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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Top 9 Components For Effective Writing Instruction

There are a few agreed upon elements of effective writing instruction.  Below, listed in descending order of effectiveness, are the components of effective writing instruction as complied by Intervention Central in How To Teach Student Writing Skills: Elements of Effective Writing Instruction.  

1) Students follow a multi-step writing process. Effectiveness Rating: 0.82 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Students are trained to use (and can produce evidence of) a multi-step writing process, including the elements of planning, drafting, revision, and editing (e.g., Robinson & Howell, 2008). They make use of this process for all writing assignments.

2) Students work collaboratively on their writing. Effectiveness Rating:0.89 (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012); 0.75 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Students work on their writing in pairs or groups at various stages of the writing process: planning (pre-writing), drafting, revising, editing.

3) Students receive timely feedback about the quality of their writing. Effectiveness Rating: 0.80 for adult feedback, 0.37 for student feedback (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012). Students receive regular performance feedback about the quality of a writing product from adults, peers, or through self-administered ratings (e.g., using rubrics). It should be noted that the impact of timely teacher feedback to young writers is especially large (effect size = 0.80).

4) Students set writing goals. Effectiveness Rating: 0.76 (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012); 0.70 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). At various points in the writing process (planning, drafting, writing, revising), students are encouraged to formulate specific goals; they later report out (to the teacher or a peer) whether they have actually accomplished those goals. Examples of goal-setting might include locating at least 3 sources for a research paper, adding 5 supporting details during revision of an argumentative essay, writing the first draft of an introductory paragraph during an in-class writing period, etc.

5) Students use word processors to write. Effectiveness Rating:0.47 (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012); 0.55 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Students become fluent in keyboarding and have regular access to word-processing devices when writing.

6) Students write about what they have read. Effectiveness Rating: 0.40 (Graham & Herbert, 2010); 0.82 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Students are explicitly taught how to summarize and/or reflect in writing on texts that they have recently read. Each of the following writing activities has been found to be effective in promoting writing skills -- as well as improving reading comprehension: - paraphrasing the original text as a condensed student summary - analyzing the text, attempting to interpret the text's meaning, or describing the writer's reaction to it - writing notes (e.g., key words or phrases) that capture the essential text information

7) Students engage in pre-writing activities. Effectiveness Rating: 0.54 (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012); 0.30 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Before beginning a writing assignment, students take part in structured tasks to plan or visualize the topic to be written about. Activities might include having students draw pictures relevant to the topic; write out a writing plan independently or in pairs or groups; read articles linked to the writing topic and discuss them before developing a writing plan, etc.

 8) Students produce more writing. Effectiveness Rating: 0.30 (Graham, McKeown, Kiuhare, & Harris, 2012). Students have more writing included in their daily instruction (e.g., through daily journaling).

9) Students study writing models. Effectiveness Rating: 0.30 (Graham & Perrin, 2007). Students are given models of the kinds of writing that they will be asked to produce: e.g., argumentative or informational essays. Students closely study the structure of these models and attempt to incorporate the important elements of each model into their own writing.


For a comprehensive writing program check out 'College and Career Readiness Writing' at

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Read about a 34 year old Harry Potter...If that is your thing.

This story makes me wonder what type of hi-jinx Holden Caufield might have gotten up to if Salinger decided to toss off a short story every once in a while.
Author J.K. Rowling has written a new story based off the "Harry Potter" characters, which takes places following the events in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

The story is told from the perspective of The Daily Prophet gossip columnist Rita Skeeter and centers on Harry, now 34, who attends a Quidditch World Cup tournament with his sons James and Albus and wife Ginny Weasley, who is a reporter. Hermione, an employee at the Ministry of Magic, and Ron, a co-manager at Weasley's Wizards Wheezes, are also featured, along with Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood.

Harry is decribed with a "couple of threads of silver" in his hair, while Ron's red mane is "thinning."

Fans who want to read the 1,500-word story must subscribe to, which has been flooded with users since the annoucement.   Rowling's final book in the Harry Potter series was released in 2007, and the last film opened in theaters in 2011.
If you are using any of the Harry Potter books in the classroom check out for Lit plans and teaching units.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We get feedback: Reading Informational Texts

I just have to share this recent feedback from a teacher who has been using our Reading Informational Texts
Visitor (10:52:58):  Bingo. Thanks a zillion. Also there is a new reading supplemental book coming out (standards based) this summer for level 9 & 10. When will these be available?

Sue (10:53:54) Are you referring to the Reading Informational Texts? These are in stock and available now

Visitor (10:54:29) No, it was something new.

Sue (10:54:48) Reading Literature?

Visitor (10:55:04) Maybe

Sue (10:55:44) They will be ready later on this summer - we hope late August - still under production!

Visitor (10:57:09) Great. Thanks. Your materials are great. I have used them for years. Last year on our state assessments in Reading, our sophomores scored 100%. Everyone met the standard. Don't think it has ever happened in our district! Thanks for your help.

Sue (10:57:44) WOW!! how exciting! thanks for letting us know! check back with us in August and if they are available, we will be glad to send you samples - thanks!

The Hardest Part of Teaching

The hard part of teaching is coming to grips with this:

There is never enough.

