Intentions and He Said, She Said

alexander_he said, she said

I have written before about our summer program* with Boston Green Academy, and we just finished our two-week institute with ninth and tenth graders from BGA and my students from Boston University. For this summer’s core text, we chose the book He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander, and it has been fun to watch […]

Brain-bending books

smith_grasshopper jungle

Lately, I’ve read several books that blew me away with their beautiful and sometimes anarchic originality. I’ve written before about the creepy dreaminess of the almost-song We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and I was equally bowled over by the lyrical oddity of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, which […]

The value of re-reading

The Secret of the Wooden Lady (Nancy Drew)

I was recently privy to a conversation that I have participated in countless times in my twenty-plus years in education. It was a version of “The 8th grade teachers are stealing the 9th grade teachers’ books” discussion. You know that one, right? Of course, it does not reside exclusively in the domain of middle or […]

Frankly, tired of reading Anne Frank

frank_diary of a young girl

I’ve hit an academic dilemma at summer camp this year. For the past three years at this gifted students’ camp, my lead instructor has chosen to teach The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank). Yes, the book provides an entryway into a very difficult historical topic; yes, it’s pretty amazing to watch Anne’s growth; […]

Happiness and high school humanities

The Spectacular Now

I got a request this past year from my friends at Boston Green Academy (BGA) to help them consider their Humanities 4 curriculum, which focuses on philosophies, especially around happiness. This was a tough request for me, and certainly not one I had considered before. There aren’t any titles I can think of that say […]

Yaqui’s text set

medina_yaqui delgado

Since I wrote recently about using a text set built around the idea of respect and the title Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina, a few people have asked what other texts we used alongside it. Our* essential question was “What makes someone worthy of respect?” We were aiming for a […]

Books that feature poets

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy

Recently some friends of mine from Brookline High — Mary Burchenal and Ric Calleja — were interviewed in the Boston Globe about whether poetry is starting to disappear from schools. I don’t really know, but I sure hope not. In lots of classrooms I visit, poetry is certainly a part of the curriculum. But I […]

Yaqui Delgado and essential questions

medina_yaqui delgado

In a school world where text complexity seems to be all the rage, I am in a bunch of discussions about the place of YA literature in high schools moving forward.  My answer is I don’t always know, but I think YA has much potential to promote deep work to make meaning of text. During […]



I was having a passing conversation recently with a high school senior in a humanities classroom, and he said he hated “school books.” I asked why, and he said the only time black people are in books at school, they are slaves. It made me want to cry. Or maybe scream. Then I thought of […]

How I learned to stop worrying and write curriculum about Bomb

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

One of the projects I am involved in is a program where a group of retired folks work in schools to facilitate after-school reading groups with middle graders. One piece of my work is to write curriculum about books that (we hope) are high-interest and wide-ranging in subject, so groups will have many options as […]