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 http://bookharvestnc.org/programs/books-to-go/ 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

Quizzizz

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!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Westeros the Series

By the time this post pops up, you've probably already seen this.  If not, this is a (spoof, I believe) trailer for a Game of Thrones series that takes place in a 21st Century version of Westeros.  They have the same technology we do today, but the culture is still very much the same.  Game of Thrones fans, I present:

Westeros, the Series


So how can this factor into the classroom?  Well, taking old stories and modernizing the setting happens all the time in movies.  This, however, is different.  We are not just taking the old story and retelling it, we are taking the old story and continuing it.  So, students can write about the future generations of the families from Wuthering Heights, or Great Gatsby, or Dante's Inferno.  What about the story of Captain Ahab's great, great, great, grandson?  What happens to the kids from Lord of the Flies after they grow up?

Or you can scale back the time line and just do a what happens next sort of thing.  Now it is time to let the students cut loose.  Obviously one restriction would be that the character traits and feel of the original must be present in the new version.  Descendant must be recognizable.  How can students do this?

1. Story form (this is the simplest)
2. Put them in groups and have them story board out a trailer for it, much like this one for Westeros.
3. Put them in groups and have them record a trailer (I highly suggest you run this by your school librarian to see what audio//video resource you have).



Thursday, September 28, 2017

Not a Super Teacher? That's O.K.




I read this article on Bored Teachers and thought I would share it.  I don't want to steal the link away from the author so here is the first paragraph, and if I grabs your attention, hit the link to keep reading.

Image result for not so superhero

The internet has ruined us. Everywhere you look these days you see viral videos of these “Super Teachers” as if they are the new Batman or something. I’m here to say this isn’t real. The new age of “super teachers” has created a larger gap in the teaching profession than a timed multiplication test does in our classrooms. There are a select few of these “super teachers” in every district that are so extra in their teaching life that it makes the rest of us look inferior or that we aren’t trying. I am all for reaching the kids and finding something that sticks, but this is a tad bit unrealistic for the other 99% of us.

"I am not a Super Teacher and I'm okay with that. I don’t need a cape. It doesn’t match my wrinkled khakis anyway."

Keep Reading

Friday, September 22, 2017

What If Teachers Were Treated Like Professional Athletes

Here's a funny video my nephew shared with me a while back on Facebook.  The comments other people put below it were rather awful, but the video itself if very funny.


Unfortunately, since it is not a YouTube video, I'll just have to pass the link onto where you can watch it.  https://www.attn.com/videos/18742/teachers-vs-professional-athletes

That's pretty much everyday here where I work.  Enjoy!


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus


On September 21st, 1897, The Sun ran this letter to the editor and its famous response:


DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O'HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.



VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

So as the anniversary of this printing comes forward, you may wish to incorporate it into your classroom.  If nothing else, expose the kids to this bit of American culture.  Use it in journalism class to discuss the responsibility of the newspaper.  Just give the class the original letter and let them respond to it before showing the editor's response (could be a great way to teach audience). Use it for a reading comprehension practice (I have one here that I used for ninth grade regular level: Reading Comprehension Practice).  Use it to spark a letter writing exercise and then write letters to editors of your newspapers.

Anyone else use this letter in their class?  If so, how?

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Nyxia

During the summer, I teach at Duke Young Writers Camp.  It is a blast being around students who love to write.  One of my colleagues there just published a book.  It is out today, as a matter of fact.

Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen


Here is the back of the book:

Every life has a price in this sci-fi thriller that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae. This is the first in a new three-book series called the Nyxia Triad that will take a group of broken teens to the far reaches of the universe and force them to decide what they’re willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

I'm hoping that he makes it big and can't wait to get my hands on a copy.  Good luck Scott!

Buy it here!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Word of the Day - Villain





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It's Dr. Evil, I didn't spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called "mister," thank you very much. 

So our word of the day is VILLAIN, but what's the fun in that?  We already know this to mean bad guy or antagonist.  An evil character designed to push the plot.

