"What's so impressive about the ideas James Charnock presents in this book is that they're creative, attention grabbing and based on his 30 years of teaching experience. Intelligently organized with each chapter focusing on a particular language arts skill, Charnock's book describes in clear, direct language stimulating games and approaches that students will enjoy doing. For example, he has great tips that teachers can use to help students get organized and started (always so daunting for kids) in their writing. Also, he has a variety of clever suggestions that students can follow to develop their content. He even has a fun way to teach punctuation. In fact, everything Charnock suggests is designed to be creative and effective: creative, because students will be learning in new and fun ways and effective because the suggestions are practical and focused on specific learning objectives. In short, this is an impressive work that can help all teachers, whatever their experience levels, meet the huge challenge of making students active--and willing--learners in the classroom."
John P. Zappacosta
Teacher, Springfield Schools
Delaware County, PA
"James Charnock is someone whose personality has been created for me by his written words. Like Odysseus, he is the man never at a loss. I’d be willing to bet that in his school students [fought] to get into his classes, parents pulled whatever strings they could to get their kids in, and colleagues benefited from his innovative ideas, of which he seems to have a never-ending supply. Readers of the [Arizona English] Bulletin over the years have also benefited from his resourcefulness. As editor, I was impressed with his approaches then, and am still impressed with his seemingly inexhaustible imagination. His ideas can be copied and used directly or they may be the stimulus needed to create lessons that will make classes more fun, more exciting, and more meaningful. If the goal is for our students to love language, and writing, and literature, here is a way—here are lots of ways—to help them do it."
Former Editor, Arizona English Bulletin
(Affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English)
"This important book is a must-read for anyone who teaches language arts from grade four and up. James Charnock possesses one of the most creative and inspiring voices emerging from the language pedagogy community today. While often challenging traditional teaching methods, he brings his 30 years of teaching experience and his generous heart to offer a wide range of practical, fun, and well-detailed strategies to teaching language arts. His unusual, exuberant, student-centered techniques meet the child in his/her own world and go on to open up new dimensions of experience and mastery of language skills. Here is a treasury of specific directions, charts, forms, lists, scales, and games, often with engaging titles, for drawing the student into the learning experience. Samples of students’ responses reflect the rewarding outcomes that so often have validated this teacher’s dedication, love, and imaginative solutions to the challenge of teaching language arts. This compilation of Charnock’s work serves as a valuable resource to empower students with not only better language skills, but also with a better sense of self. His teaching methods can stimulate awareness and self-expression, which are among the most useful life skills a child can acquire."
Wandz Costanzo, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist, Subspecialty: Attention Deficit Disorder
Private Practice, Haddonfield, NJ
"If you are like I am, always looking for new activities to 'beef up' my teaching, you need to take a look at Charnock's book. This volume is a real plus for beginning teachers and a treat for those of us with experience. The exercises, meaningful and relying heavily on the students' own experiences (always a plus), are designed to get kids interested and actively writing. Furthermore, all the ideas can be easily adapted whether used partially or totally."
K. L. Ariano
"Why didn't my college ed professors make teaching writing and language arts as easy!? You also give teachers freedom in your approaches- unlike my school district where we are forced to rigidly move in lockstep with the imposed curriculum. How onerous that and how refreshing your techniques!"
Language Arts Teacher
"If you are having trouble getting your students engaged in language arts activities this is the book for you. It is chock full of well-explained and simple teaching strategies that will help students learn how to write and read better and enjoy the process as well."
Dr. Betty Jane Wagner
Professor, College of Education, Roosevelt University
Director of the Chicago Area Writing Project
a nationally known educator and educational author
"I find your ideas in writing and art so stimulating. I have had your book for over a year, been to one of your seminars, and your ideas work! My students love the writing and research approaches you advocate, and find your art ideas really neat. And yes, your percentage technique has helped my students tremendously. Give us more!"
Elementary School Teacher
Not many students get the chance to tell the teacher what they think of him or her. And put it in writing, no less. For several years my students had the year-end ritual of writing an essay for a class publication titled “Mr. Charnock: The Good, the Bad,” from which excerpts are included.
First, let’s back-up. Why did I allow my junior high students to praise or criticize me? For one, it was safe for them to do since it was the last composition assignment of the school year and it was assigned after the grades were in—and they knew it. Additionally, I really wanted to know how my students would evaluate their experience and my efforts in the classroom. On top of that, it was fun all-around.
No really negative comments—of which there were very few—are included.
To justify this, I’ll quote from a preface I wrote in one year-end class booklet of several years ago:
Boy, do kids complain. Herein, you’ll hear a lot of whining about how much punishment writing I give. The TRUTH is students only write when they MISBEHAVE or don’t follow established rules. Some students never write—all year!—some others write nearly daily. (Guess who?)
Another complaint is about math. After the first few months I put students in different groups because I sense different math abilities. I don’t want to hold back the more skillful and I don’t want to frustrate those who find math difficult. But even my better math students complain that I should teach everyone together (at a lower level, of course)—so everyone will understand—and they will still get their “A, “B”, or “C”. Of course, it will be based, they think, on work that’s easy for them. Won’t happen. If a student wants a good mark, s/he will have to work for it by doing the harder stuff and meet the curriculum standard for their grade. Case closed.
