"John & Barbara's Story" & Educational Experience Essays

“But—how is it that they’ve forgotten  it all?”

“Because they’ve grown older”  Mary Poppins P.L. Travers 

It was about 8 years into my teaching that I rediscovered this wonderful story from Mary Poppins.  The story (assigned for reading before class) is about two very small children who have all kinds of wonderful abilities (ie talk to the sun, starlings, etc) - but they are told they will lose them when they turn one year of age.  Of course, they don't believe it will happen to them (even if it has happened to everyone else [except for Mary Poppins]).  And they turn one - and of course it happens.  For me, it is the perfect way to begin the year - once upon a time students waved their hands enthusiastically in a classroom - they cared about what they learned (as opposed to simply the grade they received) and learning was not a chore - it was fun.  This together with their educational experience essays - asks the question - "What happened?" and "How do we get that feeling back?"

Lesson Overview 

I begin by having students read their essays - or excerpts (usually - explain what you are writing about and choose a favorite paragraph).  This is always volunteery - the students are new to each other, they don't know me and they don't the class.  Given the nature of the essay assignment, it would be easy to sound they were buttering up the teacher.  That almost never happens.  After we have given students who want to share a chance - we have a class discussion on "John & Barbara's Story" using a Vertext (a Power Point presentation that has quotes).

My Lesson Notes (2014)


Most Recent Handouts & Quizzes

John & Barbara Reading Quiz  DOC DOCX It's the first quiz of the year - it is simple and designed to put the student at ease and at the same time to help them be aware that they are expected to do the reading.  For real.  I always ask them to say (before they put any answers down) whether they read or not.

John & Barbara Group Work (old) - Before I started doing a Vertext for this lesson, I had the students do group work.  Probably not a great idea given it's the 2nd day in class, they don't know each other, and there's not a lot of time (books passed out, Educational Essays read, etc.)

SEE below for the VERTEXT we use in class

Excerpt from Wordsworth's "Intimations of Imortality" (part of the Deor handout from Day 1)

Older Versions of Handouts (a folder's worth - these will mostly be in the old doc format of Word)

Audio Visual Content

"John and Barbara's Story" Vertext  (for more on Vertexts go here)


Remote Enhancements 

The Vertext found above, is a great help when teaching remotely - it can really keep the students focused as well as making sure everyone gets a chance to contribute.


Here is a link to a copy of "John and Barabara's Story"

By providing this link I do not endorse the site nor do I claim ownship over the material presented therein.

Class Recordings (for registered members)



What's Next & Unit Home Page

Intro to the Anglo-Saxons:   For the next 6 weeks or so, we'll be reading texts from the oldest English sources (and a modern take on them) - the next lesson is a historical background on that period.


  Opening Lesson - Why Do We Read Literature?

Thoughts on the Lesson 

I found  this wonderful quote from a student (sadly anonymous) in their own handwriting: "The author of these stories understand that life is a labyrinth to the most of us:  whether we are a child viewing an adult, or an adult viewing a child,.  There are walls obscuring what we can see at any point.  The author's goal is to prop us up and let us see the labyrinth from above, so that we can more clearly grasp the twisted path that is the human experience."  There is so much that happens in this lesson and that sets the tone of the rest of the year.  I want students to be enthusiastic as they once were - I want them to care about what and how they learn.  As my years of teaching went on - it was becoming clear that education was becoming more and more transactional - class was for the grade - grade was for the credit - and it was all for the best possible application to college.  But what then is the point?  Listening to students' essay on their most influential educational experience, along with reading and talking about "John and Barbara's Story" brings these ideas together.