Image result for evil villains

But that definition wasn't used for the word until 1822.  Before that, it was used to mean a peasant.  Here is what the Online Etymology Dictionary has to say about it:

c. 1300 (late 12c. as a surname), "base or low-born rustic," from Anglo-French and Old French vilain "peasant, farmer, commoner, churl, yokel" (12c.), from Medieval Latin villanus "farmhand," from Latin villa "country house, farm" (from PIE root *weik- (1) "clan").
 The most important phases of the sense development of this word may be summed up as follows: 'inhabitant of a farm; peasant; churl, boor; clown; miser; knave, scoundrel.' Today both Fr. vilain and Eng. villain are used only in a pejorative sense. [Klein]
The root word is where we get the word "villa" from, meaning a large and fancy country home.  We know "village" to be a small country town (villa meaning country) and "villager" meaning one who lives in a village.  A "villager" at one time meant an uncouth country hick, instead of one living in a village.

So when you are giving that Middles Ages introduction and you hit the feudal system, consider letting them know that serfs and peasants were the original villains of the world.

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Grading Policy Change


I don't like change.

I don't know if you are like me in that regard.  That is not to say that I don't try new things.  It's just I try new things that I want to try and typically those new things don't impact more than a lesson or two.  Major changes to policy?  Nope.  Major changes to pedagogy? Nope.  That said, I'm being forced to make some changes, so since the change is happening, I might as well use this moment to make more.

What prompted this change was two fold - an article I read last year and my principal.  My principal is very passionate about mastery based learning and his interpretation of that is by increasing out assessment weight to 75% and practice assignments at 25%.  My gut feeling is that my lower level students will not do the practice assignments (it is hard enough to get them to complete assignments as is), and so they will perform poorly on the tests.  I teach seniors, so a higher fail rate is a cause of concern for me.  (You want to get to know the community? Fail a senior.  You'll meet everyone.)



There are some safeguards in place.  We are to allow for retests and such.  I understand the concept and I agree that a child should be able to demonstrate more mastery to get that grade.  But I hate change and I'm happy with the current system.  However, my principal is passionate about this.  For him this is not just another program to put in his portfolio.  It is a change that he wishes to see enacted across the nation.  He believes in it, so I'm more willing to listen to him on it.  This is long term for us, not just for the moment to be replaced next year with the new system.

Plus, the decision has been made for me, so I'm going with it (I like a pay check more than I hate change).  So I've decided to try out this new grading system I read about (well, new to me, at least).  You know, since I'm changing.



I used to have a very simple system - Daily/Homework, Quizzes, Tests/Projects.

Now I am breaking up the grades in a more specific fashion - For my 75% assessment category, I have Vocabulary, Literature, Research/Writing, and Achieve (our state test reading comprehension program).  For my 25% practice I am breaking it into Vocabulary, Literature, and Research/Writing.

The hope?  That students will be forced to demonstrate mastery in all areas and not be able to excel in one that pulls them over the grade line.  Plus, I will be able to, with a mere glance, say exactly where the student is lacking skills for when we have IEP meetings and such.



Will it work?  I think so.  I have to be extra careful that I don't end up with too few of grades in one section.  I wouldn't want one quiz to end up being weighted more than it should (that's a rookie mistake new teachers tend to make - so if you are a new teacher, keep an eye on those weights - I've seen too often teachers not realize that they only had one quiz in that section they set aside for 15% of the grade.  That one quiz ended up being worth more than test because they did not have any other assignments to average in).

I'll let you know how it works.  It may be the greatest thing I've ever done or it may turn out to be a headache.  I'm eager to hear from any of you if you've tried this and how it worked for you or your thoughts on it or the 75% test weighting.

So I'm ready for change.  Now, If I can just gear myself up for this new Capturing Kids Hearts program they are also putting on us....

Friday, May 12, 2017

For the Daring

My former IT guru had her job changed from IT to Digital Coach.  You may have one of these individuals at your school.  You may be like me and have no real idea of what a digital coach does.  I had assumed it was for helping teachers who were not tech savvy to get through mandatory technology needed for the school year.  That's partly it.

