Monday, February 11, 2019

Candy Heart Activity

BoomWriter recently used my candy heart creative writing activity in their newsletter.  The short version - using Valentine's Day candy hearts to create a writing activity for your students.  I use it for mythology (Zeus and Hera on a date).  My students love it, plus they get to eat those nasty chalky candy hearts.  It's a win-win!.  Find out the details by reading the article (it's short!):

Be Mine Lesson Plan

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Advertising in Class

I could also name this post: Making Use of Useless Tech

Several years ago, a company called Channel One installed TVs in all the classrooms in the school.  All we had to do was watch Channel One for the first ten minutes of class (it was some school based news show).  Either our contract was up or they went defunct, I don't know which (this was before I got to this school), either way the TVs are still in the room, but not being used.

Then someone had the great idea of using cable for these TVs.  Since the devices were all connected together, we would have to request that the TV be set to a particular channel in the library (we could only watch what the library was watching).  This worked out great for anyone who was teaching history in the making when something big was happening in the news and for a few other things.  Then cable decided that they wanted to charge the school for every TV in each classroom, so we dropped cable.

Now there is a useless TV in every classroom.  So I decided to turn it into advertisement.  Ads for my class, that is.

What This Is

I used a Google Slides Presentation to pull this off.  On each slide I put something I wanted them to see.  There is a list of Achieve 3000 articles they need to complete, the schedule (especially during the early days when the schedule keeps changing to accommodate homeroom), where we go for fire drill, a grammar lesson, a word of the week, a literary term of the week, homework assignments, and ad for a book we have available for check out in class, ads for upcoming assignments, something weird about an author we will read, etc.  I also put in a meme and an image just to keep it from seeming too educational. 

The slides change up every week.  If I were more on the ball, I would pick a day to switch out different slides instead of changing them all at once.

How I Did This

There is no option in Google presentation to have it automatically run, but if you choose PUBLISH TO WEB, you will be able to set up the time for each slide and have it loop.  So each morning I publish it to the web and put it on my TV, which is now my third display. 

To get the TV to be the third display, I did have to spend a little money.  I paid $30 to get a 75' HDMI cable.  I ran that from the TV, across the ceiling, and down behind my computer.  The only problems I've had with doing this is that sometimes my SmartBoard gets confused on which monitor it should work with.  That's an easy fix.

Other Uses

Now that I have this third display, I can post notes on it while students are watching a movie, put other images or web pages on it that I want them to look at while I'm giving a presentation, stream news on it if something big is happening in the world while we keep class going, and I'm sure there will be other things I'll experiment with as I continue this.

Look - kids are going to get distracted by something.  I would rather it be something I want them to learn.  And it works, too!  The other day, I opened the door for a female teacher who was leaving my room.  When I did, one of my students yelled out, "Chivalrous!" which is our word of the week.  So they are seeing these words, terms, and grammar lessons.  One more way to teach!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

New Teacher? Read This!

If you know a new teacher or a student teacher, you may want to think about sharing this with them.  This is the perfect metaphor for a teacher's first year.

It follows the opening to the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, perhaps the finest movie ever made. Shakespeare would have been proud to produce this movie.

If you haven't seen it, take the time to watch it now:

Best. Movie. Ever.

Now, getting that elusive first job is akin to Indiana Jones getting the idol.  What we didn't see in that clip was all the booby traps that he had to by pass to get to the idol to begin with.  He's confident and a bit smug.  "I got this!"  That's the first week of school.

Then all hell breaks loose.

You noticed that the cave started to fall apart, so Indiana Jones quickly just decides to cut out of there, but he forgot about all the darts in the sides of the wall shooting at him, so he runs like heck.

Your first discipline problem.  But you'll survive it, just like he did.  That's when the betrayal hits.

By betrayal, I'm not meaning anything major, just the realization that not all teachers in that department or school agree and there are some bitter ones there that will resent your youthful idealization (mainly because it reminds them of better days when they had that youthful idealization - lesson to learn - do become like those guys).

You'll survive it, maybe even see them get theirs.  It is the mid course break and you think you have it mastered.  Indiana Jones did too.  That's when the ball started rolling.  He runs to keep ahead of the ball until he leaps out of the tomb just in time.

