Monday, December 19, 2016

Gustave Dore

Paul Gustave Dore was an artist that grabs the attention of students when they see his work.  What really blows their minds is when they understand how he creates his art.  At first glance, you would think that he works in pencils.  Look below at this image from Don Quixote:

If you are as old as I am, you may have remembered him fighting the windmill with a huge toothbrush from some Saturday morning commercial

However, he was too hard core for that.  He made his art as prints.  Which means that he took a block of wood and carved out everything that is white.  Then he would dip the block in ink and press it onto the paper.  On top of all that, he never had any formal training.  He is completely self taught.  That might be one reason that the art critics of his day did not like him.

He did illustrations for many books, some you may teach, like...

Paradise Lost

Take that, Satan!

The Inferno

The students always points out that he doesn't have three faces, but it is still a cool image.  If you look closely enough, you can see him chewing on Judas.

The Bible

Idylls of the King

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

This is only a sample.  If you teach old stuff (which you probably do), there is a possibility that he did a plate for it.  You can see more of his work here:

Monday, December 12, 2016

Up on the House Top Sleipnir Hooves...

This post was originally posted in 2008 on a mythology blog I used to run called Bubo's Blog.  I felt it was time to show it again.  

Other titles for this blog could have been "Here Comes Odin Right Down Odin Lane!"

That's right.  It is that time of year again and time to get ready for Odin coming and giving presents and such.  Yes, I have probably lost it long ago, but no I'm not like Linus believing in the Great Pumpkin (well, maybe a little).  No, I'm referring to Odin's big Yule hunting party.

During Yule, Odin leads a large hunting party through the sky on his great eight-legged horse Sleipnir (a great story about Sleipnir's birth involves Loki, a randy horse, and the rest can wait for another time).  

Now Sleipnir can't fly (silly - only reindeer), but he can leap great distances (like the Hulk).  Children 

would leave their boots near the chimney.  They filled it with carrots, straw, and sugar so that Sleipnir would be able to eat.  Odin, touched by the children's kindness, would fill up the children's boots with sweets and gifts.

Happy Yule!

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Miserable World of Prometheus

A little something for you mythology teachers out there -

There was a comic strip a while back called The Miserable World of Prometheus.  It was a newspaper strip and consisted of Prometheus being chained to his rock and having his liver ripped out by an eagle every day.  Here are a few examples:

Unfortunately, the creator, Mark Weinstein, ended the strip a while back, but not before putting the whole thing online.  You can read all of them here:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Who Is the Third Murderer? - The Most Awesome Answer Ever

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth hires two murderers to kill Banquo; however, three murderers show up to the scene.  The original two even make a note of it by asking this third interloper who sent him?  The answer that he was sent by Macbeth himself has a few flaws.

It would seem that Shakespeare meant to do something with this third guy, but never got around to fleshing it out, leaving English teacher geeks around the globe speculating here and there.  This third murderer recognizes Banquo, understands his habits around Macbeth's stables, and was able to give at least some of the original plan to the other two murderers so that they would accept him.  Yet he doesn't seem to know all of the plan since he was unaware of the light going out, and as a result, the main target got away.

You can find some more awesome images from Macbeth (including some really freaky looking witches) by going to the artist's (Amy Hood) web site.
So in my class of regular level students, I use this as an opportunity to get them to think deeper.  They find the clues and facts, list off everyone who could have been the murderer, and then find evidence to support their favorite suspect.  We get into a discussion over what the third murderer's motive was - to help kill Banquo and Fleance or to help Banquo and'or Fleance get away.

I tell them that on their test, they are going to have to accuse one character and then defend their statement.  We joked this year about people putting down Banquo as the murderer - a major feat since he was the one being killed at the time.

One student took this as a challenge and on the test stapled an extra sheet so that he would have enough space to properly accuse Banquo for being the third murderer of Banquo.  Here is his answer:

Banquo.  Banquo fakes his death in a simple process.  He knew from the witches that his child would be king and not Macbeth's children.  He knew that Macbeth was willing to kill to be king.  When Macbeth became king, Banquo knew it was only a matter of time before Macbeth would kill him. Banquo then got body doubles of himself and his son and sent his son out of Scotland.  when he heard of suspicious people meeting with the king, he knew it was time, and trailed the two murderers.  He declared his double to be himself so that the others wouldn't think.  When his son's double got away and met with Banquo for payment, Banquo killed him to tie up loose ends.  I believe that after the play ended, Banquo got his son to take over Scotland and then ruled through the shadows.