I asked her how it was going in the new job and she said that she likes it, but it is boring because once the school year gets going, teachers are so swamped with day to day planning and grading, that they are not making use of her abilities to help design lessons using the different tech resources the school had available.

I thought about that for a while.  I felt bad that she was in a place that she felt wasn't going where she wanted it to go.  So I approached her a day or two later and said, "OK.  I'm teaching ninth grade again after quite a few years of not teaching it.  I hate teaching Romeo and Juliet.  Wow me and show me something tech I can do with it."  She took the challenge.

A few days later, she had several ideas ready to go for me.  The thing that caught my eye was making use of the iPads and green screen in the school learning commons (that's newspeak for library).  I had, many years ago, allowed a class of seniors to remake the end of Macbeth in the Lord of the Rings setting.  We were inspired by the (then) relatively new Star Wars Macbeth.  It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun.  They painted my back wall blue (yes, I was teaching before the invention of green screens).  The kids really got into it.  I had actually offered it to my honors class at the time, but they were not very interested.  When someone in my regular class heard, they asked if they could do it.  I was skeptical, but they really wanted to do it.  It was fantastic.

So I was excited to find out that we had a green screen.  My librarian showed me the program and where the green screen was.  I decided to make a video myself to introduce the students to the program, with the benefit of giving me the chance to figure the equipment out.  It came out OK, but there was still a lot of work to be done:


While it is far from perfect, it was a lot of fun to make.  How did the project work out?  It was a lot of fun.  Will I use this again with low level ninth graders?  No.   Too much down time for most of the group to handle.  However, there was a handful that really dove into the project, including a young man that is not very interested in any school assignments who went above and beyond editing his group's project.  I will be using this idea for my mythology class next year and maybe even let my seniors make a 2 minutes hate when we do 1984 again.

So what is the moral of this post?  Go to your librarian or digital coach.  Ask them to wow you with the technology they have available.  I'll bet you'll be surprised.  Be daring and try a project or two.  You'll make their day, your students' day, and probably even your own (even if you do find yourself in a homemade Wonder Woman wig...).

Monday, May 8, 2017

Romeo and Juliet Study Materials

My lesson plans got turned upside down today due to library availability, so I started looking for some Romeo and Juliet study questions as a quick filler.  I was going to come up with some anyway later, but now that time was of the essence - why re-invent the wheel?

I stumbled across this site from Classic Stage Company.  They have this excellent PDF that goes over everything about Romeo and Juliet.  It has a quiz to determine which character you would be, an illustrated timeline of Shakespeare's life, a visual layout of who loves and is related to whom in the play, what it was like to live in London during Shakespeare's time, notes on the play, a quick synopsis, and more.  The illustrations are great and the content is spot on.  Best of all, they say in the opening pages that it is free to reproduce for your class.

Here are two screen shots of their illustrated pages:



You can find the whole thing here: http://www.classicstage.org/downloads/rj_studyguide.pdf



Monday, April 17, 2017

Tech Tuesday: Socrative

Socrative is an oldie, but goodie.  It allows for students to QUICKLY be interactive with your lessons.  There is no sign up for them, not account name to remember, no password.  All they need is your room code.

So what can you do?  Once you sign up for an account, you will see your dashboard, which will look something like this:


I like the quick question option.  Usually I'll click True/False.  This will bring you to a two answer question.  Let's say we are reading 1984 (good choice, by the way), and you want to see who they think is trustworthy.  I'll tell the class to go to socrative.com and use the room code lordalford,  It takes no time for the students to log on since they do not need accounts.  

So then I'll ask them something like, "Can Winston trust O'Brien?"  Click True if he should and False if he shouldn't.  The SmartBoard (or whatever you are projecting on) screen will look like this:



Immediately, as students click True or False, you see the results.  There is a meter bar that pops up for all of them and you can see how many have answered.  Once I am satisfied, I can use this as a springboard for why the students feel that way or just hit the TF again and ask about another character.

