REIMAGINED CLASSIC STORIES

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Short Stories for Middle School

by Jerome Tiller
Short stories should make the syllabus when it comes to middle school. So says noted editor, author, and professor Dr. Donald R. Gallo. In his essay Short stories—Long Overdue, Dr. Gallo says short stories can offer readers a most enjoyable literary experience, while providing teachers with a flexible and varied teaching tool. And, he adds, the value of short stories increases when the students are less able or reluctant readers. Short stories put less pressure on these students simply because they are short. That in itself makes them more accessible and doable.

So why do some teachers bypass using this teaching tool in the classroom? Maybe because they believe the shortness inherent in the form doesn’t allow enough time for plot...

The Humor of Twain, Poe, and Hawthorne

by Jerome Tiller
Comparing the humor of Twain, Poe, and Hawthorne would be an excellent way to introduce middle school students to classic literature. It’s hard to imagine a topic that would be more interesting to middle school students than humor. You just know a classroom discussion about humor would be fun for teacher and students. And it would be educational too, of course. Humor takes many forms that are worth knowing about. And Twain, Poe, and Hawthorne are worth knowing about too, and the sooner the better. All of them used humor to make or enhance classic stories that have added texture and relief to our culture. Thank goodness for them.

Now, every American either knows or will discover that Mark Twain was...

Edgar Allan Poe Humor for Middle School

by Jerome Tiller
Whether Edgar Allan Poe’s humor will suit middle school students is a matter for middle school students to decide. I would encourage middle school students to search for the humor in Poe’s stories. I think they will like his humor when they find it.

If middle school students were to analyze almost any Poe story, even his tales of terror, they would likely find some humor either simmering along the surface or inserted between the lines. A Poe humor search would make a good middle school homework assignment. Then a great classroom discussion likely would follow. I’d bet that discussion would be fun for students and teachers alike.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Thou Art the Man, a detective story on the surface, features...

Eve and Adam Have Nothin’ to Offer

by Jerome Tiller
When it comes to female objectification, Eve and Adam have nothin’ to offer those who want to know why males objectify females. Mark Twain didn’t directly delve into that topic when he wrote his creation stories. But he did recreate the first heterosexual couple, and he did exaggerate certain gender-specific tendencies in each character. Readers in his day would have recognized these masculine and feminine tendencies as legitimate.

After all, Mark Twain was anything but stupid. He built his humor on the bedrock of exaggeration and understatement. And you know he understood how to use those comic devices! He knew it wouldn’t be funny for him to assign, and then exaggerate or understate, gender-related tendencies that didn’t mesh with what his...

Middle School Students - Learning by Talking

by Jerome Tiller
When middle schools students discuss the meaning of literature under the direction and supervision of a teacher, they are learning by talking. Classroom discussions about the meaning of stories help middle school students develop new ideas, organize and clarify their thoughts, and express them verbally. Besides these lessons in mental and communication skills, classroom discussions about literature also help middle school students learn valuable life lessons. Quality literature can carry an abundance of such lessons.

The trouble is, most of the skills middle school students learn by talking about the meaning of literature cannot be quantified. Middle school students might develop their brains and learn life lessons when they talk about literature, but they merely internalize those benefits. No standardized test...

Poe's Hop-Frog - Middle-School Lesson Plan

by Jerome Tiller
I imagine Edgar Allan Poe’s Hop-Frog would fit well in some middle-school lesson plan. I can only imagine, however. Today’s lesson plans are probably tied closely to education standards and achievement tests. I am not a teacher. I do not know enough about the teaching vocation to speak authoritatively about standards or testing. Still, if teachers have the flexibility to use literature to stir classroom discussion, 'Poe’s Hop-Frog' has much going for it as a vehicle for that.

I discussed objections to exposing middle-grade readers to 'Hop-Frog' in two earlier posts. To reiterate, just because Hop-Frog, a very sympathetic character, violently revenges maltreatment by his tormentors does not mean that violent revenge is justifiable. Whether revenge can ever be justified, however,...

Promote Pleasure Reading in Young People

by Jerome Tiller
Studies by the U.S. Department of Education have shown the overall amount of pleasure reading by young people has steadily declined. There are many theories why this is so, including those that point to trade-offs and time constraints; young people abandon pleasure reading to focus instead on digital devices or to use what once had been free time to expend extra effort in meeting the regimented demands of an achievement culture.

Yet everyone knows that young people will seek and find fun wherever it can be found – it’s their natural instinct. Then what if they were  to find more fun in pleasure books at their reading level?  Like the fun they once found in the picture books of their...

Dr. Heidegger's Experiment - Topics For Teachers to Explore

by Jerome Tiller


As indicated in our last post, this marks our first blog that suggests topics teachers might want to explore in classroom discussions involving stories in the Adapted Classics collection. The first book we published in the collection is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, and there are lots of topics teachers might want to explore in this one.

You might ask why Dr. Heidegger conducted the experiment. What did he hope to find out? The subjects in the experiment might trigger other questions. All of them were old friends of the doctor, so we know Dr. Heidegger knew them and and that he was probably also aware of their rather ignoble pasts. Were they useful subjects for what he hoped to learn from...

Fiction and Classroom Discussions

by Jerome Tiller
Some of the best classroom discussions led by teachers in my early school years involved literary works, usually fiction. Teachers found fiction to be especially fertile ground for classroom discussions because no student could ever truly be right or wrong. Students knew they were entitled to their own opinions about themes, characterization, motives, etc. Everybody had their own interpretation about the stories, and nobody would tell them that theirs were wrong. Classroom discussions about fiction often got students who rarely spoke-up in class to offer their opinions. Students were safe with fiction. They couldn’t be wrong.

We select, adapt, and design stories for the Adapted Classic collection with classroom discussions in mind. Even the illustrations by Mark Johnson-Pencook, though primarily attention...

Fiction can enlighten while it entertains

by Jerome Tiller
In our last post, shade was thrown on the idea that fiction can enlighten a reader. The post also contains the suggestion that reading to be informed is worthwhile while reading fiction merely entertains -  and that it doesn't do such a very good job of that compared to numerous alternatives.

Setting aside the opinion that reading fiction is an inferior way to entertain oneself, let’s deal with the issue of enlightenment. First of all, we probably need to clear up what might be some confusion in terminology. Knowledge and enlightenment are not synonymous. Insofar as information contains real (not fake) facts, acquiring and storing information adds to one's knowledge. Enlightenment is the result of 'getting it' - the 'it'usually being understanding that...