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 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?

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.

Theoi.com 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".