The Multiple Choice option is similar, but instead of T and F, they get A, B, C, D, and E.  I'll put on the board which means which.  The short answer option allows them to type in a response ("What is your guess that will happen when Winston approaches the girl?") which will start displaying on the board immediately.

It also has the Space Race quiz option, which is fun for review and provides something different than Kahoot, but for me money, it is hard to beat the simplicity of using socrative.com to engage the students in a classroom discussion.  This works for all students, but especially well with students who are reluctant to speak up in class.  It also encourages kids to be risky and not take the answer they think everyone else is.

I've never used the Exit Ticket feature.  I would like to hear from someone who has.

The downside is that you cannot get names from the responses, but that downside is so minor for what I use this for in class.

Anybody have something else about Socrative I should have mentioned?  Do you have a favorite tech site I should look at for a future review?

Monday, March 6, 2017

How Do I Love Thee?

Today is Elizabeth Barrett Browning's birthday.  She is known almost as much for love letters as she is for her poetry.  For those of you who need a refresher, Elizabeth (and her ten siblings) was forbidden by her father to ever marry and have children.  When Robert Browning read her poetry, he fell in love with her and began to write her.  Between the two of them, they wrote 570 letters to each other before they ran away and eloped.  They both kept all the love letters and the door to the Barrett house which half of those letters came through, was saved before the house was torn down.  I believe it is kept at Wellesley College Library and was a popular place for college students to slip Valentine cards until it was sealed shut.

So why did Elizabeth's father want to stop his bloodline?  Well, according to one scholar, Julia Markus, in her book Dared and Done, It might be because either her grandfather or gear grandfather has a child with a Jamaican slave. Either he was such a racist that he did not want his bloodline tainted or, being an abolitionist, he was ashamed of his white bloodline and wished to end it.

Either way, it was the reason for Elizabeth and Robert's secrecy.  Her father never forgave her for running off and getting married and having a child.  She wrote to him often and he always returned her letters unopened.

Here is a reading comprehension practice for her poem "How Do I Love Thee?"

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Great Way to Teach Symbolism

Sometimes we need a bit of magic to get that light bulb going.  Often students will here the word SYMBOLISM and shut down.  So what is an extreme English teacher to do?


Well, just in case you can't get your hands on the right aquatic hardware*, you may wish to try out this story - "Hills like White Elephants" by Hemmingway.  I have a copy here already highlighted into reading parts.  I took out some of the "said the man" and "said the girl" for the sake of reading it out loud.  It is very short, so give it a try right now.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1l7OEV1RtxFSvgfCJaNX4OddS1FZ4Oe0ABVwWrZs1gaA/edit

So, when we read it, we know right off the bat what the two are talking about.  When you give this to ninth graders, they have no idea (or at least lower level ninth graders - I've never taught honors freshmen and just assume that they are all brilliant individuals).  At this point, I have them go back and find the three paragraphs that give imagery on the setting.  I draw it on the board.  Then we talk about what we think each thing means.  They give different answers and sometimes I have to guide them on a river being an archetype for time passing and such.  When we get to the rail road tracks, I explain that major forms of transportation usually means a major life choice.  Polar Express is a great example of this concept.  At one point the conductor says something to the effect, "It doesn't matter where the train goes.  What matters is if you get on or not."

Sometimes this is enough to get them to realize that the operation Jig is considering is an abortion.  If not, we continue with pointing out that she says the world is not theirs anymore when she is standing in the sun and he wants her to get back in the shade.  This usually triggers a discussion on the sun possibly meaning truth.

Finally, if they haven't gotten it, or if someone wants to know why the only thing not labeled is the mountains, I tell them this story:

There was once a clever emperor who had a problem with one of his noblemen who was stirring up trouble.  The emperor knew he couldn't scold or punish the nobleman outright for the nobleman had many influential friends.  So instead, the emperor praised the nobleman for his intelligence and the example he set for all others in the kingdom.  He then said he wished to honor the nobleman with a gift - something of great value and rarity.  The nobleman, feeling very proud of himself, gladly accepting the emperor's praise and was excited to get the gift.  At this point, the emperor presented the nobleman with a white elephant.  The nobleman was in a bind.  He could not refuse the emperor's gift.  That would be insulting and he would lose standing in the court.  So he accepted it with false graciousness.  The elephant was very difficult to keep up and eventually the nobleman went bankrupt trying to care for the beast.  The clever emperor got his revenge upon the troublesome nobleman.  Ever since then, a "white elephant" means something that you do not want.

