Cover image for How to catch a shark, and other stories about teaching and learning
How to catch a shark, and other stories about teaching and learning
Graves, Donald H.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Portsmouth, NH : Heinemann, [1998]

Physical Description:
x, 134 pages ; 23 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
LB1029.B55 G74 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"I submit that the well-told, well-chosen story can tell the most about the qualitative status of both teaching and learning in the classroom." So says Donald Graves, author of this unique new book and one of the field's best-loved and most respected authorities on literacy education.

Now, in this eclectic collection of personal stories, Graves recalls with power and clarity the many events-great and small-that have informed his views on how we come to understand the world. In an age when teachers are under constant pressure to find the right pedagogical "method" and when the measure of success is often reduced to a test score, How to Catch a Shark will be both a comfort and an inspiration.

Here is a beguiling and thoughtful anthology of autobiographical tales, based on both personal and professional experiences. There are recalled moments of childhood wonder; anecdotes about remarkable and not-so-remarkable students; lessons from the pulpit as well as the ballfield; stories of painful loss, hilarious mishaps, and awesome epiphanies. Each one teaches as it reveals the nature of human learning. Graves' point is clear: the best way to understand effective, responsive teaching is to examine our own learning histories. He invites readers to do the same in a reflection and practical exercise at the end of each story.

Sit down with Donald Graves' book. Listen to his tales. Resonate with the truth of your own experiences. And in so doing, you will discover myriad ways to help students access the powers of their own stories.

To learn more about Donald Graves, visit .

Author Notes

Donald H. Graves was involved in writing research for decades. His books Writing: Teachers & Children at Work (Heinemann, 1983) and A Fresh Look at Writing (Heinemann, 1994) are bestsellers throughout the English-speaking world and have revolutionized the way writing is taught in schools. Don was a teacher, school principal, and language supervisor, education director, and a director of language in bilingual, ESL, and special programs. He was also the codirector of an undergraduate urban teacher preparation program and a professor of an early childhood program. He was Professor Emeritus at the University of New Hampshire. Donald H. Graves 9.11.1930 - 9.28.2010 Heinemann is deeply saddened by the news that Donald Graves has passed away. We, and the entire field, have lost a giant and one of our greatest friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with his widow, Betty, their family, and the many friends he made in his long career. We are honored to have been Don's publishing partner for more than three decades and over more than a dozen books-to have watched his research and vision become not only a classroom reality but the core of our publishing philosophy. His influence is so vast that we will meet him again and again on the pages of every book and resource we publish. His spirit pervades each of our books-in the conviction that children want to write and read if given the chance; in the flourishing of the workshop model of instruction that he pioneered; and in his abiding faith in teachers' ability to make sound instructional decisions. Don touched so many teachers' lives with his smile, his unflagging encouragement, and his generosity of spirit. We hope you will take a brief moment to remember how he touched your life. Watch a recent interview with Don » Remembering how Don touched your life » The Donald Graves memorial fund » Eight Children Teach Donald Graves Nine pencils break the surface of awareness, jutting into the air, slanted back like yellow, orange-tipped shark fins, entering chartless white, exploring hazy depths. Nine voices search a scent, suddenly lurch, lose the line, pause, pick it up again, and move from cloudy, roiling waters of new thought through warm currents of reception, straits of questioning, and tidal imbalances on to a clear, precise sea of meaning. - Tom Romano (Language Arts, 62,2 (Feb.) 1985: 142