced legislation to end New York's use of Pearson to create Common Core-based tests.
"It has been brought to our attention by teachers, administrators, school boards, parents and others that the exams Pearson is providing are flawed with mistakes and inappropriate material," Gipson said. "This is a for-profit corporation funded with taxpayer money, so we have more than enough reason to ask the state Education Department to cease and desist all relations." Pearson, the London-based mega-corporation that bills itself as "the world's leading learning company," has a five-year, $32 million deal with New York to develop Common Core-based tests for grades three to eight. Gipson, whose district includes part of Putnam County, said various groups have different positions on the Common Core standards and other state reforms but he sensed bipartisan support for changing New York's testing policies. "We would like to see this corporatization and standardization of the education system come to an end," he said. "Let's utilize the educational talent we have in New York. We have amazing teachers and educational professionals who are more than qualified to work with the state Education Department to develop materials that are error free."
Teacher's Associations are supporting Gipson's bill:
Lisa Jackson, president of the Carmel Teachers Association, one of several teachers unions supporting Gipson's legislation, said the state should develop its own 3 to 8 tests, as it does with high school Regents exams. "We have a tried and true system in New York, involving teachers who know our students," Jackson said. "Teachers know what's best for our students and should have a primary role in designing and writing test questions. Farming the work out to a for-profit corporation does not make sense." Various groups of educators and parents have criticized the state's education agenda, including the fast-paced rollout of Common Core and new tests aligned to the standards. At least six Lower Hudson Valley school districts have decided not to administer "field tests" this month for the state Education Department. The tests are being given to students in about 4,000 New York schools to provide information for the development of future tests by Pearson. "We are not the research and development arm of Pearson," said Peter Mustich, superintendent of the Rye Neck school district, one of the six not giving the tests.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Did You Like The Fault in Our Stars? Here Are 7 More Books to Read

New York Magazine's Amanda Bullock recommends some books for people who liked The Fault in Our Stars. This one may be my next beach read...
4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro Adapted into a pretty good movie, the book is better because of the way the reader slowly begins to understand the absolute impossibility of hope for our lovers. Set in an altered England of the recent past, the story unfurls in a masterful gradual reveal as the characters come to understand who they are and the real purpose of the boarding school they attend. The reader shares the students' sense of foreboding and willful denial, which doesn't make it any easier to accept the truth as it seeps out.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Congratulations Jane McMahon, Wisconsin Teacher of the Year !

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recently announced that Jane McMahon, an 8th Grade Language Arts teacher at Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo, Wisconsin, has been named the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year. Ms. McMahon has taught in the Baraboo School District for 24 years and has also served as a coach and advisor. Jack Young Middle School has been a Prestwick House customer since 2005.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Penmanship is long gone, cursive is out, is handwriting itself doomed?

As educators shift away from handwriting and into the world of the keyboard (the common core state standards only call for handwriting in kindergarten and first grade), many believe that we are teaching efficiency, but, in fact, research suggests that handwriting helps us learn in a different way — a way that helps students generate ideas and retain information. It is argued that the act of writing out one’s thoughts manually slows down the process and helps one acknowledge and understand what’s important.