Teaching on Solid Ground

Knowledge Foundations for the Teacher of English

Thomas M. McCann and John V. Knapp
Foreword by Carol D. Lee

HardcoverPaperbacke-bookprint + e-book
January 9, 2019
ISBN 9781462537631
Price: $80.00
226 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
January 9, 2019
ISBN 9781462537624
Price: $30.00
226 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
December 3, 2018
ePub and PDF ?
Price: $30.00
226 Pages
print + e-book
Paperback + e-Book (ePub and PDF) ?
Price: $60.00 $33.00
226 Pages

To be successful, teachers of English in grades 6–12 need more than basic content knowledge and classroom management skills. They need a deep understanding of the goals and principles of teaching literature, writing, oral discourse, and language in order to make sound instructional decisions. This engaging book explores the pedagogical foundations of the discipline and gives novice and future teachers specific guidance for creating effective, interesting learning experiences. The authors consider such questions as what makes a literary text worth studying, what students gain from literary analysis, how to make writing meaningful, and how to weave listening and speaking into every class meeting. Professional learning and course use are facilitated by end-of-chapter reflection questions, text boxes, and appendices showcasing exemplary learning activities.

Teaching on Solid Ground: Knowledge Foundations for the Teacher of English…is a call to English teachers and teacher educators to deeply consider what English teachers should know and be able to do….This book is based on McCann and Knapp’s extensive experience as U.S.-based classroom teachers, researchers, and teacher educators who have witnessed many teacher candidates in action. Therefore, a real strength of the book is how McCann and Knapp, over seven chapters, uncover the complexity of an English teacher’s job: the significant responsibility for knowledge and expertise across the territory of literature, writing, oral discourse, and language demands.”

Journal of Language and Literacy Education

“What do secondary school English teachers need to know in order to teach effectively? With so much contradictory information and advice available, a beginning (or veteran) teacher can be pulled in many directions simultaneously. This volume provides a coherent knowledge base for the teaching of English, one grounded in assumptions of constructivist learning, inductive in conception, based in activity, collaborative in design, and driven by student inquiry. This book should have tremendous value for any English teacher looking for both a theoretical framework to motivate instruction and practical ideas through which to realize it with kids.”

—Peter Smagorinsky, PhD, Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of Georgia

“Pedagogical content knowledge, or knowing how to teach students to read, compose, problem-solve, and learn like experts, is unquestionably the centerpiece of expert teaching. McCann and Knapp have achieved something monumental and unprecedented by describing what this kind of knowledge might look like in each of the language arts. This book will surely be a touchstone of conversation and an informing guide for teachers, staff developers, and teacher educators for years to come.”

—Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, PhD, Distinguished Professor of English Education, Boise State University

Teaching on Solid Ground provides great swaths of history, perspective, and good ideas for high school and middle school English teachers, from two veterans with many decades of experience between them. The book focuses on what teachers should know about literature, writing, oral discourse, and language. It identifies key goals and offers lesson-planning suggestions and fascinating case studies that are attuned to the contemporary English classroom.”

—Ken Lindblom, PhD, Department of English, Stony Brook University

“An audacious project. McCann and Knapp take on the huge question of what teachers of English language arts need to know in order to be effective practitioners. I don’t agree with everything the authors have written, but that’s not the point—indeed, they don't always agree with each other! The book made me think hard about what knowledge matters most. It is sure to provoke important professional conversations among both inservice and preservice teachers about what stands at the heart of their important work.”

—Michael W. Smith, PhD, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Faculty Affairs, College of Education, Temple University

Table of Contents

Foreword, Carol D. Lee

Introduction: The Importance of Pedagogical Content for the Teaching of English

1. Knowing the Territory of Literature

2. Teaching in the Territory of Literature sample

3. The Territory of Writing: What Makes for Good Writing?

4. The Territory of Writing: How Can We Facilitate Growth?

5. The Territory of Oral Discourse

6. The Territory of Language: What Do We Teach When We Teach Language?

7. What English Teachers Should Know

Appendix A. What is the “Business” of Teaching English?: Profiles of English Teachers in Action

Appendix B. Knowledge about Mode and Form: What Is a Tragedy?

Appendix C. Practice with Rules of Notice and Rules of Significance

Appendix D. Applying Rules of Notice and Signification

Appendix E. Discovering Rules of Configuration

Appendix F. A Case for Discussion and Written Response

Appendix G. Drawing on Knowledge about Drama: Reading a Shakespeare Play as Performance

Appendix H. Using Language Analysis to “Open” a Novel


About the Authors

Thomas M. McCann, PhD, is Professor of English at Northern Illinois University, where he contributes to the teacher licensure program. He taught English in high schools for 25 years, including 7 years working in an alternative high school. The author or coauthor of numerous books, Dr. McCann has served on the Secondary Section Steering Committee of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and on the Executive Committee of NCTE’s Conference on English Education, from whom he received the Richard A. Meade Award. Dr. McCann has provided inservice professional development to schools and districts in the Chicago area and nationally.

John V. Knapp, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of English at Northern Illinois University. He is the author or editor of several books and over 50 articles and reviews on literature, family systems psychology, literary criticism, and literature instruction. Since 2007, he has been editor of the literary journal Style. As an English teacher and later a professor, Dr. Knapp has educated students at every level, from middle school to doctoral seminars.


Teachers of English, language arts, literature, and composition in grades 6–12; staff developers; teacher educators and graduate students.

Course Use

Will serve as a supplemental text in middle/secondary teacher education courses.