On a positive note, in spite of all the DESERVED discipline-writing this is still one of my best-behaved classes. It is also one of the most skillful classes in recent years: More students will get better marks in more subjects than has been the case for some time. And the students are creative!
So read and enjoy. But to modify part of an old saying: “Only believe half of what you read.”
Except, of course, you should believe the POSITIVE comments about me. They’re all true.
A few years ago I used Facebook to reconnect with students of many years ago—at this date at least 32 years ago. They were hard to find; so I found many less than I had hoped for. Of those I did discover they seemed quite happy to interact. I scanned and emailed to these students a copy their class booklet compositions, art work, and the 8th grade graduation class picture. Some were brought to tears, others elated, and all seemed just plain thankful for such nostalgic items from their past. (Frankly, I’m not sure why I kept these items, though I do educational conference speaking and some material makes good displays. )
If you’re alert you will notice a change of tense. This is because some comments were made as students in my class way back when and some were expressed via email many years later as an adult, the oldest being 48 in the year 2017—the date headings shown below are when the students were actually in my room, but some of the comments can be as late as 2018 via an email.
I have ordered that all the following diary entries be chiseled on my grave stone; oops, I’m being cremated.
Mary Roussaw-Bryant: It’s a pleasure to hear from a teacher who has truly impacted my life.
Roxanne Shakoor-Maddrey: I DO remember you—one of my favorite teachers! You have always been the teacher who inspired and pushed me to achieve. So, you know it worked! We have to talk soon. I’m studying for the Police Captains Test now, and also, soon will be enrolling for my Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. You will be astonished at how many hats I wear. These all come from outstanding teachers like you! I love the fact that you continue to help others in doing wonderful things, especially for the children in your community. I will definitely be purchasing many items from your website as I am a grandmother now. I will also share your website with many friends and family. [excerpt from email in 2018]
Tracie Coleman: I wanted you to know that I always considered you one of my favorite teachers. I look back and you made learning fun. Thank you for that experience.
Corrin Stokes: My son will love seeing them [her compositions]. I can’t believe what I wrote about. LOL [laugh out loud]
Khadijah Sutton-Durham: It is a wonderful surprise to hear from you after so long a time. The [her] materials you sent are precious and priceless!
Hung Lam: Mr. Charnock, you are the best teacher I have ever had. I will miss you. Why? Because nobody will tell me to write “I must...” seventy-five times, anymore. Ha! Ha! Ha! I’m just kidding! Thank you very much for all of the hard work you have helped me with throughout the school year. You are a very interesting teacher. Honest!!
Vann Long Chhay: Time has passed so fast: 30 years have gone by. I still have fond memories of being in your class. –an email in 2016.
Edward Coleman: THANK YOU, Mr. Charnock; this is nostalgic. It means everything to me and my siblings [sister and brother, who were also in my class]. The fact that you were able to share our own memories with us is everything. It brings tears to my eyes! You have captured my youth! I am forever grateful. WOW, I'm not sure if you realize the influence that you have had on the many generations of students. As for me, I’ve worked in NJ as a pre- school teacher. Thank you again for making my day! I will forever cherish this. [I sent him some of his written school work and his class picture of 31 years ago.] –an email in 2017.
Andre Coleman: I have very fond memories of you and your classroom. You were very energetic and fair, fun and strict. I remember how strict: On more than one occasion I had to write 100 times for an infraction! You were, and still are one of my favorite teachers ever, as my original essay said when I wrote it about you (how embarrassing). I loved Drew School; it was unique in every way. Seriously, you really did like me after all. That means everything to me even at my age; that you and I had a connection and it still has not been broken after all these years.
You need to know that you were one of the guides [in my life]. I enjoyed your class very much. I even remember sitting next to you on a bus trip and you were the first one to ever use the word halitosis to me. You were great to be around. You made learning fun and discipline writing even more interesting. [email: 2017]
Kim H. Lim: You have been a nice teacher so far this year. Even though you don’t deserve it: because you gave all those science tests. Well, I’m just kidding—in case you might lower my grades for the next report card.
I would say you’re an okay teacher, but not fantastic! (Just kidding, again.) I wonder if you can take a joke? For being a teacher I would give you an A- or B+!! [I’m doing this] from the kindness of my heart, but I guess you have earned it!
Email sent from Kim H. Lim-Rajavong (married name) in 2017 (28 years later) when I sent her some of her writings and class activities pictures:
Oh, wow, Mr. Charnock! I nearly choked from my tears. I’m tearing up as I am writing to you. I am so happy to hear from you. You and Ms. Taylor made such an impact on my life. I wrote a paper for my college sociology course and got an A. The professor loved what I wrote and all I could think of was you! You were a fantastic teacher!
