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on April 18, 2006
"I wish I were still teaching, so I could try out some of these ideas."

That was my reaction when I first opened my copy of A Non-Workbook, Non-Textbook Approach to Teaching Language Arts. Reading through example after example of how learning can be fun, I could feel the energy of the author on every page. I envied his students who must have come to school every day wondering what the incredible Mr. Charnock had cooked up for them this time.

Although we've never met, my acquaintance with this incredible teacher and writer goes back a long time. When I was editor of the Arizona English Bulletin (1979-86), each of its three issues per year had a theme announced in advance, and rare was the occasion when I didn't receive a submission from James Charnock. I was impressed then, and am still impressed now, with his seemingly inexhaustible imagination. He could always come up with an exciting learning activity to fit the theme of the season. Some of them may have been ideas he'd already used; others perhaps were created for the occasion. In every case, though, his students benefited, along with the students of all the teachers who read the Bulletin and used the activities with their classes.

Why shouldn't students play a game like LINE UP to learn capitalization and punctuation instead of doing dreary workbook exercises? Why shouldn't they write letters based on bizarre fictional situations instead of a standard bread-and-butter letter? Why shouldn't they imagine that they are a character in a book and write to another character instead of copying their "book report" from the jacket blurb? Why shouldn't they write advertisements along with essays? Actually this type of writing may be of more use to them in later life than the 5-paragraph theme. There are endless ways to teach language arts that are FUN, not B-O-O-O-RING.

The non-workbook, non-textbook approach is one that any teacher can use. For those who are too busy to create their own activities, James Charnock has provided ideas that can be copied and used directly from his book. For others, his book may be just the stimulus they need to create lessons that will make their 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.
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on April 2, 2006
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 book is a real plus for beginning teachers and a treat for those of us with experience. The exercises, meaningful and relying heavily on 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.
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on August 31, 2009
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.
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on October 16, 2009
Would you like to know what should be causing a "brouhaha" in the world of language arts? It is James Charnock's book, A Non-Workbook, Non-Textbook Approach to Teaching Language Arts--a must-have for all 4th through 8th grade teachers of language arts.

Mr. Charnock's light-hearted, serious, and information packed, book begins with a wittily written table of contents that inspires the reader to start the liberating journey into the world of non-textbook teaching--no, you (usually) don't need that crutch of a textbook, especially in language arts.

At your fingertips you'll find a wealth of sample lessons giving you explicit ideas for the teaching of writing interviews, letters, narratives, book reports and several other mandatory writing styles, including how to research just like the professionals. Non-traditional assessment rubrics for both the teacher and student are included. As part of his innovative approach to teaching language arts, the author includes lessons on storytaking: An approach that couples upper and lower grade students for a mutually fulfilling writing experience. (Yes, you may have heard of this, but you have to read of his unique approach.)

For those middle school students still struggling with decoding skills, Charnock's fun and practical list of phonics rules will certainly be helpful. Beyond that, all students (and adults) who enjoy vocabulary building--even if they once thought they didn't enjoy it--will certainly be "flabbergasted" by his collection of interesting words to play with.

We know from research and our gut that learning is always more interesting when you're enjoying a game. The Non-Textbook approach gives directions for constructing and playing several exciting games to enhance your students' language arts knowledge and experience.

Student opinions about various activities, along with samples of their writing, help make the success of this approach believable. Pupils are quite frank about what they liked and didn't. And the exceptional writing samples speak for themselves.

As a language arts teacher of various elementary grades, I find James Charnock's book packed with motivating ideas that will inspire students to enjoy the beauty of the English language. I can't recommend this guide highly enough for teachers. This is sure to be (to use another of his fun vocabulary words) a real "humdinger" for both you and your students!
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on October 7, 2010
Any teacher of language arts and perhaps of other subjects, too, can find inspiration from Charnock's approach, which takes into account that students learn best when they drawn into the process because the subject interests them and has relevance to their lives. Charnock's years of experience give credence to his methods. He knows what works and what doesn't.
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on October 12, 2010
I think the place where teachers often get stuck is for new ideas to keep both themselves and their students engaged. Mr. Charnock's book does a great job providing tons of ideas for activities, writing prompts and the like sure to engage almost any student. Mr. Charnock has been differentiating instruction for his students long before it became a buzz word, and if you want a straight forward book with practical, classroom ideas, this is it.
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on August 12, 2010
Yes, the author does provide an activity for each language arts component. Unfortunately, its usually only one activity and it is often complicated and requires a ton of preparation. Some components, such as paragraph writing, only include one example and it is completely teacher centered instead of student centered. I expected much more from this book based on the reviews.
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