Texts & Materials

I tailor my lessons to the learning styles of each student, so the materials we use to explore writing and critical thinking vary from student to student depending on age, level and interest. For middle- and high-school students, here are some of my standbys. (Keep scrolling down to view examples of classic texts other Savvy Young Writer students have engaged with.)

Handbooks for Grammar, Technique and Development

Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference is my favorite overall writing handbook. It’s the most popular handbook used in colleges across the United States — not surprising, since its clear explanations and superb organization make it the easiest-to-use handbook I’ve ever come across. When my students reach an appropriate skill level, I generally recommend this text across the board.

Link to buy it from Kepler’s in Menlo Park (an independent bookstore)

Diana Hacker’s exercises to accompany the handbook above. Again, the exercises are superb.

Diana began creating these materials for her own students at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland where she taught for over thirty years before her death a few years ago.

Link to buy it from Kepler’s in Menlo Park (an independent bookstore)

A classic, all-around writing reference manual. Its assertion: one must first learn the rules to break them. Short and easy to read. This is a good book to read alongside Zinsser’s On Writing.

Here’s the link to buy it from Kepler’s in Menlo Park (an independent bookstore)

Insights on the Creative Process

Writing Without Teachers, by Peter Elbow

The Zen of Writing, by Ray Bradbury

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Ann Lamott

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre, by Keith Johnson — modifying exercises for writing

Advanced Creative Writing

The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner, for students ready for college-level topics in creative writing

Critical Thinking and Analysis

A small sample of some texts I’ve used with students over the years to build writing and critical thinking skills. Many of these have followed student interests — you can note the variety. Subject matter that lights a spark in the eyes of a student is always my subject matter of choice.

The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe

Various plays by Shakespeare

The Trial of Socrates (Eurythro, Apology, Crito and Phaedo); The Republic, by Plato

Hind Swaraj (Self-Rule), by Gandhi

A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Martin Luther King, edited by Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard

Short stories by Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Melville, Flannery O’Conner, Tillie Olsen, Leslie Marmon Silko, Jamaica Kinkaid, Julio Cortezar . . .

The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Harpers, The Economist, etc.

Various speeches from classic moments in history – Susan B. Anthony, MLK, Churchill, JFK, and others

Poems by a variety of modern poets, from Frost to Adrienne Rich to Neruda

Topics my students have written on for Concord Review historical research papers:

The 1970s Oil Crisis from the Soviet Perspective

History of refugee emigration from N. Korea (winner of the Emerson prize)

The Origins of Russia in the 5th Century

History of the U.S.’s military involvement in Afghanistan



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