Kiyana Butler-Sharkey: I hope that you remember me. In the eighth grade you encouraged me to enter the mayor’s essay contest “Dreams of the Future,” and I won first place! Thanks, Mr. Charnock, that was one of my favorite moments in life and it was inspired by you! You are my favorite teacher! You are the best! Arcihana caused an uproar today!
Linh Pho: Thank you for the New Year wish! Your book will be an inspiration, I am sure, since, as you know, you were/are an amazing teacher. I am really touched that you kept some of my papers and the class picture.
Taira Jackson: Thank you for being my teacher and being how you were. When I look back at being in your class I wish I would have been more respectful to your teaching. Thank you for being tough. We definitely need more teachers like you were to us.
Makeba Wilson: Thank you for being a stern teacher! You were an instrumental part of my learning.
Danielle Fullen: Mr. Charnock goes out of his way to make you understand.
Any Vann Loui: You will always be my best 8th grade teacher. [Of course, I was her only 8th grade teacher, too.]
Kimberley McCarter: Mr. Charnock expects you to do your best and your best is only what he accepts. There is never a day when you will leave the room without learning something new.
Ericka Smith: Mr. Charnock makes sure you learn something before you leave his class.
Seitu Stephens: Mr. Charnock demands his way: strict, but forgiving. His methods are based on what students know, not what they don’t.
Darnell Brown: When Mr. Charnock teaches different lessons, he makes them understandable and not complex.
Asia Hightower: Mr. Charnock never tries to be like other teachers. He’s really different when it comes to teaching us skills.
Oichay Keokanya: Mr. Charnock prepares you for the future.
Takesha Mundy: Mr. Charnock has taught me many things I am going to need in my future.
John Duong: Mr. Charnock does not over-direct us, which allows us to learn how to work independently.
Chou Lim: I am so happy to hear from you, Mr. Charnock. After all these years you still look the same. I want to let you know that I loved your class and it forever changed me. [Two of] my favorite [times in your class] were art and the books you used to read to us! I remember the quiz you used to give us afterward. LOL. I never used to read much before I joined your class but ever since your class I was visiting the library once or twice a week. It would be nice to see you again.
Heng Lim: Almost everything Mr. Charnock does and teaches is fun, exciting and educational.
[A special card from Heng C. Lim: THANKS for the awards! I was especially happy to receive an award in Mathematics because I thought that I wouldn’t get one. It has been so grateful to have you as a teacher. You are smart, kind, funny, and handsome-looking, but, still, how come you are without a woman? Good-bye! I’ll miss you! I’ll miss your teaching because it is very unique and can be easily picked up. There’s no more I have to say except THANKYOU!!! Yours truly, Heng C. Lim (P.S. You should’ve received a certificate for being such a good teacher from Mr. Johnson; a certificate called: “Best Teacher of the Year”.) ]
Nancy Pho: I always wanted to write and tell you that you were the best teacher ever! After all these years, I can still remember the things you taught me as opposed to other teachers in my lifetime. I am very flattered that you chose two of my writings for your book, and reading them again really brings back fond memories. I wish I had kept all my class work from that year with you. The world needs more teachers like you.
[Back then, Nancy wrote: He gives the class new experiences with his story-taking, storytelling, poem-saying and story-reading programs which help us with our speech, reading and writing skills.]
Nicole Baldwin: Mr. Charnock can be fun and does his best to make the curriculum interesting. He enjoys teaching, cares about his students, and is creative.
Danita Daniels: This year was exciting!
Michael Leftridge: Mr. Charnock is a fun teacher with all the activities he does: art, and special reading and poem programs.
Ong Diana Moua: Eighth grade in your class was a great year for me. You were a great teacher!
The good thing about Mr. Charnock is that he never gives up on his students; he won’t stop helping you until you get it right.
Kong Tran: Being in Mr. Charnock’s class means you have to do a lot of work, behave, and have fun throughout the year.
Kevin Warren: Mr. Charnock is good because he tries to explain complex things in an understandable way.
John Wong: Mr. Charnock gives reasonable grades—ones that you earn, not ones that you think you deserve.
Khalesha Chisholm: I appreciate Mr. Charnock pushing me and boosting my confidence. Mr. Charnock stays on you until you get it, and continues, so you don’t forget it.
Maisha Emanuel: I felt like quitting, but Mr. Charnock made me do it anyway. An average student is not good enough for him; he wants you to do your best. I’ve never seen a teacher like him.
Shamair Holland: Mr. Charnock is tough, but he knows what he is doing.
Nadia Nettles: Mr. Charnock gets straight to the point. He gives grades that students should get based on their work. He is a teacher that knows what he is doing.
Johnny Huynh: As the years have gone by, I am able to appreciate the patience that must have been required to simply do your job. I do want to let you know that you were the best teacher I had at Drew by far, especially in grades 5-8, and likely the only reason I was able to make it into Central High School and college. I appreciate everything you did. You were the only teacher that I felt challenged us. I believe my brothers and sister [which I formerly taught] also felt the same way. It's great taking a trip down memory lane. Believe it or not, I still recall putting together that chart and graph. I also recall the math program that you utilized with the different levels, which helped me tremendously, even in high school. [Excerpt from an email in 2017]