“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”
Imagine being able to observe classrooms of today, yet remain unseen. Like some Ebenezer Scrooge being escorted through time by the Ghosts of Christmas, invisible to the students and teachers yet able to see and hear the workings of the classroom. What do you think you would see?
The sad reality is that we start losing students in middle school – especially young men. During this time, students are just starting to explore and understand their independence, and it is precisely at this time when we start to impose more structure and allow fewer freedoms in terms of their education. What is the end result?
Most students will do just fine.
Most students understand the expectations placed upon them by their parents, friends, community, etc., and they will conform, grudgingly, to those expectations.
But couldn’t we do better?
Shouldn’t we do better?
Imagine telling a group of students, “Today we are going to read a text with minute attention to detail in order to determine what the text is explicitly saying. In addition, we will make logical inferences from the given text. You will also be citing specific textual evidence in order to support any written or spoken conclusions you may draw from the text.”
How would most react? Eye rolling? Looks of dread? Furtive glances at watches, clocks, and phones in order to see how long their suffering will last? All of the above and more. And yet, this is what happens in classrooms every single day.
Students – all students – need more than just standards. Young people care about people and ideas.
They need big ideas that inspire. Like freedom.
And justice, love, honor, courage, faith, and more.
These are Ideas Worth Teaching. Ideas such as justice, hope, humanity, and ethics are just a few more of the ideas that students should explore. These are not new ideas. They are very old, and they are worth teaching and learning.
And how should we allow students to explore these ideas? Through stories, of course. Tales can transport readers to different worlds. In these new worlds, the possibilities for learning about ideas and ideals are endless.
Instead of driving a stake through the heart of a young person’s will to read, write, and think, students should be given more opportunities to explore the world of ideas through a variety of reading choices.
So where did all of this start? In the classroom. With me. A frustrated teacher faced with frustrated students.
I was frustrated because I could not find suitable reading materials for my students. My students were frustrated because their teacher (me) was asking them to read materials that may have been approved by publishers, curriculum specialists, department chairs, and even other teachers, but in reality these materials were simply not engaging. So what was I going to do about it?
And thus, Something to Teach was born.
Something to Teach is dedicated to providing parents, teachers, and students with something special…Ideas Worth Teaching – and stories worth reading. In short, educational materials that are designed to intrigue, instruct, and inspire.
Need Help Getting Started?
Click on the links below to help you get started. There is information on teaching, learning, reading, writing, and more.
Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.
The educational materials found herein are organized around two things: history and Ideas Worth Teaching.
Like the idea of freedom.
What’s so special about ideas?
How much does it cost?
Each novel and/or unit is sold separately. There is no monthly subscription cost. You can purchase whichever teaching/learning materials that you want.
What subjects are covered?
The materials found herein are written for the following classes: English/Language Arts and Social Studies/History.
In my opinion, there should be little distinction, if any, between English/Language Arts and Social Studies/History. Historical fiction is rarely used in many/most Social Studies classrooms. This is a disservice to our students. Students should be reading and writing in both subject areas. As one famous author wrote, “Specialization is for insects.”
Really, students should be reading, writing, and thinking about history, plot structure, themes, and ideas in all subject areas, including math and science.
To that end, additional courses are planned for a variety of different subjects and topics, including but not limited to the following: music, France, famous thinkers/writers from France, food, art, England, famous thinkers/writers from England, and more. Much more. In my opinion, nothing should be taught in isolation. Mathematics, Science, English/Language Arts, and Social Studies/History are all part of learning.
For example, in a course about the Civil War could include the following: a short story about the Battle of Gettysburg, a nonfiction biographical passage about General Meade, a map of the battlefield (geography), nonfiction passage about medicine and medical treatment during the Civil War era, and a study the math behind the ballistics of the famous artillery barrage just prior to Pickett’s Charge. The preparation and creation of such materials takes time. Please be patient. More educational materials are in the works.
What grade levels are covered?
These materials are suitable for secondary students (grades 7-12). Having said that, the primary focus of these courses are for students in grades 8-10. Why these grades? These years are a time of transition. Students are no longer children, per se, but they are also not adults. It is an awkward time, and many struggle to find their footing – academically, socially, emotionally, etc. I want students to be equipped with an understanding of certain ideas (like freedom, honor, mercy, love, faith, justice, and more) so that they will be ready to face the challenges of adulthood.
What materials and/or equipment do I need in order to access and experience the lessons?
Pen and paper.
These are the two most important tools. I recommend a smooth writing pen that is comfortably held in the hand and a composition notebook. Also, you need to have access to Internet, so that students can download and view the materials. For best viewing, this should be done via a tablet or a computer. Most of the items come in the form of downloadable PDFs. This makes it easier for teachers and parents of homeschooled students to print classroom materials. Obviously, if you are going to print the materials, then you will need a printer.
My personal recommendation is that students use pen and paper. Yes, that’s a lot of writing. I know. That’s the point.
Do I have to print these materials?
No. You don’t have to print these materials.
It doesn’t matter if you are using these items in the classroom setting or a homeschool setting. You can have students read the questions online, and write their answers on paper or in their composition notebook. If a student answers a question properly, then he or she will restate the question in the answer. I always tell my students, “If a stranger walks into the room, picks up your paper, and reads only your answer, then he or she should know what the question was.”
