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:

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Should It Be Seems or Seemeth?

One of my colleagues posed a question to all of us - why does Shakespeare sometimes use an -s ending and sometimes an -eth ending?  Is there a rule for that?

No one knew the answer.  However, we do have a Shakespeare buff in our department, so she was not about to let this question go unanswered.  The question was asked yesterday.  Here is the answer she gave us this morning after researching last night:

Here's the answer to Dan's question about why Shakespeare would sometimes say "seems" and sometimes "seemeth." In a nutshell, it's really about the shift from Middle English to Modern English forms. Shakespeare is considered Early Modern English. The -s ending gradually replaced the -eth ending. Shakespeare wrote during this shifting time, so he was free to choose based on his preference for emphasis and scansion.

Here's more info:

So now you know too!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

There Art Thou Happy

One of my least favorite Shakespeare plays is Romeo and Juliet.  The last year that I taught the play I swore that the next time I did, I was going to start in Act V with Romeo stepping over Paris's body and reaching for the poison.

Well, semesters of non-freshmen bliss went by and here I am, for at least one semester, back in English I.  So did I make good on my oath?  Nope.

However, the teacher across the hall from me (Hi Meredith!) has a killer lesson idea for Act III scene iii.  Romeo is whining about how awful his life is and the Friar, speaking for us, I guess, has had enough of it.  He lists off a few things that Romeo should be grateful for and ends with this line:

A pack of blessings lights upon thy back: Happiness courts thee in her best array; but, like a misbehav'd and sullen wench, thou pout'st upon they fortune and thy love.  Take heed, for such die miserable.
 Not wanting her students to "die miserable", she has them as a homework assignment, list out their "pack of blessings".  Puts a bit of a positive spin to her class.

I am quickly approaching this scene and I am ready to try this out in my class.  Anyone else do something similar for this work or a different one?

This is so much better than what I did as a fairly new teacher (I was in the game long enough to know better, though).  We were about to read Night (first time I had ever taught it at the time) and I was going to be absent that day, so I gave them the journal assignment, "What is the worst thing to ever happen to you?"  In my young foolish mind, I figured that when they read Night they'll realize how simple their lives are.

When I returned, my inclusion teacher jumped my case (we got along very well).  She said I had better not EVER give that journal entry again.  The class she was in was a group of kids that did not get along with each other, normally.  When the sub asked anyone to share, she said it was one depressing thing after another.  They were all crying.  Kids who hated each other were connecting over how miserable each other's lives were.  She said that if I ever did that to her again, she was retiring.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Odyssey: Stop 6 - Hades

Let Your Mom Drink Blood

Odysseus goes here to speak to Tieresias, the blind prophet. What Tieresias tells him (Don't touch the cows!), while is the most important thing that happens here, is not nearly the most interesting thing. Odysseus pours out some blood to attract the blind prophet. It also attracts many others. It is the other spirits that we will discuss.

The first spirit he sees is Elpenor, who evidentially died at Circe's island. He got drunk while sitting on her roof and fell over and broke his neck (sounds like a Darwin Award to me)! I guess nobody knew that and they just left him there. He begs for Odysseus to go back and bury him so he can rest.

Next he sees his mom. She died after he left for the Trojan war. She doesn't recognize him. This really bums him out.

Then comes Tieresias. Blah blah blah there. By the way, he also tells Odysseus that if he gets home, it will be in a strange boat and he will have more problems there than on his way home. Oh yeah, don't forget to give Poseidon a sacrifice when you get there. He also says, give your mom some blood so that she will recognize you.

It grosses him out a bit that she is drinking blood, but she does recognize him again. She tells him that his wife has been faithful to him. That must hurt after his little fling with Circe.

A couple of other women who are wives and daughters of the men who sailed with him show up.

Next comes Agamemnon King! He drinks the blood and tells Odysseus that when he gets home, he should smack his wife around a bit since all women are evil. It seems that he did not have a good experience when he got home, to say the least. His wife had found someone else and they stabbed the poor guy. Well, he is not so poor. He brought home a girl with him to have on the side. I'm sure he was, in his heart, faithful to his wife. This girl could see the future and told him that his wife was cheating on him and planned to kill him that night, but he didn't listen.

Achilles shows up and whines about how awful it is to be dead. He has a neat quote, "Better to be a slave in the sun than the king of Hades." I'm sure that John Milton had this in mind when he has Satan standing in hell, his demon buddies all depressed because they just their butts kicked out of heaven. Satan says, "Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven." I love that epic!

Ajax shows up, drinks the blood and tells Odysseus he is still angry with him (During the Trojan War, Odysseus tricked Ajax into giving him Achilles armor). Then he walks away. Odysseus, being a smart guy, didn't stop the huge guy who only needs a coat of green paint to effectively play the Hulk.

Hercules shows up and he is having a ball down here. Neat contrast between him running around and Achilles crying. I know some myths have Hercules living in Olympus and some with him in the stars, but I like the idea of Hercules running around having tons of fun!

Finally he looks around and sees on his way out Minos, Tityus, Tantalus, and Sisyphus.  These guys are interesting enough as it is.  Try making your students research who these fun guys are and why they are here. 

Coming late to the party? You can find all the Odyssey posts here.

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 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 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?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Odyssey: Stop 5 - Circe's Island

I'm not too interested at Circe's Island (she is also called Kirke), but I am interested in the idea that Odysseus had children with her. So, let me recap the story quickly and move on with what I am interested in.

Basically, the men stop at Circe's Island. Some go ahead to scout out and find all sorts of animals. They get to Circe's house and she uses her magic to turn them into pigs. One gets away, goes and tells Odysseus, who feels that the man is a coward for running away. He goes and with the help of Hermes, defeats Circe, she turns his men back to men and falls in love with Odysseus. When he leaves, which in some accounts is over a year later, sometimes knowing how long he stayed and sometimes not realizing the time that flew by, she tells him to go seek out the blind prophet Tieresias in Hades for help.

This is how Odysseus tells his story (which would be the Homer version). However, other poets tell that more happened and that he and Circe, um, held hands. gives up a few alternative views:

Hesiod says that there are three kids: Agrios, Latinos, Telegonus - these boys rule some people named the Tyrrhenians. I looked up these people, but quickly became bored with it.

Another version from Eustathius says that Telemachus ventured to Circe's Island after his father's death and that he married Circe and that Penelope married Telegonus. EWWWW!

Eugammon also says this, but adds that Circe made them all immortal. So I guess their weird little tryst is still going on today.

Psuedo-Apollodorus tells us only that Penelope and Telegonus married and that Circe sent them to the Island of the Blest (Maui?).

Pseudo-Hyginus says that Athena is the one that orchestrated the intermarriages.

And lastly, Oppian tells us that it was Telegonos that killed Odysseus with a spear made from the stinger of a sting ray. It was of course, not on purpose (well, he meant to kill the guy, but did not know it was his own father).

There are a few that I left out. Check the Theoi site for the complete list. Basically, what we have here is one messed up ending for the family of Odysseus. Some things are best left unknown.

If you'd like, I have a worksheet that is a context clues practice for this stop.  It is super easy and short.  Also, while you probably won't have your students delve too much (if at all) into the children Odysseus had with Circe, it might be a good time to teach unreliable narrator.  Remember this epic is in medias res - Odysseus is telling the king his story and he leaves out things that may make him look bad.  From this point forward, students may start trying to find other places that Odysseus is giving "alternative facts".