I’ve recently turned a longtime dream into a reality: I’ve published a book of lesson plans for teachers who use Sin and Syntax in the classroom. This is something I have been working on since 2008. I kept adding to the lesson plans, teaching more workshops, expanding my dream, and imagining the day when I would stop tinkering, seriously edit them, find a copy editor, and put the materials into some more credible form than a Word document. This material is now an e-book.
Today I’m excited to announce that I’ve just turned a longtime dream into a reality: I’ve published a book of lesson plans for teachers who use Sin and Syntax in the classroom. Its 372 pages come with ideas for discussions, in-class exercises, homework assignments, handouts, answer keys, and even a big grammar test. There are readings galore, of my heterodox favorite passages (from Charlotte Brontë to Muhammad Ali!).
I recommend Sin and Syntax to my seniors and freshman honors English classes. And we used it in class to demonstrate the contrast between flat, dull writing and writing that makes use of a full range of techniques.
I have used the exercises in “Constance Hale’s Lesson Plans for Teachers” as daily warm-ups. There’s one additional exercise I’ve developed that I’d like to share: I teach my students to identify Greek and Latin morphemes in English words throughout the year.
On November 13, 2017, my friend and colleague Matthew Zapruder started a thread on Facebook seeking ideas for teaching poetry to kids. Matthew is not just a writer of most-memorable lines, but also the author of Why Poetry (Ecco, 2017) and a veteran teacher of verse—but not to elementary school students. His friends delivered in spades, brainstorming, sharing tips, and showing their own offbeat creativity. It all made for a bracing palaver about poetry.
A few years ago I was on a plane, flying home to Arizona, when I noticed a Mexican teen and two burly white guys that seemed to be his escort. Coming from Arizona, I found this picture all too familiar. I was watching an undocumented immigrant on the first leg of a deportation to Mexico, escorted by two ICE agents.
When the seat belt light went off, I got up, walked over and asked the ICE guys if I might talk to the young man. They allowed it. The 18-year-old had been brought here by his parents when he was three. America was his home, he was a good student with good grades, and he never broke the law.
I teach ninth grade English at Dominguez High School in Compton, California. In June, I completed my first year as an English teacher, and it was no small feat. Prior to my English gig, I taught music for nine years. The leap from music to English, from elective to compulsory, frightened me. My fear morphed to frustration as I tried teaching my students how to write. I didn’t know how to help them improve their writing. Then the rookie English teacher gods knocked some sense into my head and said, “Ebony, you have to teach them grammar—explicitly.”