Four Books for the New School Year

This Wednesday, I’m back on campus, and classes start next week.  After a year reprieve, I’m teaching creative writing again, but this semester, I’m also teaching an introductory writing about literature class (a class I have not taught in about five years), so I’m busy revising syllabi and reviewing new material and ideas for both courses as well as my developmental writing course.

Outside of the required textbooks, I have four books I am using for ideas.  If you teach high school or the first two years of college, you may want to consider the following titles:

Reading in the Dark: Using Film as a Tool in the English Classroom by John Golden (NCTE Books)  I’m actually revisiting this book — for years I have used Golden’s strategies of watching certain clips of movies in the classroom to help teach aspects of writing.  My favorite?  Using the first five minutes or so of ET to help teach point of view. 

Reading in the Reel World: Teaching Documentaries and Other Nonfiction Texts by John Golden (NCTE Books)  In this follow-up to his first book, Golden discusses a number of documentaries or “nonfiction” films in order to help students learn to read nonfiction texts.  I’m especially interested in his exercises on writing for my developmental students.  Plus, his book introduces a lot of documentaries — many I have never seen.  So far, I have decided to use Born Into Brothels, Spellbound, and Mad Hot Ballroom (sections, not the whole films) in my class.

Poetry of Place: Helping Students Write Their Worlds by Terry Hermsen (NCTE Books)  I purchased this book because I’m extremely interested in the idea of place in poetry.  Also, because I teach in a rural community college, I like to emphasize to my students how important their place is (They don’t always want to believe me).  Hermsen’s discussion about place extends far beyond physical landscape.  Furthermore, he offers many exercises (and examples from students) that may help jumpstart poems for your students.

The Working Poet: 75 Writing Exercises and a Poetry Anthology by Scott Minar (Autumn House Press)  I purchased this book for two reasons.  First, I love Autumn House Press and second, I wanted prompts to help with my own writing.  Then, I discovered that the book could be a useful tool in the classroom.  The Working Poet features pages and pages of writing prompts exploring various themes, styles, and forms.  So many books that offer writing prompts contain broad assignments like, “Write a poem that makes you happy.”  (Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but not much).  However, what I liked most about this book was how specific and concrete the prompts were — perfect for my classroom.  My favorite prompts are from Jan Beatty, who talks about writing a narrative with the help of a globe and a little imagination; Charles Harper Webb who encourages the trading of secrets, real or imaginary, to help jumpstart a poem; and Diane Lockward, who discusses using “the exploited metaphor” to connect concrete items with abstract words.

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