Flawed?  Sure, but he was so excited to prove that I was wrong when I said that Banquo COULDN'T be the third murderer.  It's not often that you get a regular level student to get this passionate about a test answer.  I'm sure you honors and AP teachers get this sort of crazy stuff all the time.

This same kid followed up this response with the answer to this question:
Who is most at fault for what has happened in this play?

King James I.  Shakespeare wrote this play because of the big stink James made about a supposed "witch" visiting him.  If he had stayed calm and not made a big deal out of it, this play would never have been written.

Folks, it's hard to argue with this kind of logic.  :)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Jack's Lament

If you have not seen the movie Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton, you really should.  It is not a great movie for little kids, but excellent for middle school age children and older.  I'm not suggesting this as a movie to watch in class, just if you have children at home.  As far as class goes, there is a particular song in it that is useful for instruction: "Jack's Lament."

A quick bit of background information for those who have never seen the movie. Jack Skellington (pictured to the left) is the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town (every holiday has their own town).  He has just had another successful Halloween.  He has, once again, won all the praise of the inhabitants of Halloween Town.  And he is bored out of his mind.  This is the song he sings to express how unhappy he is, even though everything is going great.

Why show this song clip in your class?  To teach allusion. There are several examples and depending on the level of student that you have, they should be able to pick out most.

Here they are in order as they appear in the song:

  1. Sally, the rag golem is an allusion to Frankenstein's monster.  Students might be able to figure that out from the stitch marks.
  2. He is walking through a pet cemetery (Stephen King's Pet Cemetery).
  3. Zero the ghost dog - easy Rudolf allusion
  4. There is a grave stone figure that looks like Mushu from Mulan.  If students make that connection, that's great.  However, The Nightmare Before Christmas came out in 1993 and Mulan came out in 1998, so no true allusion there.
  5. The horse head tombstone is actually an allusion/pun.  It looks like the chess piece knight.  Use the homophone reference for night.
  6. You have two versions of the Scream painting by Edvard Muench.  One tombstone looks similar to the painting and the other looks similar to the Halloween mask designed after the painting.  To really drive it home, he even says that he, "grows so weary of the sound of screams," at the same time that he drapes his arm around one of the tombstones.  Students might recognize the tombstone from the movie Scream, which has a mask based on the same painting.
  7. He calls himself Jack, the Pumpkin King.  Maybe an allusion or at least a play on the idea of a Jack o' lantern?
  8. As Jack stands in front of the moon, it is a reference back to Tim Burton's Batman, when the batwing flies in front of the moon for a special visual effect.
  9. And of course, the Hamlet allusion as he takes off his skull and holds it to recite "Shakespearean quotations."
O.K., did I miss any?  I feel like I did.  If you notice any more, please leave a comment so that I can add it to the list.  I'll give you full credit!

If you have the movie, you'll find this song starting at about 6:10 and ending at 9:45.  If you don't, here is a You Tube version:

You can find the lyrics here if you would like to do a lesson on assonance.  every second and fourth line of each stanza uses assonance to fake the rhyme.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Everybody Dies

Check out this poster created by Caitlin Griffin:

You can buy it from the National Theatre Shop in London by going to this link:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Spider-Man Unmasked!

Here is a great creative writing prompt to get kids pushing their thoughts a bit.  You do not need to be a comic book fan to participate (although if you are, there is that much more interest in it).  All you need is the ability to think divergently.

Show students this cover:

Now, supposing that everything shown on the cover is true for the story inside, how could this happen and Peter Parker still keep his identity secret?  We have these characters on the cover:

  • Dr. Octopus - his four extra mechanical arms are just as strong as Spider-Man and allows him to reach far away.
  • Peter Parker - the true identity of Spider-Man.  He has the strength, speed, and agility of a spider and has a nifty spider-sense that warns him of danger (which didn't help as the cover shows).
  • Four random police officers
  • Betty Brant - she is a secretary for the newspaper The Daily Bugle and Peter Parker's girlfriend at the time of this comic.
  • J. Jonah Jameson - a newspaper editor who hates Spider-Man with a passion.
Let students write out how Peter Parker is able to keep his identity secret even though seven people clearly see him unmasked.  Give prizes to the most creative and the closest to the original.

So what is the real story?

