Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Random Dialogues

Today's assignment will be a Random Dialogue.  Here is how we will do it:

First, on your paper or computer, write down four numbers between 1 - 10.  They can be the same numbers. 

Got them?  Now, scroll down below the picture and you will find that your first number will be the first character.  The second number will be the second character.  The third will be the setting and the fourth will be the subject of the dialogue.

First Number - Character number one
  1. a mom
  2. a kid
  3. an alien
  4. a dog
  5. a rich man
  6. a grocery store owner
  7. a soldier
  8. a baby
  9. a superhero
  10. a vampire
Second Number - Character number two
  1. a dad
  2. a teenager
  3. the President of the United States
  4. a cat
  5. a poor woman
  6. a cowboy
  7. a spy
  8. a wizard
  9. a super villain
  10. a werewolf
Third Number - Setting
  1. morning at the beach
  2. in a grocery store
  3. in the White House
  4. on a city building rooftop
  5. nighttime in a graveyard
  6. on a golf course
  7. by the pool in winter
  8. in a school classroom
  9. in a fast food restaurant
  10. Christmastime in a house
Fourth Number - Dialogue Subject

  1. how much something costs
  2. the latest video game
  3. deciding on where to go for a date (not necessarily with each other)
  4. politics
  5. a dream the first character had last night
  6. what to have for the next meal
  7. character two is not happy about something character one did
  8. character one is excited about something that just happened
  9. a sporting event
  10. a movie they just watched

Now, you decide if they are arguing, being silly, serious, discussing, fighting, happy, etc.  Oh, and you had ten minutes, so no time to think ready...  GO!

O.K., was it any good? awful? just plain silly?  If you typed it, feel free to cut and paste it into the comments section.  You can always do this, no matter when it is you find this blog post.

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Weird Cover Wednesday

A Two-for-One Today!

I love the tag line!

Creative Writing Challenge - Create a crazier Do-It-Yourself book than these!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Writing Wednesday: The Worst Way to Begin Your Novel

I'll put this up here for Creative Writing teachers, but let's face it - we all have a novel in us waiting for enough time between grading to write!  So this is as much for you as it would be any aspiring student writer.  I'm not going to steal the site's hits from them, so if you are interested, click the link or picture.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Totem Head

Here's a quick and fun assignment for writing - Totem Head Story Contest.  

Totem Head

This is perfect for writers that are either young or not into heavy duty writing.

  • It has several age groups, including a 13-18 category.
  • It's short - 1500 words or less.
  • It's easy - just have the story start with this phrase, "So there I was..."
  • It also gives a fun nine step tutorial, making this a full lesson ready to go, perfect for these days bumping up against Thanksgiving.

The only draw back is that the kid friendly nature of it might turn off some older high school kids.  Check it out and gauge it for your students.  Leave a comment if you've used this before or if you have a student who wins!

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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Lycanthrope Detector

As the weather gets cooler and the leaves blow around us in different colors, our tend to wander towards the things that make fall wonderful -- apples, candy corn, tiny tots learning the fine art of begging, and, of course, people mutating into blood thirsty werewolves.  I am not talking about the take-the-shirt-of-every-time-I-get-a-chance-and-lose-the-girl-to-a-sparkling-vampire variety.  No.   I mean the say-your-prayers-because-nothing-will-save-you-from-the-furry-jaws-of-death kind.

So, just in case one of you dear readers find yourself plagued by a person that may be a lycanthrope (werewolf for you of lesser vocabulary skills), there is no need to fear.  There are ways of telling if that creepy coworker is licking his chops in anticipation of making you into a midnight snack.

1. The unibrow - this is a sure fire way to tell. Look out for those who shave the middle part.

2. Fur on the inside of their skin - a bit harder to tell. A Roman platoon suspected one of their own as a werewolf and used this technique to discover the truth. After they ripped his skin off and found no fur, well, he was forgiven.

3. Forget the whole moon thing - that was added in movies. True werewolves do not have to wait for the moon.

4. The ring finger - is longer than the middle finger.

5. Excessive thirst - maybe coming for the idea that dogs and wolves pant because they are always thirsty.

6. Obsession with walking through graveyards - I bet Poe was one. He even proposed to a woman in the graveyard.  One theory is that he died of rabies perhaps from being bitten by a rabid bat in a graveyard.

