Zoom is not an option

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One week last spring about a month after the high school where I teach closed for COVID-19, I decided to host an optional meeting on Zoom so students could drop in to ask a question about an assignment, check on a grade, or just talk. One or two students dropped in momentarily to ask about their homework, and a half-dozen or so decided to chat online for the full forty minutes.

I can’t use Zoom very often — and certainly never…


I see great classroom potential in Jon Krakauer’s latest

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Yesterday, I flipped through the newest book from Jon Krakauer, Classic Krakauer: Essays on Wilderness and Risk. Once again, I was transported to the far reaches of possibility. With Krakauer as my guide, I rappelled down 1,000 feet into Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico; I walked along the sulfur-scented volcanic rim of Mt. Rainier; I climbed beneath an overhanging “bulge of glacial ice” in Mt. Everest’s Khumbu Icefall.

In short, I was taken far away from my couch on yet another day at home during the month-long break my school is taking to control the spread of COVID-19. True, since…


It’s a breath of fresh air while “social distancing”

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My high school Novels class is currently reading this classic novel by Norman Maclean. I’m reading it again alongside them and this morning I arrived at page forty. It’s only 110 pages long, so it’s a quick read.

If you haven’t read this novella, do; it’s a breath of fresh air in this time of social distancing. (And sidenote: If you’re not into fly-fishing, push through the paragraphs about casting, fish psychology and other specific aspects of the sport; however, don’t dismiss these purposeful passages either. Maclean uses fly-fishing metaphorically to tell his story.)

Based between Helena and Missoula, Montana…


The Coronavirus and Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”

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Holed up at home at my dining room table, I’m continuing with my lesson planning as scheduled during our two-week school closing. After our recent Ernest Hemingway unit concluded last week, my plan was to introduce my juniors to Robert Frost.

Lucky them.

Frost’s poetry is poignant, honest, and direct and comments beautifully on personal wonderings, human relationships, and living in general. I always find Frost’s work to be rejuvenating and clarifying.

My plans call for students to first read Frost’s “Mending Wall,” and then “Birches,” and finally, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”


How I discovered Robert Redford Dessert. Finally.

John Mathew Smith; www.celebrity-photos.com [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Lemon-baked Tilapia with Mango Chutney

Seasoned Wild Rice Garnished with Parsley

Dinner Roll White

Tossed Greens

Ranch Italian Lemon-Poppyseed Choose One

Robert Redford Dessert

My eyes lingered over the last line on one of the menu options planned for Tuesday, January 7 at the Presbyterian Village, a retirement community located about a mile from my parents’ house. My daughter and I had picked up the menus to take to my parents who were planning to order a few meals for delivery.

“Robert Redford Dessert,” I said aloud.

“What’s Robert Redford Dessert?” my daughter asked.

“I don’t know, but it sounds…


In this post: Treasured Object Poems mentor texts and lesson tips

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Need a fun poetry activity to use with your students? One that will also hone their sensory language and revision skills?

Show them how to write a short free-verse poem about an object they value. Paying tribute to a precious personal item encourages them to think positively about their lives and builds their creative writing skills.

After you first explain the poem, if your students are like mine, one of the very first responses you’ll hear is, “But I don’t have anything that I treasure.”

When that happens, I elaborate. I ask them,

“Okay, if the fire alarm in your house went off, and you had to get out NOW, what two or three things would you grab?”

One of these things might be the…


Take word choice, for example

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Last December, when I read a student’s second draft of their Treasured Object poem and saw that it contained the word “get” four times, I thought Really? Get? Four times?

It surprised me because I thought I had taught not only sentence variety, but word variety as well. It’s good to vary our words. Yes, a writer can repeat certain words in order to:

However, many times using the same word repeatedly — — especially a vague one like “get”…


This student-written essay illustrates transition ideas

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A few weeks ago, I wrote this story about how the nonfiction author James Swanson’ transitions from paragraph and from chapter to chapter in his nonfiction narrative Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. The story discussed transition words (such as therefore, however, in contrast, nonetheless, and others) that we all know and love and teach. However, the post also discussed a more subtle form of transition… transition ideas. Read that post here.

Below, I’ve shown a student-written example of the same primary technique, repetition, that Swanson used to carry the reader from one paragraph of her text to the next.

This student’s term…


Stick with your plan; give your lessons time to work

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I recently designed some daily bell-ringer activities to teach my students some new vocabulary words. To create these on-going brief lessons, I continue to use Vocab Gal’s “Power Words of the Week” from Sadlier’s ELA Blog, and “Vocabulary Words of the Day” from Prestwick House.


What a four-day school week means to me

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Last summer, my husband and I moved to a new city. Since we had learned about our upcoming move way back in January, I began searching for a new position about a month later. The local school district in our new hometown didn’t have any positions available for the following 2019–2020 school year. As a result, I decided to explore the many small rural school districts in the surrounding area.

One of the very first openings I noticed was at a school district about forty minutes away from our new home. I noticed the listing and checked out the school’s…

Marilyn Yung

I write, teach, and travel some. Where does one end and another begin?

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