There is never enough time.

There are never enough resources.

There is never enough you.

As a teacher, you can see what a perfect job in your classroom would look like. You know all the assignments you should be giving. You know all the feedback you should be providing your students. You know all the individual crafting that should provide for each individual's instruction. You know all the material you should be covering. You know all the ways in which, when the teachable moment emerges (unannounced as always), you can greet it with a smile and drop everything to make it grow and blossom.

You know all this, but you can also do the math. 110 papers about the view of death in American Romantic writing times 15 minutes to respond with thoughtful written comments equals -- wait! what?! That CAN'T be right! Plus quizzes to assess where we are in the grammar unit in order to design a new remedial unit before we craft the final test on that unit (five minutes each to grade). And that was before Chris made that comment about Poe that offered us a perfect chance to talk about the gothic influences, and then Alex and Pat started a great discussion of gothic influences today. And I know that if my students are really going to get good at writing, they should be composing something at least once a week.
Peter Greene writes for Huffington Post. He has taught English in a small town high school for thirty-five years.

At Prestwick House we are working hard to give English/LA teachers a very precious commodity...time.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Life, Literature, and the Pursuit of Happiness!

Happy Independence Day Everyone!

I hope you're all enjoying summer and have great weekend plans. We'll be out of the office tomorrow, but in honor of the holiday, we're offering special discounts on the most popular American literature titles.

Check out our Life, Literature, and the Pursuit of Happiness discounts valid all month long.

While you're at it, don't miss the latest news article at on the Top 10 Most Popular Works of American Literature in Schools.

Enjoy the weekend!

Walter Dean Myers, Notable Young Adult Author, Dead at 76

It's a sad day in the world of literature as another great author has passed away.

Walter Dean Myers was a voice for the unspoken majority of teenagers and children, earning their attention and respect through the pages of his books. An article in today's New York Times reports on his many contributions to the writing world.

A onetime troublemaker who dropped out of high school, Mr. Myers spent much of his adult life writing realistic and accessible stories about crime, war and life in the streets. He wrote more than 100 books, including “Monster” and “Lockdown,” and was the rare author to have a wide following among middle-school boys.

Myers wrote on a wide variety of topics and events, reaching audiences worldwide. He will be missed.

If you're interested in reading some of the best novels by Walter Dean Myers, visit us at

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Reading your way through the World Cup - USA

While the men of the USMNT played valiantly, they eventually lost to Belgium 2-1 in extra time. Not exactly known for being a soccer nation, the United States succeeded in proving their talent and drive as they fought their way out of the Group of Death. They lost their chance to advance to the quarterfinals, but Tim Howard managed to set a World Cup record by making sixteen saves. We may be disappointed here at Prestwick House, but we know that our men did their best on the field and will be even better in World Cup 2018 in Russia.

It may be over for the United States, but there are several amazing countries that remain and many more books to read. Today we’ll include Danny Scott’s pick for the USA, Friday Night Lights. While we may not be famous for soccer, Friday Night Lights reveals the very core of southern American football, focusing on a small town in Texas with huge amounts of potential. Pick this up if you want to take your mind off soccer for a little bit — football season is only 64 days away!

Check out the rest of Danny Scott’s list for more amazing reads from the participating countries in the World Cup!

Friday Night Lights by H. G. Bissinger, Yellow Jersey If you think soccer fans are fanatical, spend 1988 with the Permian Panthers as this high school American football team carry the hopes, dreams and expectations of 20,000 Texans every Friday night. Written as narrative non-fiction, Bissinger's book, which he moved his family to the town to research, is held by some as the greatest sports book ever written and has since been adapted as a film and TV series. 

Writing and Running

Writing requires the mental endurance of a long-distance runner. The thought of writing an entire novel with the quality to get published can seem far beyond daunting; it can feel simply impossible. However, in a recent article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rachel Toor, a professor at Eastern Washington University and a long-distance runner, has found that the key to sticking with such a huge project is breaking it up into small, manageable steps toward completion, even if that means thinking one sentence at a time.
Don’t take my word for it; listen to Ernest Hemingway:

Hemingway wrote in A Moveable Feast: "I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.”
Here at Prestwick House, we know that good writing and discipline take practice. That’s why we offer numerous resources to help anyone master the art form.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Reading your way through the World Cup - Belgium

Here at Prestwick House, we are excited as another USA World Cup game is upon us. Today, the USMNT will be facing Belgium in what is sure to be a battle to advance to the quarterfinals. Although the men showed promise during their games against Ghana and Portugal, they slowed their defenses against Germany. Here's to hoping they enjoy soccer more than waffles!

You can continue reading while enjoying the game by checking out Danny Scott’s “A Booklover’s Guide to World Cup 2014” and possibly picking up the great selection from Belgium!

Marcel by Erwin Mortier, Pushkin Press It was uncertain, until recently, whether multi-lingual Belgium was going to continue as one country. Considered by many to be the dark horses of this year's World Cup, Belgians might soon find themselves firmly on the map. Once there they may start shouting more about their literature and, handily, Erwin Mortier's novels have recently been translated by Pushkin Press. Seek out Marcel to journey into the mind of the eponymous main character unravelling his family's complicated past in their Flemish village.