Peter Parker has a cold, so he has lost all his spider powers.  Doc Ock, however, wants revenge on Spider-Man.  He notices that the Daily Bugle seems to get all the press on Spider-Man, so he breaks into their building, tells the editor, J. Jonah Jameson, that he will print a challenge to Spider-Man to meet him at a certain location.  He then kidnaps Jameson's secretary to insure that it gets done.  Peter Parker, fearful for his girlfriend's safety, dons his Spidey suit and goes after Doc Ock, even though he doesn't have his powers anymore.  Doc Ock beats him easily and unmasks him.  When he sees it is a teenager, he exclaims that the real Spider-Man is too scared to fight him and sent this kid in his place.  Figuring that was why Spider-Man's punches were so weak and why he was so easily beaten, Doc Ock throws Peter to the ground and leaves.  Betty and Jameson both think that Peter is quite the hero, albeit rather stupid, and the police, after toying with what to charge Peter with, finally leave them alone.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Grammar Ninja

There is a game on the Internet that might be fun to use in your class called
Grammar Ninja

The game was created by Greg Lieberman and can be found here:

There are three levels to try - Beginner, Skilled, and Master.  The basis of the game is simple part of speech recognition.  The students are given a sentence and told to find a certain part of speech.  Lieberman is even nice enough to give the number in that sentence and provides a ? box that gives a definition of what that part of speech does.  Students find the part of speech by throwing ninja stars at it.

Since they are in training to be ninjas, they must be fast, so the score is their time (plus 5 seconds for each wrong answer).

A complaint might be that the sentences stay the same, but to counter that, Lieberman has the part of speech change each time you run through the game.  The other complaint I've had from students is that it doesn't count pronouns as nouns.

Ways to incorporate it in the classroom?

1. As a grade - Make the assignment where you break down the time as a grade (for example, the time above may rate anywhere from a C to a D- or an F depending on the level of your students.  Allow students to play it as many times as they want to get the time they desire.  Then students can send you a screen shot or just bring their laptop to you.

2. As a distraction - Not going to be present and you are concerned that you haven't given enough work to keep them busy, but are hesitant to give a busy work worksheet or you need something to keep the students busy while you conference with students or give time for students to make up work.  Set a challenge time and then offer some reward for those bright enough to meet the challenge.

3. As a class game - put this bad boy up on the SmartBoard (or whatever your device brand is) and let students come up for a challenge.

Why let all the students have the fun?  I'm challenging you on the Master Level to beat my time:

We'll have to use the honor system here since I do not believe the comments section allows pictures, but remember - God, Santa, and Big Brother are watching!

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Glove Cleaner

Here's a great thinking skills lesson.  Just have the students read this aloud and ask them one question.  I suggest that highlight the speaking parts of the young man, old man, and narrator and have them read it as a play.

The one question?  What is the glove cleaner?  I think that while you find the answer quite obvious from your life experiences, your students, however, will really struggle with it.

You can use this to point out that the real clues are in the parts that do not seem to relevant to the story.  This is a skill that we, as lovers of reading, already know, but many students do not.