Sometimes I will have students respond to pre-reading questions in their composition notebooks and sometimes I will print out the questions, especially when they are dissecting quotes. It is helpful to let them write on the page and make notes/ask questions about the quotes.
Why pen and paper?
In today’s world, with all of the technology at our fingertips, why on earth would you want students to use pen and paper?
That’s so old-fashioned. With an LMS, students can simply type their answers to questions in the digital workspace and teachers can read what they’ve written without having to pore through piles of papers. Technology makes things so much easier. While all of this is true, there are many reasons that I prefer pen and paper.
First and foremost, the act of writing with pen and paper engages the brain in a different way than typing on a keyboard. It involves more of the brain. Do you know how many students don’t know what it means to write their signature? Or can’t? Too many.
Penmanship should not be a lost art. I am a licensed special education teacher. I have had the opportunity to work with many specialist such as Speech and Language Pathologists (SLP) and Occupational Therapists (OT). When I have posed this question to OT’s, invariably I am met with rolled eyes, exasperated sighs, and the like. And statements like the following: “Of course, students should be taught penmanship. It is a vital part of the growth and development of their fine motor skills.”
Such thinking mirrors my own. Students should be using pen and paper. We do students a tremendous disservice when we don’t ask them to use pen and paper, especially in formative years.
The Naval Academy requires cadets to learn how to use the sextant. The sextant hasn’t been used for navigation for quite some time, yet the Navy still considers this “old technology” as useful.
Also, writing stuff out by hand provides a natural segue to editing. When you look at stuff that you’ve written and you’re entering it into the computer, then you re-read what you’ve written and make changes. It is a useful way of incorporating editing into the writing process.
What sort of teaching/learning materials are provided?
The primary materials found in the courses are things to read and things to write/think about. There are short stories that can be printed (PDF files) or read online. There are novels (PDF files) that I recommend being read on a device.
If I am using these materials as part of a homeschool program, what do I have to do as a parent?
You will need to purchase and download the desired materials for your student(s), provide pen and paper, and provide access to the digital content.
Parents do not have to grade any papers, but I do recommend that parents read what their students have written. There are no cut and dry answers for many of these questions. Rather, I want students to show what they are thinking and their understanding of certain ideas.
I want parents to read what their students have written and compare it to what I have written. This allows parents a better understanding of how their child reads, writes, and thinks. A grade is not the best measure of how much a student understands an idea. His or her written words are.
If I am using these materials as part of my classroom, what do I have to do as a teacher?
Many of the materials come in the form of downloadable PDFs. These are easily printed for classroom use.
How do I get started? Which unit should I choose first?
Please refer to the Getting Started guide. It is a downloadable PDF.
Will my student get a grade? What sort of feedback is provided?
Students will not receive feedback from me for their work.
However, I provide students with MY answers – the ones that I have written – to the questions. I want students to understand my thoughts about the ideas worth teaching.
This is how learning takes place – when students compare their thoughts to mine.
Is there an academic calendar?
There is no specific academic calendar as these course are designed to be self-directed. Naturally, some materials are better suited for certain times of the year. For example, stories about zombies are best read in October.
How long does it take two complete each unit?
The length of time needed to complete a unit is entirely up to the students. Obviously, classroom teachers have more constraints and/or needs with respect to time. For example, a classroom teacher might want to spread out a novel over the course of a week or two. In the homeschool setting, a student may finish a novel in the span of an hour or two. Thus, the length of time needed to complete a unit varies from student to student.
Students should take as much time as needed.
No more. No less.
Can I use and reuse these materials with more than one student in my family?
Yes. Especially if both you and your student(s) like the materials. You are not buying a license with a restricted number of users. Granted, I would prefer it if people did not share these materials with other parties who have not paid for the products, but if you pay for a product, then it is yours to use with other brothers/sisters/siblings.
What if I don't like it? Do you offer refunds?
There are no refunds offered for any purchases. The free materials offered on this site provide customers an opportunity to “try before you buy”.
Will you be adding more books and stories?
Yes and yes. Emphatically, yes. New reading materials are constantly in the works.
Why are some of the stories are so short?
Short stories make for better Socratic Seminar topics (think The Little Match Girl – a short story that packed a serious emotional punch).
Also, some stories are short so that you don’t break the copier/printer. I also like it when each student has his or her own copy of the story – to write all over it. Sometimes it’s a good thing to have students interact with the text – underline good quotes, highlight vocabulary words, and write down definitions in the margins. Or do nothing. It is their story. They must use it to explore the Idea Worth Teaching.
What about standards? Are these materials aligned to any standards?
The answer is simple. For all of the instructional materials, the following standards apply:
Reading: to look at and comprehend the meaning of written or printed matter by interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed.
Writing: to mark letters, words, or other symbols on a piece of paper with a pen or pencil.
Thinking: to direct one’s mind towards someone or something.
Every single student is an individual with different learning needs. A single classroom with 30+ students will have 30 different learners, each with his or her own unique reading and writing abilities. A home school with 3+ siblings will have 3+ different learners, each with his or her own unique reading and writing abilities.