Essay on Shakespeare’s Plot Structure

Method to the Madness co-author BH James has an essay on Shakespeare’s Five-Act Structure in the February issue of California English. Here’s a link:

Lesson Plan for “This is America” and “Oscar Wao”

We have a new lesson plan available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store that uses Childish Gambino’s “This is America” as part of a larger teaching unit on Junot Diaz’s “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”.

Students will examine Donald Glover’s video, “This is America” and close-read its authorial choices, looking for examples of subversion and dictatorship–themes aligned with Diaz’s own work.

Students will create a brief presentation examining how these themes become apparent while also discussing their importance.

Symbolism, Diaspora, and Binaries in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

We have a new lesson on The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The lesson includes two major assessments:

One, a 24-hour project for applying knowledge of major concepts in the book, such as diaspora and binary oppositions.

The second, a group presentation wherein students create a rigorous lesson to be presented on one of the symbols in the text. Students will have to trace their assigned symbol throughout the text in order to create sufficient arguments.

Bildungsroman in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

We have a new lesson available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store. It is titled: Bildungsroman and Oscar Wao, and it is part of a larger unit on Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

This is an assignment in which students get to reflect on their own personal moments of bildungsroman–where they grew up and couldn’t go back. A powerful assignment in appreciating both the necessity and tragedy of growing up.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Midterm Exam

We have an exam on Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

The exam can be given orally or in written form. Students will need to show a depth of understanding of tricky subjects in order to score well. The teacher can allow them to use their texts during the exam in order to supply sufficient textual evidence.

The Great Gatsby Teaching Unit

We have a complete teaching unit for The Great Gatsby available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

This unit can be used over the course of 4-6 weeks. Students will close-read, do a ton of writing, and apply nonfiction research to the study of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.

This hits all Common Core Anchor Standards and provides excellent skill development for your students.

Romeo and Juliet: The Tragedy of Growing Up

We have a new PowerPoint lesson available in our Teachers Pay Teachers Store. It is titled “Romeo and Juliet: The Tragedy of Growing Up.”

Focusing on the more universal tragedies within the text, this lesson examines growing beyond your friends and family–a more accessible aspect of the tragedy within the play.

Testimonials from Workshop on Teaching Literature in High School Classrooms

On January 9th, we led a workshop at the University of the Pacific in Stockton on creating critical thinkers through the study of literature.

The workshop was based on our book, and focused on the following:

  • The rationale for using quality literature (fiction, poetry, drama, and literary nonfiction) in the middle and high school English classroom.
  • Strategies and activities for introducing and implementing close reading, using George Saunders’ short story “Sticks” and the lyrics of Billie Holliday’s “Gloomy Sunday” as examples.
  • Increasing the quantity and quality of rigorous student writing.

We will be conducting a similar workshop at the 2017 CATE (California Assoc. of Teachers of English) Conference, February 17-19 in Santa Clara, CA.

The following are some testimonials from our wonderful participants:

“Very engaging! I wish more teachers would attend! As an administrator, it is enlightening to see solutions to bringing critical thinking to the classroom through literature.”


“So many great things in this workshop. I want to try everything TOMORROW!!! Thank you so much!”


“Extremely informative and useful. I found and will implement at least three strategies (close reading, on-demand writing) that I will use right away. Thank you!”


“This information needs to be shared with our curriculum director!”


“Thank you for all of the methods that I can use in the classroom. As a new teacher with no experience, this information is extremely helpful.”


“Really effective and simple strategies. As a first year teacher, I would strongly urge my undergraduate peers to check out this presentation and the Method to the Madness book.”


“Informative and entertaining, with plenty that will be useful in the classroom.”


“Thank you. Workshop went by quickly and had great, engaging, purposeful information.”


“We were offered many examples/useful samples of student work and activities. We can use this material in the classroom for planning—especially how to increase writing.”


“Y’all are amazing.”