The Chaser By John Collier
Alan Austen, as nervous as a kitten, went up certain dark and creaky stairs in the neighborhood of Pell Street, and peered for a long time on the landing before he found the name he wanted written obscurely on one of the doors.
He pushed open this door, as he had been told to do, and found himself in a tiny room, which contained no furniture but a plain kitchen table, a rocking-chair, and an ordinary chair.  On one of the dirty buff-coloured walls were a couple of shelves, containing in all perhaps a dozen bottles and jars.  An old man sat in the rocking-chair, reading a newspaper.  Alan, without a word, handed him the card he had been given.
"Sit down, Mr. Austen," said the old man very politely.  "I am glad to make your acquaintance."
"Is it true," asked Alan, "that you have a certain mixture that has – er – quite extraordinary effects?"
"My dear sir," replied the old man, "my stock in trade is not very large – I don't deal in laxatives and teething mixtures – but such as it is, it is varied. I think nothing I sell has effects which could be precisely described as ordinary."
"Well, the fact is. . ." began Alan.
"Here, for example," interrupted the old man, reaching for a bottle from the shelf. "Here is a liquid as colourless as water, almost tasteless, quite imperceptible in coffee, wine, or any other beverage. It is also quite imperceptible to any known method of autopsy."
"Do you mean it is a poison?" cried Alan, very much horrified.
"Call it a glove-cleaner if you like," said the old man indifferently. "Maybe it will clean gloves. I have never tried. One might call it a life-cleaner. Lives need cleaning sometimes."
"I want nothing of that sort," said Alan.
"Probably it is just as well," said the old man. "Do you know the price of this? For one teaspoonful, which is sufficient, I ask five thousand dollars.  Never less.  Not a penny less."
"I hope all your mixtures are not as expensive," said Alan apprehensively.
"Oh dear, no," said the old man.  "It would be no good charging that price for a love potion, for example. Young people who need a love potion seldom have five thousand dollars. Otherwise they wouldn’t need a love potion."
"I am glad to hear that," said Alan.
"I look at it like this," said the old man.  "Please a customer with one article, and he will come back when he needs another.  Even if it is more costly.  He will save up for it, if necessary."
"So," said Alan, "you really do sell love potions?"
"If I did not sell love potions," said the old man, reaching for another bottle, "I should not have mentioned the other matter to you.  It is only when one is in a position to oblige that one can afford to be so confidential."
"And these potions," said Alan.  "They are not just – just – er – ”    
"Oh, no," said the old man.  "Their effects are permanent, and extend far beyond the mere casual impulse.  But they include it.  Oh, yes they include it.  Bountifully, insistently.  Everlastingly."
"Dear me!" said Alan, attempting a look of scientific detachment.  "How very interesting!"
"But consider the spiritual side," said the old man.
"I do, indeed," said Alan.
"For indifference," said the old man, “they substitute devotion.  For scorn, adoration.  Give one tiny measure of this to the young lady – its flavour is imperceptible in orange juice, soup, or cocktails – and however gay and giddy she is, she will change altogether.  She will want nothing but solitude and you."
"I can hardly believe it," said Alan.  "She is so fond of parties."
"She will not like them anymore," said the old man.  "She will be afraid of the pretty girls you may meet."
"She will actually be jealous?" cried Alan in a rapture.  "Of me?"
"Yes, she will want to be everything to you."
"She is, already.  Only she doesn't care about it."
"She will, when she has taken this.  She will care intensely.  You will be her sole interest in life."
"Wonderful!" cried Alan.
"She will want to know all you do," said the old man.  "All that has happened to you during the day.  Every word of it.  She will want to know what you are thinking about, why you smile suddenly, why you are looking sad."
"That is love!" cried Alan.
"Yes," said the old man.  "How carefully she will look after you! She will never allow you to be tired, to sit in a draught, to neglect your food.  If you are an hour late, she will be terrified.  She will think you are killed, or that some siren has caught you."
"I can hardly imagine Diana like that!" cried Alan, overwhelmed with joy.
"You will not have to use your imagination," said the old man.  "And, by the way, since there are always sirens, if by any chance you should, later on, slip a little, you need not worry.  She will forgive you, in the end.  She will be terribly hurt, of course, but she will forgive you – in the end."
"That will not happen," said Alan fervently.
"Of course not," said the old man.  "But, if it did, you need not worry. She would never divorce you.  Oh, no!  And, of course, she will never give you the least, the very least, grounds for – uneasiness."
"And how much," said Alan, "is this wonderful mixture?"
"It is not as dear," said the old man, "as the glove-cleaner, or life-cleaner, as I sometimes call it.  No.  That is five thousand dollars, never a penny less.  One has to be older than you are, to indulge in that sort of thing.  One has to save up for it."
"But the love potion?" said Alan.
"Oh, that," said the old man, opening the drawer in the kitchen table, and taking out a tiny, rather dirty-looking phial.  "That is just a dollar."
"I can't tell you how grateful I am," said Alan, watching him fill it.
"I like to oblige," said the old man.  "Then customers come back, later in life, when they are better off, and want more expensive things.  Here you are.  You will find it very effective."
"Thank you again," said Alan.  "Good-bye."
"Au revoir," said the man.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Welcome to Extreme English

What is this blog all about?  It's about the greatest teachers in all of academia - the high school English teacher!  Those who read and (hopefully) contribute back are the ones who have raised their already high level to the extreme.

The posts here are to be practical lesson ideas, things English teachers find funny, tech tips, web site reviews, and anything else that we find interesting and useful.

One series of posts I hope to get to and hope to get your help on is Movies Reviewed by Teachers.  We will review movies with the eye of whether or not they are useful to show in class.

Unlike other blogs, this needs to be more interactive.  Comment.  Agree or disagree.  Offer your own ideas.  Tell how you tweaked it.  Submit ideas to be discussed.  Even think about writing a post or two.

So brace yourself, Extreme English Teacher is coming!