You'll feel that ball.  You'll feel that you are so busy grading and going to workshops that you can barely stay up with the planning.  You will do everything you can to stay one step ahead of the ball and at exam time, you'll be leaping through the exit.

After catching your breath, you'll be ready to try it again.  This time it will be easier.  By your fifth time, you won't even noticed the ball.  By your tenth time, you're doing it with your eyes shut.

This is not meant to scare a new teacher, but instead to give them peace of mind.  Too often that new teacher thinks that it's just them.  It is helpful to know that it happens to us all.  Remember, you are being put into a job as a first year teacher and expected to do the same job as a thirty-five year veteran.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Gun Shot Sounds in Other Languages

I don't remember where I found this, but I was cleaning out my folders and ran across this image of gun shot onomatopoeias.  I imagine it might be a fun image to use in explaining the literary term 'onomatopoeia' or for a creative writing class.

Going to the tumblr site on the first panel shows this guy James Chapman has a couple of "in other languages" cartoons like this.  Check it out!

Also, while writing this post, a memory of a video game commercial from the '90s resurfaced.  I think the message of the commercial is "Don't be an English nerd, play video games instead," but I might be wrong.  :)

And I'll leave you with my favorite onomatopoeia of all times - THWIP!  Extra credit points for any teacher that can leave in the comments what makes that noise.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Book Harvest

This particular post are for those teachers in the Triangle area of North Carolina.

Book Harvest is an awesome organization that seeks to give books to middle school and high school students.  This is NOT a classroom library thing, this is a give the book to the kid to take home and keep forever thing.  Each year they give away books in August, December, and May.  If you teach students in low income areas, you are invited to come and pack up boxes of books (the first time I went I lefts with one box full of books and they were trying to get me to take more).

These are not used books.  These are not books from no name authors.  Last time I was there I came away with a load of brand new Rick Riordan books.  There are some classics, some picture focused books, and plenty of YA books.

Want in on this?  Their web site is and on this site you'll find the email address for Daniele Berman, the Community Partnership Manager and she can get you on the email list to alert you of the next book harvest.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Better Book Titles

Dan Wilbur, stand up comedian, developed a web site a while back where re-titled books to more aptly convey what the book was about.  His site, Better Book Titles, has a ton of books re-titled for your reading pleasure.  Here are a few:

(Oedipus Rex)

(Game of Thrones)

(War and Peace)

(Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

Monday, October 9, 2017


We are all looking for new and different things for which to use for formal assessment, keep the kids happy, or to just do something different.  Quizzizz is hardly new, but you might not be familiar with it and it is a good alternative to Kahoot, which while is a fantastic site in its own right, may start to feel stale if it is the only game you use.

Quizzizz allows you to set up an online quiz, much like Kahoot, but there are some differences and it offers a few different features.

The biggest difference is that the question appears on the students computer, not the teacher's screen.  So this works very well if you find yourself with a blown bulb or a school system that has not moved to SmartBoards or some similar display.

Feature 1 - The students work at their own pace
Yes, the points still are worth more the faster you answer it, but the students can move from one question to the next at their own pace.  This helps those that work slower not to feel intimidated by the pace.

Feature 2 - Scramble the questions and answers
Have a few cheaters in your room?  Foil their nefarious plans by scrambling the order that everyone sees the questions.

Feature 3 - You don't have to be there to run it
You can choose the HOMEWORK option and set a time span for them to complete it.  This is neat for when you are absent and you have a hodgepodge of activities for your class to do.  You can just email them the code and they can complete it on their own time.  This is useful for home bound students as well.

Feature 4 - Reports

You can get a listing of how each individual student performed and how hard each questions was.  The downside of this is that it will show on your screen while the students are taking it, so if you are hooked to the projector, it will project for all to see.  This may or may not be a problem for you, but is easily solved by switching browser tabs during the actual playing of the game.

Feature 5 - Memes

When a student answers the question, a meme flashes before them letting them know if they got the question correct or not.  You can use their memes or import your own.  For that matter, you could just ask a few students to make you memes and I am sure that there will be no shortage of volunteers on that.

So have fun, my friends!