At this, many students may mention that they have played "White Elephant" at Christmas.  Once they know this is an optional operation that symbolically deals with life and death and that time is running out and it deals with something the the guy does not want, but the girl seems to want it, they often get it.  My board usually looks a little like this:



I understand that you may not be the artist that I am, but I am sure you could get the point across.  If nothing else, try not to let the train tracks converge like I did here!

Anyone else out there teach this story?  Do you have another way to get symbolism into student heads?  Let's hear it!



* I talked to my 7th grade biology teacher years after taking his class and he told me this story - for his first teaching job, he brought in an expensive salt water tank and filled it with exotic fish he had procured over years of scuba diving.  He was so proud of it and thought about how cool the kids were going to think his classroom was.  On the first day in the first period, two kids got into a fight and one was pushed right into the tank, knocking the whole thing over and shattering it.  The fish all died, the equipment was ruined, the floor had water damage, and the kid was sent to the hospital.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Inference Using "Ordeal By Cheques"

One of my son's middle school teachers gave this to him and I think it is absolutely brilliant.  I've used it ever since in my ninth grade short story unit.  Students who do not read well, can handle this one.  It is an excellent story to work inference skills.  I like to put it on the SmartBoard and do the discussion about what is really happening and who are the characters.  I do have to review a little bit about what are the components of a check, since these objects are becoming obsolete.

"Ordeal by Cheques" by Wuther Crue is a visual story that must have the entire plot inferred as we only get to see a series of checks written over a period of 28 years. The checks look like this:


Over the course of the story, little things change, such as the name that signs the check, the date, etc.  The students are left to figure out why these check are being written and who these people are that are having checks written to them.  Certain people get checks in the same amount while some checks are way too high for the time period.

Here is a copy of the story.  It is not long and if you teach inference skills or short stories, I encourage you to give it a shot in your class.  Let me know if you have any stories similar to this.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Befana - The Christmas Witch

At first I was thinking that the early Christians had the right idea to celebrate Christmas for twelve days, but then I started to realize that we start the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving and celebrate a lot longer than twelve days!

Back to the twelve days, on the twelfth day (January 6th), not only are you supposed to give your true love twelve drummers drumming, but children should prepare for the coming of La Befana. In Italy, on the Epiphany (Jan. 6th), La Befana, or sometimes known as the Christmas witch, brings fruits and small goodies to stuff in children's stockings that they hang by their bed. If you're a naughty little chap, she'll give you charcoal. She travels by either broomstick or on the back of a donkey, and so doesn't have the capacity for large toys like Santa. And for the adults, she sweeps the floor before leaving (Nice!)

Speaking of Santa, she also doesn't frequent malls for kiddies to hang out with either. She is a witch - ugly nose warts, rags, haggish cackle, and all. But children in Italy seem to love her all the same. She is rather rotund and it is common to leave her, not milk and cookies, but a glass of wine and a small doll.

How did she get her start? Well, according to legend, she was cleaning house when these three wise guys showed up looking for Jesus. She thought they were full of it and chased them off, only later to have some second thoughts. She ran out to help them, but had dallied too long. They were long gone. Distressed that she missed her chance to help the baby Jesus, she began handing out gifts to children hoping that one of them was the baby Jesus.

An alternate version is that her son was one of the babies killed by King Herod. She doesn't believe he is really dead, so she goes out in search for him every Christmas. Personally, I like the first one better.

Regardless of the origin, her search turned her old, gray, and into the hag-like appearance she now has. Finally, she found Jesus and laid all her gifts (or her son's belongings) before him. He called her "Befana" (giver of gifts or the White Witch) and gave her the ability to deliver gifts each year on night before Jan. 6th.


So, get those socks hung up!