7. Foul smell - werewolves have extra seat glands. Be alert for a smell of hay and horse manure.

8. Check the pee pee - yep, werewolves have urine that is a deep purple.  However, scoping out the color of someone's urine in a public bathroom could result in problems other than the wolf kind.  Use this technique with caution.

9. The Mark of the Werewolf - the dead give away. If someone has a pentagon on their palm, break out the silver weapons IMMEDIATELY!

10. Shoot him/her with a silver bullet - if he/she dies, probably a werewolf.

Side note, if you are out of silver weapons and are being chased by a werewolf, always drop things.Werewolves must stop and pick them up before continuing the chase. Can anyone say, OCD?  That's why I always have a pocketful of rice wherever I go.  It works for vampires too.

O.K. people - be safe out there!

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)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Weird Cover Wednesday

Another foray into how did these guys get published?

OK, the guy likes mushrooms, but what's with the trumpet?

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!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Time Idioms

Need something easy to demonstrate idioms?  I found this image on a Facebook site for English Teachers.  I just joined the site not long ago, so I don't know how great or not so great it will be.  It is called High School Teachers of English.  I did like this image that someone shared on there about time idioms.  This is a very effective and quick way to help your students understand the literary term 'idiom'.

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


The Timeline seen above was created using Tiki-Toki.  I present it here for two reasons:

1. It shows a timeline of challenged books over the years and gives why they were challenged.  It is interesting to see how values changed over the years.

2. This is another bit of tech that you may wish to incorporate into your classroom (consider this a Tech Tuesday a day late).  Tiki-Toki is not a site I have ever used, but it seems similar in many respects to Padlet.  I love Padlet, so my feeling is that this site has some value for class use.  I would love to hear from anyone who has used it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Banned Book Week 2017

Banned Book Week Is Here!

Here are the most challenged books of 2016 (according to the ALA):

1. This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes

2. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
3. George written by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”
4. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
5. Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan
Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content
6. Looking for Alaska written by John Green
Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”
7. Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk
Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive”
9. Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
10. Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell
Reason: challenged for offensive language

I have not read any of the books on the list this year.  Have you?

You can get banned books lists going way back, plus lists for specific types (classics, young adult, etc.) by going to

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.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Texter

Here's a quick and fun writing web site for when you are teaching a poetry unit or teaching creative writing.


Texter allows you to take your text and draw with it.  

It's fun to play with at the very least.  At its best, it becomes the medium for a beautiful work of visual poetry.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Arrgh, Matey! Shiver Me Timbers!

Don't forget!  Tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day!  Time to get your pirattitude ready!

If nothing else, it is a great way to annoy your students (or remind them of this day on their way out and have them annoy your colleagues!

And if you need some guidance, here is a list of pirate phrases from

All hands hoay = Everyone get on the deck
Avast ye = Pay attention
Black spot = Death threat
Dungbie = Rear end
Hornswaggle = To cheat
Shiver me timbers = An expression used to show shock or disbelief
Abaft = Back area of the boat
Duffle = A sailor's belongings
Head = Toilet on board the ship
Monkey = Small cannon
Poop deck = Deck that is the highest and farthest back
Freebooter = Refers to an actual pirate
Landlubber = A person who is not incredibly skilled at sea
Davy Jones' Locker = Refers to death
Ahoy, matey = Hello, friend
Batten down the hatches = A signal to prepare the ship for an upcoming storm
Blimey! = Something said when one is in a state of surprise
Blow the man down = A command which means to kill somebody
Booty = Treasure
Buccaneer = Name for a pirate
Crow's nest = The place on the ship where the lookout stand is built
Feed the fish = Meaning that an individual or group of individuals will soon die
Heave ho = Instruction to put some strength into whatever one is doing
Jolly Roger = The famous pirate flag with a skull and crossbones on it
Man-O-War = The name used for a pirate ship that is all set and ready to go to war
Old salt = A sailor that has a great deal of experience on the seas
Scallywag = A name that is used as an insult to someone
Scuttle = To sink a ship
Seadog = An old sailor or pirate
Shark bait = Going to die soon
Thar she blows! = An expression used when a whale is spotted from the ship
Walk the plank = A punishment which entails someone who walks over the side of the ship off of the plank. Their hands are often tied so that they cannot swim and they drowned.
Yo Ho Ho = There is often used to express some sort of cheer but also can be used to call attention to the speaker.

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, 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!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Weird Cover Wednesday

I know we all have a book in us.  The point of weird cover Wednesday is to serve as inspiration.  If these books can get printed, surely you can get one out there!  Creative writing teacher?  You can use these as a warm up writing assignment.  You can give them the title and cover picture and tell them they have fifteen minutes to start the story or to write a summary of it.

Our first one is a cautionary tale for children:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


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.


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!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Inkle Writer

You remember those books -

  • If you press the red button, turn to page 67 
  • If you press the green button, turn to page 98
  • If you just sit down and cry, mourning the bad choices of your life, turn the page
When I was a high school student, I wrote one of these as a class project.  It was super hard to do back in those ancient days.  It was still a lot of fun, though.

Well, now the fun got easier.  Inkle Studios has a web site that is free to use which sets up the process for writing an interactive story.  It is called Inkle Writer.

You can find this at  It is free and you don't even need to make an account to use it, although you cannot save it without an account.  I've had it for a few days now and not once have I received an email or even a blast of emails from them pestering me to do this or that, as often happens when you sign up for free sites.

When you want to write the follow up to a choice, just hit the little arrow and it pulls that section up to write.  It even keeps track of your loose ends (parts of the story you did not finish).  When it is time to share the story, move over to READ MODE.  

When you are ready to share it, they give you a web link.

Creative Writing teachers can find uses for this right away, but even regular English teachers can use this a free write practice or project possibilities.  Rewrite Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, or The Odyssey in an interactive form.  

This is also a good way for young writers interested in writing for video games to practice getting used to the interactive story they would need to be able to tell.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Bayeux Tapestry

I love 1066 and the whole story of that year.  I use it with my seniors to teach note taking skills (along with other things) and I lecture the story.  I've written about that before when I mentioned creating a sound board to give lectures a little more umpph.

If you cover 1066 and the Bayeux Tapestry at all, here are a few resources you can use.

1.The first is an animated version of the tapestry.  These guys made a video that appears like they took a camera and panned the whole tapestry.  On top of that, they added a little background music and with the wonders of technology, made the art move.  This way your students can see the art style, but it may hold their attention a second or two longer.

2. There is also a site where someone has broken the tapestry into 35 easier to see sections.  An extra credit assignment I offer to my more artistic students is to take a piece of cloth 8" by 30" and recreated in someway a section from that site.  My hope is that one day I'll have all 35 sections hanging on my wall.  The site is found here:

3. Create your own.  A quick search on the net allows you to find several false sections of the Bayeux tapestry, such as this one:

Unfortunately, no longer seems to work.  However, you can still use the Wayback Machine to find a working version.  It is quite clever and allows you to pull in images from the tapestry and recreate them for the tale you wish to tell.  The dashboard and working space look like this:

I saved it by taking a screenshot.  Students can use this to play around on or as a project for a later story where they use the images to make a Macbeth version of the Bayeux tapestry or something similar.

4. An while we are on a Game of Thrones kick, here is Game of Thrones in Bayeux Tapestry style.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

How Well Do You Know Harry Potter from Shakespeare?

I did not do so well on this, I am sad to say.  So I'm throwing the challenge out to you.  I found this on Spark Notes (they have a lot of fun quizzes).  So test your knowledge and if you are not afraid, let me know how well (or not) you did!

Image result for harry potter vs shakespeare

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Word of the Day - Villain

Related image
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.

Related image

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....

Thursday, July 20, 2017

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.


By the way, I wrote up a post on the mythology behind the temple idol.  Click here to read it.

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 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?  Well, let's say it was a learning experience for me.  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 interesting 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 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: